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”

Strawberry-Balsamic Shrub Cocktail

A cocktail is a little like a blank slate, an empty canvas.  At least it is to me.  A base spirit on which you can write whatever story you would like.  There are so many possibilities with which to fill all that blank space, and sometimes I don’t even have to think about it – a gin and tonic, a dirty martini, an old-fashioned are all on repeat.  But some days I want to break from the mold, create something unusual, write something that’s never been written before.  And that’s when I sometimes suffer from what could be akin to writer’s block (“cocktail block”??).   Continue reading “Strawberry-Balsamic Shrub Cocktail”

White Bean Salad with Asparagus

Cold summer salads are a staple in my kitchen.  We have them nearly every single day when the weather heats up.  In fact they’re one of the first things I start making when I’m impatient for the lazy days of summer to arrive.  Perhaps it’s my way of trying to usher in the warmth and sunshine that seems so long overdue.  I usually make them with pasta, but this bean salad is a great alternative that I’ve made several times already this spring.  It’s packed full of protein and is something I can bring along on a picnic or serve as a side with grilled meat for dinner.  It is best when made a few hours ahead, Continue reading “White Bean Salad with Asparagus”

The Land of Enchantment

I go to New Mexico to be inspired.  The culture, the landscape, the food, the history, the textures, the colours – they’re all threads in a complex and fascinating tapestry.  At first sight New Mexico may be deceiving – a harsh, desolate wilderness where even the plethora of adobe houses somehow fade seamlessly into the landscape beyond leaving you to wonder whether they ever even existed in the first place.  Were they just mirages on the desert floor?   This is the place where dreams of the American Wild West were born and quickly went to die.  But there’s a reason New Mexico is called “The Land of Enchantment.” There’s a magic here, deep and ancient, rooted in traditions that never die. Continue reading “The Land of Enchantment”

Calvados Martini

Normandy is famous for many of the world’s most delicious delicacies: Camembert, apples, oysters, and the most luscious cream and butter, cidre and of course, Calvados -the apple brandy that has been distilled there for over five centuries.  Calvados, in a way, is made like a fine perfume, with producers meticulously combining upwards of 200 different varieties of apples ranging from sweet to tart to bittersweet and bitter into their eau de vie.  In one appellation, pears are also used in the formula.  Bitter and tart apples must make up the majority of the composition (70%), while the remainder is comprised Continue reading “Calvados Martini”

L’art de l’omelette

The omelette, like a work of art, is something that’s never fully mastered or perfected… but it gives me great satisfaction to try.  Did Monet ever say, “I’ve painted my best garden,” and put away his brushes and easel?  Did Van Gogh ever think, “I’ve perfected the Iris, let’s move on to more important things.”?  Of course not.   Instead, when one painting was completed, he picked up his brush and began again on a new canvas.  Yes, the ingredients were the same – wispy petals, blade-like leaves on unruly stems – but Continue reading “L’art de l’omelette”

An Easter Menu

Without a doubt, Thanksgiving is my favourite holiday!  I dream of turkey and dressing and cornbread and pumpkins for weeks leading up to the day.  Of course, when all the dishes are done and the tablecloth is in the washing machine, I start to realize that I like Christmas, maybe just a little more.  All the sweets, breads, nuts and big cinnamon rolls for breakfast!  I mean, how could Christmas NOT be your favourite holiday, really?  Oh, but then… Champagne and caviar and oysters and fireworks and the promise of a blank slate and a fresh start in the year to come and I’m certain that New Years is, indeed, my favorite.  But when the confetti settles, the house is cleaned, the windows are opened letting in the freshness of spring, I determine that, in fact, Easter must really be my favourite holiday. Continue reading “An Easter Menu”

On being Irish, sort of, and Irish Coffee

I spent my life believing I was Irish.  My grandmother’s family immigrated from Ireland and the proof hung proudly in a frame on the wall in her brother’s living room – County Cork to New York, New York; 1922.  I stood looking at it once, this yellowing paper in a frame – finding it incredibly strange that something like a government issued form would be considered a work of art.  But, to our family, it was.  It was proof of how far they had come, and a reminder to never forget where their roots were planted.  It’s a conflict that perhaps all immigrant families feel, this pull of two different lands, two different homes.  Continue reading “On being Irish, sort of, and Irish Coffee”

Garlic-Turmeric Soup and Ginger Tea

I try not to worry about little things like the cold and flu season.  I tell myself, kids get sick.  It’s just a fact of life.  It strengthens their immune systems when they’re young so that they are healthier as adults.  Little colds here and there I can manage, but this flu season has been rough, and when there are so many teachers out sick at school that the children cannot even go out to recess because there aren’t enough adults to watch them, then I start to worry.  I’m a worrier by nature, thanks to my grandmother who worried herself into four heart attacks.  The best way, I believe, to stave off worry is by Continue reading “Garlic-Turmeric Soup and Ginger Tea”

The Vesper Martini

In the world of martinis I like to think of a vodka martini as sort of an entry-level martini.  A martini with training wheels.  It can be jazzed up or dressed down. Shaken or stirred. It’s easy and fun and fairly forgiving.  Then there’s the gin martini.  This is the grown-up martini.  It’s like a family sedan.  Safe and reliable, and you can run it through the car wash when it gets a little “dirty”…  Then there is this.  The Vesper.  This is not for the casual martini drinker.  This is a midlife crisis Aston Martin bought on a whim and driven backwards down a hill in Monaco while trying to escape your lover’s enraged husband.  It’s not for the faint of heart. Continue reading “The Vesper Martini”