sea change.

I am not really one for eating my greens.

Although we do take our health somewhat seriously around here, and we try to get in a decent amount of exercise and fresh air and balanced meals on a quasi-regular basis, the only way I can convince myself to ingest the kind of walloping doses of greens that I feel my body needs is to choke them back in the form of a daily smoothie.

Usually with a red wine chaser.

It’s not pretty, but that’s what I do.

My husband, although he will gladly pick up mountains of kale on his way home from work and sometimes even makes my smoothies for me, is not a fan – it’s probably even safe to day he is slightly disgusted by – my pureed sludge.

He, bless him, used to be a vegetarian, so he has a much better handle on what a healthy lifestyle entails than I, who, if it weren’t for the fact that I am nearing forty and vain, could happily subsist on wine and rare steak and anything involving duck fat.

He actually likes to eat greens, tossing with abandon handfuls of baby spinach into stirfries and pastas and other dishes that cause me to wilt slightly at the very sight of them.

And, although he is back on eating meat (I don’t like to think I had anything to do with that, although I am sure the tofu fried in duck fat – “this is the best stir fry I have ever had!” – may have played a part), he’s got a great enthusiasm for things like pulses and beans. Those Moosewood cookbooks on our kitchen shelves all came into our relationship with him.

So the other day, when I came home from the playground to find him cooking lunch, I may have reacted a little less than graciously – especially when he announced that he was making quinoa and kale.

(And when I say less than graciously, I mean that I may have said, perhaps slightly louder than was necessary, “Oh Christ!”)

Even when he told me that the recipe came from one of my cookbooks, I was unconvinced – what could possibly be done to kale to make a dish that was even palatable, much less delicious and satisfying?

Well, as it turns out, this.

I have now made this warm kale salad at least a half a dozen times, and I like it equally well every time. And when I can cajole my husband into making it for me, I like it better still.

Sea change, friends.

 


Warm Kale Salad
(adapted from Heidi Swanson’s “Super Natural Every Day”)

The ingredients here are all the same as in Heidi’s book, but I have fiddled with the quantities somewhat. Also, I wouldn’t eat it with quinoa again, but it’s wonderful with socca.

a bunch of washed kale, stalks removed and torn into medium-sized pieces, to make 7 cups
1c large unsweetened coconut flakes
1/3c extra virgin olive oil
4 tsp tamari or soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with two racks in the upper third.

Line two baking sheets with parchment.

Combine kale and coconut in a large mixing bowl. Whisk together remaining ingredients in a small bowl to make a dressing.

Pour about 2/3 of dressing onto kale mixture and toss well to combine. Divide evenly between the two prepared baking sheets and cook 12-15 minutes, switching the pans on their racks and giving the kale a stir about halfway through. Coconut should be golden and kale slightly crisp.

Remove pans from oven and let stand about 5 minutes. Drizzle with remaining dressing and serve.

 

Serves 2.


we’ve come a long way.

I love a leap year.

In this era where nearly everything can be adjusted to suit standards that seem more exacting by the day, where we calculate our time down to the second on a regular basis and even a baby’s birth can be scheduled, there is something to be celebrated – something pleasingly archaic if slightly bizarre – in the continuing existence of February 29th.

The only down side is that it prolongs the end of this dreary month, which, as far as I am concerned, could not come soon enough.

Just when I thought I had endured this balmy winter largely unscathed, I was beset recently by the dreaded seasonal slump – I’ve mentioned it before, and I even had the temerity to suggest that I had avoided it this year; but that was sadly not the case (as evidenced in part by the recent waffle-mania that has overtaken our house).

So we aren’t celebrating the extra day in February, exactly.

 

But it will be six years ago tomorrow that my husband and I moved to this city that my family now calls home, and to that I’ll happily raise a glass.

It’s been an eventful few years – which coming from me, having lived a fairly unconventional and action-packed life, is saying a great deal – and although there were some harrowing times that I could certainly have done without, most of the time I marvel at how far we have come.

This recipe takes me back to the early days of my first pregnancy, and the beginning of my time here: a time when I felt utterly unmoored, far from everyone who knew me well and overwhelmed by what I had undertaken when I decided to embrace this new life, new love, new neighbourhood – and vastly empty new home.


Of course it all came together, and relatively quickly at that.

But before it did I made a batch of socca one cold, bright March afternoon and ate it off a paper towel with my fingers, sitting on the floor all alone and looking out the bare kitchen window and shaping, in my mind’s eye, a life.

Our life.

A long way, indeed.

 


Nearly Mark Bittman’s Socca

I have made one addition to to this simple recipe, and fiddled somewhat with the method, so if you are a stickler you’ll find the original here. This is a southern French dish, ideally paired with cold rose served in tumblers in the heat of an August afternoon, but for some reason it always comes calling for me at this time of year.

2c chickpea flour
2 tsp coarse sea salt
2 tsp ground cumin (I am currently obsessed with roasted cumin and would recommend that if you can find it, but regular ground cumin is of course more than fine)
a generous grinding of black pepper
2c warm water
1/4c extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, halved lengthwise and then thinly sliced, lengthwise
2-4 tbsp olive oil (not necessarily extra virgin, since it’s going into a very hot pan)

Sift flour into a large mixing bowl. Add salt, cumin and pepper and stir to combine, then slowly whisk in water to form a smooth batter. Whisk in extra virgin olive oil. Cover and let the batter sit for as long as possible, ideally an hour or two and overnight if it comes to that.

Set a 10-inch cast iron skillet on a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Stir onions into batter.

When oven and pan are hot, remove pan from heat; swirl about a tablespoon of olive oil into the pan, then add a scant ladleful of batter, tilting the pan so that the batter reaches the edges and thinly coats the bottom. Return pan to oven and cook 8-10 minutes, until batter is golden around the edges. Gently flip the socca in the pan; return to the oven and cook a further 3-4 minutes, until golden and crispy on both sides.

Slide socca onto a plate and eat (or serve) immediately.

Repeat with remaining olive oil and batter.

Makes six beautiful socca.


away and back.

Oh, hello Mid-December! When did you get here? What happened to the rest of November?

Well you might ask.

November is one of my least favourite months, generally on the dreary side in our city – which makes up for its lack of snow with an endless supply of unpleasingly grey days – and seeming to plod along without much in the way of celebration.

Still, I feel I have managed to compensate by conjuring up enough in the way of good times to shore me up all through the mania of this month and well into the next (lucky, lucky me!); and, as ever when I have fallen woefully behind on my posting (sadly a more regular occurrence than I’d like), I have many things to tell you.

I’ll begin with an epic turning point that happened – unbelievably – two weeks ago now: One of my very dearest friends was celebrating her birthday, and, somewhat on the spur of the moment, I packed a smallish bag, boarded a train, and went to Montreal.


All by myself, without my husband or (more significantly) my children, for the first time ever.

And, in spite of an anxiety attack the night before I left that was nearly crippling enough to make me change my mind about going, I had an absolutely wonderful time. I ate and drank with the kind of abandon that I haven’t enjoyed in years; caught up with my people; and marvelled at how things had changed while revelling in all of the things that had stayed the same.


It was a perfect weekend; and almost before I knew it, after many many glasses of champagne and an abbreviated night’s sleep, I was back on the train, exhausted and happy and filled with longing for my family.


The feeling of gratitude that welled up when I stepped off the train and saw them waiting – all having weathered my absence with no difficulty at all, thank you very much – has stayed with me ever since.

Just before I went away, I had some friends over for one of those evenings that turned out to be quite a bit later and slightly more debauched than any of us intended. I had a twinge of regret the next morning as I attempted to wrap my head around everything I had to do that day, but every time I think back to that evening I can’t help but smile.

One of the snacks I served was this luscious pate, indulgent and pleasing and one of my oldest recipes. It feels apt to offer it up today along with my feeling that, away and back, it’s so, so good to be here.


Duck Liver Mousse with Walnuts

Duck livers can be difficult to find, but chicken livers, happily, are not. Try to get the very best quality though.

1 lb duck or chicken livers, membranes removed and fat trimmed
1/4c melted unsalted butter
1 small onion, chopped
salt, to taste
1/2c cognac
3c chopped walnuts
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tsp dried)

Preheat broiler.

Dice livers and place in a large mixing bowl along with melted butter, chopped onion, and a pinch of salt. Toss well and spread evenly on a shallow, oven proof pan with a lip. Broil 4-6 minutes, turning once, until livers are golden.

Place 1/4c cognac and walnuts in food processor and process until smooth. Add livers and remaining cognac and process until smooth, stopping and scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice. Add butter pieces, nutmeg and thyme and blend thoroughly. Pour into small ramekins or glass bowls and refrigerate at least four hours, or overnight.

Serves 4-6, with enough leftover to send home with your guests.


austerity.

It’s been a pretty austere winter around here, from every perspective but the foodie one.

We’ve been besieged by¬† just about every flu bug and head cold and general bad feeling that has come our way, and we’ve not left our nest nearly enough.

The result, a lack of sleep and fresh air and an excess of time spent contemplating these four walls, has done nothing to propel me forward into my usual post-new-year’s effort to change my life via diet and exercise.

Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Instead of even considering a routine any more punishing than my current one (the sleepless, scratchy-throated haze that all of you who have had sick small children will recognize), I have been luxuriating in my cookbooks and old issues of Gourmet, baking my (sweat)pants off, and throwing myself with abandon on any dish that involves starch and cheese and the oven.

Like this one, which has become the new lunch-time staple at our house. It’s from Nigella Lawson’s new book, Kitchen: Recipes From the Heart of the Home, and it is so simple and quick and basic that you can do almost anything with it. The recipe that follows is my slightly-tweaked version.

Goat Cheese Pizza (adapted from Nigella Lawson)

100g spelt flour

1c milk

1 egg

75g grated cheddar

50g crumbled goat cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Liberally grease an 8″ round cake tin or pie plate.

Whisk together flour, milk and egg until smooth. Stir in two-thirds of the grated cheddar, and turn batter out into prepared pan. Bake 30-35 minutes, until golden and bubbly. Remove from oven and sprinkle with remaining cheddar and goat cheese.

Return to oven for a further 5-10 minutes, until cheese is melted. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes or so before cutting into wedges.

This has never served more than the four of us, keeping in mind that two of us eat very little.