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.


(soup tureen courtesy of mrs. huizenga)

Our house is in chaos at the moment.

Having just said goodbye to the last guest we will have at this address, we have begun to dismantle our life here. It’s not the most fun process, partly because of the emotional weight attached to what we are doing – but also partly due to the fact that it is an extremely messy undertaking.

Simply put, there is crap everywhere.

How is it that we’ve managed to accumulate so much in the three short years we have lived here?

When did I, formerly known to my friends as the compulsive minimalist, become the kind of person who has boxes and bags and bins of excess to cart to the Goodwill every day?

For every box I pack, there is another filled with things we no longer need – if indeed we ever needed them in the first place.

Going through our things, I’m half fascinated and half horrified by the pile-up; but when I manage to shift my eyes from the miasma I feel terribly lucky.

Lucky that we’re in the privileged position of having more crap than we know what to do with.

And lucky that we are moving on.

Happiness Soup
adapted from Nigella Lawson

The great thing about this easy-going soup is that it works hot, warm, or even tepid. I have never tried it fridge-cold, but at room temperature it’s great.

1/4c olive oil
3 medium yellow zucchini, finely diced
1 clove garlic, smashed
zest and juice of a lemon
1 tsp tumeric
4c (1 litre) chicken broth
1/2c basmati rice
4-5 large basil leaves
1 ball of mozzarella (about 325g), cut into small cubes

In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add zucchini pieces and cook, stirring gently, about 5 minutes, until slightly softened.

Add garlic and tumeric and stir; then add lemon juice and zest, broth, and rice.

Cook, uncovered, about 20 minutes, until rice is cooked and zucchini is tender. Add basil leaves and remove from heat. Puree soup in batches.

Serve warm, but not necessarily hot; garnish each bowl with a handful of mozzarella.

Serves 4-6.

simple and good.

There are certain foods that are perfect for certain moods.

If I am deeply overtired in a physical way, I need to have a grilled cheese, fries with mayo, or pancakes and bacon (yes, I have discovered that hangover foods are also a great balm for the overtired body); but when I am feeling world-weary, I turn to smooth, soothing pureed soups.

When I am bleating and blue and the weather is not doing what I’d like, it’s a lemon square and some Earl Grey tea with amaretto.

When funds are plentiful and I am grateful for all that life has to offer, I roast a duck and insist on really good wine with it.

And when everything just feels simple and good, nothing is more perfect to eat than my mother’s lemon pie.

My mom was here visiting last week, and we had the best time.

It’s nearly impossible these days to have an uneventful week at our house, but last week we came pretty close – no birth, no insanely prolonged labour (or preparations for either event), no – well, not too many – raging hormones or eviction notices or husband travelling; and on the home front, no kitchen cupboards needing painting or garden needing planting.

My mom hadn’t been here in eight months, so we spent our week enjoying her company and planning for her next visit, which will happen in our new house.

Oh, and we drank and ate indulgently all week.

The last day my mom was here, she and my daughter made this lemon pie, and its billowy brightness kept me going through what might otherwise have been several days of moping in her absence.

Simple and Good Lemon Pie
I usually buy three lemons for this, but often I only need two.

1/2c cornstarch
1c sugar
3c boiling water
4 eggs, separated
2 tbsp butter
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp lemon zest
1/2c lemon juice
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/3c sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Use your favourite pie crust recipe to line an 8- or 9-inch pie plate. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden. Cool completely.

Reduce oven heat to 400 degrees.

Prepare filling while crust is cooling: In a medium saucepan, combine cornstarch and 1 cup sugar. Place saucepan over medium heat, and gradually add boiling water, stirring constantly until thickened.

Lightly beat egg yolks in a small bowl. Stir a small amount of hot mixture into eggs yolks, then beat egg yolk mixture back into saucepan. Cook a further minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in butter vanilla, lemon zest and juice.

Using a rubber spatula, scrape filling into prepared pie crust.

Make meringue: Place egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium high speed about 30 seconds to combine, then add cream of tartar. With the mixer running, gradually add sugar and continue beating until stiff, glossy peaks form.

Top pie with meringue, using a spatula to ensure that filling is completely covered with meringue.

Place in 400 degree oven for 5 minutes or so, until meringue is golden.

Cool to room temperature before serving.