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.

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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).