Archive for Kitchen Sink – Page 2

Felt Like Being on Vacation!

David Hawksworth is a very well-known chef in our town. He’s the guy responsible for the Rosewood Hotel Georgia’s restaurants in the heart of downtown Vancouver at 801 West Georgia, open since 2011.

DSCN1479 nx2And now he has followed up that success with the opening of “Nightingale,” again downtown but this time on West Hastings, next door to the lovely Art Deco “Marine Building.” constructed in 1930. If you get the chance, when in Vancouver…check it out…magnificent…and the elevators…WOW!

Lucky me…my hubby took me to Nightingale for my birthday lunch! We love going out for a nice lunch, I think it reminds us of being on vacation, taking the time to kick back, enjoy great food and share some vino.

Nightingale did not disappoint! The restaurant has two levels, is casually elegant, decorated with cream walls and gold paint Origami nightingales placed here and there on the empty gold picture frame hung walls. The ingredients used in the restaurant are seasonal and sourced locally for the most part.

DSCN1480 nx2Once the wine was ordered, we selected what plates we wanted to share…it’s all about sharing plates these days. We think it’s a great concept because it allows us to sample more tastes that way and we both are all for that! Here’s our menu!

  • Heirloom tomato salad, cucumber, roasted eggplant, pistachio salsa verde, focaccia. A great combination, the eggplant was more like a baba ganoush…I could make a lunch of just this one item!
  • Charred carrots, almond, cilantro, guajillo chili vinaigrette, lime yogurt. Another winner of medium sized carrots roasted to bring out their sweetness, and the lime yogurt and vinaigrette were perfect with them.
  • Grilled Pacific Rockfish, fresh ginger, scallion, black pepper. In our opinion, Rockfish is a much underused fish…it’s our fish of choice at home, so sweet and succulent…the Asian style sauce worked so well with it.
  • Crispy fried chicken, preserved lemon yogurt, dill espelette. Not to be critical, but we both though the chicken was a bit overcooked…but the preserved lemon yogurt was fantastic!
  • Dessert: Poached cherry, blackcurrant, vanilla Pavlova. The cherries and blackcurrant flavours worked so well together! The only comment would be that as Pavlova is sweet, we thought that perhaps a more tart cherry would have balanced the sweetness…and just so you know…Bing cherries are my favourite cherry of all time!

DSCN1481 nx2We have two great reasons to return and that’s to sample the pizzas baked in the Italian wood burning pizza oven, with great sounding toppings like N’duja, Fior di latte, San Marzano tomatoes with charred rapini; a Guanciale, green olive, San Marzano tomato, chilli with Fior di latte or a roasted mushroom, new potato, garlic confit and Fontina. And the pasta’s because I can never say no to pasta…could you turn down casarecce, with braised rabbit and rapini or radiatori with pork and heirloom tomato sugo, summer savory and Piave cheese…I know, right?

So…if you live in and around Metro Vancouver…or are planning to be in town…by all means, take yourself to Nightingale! Click here for the link.  and…you would be advised to make a reservation.

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It’s Russian Soul Food!

Borscht is a part of my family heritage. During the year there are times when “I just gotta have some”. When I eat borscht, my Husband says it’s like I am having a religious experience!

DSC_1695 nx2The version in  my recipe section is not the purple, beety one, it is more of a vegetable soup. Both my Mom and her Sister made it for their families and with some good crusty bread and a bit of cheese, it made not only a nutritious meal but a fairly inexpensive way to feed a family. No meat, just veggies. Funny thing was, they both made a different version. My aunt put tons of butter & cream into hers, it was good but not like Mom’s!

My first job in the Executive Dining Room kitchen, was as assistant to Anne, who ran the place.   One day she said, “I am going to make borscht for tomorrow’s luncheon”. My first thought was “oh no…this is quite a rustic soup and how in the world does this fit in with an Executive Dining Room?” The next day, when I arrived at work, she had the big soup pot going. Now, I had never sampled her borscht before, but when we finally sat down to eat once the luncheon was over, one spoonful and I was immediately transported back to my childhood. Her borscht was everything I remembered; vegetarian and oh so good, just like my Mom’s used to be before Dad coerced her into putting some meat into the soup.

The recipe I have been making ever since is the one I got from Anne and I am so grateful for having the opportunity to share it with her! It is one of the recipes I have of hers that I will always treasure.  Better go and make some!

If you would like to be transported to a Russian childhood experience, click Borscht.

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Pesto: What’s in a Name?

It seems to be everywhere…and not just the molto famoso “Ligurian” pasta with potato and green beans or with trofie pasta but dribbled or drizzled on anything you can imagine. But is that really “pesto?” Or, has the term “pesto,” which derives from the Italian pestare, meaning to pound or grind using a mortar and pestle, come to mean any kind of uncooked sauce? Kind of reminds me of our use of Kleenex when what we really mean are tissues. Perhaps this statement found in “Essentials” by Marcella Hazan says it all, “pesto may have become more popular than is good for it!”

DSC_8166 nx2Food Historian Gillian Riley refers to pesto as “simply being a mass of aromatic HERBS being pounded in a pestle and mortar with salt, garlic, olive oil, cheese and perhaps nuts which then can be diluted with vinegar or verjuice or broth and used as a sauce or relish with all kinds of things.” And it seems that in the past pesto was not unique to Liguria.

Who knew? My introduction to pesto was way back in the late ‘70’s when a friend made a batch, tossing it with fresh pasta she had picked up at a shop that made quality fresh pasta. Sad to say it didn’t last more than a couple of years. Sad for our city, that’s for sure! We could do with a place like that now! Anyway, back to my first pesto…it was absolutely the most wonderful thing I had tasted in a very long time…it was love at first bite. Hence the abundance of basil plants in our garden, in pots and where ever I can find a sunny spot! You can never have enough basil, right?

_DSC1319.jpg nx2Then a few years ago I made a new pesto discovery with fresh cherry tomatoes, basil and almonds that’s a specialty of Trapani in Sicily and so good I always want to lick the plate! Guess what? There are more cherry tomato plants that ever in our garden these days!  Click here for a link to the recipe.

As of late I’ve been having discussions with other cooks in my FB circle about calling it Spaghetti Carbonara when what makes up a Carbonara is changed up by adding or taking away key ingredients. For instance, in Rome I enjoyed a Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe (one of my all-time favourites) that included zucchini blossoms…oh for shame! Does it still qualify as Cacio e Pepe? Or take Bolognese sauce…what if it doesn’t include the traditional 3 meats, the milk or for that matter is meatless and uses lentils instead?

Or in my “research” on pesto I found things like green pea pesto, a tagliatelle with corn pesto or god help me, collard greens and kale.  Do they qualify as pesto? I have my doubts!

Mea culpa, for my spaghetti with a so called pesto made with green onions or ramps, or a parsley, almond version…at least the parsley one does include a herb! Should I change up the name of the other one? Maybe I should call it green onion or ramp “relish” or a “condimento” instead…

DSC_8436 nx2And what about that uninspiring “sort of green stuff” in a jar labelled as pesto? Please, can you tell me why anyone would pay good money when, if you own a food processor, (I know, can we call it a true pesto if a mortar and pestle is not involved), is dead-easy to make?   And all that’s required is a bunch of fresh basil, pine-nuts, Pecorino or Parmigiano, your best extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. It would make a Ligurian Nonna proud (what do you bet she even uses a processor these days)…

And then I must add a word about the nuts…Gillian Riley says they don’t have to be there but they do thicken the sauce a bit, it would depend on what you are using the sauce for is my guess. Back to the nuts, the ideal would be Italian pine-nuts which cost an arm and a leg here.  A small packet that contains perhaps 3 tablespoons, is close to $5.00.  Failing the procurement of precious pine-nuts, I’ve been known to substitute slivered almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts and for another fantastic version of pesto,  pistachios.  Not cheap either, especially if you’ve been fortunate enough to get your hands on Bronte ones from Sicily, picked up, perhaps, on your last trip to Italy. The Californian ones we easily come by are not inexpensive either but they do make a nice treat!

Gareth Jones, the “Last of the Independents,” wrote a great post discussing pesto. Click here for the link.

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More Adventures With The Big “A”

I just had my second steroid injection in a month…I can almost throw away my cane! Well, not totally but I sure have a lot more mobility!

DSC_1443 nx2I want to be able to walk the Appian Way again like I did in this photo!  And I want to be able to spend hours walking around Villa d’Este and Hadrian’s Villa which we had to take a pass on last October because we didn’t think it possible.  Not only that, if we went I’d be unhappy because I wouldn’t be able to see all I wanted to!

But we took a little excursion last week…actually left the property to visit a friend in Washington State! Amazing! And I walked without pain, thank goodness for my cane and urban walking poles for that extra bit of support!

The past, almost two months, have been what you might call “interesting”…or what I might call “painful.”

When you write a blog you are always on the lookout for interesting (hopefully) things to blog about. This time out it’s more sharing about my knee…lucky you, readers…but please, if you know someone who is suffering with arthritis in their knees or hips, please share this with them.

villa e'esteAbout six weeks ago I began to experience serious pain (like not being able to walk without big-time pain) which made my world a lot smaller. How the heck can you post about fun, interesting things your readers might want to read about when you can’t even leave the house to get fresh ideas and take photos?

I have written a few posts about my adventures with the OsteoArthritis I have in my left knee and what I have been doing to keep my knees in the best possible condition in preparation for knee replacement surgery. I had thought perhaps next January would be a good time for the surgery…well my outlook on that time frame has altered considerably…I want my life back!  I’m still awaiting the appointment with the surgeon (a request was sent in January). Then there’s a wait for the actual surgery, plus the rehabilitation time.

hadrian's villaAnd then there is the bit about not being able to spend time cooking because I couldn’t stand on my leg for more than a couple of minutes without pain. What in the world does a cook do who can’t stand and cook…good question, I’m still searching for an answer.

Four weeks ago I received my first steroid injection. The pain was reduced by between 50 and 60% meaning I could stand and do some cooking with sit-down breaks in between…breaking down the tasks to manageable standing times…very interesting indeed! But that injection has allowed me to return to my pool fitness programme even if it hurts like hell to do the exercises and I’m unable to do some of the things I could six weeks ago…frustrating to say the least, because the whole point was for my knees to be as strong as possible before the surgery and I worry that I will lose what I have worked so hard on over the past few years.

Back to the blog! No cooking, no staging and photographing food shots…things have gone all to hell in a hand basket in that regard! And no “real” travel either…this is not good! How can I write about our trips and food tasting experiences if we can’t travel? You can see the problem!

Talking about trying to get back on track, perhaps now I can get out and about and start posting about things from our beautiful city! Things are always changing so I’m Looking forward to actually exploring some of those changes and sampling some of the newer establishments that are popping up. Fingers crossed!

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24 Hours in Ferndale

OK, so it’s not Italy! But what the heck, it’s a trip out of town!

The story began last year before our trip to Italy, when I had become FB friends with Timothy. Tim was planning on travelling around Italy then returning home via Rome and as luck would have it, we would be in Rome at that time . Soooo…we should meet up, right???

DSCN1362 nx2 RSAs it turned out, Tim was not in Rome very long at the end of his journey so our worlds did not collide at that time! That was last October, fast forward to May and we finally made that meeting happen at the beginning of June.

Ferndale, Washington, is a drive that takes anywhere between 1 ½ to 2 hours from Vancouver. Now…this is a small, farming oriented community so we weren’t expecting to find the holy grail of food but thanks to a recommendation from Tim we headed to Drizzle, an olive oil and vinegar tasting room and café, in Lynden, Washington, for their website, click here. What a find! Both our lunch choices were fantastic! For me a soy caramel braised pork banh mi (Birchridge Farms pork) with pickled veggies, aioli, Thai basil, cilantro, mint, jalapeno and cucumber on a focaccia bun. Joe ordered the Front St. Grinder with mortadella (from Jack Mountain Meats), ham (from Small City), olive relish that took the sandwich up a bunch of notches, Ferndale Farmstead Asiago (more about them in a minute), lettuce, tomato and onion. I was hard pressed to trade half of my DSCN1363 nx2banh mi but that half of Joe’s grinder was well worth the trade! Both sandwiches were accompanied by house-made chunky potato salad. You probably know that if there’s a dessert that leaps off the page, we go for it (to share of course)…no guilt that way! This time around it was the semi-freddo made with goats milk and kefir served with poached local rhubarb, Moon Valley wildflower honey and fresh thyme…an outstanding combination of flavours…almost licked the plate clean, it was that good!

Our host cooked up a wonderful Italian dinner; we toasted each other with Prosecco, ate, drank more wine and had a great time sharing our stories and getting to know each other for real!

The next morning, we met up with Tim for a trip to Ferndale Farmstead to tour their cheese making facility, click here for their website. The milk is from their DSC_2554 nx2own herd and the cheeses are made using traditional Italian cheese making methods. We learned a lot, tasted cheese and before leaving were given cheese to take home to try! How wonderful is that?

Onward to lunch in Bellingham at another of Tim’s likes, Old World Deli, for their website, click here  for a “how am I supposed to be able to choose” from such a great sounding selection of sandwiches, panini, soups and more. In the end, I went for the special, porchetta on a baguette…tasty, spicy and very good, Joe ordered the chicken, pesto panino… again we swapped halves back and forth. Good choice Joe!

Facebook came through once again, by making it possible to meet like-minded people who we would never be able to meet otherwise!

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Are You A Food Snob?

Are you one of those who doesn’t pick up ready-made meals or other prepared foods? Yeah…us too! I see shoppers at Wholefoods with their baskets laden with these items and was totally blown away by the fridge “walls” stuffed with ready-made meals at M & S Simply Foods in Chelsea, London. It was amazing to be in that shop around 6:00 PM!

DSCN0030 nx2This brings me to ready-mades in Italy. In Rome at the sketchy Todis we noticed all sorts of frozen stuff just waiting to be popped into the nearest microwave! In Italy? Shocking I know! However, we managed to restrain ourselves! Yes, when on vacation, we have been known to purchase bagged salad greens, cheeses, perhaps some caponata or prosciutto and a loaf of bread from fabulous deli’s to throw together a quick, light dinner after trudging around seeing the sights all day…but we are always on the lookout for fresh produce and a proper butcher shop.

The other night hubby and I were having a conversation about how people cook and how much convenience food they buy and the cost of those items. I get sticker shock when I see something like prepared spaghetti and meatballs that only require re-heating. It also surprises me that people are willing to pay that kind of money to eat what can only be referred to as “leftovers.”

I belong to FB groups that include a bunch of terrific cooks who cook from scratch and are proud to support farmers markets in their towns and cities as we do. It’s such a pleasure for a cook to work with top notch seasonal ingredients. Not only that, the food tastes so much better…and I am not saying everything has to be organic, just great quality, fresh and grown with respect.

A little bug-a-boo of mine are jars of ready-made pasta sauces lining the shelves and in shopper’s baskets at grocery stores. The stuff ain’t cheap folks and I can guarantee that if you went to all the trouble of opening a tin of Italian plum tomatoes (obviously San Marzano would be the preference) but not everyone feels like spending $5.00 on a 28 oz. tin of tomatoes…even though they don’t seem to mind coming up with the same or more for a jar of pasta sauce, that in my opinion is so removed, so inferior and just plain mediocre, from a homemade sauce. That jar of ready-made may be enough for a lb. of pasta (depending on how you dress your pasta) whereas a simple tomato, olive oil and garlic sauce that can be embellished with onions, fresh herbs and peperoncino (chili flakes) costs somewhat less, goes further, tastes 100% better and you can actually count on your fingers the ingredients. There is nothing like a simple home-made tomato sauce that takes 20 minutes to cook while your pot of water comes to the boil! Whew…I knew I felt a rant coming on! Click here for the link to my easy-peasy tomato sauce.

And then there is Salmon….where should I begin? Canada has just approved the sale of GMO’d Salmon to the public!!! Not on your Nellie! Wouldn’t touch the stuff with a barge pole! Back in the day Salmon was a seasonal fish not meant to be over-fished or grown in pens so it can be put on dinner plates as many times as desired during the week. It was something that was considered a treat, the same goes for Halibut…when not in season there are other fish in the sea!

So…has the time come in our evolution that if we cook from scratch as much as possible with real ingredients and in-season produce allowing us to put good food on our tables, we are now considered “Food Snobs?” Whenever I hear about food recalls for things like Salmonella or Listeria, it’s very scary but maybe the majority is simply willing to take that chance?

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Then There Was Cheese!

Have you ever had a thought that keeps popping up every now and again?

Well…in my case one of these is “daddy, where does cheese come from?” Or should I say “how did we come to have this wonderful stuff called cheese?” Every time I watch someone making cheese on a T.V. programme I just shake my head  wondering who or how they came up with the concept?

DSCN2992 nx2It’s something that I find mysterious and some sort of alchemy. Have you ever wondered about all the different countries that make cheeses using basically the same ingredient, milk of some kind but ending up with absolutely different results and not all tasting the same…maybe I should get a life but I do wonder!

Maybe it was an accident that it occurred at all!

There are hundreds of types of cheese from various countries; the style, texture and flavor depends on the origin of the milk, what the animal eats, whether the cheese has been pasteurized, what the butterfat content is, the bacteria and mold, the processing and finally, the aging.

There is research saying it was at least 7,000 years ago that humans started making cheese. The first cheeses were basic and somehow they figured out how to separate the milk into solids (curds) from the liquid (whey). I tip my hat to those folks!

Aristaeus, a god of ancient Greek mythology, was worshiped as the protector or flocks and shepherds, cheese-making, bee-keeping, olives and grape vines.

During Roman times, cheese was an everyday food and cheese-making a mature art. Pliny’s “Natural History” includes a chapter describing the diversity of cheeses enjoyed by Romans of the early Empire. The amazing thing is that cheeses from the Alps and Apennines were as remarkable for their variety then as now!

In Europe cheeses diversified further when Romanized people came into contact with peoples from other regions who had their own cheese-making traditions. Many cheeses available today were first recorded in the late Middle Ages. Cheeses like Cheddar were recorded around 1500, Parmesan in 1597, Gouda in 1697 and Camembert in 1791.

The British Cheese Board claims Britain has approximately 700 distinct local cheeses! Having been to England, where I have never eaten so many delicious cheeses in a couple of weeks, I can only say we have a lot more tasting to do! Beenleigh Blue, our favourite to date; is a farmhouse, unpasteurized, organic, vegetarian, blue cheese made from sheep’s milk. Its more than worth seeking out and is produced by Ben Harris of Ticklemore Cheese Company. It was awesome! By comparison, France and Italy have perhaps only 400 cheeses each.

Every trip we take includes suggestions for some serious cheese tasting…

Pick yourself up some amazing cheese, open a bottle of wine, kick back and enjoy!  Salute!

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La Bella Vita Cucina Post

My good friend, Roz Corieri Paige who has a great blog called La Bella Vita Cucina, invited me to write a guest post on her website which I was absolutely delighted to do.  She has a wonderful site with recipes from her Italian American background and is a great cook!

We “met” a few years ago on social media and discovered we both have a passion for Italy and Italian cooking.  It’s a lot of fun being able to share stories and ideas with her.

Here is the link to the post and I hope you enjoy it and will share with your friends so that they can visit both of our websites and Roz’s to check out what we two are up to.

Italian Soul Food: Tomato and Zucchini Pie PLUS Roasted Tomato Crostini with Goat Cheese


Ruth’s “Cook Book”

I’m a cook and not a book reviewer. That said, I just finished “Ruth Reichl’s my kitchen year 136 RECIPES that SAVED MY LIFE” and discovered that we seem to share some similar experiences.

The year in question was October 2009 when “Gourmet,” magazine, where Ruth was Editor in Chief for 10 years, closed down in the blink of an eye. Of course, as per usual that’s what it was like for the staff, not those higher up the food chain.  Just the other day I pulled out that final November ’09 issue and read through it again with pleasure and of course, sadness.

I suppose we assume that if a person has a background and reputation, such as Ruth’s, the job offers would just roll in the door and she wouldn’t have to worry at all about landing another great job.

What I found so touching was how open she was in talking about her feelings of loss, her grief and her fears.

view 29 floorRuth and I are the same age, born in 1948…so do the math.  We are not spring chickens! When on a July afternoon in 2000, my assistant and I were called down to HR…I figured something was up. The bank I worked for had merged with a smaller financial institution earlier in the year.  With the usual re-structuring that takes place at these times, the corporate dining room I had managed and cooked in for 15 years ceased to exist that very afternoon! Unlike Ruth, I was not completely blindsided (that good old gut feeling I sometimes get, had kept my antenna up), still I was not prepared for what was to come either. Nor those damned anxiety dreams!

When I read about the day she went to clear out her office, tears welled up, I just couldn’t help myself. Can you believe it? Almost 16 years have gone by since I left the bank and yet there they were! Once her stuff was packed into boxes she went to the window and looked down at the lights below knowing she would never see the room again. The thing was, I did exactly that very same thing…it was gut wrenching, heart breaking and so painful to turn away and leave behind 15 years of my life and a job that I loved.

Perhaps this is true of most cooks, when as Ruth says she is confused, lonely or frightened she heads into the kitchen to cook. It’s comforting and reassuring getting lost in the process and thinking about what you are cooking rather than can we pay our bills or what the hell am I going to do now at this age???

Back in the mists of time I felt like a bit of an odd-ball having a passion for food and cooking. But now thanks to social media, we are able to have “friends” who are equally as passionate and want to share!  In the acknowledgements at the end of the book Ruth thanks her Twitter friends with “you helped me survive a difficult year. I’m not sure I could have done it without you.”  A classy thing to do and I applaud her for it.

There are times in our lives, when we question ourselves about ourselves! I mean, it is OK to have an obsession/passion for food and cooking?  Yes, yes and yes if it’s what makes you who you are and makes you feel fulfilled and happy. Let’s then allow ourselves to accept and celebrate who we are!  And from what I read in “my kitchen year,” I think we’re in pretty good company!

You can bet I’ll be making some of the 136 “life-saving” recipes of Ruth’s!

View, 29th Floor:  painted by my friend/assistant and artist Yvonne who shared many an evening looking out at this view from our “perch” on the 29th Floor!

Click here to read my post “Cooking Makes Me Happy.”

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Happy Easter – Buona Pasqua!

Once again…our lilac tree is bursting forth and I’m up to my little ears in planning Easter Dinner. Even though I’m a lapsed Lutheran, a few religious days have stuck like glue!

DSCN1103 nx2But… for me, those days are wrapped around remembering traditions of making and eating delicious food.
We haven’t gotten into dying eggs in our house but I always think of the fun my sister and I had making them with our mom. Then there was the Easter Bunny…kind of like Santa except we left out a carrot and a glass of milk before going to bed rather than a shortbread cookie and knowing my dad, the guy responsible for eating those offerings, probably a glass of something other than milk!

The dessert meant “Daffodil Cake,” a recipe mom probably tore out of the newspaper and that I was commandeered to make. I can’t tell you how many colourful little gumdrop flower decorations I made for those cakes over the years!

What is it about deviled eggs anyway? I think they were and are one of the best things, perched prettily on their special gold-trimmed, blue, deviled egg plate, with their finishing touch of freshly snipped chives from the garden.

Joe and I have our own traditions created along the way, like making hot crossed buns, eating new crop French Breakfast radishes, sliced and placed on buttered bread, with just a sprinkling of sparkly sea salt and asparagus…there has to be asparagus!

An especially important tradition is cooking a special “Easter Sunday” dinner, whether we have company or not. The menu this Sunday will be a rack of veal, covered with a layer thin pancetta slices, served with rosemary scented, wine infused jus and spoonful’s of creamy potato gratin or pommes Anna (which one to choose, is the big question). We will start our celebratory “Easter” meal with asparagus soup, because other than eggs, asparagus simply screams spring. As for dolce…we need something the Easter Bunny will like…so individual creamy cheesecakes, topped with mini Easter eggs…we do we need some chocolate after all! Must remember to leave out one for him!

For the recipe for asparagus soup, click here.

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