COME INTO THE GARDEN. THERE IS A GENTLEMAN I WOULD LIKE YOU TO MEET.

His name is Norman. He is the benevolent guardian of our vegetable garden. It is important one shares your garden with those of like minds. This growing of vegetables is a journey. The digging and turning of black, rich soil. Hoeing and raking again and again. The quiet contemplation as rows are staked and marked. The planting and nurturing of seedlings. This is the quiet joy. The happiness. This process. This is why we garden. Not just for the harvest but the simple doing of it.

Norman, gentleman scarecrow is elegantly dressed. Gloriously attired in a black blazer. His straw bow tie adorned with a diamond stick pin. Norman is thoughtfully and caring. Look closely you’ll see he is respectfully wearing a tiny orange poppy.

Obviously this is no ordinary run of the farm scarecrow. I have intriguing conversations with my garden sentinel. My discussions are are mostly about books. I sometimes bring a book out to the garden and read aloud. Norman tells me he hasn’t much of a brain but he does make gnomic comments about my choice of literature. And one day I heard him quote Lewis Carroll “the time has come”, the walrus said, “to talk of many things: of ships – and sealing wax – and cabbages and kings”.

I watch Norman from my kitchen window. There’s a gentle breeze blowing from the river. It is lifting the brim of his straw hat. There are beets and broccoli growing at his feet.

. Bright orange Calendula flowers have escaped from the butterfly-bee garden and are strolling through the the rows of onion. Nasturtiums are jealously trying to join them. Tomatoes, snug in their plastic palace, are reaching for the sky.

Norman would like you to come into the garden.

THE POLITE CLASSIC PEANUT BUTTER CRISPY COOKIES

CIMG7899-001

When someone lists their favourite cookies this cookie is almost always on their list.  It is a classic and I collect classics.  I call it a polite peanut butter cookie.   It is at once crisp and chewy.   There’s a whisper of a crunch and then a murmuring of sweet, closely followed by an exclamation of salt.  This polite cookie does not have an aggressive peanut butter flavour.  Your know the kind of cookie.  The peanut butter cookie that clings to and overpowers your taste buds.  This peanut butter cookie can be kept simple.  Or, you can adorn it with chocolate.  A little cocoa powder and a sprinkle of finely chopped of  your-very-best chocolate and you have a winner.  Then you sign your cookie creations with the traditional  classic crisscrosses.

When you’re whipping up this cookie creation refrain from using all-natural peanut butter.  As with most peanut butter recipes you won’t get the texture you want with this type of peanut butter. 

This is a generous recipe.  If you allow a level tablespoonful of dough for each cookie the recipe will give you four to five dozen cookies.  Wrapped well or in a cookie jar(graciously separating the layers with parchment paper) they will keep for about five days at room temperature.  You can freeze these cookies.  They’re good for about two months.

This recipe is from the fabulous book BAKING FROM MY HOME TO YOURS by Dorie Greenspan.   The recipe awaits you in the kitchen of    MRS.BUTTERFINGERS.





THE RESTAURANT TABLE THAT DIDN’T EXIST

image0The other day I had a phone call from the past.  An old restaurant customer passing through town wanting to connect.  He was taking the opportunity to tell me how much a specific dinner in ROXY’S BISTRO had helped him at a difficult time.  Did I remember?    Of course.   I had seated him at the best table in the house.

The best table in our restaurant did not exist.  Our restaurant was not large.  It was more the size of the small bistros one is accustomed to in France.  We had just forty chairs in the dining room and four more chairs in “the vault”.  The vault was the original vault for the building. It made an intimate dining room for four very good friends.

This is how the best table in ROXY’S was created.  It was a very busy night.  Every table in the restaurant was booked.  A regular customer walked in hopeful I could squeeze one solitary diner in for  dinner.  He looked tired. In need of care and nourishment.  He was a judge and involved in a particularly long and unpleasant court case.  I couldn’t send him away. Into the dark night.   Hungry.   He had his responsibilities and we had ours.  And ours was to feed the hungry . To nourish their souls. 

“I have one table.  You won’t be able to order off the menu.  It’s crowded.  A bit hectic and definitely on the warm side, but I can promise you, you won’t leave hungry.”

image2

 I sat him at a table barely large  enough to hold a plate and a glass of wine.  Wedged into a corner, his knees tucked in to avoid flying waiters, our kitchen began to feed this hungry soul.  As each order was filled a nibble of this a taste of that landed on the best table that didn’t exist.

image1

He watched the ballet of kitchen.  The line working quietly in perfect unison.  As carefully choreographed as a ballet.   Night after night the dance is repeated.  Everyone knows the steps.   Quiet, calm, and the occasional laugh as waiters and chefs worked together.  We were a family.

Our customer finished his meal.  Then sat late into  the evening, reluctant to leave the warmth and comradeship he had experienced at “the best table in-house”.  The table that didn’t exist.

This is a blog from several years ago.  I love that ROXY’S BISTRO still exists in the memories of those who dined in our restaurant and those who worked with us and shared our passion.   The hours were long.  There were few days off and even less holidays but for my husband and myself they were absolutely the best working days of our life.   And  happy  the two line chefs in the above photograph of the kitchen are still part of our lives.   

SUMMER IN A DISH … ZUCCHINI AND SWISS CHARD GRATIN . . . from Laura Calder’s Dinner Chez Moi

 

 

 IMG_2132

It has been pointed out to me I have neglected to identify the origin of this recipe. I do not steal recipes. I share them. Whenever possible I name the source or the cookbook.  It was remiss of me not to identify Canadian chef Laura Calder and her book Dinner Chez Moi. Thank you Ron Behdin for pointing this omission out to me.

All through the long and glorious summer the garden  rewarded us with glorious vegetables.  I  walk from the kitchen across a long stretch of grass and into the garden.  It is another world  –  this world of vegetables going quietly about their business of growing.   Italian basil, Thai basil and parsley encircle the garden.  No matter where I am in the garden I brush against these fragrant herbs as I harvest vegetables.  My basket is filled with prickly zucchini and brilliant coloured rainbow Swiss chard.  They will be the starring ingredients of the most delicious, refined and positively addictive vegetable gratin.

Zucchini and Swiss chard gratin  takes the ubiquitous zucchini and the humble Swiss chard to new heights.  Seasoned with onion, paprika and garlic.    Enriched with Parmesan cheese, eggs and tart sour cream .  Topped with buttery bread crumbs and fresh parsley this gratin is paradise in a dish.   Served as  a  main course or as a side dish with  roast chicken  or pork it is summer perfection on a plate. 

  There are many versions of zucchini and  Swiss chard gratin and most of them are to be found in French cookbooks. This recipe is vegetarian but many recipes include bacon. 

The very best of summer – ZUCCHINI AND SWISS CHARD GRATIN

 

 

 

GARLICKY CAESAR SALAD … PASSIONATE PIZZA STYLE

This is the Caesar Salad recipe we served in our artisan  pizzeria, PASSIONATE PIZZA in Vancouver,British Columbia.   We tossed every salad to order.   It is the same salad we served in our French restaurant; ROXY’S BISTRO in Regina, Saskatchewan.   PASSIONATE PIZZA was voted Best Pizza in Vancouver and Best  Pizza in the Pacific North West.

GARLICKY CAESAR SALAD  … serves six

1/4 cup Hellman’s Mayonnaise.  Health concerns dictated we use mayonnaise in this recipe.

3 tablespoons freshly grated parmigiano reggiano, pecorino, or grana cheese (plus thin shavings of cheese for serving  – optional)

2-3 anchovy fillets, drained, plus more fillets for garnishing if you wish

2 generous tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 – 3 garlic cloves, smashed

a good  dash of Worcestershire sauce

a good dash of a Tabasco

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard and 2 tablespoons of capers

Freshly ground white pepper

One very large head of romaine or 3 chilled large hearts of romaine

Freshly ground black pepper and  garlic croutons (recipe follows)

1. In a blender, combine the mayonnaise with the cheese, anchovies, lemon juice, garlic, Worcestershire and Tabasco sauce and Dijon Mustard.  process until smooth.  Season with white pepper.

2. In a large salad bowl toss the roughly chopped romaine with the dressing, capers,  croutons  and season with black pepper.  Garnish with cheese shavings and anchovy fillets (if desired) and serve right away.

garlic croutons

In our pizzeria we would bake enormous trays of garlic croutons.  You could do the same but at home I prefer to saute the bread.   Slice  country-style  bread in thick slices  then roughly tear into large croutons.  Pour a generous amount of olive oil into a large skillet, toss in a few crushed garlic cloves, and over a low heat let the garlic cloves brown and flavour the oil.  Remove the garlic.  Increase the heat under your pan then add  your croutons.   Brown quickly on one side, then turn them over and continue browning.  It is this heady  aroma of garlic and the rich olive oil flavoured croutons that make this an outstanding salad.  The croutons taste best made fresh so indulge and nibble on any croutons left over.

Recipes for PASSIONATE PIZZA’S await you in MRS.BUTTERFINGERS kitchen.

ROMANTIC LADY OF SHALOTT . . . A DAVID AUSTIN ROSE

IMG_2836

I have a Camelot garden.  In it grows a  gorgeous rose of such fragrance and beauty the  very stars  look down in envy.    Its beckoning orange-red buds open to form  a magnificent chalice-shaped bloom.  A rose that perhaps long ago would have graced King Arthur’s table.  My Lady of  Shalott rose, an important rose because it was a Mother’s Day Gift and the rose that adorned a family wedding.

IMG_2825

There she weaves by night and day a magic web with colours gay.”  Each perfect rose petal blushes salmon pink  then quietly reveals a secret  that unfolds to golden yellow.    This Lady of Shalott rose has an old-fashioned  fragrance that conjurers up  thoughts of  exotic tea  spiced with cloves and apples.

IMG_2844

The Lady of Shalott is a fairy tale  rose.  Early morning I visit my Camelot garden and gather a  bouquet of roses.   And every morning  the rose bush is covered once again with more sweet roses.  If your soul yearns for romance  whisper the words LADY OF SHALOTT ROSES by David Austin  and the glorious days of Camelot will enter your garden.

IMG_2810

The very, very best part of this unique rose is –  it is simple-to-grow.    It is highly resistant to disease and blooms with unusual continuity.  It is low maintenance  and will bloom from early spring until frost. It’s highly recommended for rose beds and border.  It would be spectacular in a flower bed with deep blue flowers.  It can be trained against a wall or trellis  or  planted in large pots and containers.  It loves full sun or a little shade.  If you are an inexperienced  gardener you will adore this  Lady of Shalott David Austin rose.

IMG_2812

The Lady of Shalott was a popular l9th century  ballad inspired by Arthurian legend.  It was written by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.    Reading this poem one discovers the  words and phrases that inspired the naming of this old-fashioned rose .

THE LADY OF SHALLOT  …  Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And thro’ the field the road runs by
To many-tower’d Camelot;
And up and down the people go,
Gazing where the lilies blow
Round an island there below,
The island of Shalott

Willows whiten, aspens quiver,
Little breezes dusk and shiver
Thro’ the wave that runs for ever
By the island in the river
Flowing down to Camelot.
Four grey walls, and four grey towers,
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle imbowers
The Lady of Shalott.

By the margin, willow veil’d
Slide the heavy barges trail’d
By slow horses; and unhail’d
The shallop flitteth silken-sail’d
Skimming down to Camelot:
But who hath seen her wave her hand?
Or at the casement seen her stand?
Or is she known in all the land,
The Lady of Shalott?

Only reapers, reaping early
In among the bearded barley,
Hear a song that echoes cheerly
From the river winding clearly,
Down to tower’d Camelot:
And by the moon the reaper weary,
Piling sheaves in uplands airy,
Listening, whispers “‘Tis the fairy
Lady of Shalott.”

Part II

There she weaves by night and day
A magic web with colours gay.
She has heard a whisper say,
A curse is on her if she stay
To look down to Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be,
And so she weaveth steadily,
And little other care hath she,
The Lady of Shalott.

And moving thro’ a mirror clear
That hangs before her all the year,
Shadows of the world appear.
There she sees the highway near
Winding down to Camelot:
There the river eddy whirls,
And there the surly village-churls,
And the red cloaks of market girls,
Pass onward from Shalott.

Sometimes a troop of damsels glad,
An abbot on an ambling pad,
Sometimes a curly shepherd-lad,
Or long-hair’d page in crimson clad,
Goes by to tower’d Camelot;
And sometimes thro’ the mirror blue
The knights come riding two and two:
She hath no loyal knight and true,
The Lady of Shalott.

But in her web she still delights
To weave the mirror’s magic sights,
For often thro’ the silent nights
A funeral, with plumes and lights,
And music, went to Camelot:
Or when the moon was overhead,
Came two young lovers lately wed;
“I am half sick of shadows,” said
The Lady of Shalott.

Part III

A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,
He rode between the barley-sheaves,
The sun came dazzling thro’ the leaves,
And flamed upon the brazen greaves
Of bold Sir Lancelot.
A red-cross knight for ever kneel’d
To a lady in his shield,
That sparkled on the yellow field,
Beside remote Shalott.

The gemmy bridle glitter’d free,
Like to some branch of stars we see
Hung in the golden Galaxy.
The bridle bells rang merrily
As he rode down to Camelot:
And from his blazon’d baldric slung
A mighty silver bugle hung,
And as he rode his armour rung,
Beside remote Shalott.

All in the blue unclouded weather
Thick-jewell’d shone the saddle-leather,
The helmet and the helmet-feather
Burn’d like one burning flame together,
As he rode down to Camelot.
As often thro’ the purple night,
Below the starry clusters bright,
Some bearded meteor, trailing light,
Moves over still Shalott.

His broad clear brow in sunlight glow’d;
On burnish’d hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flow’d
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
As he rode down to Camelot.
From the bank and from the river
He flash’d into the crystal mirror,
“Tirra lirra,” by the river
Sang Sir Lancelot.

She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces thro’ the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
She look’d down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack’d from side to side;
“The curse is come upon me,” cried
The Lady of Shalott.

Part IV

In the stormy east-wind straining,
The pale yellow woods were waning,
The broad stream in his banks complaining,
Heavily the low sky raining
Over tower’d Camelot;
Down she came and found a boat
Beneath a willow left afloat,
And round about the prow she wrote
The Lady of Shalott.

And down the river’s dim expanse –
Like some bold seer in a trance,
Seeing all his own mischance –
With a glassy countenance
Did she look to Camelot.
And at the closing of the day
She loosed the chain, and down she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
The Lady of Shalott.

Lying, robed in snowy white
That loosely flew to left and right –
The leaves upon her falling light –
Thro’ the noises of the night
She floated down to Camelot:
And as the boat-head wound along
The willowy hills and fields among,
They heard her singing her last song.
The Lady of Shalott.

Heard a carol, mournful, holy,
Chanted loudly, chanted lowly,
Till her blood was frozen slowly,
And her eyes were darken’d wholly,
Turn’d to tower’d Camelot.
For ere she reach’d upon the tide
The first house by the water-side,
Singing in her song she died
The Lady of Shalott.

Under tower and balcony,
By garden-wall and gallery,
A gleaming shape she floated by,
Dead-pale between the houses high,
Silent into Camelot.
Out upon the wharfs they came,
Knight and burgher, lord and dame.
And round the prow they read her name,
The Lady of Shalott.

Who is this? and what is here?
And in the lighted palace near
Died the sound of royal cheer;
And they cross’d themselves for fear,
All the knights at Camelot:
But Lancelot mused a little space;
He said, “She has a lovely face;
God in his mercy lend her grace.
The Lady of Shalott.”

 

 
 

 

 

 

BESOTTED WITH BLUEBERRY CRUMB CAKE

My love affair with blueberries began with wild blueberries. They are a tiny berry with an intense, deep flavour. They grow wild in Northern Saskatchewan where I grew up. Wild blueberries are a low bush and one uses a large tooth comb designed to harvest them. It is a slow process and I am sure I ate more than I picked. But the rewards were shelves of glistening jewel like preserving jars of blueberries.

Across our road there is a blueberry farm. Acres and acres of blueberries growing in precise, military style rows. Harvest time and an enormous “science fiction style” machine marches up and down tenderly harvesting the fruit. The eagerly anticipated first berries of the season we traditionally eat with a little creme fraiche.

I am quite taken with this particular BLUEBERRY CRUMB CAKE. It has a fine crumb. It is a jumble of berries and has a struesel type crumb that is divine. Don’t be tempted to add more walnuts in the topping – scarcity makes them even more delightful. You can replace this recipe with almost any kind of berry (except strawberry). Slices or cubes of soft fruits such as peeled peaches or nectarines, apricots or plums can also be used in place of blueberries.

The recipe awaits you in the kitchen of MRS.BUTTERFINGERS

CARROT-COCONUT SOUP . . . SIMPLY SUPERB

Every once in a while one encounters a recipe that completely captivates you. You find yourself thinking about it again an again. This soup recipe is all you can imagine and then more. You’ll find yourself savouring again the luxurious richness of each glorious spoonful. Enjoying the earthy flavour of the carrots. The lushness of the coconut milk. The ever enticing exotic flavour of red curry paste.

This recipe is respectfully easy to prepare. Even the shopping is simply. All the ingredients can be found in most supermarkets. Look for the coconut milk and the red curry paste in the Asian Foods Section. Add carrots, onions and chicken broth and you are good to go.

Of all the soups I make this is my number one favourite. This recipe is wonderful to serve to friends and family when you want something impressive, completely different and absolutely delicious. The recipe is beautifully spicy but you can easily adjust this by the amount of red curry paste you use. The recipe is easily adapted for vegetarians. Simply replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock. Join me in MR.BUTTERFINGERS kitchen for the recipe.

OLD FASHIONED MEYER LEMON NUT BREAD . . . hold summer in your hand.

IMG_2397

 

When you harvest fresh fruit from a Meyer lemon tree in the dark of winter you hold summer in your hand.   The fragrance of the blossoms.  The glossy leaves shining in the gray light.  Your fingers caressing the finely textured skin.  Then the heavenly taste of the juice –  at once sweet and sour.

You can do many wonderful things with these delicate lemons, but I was  yearning for something classic,  simple,  old fashioned.

IMG_0005

I have a cookbook that is a particular favorite.  I have been baking out of it for more than forty years.  A World Of Baking by Dolores Casella has provided me with dozens of quick and yeast bread recipes.  The ingredients are readily available.   The instructions are always brief.  It is expected you already know the basics of baking.

Meyer Lemon Nut Bread  has a fine crumb.  It’s rich tasting,  studded with walnuts and finished with lemon syrup.   When Meyer lemons are not available regular lemons are more than acceptable..  Be lavish with your lemon rind.  This old fashion recipe calls for just a teaspoon but I scrape every bit of rind from the lemons into the batter.

You’ll find the recipe in MRS. BUTTERFINGERS kitchen.

MEYER LEMONS . . . thirteen plus ways to use a Meyer lemon

 

Meyer Lemons arrived today at our local grocery store.  Their season is brief.   You have just a few weeks to to create  culinary heaven from this queen of citrus fruit.

Meyer lemons have a  heavenly juice – at once sweet and sour.    A more floral scent and taste and a thinner peel than other lemons.   You can put slices of lemon under the skin of roasting chicken.  Cut into quarters,  toss it with olives and chicken pieces and roast to  heavenly caramelized  perfection.  Make Meyer lemon sorbet or lemon tart for glorious dessert treats.  There is no end  to the addictive and intoxicating ways you can use Meyer lemons. 

l. Whip cream with a little icing sugar.  Add grated Meyer lemon rind.   Mound it on slices of pound cake.

2. Arrange thin slices of Meyer lemons on a pizza crust with goat cheese, fresh rosemary and olives.

3. Drop a few slices into a pot of Darjeeling tea.

4. Put a twist of Meyer lemon into a martini. Think of James Bond.

5. Add Meyer lemon zest to French toast.

6. Slice Meyer lemons and put them into your bath with a sprinkle of lavender.  Light a few candles.

7. Throw the peel of a Meyer lemon on the grill before cooking shrimp.  Grill it golden brown and top with the cooked shrimp.

8 Perfume your sugar bowl by stirring strips of Meyer lemon peel into the sugar.

9.  Put a Meyer lemon studded with whole cloves in your lingerie drawer.  Dust with orris root as a preservative.

10. Top pancakes with a little butter, a sprinkle of sugar, a squeeze of lemon,  and grated Meyer lemon zest.  Add another pancake, repeat until you have several layers.  Slice and serve like a layer cake.

11. Rub a Meyer lemon peel around the rim of a demitasse of espresso.

12. Make sandwiches of thinly sliced Meyer lemons, smoked salmon and sour cream on pumpernickel bread.

13. Roast a combination of green, black and cured olives with olive oil, some Meyer lemon peel and fresh rosemary.

If you would you like to add to this delicious list I would love to hear from you.  You are always welcome in the kitchen.