Monday, January 30, 2012

Who Inspires You Right Now?

"I've gotta go grocery shopping," my friend kvetches. "I need inspiration. What should I cook?"

"Read the food blogs!" I say. The best bloggers are often good at creating seasonal ingredient-based meals. But these day it seems like some of the best bloggers are too busy editing cookbooks to post what they're making. In that case, let's turn to the chefs.

When I am really stuck for ideas I look to what Alice Waters is offering at Chez Panisse. The daily menu at the café reads like found poetry.

My current Vancouver chef crush is Quang Dang. His menu at West makes me pine for a lottery win soon, like tomorrow. I so want to go to the Hendrick's Gin Dinner! Don't you? Well then, you know who to take with you!

The Dine Out Vancouver Menu that appeals to me the most right now is the one at L'Abbatoire. Some of the menu choices would be very difficult to make. It all sounds so good.

It's a shame that Sooke Harbor House and The Willows Inn on Lummi Island don't publish their daily menus to feed the voyeuristic souls that peruse their web pages. Sigh. A woman can dream.

The reality is that right now I am very excited about making apple sauce with lots of cardamom for my morning yogurt. Simples! Who inspired me? Nigel Slater. Making apple sauce in the winter out of apples that are starting to go soft is a grounding ritual. It's great for a Sunday morning when you have that extra bit of time before choir practice. I'm going to find some ricotta and pears now to riff on Nigel's recipe.

Oh, and I just found this lovely little winter salad at Oh Joy! that is inspired and inspiring.

Friday, January 27, 2012

High Spirits Choir Concert this Sunday!

Our choir is having their big winter concert on Sunday at 3:30 pm in Unity Church, 5840 Oak. (Click on the poster to enlarge.) We are singing a wide variety of songs, including "We Once Beheld the Stars" with lyrics by Dante. If you read music and are interested in singing challenging repertoire, this might be the choir for you to consider joining. We could especially use tenors!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Occupied Territory

Humor provided by the 1%.

I had a downer of a morning. You know when you're in an environment where every single person is treated like a moron by staff who see themselves as superior beings on a more evolved plane? Yeah that. Oh well, bad experiences make good stories and by god I'll be writing about that one. I decided to cheer myself up by heading to the VAG and checking out the food truck action.

Well, the lineups were insane. People were lining up to take photos of lineups. Stuff sold out. I went around the corner to Ensemble Tap for my lunch.

There's a three course deal on right now and I started with the popcorn shrimp with tempura sea asparagus and spicy mayo which cheered me up immediately. Flavors were bright and layered. It hip checked other popcorn shrimp I've had and put them out of the game. (Wow, I sound like such a dude!)

Oh, look at those plump, juicy bangers. I love mushrooms and spaetzle but the sauce was wrong. The mushroom onion pan gravy tasted like honey mustard. I craved vinegar notes and wanted to axe the honey. Is it made sweet to go with the bitterness of beer? Big portion, maybe enough for half the Sedin twins, or half of half of them. I liked the onion slaw--good crispy vinegar tang.

Lovely little key lime pie. Tangy and creamy with a buttery crust. I would have liked a lime curd swoop instead of cream, but then you'd have to charge me more, wouldn't you?

Still feeling a bit out of sorts I headed to the Juice truck for the Beta 5 hot chocolate almond milk with chai marshmallows for (choke) $5.50. It occupied my belly, but not my heart. Go to French Made and have the Earl Grey Chocolate instead or go to La Nouvelle France where she knows her drinking chocolate. It is more "evolved" as they say at Mink. Pretentious? Moi?

Unfinished Business

The latest Stephen Lewis Foundation newsletter describes arts therapy in Africa. I was very moved to read how one artist Mbulelo Duma works with children who have suffered in the Aids epidemic.

We also use clay to help children deal with what we call 'unfinished business.' With the clay, they make objects depicting the things that they would have liked to have said to their late parent, and then they use their voice, saying, "I would have loved to have a bicycle," for instance. Then they would also use the voice of the deceased saying what is it that they think would have been their response. So in that way, we give them an opportunity to say the things that they didn't get to say, and to get the responses that they didn't get while the person was alive.

I think clay can also be helpful in that it is a form of expressing anger without hurting others. For example, children make objects that have made them angry or that represent a situation in which they were angry. Then they work in pairs to share about what is it that had made them angry. Through the clay activities we help them realize that anger is a feeling that is worth talking about, but what matters most is the expression of their anger. After that we talk about what other ways they think might be helpful to express their anger without hurting themselves or hurting others.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

His n' Hers Gin

Whiskey and boxer shorts. That's what the local doc in our small town in Saskatchewan prescribed to every couple that was having trouble getting pregnant. I think of that every time I toss my man's boxers in the wash and rinse out his scotch glass. The cycle continues.

My dearly beloved likes his nip of after dinner scotch and he guards that bottle like a passive aggressive guard dog. I can hear him growling in my head when I approach the liquor cabinet (which in our house is also the cookbook, magazine and kipple cabinet). I decided I wanted lady's tipple and so I went out and bought a bottle of Bombay Saphire Gin. I bought some tonic water, grapefruit and blood oranges and imagined myself relaxing with a citrus slurp while cooking dinner. Ummmm, so guess who's drinking all the gin cocktails. "But it's so refreshing!" he says. Dude, that's supposed to be my refreshment. Anyhow, good thing Valentine's Day is coming up, 'cause mama needs her gin!

Art's Birthday 2012

We celebrated Art's Birthday at W2 Community Media Arts with a wacky cake made by the baker at the W2 Media Café in the form of a sound wave. We watched interesting archival images of Martin Luther King recently unearthed from Sweden. Artist Bryan Mulvihill (aka Trolley Bus) served fine green tea in a pot he made as a copy of an ancient tea pot design.

Brian sees sharing tea as a form of "social sculpture" and he has been in many World Tea Party events and projects. He is very hospitable and generous with his knowledge of tea culture. There's an article in the Georgia Straight outlining his philosophy. He is a really lovely person and a Vancouver treasure.

Raincity Chronicles this Friday!!!!!!

Check it out! I am so excited about this gig. Get your tickets now because they will sell out. (Click to enlarge.) Isn't the poster amazing?

From the Raincity Chronicles website:

We are very excited to announce the next batch of storytellers for our special edition event in conjunction with the great folks from the City of Vancouver Food Policy.

Emily Wight

Ilana Labow

Luke Brocki

Maryvon Delanoe

Peter Ladner

Lori Weidenhammer

Preet Marwaha

Brent Mansfield

music by Reid Jameson

These incredible Vancouverites will be sharing tales about their experience and passion for local food and communities, something near and dear to our hearts. You can read more about the night and the work the City of Vancouver has been doing here.

Grab a pair of tickets here.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Winter Kimchi: Gimjang

Now that I am addicted to Korean tacos, I felt it was time to learn how to make kimchi. I have had lessons in making saurkraut, so I felt I had a little bit of experience in fermenting cabbage. I turned to David Lebovitz because he is my go-to-guy for recipes these days. His recipe made it seem possible to make kimchi without too much sturm und drang.

I enlisted my friend Catherine to help with moral support and hard labor--ie chopping all those ingredients. I gathered as many ingredients as I could find, heading all the way to South Seas in Granville Island to pick up the Korean chili flakes. (Apparently it does not include the seeds of the chilis.) I found just about everything except the daikon, which is always everywhere you look in Vancouver when you're not looking for it.

I prepared the Chinese cabbage ahead of time. Now that was my biggest stumbling block. David says to remove the tough bits of stalk. Ummm how much do you remove? I removed almost all of it and was left with a tiny bag of leafy bits. This was obviously wrong, so we added most of the stalk. Now I have been looking at kimchi making vids online and those cabbage vary greatly in size. I think I'd picked one that must have been about half the size of David's. Anyway we decided to wing it, adding in some Easter egg radishes instead of daikon and hand chopping the ginger and garlic instead of putting it in the food processor. I didn't leave the leaves of the cabbage whole, btw. I wanted it in bite size pieces to put on tacos.

We drank strong tea, chatted about dogs, the universe and everything and we chopped cabbage, onions, garlic, and ginger. Here it is, all mixed up with the fish sauce, honey, and chili flakes. Catherine tasted it and declared it addictive. She said I needed to take it home to ferment or else she'd eat all of it. We got excited about the variations we could make in the future.

Here us our jar of kimchee which it is supposed to ferment outside the fridge until it starts to fizz or bubble. Then you can keep it for about three weeks in the refrigerator where it will gradually get stronger in flavor. So I looked kimchi up on the Wikipedia and of course it has a long and venerable history and back in Korea people make different kinds of pickles depending on the season. Winter kimchi is made though a process called Gimjang. Koreans even take kimchi holidays to get together and make the stuff and they store it in dedicated fridges to keep it at the optimum temperature and also because the smell can leach into other foods.

The new kimchi, made with fish sauce and less salt is healthier than the really traditional stuff, in fact it is considered by many to be one of the healthiest foods in the world. I'm really looking forward to those kimchi tacos and to learning more about this super food.

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Winter Stroll in Kits

After a long grey spell we are finally enjoying some sunshine, so I have taken the time to catch some rays. I love walking around in other people's neighborhoods looking at gardens and houses, so I headed to Kitsilano for a stroll. Click on the photo to take a closer look at that amazing leopard print door.

The top part of the outside of this house is covered in astro turf. Talk about kitsch.

The heather is bloomin' in the gloamin'.

I love this wonky raised bed that's tucked into the corner of a curb with its crops of winter greens and herbs. I am kicking myself for failing to plant a winter garden this year, especially now that I am addicted to kale.

Check out the psychedelic ornamental kale. Apparently you can eat this although it is not as tender or tasty as the other varieties because it's bred for beauty. Kind of like me. Ar Ar.

I love the mop heads of these clematis vines for winter interest.

I couldn't figure out what kind of tree this is, but I love the silhouette against those wispy clouds.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Winter Treats: Gougeres

I am so excited that someone is finally making gougeres in Vancouver! These savory puffs made of choux pastry are perfect for appetizers with bubbly and if you make them larger you can even use them to make sandwiches. I made mini sandwiches out of these French Made mini gougeres which are flavored liberally with cumin. I mixed some of Vij's garam masala into mayo and mixed it with chopped chicken and topped with fresh avocado. It's a perfect snack for afternoon tea.

French Made Bakery has just opened up just north of Number One Kingsway. I had sampled their canalés at Blim and tasted their macarons at the Farmer's market. Their logo is a little French maid without any eyes. That's okay. I painted a backdrop of Jesus holding a lamb for my grad and he didn't have a nose.

Speaking of the baby Jesus, during January the bakery is making a special seasonal French dessert celebrating Epiphany called "galette des rois". It's made of frangipane with a hint of rum and pastry cream in between flaky pastry. You can order it, complete with a bean cooked inside to represent the baby J. Down south in cajun country they will even put a ceramic baby in their version of galette des rois. Just don't chomp on Jesus! Of course, whoever nibbles on Jesus gets a prize or the answer to their prayer, whichever comes first.

The salty caramel Breton macaron and the Earl Grey Anglais macaron are very toothsome and much more interesting than most macarons I've sampled which I find underwhelming. These two flavors are not too sweet and the caramel has a good salty chew in it's texture.

The shop also sells little brioche loaves, individual quiche, croissants and other treats. There are a few chairs to sit in and they sell Kusmi tea. Looks like they will also be participating in the hot chocolate festival, which is awesome!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Borscht with Vegetable Stock

Yesterday was still a school holiday because New Year's Day fell on a Sunday. So P went to work and Ules and I had a cozy day in. I took down the Christmas tree and packed it all up, only to find that I missed tucking in all the snowmen on the windowsill. Now all the snow people are put to bed along with the old artificial tree we bought for thirty bucks at a thrift store many moons ago.

Borscht can be a good "clean out the fridge" kind of soup. I used the dried veggies that Ambercott Acres sells at the winter market to make a rich, ruby vegetable stock. These are the odds and ends of vegetable along with grated beets that they dry themselves, mostly just by laying it out on screens under the sun. This stock is a great base for a pure vegetable borcht. I strained out the stock veg, added freshly grated beets, green onions and garlic and some endamame for a hit of protein eh voila! A nourishing lunch. A loooong time ago I had borscht in a Doukhabor restaurant near Castlegar, and this soup brought back that memory (IIRC that was a vegetarian version as well). Since I didn't make it to New Year's dinner, my MIL thoughtfully prepared a care package on a Pyrex plate which Ules and I shared for lunch: tender slices of roast beef, peas, roasted baby potatoes and mashed squash. Ules said, "The squash is my favorite. Dad days its like melted gold." It is made with lots of brown sugar or maple syrup and melted butter and love.

Last night for supper we had salmon cakes, red cabbage coleslaw with pomegranate seeds, and quinoa. The boys also devoured a loaf of the garlic bread we get at our local grocery store. We also finished off the lovely Meadow Vista "Joy" sparkling mead from New Year's.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Tiger Butter Cookies

My son told me that the last batch of peanut butter cookies was not peanutty enought, so I made these babies. I had picked up some bacon peanut brittle from Spinnakers Brew Pub in Victoria, so I sprinkled some with that for extra crunch, smokiness and a hit of salt.

Ingredients for the cookies:

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup peanut butter (I use crunchy)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp Mexican vanilla
1 1/4 c unbleached flour

Cream the butter and sugar, then beat in the peanut butter until combined, and finally the egg. Add the flour and mix until combined. Drop by small ice cream scoops onto the pan, flat side down. (I use my pizza stone.) Using the bowl of the scoop, make an indentation in the cookie to hold the Tiger Butter. Bake at 350 degrees F until lightly browned (about 12 minutes.) Set aside to cool.

Ingredients for the Tiger Butter:

1/2 of a 225 gram package white chocolate chips.
1/4 cup smooth or crunchy peanut butter
3 tablespoons semi-sweet chocolate (or milk chocolate) chips

optional: a few teaspoons of peanut brittle, crushed into small pieces

Melt the white chocolate chips on medium heat in the microwave in a medium glass bowl. Stir in the the peanut butter. Using the same ice-cream scoop, half fill it with tiger butter and put a dollop in the indentation in each cookie. Put a few pieces of peanut brittle on top if you wish.

Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave oven, then drizzle on top of the cookies. Put in a cool place (ie the fridge) for the chocolate to set, or if you're impatient like me, eat them while the chocolate is still warm and gooshy.