Monday, November 30, 2009

she loves it

Speaks for itself.

(Please don't call the SPCA on me - I promise not to do it again!)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Wild Game Night

My family is no stranger to eating wild game.

In fact, Moose is no exotic meat in our home. It is more a cultural staple descended from my Dad's roots in Newfoundland (where there are more Moose than people - seriously, look it up.) From my Dad's heritage our house has also always been filled with venison (specifically deer), salted cod, salted beef (you don't want to know - although I admit that I'm the only one in the house who can't stand it.) So I figured maybe, as a family, we'd spread our culinary wings a little and try out some unexplored exotica.

I decided on a sort of tasting menu, cooking what would normally amount to a single serving of each meat so that we could each try as many things as possible.

Even when I was a quasi-vegetarian who avoided most red meats, pork and poultry I would always jump at the chance to try something new. So I was more than a bit surprised that my family members were reticent and suspicious of the unknown (especially given the aforementioned food staples in our house.)

The biggest surprise to me was my Dad, although I have often mentioned Dad's suspicion of pretty much anything I cook, I figured he'd be totally up for this as wild game is not unfamiliar to him. But no luck. Apparently if it doesn't come from Newfoundland he's having none of it.

Still, everyone put on their game face (see what I did there "game" face? Get it? I'm hilarious!) and made the effort to at least try everything I put in front of them.

So let's start at the beginning, I visited two local shops to gather my ingredients.

First I went to Nicholyn Farms a local country market that prides itself on supplying locally produced and organic foods (and at great prices I might add.) From Nicholyn I managed to procure elk tenderloin, bison striploin and pheasant. There was a lot else that I could have purchased, locally raised beef and pork for starters, but I tried to limit myself to my gamey goals on this visit.

Next I trekked over to Black Angus Fine Meats and Game which is about 2 hours from home. However, when you live in rural central Ontario that distance is actually pretty reasonable and it was totally worth it for what I found there. I went a little crazy purchasing some meats that I didn't even manage to put on the table yesterday.

(The Black Angus website is also a great site for detailed information about the game they sell; including flavour profiles and where they source the meat.)

From Black Angus I purchased wild boar in rib, bacon and prosciutto forms, duck prosciutto, squab and quail eggs.

On to the meal:

I prepared everything in the most simple form possible so that we could really taste the flavour of each meat and not get lost in sauces or side dishes.

We started with an appetizer plate featuring the various kinds of prosciutto and a super yummy regular ol' pork prosciutto that I got from a lovely old Italian man who cures all his own meats. I also served some pretty little hard boiled quail eggs on the tray.

Here's a rundown of the various opinions on the cured meats:

Wild Boar Prosciutto (on the right side of platter):
strong taste
earthy and nutty
more like a pancetta or sopressata
more aggressive than pork

Duck Prosciutto (left side of the platter):
nice aftertaste
fat melts in your mouth
the spicing was perhaps too strong but the meat itself was wonderful

Quail Eggs:
Enjoyed by everyone
stronger than chicken eggs
slightly gamey aftertaste

I also had some wild boar bacon (not pictured):
very good flavour
more flavour than typical bacon
good fat content and marbling
not as smokey as much bacon

Next we moved on to the grilled squab.

(Please forgive the blurry pic. As I've mentioned, I have to take my pictures outside and it was getting dark at this point - apparently I'm not a very good tripod.)

And roasted pheasant.

There was a very strong response to the squab; not everyone would try it because it's meant to be cooked on the medium rare side, which, brings up nightmares of undercooked poultry. In the end most of us dug in and those who didn't really missed out!

Grilled Squab (seasoned with s&p and grilled on the stovetop):
closer to the texture and taste of a red meat
extremely tender and moist
my personal favourite of the night

Roasted Pheasant (seasoned with s&p, barded with bacon and roasted in the oven):
very tender and moist
poultry like taste and texture
gamey aftertaste
very dark leg meat

Finally we moved on to the red meat portion of the evening with elk tenderloin, bison striploin and wild boar ribs. I also fried up some more quail eggs along with some manchego cheese for a garnish.

Elk Tenderloin (seasoned with s&p, quickly seared and finished in the oven):
interestingly, a mild flavour burt gamey aftertaste and smell
grassy flavour
moose like in flavour
very moist and tender

Bison Striploin (marinated overnight in s&p, olive oil and garlic and grilled stovetop):
mild taste
very steak like
deep, meaty smell
not gamey
slightly tough

Wild Boar Ribs (marinated overnight in a spice rub, baked in the oven and finished with a homemade barbecue sauce):
stronger taste than pork
tougher than pork

And that was it for our family game night (see that? I did it again! My grasp of puns is really formidable!) It was a really interesting experience both food wise and culturally; seeing the responses to the "exotic" meats.

Today I am exhausted. I always bite off more than I could chew (Huh? You like that one? I was on a roll. It had to be done) but it was really great to sit around as a family tasting and sharing our thoughts.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

2 words: Berkshire Pork

Obviously the above image is not porcine in nature.

(Sugar would be more appropriate - we used to call her "pig dog" before she lost weight. Oh, don't get offended! It's just that she has a tiny wee head and before she got back in shape she had a large roly-poly body...and sometimes she snorts! It was all in good fun. Plus, if I've learned nothing else from Dr. Phil I have learned that the best way to motivate a loved one to lose weight is to make jokes at their expense and compare them to least I think that was the point he was making.)

I just couldn't resist posting this pic I just took of my (very slim and trim) Dolan dog in all her adorableness.

Back to the topic at hand.

Berkshire Pork.

An aside: Tasty Trix, I know you love it!

Have you heard of Berkshire Pork?

Have you ever tasted Berkshire Pork?

I have. Just yesterday I tasted Berkshire bacon and friends let me tell you - I'm pretty sure I can't ever go back to the supermarket variety.

The Berkshire is a breed of pig that originated in England centuries ago and has been carefully bred there since it's discovery. Happily there are now some farmers here in Ontario raising the breed.

The difference in the meat from what I've been used to is really incredible. Just by looking at the meat uncooked and still in it's packaging you know you're in for something different from typical bacon.

I was blow away. The meat is sweet and juicy and tender and holds much more flavour than any other pork I've ever had.

If you can find Berkshire pork in your area do yourself a favour and try it - but be prepared 'cause you'll never look at pork the same way again!

Sunday, November 22, 2009


...came in the door very proud of myself this afternoon.

I spent approximately 4 hours in the car with my father - ALONE with my father - which, of course, means I was pretty much totally alone because you don't exactly bond with him in that kind of situation; you're more like a fly outside the window that is his mind, banging it's sad, stupid little head against the glass trying to get in and incapable of understanding that it's completely futile.

So yeah, I was totally proud of myself when I got home this afternoon and I had survived the trip without getting frustrated with him for totally not listening to anything I said and also for managing to make it through the day without feeling like a little girl whose Daddy doesn't love her.

Obviously I am still very aware of, and somewhat sensitive to, his lack of communication skills...but at least I'm not taking it personally.


Hooray for me!

Why did I spend 4 hours in the car with my father? Well, it's a bit of a long story but basically I had to do some long distance grocery shopping for my participation in this month's 24, 24, 24 with Foodbuzz (are you intrigued?) and SeaBass suggested that Dad accompany me - oh don't worry, I already thanked him for that!

So I get home proud, as previously mentioned, and also incredibly excited about my grocery finds and SeaBass, who got to be ACTUALLY alone all day and relax, is acting totally bitchy! Plus, he's showing NO enthusiasm for my finds.

And that hurts. Dad I can take. Dad I am (getting) used to but from SeaBass it hurts not to get the support and enthusiasm I expect. It makes me want my Mommy! She would totally be excited! Even if she didn't get it, she'd still get it because it mattered to me.

Do you guys get it?

Then when I actually wanted to be alone and procrastinate away my frustration, my father comes in the room and starts fixing (read: breaking pieces of) my wine cooler. Not to mention cursing, yelling and banging things around.


Thank you for listening. I appreciate your time.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

moose bourguinon and why Julia Child scared the bejezus out of me

I'm going to admit something that from my childhood that I am totally ashamed of now.

Are you ready for it?

It's bad, really bad!

God, I'm so ashamed of myself!

Okay here goes...

When I was little Julia Child scared the bejezus outta me.

I know, I know, it sounds crazy and I'm sure the foodie police are about to revoke my membership in the club for this insult to one of the food gods. But first, let me explain.

See, my mom didn't watch cooking shows and she didn't own any of Julia's books so I think my first glimpse of Julia probably occurred as I was randomly flipping channels on a weekend morning and suddenly onto my screen popped this giant sized apron garbed apparition, speaking in a voice that I was sure was meant to bounce around in my head endlessly and make star appearances in my nightmares.

So I had no context for who this person was or what she was doing on my television.

And basically I let this ignorant childhood fear pervade the next 25 years or so of my life.

Further to my defense I also came out of a similar childhood episode with a fear of Robert Smith of The Cure (Robert I later realized to be one of the most romantic songwriters, like, ever and The Cure one of my favourite bands, although I still can't watch the one video that gave me the childhood willies.) Other episodes spawned fears of the "Joy of Painting" guy (again, fear totally abolished once I learned about marijuana.)

So, you see, the lesson here is: don't let your children watch too much unchaperoned television. They'll come out with a totally skewed view of the world.

And, they'll find themselves in the torturous position of apparent bandwagon jumping when a Hollywood film is eventually made of the object of one of their irrational youthful judgements and they realize just what the hell they've been missing all these years.

It's true, I held on to my Julia Child stupidity, totally avoiding anything Julia Child related - recipes, cookbooks, food talk - until I heard about the movie and really got an idea of who the woman was and what she had done for cooking.

So now I'm in the position of admitting that it took a major trend to open my mind to something that I should have figured out a long time ago. AND, worse yet, I'm realizing that by negating Julia Child all this time, I've got a lot more to learn about the basics of food than I ever thought possible.

I suck.....and so does my crappy, fearful, totally lacking in self confidence child me.

So, enough about my issues!

I came away from Julia and Julia with the same determination to make Beef Bourguinon as most other folks did and a few weeks later I made it for SeaBass. He was in heaven. For once he didn't even have any "helpful" criticisms...only that I should have made more.

Last week he started bugging me to make it for him again so I started gathering the ingredients and the day before I was set to make it my Dad said, "Hey SeaBass, how 'bout I make us some moose tomorrow?" (Dad brought home a whole wack load of moose from his recent trip to Newfoundland.) To which SeaBass replied, "No way, Jenn's making beef bour..."

At this point I jumped in, luckily saving SeaBass from calling the dish by it's rightful name and ensuring that my father would NEVER put even a forkful of it near his mouth.

"Kind of a beef stew Dad. I'm making SeaBass' favourite stew."

SeaBass, ever trying to keep the even keel in the house, suggested I use the moose for my "stew". And Dad happily agreed.

So away I went. I won't bore you with the recipe since you can find Julia's Beef Bourguinon a million places online.

This is one of the links I've used:

I spent yesterday cooking, with Dad peering over my shoulder to ask why I wasn't adding turnip? And did I need to add industrial gravy thickener to my sauce? But I did it.

And I actually think I like the moose more than the beef! The meat was so tender and soaked up all the flavours and juices. Moose really lends itself to this kind of preparation because it absolutely needs a long cooking time.

So there you have it, yet more evidence of my relative insanity and odd childhood and another culinary success.

where have all the forks gone?

(to the tune of "Where Have all the Flowers Gone?")
"Where have all the big forks gone?
Long tines missing,
Where have all the big forks gone?
Long tines, so long."

I fell asleep singing that last night.

You know how individual socks go missing from the dryer when you are absolutely positive you deposited even numbered pairs?

Yeah well, I think my dryer and dishwasher have been chatting and hatching plans together.

'Cause suddenly all but about 5 of the big forks in the house are missing!

The appliances are in cahoots dammit!

Or maybe it's some sort of evil cleaning related fairy messing with me.

I'm sure it's extra amusing now that I am the lone female in the house fighting a losing housekeeping battle against 2 men, 3 cats and 2 dogs.

Or, maybe it's Mom and she's up there laughing her ass off because now I'm the one who has to worry about these things. I know she was laughing last weekend when I was freaking out about the impending visit from my Aunt and Uncle.

For me the fastest way to Mom's good graces was always to clean a bathroom or sweep the floor. After a lifetime of being the only girl with 7 brothers and then a doting Mom to 2 lazy ass kids, she appreciated nothing more than someone else doing the cleaning for her. It always drove her nuts that the rest of us didn't appreciate how much work it took to keep the place tidy - especially with all the pets we kept bringing home!

So, I'm absolutely certain that she is taking great pleasure in watching me in the role of head housekeeper these days.

And really, I completely went mental last week getting ready for our first visit from family. I had this whole, "I don't want anyone thinking we can't take care of the house without Mom" thing going on and I was running around like a madwoman trying to make everything perfect.

Yes, I do know how neurotic that sounds. I know no one, especially not those who came to visit, are judging us. Still, I embrace neurosis. And besides, the house is clean for a change, so it worked!

My point is this:

Where the F*#k are all the goddam forks?

Oh, and while we're at it, we seem to be missing a few glasses.

And the socks! What about the socks?

Yes Mom, I hear you giggling.

Monday, November 16, 2009

4 months (125 days)

I'm a day late with this post. Today marks 4 months and 1 day.

Yesterday was busy though. We marked the 4 month anniversary with a visit from Mom's younger brother, my favourite uncle and aunt. We made a pilgrimage to the cemetery and had a nice lunch at home (foodie note: I made a pretty traditional french onion soup and hand made salted caramels for dessert) talking about family and life and sharing our experiences of life without Mom.

It was a nice day. I only cried once. At the cemetery.

Four months in and I've only visited the cemetery a handful of times. I don't feel like I am benefited at all by spending time there. The finality of grave markers and the ground over my mother's grave, which still so clearly shows the freshness of the sod laid over the ground, only serves to make me angry once again at the futility of the whole thing. The finality of this new reality without my mother.

I don't feel Her presence at the cemetery. I think I actually feel furthest from Her staring at that bald patch of ground. There is nothing of my mother there. Her plot is as anonymous as all the other unknown names surrounding Her.

Sometimes I experience some guilt about feeling so detached from that place. Mom was so vigilant about Her own mother's grave; always bringing flowers and marking important dates with a visit to the site. I wonder if She feels I am neglecting Her? Nothing could be further from the truth of course. The reality is that when I stare at Her grave site I am overwhelmed with those things that will be forever missing from life without Mom, like Her physical presence. But, when I am at home or with loved ones I can focus on the ways in which Mom will never be absent, in my thoughts, my dreams, my every breath.

The other day I thought to myself, I wonder when the point will come where I will have had more thoughts, more experiences, more life without Mom than I have had with Her. And then I realized how ridiculous that was. I have not had a single thought or experience since the moment She passed that I have not fully shared with my mother. Nor will I ever.

So how is life 4 months in? How am I feeling now?

Most recently I have realized that while I might be coming to terms with the greater reality that Mom is not coming home again, that Her physical absence is a permanent one. I have been able to participate in finding day to day life a new routine (which is happening I am happy to report) that does not fall prey to missing pieces but works around them so that we are not all constantly faced with what is lacking; I have not been able to focus on some of the specifics of the whole thing.

I think the sudden loss is just so totally enormous that I can't yet navigate my way around it to examine some of the bits and that I so need to make peace with in order to move forward with life. I know what some of those bits are, I just can't see them clearly yet.

Mom was 61 and healthy throughout her life. What the hell is that about?

She had been putting off going to see her doctor. She had been working too hard. She had been very stressed out.

The events of the day She passed are still floating in my mind too. I dream about the day. It's all so clear but I still can't pick it apart in order to make sense of it.

I hope I can soon.

On the plus side, things with Dad seem to be getting easier. Maybe he's getting to a better place too?

I cry less. That's a huge generalization though. There are days, there are hours, there are moments. There are tears.

But life is better and I think what makes it able to be better is that I am confident of my mothers place. She is with me every moment and I am SO lucky that our relationship was such beforehand that I am able to feel Her so strongly now.

Friday, November 13, 2009

i'm back (roasted sweet potato stuffing)

Last night I cooked.

I was still feeling a little apprehensive, especially since I was making up a new recipe idea (of course, why would I ease my way back in to real food with anything familiar?) but I overcame my fears.

That's right, I am a strong, courageous, fearless - yes, fearless individual.

Well, not really. But I wanted to get a recipe together for this weeks contest on Food 52 featuring sweet potatoes (attention foodies: if you have not checked out this site, please do so) so I had to get a grip on my paranoid stomach.

I sat my stomach down and gave it a stern talking-to.

Picture if you will me staring down at my belly, pointing fingers and making mean faces.

Or no, maybe you shouldn't picture that. Yeah, no, skip it...'cause it never happened and you can't prove otherwise!

I entered my recipe for sweet potato fries but I also wanted to play with sweet potatoes a little so I thought about doing a stuffing. Here's the results:

Roasted Sweet Potato Stuffing

4 sweet potatoes peeled and diced
olive oil
1 loaf sourdough bread cubed
1 onion diced
7 strips bacon chopped
1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 tsp fresh thyme (or equivalent dried)
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 cup chicken broth

Preheat oven to 425
Peel and dice sweet potatoes
toss diced potato with olive oil and lay on parchment covered baking sheet
roast for approx. 20 minutes or until you can pierce pieces with fork easily
At the same time lay diced sourdough on baking sheet and place in oven for approx. 5 minutes to toast
Saute onion in olive oil just until softened
Season onion with s&p
Fry bacon until just crispy and dice into bite sized pieces
In a large bowl combine sweet potato, toasted bread, onion, bacon
Add to mixture toasted pecans and cranberries
Add spices and season with s&p
Add 1 cup chicken broth slowly (just enough to moisten mixture)
Stuff bird with mixture or if baking:
Heat oven to 325 and bake for 1 hour

p.s. SeaBass enjoyed it so much he let bacon back in to his heart.


Roasted Sweet Potato Stuffing on Foodista

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

the worst thing

The worst thing possible for me anyways.

I'm still trying to figure out what the hell happened exactly but basically I spent Monday night sleepless, finally gave up the attempt at 7 in the morning. I got up and had some toast and then by 8:30 found myself curled up on my knees in the fetal position in bed in the worst abdominal pain I have ever experienced in my entire life.

I spent three hours like that.

Every other position was like torture. Every breath felt like some creature was trying to claw its way out from my belly. Every movement led to agonizing pain.

Dolan was so afraid that she went and cowered in another room.

And then just as suddenly it was over.

I have NO idea what caused it. I had a lovely meatless supper of carnival squash - think of my butternut squash and chorizo pasta minus the chorizo and the pasta - on Monday night...
and now I fear the poor, harmless, always tasty squash and want nothing more to do with it. I know it's totally undeserved discrimination. But I've been hurt dammit!

On Sunday night SeaBass, Dad and I were invited to supper at a neighbour's house. I'm such a foodie snob - but it was not good. Think shake 'n bake and mushy vegetables. Still, the food was boring but I don't think it was dangerous.

So yeah, yesterday was bad, but not the worst thing.

What's the worst thing? The worst thing is that I'm SO off food right now. I'm scared crapless to eat anything more than white rice or plain broth.

And I had big, big plans for cooking this week.

So please, bear with me as I work my way past my fear of all things edible!

p.s. Any doctors out there or any non-medical professionals who want to take a stab at what the hell happened to me?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

updated: leeks, a working oven and working communication with Dad

SeaBass came home. Within 5 minutes the oven door was back in working order.

I told you he was better than us.

One of the things that stands out to me about this whole episode is how well my father and I managed to work together (albeit ultimately unsuccessfully.) Typically in a situation involving putting anything together, taking anything apart or basically co-operating on any endeavour I would stay well out of the way and allow someone else to deal with it knowing full well that if I got involved things would get broken; inanimate objects, fragile feelings and body parts included.

Not so here.

There were no raised voices, no insults, no throwing or slamming of random objects necessary to the project at hand. We worked well and when frustration set in we set the goddam door aside for, well, for our saviour to arrive.

Mom was in my head. She kept me treading lightly and carefully.

I wonder if Dad heard her too?

So, being the dedicated food blogger that I am I roasted some leeks the next day so that I could show you pictures of their carmelized, crispy glory accompanied by the deliciously thick and hearty romesco sauce.
It had absolutely nothing to do with my craving for more leeks. Nothing.
p.s. onion breath is worth it.

Friday, November 6, 2009

roasted leeks and romesco/ my father strikes again

I've always used leeks as an ingredient in a larger dish. They usually play a major role in whatever I'm cooking; still the other night I was staring at the leeks I'd gotten from the little family run grocer in town (possibly the last Ontario leeks I'll see for another year) and I was feeling a little guilty for overlooking the leeks this way and I decided it was time to let them go solo.
The idea of boiled leeks was definitely not making my stomach do a happy dance though and I was feeling a little lost until I remembered something I saw Anthony Bourdain eat in the Azores.

Man, that episode of No Reservations had a serious affect on me - between the pig slaughtering and now this! Man, SeaBass' crew of Portugese fellow carpenter types will be so touched by the impact their cultural traditions have had on his Irish/Newfie lady - or maybe not...they think the pig thing is weird too.

Anyways, during the pig slaughtering ritual Bourdain also enjoys a more vegetarian friendly experience involving fire roasted leek-type onion relations dipped in a red pepper sauce.

So I started with that vision of yumminess in mind.

I did not however have over-wintered onions to pull directly from my soil, nor was I willing to head out into the fast falling early late autumn twilight to start a fire and then roast my store bought leeks in bundles of newspaper (as seen on television), nor did I have any real recollection of what was in the mysterious pepper sauce.

What I did have was a nice bundle of leeks, a warm kitchen with a perfectly capable oven and the makings of a nice romesco sauce. And away I went.

preheat oven to 400 degrees
clean leeks well
toss in olive oil and salt and pepper

place on baking sheet in oven
roast for 20 minutes or more (until they look crispy and kinda burnt on the edges)

Romesco Sauce
*2 red bell peppers (roasted)
**1 head of garlic (roasted) or 3 raw garlic cloves
some recipes call for raw garlic; I thought roasting it would give it a nice sweetness.
1 red chili
1 small banana pepper (if you want a more spicy sauce - I just wasn't satisfied with only the chili)
4 roma type tomatoes (I used canned)
1/4 cup blanched almonds toasted
1/4 cup toasted walnuts (traditionally hazelnuts but I was out)
1 slice stale bread brushed with olive oil and grilled lightly
splash of sherry vinegar
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Throw all your sauce ingredients into a food process or blender and puree until you reach a desired consistency.
I was winging this a little bit so play with the flavours until you're happy.

*To roast peppers:
put on baking sheet under broiler.
Roast and turn until each side is blistered.
Put the roasted peppers immediately in ziploc bag and seal. (The steam will help the skins to loosen.)
After 10 minutes in sealed bag unseal and allow peppers to cool
Remove skins.

*To roast garlic:
Cut off the top of the head and remove excess skin.
Place under broiler and roast until you see juices bubbling on top of garlic.
Squeeze the flesh of the garlic out into your sauce mixture.

So this is the point at which I would typically show you pictures of the meal. Yeah, not gonna happen today.

You see, yesterday my dad decided he needed to clean the oven door...more specifically the glass within the oven door.

The man needs a hobby. Suggestions? Please? Before he starts knocking down walls and re-wiring things!

So he took it apart, all by his lonesome, which actually happened rather easily. But here's the thing, when anything comes apart that easily you gotta bet it's gonna be a bitch to put it back together.

Plus there's the fact that we carry the family name Murphy and I'm sure you all know how that goes (if you don't I'd be glad to give you some examples of the kind of luck associated with that name!)

The two of us spent a good couple of hours last night struggling with the damn thing until I finally declared a hiatus before one of us managed to break the damn oven glass...or the other one's neck!

Now we're waiting for SeaBass to get home to make the next attempt. SeaBass is the clearheaded, calm one in the house. Plus, he's just plain better than us. It's endlessly annoying...have I ever mentioned that our elderly next door neighbour worships him and calls him Super Man? I'm not sure why I put up with him.

Oh right, 'cause he's the only one who'll put up with me. Must keep that in mind.

So yeah, I have no oven in which to roast more leeks and show you their charred loveliness (and I'm still not willing to go out in the cold and do the whole fire thing.)

You'll just have to take my word for it that the leeks were deliciously sweet and carmelized. They were deliciously mild and subtle on their own but I really enjoyed dipping them in the romesco sauce, which was also mild but spicy and nutty and a great complement.

There you have it. No more leek guilt. And p.s. I love Anthony Bourdain!

Roasted Leeks and Romesco Dipping Sauce on Foodista

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

meet my babies

So you know those people who babble endlessly about their children and how wonderful and special and intelligent they are and all the while you are envisioning muzzling them or reminding them that you recently witnessed said child eating dirt from the bottom of their shoe or envisioning breaking in to their monologue and asking politely why they don't try getting a life and pulling their head out of their ass?

Well I'm pretty sure that's how people feel when I start talking about my dogs. And I gotta tell you, I don't care! Because the fact is, they are the most special-ist fur babies who ever did live.

Yeah, that's right, fur babies. Deal with it.

Oh, and don't even get me started on my cats. I've got a cat who plays fetch and kisses me on the lips and other who befriends raccoons and brings them home. You know you're jealous. And yes, I know a good percentage of you are grossed out by the kissing thing...don't care. He's the coolest cat ever.

Anyhoo, I've been overwhelmed by questions about my dogs (okay so one person asked, but I'll take any excuse to show them off) so I thought I would formally introduce them.

This is Sugar.

Sugar is a pit bull/lab. She came to us 11 years ago when my brother got her as a present for his girlfriend at the time. When her family heard the words "pit bull" they refused to let her keep the puppy.

Their loss. Of course Sugar has some terrier like tendencies but she's more lovable lab than anything and as with any dog, Sugar has been mostly influenced by her training and her treatment with us.

Sugar enjoys walks on the beach, rolling in the sand, diving for rocks and attention from humans.
Sugar is my father's greatest comfort right now and she takes that job very seriously.

This is Dolan.
Dolan is my baby. She came to us accidentally.

A friend of ours was coming up from the city to pick up one puppy from an island native reserve near here. When she arrived at the ferry dock to meet the man with the pup he showed her an entire litter of 6 week old babies and basically said, "Take them or I'm dumping them off the ferry on the way back."

She took the puppies.

She was coming by our house to see us in any case and so she arrived with the whole litter in the back of her van and I fell in love...with all of them. I was immediately told by SeaBass that I was not allowed a dog but, um, well, he's not the boss of me! So, with the help of our friend, I hid the cutest pup in my dad's car until our friend had left and when my family started talking about how cute they all were and, "maybe we should have taken one." I ran outside and recovered Dolan from her hiding place.

As far as we can tell Dolan is a border collie/husky and she lives up to both breeds by being both incredibly intelligent and incredibly stubborn. She picks and chooses when to listen to me and it's really remarkable to watch her wheels churning. She requires a lot of stimulation and attention. If I didn't work from home I don't think we'd be able to have her.

She's a giant pain in the ass sometimes.

Dolan enjoys running on the beach (and running away from home to the beach), playing fetch, being chased, meeting new dogs to play with and herding anything and everything.

I've since learned that the native reserve has a major problem with stray dogs and unwanted puppies. There is a local rescue group that adopts these puppies out to good homes.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

winter coming on

There's a possibility of flurries tonight.

Winter was making it's presence felt in the air as I walked the dogs along the beach this evening.

I can't believe the last leaves have left the trees and the squirrels have finished collecting their winter store of nuts.

It feels like the last time I
really stopped to look around Mom and I were holding our breaths and watching a finch hop in the trees overhead.

An hour later she was gone and I haven't been able to see a damn thing clearly yet.

Monday, November 2, 2009

beet gnochhi and beating my head against the wall

Two days without the internet.

It was hell people, hell. A lonely, alienating, god forsaken hell in which I had only SeaBass for company and he is far too happy and energetic for me to deal with on a permanent basis without the blogosphere buffer.

Everything is better now, all is right with the world once more. The tech guy has come and gone and I am free to ignore the world around me with abandon.

So of course today I'm totally being unproductive. The procrastination that I would normally have spread out over a few days I've managed to squeeze in to this afternoon. It's actually pretty impressive how much procrastination I've accomplished. Huh, I feel better about myself when I think about it that way - I have managed to streamline two missed days of procrastination in order to bring myself back up to speed.

Hurray for me!

Last week I bought beets at the farmer's market. I've gotta tell you, I've only ever had beets pickled. My parents pickled them, friends of the family pickled them, we always had store bought pickled beets. I didn't even know you could do anything else with them until a couple of years ago. So I bought a few just to see what I could do with them.

I boiled one and ate it just so I could get an idea of what I was dealing with and then did a little looking around at beet recipes. I decided to play on the idea of a beet salad with goat cheese, beef and walnuts and make a beet gnocchi and serve it with steak and a butter sauce.

A couple of notes:
I both boiled and then sauted the boiled gnocchi - it just finished them off well and carmelized the sugars in the beets.
I sauteed my steak on the stovetop - it was delicious, and easy to do. I just did it as I was sauteing the gnocchi.

5 beets cut into quarters
1 tsp olive oil
1/3 cup goat cheese
1/4 cup ricotta
1/2 cup flour

Cooking beets
Heat oven to 400 degrees
Wash beets.
Cut into quarters.
Toss and coat well in a bowl with olive oil and s&p.
Place beets on baking dish.
Roast in oven for about 1/2 hour or until you can pierce the beets easily with a fork.

Put large pot of water on to boil gnocchi.
Mash or puree the roasted beets well in a bowl.
Add goat and ricotta cheese.
Add flour and stir.
If necessary add more flour until the dough is just dry enough that it does not stick to the bowl and holds together. You want to be very careful about how much flour you add. If you are heavy handed with it, your gnocchi will be heavy.
Place dough on floured surface.
Roll out into long thin logs.
Cut logs into 1/2 inch sections.
When your pasta water is boiling salt it well and then add gnochhi in small batches.
Remove gnocchi when they float to the surface of the water (about 30 seconds)

Saute cooked gnocchi

Heat small saute pan with a little olive oil.
In small batches saute the gnocchi about 20--30 seconds on each side.

Striploin steak
pat dry with a paper towel
season with s&p
saute over medium heat about 3 minutes on first side and 2 minutes on the second for rare.
Let rest for 10 minutes.
Slice to serve.

Butter Sauce
1/4 cup shallot diced
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp fresh thyme minced
handful of chopped walnuts

Melt butter in small pot or pan over medium low heat.
Add shallots and saute until softened (2 minutes).
Add thyme.
Continue to cook until butter gains a slightly darker colour.
Toss the gnocchi in sauce.
Reserve some to drizzle over steak on plate.

p.s. I always feel stupid for not taking pictures of the cooking process, especially with this recipe, which I feel is probably coming off confusing. The thing kitchen is yellow - happy, cheery yellow - my mom thought it would brighten the space since it doesn't get a whole lot of sunshine (we have way too many gigantic trees on the property - a whole other topic.) The point is, I can't photograph food in my kitchen. It upsets me. All my pics are taken outside, usually the day after I cook.
Please, please forgive me.

Beet Gnocchi With Steak and Brown Butter Sauce on Foodista