Archive for November, 2007

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Let The Gluttony Begin

Monday, November 26th, 2007

I find it hard to resist salivating while watching cooking programmes. Like a dog, I find there are certain things that trigger my reaction: when someone on TV tosses a pile of onions into a pan of melted butter, when I see tasty, seared meat coming out of an oven, and when sauce is drizzled over anything. I suspect that this is because I know so well what sauteed onions and roasted meats smell like, and can anticipate what sweet and/or vinegary tastes are about to be thrust onto the item over which the sauce ladle hovers. Indeed, it makes my mouth water to think about these things just now, as I type.

These past couple weeks have been especially Pavlovian for me because of all the Thanksgiving business on the Food Network. For two solid weeks, the theme was turkey and fixin’s: roast turkey, braised turkey, southwest-style turkey, deep-fried turkey, barbecued turkey, turkey with stuffing, turkey without stuffing, turkey wraps, turkey pot pie, turkey soup, turkey cracklin’, turkey gravy and turkey mole. We hadn’t even planned to make turkey until the TV so earnestly convinced us to do so. And thus, we produced a TV-inspired Thanksgiving meal for two, which actually produced enough food for six. This is what America is all about. Loosen the belt, point the tube at the dining room table and make way for the bird.

So the day before The Day, we walked down to the market to pick up a few things for our meal. Initially, the shopping list consisted of four items: turkey breast, sweet potatoes, potatoes and cranberry juice. It was to be a simple, elegant meal with a few favourite items and some homemade cranberry sauce. Though maybe we should get some carrots, because we kind of need a veg. Although we have those brussels sprouts, I could make those too. Oh yeah, and I forgot that I bought some pumpkin pie filling the other day because it was on sale. Plus that bread is kind of getting stale, we might as well use it in stuffing… and on, and on. Somehow, that quick trip to the grocery for four items turned out to be a dinner of way too much food. How much is too much, you ask? How does one gauge the point at which the line is crossed from sufficiency to excess? I think it would be fair to say that when you forget to serve a couple of dishes, you’ve crossed the line. We were in the middle of eating before we remembered the stuffing in the oven. Ergo, this picture is a fair representation of our meal, minus one.


There is also no picture of the pumpkin pie that I made because we were so full, we forgot to eat it. If that is not the very definition, the very essence of excess, than I don’t know what is.

Though very much in overabundance, we managed to pull off quite a satisfactory meal, if I do say so myself. Without having to worry about uneven cooking times or different parts of the bird being over- or under-cooked, the roasting of the breast was dead simple and wonderfully juicy; the cranberry-port sauce kicked ass. Slow-baked sweet potatoes and fluffy mashed Yukons cannot be any tastier than when monteed by a ton of beurre and then pressed into service as a blockade for gravy, protecting the vegetable half of the plate. That evening also marked the occasion for opening our last remaining Argentine wine, the Beta Crux from O. Fournier in Mendoza. This is the bottle that travelled with us across the Andes to Chile and up to Bolivia, that got strapped to the roof of our jeep as we crossed the blazing desert and the salt flats of Bolivia, that bumped along in the bowels of the bus that forded rivers as it took us to La Paz and then made it, intact, inside Marc’s soft-sided backpack when we checked our luggage to fly from Peru to Canada. These are less than ideal storage conditions for wine. However, we were very pleased to have decanted the bottle and found, after a little airing, a brilliant, well-balanced accompaniment to our meal.

As has been a tradition for the past nine years, Sam received his annual salary in the form of food, a small plate of all the things that dogs dream about for 364 days of the year. He set aside nothing for his retirement.


Increasing the Awesomeness

Monday, November 19th, 2007

The other day, we were watching Sell This House on A&E and the designer on the show made some comment about improving the look of the poured concrete floor in the victim’s home.  I can’t remember exactly what he said, but what I heard was “It will increase the awesomeness of the floors”.   And for a few seconds after hearing it, it didn’t really occur to me to question it as a word because I’ve become so entrenched in the habit of making up words, that it seems I barely notice when it is done anymore.   Eventually, I did ask Marc if Roger had just used the word “awesomeness” and was subsequently corrected.   But I could almost make a case for the acceptance of “awesomeness” as a new word, if it weren’t so incorrect and, like, totally Valley Girl.   The word “ensmallen” on the other hand-  that’s a different story.

At any rate, if “awesomeness” indeed became a word, it could most readily be applied to the following gadget:  the George Foreman USB iGrill.     This is what geeks all over Silicon Valley would be getting and giving for Christmas, (especially the ones who arguably live inside their cubicles and go home only because that’s where their clothes live), if it weren’t for the fact that it is a joke.  Sadly, the iGrill does not yet exist, though surely it is only a matter of time.  The description of the product is pretty clever: “The George Foreman USB iGrill conveniently connects to your home or office PC using USB 2.0 technology, and provides a sophisticated web-based cooking interface.”


Amazingly, the following gadgets, however, do currently exist: the USB missle launcher, the USB ashtray, the USB fragrance dispenser and, for the holidays, the USB fiber optic Christmas tree.   Geeks may not yet be able to cook using their computers, but they can smoke, fight cube-wars and enjoy the holidays by left-clicking.

Super-Like, Times Infinity

Thursday, November 15th, 2007

Now this is what I’m talkin’ ’bout:   Goat Cheese Ravioli with Bell Peppers and Brown Butter.


If I may be so bold as to resurrect the Continuum of Like, this recipe rates as a hands-down Super-Like (see below).   It was conceived at a restaurant called Bonne Soiree in  Chapel Hill, North Carolina which someone on the interweb compared to The French Laundry in the quality of its meals.  I have never heard of Chapel Hill, NC, but now it will forever have significance for me as the point of origin of one of the best things I’ve ever tasted.


Tangy-creamy, smothered in rich butter, floating like warm, little clouds on a wilty bed of peppers, slick with tart, vinegary dressing.   I don’t know if anyone is reading this blog anymore but if there is only one recipe that is attempted as a result of my humble recommendations over the past couple of years, THIS IS THE ONE to attempt.   Go the distance.   Be the ball.   Make the ravioli.  (Use the wonton wrappers.)

My Breakfast Angel

Monday, November 12th, 2007

Now that we are both working from home, in our office/dining room/guest bedroom, we seem to have more opportunity for making an actual breakfast. I’ve long been an eater of breakfast but 90% of the time, it used to consist of plain oatmeal or whole wheat toast with just a suggestion of peanut butter, eaten at my desk at work. Marc used to stop at the Starbucks on his walking route to work for a slab of carrot cake, and this was breakfast. One of us was far too plain and sensible about this meal and one of us was arguably eating dessert first thing in the morning every day. Things are different, now.

The first thing that has made such a monumental difference in our lives is the lack of commute. Two hours a day has been reclaimed for things like sleep, and breakfast and dog walking and -somewhat regrettably- TV. Until we lived without the commute, I didn’t quite realize all the time saved from that aggravating part of the day. Hate traffic, hate cold, dark mornings. Now, we’re practically livin’ the dream, sleeping in until 7:30, starting the day with cappuccini, and working at least the first quarter of the day in our pj’s. And sometimes, if one of us is feeling particularly hungry, we launch into a full-fledged meal for breakfast.

One of my recent faves was the occasion on which we happened to have fresh raspberries and Marc decided to make Raspberry-Topped Lemon Muffins. These made me especially happy, having eaten them warm, sitting at the breakfast table/conference table in the sun with the pup at my feet. Turns out they also make an excellent conference call snack.


cimg7172.jpgOnce in a while, a truly decadent item makes its way into the office in the morning: Spiced Hot Chocolate. Wow. Wo-how. Nothing like drinking CREAM in the morning. This is so rich, I can only finish half a cup at a time, which is outrageous considering I’m not normally one to stop short on a dessert. Marc adds cardamom to this recipe too and I have to say that it makes it divine, a solid rush of sweet and aromatic flavours. This too, seems to make any conference call that much better. I’m not a fan of the conference call but good food can make any task better.