Monthly Archives: August 2011

TECHNIQUE + HABIT

Salmon is a forgiving fish, but not always. Through years of trial and error, I’ve found that a nice side of wild salmon (I pick out the pin bones with a pair of tweezers) will always stay tender and moist if it is simply brushed with a bit of olive oil, dusted with salt and pepper, and shoved under the broiler for about five minutes. Keeping a watchful eye and finishing with generous squeezes of lemon renders perfect fish, every time. (Okay, not every time). I find that roasting salmon, on the other hand, delivers a slice of anemic-looking fish with the texture of cat food… and I have yet to master the pan-sear. Live and die by the broil method.

Alongside the salmon was a simple green salad dressed in walnut oil, roasted new potatoes and chopped scallions, and sauteed green beans and carrots. (The key to perfect string beans is to parboil them in salted water for two minutes before flinging them into a piping hot frying pan, where they snap and sizzle for another couple of minutes and attain the perfect amount of crisp and char).

MIDDAY FUEL

With a willing partner in the kitchen to help rinse and chop, this intensely flavorful lunch comes together in less than 30 minutes. Put a pot of salted water on to boil, and add a bit of olive oil to a cast iron skillet. Fry a few strips of prosciutto in the skillet until crispy, then remove, cool, and break into large chips. Don’t clean the skillet! With a mandoline, I grated a zucchini into tiny matchsticks, and then added to the hot, smoking skillet (okay, I added some butter to the skillet, too). Saute until nearly translucent, then add several cloves of chopped garlic and a few generous pinches of red chili flakes.

Add halved new potatoes to boiling water, wait 10 minutes, then add pasta, wait six minutes, then add washed and trimmed green beans. Using a ladle, spoon some of the starchy pasta-potato water into the skillet, and stir. Add the juice of half a lemon, plenty of salt, freshly grated black pepper, and more chili flakes to taste. Let the starchy water + lemon thicken into a nice sauce, and reserve more pasta water if it looks a little dry. Drain potatoes, pasta, and green beans all at once, and add to the skillet. Serve immediately, and top with grated pecorino and prosciutto chips.

The tomato salad was even easier: simply halve a bunch of cherry tomatoes, dice up a cucumber, mince some onion, and toss all together. We added some high quality olive oil, fresh oregano, dried oregano, and minced scallions. The perfect lunch.

[And Montreal friends, don't forget! A fun concert tonight.]

THROUGH THE DAY

Breakfast. If I could, I would eat smashed avocado and fleur de sel on toast every single morning. Feels right.

Lunch. Apparently I wasn’t tired of avocado on toast yet, because I added tomato, lettuce, smoked turkey, swiss cheese, and mustard, and had that for lunch, too. (I love eating the same thing in a row, many times over, until I either get sick of it or run out of it.)

And dinner. Pheasant breast wrapped in caul and stuffed with minced mushrooms, served with double smoked bacon, braised green beans, and baby potatoes and carrots roasted in bacon grease. It’s still pretty hot out, but I’m already craving cozy, warm meals, and this was perfectly rich and decadent.

Also, some housekeeping:

Voir recently interviewed me for a piece about the series of culinary workshops I’ve been curating at Le Pick Up. Read it here! (In French). Don’t forget — the next one is August 25!

And: Yesterday I joined forces with the estimable Venus collective over at CKUT. Um, it was so much fun, and it felt great to get back into radio after a few years of silence. I played songs by Noveller, Gang Gang Dance, Sade, and Grouper. Good times. Plus, I finally met Amber! Oh, and also? I was invited to curate the month of November for their popular ‘Montreal Sessions’ program. I’m so stoked!

And lastly: I interviewed Peter Gershon, my editor at Signal to Noise magazine, for a story in Foxy Digitalis. Read it here.

LADIES WHO HEAL

Breakfast for Meghan and Claudia. Mostly just leftovers from the night before but I was glad to see that their enthusiasm for sliced avocado smeared on toast matched mine. I miss them so much already, please come back soon Meghan and Claudia!

The next morning, we went for a walk instead of eating at home. We bought bagels at Fairmount for their long drive to PEI, and devoured rich, creamy quiche from La Croissanterie Figaro. It was delicious, but eating out for breakfast is never as good as eating breakfast at home, in my opinion.

I also uploaded lots of photos from Sunday’s workshop, if you care to take a peek. At this point I’m almost looking for reasons to get cuts and scratches, just so I have an excuse to use the amazing tincture that we made!

And finally, it’s that time again! I cut my hair once a year, and after Meghan remarked how out of control my hair was getting I realized that it was probably time for a snip. What do you think?

MONTREAL WORKSHOP! PRESERVING STONE FRUITS

And now… another Montreal-centric announcement!

I’m thrilled to announce the next workshop at Dépanneur le Pick Up
— and it’s coming right up!

Pastry chef and preserves expert extraordinaire Camilla Wynne will lead a workshop on Canning and Preserving Stone Fruits on Thursday, August 25 here at Le Pick Up.

Camilla is a professionally trained pastry chef who has been canning since 2002. She most recently worked at Laloux and Pastisserie Rhubarbe, but has also done stints at Les Chevres (RIP), Anise (RIP), and wd~50 (NYC). Formerly the baker behind Backroom Records and Pastries, she now sells jams, marmalades, jellies, pickles and other preserves under the Preservation Society moniker. (Adam and I love Camilla’s strawberry jam. Absolutely the best strawberry jam I’ve ever had!)

Camilla has been an amazing and inspiring presence in the Montreal food community (she made cupcakes before me at the Dep!), and we are so honored to have her host our next workshop.

At the workshop, Camilla will discuss the most important tenets of preserving fruits, including explanations of her own techniques, and an emphasis on basic safety. We will be making jams and preserved fruits in syrup, with a strong focus on seasonal stone fruits.

The workshop will begin promptly at 8pm. Each participant will have a hand in making their own preserves, with guidance and instruction from Camilla. The registration fee is $25. We are located at 7032 rue Waverly, and are a cozy and intimate space — so please register soon as there are a very limited number of spots! Cash only, please. To register, please email me at Natasha.pickowicz [at] gmail [dot] com.

Thanks and I hope to see you there!

THE PAST IS PRESENT

My  old friend Meghan was in town for the weekend in preparation for her inspiring workshop at Le Pick Up, so the night she and Claudia were to arrive, I had a cozy, hot meal ready and waiting. We snacked on leftover charcuterie, cheeses, and homemade pickled carrots with hummus and breadsticks, and then moved onto dinner, starting with a salad of wild arugula laced with toasted hazelnuts, nectarines, and avocado, thinly dressed with walnut oil and sherry vinegar. We finished with a vibrant herb and mustard-rubbed pork loin served over beluga lentils (I love their rich, glossy black color) and new potatoes roasted in bacon grease. And finally, the fruit crumble seems to be every cook’s go-to uber-lazy dessert (it is for me anyway), and this luscious dish of halved golden plums roasted in blueberry honey and minced thyme was no exception. I often prefer my fruit desserts more tart than sweet, and this almost had an addictive sourness that I loved.

It’s so great to see old friends. A decade later, and very little has changed about our friendship, though we’ve grown so much in individual ways. So nice. I often wish I could gather all the people I love into one city, so I can see them whenever I want. Selfish, I know.

SPECTRE FOLK & MV/EE IN MTL

For all our Montreal friends, a musical announcement...

>>Popcorn Youth presents…

SPECTRE FOLK [Brooklyn, NY]

with

MV+EE [Brattleboro, VT]

and

Les Momies de Palerme [Montreal]

at

La Brique / 6545 Durocher #402

9pm doors / 9:30pm start

Sliding scale $8-10

Saturday, August 20 / a night of gorgeous psychedelic folk, heavy drone jams + sudden pop exploration

We are so so excited and honored to welcome Spectre Folk to our city. Spectre Folk is led by Pete Nolan (of GHQ, Magik Markers, and Arbitrary Signs fame) and Peter Meehan (oh and their drummer is Steve Shelley – yes that Steve Shelley – of Sonic Youth!). Earlier this spring they celebrated their latest release, the EP “The Blackest Medicine, Vol. 2,” on Woodsist Records. This is going to be a really special night. PLEASE RSVP to me, natasha.pickowicz AT gmail DOT com to get your name on the guestlist as it is a private event. Thanks + hope to see you there!

HOME AT LAST

Breakfast at home, and devouring some treasures I scooped from our adventure to Ontario — chili peppers and sweet cherry tomatoes I hand-picked from Norm Hardie’s garden (more on that soon!) in Prince Edward County, with cumin seed-flecked smoked gouda from Ottawa’s La Bottega and seeded bread from Ottawa’s Le Moulin de Provence.

YETI ELEVEN

Earlier this year I contributed my first piece to the journal Yeti, and the issue is out now. I wrote a piece about my friend Spencer Clark, and I’m stoked that my editor ended up using the title for the article that I suggested (usually my titles are so, so bad; it’s always the hardest part of the article writing, at least for me): “Your Own Personal Vibe Coach.”

I’m honored to be in the company of the other seriously awesome contributors, which include Liz Harris (of Grouper); Marcellus Hall and Olivia Wyatt. Montreal friends, the issue is available at Drawn & Quarterly. Other friends, you can order it online.

MEETING OF THE MINDS

When Adam met up with me in Ithaca for Meredith’s wedding, it was his first time meeting all of my friends. Ever. Which is crazy, I know.

So, to commemorate the occasion, the evening he was to arrive, I schemed to organize a fête both special and low-key.

At first, I thought about organizing our gang to feast at our favorite Trumansburg restaurant. I even made a reservation.

But I quickly realized that what I really wanted was a simple dinner party, thrown in Adam’s honor, at my friend Katie’s cozy country home.

It was barely a party, really more of a garden supper, but it felt perfectly full of laughter and love. Curious what we ate?

Since there are no photos (blame the wine), here’s the menu, instead:

Assorted Piggery charcuterie (including a ham hock terrine that disintegrated in the upstate New York heat) // Spanish cheeses + olives

Homemade quick pickles // beets, red onions, local green beans, and carrots

Quartered Ithaca heirloom tomatoes served over barley // red wine vinaigrette

Crispy potato croquettes (I loosely followed this wonderful recipe) // homemade crème fraîche // chives // lemon wedges

Thick ribbons of pasta tossed with fresh ricotta // lemon // local corn // watercress // torn basil

Halved local Methley plums + honey served over thyme-flecked Sable Breton // so much more of that dangerous crème fraîche

That was it. Simple and sweet and buttery. And, upon reflection, a lot of carbs!

As a final note, I can’t recommend this simple Sable Breton recipe enough. The confetti of thyme in the dough really send this not-at-all-sweet dessert completely over the top. Make it for the person in your life who professes not to like dessert. They’ll love it.

In conclusion, if someone offers you up their gorgeous backyard to host a tiny, elegant dinner party — don’t turn their offer down.

And if someone offers to hang petite twinkling lights, set a table with their most beautifully mismatched linens, buy you a vase of scarlet flowers, and even hook up a sound system that may or may not lead to a protracted discussion of the band The Archies, definitely don’t turn their offer down.

And even if you can’t find a bottle of Fontsainte Gris de Gris from Corbieres at Red Feet, no worries. Pop open a bottle of Dr. Frank’s perfectly delicious dry reisling and sit down. It’s summertime, and you are with your favorite people in the world.