Mushroom Risotto

Food as art

Let’s imagine, for a moment, that the kitchen is a world-class art gallery.  The exhibits change with the seasons, but one thing remains the same – each dish is reminiscent of a work from one of history’s most influential artists.  We could say that there are dishes that resemble the cubism of Picasso – those meticulously constructed fusions with ingredients whose union seems surprisingly controversial, yet somehow work together perfectly (think Kimchi Tacos).  There are the Michelangelos – well thought out Renaissance masterpieces.  They don’t overstep the boundaries of artistic license or realism, and their refined elements take time and a steady hand to prepare (Christmas dinner?).  There are the Jackson Pollocks – abstract impressionist dishes that evoke all the feels (butternut mac & cheese?).  And then there is Risotto. Continue reading “Mushroom Risotto”

Melon au Lillet

Of monks and melons

The story goes that the tradition of serving Port wine in the hollowed-out cavity of a summer melon was first started by Spanish monks who would fill local piel de sapo melons, likely grown in the monastery garden, with equally local Port from the monastery cellar.  The aperitif was likely enjoyed in the cool shade of the garden before the evening meal.  Melons were considered a symbol of earthly delights by the monks.  And how fitting that something with such a rough and arguably ugly exterior would yield one of earth’s most delicious treats.  A geode of the garden – rocky on the outside, a treasure within. Continue reading “Melon au Lillet”

Harvest Chicken

The kids went back to school last week.  To me, it feels a bit like sacrilege to begin in the middle of the sacred month of August.  But, over the last few days a cool fog has rolled in off the mountains and I’ve had to put extra blankets on the beds.  It’s like nature is saying, “It’s time,” and it truly feels like fall is nearly here, a little earlier than normal, as well, but who am I to argue with Mother Nature.  At night I still throw the windows open wide and by morning the house is blissfully cool – almost cold, even – and I wake, finding I’ve been dreaming of damp autumn leaves and the scent of cinnamon dancing through the kitchen air. Continue reading “Harvest Chicken”

Peach & Blueberry Crisp

In all the busyness of recipe development, food-styling and creating that perfect, Instagram-worthy pie crust, I forget that the simplest recipes are often the most loved.  Take, for instance, a fruit crisp.  It’s by far one of the easiest things to prepare, and “comforting” doesn’t even begin to describe the feelings it evokes when I take a bite (with a little vanilla ice cream).  Nostalgic, soothing, consoling, loved.   This is the kind of dessert my mother would make when there wasn’t time to make anything fancy.  Of course, we could have skipped dessert altogether.  It’s not a required Continue reading “Peach & Blueberry Crisp”

Swiss Chard & Potato Galette

I love the trend of returning to our culinary roots.  That’s not to say that I don’t respect the innovative chefs creating modern and exciting new adaptations of our old favourites,  but the slow living movement, the trend to cook like our grandmothers once did is where my heart lies when I’m in the kitchen.  Cooking real food with natural, wholesome ingredients that have names even our grandmothers would recognize.  Tried and true recipe that have stood the test of time.  However, there is one thing that I absolutely will not cook the way my grandmother did.  Pie crust.  My grandmother came from the generation of cooks who, in the 40s and 50s, embraced shortening as a better alternative to butter and used it for just about everything from hand cream to pastry dough. Continue reading “Swiss Chard & Potato Galette”

Apricot Clafoutis

If you ask me, apricot season is far too short.  Here in Colorado if you blink you’ll miss it.  So when I find apricots in the market I never pass them up.  Of course there are always apricots in the grocery stores, hard and bitter rocks that will never ripen to perfection and will ruin any recipe you use them in.  But if I find ripe, local, charmingly bruised apricots in the farmers’ market I buy bags and bags of them.  We eat them by the dozens and anything we don’t eat raw is transformed into a number of seasonal treats.  Perhaps because of their very short season, recipes that centre around apricots have always seemed rather exotic to me, perfumed with the most enticing and seductive spices in the world.  Apricot and Chicken Tagine from Morocco, Apricot Blatjang from South Africa, Indian Apricot Pudding with almonds and cardamom.   Continue reading “Apricot Clafoutis”

Cocoa Meringues

I get oddly excited about recipes that require only the egg yolks.  It’s similar to the way someone might start looking forward to their birthday cake a few days in advance, or how enticing a Friday evening cocktail becomes when you’re stuck at your desk on Wednesday, because when a recipe requires only the yolks it means there will be leftover egg whites, and one of the very best ways to use leftover egg whites is to make meringue cookies. Continue reading “Cocoa Meringues”

Strawberry Balsamic Hand Pies

As evening fell, I stood by the window with a glass of wine in my hand and saw her.  Opening the back door – the one that led from the kitchen – she gathered her flowered housedress and white apron in one hand.  Slowly she approached the five steps that led to the garden and very carefully, unsteady, she descended.  I always watched her, never leaving that window for fear that if her knees buckled and she fell I would have to run out to help.  But she never did fall, and once down in the garden she walked among the rows, chatting with someone unseen, perhaps a bird, perhaps a rabbit, or ghost, or maybe she talked only to herself.  I never knew. Continue reading “Strawberry Balsamic Hand Pies”

Glace aux Spéculoos

I’m a minimalist in the kitchen.  Our house is from an era when rooms were separate and small, and, as such, the kitchen is tiny, but surprisingly functional.  Though I love all the mid-century architectural details of our home — the charming cream-coloured tile window sills, the narrow hallways, the little hidden wine cellar beneath the basement staircase — the kitchen counter space is very limited.  The last thing I wanted was for this precious work space to be clutter with appliances.   I don’t own a stand mixer or even a coffee maker!  A hand mixer and a French press are much easier to stow away in the cabinets.  However, several years ago I bought an Continue reading “Glace aux Spéculoos”

Creamed Spinach Tart

When it comes to food I can be very impulsive.  My mother, of course, tried to teach me how to write a meal plan.  She was a master meal-planner.  Each week she’d sit down at the kitchen table with all the local sales ads, her big envelope of coupons (which I was in charge of organizing), and her recipe boxes and books.  Then, with all the options laid out before her, she would fold a blank sheet of paper in half lengthwise and begin “The Plan.”  On the right side of the paper she’d write the mains and sides and sometimes desserts for each day of the week; the left was for her list, separated by store, by department, and denoted by coupon.  Each meal was precisely determined by what happened to be on sale at which store and by which coupons in her envelope would get her the very best deal on each and everything on her list.   Continue reading “Creamed Spinach Tart”