Monthly Archives: October 2011

SALTIMBOCCA, AGAIN, FINALLY

Last January we made saltimbocca, but then never made it since — until recently. I don’t know why I waited so long, because the combination of crispy sage, salty prosciutto, and tender veal cutlets is completely insane and perfect. (Nice recipe for it here). When I finally prepared it again, it was just as good as I remembered it to be. So nice to eat saltimbocca on a chilly autumn night, to pile it on a plate near braised leeks, boiled haricot verts, turnip puree, and crispy Jerusalem artichokes. Actually, we agreed that we weren’t the hugest fan of the braised leeks — how do you get them less onion-y? It was almost overwhelming. Anyway, I always leave Adam in charge of the sauce; he knows how to reduce it to the right syrupy consistency and perfect almost-too-much level of saltiness.

LE PICK UP DOES NOVEMBERFEST

This Thursday, November 10, I will be hosting a special Novemberfest dinner at Le Pick Up. I’ll be baking a few things (like big, salty pretzels!), but it’s our talented Bavarian chef who will be presenting the bulk of this delicious Bavarian spread. Reservations are coming in rapidly, so email me if you’d like a spot! Also: I’m honoring a $5 discount if you arrive wearing an authentic Bavarian outfit. Myself, well, I’m still searching for a dirndl…

Full details for the event here.

SOUP’S STILL ON

There’s nothing quite like being fussed over on your birthday. So it was extra wonderful to wake up to a perfect breakfast of smoked salmon omelet, toast, and cheese on the morning of my birthday. It was so nice outside that day — probably the last terrace breakfast of the year.

I’ve been so lax about posting recipes lately, but I wanted to share my favorite vegetable soup recipe. This soup can be customized to support whatever vegetables happen to be in your refrigerator, reheats really well, and is very amenable to ingredient additions throughout the week (on day two, I think I added a handful of penne and some roasted red peppers into the pot).

Simple Vegetable Soup

[Notes: I think fresh cannellini beans are out of the market at this point — I know, so sad — but I like to buy a surplus during the summer, and then keep small jars of the fresh ones frozen in the freezer. Canned or dried would be adequate, but nothing quite beats the freshness or creamy texture of the just-shelled variety. Also, I like to exclusively use my own chicken stock. I know exactly what's in it, and that makes me feel good. In my mind, I can always taste the cardboard of the boxed variety. I consider it worth the effort to always have a few litres of frozen stock ready for a soup or a risotto. And about those tomatoes: I leave the skins and seeds in because this soup is so rustic; if you're a bit more detailed-oriented feel free to peel and de-seed! But in my mind, this is the kind of soup that you don't think about. Chop things roughly, in weird sizes, throw it in the pot, stir when you feel like it. Don't think too much about it. Pretty much every ingredient here is interchangeable, and the end product will still be delicious, nourishing, and not too precious.]

1 celery stalk, diced finely
1 carrot, diced finely
2 shallots, diced finely
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup cannellini beans
3-5 small new potatoes, in a big dice
2 tomatoes, diced
5-7 cups chicken stock
1 t smoked paprika
1 t cumin
1 t red chili pepper flakes
2 sprigs thyme (leave on the branch, just pluck it out when the soup is ready)
2 bay leaves
juice of 1/2 lemon
3 cups packed baby spinach, rinsed
salt, pepper

—In a large, enamel-coated cast iron pot over low-medium heat, add 2 T of olive oil and 2 T of butter. When sizzling, add shallots, carrot, and celery and stir to coat. Cook 10 minutes, or until softened but not browned.
—Add potatoes, and stir to soften slightly, 5 minutes.
—Add cannellini beans, garlic, spices, and herbs. Stir heartily. Oh, and salt and pepper, too.
—Add tomatoes and chicken stock, bring to a boil, and immediately reduce to low simmer.
—Let simmer gently, with the lid off, for 30 minutes, or until beans and potatoes are just tender. Add water or more stock if needed.
—Turn off heat, and add the spinach. Stir to wilt.
—Serve immediately with a big squirt of lemon juice, and alongside crusty brown bread and sharp cheddar.

READY + WAITING

Does anyone else do this? I like to make a big pot of soup (top soup: tomato, cannellini, and vegetable; bottom soup: veal tortellini and Puy lentil) and snack my way through its contents over a period of three or four days. At the end of the course, I always need a big break from that particular soup. This weekend I almost exclusively ate from a big pot of dal. Done with dal, for now.

LATE NIGHTS AT NORA GRAY

Love the new restaurant Nora Gray. What started out as an intimate dinner date with Michelle quickly ballooned into a massive group of 10. Our gang asked for the meal both “family style” and chef’s choice, which, admittedly, was an expensive commitment (For example: Emma brought us a pig’s head with braised endives as one of the main dishes). Next time, I will happily sit at their sleek bar instead and order a few appetizers and exercise a little restraint. The food, however, is memorable, delicious, and rarefied. We were so engrossed in our meal that it wasn’t until I looked at my phone at the dismal hour of 2am that I realized it was time to go home.

TO YOUR HEALTH

TWO HOURS SOUTH

Trying to get through my days.

Some photos from an apple picking excursion last week are here to make me smile, from a beautiful organic pear and apple orchard that I discovered through my friend Cheryl. It was a tremendous day, one of the best I’d had all year. The kind of day that seems unblemished and infinite. (The apples, also, we’re the finest Quebec apples I’ve ever eaten). Sabrina kept exclaiming, ‘It’s so good to be alive, life is such magic!’ We laughed but she was right. Good to think about nice memories like this, days that ended with onion rings and laughter.

KITTY SOULMATE

Earlier this week, my beloved cat Joni died. I wasn’t sure if I could share personal news in such a public space, but many friends and family have encouraged me to write about my time with her. And, you know, she was a big reason why I started this little blog in the beginning.

I adopted Joni at a hard time in my life. I had just gone through a brutal breakup, and was living alone for the first time. My friends took me to our local animal shelter, and when I spotted her tiny shock of orange fur curled up in a rainbow-colored blanket, I knew we were meant to be together. It was love at first sight. She completely changed my life.

Our relationship was uncomplicated. I loved her completely, and she loved me back. There was nothing ambiguous about it. Joni was affectionate, loving, playful, and smart. I used to look forward to coming home after work because it meant that we would get to hang out. She would curl up right on my chest when I would read on the couch and hang around my neck like a warm scarf. She liked to sit on my record player and stare at the sky through the window. She used to weave in and out of my legs when I cooked dinner. She always had to be around other people; the kitchen was her favorite space. We liked a lot of the same foods. I would sneak her bites of pizza or little licks of fish. (She loved ranch dressing, Doritos, and burritos, too.) I remember how soft her fur was. It was like flaxen corn silk.

When Joni moved with me to Portland, she loved to hang out in my backyard where there were overgrown rose bushes and big dragonflies. She was very patient when I tried to dress her in a little eyelet dress that I thrifted from Value Village. (But she was very clever when she ran outside, somehow tore off the dress, and buried it somewhere. We never did find that dress). When she was with me in San Diego, she would sleep in sunbeams all day, and then chase mice and birds and lizards and drop them proudly at our doorstep, her mouth dripping with blood. My mom loved to spoil her and feed her roast chicken and grilled swordfish steaks. She was truly the best. I know a lot of people probably say this about their pets, but I think everyone really loved Joni. She touched the heart of everyone who came in contact with her. She was so friendly, open, and honest in her love.

If you’ve been a pet owner before, you know that it is so much more than ‘pet.’ It is soulmate, it is partner, it true love, it is friend and family. Joni… Joni was home. I have reread this so many times in the last few days, I want to share it here again:

Truly, truly you couldn’t speak of discovery of the unknown unless you were unknowing. You have to make a room inside your own ego for what you don’t yet understand, and hold open the possibility that this is what you’re actually looking for. And that then becomes a very personal matter rather than a universal one, because you can’t account for what other people don’t know. But you can acknowledge inside yourself those things which you did not perceive until the encounter forced you into a recognition. You cannot keep score of that for anyone else, but you can acknowledge transformation of your own perception by experience. When you find something about yourself, you don’t throw it away, it’s a treasure. It’s symbolically very important because it acknowledges a transformation in yourself.

Just a few days before the accident, my mom emailed me a beautiful drawing of me and my Joni. It seems only fitting to unveil it now as my banner, so I can be reminded every day of her impact on my life when she was still with me.

RIP to Joni, my kitty soulmate.

DEP IN THE GAZETTE!

[Photograph by: Marie-France Coallier, The Gazette]

Non-Montreal friends, if you’ve ever wondered what exactly Dépanneur Le Pick Up is all about, the Montreal Gazette published a really great review about our humble little zone. I am always entertaining out-of-town friends that drift in and out of the city for concerts and festivals, and I always make sure they hit two spots: the Dep for a pulled pork sandwich, and Marché Jean-Talon for obscure French cheeses. Coverage like this makes me happy!

Read the full review here.

[Doesn't my cupcake look adorable?!]

A TASTE OF JON MUELLER

Earlier this year, I was asked by my friend Jon Mueller to conceptualize a tasting component for a workshop he was presenting at the Viva! Art Action, a performance art festival (of which he was the only musician!) based in Montreal. (He also performed a concert in this empty pool).

Jon asked me to create a tasting with very little sensual clues or immediate contextual understanding. It was challenging — I just wanted to prepare a tray of canapés and be done with it! But he had bigger, more conceptual things in mind for me, and we ended up developing a series of four small, frozen bites with a homogenous shape that looked mysterious, and melted in the mouth. By pairing recognizable flavors (blueberry, carrot, fig, and beets) with more unexpected ingredients (epazote, thyme, juniper, Greek yogurt, grapefruit zest, coriander, orange blossom water, nigella seeds, ginger, pomegranate molasses, orange juice), the four bites tasted of the unknown, yet also faintly familiar.

It was such a pleasure to work with Jon. Not only is he an extraordinary and visionary musician, he happens to have a deep passion and aptitude for inspiring others. Because I usually service the role of curator, promoter, or caterer, I’m always on the “invisible” side of the event presentation divide. So it was particularly exciting to be a part of this event, and to call Jon a true collaborator and friend.

There’s a nice write-up of the workshop here (in French), and here is Jon’s own recounting of his Montreal trip.