On January, twenty-fifteen

My intention is to post this sort of piece at the end of every month for the next year, a way of pausing, looking back and capturing the fundamental quality of each calendar flip via the literature, film, television, music and various flavours I consumed.

January was: raw.

- I read Gabrielle Hamilton's Blood, Bones and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef and it completely blew me away. Though it seems like every chef writes a memoir, Hamilton actually knows how to write, thus securing her book on a shelf far out of reach from the rest. Her words are lively and gratifying, worthy of second-helpings. Mario Batali said it best: "I will read this book to my children and then burn all the books I have written for pretending to be anything close to this. After that I will apply for the dishwasher job at Prune [Hamilton's restaurant] to learn from my new queen."

- My parents got me into the British series Broadchurch and I feasted on the whole first season in three days.

- We went to see Inherent Vice and Joanna Newsom's legendary narration rekindled our love for an old favourite: her 2004 release The Milk Eyed-Mender. Weird, pretty tunes for long, cozy hours spent inside.

- I was given Joy the Baker's latest baking tome, Homemade Decadence, for Christmas and I've spent the past few weeks formulating my plan of attack: Peanut Butter Cream Pie or Under-baked Chocolate Chip Skillet Cake, where to begin?

- One frigid Saturday, we drank a nice bottle of wine and watched Under the Skin, an unnervingly beautiful sci-fi film by Jonathan Glazer. I haven't stopped thinking about it since. It's partly set in Glasgow, where I lived for six months in 2010, and the scenes in which Scarlett Johansson drives around picking up real Glaswegians were a bizarre reunion with some familiar city streets.

- I had both a cold and the flu this month (the worst) and so I lived off of Fresh Ginger Tea: to make, combine slices of fresh, peeled ginger, a thick wedge of juicy lime, and plenty of honey in a mug with hot, just boiled water.


On a Rousing Kick in the Right Direction

A Cooking Rut

As you may have noticed, I haven’t been posting much lately. This has nothing to do with a lack of time; in fact, free time to write and share seems to be in abundance now that this Montreal winter has really set in. Temperatures on the far side of sub-zero mean I only like to leave the house when absolutely necessary. Call me a hermit, but it’s true!

The problem has more to do with the time I spend in the kitchen, which, admittedly, has been minimal as of late. I haven’t fought this inclination to cook less. Instead, I’ve accepted it and called it what it is: a bit of holiday burn out. I spent so much time in the kitchen in December—most of most days—that it was due time for a little break. I apologise for the prolonged silence but sometimes making eggs for dinner (and not capturing them in words or photos) is just too temptingly easy to pass up.
Re-doing the Old

To get back in the swing of things, I’ve decided to start simply. This week, I’m not sharing a new recipe but a recipe re-done. I’ve been wanting to do this for while. There are lots of recipes on this site that I wrote up years ago when I didn’t know any better: the photos are awful and the recipes themselves could use tinkering. And so, with this Carrot Ginger Coconut Soup, I begin the great recipe re-do of 2015. Worry not: I won’t be doing this sort of thing exclusively from now on, only when the mood strikes.
I first shared this soup recipe in May 2013. It’s adapted from Joy the Baker and it’s a healthy standby in our home. The soup itself is actually vegan but rest assured you won’t miss the dairy thanks to a full cup of creamy coconut milk swirled in at the end. The carrot base makes this soup earthy-sweet and the ginger adds a good, cleansing, rousing kick. If you were following some sort of resolution diet for the New Year, this recipe would surely make the cut.

I like this soup served with thick slices of Kamut toast, generously buttered.
Carrot Ginger Coconut Soup
adapted from Joy the Baker

Serves 4-6

You will need…

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger (peeled)
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
4-5 cups diced carrots
3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 cup light coconut milk
salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and saute until soft and translucent, about 4 minutes. Next, add ginger and ground coriander, stirring to cook until soft and fragrant, about 2 minutes. 

Add the carrots to the pot and stir to incorporate. Add the vegetable broth, increase heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the carrots are completely soft (you should be able to mash them with the back of a spoon).

Remove the pot from the heat and cool for 20 minutes.

Using a blender, bend the soup in batches. Or, if you have a hand blender, blend the whole thing in one go (much simpler). Re-heat soup on low, stirring in the cup of coconut milk and seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

Optional: I like to add a few droplets of glossy olive oil to the top of each bowl for added richness.


On a Bloody Merry Holiday

Wet Christmas

Christmas looked different this year. For the first time in a long while, we didn't get the postcard-perfect white Christmas we're used to having in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley, where my family lives. The lawns weren't white and the roads were clear; we were forced to comfort ourselves with the sentiment that the lack of snow made for ideal driving weather. Though I would have taken a big snowstorm any day...

In place of snow, came rain. Lots of it. On Christmas morning, my mother and step-father went out for a walk and within ten minutes, it began to pour. I set out in the car looking for them, hoping to save them from getting drenched, but by the time I found them, they were soaked through from head to toe. I'll always remember that image: the two of them standing in the middle of an empty road, wet and slick with rain, looking like they had just taken a swim with their clothes on.
New traditions

I've said it before: Christmas, for me, is all about tradition. I derive great pleasure from the way we repeat the rituals of holidays past come December (like how I make tourtière every year, pictured below). But sometimes, you have to be open to new traditions. We started one this year: Bloody Marys with Christmas brunch.
After all the unwrapping and ooh'ing and ahh'ing, my mother makes us french toast with thick-cut bacon. In years past, a cup of coffee or a glass of orange juice were all we served on the side, but this year, we were inspired by a brunch cocktail we had at Buvette in New York City. Buvette is an amazing little French bistro, heavy on the comfort food, my kind of place! We ordered Bloody Marys with our Croque Madames and couldn't believe how delicious they were.

The best part of the drink was the generous bit of horseradish: little flecks of spice and heat adding an unusual layer of flavour to a classic drink. For our Christmas day Marys, we sought out a fresh horseradish root, which I peeled and grated into the mix. It tasted just right, though I would caution anyone making the recipe below that one horseradish root provides enough heat for infinite cocktails. Just use a bit and freeze the rest for brunches to come: shave off a little, frozen is fine, each time you break out the tomato juice and vodka.
The Bloody Merry
Inspired by the Bloody Mary cocktail served for brunch at Buvette

Recipe serves 6

3 cups low-sodium tomato juice
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper (coarsely ground)
3/4 teaspoon of grated fresh horseradish root (start with less and add more to taste)

Icy cold vodka

Garnishes of your choosing: celery sticks, lemon or lime wedges, pickled green beans, etc.

Combine first nine ingredients in a large drink pitcher and stir to combine, tasting to make sure the heat level is to your liking. If not using immediately, transfer to fridge to chill. Use within two days.

Fill six tall glasses with ice and top each with two ounces of vodka. Fill the glass with the drink mix and stir to combine. Garnish as you wish.