Hello, hello! I'm home from some days in Montréal, and doing my best to keep up with the pace of this last sprint of summer. I've got tales from our time away,  a book I think we should discuss, and a recipe that I've got pinned to the fridge.

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However, I'll first point you in another direction — on over to Food52 and again to their Small Batch column. They asked me back, with an interest in my Blue Cheese Dressing recipe. It's a tweak on my favourite one, more assertive with white wine vinegar in a way that's ace with tomatoes, and avocados, and especially, shockingly so, with stone fruit. 

Many thanks to Marian and Food52 for having me, and see you around in a few days. 

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PS I've had quite a few queries about the ceramic bowl in which I ate my peaches‚ the bowl here is from the same series, made by Colleen Hennessey, available through More & Co.  I can't tell you how nice they are in person, a joy to hold and use. I have them on a shelf in our dining room, but I keep snitching them down for my breakfasts.

You guys are swell to notice such things, and thanks for asking. 

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I was folding towels on the counter when I looked in the mirror and noticed, over my shoulder, the small white stool pushed in the corner of the bathroom. It has been, for I don't know how long, maybe as long as we've been in this house, the stool the boys use when they're brushing their teeth, or washing their hands, or filling up a cup of water to drink. That stool makes a creaking scrape of a sound as it's pulled across the floor, which is amplified by the shower tile, so, in the middle of the night, you're always notified when someone short is thirsty.

It's not been used in months. The boys are taller, getting so much so that there are times I have to squint to see the baby in their faces. This whole growing up business happens both in secret little bursts and slow, steady progress. It seems persistent and yet surprising that they're getting bigger, and it's all of a sudden May and the school year's almost over. 

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With the impressive headway into big personhood my sons are making, they've got their own schedules, ideas, homework, playdates, and plans that need managing, along with my own, to make up the hectic that fills up our minutes. (For the record, I don't understand how people function with only calendars on their phone. I'm a pen and paper sort, and am lost without a hard copy to keep track. ) 

In response, I made breakfast. A hot breakfast, a full-flavoured, full-bellied assignment, as one does. A celery root and potato rösti with Gruyère and eggs. The recipe came to me by way of Caroline Wright's new book, Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals.

 

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Though her recipe feeds four, I split the portion to feed one and three, respectively. For me, I nicked a generous handful of the celeriac potato strands and pressed it into a small skillet, while I took the remainder of the mixture and, as per instruction, cooked that in a larger skillet alongside. When mine was done, an egg was cracked and slid on top, then the Gruyère, and a generous seasoning of pepper. Under the broiler it went, until the white was set. The egg white, left to its own devices for that blasting, eked its way into the nooks and gaps of the rösti, filling in those spaces, and melding into a chewy, brown edge with the vegetables and cheese. 

That's not to say that the rösti itself is a slouch. It isn't. In the pan, the combination of potato and celery root turns solidly golden and interesting, with the grassy notes of the celery coming through and going nutty. The method of its making is fuss-free, yet the rösti approaches elegant.

Since I am happiest when there's greens with eggs, I couldn't help but pinch some twisty leaves of frisée from the crisper and snag some bacon too. The sharpness of the endive balanced out the sweetness of the celery root and the stodge of the potato and the richness of the egg and cheese. The salty crunch of the bacon brought another texture, and, come on, there's not need of convincing. It's bacon and eggs and potatoes and cheese. It's an easy sell.

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Can I confess? It felt like cheating. Here I was, in the funny light before the sun is properly up, I'm in the backyard eating a feast of a breakfast, on a weekday no less, and everyone else's lunch? Pretty much taken care of! Already! All I had to do was rewarm the larger rösti I'd made, crack some eggs, dress some greens, and, done.

Caroline's whole book gives you the feeling you're getting away with something, like you're already ahead before the game's even started. It delivers quick, straightforward recipes with glance-and-you've-got-them instructions, plus tons of chatty substitutions, suggestions and tips. She's like the girl in high school that seemed to always have it together, who knew where to hang out on Friday night, or listened to the coolest music that nobody had ever heard of, and always had perfect hair. (I was not that girl.)

 

CELERY ROOT RÖSTI WITH GRUYÈRE + EGGS 

Excerpted from Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals  (©2013) by Caroline Wright. My congratulations and cheers to Caroline upon its release. Used by permission of Workman Publishing Co., Inc. New York, all rights reserved.

The recipe here is reformatted from as it appears in the book.  

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 small peeled celery root (celeriac), about 10 ounces
  • 1 medium peeled potato
  • 1 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Leaves from 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • Salt and pepper, for seasoning
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated

METHOD

Preheat the broiler with a rack in the top position. Coarsely grate the celery root and potato into a medium bowl; toss with cornstarch and rosemary. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Heat olive oil in a large nonstick ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the celery root mixture, pat it into a large pancake, and cook until browned on the underside, 5 to 7 minutes. Slide the pancake onto a plate, then carefully flip it back into the skillet to brown the other side, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat.

Crack eggs on top of the pancake, sprinkle with Gruyère, and season with salt and pepper. Broil until the cheese is golden and bubbly and the egg whites are set, 3 to 5 minutes. 

Notes: 

  • Caroline suggests another combination of parsnip with thyme and Parmesan.
  • In my laziness, I grated the potato and celery root in the food processor, which makes quick work of the job, but will leave the vegetables damp. I sprinkled the shreds over a lint-free tea towel and then folded the towel over, pressing out the liquid. I came back about 5 minutes later, fluffed up the strands, and they were dry and ready to go.
  • As said, I tossed some frisée with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and bunched that up on top of the r   östi. The bacon happened to be hanging around.

 

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limes are key

Hello, hello! 

A quick stop in on this afternoon, as I wanted to let y'all know that I'm on Design*Sponge today for their "In The Kitchen With..." series. (These are some outtakes, more photos and the full recipe is through the link.) It's an honour to be featured, and I'm especially excited to be talking about pakoras — or at least my not-at-all traditional take on pakoras, less of a fritter and more of an Indian take on a tempura-style fry up.

The batter is my grandmother's, so no disputing that it's the real deal, but I keep the vegetables in large-ish pieces to show off all the shapes and colours to their deep-fried finest. Plus, you can pick and choose your favourites — mine are the onion ones, followed closely by the green beans, then sweet potatoes, sliced thin.

I've also shared the recipe for my Mum's Fresh Green Chutney; it's got green apple, green chilies and fistfuls of cilantro, zinged up with lime juice, ginger and garlic. It's not only good with these fritters, but it's also what I like with samosas or even dolloped beside kofta kebabs that have been grilled over the fire. Keep a jar on hand in the fridge, and you'll find a million ways to use it.

We've got birthdays to celebrate tomorrow, and I'm pretty excited for that. Meet you back here next week, with tales of the weekend no doubt, along with the winner of the UPPERCASE contest! (psst! There's still time to put your name in the hat; I'll count entries up until 11:59 p.m. EDT.)

Cheers, folks, here's to swell days ahead.

pakora batter

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ingredients all together

I had planned to share a recipe today, but in the midst of holiday weekend chaos and revelry, I came to the conclusion that it required another go round before we gave it our attention.

Nonetheless, on this sunny Tuesday, with a sky that's a clear, true blue, I came to say hello. It's a day for company, don't you think? One made for visits and a chat.

lucky spring rice

The latest UPPERCASE, the spring edition, has just come out; it's issue 13 and is packed from beginning to end with good things. You can preview it here, if you'd like.

My contribution to its lineup is a story on how we can conjure up good weather and good luck through food. How a gloomy day can be made spritely with citrus, or the smell of cinnamon brings us to fruitful September. I touch upon superstition, too, like pomegranate seeds and their mythical ties to fertility. In many ways, the story is a lot about hope, the bolstering effect of positive thinking, and the small measures we take in good faith.

The recipe is for Lucky Spring Rice, and that's what you see in the photos up top, a dish with much in common with Lebanese Mujaddara, Persian Jewelled Rice, Egyptian Kushari and the Indian Pilaus I grew up with. There's lentils, and nuts, a mix of rice and fried pasta bits. Here's how I describe it there:

[This is] a rice that’s balanced. There’s the weighty, chewy comfort of starch that suits the spring days that still run cool. Then there’s the bright sweetness of fruit both fresh and dried, against the musky fragrance of cinnamon, coriander, cumin and clove. There’s the spark of pepper mollified by the cool of mint and grassy cilantro. There’s a twang of sharpness, as life must have some to offset everything else, and there’s a richness too, which rounds out the flavours.

It's hearty and satisfying, and a meal that can be eaten out in the yard with plates balanced on laps. No fuss, spring evening food, which is to say pretty much what I'd like for lunch today.

In other (read: fun, amazing, oh-my-gosh-really) news, I have been nominated for two awards over at the Saveur 3rd Annual Food Blog Awards, which explains that big banner over there. I am a finalist for Best Cooking Blog and Best Food Photography, and I cannot come up with sufficient thanks for those who nominated me. It is a true, jaw-dropping honour to be in such brilliant company. For those who'd like to vote, the polls are now open and run until April 26. As always, I am grateful for all the support.

Well then, I'm off. I wish you both fair weather and fine fortune, and we'll meet back here soon. 'Til then, pals. 

UPPERCASE magazine issue 13 can be purchased online, or visit their site to find your local stockist.

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I don't think I've ever mentioned this, but I'm a ship's captain's daughter.

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I'm suprprised I've omitted this essential information, as it was relative proximity to the waters upon which my father sailed that determined where I was born, and where I would grow up.

My father's workplace was the wheelhouse of a steamship, at the top of a steep flight of stairs. Each step had a ridged metal tread at its edge that shone. I made that climb countless times up to the ship's bridge, and spun around on many a wheelsman's chair, and all too often accidentally smudged my greasy fingerprints on the lenses of the binoculars they kept handy. I can tell you the type of cookies in the crinkly packet always tucked by the tea kettle, and how much I liked it when my father wore his captain's hat with its embroidered gold leaves, which wasn't often.

I spent a good deal of my childhood on boats. There are regulations mandating age minimums for children on those boats now, but they were more casual with such concerns then. I've got stories to tell.

I could tell you about the mail boat that would pull alongside ours in the Detroit river. I think it brought the Customs Officer aboard, to stamp the papers that allowed our passage across the line that divides Canada and the United States. More importantly to me, the small boat also brought tuck shop supplies. My father once ordered a case of Coca Cola and a box of Nestlé Crunch Bars for my brother and me to hoard and barter and savour for the remainder of our run. You really can't beat a day like that.

I could tell you about studying the undersides of bridges as we slipped underneath. Or about the people who would wave from shore as we'd pass through a canal. And how we'd wave back.

I could introduce you to a  Sleeping Giant.

Or tell you how, after earning your sea legs, (the habit of keeping a bounce in your step, knees flexible and unlocked even when standing in one place), to step on land feels strangely static. There is a momentary shock to realize the ground isn't moving.

I could tell you about storms. The ship would roll and pitch, and I'd understand why some of the furniture was chained to the floor. In wild storms, when the waves came onto the deck, or the rain was hard, or the wind fierce, we couldn't make the walk from our quarters at the bow of the ship to the galley at its stern for our meals. (Not all ships have this set up, with such a split.) In those circumstances we would climb below deck to the tunnel, a space between the side of the ship and the holds, and travel the football-field length of the deck that way, stepping up and through the raised, rounded doorways that marked our progress.

There was a time I woke up to lightning in the middle of  the night. I went to the window and the only lights to be seen were the swaying blips of those on deck. Then the sky lit up, a shock of energy diving straight into the water. I boosted myself up onto the deep windowsill. It was recessed, with a heavy drape mounted outside. I pushed my back up against one side of the alcove and put my legs straight out to the other. So wedged, I pulled the curtain closed, and watched the lightning flash. I don't remember going back to bed.

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I could tell you about the days that were grey.

On those days, those windless days, the water was still and heavy; a silver-backed mirror reflecting a sky that was perfectly overcast, without sliver of blue to be seen. There would be no waves, no movement except our own. The water looked viscous. As it broke against the bow it folded upon itself like ripples of pewter silk, reminiscent of the slick, rounded backs of sea lions when they surface. 

I did not realize the size, the space, the breadth of the unkown on an airplane; in the air, the miles in between wing and ground grants a distance that makes it seem unreal. In a car, you are immersed in the landscape. It is all around, you're closely contained. It was on water that I truly understood the smallness of my world; a world that at that moment was 30 souls on a 700-some-odd-foot man made island of steel and steam. It was one of those grey days, when the outline between sky and water is lost, and there was no land in sight. Only grey, in every direction. I stood still, aware of the hum of the engines that powered us - a vibration you feel in your joints, in the soles of your feet - and was sure I could walk the thick tension of the lake, all the way to the horizon, and go on from there. We were a pinprick. A dot on a map.

I talked to my mother about this memory, and she provided the context; it was most likely Lake Superior we were sailing then, possibly Erie. She told me a quote from Christopher Columbus, which seemed to fit: "You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.

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These photographs aren't of the waterways I knew, although my father has navigated these too. They are of Prince Edward Island, a province on the eastern edge of Canada, and the setting for a new adventure. For Kinfolk Magazine's second volume, two friends - Michael Graydon and Nikole Herriott - and I put our heads together on a project.

We collaborated on a story about travel, most specifically as a pair. It follows the cross-country drive to the 150-year-old farmhouse where they stayed for a week. Here's an excerpt:

In this case, we're speaking of memories of days spent on the tip of an island. Looking through windowpanes effervescent with bubbles trapped in the glass. Meals shared, and chairs pulled close to the table, and to each other. Walks on soft sand after a feast of clams with butter and beer, to return the shells to the waters from whence they came. The taste of potatoes dug from red earth, the likes of which you won't find anywhere else. The act of battening down the hatches and together bundling up against a storm, with winds that wailed against ancient walls in exhilarating gusts.

Clothes brought in from drying, branded with the scent of salted air.

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The magazine is out now, available both in print and on the iPad. If you would like our recipes from the story, I'm chuffed to point you in the direction of Bon Appetit, where they're published along with a few more shots from PEI. Thanks so much to Julia for that.

And speaking of photographs, Nikole has some others up today too - we wanted to show y'all some of our favourites, and though it nice to divide them between us two. So if you head on over to her site you can see them, and read her thoughts on the matter. 

For a look back at the launch of Kinfolk and our first collaboration, it's here

All photographs by Michael Graydon. Food and styling by Nikole Herriott. Cheers guys, it was great fun.

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uppercase issue eleven
::::

Years ago my maternal grandmother, Gigi as we call her, asked me what I'd like for a present. My answer was quick and decisive: a pot. A sturdy one, like those from her kitchen and that of my parents, the kind of pot that ends up with a job in its title - the Rice Pot, the Dal Pot, the Jam Pot - a workhorse kind of pot. We settled on one in cast iron with a substantial lid. Her choice was perfect.

As our family has grown, so has my collection of iron pots. There's the medium round, which is the favourite for baking bread, the large enameled round in which I make soups, and then the burly original oval - it's got presence; all shiny deep green outside, like a forest in darkness, with matte black interior. Empty, the pot has heft, full it's downright heavy, landing with a muffled thud when heaved from the oven to the table.

And, in a way that feels fitting, a vessel which requires such athleticism in its transport is rarely used for sprightly fare. That's the one preferred come colder months, for braising shanks and roasts, for stews and the heartiest of our meals.

In UPPERCASE magazine this season I wrote about a braised beef blade roast, and it's a workhorse too. Immensely adaptable, the recipe owes some lineage to Boeuf Bourguignon; its gravy is rich and deep with red wine, heady with herbs and sweet with root vegetables. To finish, it gets some pointers from Osso Bucco, as I've borrowed its gremolata - an ending garnish of parsley, garlic and lemon zest - to accent the mellow flavours of this slow-cooked stew. 

There's a family secret in the story as well, as you'll find Gigi's influence in the ingredients. She's a smart one, in matters of both cookware and recipes, so I'm particularly excited to share her coveted wisdom with you. 

Happy reading. 

UPPERCASE magazine issue 11 can be purchased online, or visit their site to find your local stockist.

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