Because I enjoy a good retrospective — a look-back at the cooking, writing, events, dining, people and travel that comprised the month that was. Here’s the November 2014 edition.
My husband is officially this winter’s King of Soup. Austin spent November cranking out delicious options to fill our freezer for lunches: cream of kale and potato, Thai curried sweet potato and carrot, Adobo chili, curried lentil-cabbage stew, harissa-carrot veloute and cream of celeriac with thyme. Yes, that’s six varieties of homemade soup stacked neatly in our freezer. No complaints here!
With the cold weather, I’ve been experimenting with warm salads, based on the formula I shared earlier in November. I also perfected an old favourite — roasted chickpea and carrot salad with harissa-lime dressing, topped with feta.
We’ve been braising everything of late — it’s one of our most turned to winter cooking methods: farmer’s sausages with cabbage and fennel, pork tenderloin in apples and onions, short ribs in Cabernet Sauvignon. And while not a braise, seared pork chops with a cherry-shallot-balsamic glaze were one of my favourite things from our kitchen so far this winter.
I’ve said it a thousand times, but it stands repeating: my favourite wedding gift is our Le Creuset 5-Quart Braiser from the Beck-Rubins. We use that thing at least three times a week!
In November 2014, I wrote two posts: one celebrating winter’s bounty by devouring warm salads to combat the cold; another examining Thanksgiving through the kindness of others in difficult times.
A formula for warm fall salads
We love fall salads in our house. Salads are often considered a decidedly summer meal — crunchy, cold and refreshing. But it’s into the fall and winter months that I turn to salads as something plant-based and fortifying to fuel me through the cold and sunless days. The fall brings a time to play with colour, texture and the variety of hearty vegetables that become available with the cold-weather crops.
Having a sick parent is the worst thing. As much as you grow through difficult times, and oh, how you grow — patience grows, love grows, humility grows — certainly, we become better — it does not make this all easier. It is never easier. Still I try to find that silver lining, to wrap myself within, to keep keeping on.
Events & Dining
Early in the month, we headed west to Enoteca Sociale for their famous winter truffle menu — only to be thwarted when the supplier fell through with that night’s delivery. No worry, the Enoteca’s tiny, focused menu is always spot on.
While in Niagara-on-the-Lake, we returned to Treadwell for a feast. We last ate at Treadwell about a year ago during our mini-moon and the cooking and service were just as good as we remembered!
Mid-month, we took an introductory cheese-making course with local chef Laura Buckley and I was thrilled to learn how simple it is to make fresh cheeses in our kitchen. We’re planning a spread of homemade cheeses and breads to serve with our upcoming (belated) annual American Thanksgiving dinner.
On the topic of cheese, we closed the month by returning to our old ‘hood for the Canadian Artisan Tasting Fair — with more varieties of artisan cheese, charcuterie, preserves, bread and craft brews than I could manage to fit in my belly. We picked up some especially stellar Cape Vessey (a washed-rind goat) from one of my favourite Ontario cheese producers, Fifth Town.
The start of holiday season always seems to bring with it reunions, and we were happy to catch up with Andrew in town from Kingston, enjoy lunch with an old colleague and friend Larry, and share an unexpected dinner with my decades-old friend Molly, who was passing through from Munich where she’s finishing her PhD.
We made the trek to Pickering (“the furthest east I’ve been in Canada,” Austin jokes…) for dinner with one of Austin’s PhD supervisors and his family. I always love a peek into other families’ rituals and this was no exception, sharing a table with a man who clearly adores Austin.
Heather’s husband, Matt, arranged a wonderful surprise evening to celebrate her 30th birthday, gathering six of her closest girlfriends for a cooking class inspired by the South of France (where Heather lived for a summer during teacher’s college), led by local chef Mardi Michaels. We split into groups to prepare a summery spread of gazpacho, ratatouille tian, pissaladière, légumes farcis and mendiants. It’s hard to believe that Heather and I have been friends for nearly a decade!
On Thanksgiving, my mom landed unexpectedly in the hospital in Toronto. It’s been many years since I walked the halls of 5A with her, but to find silver lining in a horrible situation, it’s felt good to spend so much time together — chatting for hours, going on drug store candy sprees and convincing her that she really doesn’t have to eat hospital food with four kids in town who are solid cooks. Austin commented that it’s the most we’ve been able to visit with mom in a long time. So we’re, strangely, grateful.
Earlier this fall, we booked a mid-November getaway to Niagara-on-the-Lake, knowing full well we’d be sick of the dreary Toronto winter (already). We spent a blissful two days exploring some new-to-us wineries — Konzelmann, Pallatine Hills, Small Talk and Southbrook.
Konzelmann was the standout for its incredible tasting provided by wine consultant, Gus. He spent over an hour with Austin and me in a packed tasting room, taking us through vertical and comparative tastings, pouring “just one more!” wine for us to try, and generally being awesome as he shared his deep love for and knowledge of their wine. If you visit Konzelmann, ask for Gus and tell him we sent you.
On Sunday, we made our way Stateside to watch the Bills take on the Chiefs. Seeing my husband’s enthusiasm for live football brings me joy and I’m thankful for all those years I spent in preparation watching the Lions with my dad. Austin decided to sport his Tony Romo jersey for the occasion, somehow not anticipating the near constant catcalls we would receive from skeptical, horrified and amused Bills’ fans.
Mid-month, we traveled to Grand Rapids, Michigan for Austin’s grandma’s memorial service. A recurring November theme: less-than-ideal circumstances offered something good — in this case, a weekend spent with my dear in-laws who are usually far away in Florida. We visited with family, ate and drank and enjoyed each-other in remembering.
It’s December, which means I have the Christmas carols blaring, egg nog chilling, advent calendar in reach and plans made to choose and decorate our tree later this week. How I love Christmas for its ritual and celebration and bringing together the people I hold dear.