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This picture isn’t pretty, I know. It’s leftovers. This food may have looked nice the night before, but cold and unarranged and in plastic containers it loses something. But! At the top are patates savoyard made with potatoes we pulled out of the earth ourselves that were cooked until crisp and bubbling on top with Dubliner cheese. To the left is a top sirloin roast purchased at Sunterra Market, which was braised in that orangey-red mess you see is at the bottom, cherry tomatoes from our own garden that, after three hours cooking in beef juices then reduced, had the rich, full flavour of fat and a spine of tomato tang that popped with garlic and just a hint of (home-grown!) rosemary. And that white mass you see on the left was once a light cloud of horseradish whipped cream that we made with fresh horseradish purchased at a farm outside the city. It ain’t pretty, but it was almost as lovely the day after as it was the night before.

It seems like there’s been a bit of blogging ennui going around these days. I can identify. I don’t know what’s come over Carlo and me lately, but it’s not just that we can’t muster the enthusiasm to write about our food. Lately we haven’t even been cooking. I’m not exaggerating about this, sadly. Our larder has emptied out bit by bit, and on nights when Carlo is working late, I’ve filled my belly with marshmallow melted onto saltines under the broiler, Nibs candy, or frozen burritos. We’re in a funk.

That’s why this meal, ugly as it is, was a celebration. Things weren’t perfect. The beef braised too long and got a little dry. My feet ached from standing in one place while I sliced and whipped and grated. We set off the smoke alarm. I made Carlo come talk to me when he strayed out of chattering range. We don’t have four matching fancy plates, so we served our guests on mismatched china. I suddenly realized that I didn’t have almond meal as I was making dessert (grape cake!). There was a hockey game on while we ate (first game of the season), and the Oilers lost. But the house was warm after a cold, grey day. We had company. I mixed cocktails, and we had wine. We talked about work and TV shows and our family and the food. I’m starting to remember why I cook.

Speaking of food, please try the horseradish whipped cream. We were all a bit unsure, but my Gourmet cookbook (speaking of which, RIP Gourmet mag) promised an “ethereal” accompaniment to beef or lamb, which sounded lovely, so we tried it. And it was lovely, and I will be making it again.. Made with fresh horseradish, it had a bit of a kick, but I imagine it would be more in-your-face with bottled stuff. It was especially good as a cool, smooth counterpoint to the gutsy, beefy tomatoes we served as the other condiment.

The braised beef was especially simple, though maybe I used too lean of a cut. My favourite part is its simplicity. It was about three pounds, and three hours in the oven at 300 degrees, four cups of fresh tomatoes, half a head of garlic (the cloves peeled and left whole), and a sprig of rosemary was all it took. After it was done cooking, I took the meat out to rest and brought the tomatoes, now swimming in juices from the roast to a very fast boil for about 10 minutes until the sauce reduced to something thick and hearty.

The potatoes were similarly easy. I followed, though not very closely, Julia Child’s recipes for patates savoyard, slicing about four potatoes thin, then layering them with dollops of butter and generous handfuls of Dubliner (I didn’t have Gruyere, which was a lucky accident). To finish I poured about 1 1/2 cups of boiling beef stock over them and popped them in the oven for an hour and a half (at 300 degrees, obviously, to go with the beef). They came out crispy on top with soft layers underneath, rich and cheesy.

Whipped Horseradish Cream

As I said, this is a recipe from The Gourmet Cookbook. The book says that vinegar helps stabilize the volatile oil that gives horseradish its kick. I guess the cider vinegar here does two things, then: it keeps the horseradish pungent and it balances the honey’s sweetness. If I were to change anything, it would be to pull back a bit on the honey, which was almost over-sweet.

3-4 tablespoons grated and peeled fresh horseradish or bottled horseradish
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon honey (go light here)
1 cup whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Stir together 3 tablespoons of horseradish with vinegar and honey in a small bowl

In a larger bowl whip the cream. When it holds soft peaks, gently mix in the horseradish mixture.

Taste cream mixture, then add more horseradish to taste. Put the prepared cream into the fridge for at least an hour so that the flavours can mellow and spread.

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So we’ve been busy. Really busy. Busy as in I can’t remember the last three months of my life busy. Busy as in I can’t really remember when I last cooked or what I might have made.

Actually, I’m not sure that I remember how to cook, to be honest. We didn’t eat too poorly during the last few months. Carlo cooked some good stuff, but we relied heavily on our stuffed-to-capacity freezer. I also used the blender a lot. If it wasn’t in the freezer or I couldn’t whiz it together in the blender, we didn’t have it. Wooden spoons, spatulas, pots and pans languished in their drawers while I whirred fruits and nut butters together with milk. I’ve had a LOT of smoothies.

No, this isn’t high-style eating. My mouth is bored, I admit it. But a nice smoothie makes up for a lot of ills. The following is very, very nice.

Blueberry-Vanilla Almond Butter Smoothie

I like this smoothie because I don’t have to add any sugar to sweeten it. The blueberries taste bright and light, and the almond butter is discernable but not overpowering. I suppose you could use milk instead of vanilla soymilk, but then you’d probably need to add some extra sugar.

1 cup frozen blueberries
1-2 tablespoons almond butter
1 cup vanilla soymilk

Blend. Drink. Go to work. Repeat.

Hello, everyone. It’s been a while. So long, in fact, that people are volunteering to write things for this blog just because they’re so sick of not seeing any new content. Below is a blog entry graciously written by my accident-prone brother Lars. He and his wife just got an amazing accident-dog, who needs to be walked for three hours a day to keep him from making trouble in the house. Since I have no good photos of the food Lars wrote about, I would like to present Lars and Amy’s dog Teddy, who was not allowed in the kitchen while we were cooking:

My name is Lars, and I have a bad habit of getting myself into all sorts of painful situations.  Amazingly, up until very recently, I have never broken a bone in my body.

I have fallen down the stairs (just learning to walk), used paint thinner as a mouthwash (learned to walk – found garage), been hit in the head with a golf club (elementary school), gotten smacked with a skateboard to the nose (don’t ask how – junior high) and the list goes on.  Hell, I was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around my neck.

For a time, I seemed to avoid my accidents. Went to Montreal for university, no accidents*. Got married, bought a home, a car, and some cats. No accidents.  Then, after years of pain-free living, I cut off the tip of my left index finger and barely escaped with all the rest of the fingers on that hand while working with a piece of hardwood flooring for my home (and since I technically sawed through the finger, I maintain that does not count as a “broken” bone). Eventually it healed up, I stayed away from table-saws for awhile, promised my wife I would NEVER do it again, and fell back into regular life.  That was a year and a half ago. The only real change was my ability to pretend to stick my finger really deep into my nose without actually sticking my finger in my nose.   Yippee.

Hanne and Carlo have been excessively busy lately, so when I called them up in early April to plan an evening of cooking and eating, Hanne suggested making a few large scale meals that we could freeze in small portions for easy convenience food while she is stuck working 18 hour days.  Great idea!

The next day I broke my promise to my wife, and got my hand caught up in a gear on a machine at work, and found myself once again in the emergency room for severe damage to my left hand.  For the first time I broke a bone, in the tip of my middle finger.  I also lost a chunk of the ring finger.  My wife is not impressed.

The best part about food is that it tastes good even if your hand is mangled. So we decided to go forward with our mega meal project.  I am not going to claim any credit for deciding what was going to be made, as painkillers can make the brain a little fuzzy.  It was settled we would make split pea soup, cook-from-frozen chicken pot pie, and freezer cookies.  You can’t get better homey food than that!

Although I helped grill up some burgers for sustenance while Hanne, Carlo, and my wife, Amy, worked, I also won’t take credit for any of the cooking, except maybe calming Hanne’s nerves while she was dealing with the pastry for the pie – she has a silly habit of getting very worked up and worried about the food she is making, convincing herself that it will not turn out (I think it’s actually a complex plan to make the food taste even better when it comes out perfect every time).  True to our tradition, we ended up cooking past midnight, and Hanne and Carlo had to finish everything up early the next morning.  We ended up leaving with more than 40 servings of food.

The pies were engineered to be baked from frozen**, and they came out better than I ever imagined.  Hanne threw a bunch of smoked paprika into the pastry, which added a wonderful undertone to the melt-in-your-mouth crust.  I have never eaten a better chicken pot pie.  Delicious!

For the soup, we knew it would be improper to make split pea soup without using a whole ham bone.  We bought a ham that was way too big but ended up with plenty of leftover meat that we saved for sandwiches and such.  Talk about leftovers! The best part about split pea soup is how little of it you need to feel completely full and satisfied.

If any of you happen to find yourselves short 2.5 fingers and want some easy, delicious food, here is my prescription for the best ever cook from frozen food chicken pot pie and split pea soup:

-Find other people who love to cook

-Convince them to make food for you

-Reheat delicious food when hungry

*the big sister in me would like to note that while in Montreal Lars did develop a mysteriously swollen and painful big toe (weird, right) that no doctor could figure out or fix. That wasn’t an accident, really, but I just want to underline the fact that this stuff follows him around.

**the secret to these pot pies was the filling, which was a bit soupier than you’d make it if you were baking it straight away. The extra moisture allowed for the longer cooking time necessary. If you’re trying this at home, please note that the pastry wasn’t cooked in advance either. Total cooking time was about 1.5 hours from frozen at 400 degrees. We kept the pies covered with foil for the first half of the cooking time and then uncovered them to brown the pastry on top.

Look, a well-stocked freezer! Pot pies on the left, chicken stock on the right. You can't see the pea soup, but that's okay because the picture's ugly anyway.

Hi. Remember me? I’m priding myself on the fact that I now consider going missing for two weeks a real “blog hiatus.” Remember when we left for six months without giving you any notice? Yeah.

The biggest reason SiS is MIA is this: I have a new job! If you’re keeping track, this makes FOUR jobs for me. I swear, I’m only doing it to see how many I can juggle. For the first time in my life I’m going to be able to say that I’m busy. Though  I think that at some point I might have to start dropping commitments when I take on new ones.

My new job is at the Legislative Assembly Office of Alberta. I’m working for Hansard, which is the office that transcribes and edits everything that is said during House sessions and committee meetings. So far, a week and a bit into the training, I’ve learned that this involves the judicious use of a lot of commas. Other punctuation too, but especially commas. I am simmering in a stew of commas. You should see the size of our style manual. Good thing I love love love good punctuation. Not that you can always tell around this blog.

What does this mean for you? This blog is going in one of two ways. Maybe you will enjoy a punctuationally pristine  pavlova of perfect paragraphs. Or! I will, be venting; my unused-punctuation mark rebellion — in! all! entries, making an over-salted mess of: unecessary; incorrect; and irritating commas/ellipses-colons and semicolons… you get the idea.

Have I stretched the punctuation-as-cooking metaphor far enough? I do think it’s an accurate one. A good punctuation mark is like the perfect amount of salt. Too much, or in the wrong place, and it makes things unpleasant or even incomprehensible. Used well, both salt and commas just make everything make sense.

Okay. Since Carlo and I made some resolutions this year that didn’t have anything to do with “stop procrastinating” or “make sense on the blog,” I will not apologize for my hiatus or for the above lack of sensicality. I’m working 12-hour days, okay?  Finally getting to the point of this post, I present:

Supper in Stereo’s Food-olutions

-Memorize a new cocktail recipe that we love each month
-Cook a new fruit or vegetable every month (first up… rutabaga)
-Master pie pastry (I need to catch up with the rest of my expert family here)
-Learn to fry things
-Make soy milk
-Make ricotta
-Find some new things to do with lentils (hey, we like our bank balance going UP, not down)
-Cook more with our favourite girls (aged 6, 3, and 2)
-Try not to put bacon into EVERYTHING
-Grow tomatilloes
-TBA

 

I love a good resolution, but I hate to be tied down. The above is a start, but I hope this year will be FULL of great food discoveries and adventures. That’s if I can find time between jobs to get into the kitchen.

So… does anyone have any advice about what to do with rutabaga?

In which I meet someone who knows a lot, learn interesting things, and then do the Scotch connoisseur’s equivalent of a face-plant. Not literally. Though given the Scotch drinking part, that might also have been a possibility.

A couple weeks ago I posted about tasting a $660 bottle of Scotch with Peter Gordon, the chairman of the company that makes Glenfiddich (William Grant & Sons). That interview was one of the highlights of my November. The article I wrote about the experience of tasting Scotch with an expert just came out and I’m pretty proud of it. If you want to know what I learned about Scotch, or how I totally embarrassed myself at the end of what was mostly a great interview, you can check it out here.

-2 slices of beer bread
-smoked turkey
-Carnation instant breakfast
-beef jerky (teriyaki flavour)
-a handful of almonds
-double espresso

Not necessarily in that order. NaBloPoMo combined with lack of time and inspiration makes for exciting blogging.

Hi, internet. Did you miss us? Sorry I didn’t call. I meant to, I swear. I misplaced your number, but I just found it again at the bottom of a box of cookbooks. We’re mostly unpacked now, by the way, and after I put those cookbooks on a shelf, I thought I’d better check in, see how you’re doing. Seems you’ve been getting by just fine without me and Carlo. But we’re cool, right? I’ve been cooking stuff, and eating too, so maybe we could be friends again?

It’s been a long summer, and we’ve been a little off our rockers. We’re settling in now, though, and I’m getting back to business in my! own! kitchen!

Where did the summer go anyway? Well, here’s a little summary:

1. I read a lot of books. No, really. A lot. The librarians were greeting me by name after two weeks back in Edmonton. This is nothing new, but I think I may have outdone myself this past summer. Some reading highlights: Marilynne Robinson (metaphors so perfect they make my eyes sting, and books so good you want to start reading over again as soon as you finish), Ursula Leguin’s Earthsea books (fantasy morality plays), Proust and the Squid (made me so grateful to be a reader), and did you know that Wuthering Heights totally isn’t boring? I’ve been avoiding it for years, which was stupid. But don’t try summarizing it to your husband, because he will think it sounds boring. And stupid. Which probably was my fault, and not the book’s.

Anyway, I would keep going books-wise, but I’d better not, because… well, I’m sure even the librarians are sick of me. But if you feel like reading a book and you need some ideas, drop me a line. I’ve got a few.

2. We went camping. I love camping.

3. Um, we spent a lot of time at the library.

And now it’s October. I’m back, and so is Carlo. Maybe you could come over and hang out sometime.

Did you think we were gone? We’re still here, though it seems that we’re barely eating and barely keeping up with life as we anticipate some big changes that all of a sudden are sitting there like mountains, just feet away. Oops.

Anyway, I’m breaking the silence to tell you about Arfi and her interesting blog HomemadeS. After having so much fun browsing through someone’s back recipes with last month’s Taste and Create, hosted by For the Love of Food, I couldn’t wait to play again. This month I got to browse through an exotic (to me, anyway) collection of recipes. Arfi posts a lot of Indonesian recipes, and I can’t wait to go through her archive and do some more cooking. Bubur Injit, Sambar Telur Manis, and Empal Panggang are on my must-try list now, but I have to admit that I settled on slightly less adventurous choices. I couldn’t resist making two things: corn fritters and ginger tea.

The corn fritters were lovely. Arfi brought exciting flavour to a nice simple base of corn, flour, and egg with the addition of crispy fried shallots, feta, and celery leaves. Yum! I can’t wait to make them again. The only change I made to her recipe was the addition of some buttermilk, which I added because I found the mixture a bit too dry to work with. I liked the tangy flavour it added, and I thought it went well with the creamy feta. We ate the fritters alongside tomato soup.

After finding the corn fritter recipe, I did some more digging and found a recipe for ginger tea concentrate. Again, nice and simple with a great result. I mixed the concentrate with straight lemon juice and diluted it with water in a one-to-one ratio. I loved the combo of lemony sour, spicy ginger, and sweet palm sugar. I just wish it were summer, so I could appreciate it from a sun-dappled picnic table in a park somewhere. Thanks so much, Arfi!

I have something to tell you. Up to now, this blog has been decidedly positive. We tell you how much we love a food item, give a little run-down on why we like it, maybe give a glowing description and a couple preparation suggestions. Then you get the recipe. This is good. And positive. Everything’s all right here at Supper in Stereo.

But here’s my confession– I’m not generally sunny. I’m a whiner, a complainer, a look-on-the-dark-side kind of person. I complain about my job, curse the cloudy weather, call my cat stupid.

Actually, I only did that last one once. And I felt really bad afterwards.

I’m working on it, I am. But sometimes Carlo’s and my self-imposed exercise of listing three good things that happened every day ends up sounding something like this: Today is over. I survived today. I can go to bed now. This, my friends, is not positive.

Sometimes when you’re busy feeling grey like this, food falls by the wayside. Oh, we still eat, of course. But cookies turn out tough and floury, soup tasteless, meat dry. And we dutifully shovel it in, to get enough energy to slog through another day. January and February are especially bad when you live in a wintry climate. We’re lucky to get one sunny day a week and the rest of the days are plodding and overcast. They’re not even grey, they’re just… nothing.

Have you had enough yet?

Then listen: every once in a while, even I have to poke my head up and say “wait, this is pretty good.” The other night, Carlo and I were contemplating a beautiful pan of chicken parts scattered with chunks of lemon and rosemary that we were about to roast (the recipe was yet another gift from my generous aunt and uncle, and I’ll pass it on to you soon). It was gorgeous, even uncooked, and we could tell just by looking that it was going to be delicious. Carlo said “man, we have it pretty good.” And I agreed.

I had another moment like this the other night, standing in the kitchen, sticking my tongue out while I took a paring knife to the skins of our last Meyer lemons. I was sticking my tongue out because I was concentrating on only getting skin and not pith, so that the mini batch of limoncello that I was preparing wouldn’t come out with any bitterness at all. To be honest, the task of carefully peeling thin-skinned lemons isn’t really all that fun. I was tense and my shoulders were aching. But at the other end of the counter, Carlo was preparing a batch of one of our favorite ice creams. He was talking himself through the steps, pretending to host a cooking show (sample instructions: “…then you take a thing… or a spoon… and you move the stuff in the bowl around with it.” Sample banter: “I’m okay! Do you like me? You’re okay!”). If I wasn’t concentrating so hard, I would have been giggling. Carlo finished preparing his ice cream, and I finished peeling my lemons (it took me 30 minutes for four lemons– that’s dedication). Then Carlo put his ice cream into the ice cream machine and I put my limoncello in the cupboard to steep.

It’s just a little jar, mind you. I only had four lemons left (and incidentally, the more-than-half-empty bottle of vodka on our bar had the exact right amount of alcohol left, which was a nice coincidence). When the limoncello’s finished, it will be enough for a few sips, not much else. But I still like knowing that it’s sitting in the cool darkness of our cupboard, getting more and more delicious, waiting for us. You can steep your limoncello anywhere from two weeks to four months. I’m leaving mine there for all of February. We’ll see how I feel come March.

I’ll let you know how the limoncello turned out in a couple months. And Carlo’s ice cream? It was perfect, perfect. Life is good and we are lucky. I just don’t feeling like talking about it.

BROWN SUGAR SOUR CREAM ICE CREAM

We follow the recipe for brown sugar sour cream ice cream from Mercedes at Desert Candy faithfully. The last few times, we’ve used panela instead of brown sugar, just because I found panela in the store and felt that it needed to come home with me. I highly recommend this variation, as the panela has a great intense smoky, molassesy flavour. However, you MUST try the original recipe as well. It’s great! I love the addition of bourbon to the mix, but you could easily leave it out and still have a great ice cream. Plus there’s no custard to fiddle with (Farhan, I’m thinking of you…).

LIMONCELLO

If you want to make limoncello, here’s the recipe I used. I used vodka, as it’s what we had around, but if you can find a grain alcohol, that would probably be better. The linked recipe makes a huge amount, but I scaled it to the following proportions:

4 lemons, preferably unsprayed and unwaxed
350 mL vodka or grain alcohol
1 1/4 c. water
1 1/3 c. sugar

Wash and dry the lemons, then peel them. Place them in a mason jar with the alcohol. Make sure the lemon is fully covered. Put the mason jar in a cool, dark place, shaking it once a day. Leave this for at least two weeks, but I’ve read you can go up to four months.

When your lemon concoction has steeped to your satisfaction, it’s time to sweeten it. Bring the water to a boil and add the sugar. Stir until the sugar has dissolved, then remove from the heat and allow to cool. When the mixture is room temperature, put a strainer over the saucepan that’s holding the sugar syrup and strain your steeped lemon mixture into the sugar syrup. Combine the liquids well, then place the mixture back into a mason jar. Put the mason jar back into your cupboard and repeat the first process, shaking twice every day for about three weeks.

Finally, after all that time, it’s ready to taste! The Washington Post recommends storing your limoncello in the freezer, where it will turn a milky yellow.

WASTE NOT!

By the way, I juiced the lemons after I peeled them and boiled the juice with sugar in a 1:1 ratio to make lemon syrup. You could use this syrup to make lemonade, or you could pop in a vanilla bean and do a bit more fiddling to make something like this (which looks super-lovely).

Carlo’s wandering around the living room muttering “stupid nablopomo,” and “I hate writing.” And I’m pretty tired today too, so here’s a teaser instead of a full post. We bought our dinner again, but this time, no regrets. Well, none but the inevitable junk food hangover. Oh, but it’s so worth it. Do you know what we ate today? It’s all wrapped up inside this package:

Now Carlo’s reading a children’s book about latkes. He’s giggling. Which is not the same thing as writing. So that’s why you’re going to have to wait a bit to learn about poutine. One note: it’s pronounced poo-teen. It’s popular in Canada, but mostly in Quebec. And I don’t know why it’s not better known outside of Canada*. Once when we were visiting Oregon, my sister tried to order it at a fast-food restaurant. The cashier looked at her, blinked a couple times and said “I’m sorry. You want poo what?”

Carlo will tell you more about poutine later. I apologize for the live-blogging experience. I feel like a hockey announcer, narrating the most boring game ever. I promise not to make it a habit.

*There are some notable exceptions to the Canada-poutine rule. Kris of To Be Mrs. Marv recently asked me about my experience of poutine in Montreal. I’m doing some research to give her tips for home prep, as we (and people in general, in the land of poutine) generally get our poutine take-out. I’m still working on the poutine project, Kris!