Finale

It’s been a journey, 15 months of cooking while fending off my twin three year-olds in the kitchen, 97 (not 79) recipes, some of them complex, some straightforward. My cookbook is tattered and splattered, looking older than its years.

I want to thank some people: my partner for cooking some of these recipes when I was too busy or tired and for being a willing and enthusiastic participant, even when she wasn’t cooking, everything we do is a team effort at our house (e.g. she was entertaining the kids), my beautiful and amazing twins, for “helping” with many recipes and eating some too, my friends, many of whom enthusiastically ate the food, some of whom cooked too and Shelley for putting her cookbooks out in the world.

There are recipes that I make regularly and some that I will likely not make again. There’s been some good learning: use of parchment paper, how and why to sear meat, how to cut a chicken’s backbone. Just for fun, I’ve listed some of my favourite recipes:

Chinese Beef and Celery Soup

Rustic Tomato Tart

Ahi Tuna tartare with crispy wontons

Karen’s roasted potato and fresh mint salad

Grilled vegetable stacks

cedar planked salmon

Thai chicken

Emmy’s Marrakesh bowl

It’s a challenge narrowing down the desserts to my favourites:

old-fashioned banana cake

chocolate creme brulee

and because I’m English: Sticky Toffee Date Cake

What I’ve always appreciated about this cookbook is its steadfast refusal of the culinary mundane. The pictures are stunning, giving as good a tourist plug for Nelson as any guidebook could. More importantly it’s raised the bar at each and every potluck in the Kootenays (and there are many). And the cooking, some of it takes time. We do have more time here, we make more time: for cooking, for skiing, for hiking..even with young twins. What I’ve most appreciated about my journey is connecting with friends over these meals and meeting new acquaintances (many of you who’ve written or stopped me on the street). Shelley’s cookbook brings people together. With that, I urge you to cook a meal and invite your friends over.

Look for my next blog…Food Reviews of Restaurants in Nelson which I will link to this blog. Look for Shelley’s next book, coming soon, in which I may just make a guest appearance.

Thank you for coming with me on this journey. Blessings on your food and bon appetit.

# 97 Washing Machine Dill Pickles

Blogger with pickles

Have you ever tried to find pickling cucumbers in January, or November for that matter? They can’t be kept crisp in the cold cellar, not in a fridge even. That is, I suppose, why people pickle them in summer. Our grandmothers were on to something. It came as a disappointment then, that I couldn’t find any. I’d meant to make this recipe in August, but it was a drifting thought, sort of like “get up for an alpine hike” which, when you revisit the idea in November, you know its far too late. At some point, you have to change-up the activity. Skiing perhaps, if you are lucky. I had to decide upon a different vegetable(s) for this endeavor. I researched, I asked Russian friends, I asked gardeners, I even consulted Shelley Adams. I came up with green beans and asparagus. Asparagus for my beloved, who loves them in her Caesar’s (for all you American readers, the superior equivalent to a Bloody Mary in Canada).

This recipe calls for soaking cucumbers overnight in one’s washing machine ( I assume a top-loader). I had already decided long ago, that I couldn’t stomach crisping vegetables in my washing machine. Did I mention that I have 3 yr olds? They are out of diapers, still, there are accidents. When you can crisp veggies more hygenically in the sink, I say go for it. I’m sure Shelley’s method is brilliant and second to none for getting them crunchy. However, since I was already deviating from the recipe so much, I took the liberty of ignoring the washing machine advice.

It somehow seems fitting that my finale is a recipe that I’ve substituted method and ingredients to such an extent, I can’t even rightly call them by this title. I may rename them “Jane’s stove top dilled vegetables that are available in winter in the Kootenays.”

Shelley has great instructions for cleaning and sterilizing jars that includes both the dishwasher and the oven. The cucumbers are supposed to be soaked, my method was to steam the asparagus and the beans for a short period of time and then quickly cool off under cold water. I did follow the instructions for the brine, it was made with pickling vinegar, pickling salt and fresh dill and of course, water. I added a clove of garlic in to the beans as well.

Shelley says that the secret to this recipe is working hot and fast. I guess one benefit of my timing is that during a cold February day, there is no need to work hot. She also suggests not having a bunch of kids around while working with hot brine. Indeed. I pulled this one-off at nap time and then when a friend was over running interference with my little ones.

Postscript: We opened a jar…a week after pickling them. I’m not sure how long one is supposed to leave the pickles to soak in the brine, but I can tell you that they are pungent and tasty and crunchy green beans. My partner gives them two thumbs up for saltiness and garnish on a Caesar.

My salty-dog daughter crunches as many as we let her. It pleases me to have jars of preserves sitting in the kitchen. They will carry us through until fresh veggies abound. Maybe next year, I’ll try the washing machine, after-all 4 year-olds have fewer accidents”.

I did a dance of joy and relief as I finished off this last recipe. I never would have guessed this to be the grand finale. Fitting, though as this cooking experience has been, in part, about me getting beyond my comfort zone. Look for the grand finale of blogs next, in which I divulge some “breaking news”.

#96 Quinoa with Saffron, Figs and Pistachios

Shelley Adams has adapted this recipe from another foodie, Caren McSherry, who used couscous instead of quinoa. In that respect, this is true fusion food, fusing South American (quinoa) with Mediterranean flavours.

This recipe has all the ingredients for an exotic, fine salad: figs, liquor, cinnamon, cardamom, garlic, cilantro, mint and of course quinoa. The figs are infused with port. The onion and garlic are sauteed in the spice mix and the fragrance is alluring and intense. Quinoa (pronounced Keenwah), that amazing grain that is high in protein and has all nine amino acids and hence is a “complete” protein. It originates in South America, also known as the “gold of the Incas”. If you believe what you read on the internet, it prevents heart disease, migraines, is good for post menopausal women, gave strength and stamina to Inca warriors and can survive nuclear holocaust. I think my partner and I once decided that if only more people ate quinoa, we’d have a much better chance of achieving world peace. Maybe we should send some to the middle east. Maybe we should stop supporting autocrats because of our own fear of Muslims, and put our money where our mouth is in supporting true democratic change and recognizing self-determination, but hey, what am I talking about, this is a food blog. Let’s just keep eating dishes from that region, maybe it will lead to more understanding and that will lead to world peace. See quinoa does lead to a better world.

Back to the recipe. As I said, this has all the makings of a tasty, hearty salad. It is definitely hearty, but its taste turned out to be less than the sum of its parts for me. I’m still not sure why. It was good, quite good, just not great. Perhaps my taste buds are trashed. Perhaps the figs too subtle. I liked the crunch of pistachios on top. I think I wanted more “crunch”. Perhaps I overcooked the quinoa. I enjoyed every bite that contained mint, perhaps more mint would do the trick for me.

Omissions: I just couldn’t bring myself to splurge on saffron. I used turmeric (the poor man’s saffron).

If anyone has made this recipe, I’d love to hear their comments and suggestions for my next batch.

Next: The grand finale of the recipes

#95 Filo Wrapped Salmon with Saffron Ginger Sauce

I’m saving one of the best until last and a guest blogger(s) at that. My cyber-Amish friends:

It all started when I was talking to our dear friend Jane on the phone to finalize our plans for their visit on Christmas day.  I could hear Amy in the background muttering recipe names.  Jane explained that the anxiety about completing her goal of cooking all the recipes in the Whitewater cookbook had been transferred to Amy, now that Jane was back to work full-time.  I could go on to discuss the mix up between 97 and 79 but I’m sure Jane will explain that in another forum.  Filo Wrapped Salmon was one of the phrases I heard in the background and I commented that I had made that and “yes – it was very good.” That was when I came up with the ideal Christmas present for them, a dinner, one that they hadn’t cooked yet, to be delivered to their house and a write-up for the blog.  What could be more perfect?

It wasn’t until February 19, 2011 that we were finally able to coordinate schedules and make good on our Christmas promise.

The menu was to be Filo Wrapped Salmon with Saffron Ginger Sauce, Saffron Rice, a salad of fresh greens and the crowning glory of the meal: Crème Brule (not out of The Cookbook).

Although it was true to have said I had made Filo Wrapped Salmon I hadn’t included the Saffron Ginger Sauce and I have a hard time following a recipe exactly so I’m sure my original try included several substitutions.  We have a sort of rule in our family that more than three substitutions means you can’t really say you have cooked the said dish, that it becomes something new. I decided that for this event I needed to do my best to stick to the written word.  My only intentional substitution would be frozen spinach for the chard.

I read the recipe carefully, made my grocery list, bought the exact amount of salmon called for in the recipe and made sure I had all of the necessary ingredients.

The plan was for us to make dinner and take it to Jane and Amy’s, tuck the twins into an early bed and enjoy an adult dinner catching up on our lives.

I started with the Filo Wrapped Salmon.   I had the filo and spinach thawed.  I managed to find the dill that I had frozen last year fresh out of our garden.  The lemon was zested and juiced.  I cleaned and diced the leeks and sautéed them.  I did manage to get the skin off the salmon and salvaged all but some tiny bits of salmon that stubbornly clung to the skin.  I was thankful that the less than beautiful butchering job would be hidden in the wrap.  I divided it into six equal pieces.  I followed the instructions for wrapping but did alter it by folding the second filo in half and laying it in the centre of the first piece after having to rewrap my first attempt due to various pits breaking through the delicate filo.   Once I made that adjustment the wrapping went smoothly and I had six lovely fish and vegetable packets in a baking dish.

On to the sauce:  somehow I missed the mention of fresh thyme called for in the recipe but I have a rosemary plant upstairs and in my mind salmon and rosemary are a perfect fit so I had no qualms about that substitution.  I used tomato paste so the sauce was a pink colour, not the lovely yellow shown in the photo in the cookbook.  What colour is lobster paste?  I carefully reduced the sauce as directed paying careful attention to the markers on the side of the pan to make sure I “reduced by half”.  The bits of ginger and such that I strained out got saved for flavouring next week’s soup.  Despite my care the sauce never did thicken so I added a small amount of cornstarch to give it the desired consistency.

It went perfectly.  We had a lovely visit with the twins and while they were all upstairs doing the go to sleep rituals, Rachel and I popped the salmon in the oven, warmed the sauce, cooked the rice and dressed the salad.  Viola (and there is a story with this misspelling) there was dinner.

I think the meal was a success.  The flavours were subtle, distinct and complementary.  The salmon, according to the crowd, was perfectly done and kept moist by the wrap and the surrounding vegetables.  The rice and salad provided colours and textures that made eating the meal a pleasure.  I would alter the recipe next time and make at least eight wraps out of that quantity of salmon.  We had to wait a couple of hours to eat the Crème Brule, as the dinner servings were more than generous.

This left Jane only one or two recipes to complete.  The cooking bar has definitely been raised in the Kootenays with the advent of the two Whitewater Cookbooks and Jane’s marathon and inspiring cooking year.

 

#94 Grilled Fresh Figs Wrapped in Prosciutto

I’ve been holding off on this recipe hoping that I’d find some fresh figs. I realized, with a sinking feeling, that there would be no fresh figs in time for the wrap up of my cooking journey. Once I admitted this to myself, I went on the hunt for a suitable alternative. I’m happy to report that Asian pears stepped up to the occasion. I was picking them out in the grocery store and my brilliant little daughter said “its an apple, no it’s a pear.” If you’ve ever tasted one, you know they are a little of both. My three-year old knows this. I don’t think I tasted an Asian pear until I was well into my 30’s. Perhaps it’s my brother who has adopted Korea as his second home or my foodie friend Christopher.

Shelley suggests serving these as a start to a summer or fall dinner. This makes complete sense. If I’d planned ahead and had fresh figs, I would have implemented this plan, but hey, what would a Superbowl party be without prosciutto wrapped  yummies? I had to give our hungry football fans more than chicken wings (though the Whitewater recipe is delicious). These little gems were just that, gems. Once you get your head around the fact that the texture is very different from a fig, it really is a lovely combination. The fig and pear share a common subtle, not-very-sweet taste. The prosciutto’s preserved saltiness is a nice compliment to the pears freshness. Toss in some cambozola and a velvety reduction of honey/port, vinegar and you are going to make these more than once.  Cambozola and a port reduction elevate most things to divine. It is suggested that this be served on a bed of arugula. We had spinach available, which worked well.

I don’t like that barbaric sport that my American partner celebrates every January, so I cook good food and commiserate with the other marginal football-watchers in the kitchen. It works well.

These versatile appetizers work well, whether you are watching Aussie rules football or the Oscars, whether you are wearing a sleek black cocktail dress or baggy sweats. My three-year old twins say two thumbs up. True, they like all the bits separately. Poor things, they are going to have a rude awakening when eating cardboard pizza and mediocre dipping sauce when they start going to Superbowl parties.

A word to the wise, if you want to make this recipe, make sure you can get your hands on fresh figs, unless you are prepared to substitute. My lovely partner even went so far as to find an importer in Arizona who was prepared to ship us a box (for a small fortune). Asian pears are a worthy substitute, for sure.

Bon appetit.

#93 Lamb Chops with Port Plum Sauce

I’ve eaten more lamb since embarking on cooking my way through this cookbook than I ever have in my life. I made this on a wintry evening when we had a good friend coming over. This is one of those recipes that you need to have plum sauce already made for ahead of time. Fortunately Shelley provides a delicious plum sauce recipe and fortunately for me, I’d already cooked it.

To cook the port plum sauce, I sautéed shallots, port (supplemented with a bit of sherry and red wine), chicken stock and simmered to reduce by half. Next I added my pre-made (and canned) plum sauce. The plum sauce tastes quite a bit like plummy zesty HP sauce. I added the butter and whisked away. This is set aside to gently warm while the rest of the cooking takes place.

To prepare the chops, two bowls, one with egg, mustard concoction and one with parmesan and breadcrumbs (I had none so I used cornmeal). The chops were double dipped and sautéed in vegetable oil until golden brown. There was a considerable amount of smoke during this procedure, so I recommend that your fan is on or your windows open.

Now for the healthy part of the meal, the arugula salad. This was simple, thanks to pre-washed arugula. What did we do before pre-washed greens and spring greens mix. I combined it with tomato wedges, lemon, olive oil and plated the lamb chops on top of the greens.

Only a green salad could offer some redemption to this otherwise rich dish. Shelley arrived at a perfect accompaniment. Not sure how she got there, but this works. Remember when one used to eat potatoes with chops? This is nouveau cuisine in that regard.

It seemed a bit over the top to cook the chops in breadcrumbs and parmesan. Next time, I may marinate in the mustard and call it a day or even try them on the bbq. Maybe its just my aversion to sautéed meat and the spitting oil, the smoke and splatters. In our open kitchen, my toddlers can get a little too close for comfort.

This worked out well. The plum sauce is decadent and delicious and this unusual mix really works well. Then again, I think you could pour this rich sauce over cardboard and it would delight your dinner guests.

I’ve started to think that it would be really helpful if Shelley added in “preparation time” estimates. This would allow the reader and chef to quickly peruse and see what they can pull off within their time frame on any given day. It would also serve as a quick hint for any pre-preparation that must be done e.g. plum sauce must be made ahead. It is helpful that the ingredients are split into each of the specific components e.g. plum sauce, salad, chops.

This is a lovely, unusual meal. I’d recommend it. So would our dinner guest and she is a foodie too.

#92 Grilled Steak with Oven Roasted Tomatoes, Blue Cheese and Red Wine Demi-Glace

Back up chef/blogger/conductor on assignment:

This recipe is like conducting a symphony. You should only attempt it when all other distractions are set aside and you bring the best ingredients/musicians to the recipe/piece ay hand. I recruited the steak and demi-glace from Railway Meats and the herbs from the backyard garden. I read through the recipe about 7 times before I touched any of the ingredients just to make sure I started on the right note. And, then you are off, hands moving in a perfect rhythm: cutting, stirring, brushing.

First movement of this symphony: I always used to consider caramelizing tomatoes, or anything for that matter, was so sophisticated – what ‘real’ cooks did in their sleep. Little did I know that it just means stick sugar on top and heat. Parchment paper plays another role in this recipe, like the non-stick quality of the trombone.

Second movement: Red Wine Demi-Glace. This mixture embodies deep winter in its taste. Like a master cello player coming in at the perfect moment to add weight and lift the other ingredients all at once. If you can follow directions, it will come out just as planned. No secrets here.

Third movement: The steaks. I love BBQing in the middle of winter. I feel like I am breaking some unwritten rule. I like shuttling between the indoor and outdoor elements to make sure all the timing is lining up. This is where my baton is waving furiously to keep all the instruments moving together as we head into the crescendo.

Fourth movement: The steaks are at their best, hot off the BBQ. The Red Wine Demi-Glace is waiting for the next move. The tomatoes are warmed, the blue cheese is fresh (joke) and everyone is hungry. Now, we don’t eat steak at our house unless we’re trying to complete all the recipes in the Whitewater Cookbook. Under these circumstances, we enjoy the culmination of this recipe – when the conductor and her family bring the forks to their mouths. Rest. Rest. TA DA!!!! Overcome with emotion, the audience leaps to their feet in appreciation. Another masterpiece by Shelley that makes you look like you really know how to conduct the orchestra.

#91 Old Smoky Meatballs

Maybe I should just show my cards up front: I didn’t achieve the title of this recipe. I made ‘Old Meatballs’, no ‘Smoky’ made it into the mix. My partner, the originator of this blog, would have gone the distance to find and add Koslik’s old smoky mustard. In fact, she went around town – Ellison’s, Coop, Save-on, and Safeway and no one had it in stock. I am not her. She’s the heart of our kitchen and I am the get ‘er done of the kitchen. I did put Dijon mustard in there, but I can imagine the boost by adding the true ingredients in the recipe. As it happened, the result was a batch of very tasty meatballs. Not something I think to make unless I am supporting my wife’s goal of finishing this whole cookbook. Glad I did it – they were easy to make, quick to be devoured by all in our family, and a new addition to the list of potluck ‘potential dishes.’ Given I haven’t had a meatball sandwich since sitting in my 4th Grade cafeteria, I may have to right the wrong of those early culinary experiences with another go at this tasty recipe.

#90 Beef Tenderloin and Cambozola Cones

Can you say decadent? These beef cones are filled with cambozola AND butter. Then they are dipped in sour cream. Good thing there’s a garnish of arugula (or spinach in my case) on top. Most days I may as well just lather the butter and rich cheese directly on my abdomen, but I made these after an EPIC ski day. Now, for many of you, epic conjured up fresh powder and hucking off never-before discovered cliffs like something from a Banff Mountain film festival offering. No, I’m talking cross-country ski trails, perfect temperature, blue sky, views of Old Glory majestic in its white peaks towering above everything else around, 20km of groomed tracks, grilled sandwiches on the wood stove in the warming hut. My thrill lies in getting out there for the day, in pushing my body up and down hills. Even pairing a little poetry to the ski as well (today I picked The Gift by Czeslaw Milosz). On this particular day there was also the knowledge that these apres-snow cones await.

These are fabulous to come home to after a day of skiing. I prepared the tenderloin by marinating it the day before in suggested juices (soy, oil, vinegar) and then seared it and roasted it the night before. Shelley suggests refrigerating before slicing as it makes it easier to slice thinly. When I got back all I had to do was warm the butter and cambozola to room temp, mix and assemble. The dip was already made ahead of time too…horseradish and sour cream.

I used relatively small pieces of tenderloin so was unable to create the “cone” instead it was a stack. The beef slices served as a cracker with cheese and spinach layered on top and dolloped with dip. I served this to my friends, 3 of whom had been skiing and 1 who had stayed back tending the home fires and dogs. All of us enjoyed them judging by the speed at which the plate emptied. There’s nothing so satisfying as big protein sometimes. This packs a protein punch. I’m going to call them snow-cones in honour of the snow day that is a perfect prelude to these cones.

I would have never thought to combine these foods, but this works. It works well. It is a novel way to serve beef. I highly recommend it apres ski or post-hole digging or clear-cut logging (joking)….whatever your fancy, just something physical.

#89 Sweet and Salty Chicken Wings

This recipe doesn’t make you decide whether you are a salty dog or a sweet tooth. You can be both. Remember 10 cent wings lathered in tabasco. Chicken wings are surprisingly expensive in this town…perhaps everywhere. I guess you get what you pay for. I guess that’s what happens when they are in demand. Maybe we can all start a trend with some other obscure, bony, fatty part of the chicken.

These are marinated in a gorgeous mix of soy sauce, pimenton, honey, cumin. It is recommended that they are sealed in a bag or container overnight. They are then grilled on the bbq or  in the oven for 35 minutes. Meanwhile, the sauce is reduced on the stove and brushed over the wings numerous times in their baking. It is suggested that they be served with lime wedges and something delicious to drink. We did both although we didn’t follow through with the last recommendation, which was to wear a bathing suit and jump in the lake afterwards. Bathing suits would have looked a little weird sitting around in a January cold freeze and non of us are into the polar bear swim. My son would have loved the opportunity to wear his sisters’ bathing suit, it would be his chosen outfit everyday. Fortunately he can’t read yet so didn’t pick up on this suggestion.

I found these wings very tasty and a nice change from the typical wings served in bars (not that I eat many of these). Wings reminds me of university and buying them by the pound or large tray and washed down with bad draft. These are much more subtly flavoured and layered. My kids loved them too.

I’d recommend that you try pimenton. I was lucky enough to visit a Williams and Sonoma on a recent trip to the US and picked up some, but it is also available locally in Nelson as Culinary Conspiracy. It’s smokey and alluring.

These are the perfect treat for apres ski or apres hockey or whatever it is you bliss out on.

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