solace.

Friends, it has been a bittersweet week.

We lost a beloved member of our community in a horrible accident that hit far too close to home for many of us.

We turned our clocks back on the weekend, which has resulted, paradoxically, in some very short nights around here; and our hitherto unseasonably lovely weather is finally starting to turn, resulting in long days spent indoors and the reminder that those sorts of disgruntled days are only just beginning.

On the sweeter side, my mom has been here, and it’s been everything that I adore about her visits: long conversations, wine in vast quantities, delicious food, a bit of shopping, and all kinds of convivial giggling with my children. A week of pure bliss.

She left this morning, and, because I am home alone just now and taking solace in food is such an integral part of who I am, I suspect that the leftover pecan pie from last night’s dinner will also be gone before I know it.

We did have some spectacular meals this week, though, and I am looking forward to sharing them with you – but first, the pie.

Solace in a dish.


Classic Pecan Pie

We couldn’t quite remember our family recipe for pecan pie, so my mom and I took the one from Gourmet’s All-Time Favourite Seasonal Recipes edition and made it our own.
pastry to fit a 9-inch glass pie plate
6 tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/4c packed dark brown sugar
3/4c maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
grated zest of an orange
a pinch of salt
4 large eggs
3c pecan halves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with a baking sheet on the middle rack.

Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface, and transfer to pie plate. Crimp edges decoratively, if you can manage it – I often can’t, and frankly I have given up worrying about it. Chill until ready to use.

While shell is chilling, make filling: melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and whisk together with sugar, syrup, vanilla, orange zest, and eggs; mixture should be quite smooth and sugar mostly dissolved. Stir in pecans.

Pour filling into prepared pie shell. Place pie on baking sheet in oven and bake until crust is golden and filling is mostly set (it will be a touch wobbly in the middle), 45-55 minutes.

Cool completely before serving, preferably with whipped cream.

Serves 8.

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consumed.

The past two weeks have been almost embarrassingly full of indulgence for me.

My birthday celebrations started several days early and did not finish until a full week of epic good times had been had.

There was Thanksgiving, the best holiday of the whole year.

An evening out with old and new friends that was so much fun that I still smile at the thought of it, an entire week later.

And an incredible run of sunny days and balmy temperatures that just ended a few nights ago.

I was also undeservedly showered with gifts – some of them in the form of gift certificates to a few of my favourite places – an occurrence that then prompted a little shopping of my own.

I do love to shop, and always have, and I am past the point of apologizing for it (in the words of the divine Rufus Wainwright, “so what if I like pretty things?”) and the flush of joy that finding a new and lovely thing brings.

As I am always quick to protest (perhaps I am not quite so unapologetic as I’d like to think?), the object in question doesn’t have to be expensive, or even unused; it just has to strike some chord in my admittedly quirky aesthetic.

Most recently, it was a fur coat that hinted of the glamourous life of its former owner and a vintage lamp that casts the most glorious shadows in my dining room. Neither cost me a thing, and the beauty that they have brought to my daily life is indescribable.

Still, negligible impact on my pocketbook notwithstanding, I think it may be time to take a short break on the shopping, lest the bringing home of pretty things turn into an all-consuming fixation

(I remember overhearing, years ago, a conversation between two women in a shoe store in which one said to the other, “if I buy them, I will have to feed my kids oatmeal for dinner for at least a month. Would that be terrible?” I am not that woman, but that’s not to say I don’t have her in me).

I fear that it may be a bit like trying to coax a genie back into her bottle, this not-shopping thing, and if I am unsuccessful, I am determined not to panic.

But either way, I will be making more of this soup, and I suggest you do the same. Warming, delicious, simple, and marvelously indulgent, it hints of the glamour of lives past.

And not that it matters, but it will barely cost you a thing.


French Onion Soup

This recipe makes a lot of soup, but it freezes and reheats well. Still, it’s easily halved for a more manageable amount.

3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp unsalted butter
2 kg onions, halved crosswise and thinly sliced
5-6 sprigs thyme (optional)
2c red wine
8c beef stock, or rich vegetable stock
stale baguette slices (two per person)
several slices of gruyere (a generous amount per baguette slice)

In a large, heavy pot, heat oil and butter together over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring fairly regularly, until onions have taken on a fair amount of colour – they should be a deep golden-brown (this is the crucial part of making French onion soup, so take your time with this step).

Throw in thyme, if you have some, then red wine. Cook 2-3 minutes, then add stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until you are ready to serve – I’d say a minimum of 20 minutes or so.

When ready to serve, arrange baguette slices on a baking tray and preheat broiler. Cover each piece of bread with a generous amount of cheese, and cook under the broiler until cheese is bubbly and golden in spots.

Ladle soup into bowls, and add a couple of pieces of cheese toast to each bowl.

Serves 8-10 (large glass of wine optional).


easter post-script.


This is the ham I cooked for the two of us, our 3-year-old, and our baby.

Delicious, yes!

Excessive? Possibly.

Never knowingly undercatered, I always say…