Thursday, February 5, 2015
What makes our time here on earth have real meaning? Whose lens do we look through when we take stock of a life well lived? The lens of the public? Or the view from the family? Too often we praise greatness for worldly accomplishments when one's home life was a crumbling inferno. Perhaps that is greatness over acknowledged. I for one, side with the view from the family.
March 2013 the world was a flutter about the New York Times obituary for Yvonne Brill. Leading commentary referred to the fact that "she made a mean beef stroganoff" and was "the best mom in the world". Both testaments appear to be attributed to her son, Matthew.
To the rest of the world though, Yvonne Brill was a brilliant rocket scientist and so says that NYT obit "in the early 1970s invented a propulsion system to help keep communications satellites from slipping out of their orbits."
Losing your mother is one of the most earth shattering moments in your life. Many of us outlive our parents and must endure this pain. This most certainly was real for Matthew Brill too. Perhaps his mother's rocket knowledge was not foremost in his mind as he tried to soothe his broken heart.
My own mother has been gone now for more than a decade and I know in the darkest moments it was not my mother's 'accomplishments' that gave me comfort when I was pushed from my slumber with constricting grief. For me, my days were made bearable by the tribute to her strong character, her unwavering ethnics, her sense of community, her sense of fairness, her tender caring, her highest priority to family near and far, and her genuine love for all. For me, she was "the best mom in the world".
This past week one of my most special friends from school days lost her mother very suddenly at the age of 83. She too lost "the best mom in the world".
Mrs. W had similar qualities to my own mother - though still quite a unique lady - which made spending time in their home such a pleasure. I have a number of memories about her involving food. No surprise I guess. Mrs W was active in the Scouting movement. When I was still in high school I had the privilege to attend a Cub Camp weekend as the troop's Cook! 'Come and get it!' They ate well.
At one of the annual Scouting banquets (always catered potluck style) Mrs. W brought her Cottage Casserole. It has a bit of an Asian flair. She had lived in Toronto before joining our farming community. This was pretty cosmopolitan cuisine for our meat and potatoes crowd and my father in particular was delighted at the new taste. It was made many times over the years and has been adopted into the kitchens of my brothers and their children too. Last week there was much talk of this casserole as we remembered a great lady in character but also in the kitchen.
Matthew Brill was lucky to have a very accomplished mother, who gave much to her field of science and to her country. But, maybe more importantly, he can say "she was the best mom in the world", not to mention "she made a mean beef stroganoff"!
For Matthew, my dear friend, and me, to say we had "the best moms in the world" carries the day. Good food was a bonus too. Rockets and the like, icing on the cake.
Although I never had Mrs. W's beef stroganoff, she sure made a mean Cottage Casserole.
MRS. W'S COTTAGE CASSEROLE
2 Green Peppers, chopped
2 cups Celery, chopped
1 Spanish Onion, chopped
2 cans Mushrooms, with juice *
2 cans tomato soup, condensed **
2 lb Ground Beef
4 tbsp Soy Sauce
2 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
6 oz Chow mein noodles
Sauté everything together. Save 1/2 noodles for topping. Mix well and bake at 325ºF uncovered for 40 to 45 minutes.
Serve over rice.
* Real mushrooms were not so readily available at the grocery store back in the 70's. I have moved on to the real deal in my kitchen now. Although I made the recipe as instructed for this post, consider replacing the canned mushrooms with 2 cups of sliced sautéed button mushrooms and 8 to 10 oz of unsalted beef, vegetable or mushroom broth.
** you might not be much into canned tomato soup but I offer no substitute. It just wouldn't be a recipe from the 70's without it!!
Sunday, January 11, 2015
Hello food friends! I hope the chilly days of January have been good to you. The commitments we have made to be better to ourselves and to others are still full of hope and promise.
One of our hopes for 2015 is to take the time to enjoy the hard work and creations of the many, many wonderful recipe developers who sweat over ingredients and flavour combinations. Then scripting them with clear and hopefully, easy to follow methods. We want to try new dishes, explore new genres and learn new techniques.
Our repertoire of Mexican dishes has true favourites and we turn to them time and time again, just 'because'. But it's time to make room for new friends.
When I saw the Guisado de Pollo recipe from Saveur, the long list of ingredients was enticing, not intimidating. The best part was that most of the ingredients were actually in the house.
I followed the recipe to the letter. Well, almost. There was a bit extra tomato as I had more than the required 15 ounces. I also added the juice from my canned pineapple. But other than that, I stuck to the script.
What did I learn? This doubting Thomas did not think the suggestion for preparing the chicken could give me tender shreds. But who am I to question the wisdom of the Saveur engine. It is a personal flaw I am trying to push pass. Unfortunately I have those feelings more than I would like.
Well here I am now with a beautiful Chicken and Potato Stew full of tender shredded chicken brimming in the broth. As much as I obsess about trusting methods in the recipe, I also can go over the top when I have beyond expected success. I have a funny feeling this kitchen is going to see a lot of shredded chicken in the weeks to come. Yes, perhaps just a bit over zealous on tender shredded chicken.
The mister says this recipe is even better the next day and that he would love to have it again. Who doesn't love a 'keeper'.
The recipe for Saveur's Guisado de Pollo can be found on their website. Here is the ingredient list to get you all juiced up.
* The beautiful artisan Country Sourdough bread in the photo comes from Bread By Us, 1065 Wellington Street West in Ottawa.
GUISADO DE POLLO (Chicken and Potato Stew)
Serves 6 to 8
INGREDIENTS¼ cup canola oil
1 ½ lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 small white onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
1 cup finely chopped fresh or canned pineapple
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. dried thyme
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 canned chipotles in adobo sauce, finely chopped
1 jalapeño, quartered lengthwise
1 lb. Yukon gold potatoes, peeled, cut into ½" cubes
4 cups chicken stock
3 sprigs epazote or cilantro
1 (15-oz.) can whole peeled tomatoes in juice, crushed
3 tbsp. capers, rinsed
Juice of 1 lime
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Fall is firmly entrenched here in Ottawa. The calendar says so and so says the frosty nights. My tomato plants have given their last gasp and I am grateful for their offerings and sacrifice.
As the remaining soldiers ripen on the counter, I eventually take the most red and juicy and press them into service. Yesterday's roasting was a combination of Romas, San Marzanos and cherry tomatoes. The cherry tomatoes stay whole. A dribble of olive oil. Salt and pepper. 300ºF for 2 hours. Works like a charm. Often I just lay them out in a ziplock bag after and freeze them.
The Autumn issue of LCBO Food and Drink has a classic recipe for Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe in its 30-Minute Marvels feature by Kristen Eppich. I saw it yesterday while flipping the pages, but I wanted more than 'macaroni and cheese for grown-ups'. Not one for following recipes anyway, I treated it as inspiration for my own pasta dish.
In the spirit of being free and easy in the kitchen, this recipe has no specific measurements. I just go by feel. It's pretty easy to make and 30 minutes might actually be a stretch. I was the only one dining in last night so it was dinner for one. Dining alone doesn't have to mean tea and toast. I dare you.
Play away and use lots of garlic. And cheese too.
Go fetch yourself a nice glass or wine and turn on the dinner music. Maybe you're dining alone but you're doing it in style.
PASTA WITH SAUTÉED ONIONS, GARLIC AND ROASTED CHERRY TOMATOES
Inspired by millions.
Cooked spaghetti noodles for one
Cooking onion, finely diced
Salt and Pepper
Oven-roasted cherry tomatoes
Heat olive oil and butter. Sauté the onions. It's okay if they take a bit of colour. That will just give more flavour. Add minced garlic and chili flakes and turn the heat down low. Garlic can burn easily. Season with salt and pepper.
To make a sauce in the oil and onions, turn up the heat, add the white wine and reduce.
Add the pasta (it should be slightly underdone in order to finish in the pan) and a small handful of cheese. Combine so the pasta gets well coated in the sauce. Add the tomatoes to warm. Do not stir them in or they will break apart. You can add warmed tomatoes at plating if you are worried about them bursting apart.
When plating, incorporate torn pieces of basil. Sprinkle with more cheese and then chives.
Sunday, September 7, 2014
We have had our Roots and Shoots Farm CSA basket from week 11 for ten days now. Although we have been eating out and enjoying other market produce, the basket is getting fair attention and plans are being made for it all.
I did not take as many pictures of our dishes as I have the prior month. There are a few included here. Just try to imagine it all, though!
|Parsley - I used a good part of it in my Italian Meatball recipe. The darling son used some for the broccoli soup. I plan to clean the rest, chop it and freeze it.|
|Swiss chard - I have a special friend who needs good food to help her body feel good as you faces monumental health challenges. I will be gifting her some lentil soup with Swiss chard on my next visit.|
|Romaine - we used this head last weekend for one of our favourite salads.|
|Carrots - we have been eating these sweet treats raw. I have a blue cheese dip in the fridge whenever that bite needs a 'pow'. The remainder were roasted and used in a Roasted Carrot and Coriander Soup.|
|Broccoli - the darling son made a Broccoli, Red Onion and Dill Soup.|
|Tomatoes - they have been used in a big Greek Salad and also on sandwiches.|
|Cucumber - we used it in our big Greek salad.|
|Potatoes - we served them as baked potatoes at a dinner party. Butter, sour cream, chives, bacon. The whole dreamy messy business. I microwave the potatoes first until they are done 3/4's and then put them on the BBQ to finish and get a crispy skin.|
|Sweet peppers - the red one was used in the zucchini fritters. The other two remain. I haven't made green pepper steak in ages. It will happen on a cool day when we want hearty food.|
|Onions - we used the white one in our penne pasta dish. The red one has been used in our big Greek salad and in the Broccoli, Red Onion and Dill Soup.|
|Beefsteak tomato - we used him in a pasta dish.|
|Kohlrabi - it was pickled.|
|Zucchini and summer squash - they were all used for zucchini fritters.|
THE PARADE OF FOOD DISHES
|Broccoli, Red Onion and Dill Soup|
|Mama Alberta's Italian Meatballs - I used my favourite recipe.|
|Roasted Carrot and Coriander Soup|
|Pickled Kohlrabi - - I used Linda's recipe on Garden Betty. I hope they turn out. They are still in pickling mode for a few more days.|
|Zucchini Fritters. I used Smitten Kitchen's recipe for inspiration. I use less flour, added bits of red pepper and also cilantro. They ended up being served up with pico de gallo, avocado whip, sour cream, sriracha.|
|Bowtie Pasta - Used a clove of garlic in the homemade basil pesto. (Basil and tomatoes are from our garden.)|
Saturday, August 30, 2014
When I picked up my Week 9 CSA basket from Roots and Shoots Farm I did not expect that my golden beets would turn into pickles.
We have had golden beets before this season. For this half share member, repeats hardly ever happen because of careful planning by owner, Robin Turner. He makes a point of managing the variety from basket to basket.
I was delighted for the second go-around (and said as much to Robin) because I love roasted beets - particularly in a salad. And they might as well be golden because they sure look good on the plate.
Because they cellar so well, beets are one of the last items used up in our share. First to hit the kitchen counter here is the more delicate produce.
For almost two weeks I had it in my head that I would eventually roast my beets. It didn't happen. Maybe because of the big heat this past week. Instead, the beets were pickled.
Although my bunch only gave me two 500 ml jars of pickled beets, I found my Rødbeder groove.
Rødbeder is a Danish recipe for pickled beets. It's practically a national dish. My mother used to make rødbeder all the time. Sometimes just a few jars and sometimes it was a preserving bonanza.
I happily channeled my mother to make these gorgeous beets.
The entire basket was beautiful. Check it out for yourself. I have also included pictures of some of the dishes we made with our produce. You can see why it's been a challenge to eat out this summer. The fridge is constantly full.
|Adirondack Reds - Surprise! They have pink flesh!!|
|Beans - Green, purple and dragon tongue|
THE PARADE OF FOOD DISHES
|Wedge Salad I used the Iceberg Lettuce. If you need a blue cheese dressing for the Wedge, I blogged about it here.|
|Heirloom Tomato Salad. I used one of my tomatoes from my CSA share, tomatoes from my garden and some tomatoes from the Ottawa Farmers' Market. I like this salad because the Parmesan crisps add a bit of crunch. (They are easy to make!)|
|Bruschetta. I was able to use more of my tomatoes, onion and garlic. I added basil from my garden and broiled a bit of Parmesan on top.|
|Greek Salad! I used a lot of my tomatoes, a cucumber, and some of the green peppers. Also in there is olives, red onion and feta cheese from Milkhouse Farm and Dairy. Check out Milkhouse on social media. I dare you to not fall in love with their sheep.|
|Judy Dempsey's Shakshuka recipe featured in the Ottawa Citizen. I used onion, kale, green pepper, garlic from my basket.|
|The darling son took most of the carrots with him to Algonquin Park for his canoe trip. His paddle buddy took a great shot of their carrot sticks on the scene.|
|Agurkesalat is another Danish recipe I make often. It is a quick pickle recipe for cucumbers.|
|I often use my agurkesalat on my open-faced sandwiches. It goes well with pork and beef. And in this case, lamb sausage from Milkhouse Farm and Dairy!|
|Zucchini Fritters. We used all our zucchinis for this party snack. The usual suspects of flour, egg, salt and pepper. Plus green onions. Next time I'm going to add red pepper for colour. This dish has me wanting a Spiralizer.|