dark days.


I recently took a bit of a hiatus from my running.

By that I mean that I still went out occasionally, but only logged five or six kilometres at a time, and only once – at best twice – a week. Even though I’d had a very indulgent summer and should have been welcoming my usual post-Labour-Day return to a more restrained routine, instead I drifted in the opposite direction, thrillingly occupied with some new and highly fulfilling work and really revelling in my rare free moments, which – unsurprisingly – involved plenty of wine and coffee and pastries and shopping and magazines and large, almost ridiculously festive meals.

I also celebrated a birthday and enjoyed a wonderful visit with my mom.

It was a pretty fantastic six weeks or so – glorious, even – and throughout that period I was amazed, as I am still, that even in a life so filled with good things as mine, there seems always to be room to squeeze in a little more beauty, a little more joy.

And it’s that – the thought of this beautiful life, like a bubble of light – that has been getting me through the dark days of late: the troubling memories and mental anguish and anniversaries of loss and pain that come each year with October’s end.

That, and my return to my daily running routine.

And mornings at the cafe with this guy.

And reminders like this.

Roast Vegetables for Dark Days

This is basically a combination of most of my favourite things, in a dish. It’s easy and pleasing – a wonderful lunch or an accommodating side dish. I feel that it’s an adaptation of someone’s original recipe, but I’ve been making it for so long now that I’ve forgotten.

1 large fennel bulb
2 large parsnips (total parsnip weight about 500g)
250g bacon lardons, or cubed pancetta
2-3 stems fresh rosemary
a generous slug of olive oil
a generous pinch of french grey sea salt and a nice grinding of black pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees, or 400 degrees on the convection setting (I absolutely adore my oven’s convection setting).

Trim the stems and fronds from the fennel, and quarter (lengthwise) and core the remaining bulb. Cut each quarter lengthwise into three or four wedges.

Peel parsnips and cut crosswise into pieces roughly the same length as the fennel pieces. Half or quarter parsnip pieces as necessary so that all of the vegetables are of a roughly uniform size.

Place vegetables, bacon or pancetta, and rosemary in a glass or ceramic oven proof dish large enough to hold everything in one layer.

Add olive oil, salt, and pepper and toss well.

Roast 25-40 minutes, turning everything occasionally, until vegetables are cooked through, bacon is crispy, and everything has a comforting golden glow.

Serves 2-4, depending, as ever, on everyone’s appetite and whether you’ve got a main dish planned.

hot town.

It’s July, and I can’t deny my immoderate self.

It’s July, and we’ve had hot weather and all kinds of excellent company; possibly one too many parties, countless reasons to celebrate, many bottles of good wine; trips to the pool, to the splash pads, to the toy store for gifts small and otherwise, to the Junction flea, to the wine store and to the corner store for more chips.

It’s July, with its boozy lunches and early mornings and sweaty nights, phone dates with far flung friends, cold coffees and hot cars.

It’s July, the very end, and we have literally a day or two to take a deep breath and regroup before the madness of August is upon us.

This, friends, is summer in the city, and we are loving every minute.

Scallops with Bacon and Mint

My mom has been visiting, and to celebrate, I got some gorgeous, plump “dry” scallops on special at our local fish store a few days ago. This is my favourite kind of dish, simple and decadent – I served it with steamed green beans, but any yummy side would do.

4 strips good bacon, cut into lardons
16-18 (just over a pound, or about 4 per person) large bay scallops
juice of a lemon
2 tbsp white wine
1/2c lightly packed fresh mint leaves, very finely chopped

Cook bacon in a large, heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat until crispy. Transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate; reserve 2 tbsp of bacon fat in skillet.

Return pan to burner, and increase heat to medium-high. Pat scallops dry, and salt and pepper on both sides.

Add scallops to skillet in one layer. Brown well on each side – about 1 1/2 minutes per side – then transfer to a warm plate. Add lemon juice and wine to pan, stirring and scraping up any brown bits. Remove pan from heat; stir in mint, and pour sauce over scallops.

Serve immediately.

Serves four, or three if – as in our case – you are gilding the lily.