The way to a man’s heart and a smidgen of mine – My Papa and an early introduction to ginger

Recipe Featured: Rice Paper Tuna Rolls with Mango Ginger Dipping Sauce

tuna rollsMy Papa, my great grandfather on my mother’s side, was a generous and kind man.  By trade he was a Ford Mechanic, and most people who knew him tell me he had a knack for taking apart a car and putting it back together with less pieces than it came with.  He had his own shop which was central in our hometown and right next door my great grandmother, Nana, had a teashop where folks could hang their hat while waiting for their car to be repaired.  But by the time I was born those days were long behind my Papa, and his full time job as far as I could tell was telling me stories.  While perched atop his knee I sipped a Canada Dry Ginger Ale through a straw and figured out what splendid thing I would share with him that would cause him to open the large red glass candy jar next to his chair and offer me a candy.  There were only two occasions in my life when I was allowed to Ginger Ale (or any kind of pop), the first was as told here at my Papa’s house, and the second is when I was deathly ill with stomach flu, the former being my favourite.  Now ginger is not a fresh ingredient I was aware of until much later in life, and to be honest it wasn’t until I was introduced that I even realized ginger was a flavouring of plant origins.  I always thought it was something that those smart folks at Canada Dry created. However, now more enlightened, I think these early memories of ginger influenced it as one of my favourite flavours, and I enjoy it most in its natural form.  And to this day when I get sick the one thing that comforts me most is a glass of Ginger Ale.  There are many recipes for Ginger Ale, but my opinion Canada Dry has got that right, so why mess with a good thing. I’ve decided to come up with my own recipe that uses a bit of ginger in it.  Those moments with my Papa were such loving moments I feel true comfort remembering them.  I’m sure my Papa never had sushi, rice rolls, and I’m not even sure he would have had mango or avocado.  So what I’m sharing here is a truly evolutionary use of ginger for Papa’s little Port Dover girl.  

Click here for the Rice Paper Tuna Rolls with Ginger Mango Dipping Sauce.

This ain’t your mama’s pantry – a road map to truffle pasta

Many of us recall pantry dinners of our adolescence, classics like the tuna casserole made up entirely of preserved, shelved ingredients. Pantries of the 80’s and 90’s were stocked full of cans of tuna, salmon, Campbell’s soups, condensed milk, and boxed rice, Kraft dinner, cereal, pudding powder and more. Just in case of a hurricane, unexpected invasion, or some other apocalyptic occurrence our mothers would have been fully prepared. Despite thinking we know better than our moms, with our busy schedules a few well chosen pantry items can ensure we’ve got something quick and good to eat when we get home late and don’t feel like ordering pizza. But to forge out on our own and add a bit of flare to the mom classic we have our modern pantry. To start, the modern pantry doesn’t generally contain enough food to sustain a family of 10 through a week of isolation, and the contents tend toward the more gourmet. Modern pantries are well thought out and stocked to be a bit more of a just in time inventory. The contents are premium including items with truffle, capers, tuna packed in herbed olive oil, and other fine foods shipped from around the globe…it is a whole new world, and this ain’t your mama’s pantry!

 

The first pantry dinner feature is truffle pasta with truffle butter. This dish, dished up by the divine Valerie, is so easy I’m not going to give you a recipe, but more of a road map. The truffle pasta, truffle butter (or oil), and truffles themselves can be purchased at specialty gourmet shops (this is where you will find many of the contents for your modern pantry). If you are using real truffles you can skip the truffle pasta, and just use premium pasta. So here we go. Boil some water (generously salt the water so it tastes like the sea). Add the truffle pasta and boil until al dente. Reserve a quarter cup of the boiling liquid in a cup and then strain the water. In a frying pan large enough to hold all the pasta at low to medium heat melt several tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of truffle butter (just melt the butter, don’t burn or brown). Add the cooked pasta to the pan and toss with the melted butter. Add a bit of the reserved boiling liquid to the pasta and serve. You can shave a little fresh parmesan on top or just serve straight up. To speed things up this was made as a two pot dinner, but you could melt the butter in the pasta pot and make this a one pot meal. Fresh tomato toasts are a nice side…but does venture you solidly out of the pantry dinner which requires fresh ingredients in the fridge! Truffle pasta gets a Dish it! again n again rating. So to start your modern pantry off make sure you’ve got a bag or box of gourmet pasta, and something with a little truffle in it.

 

Just a couple of my favourite specialty food shops:
Calgary: Cookbook Co., Mercato
Vancouver: Meinhardt, Edible British Columbia
Montreal: La Vieille Europe

 

If you’ve got a favorite specialty food shop share it in the comments!

‘To be or not to be, [Kosher] that is the question’ it gives me pause…

To kick off the New Year I’m going to share with you a personal story about my paradoxical delight and struggle in making decisions for myself, in this case specifically about my eating practice. In April of 2008 I tried to start a conversation about my keeping kosher, or rather stopping keeping kosher. I remember quite vividly I was on Broadway when I initiated the conversation, then I tried again in Meindhardt’s on Granville, and then once more on the walk to dinner. I had been thinking about this topic for over a year by this time, and had wanted to discuss it for months. I wasn’t sure how or when to raise it, and was hoping that when I did I would be challenged to an intellectually stimulating conversation – but no discussion ensued. I believe at the time my context was a bit off the mark, which may be why the discussion failed. But up until this point it was just ping pong in my brain that I hadn’t voiced to anyone yet, and it is amazing that in just trying to express the thought that day, even if in vain, it is able to transform and grow. I have since tried to start this conversation with several other people whom I respect, to similarly disappointing results. It wasn’t until the other night when I raised it with close friends that I was even remotely challenged and allowed to discuss. The points well raised here were, first that in not keeping kosher themselves it was hard to comment and second the question as to whether or I am being influenced a result of ‘recent’ trauma in my life. To the first point I am grateful to say they tried their best to challenge me through my reasoning, and it was helpful. To the second I can share unequivocally that those events are not relevant to this. Relevant changes in my life that have happened over the last several years are first moving to a place where fresh kosher food is not readily available and second I am no longer looking specifically for a Jewish partner. I have been in thoughtful dialogue with myself over this subject for almost two years, which is good, but when something is so intricately woven into the fabric of your being, how do you even begin to unstitch, or re-stitch for that matter?

 

The first actual decision I made to reduce the level of kashrut I keep was in September of this past year when I moved to Vancouver. In packing my life into boxes I made the difficult decision to move only my ‘dairy’ dishes with me, giving away the set of dishes I had religiously (lol) used to eat and cook meat on for 12 years. It is a funny thought for me, but it is just now that I realize those plates were 12 years old! Since September of this year I have eaten all meals in my new apartment on the one set of dishes – both meat and milk, with no regrets but sometimes with thoughtful contemplation. I recognize that this may seem like a small change, but to me it was paramount. In keeping kosher I have enjoyed is a sense of comfort, of home, and of community – no matter where I am. But these are not unique to keeping kosher and I do enjoy them in other ritual and experience. But since I decided about the dishes I have continued to excogitate whether or not I would take another step toward not keeping kosher. I have examined the reasons I keep kosher, what it means to me, and what message it sends about who I am. I have considered how life will change and most importantly whether or not this change will impact my spiritual being or my relationship with God. I can talk anyone who wants through my thought process, but since so many, even those close to me have shied away from this discourse, I will spare you. What I am not prepared to change is the way I value and execute thoughtful choices about the food that nourishes me. This value is inextricably linked to my sense of self. How will I execute the next step in this change? I’m not entirely sure yet, in fact I think to some even the change I’m making might still be considered just another form of kashrut. Will I eat bacon, or have a cheese burger, probably not, or at least not at first. Will I still buy kosher meat, absolutely when it is fresh and readily available. And while the cobbler’s children may have no shoes, I will assure myself that even though I’m change management consultant this personal change will be well managed. What will change for you? Probably very little unless you considerably invested in my eating habits, but seriously who would be, however you may notice some differences showing up in how I’m dishing and maybe even in my dishes (if/once I get to exploring that part of my blogging).