Sublime Summer Supper

This was a recuperation weekend, a weekend to relax and just do whatever sort of presented itself at the time. My only planned events were to complete a 500 piece puzzle and run some errands. Michael went down to Calgary to spend time with his sister and help around the home with those maintenance things that get put off until there’s a Michael sort around.

Although I’m all for rest and relaxation, I feel adrift and a bit sad if I end up spending too much time on the couch watching TV, or even reading. Doesn’t help of course, when I chose to watch/read tear jerkers. I’m all for a good cry, but sometimes it can be a bit much.

Today was a beautiful Edmonton day. I got outside and ran my errands, and ended up at the Italian Centre Shop. I stopped in for inspiration and thought I’d skip my food delivery app (my usual go-to when at home alone and feeling a bit pathetic) and create something delicious tonight for my supper.

The Italian Centre Shop did not disappoint. Although busy, I have learned the best thing to do is head to the deli first, pull your number, and then leisurely shop until your number nears. Not sure if you noticed, but there is a gentle ding and “being served” numbers throughout the shop towards the ceiling. In the time I had to wait for my number to come up, I finished my shop of non-deli goods.

Although I went into the shop today with a plan for mushroom stuffed gnocchi with a pre-made sauce, I was inspired as I often am, to create something from (at least) semi scratch.

I picked up some arugula, basil, cherry tomatoes, purple garlic, Grana Padano cheese, kalamata olives, and some fancy (expensive) dry pasta.

When supper time rolled around, I was feeling a bit un-energetic and was twitching to pull up the food delivery app. Michael called at that moment and after a bit of a talk and a few laughs, he said why not just pour yourself a glass of wine and start the prep? So I did.

I poured the wine, chopped garlic, olives, tomatoes, washed the arugula and basil and set it aside. I boiled up a pot of water and then switched it off so the apartment wouldn’t burn down while I sat out on our patio to enjoy the view and my glass of wine.

It was (and still is) one of those beautiful evenings. Slight breeze, clear sky, warm, and NO RAIN. I sat out on the patio enjoying my music and my glass of wine.

With the wine finished, and feeling a bit peckish now, I put together the arugula salad. A simple thing to do:  arugula, lemon juice, olive oil, and a generous grating of Grana Padano cheese. I set up a little table on the patio, and promptly watched half my Grana Padano fly away in the breeze. This is why there is no photo. No matter, I mixed up the salad and managed to polish it off with the remaining cheese intact.

After a few long minutes of digestion and polishing off my second glass of wine, went back inside to finish cooking the main dish.

While the pasta was cooking, I cooked up the chopped garlic in generous glugs of olive oil over a medium heat. When the garlic was fragrant, I added the cherry tomatoes and let it break down slowly. As things started to meld, I added the chopped olives, and a few tablespoons of the pasta water. I let that simmer down to a slightly thickened sauce. I added a burst of lemon juice at the end to keep things bright.

I put it all together on my plate, topping it off with a bit of chopped basil and another generous grating of cheese, and headed back to the patio.

I tucked in. I ate slowly. I enjoyed the flavours, the view, listening to the shouts from the baseball game in the valley, the traffic below, watching people rest on the bench along the pathway. At times I just put my head back, and let the sun warm my face while I was truly able to relax and enjoy a beautiful summer evening in our city.

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Now I have my tea, and am thinking of having something a bit sweet to finish the evening. Not sure what that will be yet.

Thanks for reading about my evening. It was one of those memorable ones, and wanted to document it before the memory fades. xo

 

Garlic Does Not Mellow

Just an update to my Hummus post.

Two heads of fresh, raw garlic in your hummus does NOT, repeat DOES NOT, mellow overnight.

My friends, learning to cook is trial and error.

Now I do have to qualify this in that I don’t mind the intense garlic flavour. However, what I do worry about is breathing this all over you.

For your comfort and safety, I recommend if we come face-to-face, that you stand clear by 5 m. Any closer, wear a hazmat suit.

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Hummus

I was motivated by a request from a Facebook friend to write my recipe for hummus, after I posted “Homemade hummus. Too much garlic. It burns. Burns. (And let this be a warning to those I work with, and vampires)”. This has got to be the most garlicky batch I’ve ever made. It is also cold and flu season. So, to keep myself healthy, I will talk to people using a lot of “H” words – the big breathy words – like Hhhhhhhhello, hhhhhhow are youuuuuu. This should keep them away from me.  😉

Homemade Hummus The Long Way – Cathy Walsh

1 bag dried chickpeas

OK. Let’s stop here for a moment. Although Michael and I live a modest and comfortable life, wanting for nothing except maybe a Bentley for summer drives to the mountains, we do not live beyond our means. In recent months we have noticed that food costs are getting higher and higher, and as we get closer and closer to retirement, the phrase “pension” is coming into my vocabulary more often than not, and I wonder how I’ll be able to continue to afford things like Quality Garlic sold by the Hutterites at the Strathcona Farmers Market.

In a moment of frugality, I decided I would learn how to cook from dried bean state, because one never knows when the economic stability we current have, will tank. So I said to myself in Superstore, “Cathy, learn how to make 101 things from dried chickpeas, because you just never know”. So I bought a sack of dried chickpeas, and cheap garlic imported from China.

So let’s start from the beginning. What you will need:

1 sack dried chickpeas
A lot of garlic. Let’s say two whole heads
Tahini
Fresh lemon
Olive Oil
Water
Salt
Pepper

Day 1 (I told you this was the Long Way)

Pour a few cups of dried chickpeas in your colander, and pick through them and pull out the bits that don’t look like chickpea. Rinse.

Pour chickpeas in a bowl and cover with water

Day 1, Several Hours Later

Drain the chickpeas, give them a rinse, fill bowl with water again and let sit

Day 2

Look at the soaking chickpeas and tell yourself you will deal with it later

Day 3, Evening

Drain and thoroughly rinse the chickpeas
Add to a cooking pot
Cover with water
Bring to a boil, and allow to simmer for a few  hours
Drain in colander
Put in bowl, allow to cool, cover, and put in fridge

Day 5

Take off cover and sniff chickpeas
Smile, because they still smell fresh and lovely
Recover, and place back in fridge

Day 7

With great determination vow to make hummus today, even if it’s the last thing you do

Day 8

Take off cover and sniff chickpeas
Sigh with relief, because they still smell fresh and lovely
Pull out food processor
Pull out tahini
Rummage through fridge for a lemon
Pull out olive oil
Take a look at garlic inventory – two heads – shrug, peel, and put in food processor
Whiz
Add a few single hand, handfuls of chickpeas – four, five, maybe six, or seven
Squeeze in the juice of one lemon
Add about a 1/3 to 1/2 cup of tahini
Add two tablespoons, or more or less, of olive oil
Whiz
Whiz
Whiz
Add water until the hummus is the consistency you like
Season with salt as you like
Add pepper if you like
Whiz
Whiz until texture consistency you like

Look, I know my measurements suck, but if you are making hummus yourself, it must mean you’ve had hummus you liked. It is important to keep the hummus you liked in your head, and while you make your own hummus, keep adding a bit of this and that until it tastes like the stuff you remember.

Hummus is the easiest thing in the world to make, and impossible to screw up unless you use sugar instead of salt, or add mini marshmallows.

Using canned chickpeas will give you nearly Instant Hummus – just remember to rinse them thoroughly before whizzing.

And if you are still unwilling to wing it, I found this recipe on the Hummus Blog that will offer you measurements and other great hummus making tips.

Just notice the difference please. His recipe suggests one or two CLOVES of garlic. I opted for two whole HEADS of garlic. The hummus, as I’m eating it now, is very sharp, and quite frankly burns, in a nice way. However, this sharpness should mellow-out over night. Next time though, I think I’d roast the garlic if using the same quantity.

Good luck.

Garlic Spaghetti

Some 20 years ago I went on a cruise with my Auntie Ann through the Caribbean. It was a terrific time. We met some great people, drank an amazing amount of alcohol, did some crazy things, and most importantly ate a lot of great food.

It was our first (and only) cruise, but we hooked up early with some well experienced sailors. One couple in particular took back-to-back cruises, several times a year, and knew the ropes. One of the things that stuck with me, was their nerve to ask the chef to prepare food for them that was not on the ubiquitous set-menu that a person saw on cruises at the time. The chef complied.

One of their requests was spaghetti served with nothing more than olive oil, garlic, and freshly grated parmigiana as a side dish. So simple. So delicious. Ever since then, I’ve cooked it up regularly for Michael and I. The recipe is:

Olive Oil (several good and generous glugs and then a bit more)
Chopped Garlic (as much or as little as you like – tonight we used up two full heads (not cloves, heads) of those small sad Safeway garlics you find withering away in produce)

Sauté the garlic in the olive oil CAREFULLY so it doesn’t burn.

Toss with the cooked and drained spaghetti (do I really have to say drain the spaghetti? Do I? Well, I won’t take chances. If you went through the trouble of peeling and chopping up all that garlic, please, drain the spaghetti). Add as much grated parmigiana as you like.

It should look something like this:

This is a terrific side-dish to chicken. I didn’t take a pic of the chicken, because, as Michael says, who wants to look at a piece of dead bird. The chicken was indeed dead, breast removed and cooked in olive oil, oregano, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Now, you are probably looking at that picture and thinking, “Hm, there is bits of red in that there spaghetti”, and you are right!

Friend Roxanne recently posted a recipe for “Spaghetti, Italian Style”. It’s a variation of the above, by adding cherry (I added grape) tomatoes in with the garlic, and a healthy bunch of pecorino cheese (I stuck with the parmigiana only because I invested a mighty sum of cash into the large wedge in the fridge). I was inspired by her post, and melded our two recipes together. Really, the thing is, you don’t need a recipe. Just toss stuff together until it looks like something you’d eat. Afterall, there will be as many versions of this dish as there are Italian hand gestures.

Signs of Christmas

A rutabaga in your cubicle is a sign of Christmas.

I bought this bad boy for my annual contribution to our family Christmas Dinner, the Turnip Puff.

A co-worker and admirer of door photographs, brought in some of his Moroccan wife’s bean dish for me try. A generous Christmas gesture gratefully received.

An amazing dish, which can be described as having garlic, beans, garlic, tomatoes, garlic, exotic spices, garlic. And we aren’t talking a little bit of garlic. We are talking WHOLE CLOVES OF GARLIC. It was delicious, hearty and a lovely lunch. I am waiting for a recipe that doesn’t exist, and am  hoping that he can glean some more details from the Mrs. so I can try my hand at this at home.

Sex seems to be the topic of the day. Lately. Just saying. Perhaps its the winter solstice, perhaps its us Canadians getting a bit squirrely with the weather, but today’s conversations included stories about testicles, as well as a telling video: I Just Had Sex. The fact it was sent to me because I was in a particularly good mood this morning is another matter, and I have to wonder why that’s the assumption. Maybe, just maybe, I had a really good floss.

What does sex have to with Christmas? Come on people. For the last 2010 years, everyone talks about Mary and Joseph this time of year, raising eyebrows and talking in hushed tones around the water hole, trough, well, pump, fountain, cooler.

That’s a banana. It has nothing to do with Christmas, but there is an on-going argument that is getting more wide-spread. Michael and I both peel the banana completely, and eat. “Some” people out there insist on being monkeys and eating them with the peel. Does it matter? Not at all. But its interesting that people even comment that there is a “right” or “wrong” way to eat a banana. Even though unwrapping it, disposing the peel, and pulling off the stringy bits, is the better way.

And lastly, Christmas is here when you wander through the Legislative grounds, see the lights, listen to the Christmas music, hear the carolers at night in the Rotunda, and see a happy sentinel snowman watching over the Ledge in the late afternoon.

Christmas time is good.

Tomato Soup

Tonight, inspired by a Tweet from Jamie Oliver and having a bag full of ripe garden tomatoes provided by our landlord, decided to take a swing at making homemade tomato soup.

Not quite sure how to begin, I started with the basics as offered by Jamie Oliver’s recipe of sauteing onion, carrots and garlic.

Of course I didn’t use any sort of garlic. I used the massive and absolutely ridiculously delicious garlic available at the Old Strathcona Farmer’s Market. $8.00 for two heads garlic. At those prices, I suspect the garlic alone keeps the Hutterites in headscarves and hats for a year.

If you read yesterday’s post, you know I have a cold. In my effort to cure my cold, I bought some ginger yesterday, and the root was so pretty I bought the entire thing, which means, I have 1 kg of ginger to work though. Carrots and ginger go well together, so I thought I’d give it a try in my tomato soup.

On the stove, I had gently cooking: onion, carrots, garlic and ginger. Whilst that was doing its magic, I boiled up some water and added about 7 assorted sizes of tomatoes. I had them burble away for about three minutes, and plopped the little beauties in a bath of ice cold water.

It didn’t take long for them to rip out of their skins like the incredible hulk. So easy to peel and deseed.

I did a rough chop of the tomato flesh, and added to the onionscarrotsgarlicginger mix on the stove. I added a bit of coriander, salt, pepper, and a dash of sugar, because somewhere in the back of my mind I can hear some TV celebrity chanting that tomatoes love sugar and you are always to add a bit of sugar to any tomato dish. I’ve done it forever because of this. Once blended together, I plop-plop-splashed-plopped the mix into the blender and gave it a good whir. And another whir for good measure, and one more just for fun.

Stuck this back on the stove, added a few cups of chicken stock and let it burble away.

Those are chili peppers you see on top.

I had a cursory look at the kitchen counter tops to see what sort of bread I had available to accompany this, and to my horror, only had a loaf of Safeway White Sandwich bread. No way on God’s green earth was I going through the effort of making homemade soup and serve this bread (which is good, don’t get me wrong, but this is HOMEMADE SOUP). I called Tree Stone to see what they had left on their shelf, was assured they had some whites left, and because I had 10 minutes before they closed, put the soup on Min and trotted down the alley to the bakery.

Since Yvan has taken over Tree Stone, I haven’t been best pleased with their baguette. Nancy had the recipe nailed, and the few I purchased since she left were crumbly and like Styrofoam. But forever the optimist, I thought tonight, that I would give it one more try. As a back up, I also purchased a loaf of their sourdough, just in case.

Well, hubby comes home, we dish up the soup, slice the baguette, sit down in front of Coronation Street. Now remember, I have a cold have lost all sense of smell and taste, and one probably shouldn’t be messing around with potent things like ginger when cooking, because Michael’s first response was something to the effect of “hm, ginger soup”. I gave him a look and he proceeded to eat the soup with lots of “yum yums” and “this is great”.

Okay, so the soup might have been a bit too gingery, but honestly, I have 1 kg to get through somehow. Thing is, and in all honesty, we both found it delicious. It kind of grew on us, and Michael declared it is a perfect warmer-upper type of soup for a cold day (or for those suffering from a cold).

The bread! Now I can’t forget the bread. After all my criticism, I happy to say a few alleluia’s and hail Mary’s because Tree Stone has revised their baguette recipe and now provided what I declare to be The Perfect Baguette. Crispy exterior, chewy interior. It was a perfect accompaniment to the soup.