Oh the holidays.
Yesterday when commuters on the metro were looking a little more down and people were dreading going back to work, I was excited to return to “normal life.” Actually this is not technically true, because I slept in, did a mad dash to get ready and rushed to get to work, but once on the metro I felt excited to return to some semblance of a routine.
Like many people, my holidays were filled to the brim with seeing family and friends, wrapping presents, eating lazy dinners together and drinking bubbly. My sister, her boyfriend and brother also came to visit from out of town, and during that time I also tried to cook as much as possible for them. Cooking and feeding people is my main love language, and since they’re some of my favourite people in the world I wanted to cook as much as possible. Sometimes I overdid it.
There was one day when I braved the malls with my sister, then came home and made pizza dough. While the dough was rising, I made pesto and some sides, then made a few pizzas for dinner. When everyone went to bed, I proceeded to make 2 types of granola and 3 kinds of cookies, so that they could take it all back to Toronto on Christmas Eve.
Everyone has their favourite chicken noodle soup. Being Chinese, my go-to comfort soup is one with a clear, gingery broth in a bowl full of chewy noodles. It’d ideally be topped with coriander, scallions, and chili oil, with some leftover chicken. And indeed, there’s been some sort of virus going around my office this week and that’s what I’ve been having for lunch.
I’ve also had a special spot in my heart for a Campbell’s-style chicken noodle soup. I grew up eating the canned stuff on “special occasions” (probably for the better since it was full of sodium and weird chicken pieces), and for years thought that recreating my own would be too complicated.
I love donuts. I was very happy when a couple of years ago, they became the It Food and stores and even entire businesses solely dedicated to donuts opened up. There were the typical fried round ones in all sorts of flavours, and some of my favourites were when I went into work in the Mile End and someone had dropped by with a bag full of juniper-honey donuts from the belated Café Sardine. Others were round and filled, like the ones with lemon curd at Lawrence that got me hooked onto their brunch back around 2011. And sometimes, when M and I have family stuff on the South Shore, we stop by Krispy Kreme to get a fresh original donut (okay, mine always has sprinkles because it’s obviously better).
I started making my own baked donuts at home last fall, when my friend Emily graciously lent me her donut pan (Emily, I think I still have it, sorry!). They gave birth to donuts that resembled those that Homer Simpson loves, cat-shaped ones, and bunny-shaped ones.
I love apple season.
I love walking through the rows of apple trees, seeing so many varieties and shapes and sizes.
I love the late summer apples, like Lobos and Paulareds, a bit more delicate than their autumn cousins like McIntosh and Empires.
I love the colour of the trees, the crisp air, but most of all –
I love apple products: apple sauce, apple pies, apple cider, and apple doughnuts fresh from the fryer.
Thanksgiving weekend just passed in Canada, and it was one of the most relaxed Thanksgivings I’ve had. No rushing around while my immediate family arrived after all the other families and my grandma’s glorious stuffed bird got cold. No stress when I started hosting Thanksgiving for friends many years later, stressing out about the timing of the turkey and the gravy and then realizing I forgot the cranberry sauce completely. And no innumerable friends-of-friends showing up, with someone crying in my kitchen and me actually leaving the house to get a drink (true story).
No, I’m glad those Thanksgivings have passed and that this week I got to go camping with some wonderful people, hike in forests so colourful that they looked like paintings, and breathe in the smokey air.
For our Thanksgiving dinner, M and I decided to do something just for us. Age and (so much bad) experience have taught me to plan ahead, so on Monday morning, I did the totally normal thing to do: I set up a spreadsheet and entered in all the recipes, staggering the time it would take for each step. Depending how you’re like, this may sound kind of insane or kind of wonderful. Anyway it worked and by 6:30 P.M. we were sitting down to dinner. Actually to be more honest, at 6:30 P.M. I was asking Max to hold two spotlights in an awkward position while I tried to get a shot of our Thanksgiving table.
I know, that is a crazy amount of food to prepare for two people, but there is something so satisfying to cook for yourself and your special person/people. I used recipes I’ve gathered from the past few years of hosting Thanksgiving, and since all of these recipes also transfer over to the rest of the season, I thought I’d share them with you here:
– Thomas Keller’s Favourite Simple Roast Chicken. Because it’s hard to justify a whole turkey for two. This is our absolute favourite – so easy and still impressive
– Heidi Swanson’s Spice-kissed Pumpkin Pie. I would actually amp up the sugar by adding another 1/3 c. to the ground hazelnut mixture. Also, I liked substituting roughly ground walnuts and pecans for the hazelnuts.
– Carrots simmered in a shallow pan of broth and maple syrup, leaving them sticky and sweet. Epicurious has some tips on glazing vegetables here.
– Ginger cranberry sauce, also from Epicurious.
– A good base for stuffing, upon which you can add all the odds and ends from your fridge. Here’s a last recipe from Epicurious.
I hope you’ve had just as lovely of a weekend with your loved ones. Happy cooking!
Pardon the pun, but cooking has been on the back-burner this past month. This new grad recently started what is basically a dream job, and with August running into September, I’ve been out as often as possible like the rest of Montreal, trying to grasp at the last wisps of summer.
Perhaps grasp isn’t the right word however, because it’s hitting 30°C in the city and the long weekend at the beginning of the month felt more like July than September. What is a great plus to this weather however is that I’ve been able to shop at the market like it’s July. Strawberries and even wild blueberries are making regular appearances. A friend who organizes a local farmer’s market says that these are baies d’automne, berries that come up in the fall. I couldn’t find much information of this online, but a farmer at Atwater Market confirmed that they are indeed expecting more strawberries, up to another three weeks! I was so happy at the news that I couldn’t resist getting a huge basket this weekend. Along with a basket of peaches. And an armful of corn. If there’s one place I get out of control shopping it’s the market.
I also thought it would be a nice opportunity to share a two of my favourite berry recipes. First is Smitten Kitchen’s strawberry rhubarb pie, which was the only berry pie I’ve made so far that didn’t fall apart when I sliced it. Her secret is quick tapioca, which helps all those juices from the berries and rhubarb congeal together. If you’ve never made pie crust, fear not! It takes some planning-ahead to get the crust ready and chilled, but, oh, does it blow pre-made crusts out of the water. Plus people always think you’re a magician if you make your own pie crust these days.
The second is a mixed berry shortcake I made with the first of the Québec strawberries this year. You can use any biscuit or shortcake recipe you’d like; I use Epicurious’ buttermilk biscuits recipe. Fill with some whipped cream and berries and you have a dessert that’s juicy and messy, just like any berry dessert should be. I like folding in some lemon yogurt into my whipped cream to lighten it up and add a bit more tang. If you want to try it, I would start with a ratio of 1:3 yogurt to whipped cream.
Cheers to the last berries of summer!
Last night there was an intense thunderstorm in Montreal. As I was heading to bed around 11 P.M., torrential rain started to pour down and lightning flashed, punctuated by thunder that sounded like angry drums. It was intense and intimidating, a show of force that we’re all living in this bigger, more powerful thing. Whether we were prepared or not, it was going to rain, and it was going to be a storm.
The last couple of weeks have felt like that storm. If felt like life was sweeping me up in swelling waters, the cool rush relieving after days of sweltering heat, yet powerful and perilous at the same time. I found myself at a major crossroad, conflicted and unsure of where to turn. I’m not the type to easily be still and carefully consider the options so instead, I went for runs. I cooked, making a huge batch of pesto. And I made a blueberry galette.
Many moons ago, I was an undergrad living in a tiny basement room in Hamilton, Ontario, studying a field I had very little aptitude for. In between reviewing lecture slides on the vascular system and crazy group meetings that went until 4 A.M., I would read food blogs. This was around 2005 when food blogging wasn’t quite a thing yet, so it all felt very exciting. I espsecially loved the ones from les français, talking about going to the local market in Paris and making all sorts of dishes I had never heard of before. One particular blog, Chocolate and Zucchini, mentioned a very humble-sounding cake called the Gâteau au yaourt. A French classic, it relies on very simple ingredients: flour, sugar, oil, eggs, and yogurt. To 19 year-old me, it didn’t sound very exciting and I unfortunately never gave it a chance.
I think my love for English things started with Pride and Prejudice. No, not the 6-part miniseries with Colin Firth (though I did watch it later and didn’t love it – I’m sorry!), but the 2005 one from Joe Wright. From the opening scene of the misty English countryside to the comedy of manners, I loved the clash of interactions between classes, how English characters so often remain stoic in the face of emotional turmoil, and the dry sense of humour. Since then, I’ve gone on to watch every BBC period drama mini-series that came my way. Suddenly, the tea time my grandma made me have as a child seemed to be so wonderful, and I couldn’t wait to revive it.
This past spring after making the pavlova, I had exactly 4 egg yolks leftover. And so I did a quick search and found what Epicurious calls The Ultimate Lemon Butter Bars. I haven’t tasted all the lemon bars in the world, but I can attest that this recipe produced the silkiest lemon curd I have made yet. Paired with a strong cup of Earl Grey, it’s perfect for tea time, dessert time, second breakfast time… and it has a simple shortbread crust and a curd that’s just tangy enough to give you the gumption needed, perhaps to talk to a handsome someone at Pemberley.