OK, time to get back into the saddle - posts on the way, I promise me. Stuff in my head: the garden, canning/preserving, making infusions, the hounds, entertaining and plenty more. Thanks for tuning in!
I just wanted to thank everyone who called, dropped by or wrote after Tessa died - it really made/makes a difference to feel the love and support. THANK YOU.
It's been a really hard time since I found her gone, the grief comes and goes but when it hits, it hits like a storm. I don't think there's a moment where I'm not thinking about her or somehow missing her, but I know it will get easier to bear as time passes. And I worry about that a little, like it'll be disloyal not to grieve or feel such a loss. So I'm making a little list of the joys. Not the stories - I won't forget those (nor will you, I'm sure), but the wee things that helped make my time with her so wonderful. If I do someday forget these things, they'll exist somewhere and that's good enough.
Tessa, I miss asking if you want to go into a tent, and the way you burrowed into the covers then nestled into my side. I miss how you'd stand at the side of the bed and hope so strongly that it could change the universe. How you'd get into position so we could lift you up, and how very crazy happy you'd be when you were up there but trying not to show it in case we changed our minds. I miss hearing your breathing and feeling your weight and warmth on the bed with me. I can NOT say I miss your horrific farts but I'd take 10 a day if I could have you back.
I miss the way you'd eat your food like it was about to be taken away or would never ever happen again. Your idea that just coming in from outside warrants not only a treat, but treats. The way you begged without begging, or managed to watch every person that had food, has food or possibly one day could have food. I miss saying Uh Oh when I drop something, and I miss you patrolling the floors for any crumb, real or imaginary. I even miss the lake of water that you'd make when you drink.
I miss the way you smelled like corn chips, and how you'd just fall into a trance while licking. Man, you loved to lick. I miss the sound of you padding across the floor or going up the stairs. I miss having to watch in case you ate the flowers, or sticks, or rocks, or dirt. I miss your wigglebutt, I miss your giving a paw or lying down or lying down all the way. I miss your excitement for everything, seeing people, going out, walking into a new room - it didn't matter, you loved everything. I miss how soft your ears were, and the way you'd sort of bouncy walk, and the way you'd let us know it's time for bed. I miss how happy you were when we got the dog bed for downstairs so you'd be able to stay with us in the evenings, and I miss you not being on your dog bed, watching everything and joining in. I miss you sitting by me on the couch, tucking your feet in under you to be dainty and warm. I miss whistling for you and seeing you bound over from whatever dirteating adventure you were on.
I have never met a dog with such a gentle nature, or such a happy disposition. You were a half-full kinda dog, no matter what. When we watched Cesar or Dogtown, I loved how you wanted to climb in the screen to see the puppies and help them. I miss how gentle you were with Trixie when she was a puppy, and how understanding you were with her as a teen and adult. She is a handful, and you would just roll your eyes and keep on keeping on. I miss, I really really miss how you'd know when I was sad and would just be there beside me letting me know that things go on, and that things would get better.
The night before you died, I think you had a heart attack while we were sleeping. I woke up and knew something was wrong - you were going crazy like it was the worst nightmare ever. I just stroked you and talked to you and calmed you down and brought you out of it. It took a bit, but you settled back into place and slept, warm against me. In the morning, all was well and you wolfed down your breakfast and went out to sniff everything, and we said goodbye when I went to work. Then I came home, went downstairs and opened the door. Trixie barreled outside, and I went with her, thinking you'd be right behind us. There are some moments I will never forget - the one when I knew something was wrong, and the moment when I found you curled up and gone away.
Just remembering it is making it hard to breathe, and Trixie just came over to make sure I'm ok.
I'm sorry I wasn't there when you passed, it must have been frightening and horrible and I hope you weren't in pain. I'm sorry you were alone when it happened. I always told you that I'd always come back, but my timing was off and we missed each other. I'm sorry I didn't give you more cookies, and let you on the bed more, and I wish you were here with me again.
You should know that Trixie the Brat wandered the house for 2 days - every floor, every room. She'd start upstairs, checking and whining and then move her way through the place looking for you. She would end at your dog bed, smell it and then start all over again. When we were out, she'd check the yard, and when we went to the park she'd wait for you to come to the leash before we could go. The only room she didn't go in was the room you died in. I can't go in there either.
Thank you for everything - and I do mean everything. You were an amazing dog, and I feel self-indulgent and stupid even writing this but I can't talk about it at all. There were years and years of good times, and I am so glad that you shared them with me. I'm so sad you won't be here to share our new life when Patrick moves in with us. You would have loved that, I know it. You were always so afraid that you weren't good, but you always were. You were the best.
Good lord, CBC is playing Jane Siberry singing Calling All Angels now. I'm not making it up. Bleah. She also sang a song called Everything Reminds Me Of My Dog. It's true, everything does.
The Russian Christmas party went well - lots of friends
and food, I looked down the stairs at one point and couldn't believe the number of people all in my home. Normally I rattle around in here like a dried pea but this was something else. It was wonderful. I had worried about not having enough food, about not getting to speak to everyone I wanted to, about some folks not getting along and about my dogs eating too many 'dropped' bits - all the normal things pre-party.
This is the shoe pile by the front door. Trixie was checking it out for potential treats or bricks of cheese.
Instead, I had Marnie, Jenn, Patrick, and Deena all helping me out in the kitchen. I can't tell you how much they helped.
Jenn has a touch for dough - the vereniki were perfect and I'm sure the legions of babushki were
satisfied and telling each other that Ukrainian
is good enough.
Marnie filled each round, a Chic assembly line as it were.
Deena took the reins for the borscht - she's had my Uncle's borscht years ago and knows what Doukoborscht tastes like. And Patrick was everywhere, mostly cleaning and tidying because he's afraid of me when I'm in the kitchen :)
Once again, Trixie is all about the cheese.
At some point, I realized that I had whatever food I had, and that the rest of it didn't matter.
We took a break, ate some vereniki fresh from the pot with melted butter like we did when I was little, we talked about everything and nothing while we cooked and it was beautiful.
In the kitchen, we talk about those times when it all just falls into place and everyone is just moving like a dance or a play, where it comes together like a song. We had flow that day, people. We had flow.
Then the guests started arriving. The out of towners first - which was perfect as I hadn't seen them all day. Family next - also perfect. I love my family, I'm sure you know that. I get as excited as a kid before Christmas when I'm going to see them, I kid you not. Then my friends.
Friends from every stage of my life in Toronto, people who have witnessed the best
and worst of me and seen me change and lose hair and gain pounds and helped me move and everything else. I must be doing something right.
I'll post the recipes shortly - they (mostly) worked, although we did get creative at a few points!
If you made it to the dinner - thank you for coming!!
Well, 2009 was a busy year, and a good one. I'll probably do a year in review post later, but for now I'm more focussed on the upcoming Russian Christmas party!
VERY EXCITED. And a little stressed. Will people come? Will there be enough food? Will Trixie freak out on my amazing brother and his amazing girlfriend? Will I be a maniac and make Patrick stomp his feet? Will I ever get the smell of butter and onions out of the floorboards/walls/clothes? Hosting a party can be hard.
But I kinda love it. I'll be making many traditional Doukhobor dishes again this year - lapshevnik, borscht, vereniki, nalyesniki, pyrahi, ploh, etc. But this year I'm going to try something old but new, if that makes any sense.
Among the things I received when my father passed away were some recipes. His, my fabulous stepmother's, my grandmother's. I've got a little metal box filled with weathered and smudgy recipe cards, almost all in my Grandmother's careful hand, covering a whole range of things to eat and drink. There are some recipes she snipped out of the paper or from a package, there are recipes she got from friends and family, and there are many many many of hers.
All of them talk to me. I can hear her voice and that of my Auntie, I can smell the dough rising and picture the faces of the people she references in the recipes. I can also hear my Dad, Grandpa and Uncle - three men who sure knew a good meal when it was put in front of them. It hurts a little, there is so much I wish that I would have said or done. But it's wonderful at the same time, and I wouldn't trade it.
Anyhow, I'm going to use some of the recipes in the box instead of my own ones this year. Ann Rilkoff, Dorothy Popoff, Ann Lebedoff and Anne Plotnikoff will all be showcased. I'm loving Grandma's little notes "Delicious!" or "Peter likes this" - that's my grandfather. The only problem is that she assumes a level of knowledge that isn't necessarily there. One recipe for lapshai lists the ingredients and then says "Mix in the usual way". I'm sure when she jotted it down that she didn't even think that anyone could NOT know how to make lapshai from scratch.
But somehow I'll forge on and do my best, and on Saturday I'll be celebrating life with my friends, my partner and my family - living and departed. I hope to do them all proud.
More as it happens, and I'll put up some pictures when I have them.
OK, I didn't make three :( But I did make two - crammed into the same day! Sunday was a cooking day for me, and I loved it.
I made Portuguese Green Soup (p86) - also known as Caldo Verde. I liked it - I thought it was simple and delicious. I would suggest that you not add spicy chorizo and chili flakes unless you REALLY like it hot - mine might be unbearable for many but I like it. Being me, I can't leave well enough alone - I used kale instead of collards and added some spinach when it wasn't quite green enough for me...
But it was good, and that is what counts! I'd make it again. Recipe at the end of the post, btw
I also made a mushroom risotto with some mushrooms I got at the Brickworks on the weekend - morels. So delicious. I ate it all. What can I say? I'm a goner for shrooms.
I was going to make stuffed chicken breasts as well, but I felt more like Grilled chicken with salsa verde - sort of a green theme! You can find it on p253, for those so inclined.
It was good - and yes, I did use the anchovies! Very simple and easy; grill, slather in sauce, devour. I can handle that.
Bought a ton of ingredients for more recipes this week - I'll let you know! Oaxacan chicken mole, pork tenderloin something or other and some more soup :) I love soup, especially this time of year!
OK, here's the recipes - enjoy!
Grilled Chicken w/ Salsa Verde
(makes 4 servings)
1 1/2 cups italian parsley
2 green onions, sliced
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
2 garlic cloves
1 anchovy filet
1/2 tbsp capers
1/2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tsp finely grated lemon peel
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 boneless chicken breasts
1. Get that grill nice and hot!
2. Combine the first 8 ingredients with 1/4 cup oil, process until coarse paste forms. season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Brush the chicken breasts lightly with oil, season with salt and pepper. grill until cooked through about 7 minutes/side).
4. Plate it up, and slather in sauce. Devour.
Caldo Verde (Portuguese Green Soup)
(makes 4 entree servings)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped finely
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch collard greens, cut away ribs and chiffonade
1 lb cooked chorizo (sliced into 1/2 inch thick rounds)
5 3/4 cups chicken stock
1 3/4 lbs potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 tsp crushed chili peppers
1. Heat olive oil in a large pot, add onion and garlic and saute until the onion is getting golden.
2. Add the greens, saute until wilted. Add chorizo and saute for another 5 minutes.
3. Add the potatoes and the broth. Simmer uncovered until the potatoes are tender (about 20 minutes)
4. Transfer about half of the soup to a blender (remove the chorizo chunks) and blend until smooth. Return to pot and simmer.
All right, I've been slacking. You're right to chastise me. Mea culpa!
But I'll reform, and here's how.
I've got a new cookbook. Well, a couple of them, really. No big shocker there. But the one I meant is called Fast, Easy, Fresh. Now you all know I'm a food porn ho, I've never tried to dodge that. When I get the latest issue of Bon Appetit or Saveur I hide away with a coffee and devour it cover to cover. You like that, devour it? Heh heh heh. One of my favourite parts in B.A is the section on making healthy (or very nearly so) meals quickly - quick and tasty. Since one of my regular excuses for NOT cooking during the week is lack of time and irregular hours, I get some great ideas from it and actually eat better!
So I bought the book. And I love it. At least on paper. So we'll see how this love affair turns out when we move it into reality.
I'm going to make 3 of the recipes a week for one month, and blog about them. At the end of the month I'll let you know what I think of the book. And throughout the blogging I'll let you know what I think of the recipes.
Woke up to another bootiful sunny morning and grabbed Ed for a walkabout, aiming in the general direction of some more recommendations from friends. Took a subway down to the East Village (OK, let me say something here. I love NY subways. I do. Despite them being hotter than freaking Hell down there. And even despite a 45 minute trapped in a car ride up to Park Avenue early in our trip.)
I know, this isn't anywhere NEAR the East Village, but we liked it. So there.
It was good. Not steal coins from under your neighbour's sofa great, but good. I liked it better than Starbucks, that's for sure. Apparently Amy Sedaris (who we love and adore) occasionally sells cupcakes there, but we didn't see any. I want one of her cheeseballs, btw. And from there to find Patisserie Claude (187 W.4th St), rumoured home of kickass croissants and grumpy Claudes. Can't comment on the grumpfactor, but I got some croissants and a brioche (I lurv brioche, bigtime). Delicious. Let's face it, most bread products make me inordinately happy. And buttery ones move to the top of the list. And buttery sweet ones? Well, they're like little happy clouds angels sit on and chat.
From there through to Gay St and Stonewall, and then off to Ground Zero, aka Near Century 21.
Yes Virginia, there IS a bear uniform.
Couldn't see even a dirt clod of the WTC site, all boarded up. The church across the way was lovely though.
And then the shopping began. Let me begin by saying this blog is mainly about the food and friends, and shopping usually won't get much space. Contrary to popular belief, I don't much like it. I like SPENDING, and there's a difference, people. But I do like pretty new shiny things. P is not a big shopper either, nor is Edward. I think they might hate it more than I. Which makes it especially funny that I barely got a thing in marathon of shopping that followed. Others were luckier than I ;)
Those are some damn happy post-shopping faces, I tell you what!
Shopping makes one hungry, so we had crappy sushi and udon at a Bento nearby. Bleah. Life is short, folks - avoid it. And the loos were horrid. Tons of stairs, through a broom closet and a drippy basement and voila! Stink!
From there it was off to the Staten Island Ferry for the CheapBastard's view of the Statue of Liberty. Long waits for the ferry (thank goodness for good company) and then a nice sunny view.
I think next time I go I'll do a boat tour around the island. Funny local moment when a mendicant was asking tourists for change - she went right up to a guy on a bench (who was completely ignoring her despite her smelly proximity) and said "You're a hairy motherfucker aren't you". Just about PISSED. Off the ferry, run to the next loading bay for more waiting and then back to Manhattan. Then we headed to Wall St.
I made him do that.
And the Stock Exchange
and then it was time for the big guns. The Bridge.
We walked across the Brooklyn Bridge as the sun set. I liked it. I'd do it again. Although maybe NOT while dragging the 400 shopping bags with us. There's a video on the bottom of the blog for those who like that kinda thing.
We were aiming for Grimaldi's pizza on the Brooklyn side, under the bridge. STARVING. TIRED. NEEDING ZA. And instead of a charming little boite with pizza pies, we found this...
That's right, that's the line up.
Needless to say, we piled our sweaty famished asses back on the subway, headed uptown to a Mexican spot Ed knew called El Centro.
If you know me, you know how much I love Mexico. The food, the weather, the people, the language. The whole thing. And I liked this place a lot. Go there, give them your business. Drink their caipirinhas. We ordered so many things here it was like tapas galore, and we ate it all. It got some booze in us and helped get our blood sugar up to a healthy level, and that's a good thing.
From there we headed home, got changed, hit a bar for a drink and then walked around a little. We wanted to go to Papaya King to check it out (another reco) but it sadly it was closed so all you get is the URL. So we went to bed.
On our last full day, we rose chipper as chipmunks and hungry AGAIN! But on our way to breakfast, we hit the Barney's Warehouse Sale. Once again, I found nothing and P lucked out. Not bad for someone who hates to shop! So we hit a Starbucks again and walked a little bit to find a place that we'd heard of (I can't recall how, actually) called the Cookshop on 10th. We liked it - I had the rancheros and was stuffed. Coffee was good, company was good once the caffeine hit ;) and reasonable prices. And good bread. The loos were nice here, I recommend them.
Although we were too late for gelato in the garden from Laboratorio del Gelato, which was on our list to try :(
Then more walking around, back to the Strand (I love it) for more books, a bit of walking and talking and generally having fun, ending up in Chinatown/Little Italy at the (wait for it, Ron!) NONYA!
This place came highly highly highly recommended by some good friends, so I was pretty excited! The ice tea was perfect, but the rest of the meal wasn't 5 star for me. It was good - I love Malay food, it just wasn't excellent. But I'd check it out again, no question. Ed joined us for dinner and then a gelato,
then P and I walked around Canal St a bit (by the way, it's pronounced Cah-NAL street, not the other way), then back up to Chelsea and our comfy bed. Well, Ed's comfy bed to tell the truth. On the way home we passed the gryphon that lives under the stairs.
That's it for New York - the next morning saw us slam a yoghurt back and head for Penn Stn., then off to Newark to fly home. No biscotti on this side, just Sausage McMuffins and more Starbucks.