Books, read

Books read, fiction:

An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler
Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick Dewitt
The Pearl by John Steinbeck
Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon
Travels with Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck
Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Books read, non-fiction:

Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto by Shawn Micallef.
Maps and Legends by Michael Chabon
Boosypants by Tina Fey
Last Call by Daniel Okrent
Making the Scene: Yorkville and Hip Toronto in the 1960s
Consider the Fork by Bee Wilson

What I’ve learned from the kitchen.

Recently, as I made a second batch of triple coconut muffins, I gave grave consideration to all the things that the kitchen has taught me over the last decade. I remember in grade 10, taking a home economics course on food that required meal planning, grocery lists, and as a final project making dinner for my small family of three. How much has changed.

The kitchen has taught me to be patient. To measure. To follow instructions. To ignore instructions. To have a plan.

The kitchen has taught me when to cut corners, when to abandon all hope, and when to roll up your sleeves and make more of a good thing. The kitchen has taught me to be creative, to be playful, to be more considerate of others. The kitchen has taught me to share. The kitchen has taught me to not be selfish. The kitchen has taught me that everything will be alright, eventually. The kitchen has taught me that it is a constant.

I met up with Laura of Zahlicious yesterday afternoon for drinks. She asked whether I was still blogging. I answered no. Like me, Laura moved to Toronto from Ottawa, but unlike me, she has found a way to keep writing about food. Meanwhile, I’m finding trouble cooking every night of the week or baking on weekends. But when I do, I go all out, I make more of a good thing, and I am reminded that the kitchen is a constant in my life.


Doughnuts. They're what's for brunch

When we lived in Ottawa, in Lowertown, Andrew would visit Rideau Bakery regularly for their apple fritter doughnuts. Doughnuts became the hot new thing after cupcakes, or at least tried to. I can think of a half dozen spots in Ottawa (more in Toronto) that have doughnuts on their menu, and all of them have one thing in common: They’re best when fresh.

In Montreal, there’s a delightful Greek bakery on St Laurent, north of Schwartz’s. I won’t lie to you: Our gluttonous selves often visited Schwartz’s for smoked meat sandwiches, pickles, and cherry soda before heading north for a fresh, creme filled dessert.

As good as any of these is Joanne Chang’s recipe: The dough can be done up the night before or first thing in the morning and left to set until a few hours before rolling, cutting and leaving to rise. Then, they have quick dip in a bath of hot oil and are tossed with sugar. You can fill them or not, as you please. You could also slice them in half and fill to make giant cream puffs. Brunch demands so many other things, so here we simply left them as they were, sinful enough to be sure.

1 package (2 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast, or 2/3 ounce fresh cake yeast
2/3 cup milk, room temperature
3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for baking sheet
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 teaspoons coarse salt
3 large eggs
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 6 to 8 pieces
Canola oil, for frying

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, stir together yeast and milk; let stand until yeast is dissolved, about 1 minute. Add flour, 1/3 cup sugar, salt, and eggs; mix on low speed until dough comes together, about 1 minute. Continue mixing on low 2 to 3 minutes more. Add butter, a few pieces at a time, mixing after each addition and until butter is fully incorporated and dough is soft, 5 to 6 minutes.

Remove dough from bowl and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 6 hours and up to 15 hours.

Lightly flour a baking sheet; set aside. On a well-floured work surface, roll out dough into 12-inch square about 1/2 inch thick. Using a 3 1/2-to-4-inch round biscuit cutter, cut out 9 doughnuts. Transfer to prepared baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap; let stand in a warm spot until they’ve doubled in height and feel poufy and pillowy, 2 to 3 hours.

Fill a large heavy-bottomed saucepan with oil to a depth of 3 inches; heat over medium-high heat until it reaches 350 degrees on a deep-fry thermometer. Working in batches, place doughnuts in the hot oil, taking care not to crowd them. Fry until golden brown on one side, 2 to 3 minutes; turn and continue frying on remaining side until golden, 2 to 3 minutes more. Using a slotted spoon, transfer doughnuts to a paper towel-lined baking sheet until cool enough to handle.

Place remaining cup of sugar in a small bowl. Toss doughnuts in sugar, one at a time, to evenly coat. Serve immediately, or allow to cool for 30 minutes before filling each with about 1/3 cup filling.

A New Year’s State of Mind.

Springbank Park, Christmas.

The second of January. In which I prepare a whole lot of food, most healthy; go running; and consider and reconsider and reconsider (again) all the things that I want to do. Always. Talk to me in March, when I’ve forgotten most of the things that I want to do this year and am struggling with the other half.

Twenty-seven things seems like a good number, if ambitious. It’s a start.

Trying to Resolve

Ani Difranco has a very catchy song called “Evolve”, from her 2003 album of the same name. The chorus of it is “she’s trying to evolve.” Consider this title a riff on that.

I’ve kinda always been big on resolutions, on New Year’s Day and otherwise. New school year, new city, what have you. It’s an opportunity to start over, start fresh, and make the most of whatever. It’s a blank slate. I fancy myself a success-oriented person. I cannot stop. It’s not a good thing, often times. When I have downtime, I get bored, I get anxious. The past two weeks, we were travelling to our families, first in London and then in Ottawa. There was simply not enough for me to do. I went stark mad. Resolutions are a special sort of hell when you are the type of person who overextends themselves a lot and finds themselves planning trips three and a half years in advance.*

So, I’m trying to resolve. I can’t seem to come up with remarkable resolutions that I’ll actually LOVE, though. Maybe to knit more? Goals? Goals, I can handle.

Get healthy: Lose 25 pounds. Run two half-marathons (Toronto – May 5; Detroit/Windsor – October 20). Stretch daily.

Fiscal cliffs: Be austere this year. (That part about planning a trip three years ahead of time? If it’s anything like I’m envisioning it, it’s going to need some savings.)

Forge my career path: Do more amazing things in my field of expertise with my knowledge and skills, both for pay and for experience. And for the sheer joy of it.

Relatedly, this seems like an opportune time to let you know (all three of you that are still hangin’ in there!) that I’m planning on blogging more often, but far less about food. I think I’ve been letting you know this for the past seven months, so I should probably act on this. That middle part about the crazy trip will probably come up at some point, among other things.

*This is apparently what I do on vacation, when left to my own devices and when none of those devices are particularly helpful in the research work that I should be doing.

And then, I had made lunch.

Not having time to yourself can kinda destroy a person. I love what I do, but there’s a bit of a transition that happens when you go from working 2 or 3 days a week, in a city that’s familiar, with a huge apartment and spacious kitchen (with a dishwasher and full-sized oven) to working full-time, in an unfamiliar space, with cramped quarters. Our dining room table, which in Ottawa would fit ten people with ease, now fits only five or six, seven at most, squeezed into the tightest of nooks and crannies and with worries that one might fall backwards and go down the stairs. Oof.

Yesterday, I had a sort of meltdown about this. I’ll spare you all the details, but to say that it was solved in part by going for a run, and in part by my darling husband taking our dear dog for her afternoon walk alone. I stayed it. And chopped. And washed. And toasted. And smacked. And tasted. And then, I had made lunch.

Pomegranate/Walnut/Olive Salad
Makes enough for 4 lunches

The seeds of 2 pomegranates (See this life-changing blog post about how to get said seeds out of said fruit)
1 cup walnuts (or pistachios), toasted and chopped
1 cup pitted green olives, chopped
1 bunch parsley, chopped
1 cup bulgar wheat, cooked

Juice of 1 lemon
2-4 tbsp olive oil (to taste)
1 tsp. oregano or zaatar
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the things together. Cover. Eat.