all hail citrus

sunshine carpaccioAbout this time every year — in the cold grey of January — I partake in a citrus binge. I am insatiable when it comes to citrus. Perhaps it’s mother nature’s way of rewarding us for living through the cold and drear of January — an offering of resplendent citrus of all varieties, gone nearly as soon as it arrives. And so I plow through it all — navels and cara cara and tangelo and pomelo and yuzu and blood orange and grapefruit and calamansi. If it has a rind and releases a fragrance as I rip through it, I’m eating it.

Apart from eating out of hand, we go hog wild with citrus recipes — sweet and savoury — through the winter. Here are a few brightening ones we’ve had on repeat this month.

salmon citrus saladThree Citrus and Crispy-Skin Salmon Salad

Serves two for lunch, with leftovers. 

I have a bit of a reputation for my dense, meal-worthy salads (no sad lettuce leaves and baby carrots in this house!), and this one was no exception. Composed of shaved fennel and radicchio, a trio of oranges (cara cara, tangelo and blood), Kalamata olives and my husband’s divine crispy-skin salmon, it made a totally satiating lunch.

Ingredients

For the salad

  • 1/2 medium fennel bulb, thinly sliced (reserve fronds)
  • 1 small radicchio head, shredded
  • 3 medium oranges (your choice), peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 c Kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
  • handful cilantro, coarsely chopped

For the dressing

  • Juice of one small orange (about 1/4c)
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste

For the salmon

  • 1 half-pound salmon fillet, washed and well dried
  • 1 Tbsp Sriracha
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice (reserve zest from lime)
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp orange juice (reserve when peeling oranges for salad)
  • olive oil, for frying

Method

Prep the salmon: Combine the Sriracha, lime juice, maple syrup and orange juice to form a glaze. Cover salmon and let rest chilled for at least an hour and up to overnight.

Cook the salmon: In a medium pan over high heat, sear the salmon in oil, about 3 minutes per side until lightly pink in centre. Cover with residual marinade sauce and cover with lid. Steam 3 more minutes to cook sauce.

Prep the dressing: Combine, in this order: juice, vinegar, salt — stir to dissolve salt — then slowly whisk in olive oil. Season with black pepper and reserved lime zest to taste. In separate bowls, dress the fennel and radicchio, each with half of the dressing.

Compose the salad: On a large serving platter, layer the dressed fennel and radicchio, and sliced oranges. Sprinkle with olives, cilantro and reserved fennel fronds. Pull apart the cooked salmon and tuck pieces into the salad. Serve immediately.

sunshine carpaccioSunshine Carpaccio

Serves two for lunch, four as a side.

Full of golden beet, tangelo, pickled pink peppercorn and red onion, mint and sprinkled with pistachio salt and sumac, this is a recipe I dreamed up to deal with a glut of golden beets in our weekly CSA share. We’ve since made it three more times. It’s that good… and a reminder that winter vegetables are so much more than comfort food.

Alternate method: if you don’t want the fuss of thinly-slicing the beets and oranges carpaccio-style, we’ve had equal success simply cubing the beets and segmenting the oranges. 

Ingredients

  • 2 large golden beets, roasted, peeled and thinly sliced (1/8-inch)
  • 2 tangelos, peeled and thinly sliced (1/8-inch)
  • 1/2 medium red onion, chopped to brunoise
  • 1 tsp pink peppercorns
  • 1/4c red wine vinegar
  • 1/2c shelled pistachios
  • 1 tsp maldon salt
  • 1 tsp sumac
  • handful mint leaves
  • your best olive oil

Method

Make a quick pickle: Combine onions, whole pink peppercorns, red wine vinegar and a heavy pinch of salt. Leave to sit at least 15 minutes.

Make the pistachio salt: Blitz in a food processor the shelled pistachios and salt until powdery.

Compose the salad: On a large plate, layer the beets, tangelo slices and mint leaves. Top with pickled onion (vinegar and all) and sprinkled pistachio salt and sumac. Generously drizzle with olive oil and serve.

blood orange ricotta almond cakeBlood Orange, Almond and Ricotta Cake

Makes one 9-inch round cake, about 1.5 inches thick. 

This riff on a Smitten Kitchen recipe was a dinner party star served with Greg’s Sweet Cream. I followed Deb’s recipe pretty closely, with the following modifications:

  • Used three citrus varieties — cara cara, tangelo and blood orange — for a gradient effect.
  • Peeled the citrus, versus leaving the rind on, to alleviate some bitterness.
  • Increased baking temperature to 350 degrees F (convection) and increased cooking time to a full 50 minutes. This was a very loose batter that (in my oven) required a hotter, longer bake to properly set up.
  • Added 1 tsp almond extract — played subtly and beautifully with the orange.

good reads | 37

norman hardie vineyardsI love a thoughtful link roundup as a way to discover the fantastic writing others are reading and sharing online. Here are my good reads from the week that was.

Good Reads

Semi-old but exciting news: Canada’s Ben Ing has taken over the kitchen at Noma. 

My employees are amazing people, and I’m always thinking about how I can be a better boss, in turn. 

As a consummate hostess and wife of a Cowboys’ fan, I enjoyed this behind-the-scenes article about securing a coveted invitation to Jerry Jones’ suite at Cowboy Stadium. 

About half-way through my sommelier training, I get this question a lot — “What do you like to drink?” This is a smart list for the novice buyer who wants reliably good wine… and to it, I’d add: Niagara riesling, most anything coming out of the Jura and a recent kick for Sancerre between $20-30. On a related note: we loved the new Esquire miniseries, Uncorked.

Long form: Where to begin? I spent two weeks on holiday at the start of the year, so 2016 began with many good reads. Notable: Jonathan Franzen’s Purity was top notch as expected, keeping me riveted to the last page. I whizzed through the 2015 cult favourite, Girl on the Train, on our train ride home (I’m sure the film rights were whipped up in seconds…). Lauren Groff, who penned my favourite read of 2015, delivered with an earlier work, Arcadia

Other Roundups to Love

Fathom’s Links We Love (updated Saturdays)

Food52’s Weekend Reading (updated Sundays)

101 Cookbooks’ Favorites List (last updated: 2015/12/02)

[lead image: my own, Norman Hardie’s vineyards, 2015]

Good Reads on Some Infinite Thing is updated every Friday (or Saturday) morning.

happy 2016!

happy 2016We rang in 2015 from Costa Rica and we’ll welcome 2016 from Jamaica.

In between, this has been a most brilliant year, brimming with growth, exploration and love.

We rode camels in Marrakech and gondolas in Venice. We scaled Gibraltar.  We visited the 2015 World’s Fair in Milan. We traversed the south coast of Spain. Austin visited my patrida for the first time during Greece’s historic referendum. We celebrated with family and friends near and far – from Bolzano to Dallas to Windsor to Watertown to Montreal.

Austin defended his dissertation proposal, presented to the AAG in Chicago and continued to teach. I ended the year with an amazing new job and will continue my WSET certification in January.

We bought a house!

As always, raising my glass to what was and what’s ahead. Cheers to 2016!

Photo: Our 2016 New Year card.

 

good reads | 36

mast brothers chocolateI love a thoughtful link roundup as a way to discover the fantastic writing others are reading and sharing online. Here are my good reads from the week that was.

Good Reads

I’ve never understood the hype over Mast Brothers’ perfectly-mediocre-if-beautifully-packaged chocolate, so this article made a ton of sense.

When Toronto finally decides to get cold, I’m making like a Norwegian and embracing winter. 

To those Americans fleeing President Trump: welcome to Canada!

Last year at this time, an article about relative unknown Elizabeth Holmes made my best of 2014 list. A year later and I’m still utterly compelled by the Theranos CEO and her company’s evolving story.

Do you see a square?

We’ve been exploiting this first year in our beautiful home to host friends, family and colleagues through the holidays. Both this sticky cranberry gingerbread and spiced pear upside-down cake were big hits, served up with a little unsweetened whipped cream.

King Richard III tries his hand as Dear Abby to the Republican presidential hopefuls.

Long form: This week I read Tracey Lawson’s A Year in the Village of Eternityafter picking it up on a whim from my local library branch. It’s a beautiful food memoir that spans the author’s year in the village of Campodimele, Italy — the village of eternity — where people live abundant, long lives. The book is sectioned month by month with the ebb and flow of the harvest — tiny broad beans and baby artichokes in April, peperoncini and tomatoes in September, and so on. Each chapter is devoted to an ingredient’s story with a few recipes to match. It was a speedy, happy read that left me with a dozen new recipes and deepened commitment to eating the seasons.

Other Roundups to Love

Fathom’s Links We Love (updated Saturdays)

Food52’s Weekend Reading (updated Sundays)

101 Cookbooks’ Favorites List (last updated: 2015/12/02)

[lead image: Mast Brothers’ gorgeous product packaging]

Good Reads on Some Infinite Thing is updated every Friday (or Saturday) morning.

good reads | 35

justin-trudeau-prime-minister-canadaI love a thoughtful link roundup as a way to discover the fantastic writing others are reading and sharing online. Here are my good reads from the week that was.

Good Reads

Inadvertently, here’s Good Reads #35: the I <3 Canada edition… love my country.

#welcomerefugees — I have been so proud and humbled to work on this file.

Trudeau’s Canada, again. Excellent longform from last weekend’s New York Times Magazine.

How ’bout a little more big American journalism loving on PM Trudeau? This time, in the January 2016 issue of Vogue.

Just in time for our 150th birthday, a Canadian typeface to merge the country’s many languages. 

Canada named the world’s most respected country.

And on a lighter note, much love for Toronto’s fatter-than-usual squirrels.

Long form: The best book I will read in 2015 arrived in December. Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies was an ambitious, brilliant and layered read. I did not glimpse at a single review before I stepped into this book — and I hope everyone who reads it does so with the same virgin eyes — it was splendid to have the story collapse upon and expand into itself without any preconceived expectations. So: read the book. Then — and only then — read the (rightly) praise-laden reviews. 

Other Roundups to Love

Fathom’s Links We Love (updated Saturdays)

Food52’s Weekend Reading (updated Sundays)

101 Cookbooks’ Favorites List (last updated: 2015/12/02)

[lead image: Norman Jean Roy forVogue, January 2016]

Good Reads on Some Infinite Thing is updated every Friday (or Saturday) morning.

good reads | 34

PANTONE-Color-of-the-Year-HiRes-1-1024x768

I love a thoughtful link roundup as a way to discover the fantastic writing others are reading and sharing online. Here are my good reads from the week that was.

Good Reads

By now, you’ve already read this piece, but it’s worth sharing such stunning long-form again: Megan Phelps Roper and her slow untangling from the Westboro Baptist Church. Excellent, considered journalism.

I’ve spent a bit of time thinking about the central tenet of this article: that easy cooking is a myth. It takes time, effort and planning to cook dinner each night and I’m grateful to have that luxury during this season of life.

On that note, the 10 most memorable meals in literature. Many more examples have been shared in the comment section — and I would add this passage from Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast:

“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”

What we already know to be true, verified: your adult siblings are the key to a long and happy life. I’m grateful to have best friends in my three adult sisters. So much of this article resonated with me: these are the women with whom I talk every single day, with whom I first share in the most glorious and devastating bits of live,  without whom I would be lost and someone entirely else, lesser.

Rose quartz and serenity, Pantone’s 2016 Colors of the Year.

A French couple sues Airbnb for replicating the interior design of their apartment.

Long form: I love chef memoirs, so couldn’t wait to pick up Cat Cora’s new book, Cooking as Fast as I Can. We half-Greeks share a kindred spirit and I suppose I was predisposed to enjoy this read. But Cora’s candid look into her relatively private public life — growing up in the old south, adoption, coming out, the gruel of cooking school, opening successive businesses, a marriage and four children — made me like her even more on the other side.

Other Roundups to Love

Fathom’s Links We Love (updated Saturdays)

Food52’s Weekend Reading (updated Sundays)

101 Cookbooks’ Favorites List (last updated: 2015/12/02)

[lead image: Pantone’s 2016 Colors of the Year]

Good Reads on Some Infinite Thing is updated every Friday (or Saturday) morning.

the less travelled greek isles

visiting the small greek islandsThere’s a reason why Santorini and Mykonos are Greece’s most popular tourist hotspots. Both islands are completely beautiful and special places on this earth, filled with natural beauty, hospitality and history.

But having spent much of my life popping around the Cyclades (key-KLAH-dez) — the most famous and most visited Greek island group — and one that people associate with idyllic photos of whitewashed houses, teeming bougainvillea and perfect endless beaches — I am going to argue that you should skip the big islands, in favour of another, lesser travelled side of the Cyclades.

The Small Cyclades offer the beauty and splendour of the big boys, without the tourists, the crowding and the exorbitant high season prices. And for those of us who centre our travels on good food, I’d argue that the eats are so much more delicious, usually cooked by a Yia-Yia in her home kitchen or a small family-run taverna, versus a restaurant. I’d take a small Cycladic island over a big one any day of the week.

schinousa, cyclades, greeceEarlier this year, I was stoked to see that Conde Nast Traveler made my beloved Small Cyclades its April 2015 cover story, in preparation for summer travel season. A stunning multiple-page spread was devoted to a handful of the Cyclades’ smaller beauties: Paros, Antiparos, Naxos and Pano Koufonisi.

In her article, Lindsay Talbot quotes photographer Cecil Beaton, in a line about Paros that I think sums up the Small Cyclades in a swift tug:

“We have lived in a timeless haze of repetition. Life is nothing but sleep, swim, eat, and read. One day merges soothingly into another without incident. Each day is a pattern.”

The Small Cyclades are the places we go to forget this world, to forget the day of the week, to become lost in the quiet rhythm of island life — wake by sunrise to climb the big hill and pet Achileas’ goats; pick suka (figs) and stafilia (grapes) from an abandoned grove; laze down to the sea for a swim and nap in the low-slung sun; shower away the saltwater in the open air; tuck into a feast of village salad and stuffed vegetables and whatever fish was reeled in that day; catch a siesta on the porch before an evening swim; and linger over mezes and ouzo and glyka on the porch of the village taverna, talking and yelling and dancing into the starlight with locals and summer sisters, alike. Everyone together, in the same honey-slow rhythm. Repeat. Over and over. 

Yes, I romanticize. But this is Beaton’s Cyclades, this is my Cyclades, and the Cyclades of so many others I have been grateful to meet through the years.

To that end, here are my top small Cycladic islands, should you want to branch out on your next — or take a less-traveled route on your first — visit to the Greek islands. 

paros, cyclades, greeceParos

I have a big ol’ soft spot for Paros, as it was the first of the Greek islands that I was allowed to visit alone as an “adult”… my sister, cousin and I took a day trip when I was 13 and we famously (in our family) almost missed the final ferry home. My grandpa would have had our heads!

Paros received top billing in the Conde Nast feature for good reason. Just west of Naxos, it’s a decent-sized island (but not too big) with all the charms of a tiny dot. Paros was an island made famous for her white marble, and abandoned quarries still dot the island. You can take the ferry into either the main port of Parikia or Naoussa, a little port on the island’s north side (many of the smaller ship lines dock here). 

Don’t miss: The tiny inland mountain village of Lefkes, located about 10 kilometres from Parikia — completely instagram-worthy with narrow, whitewashed lanes and teeming pink flowers affixed to each house front.

naxos, cyclades, greeceNaxos

Naxos is the big fish in the Small Cycladic sea, a massive island where most of the group’s animal husbandry and fruit and vegetable farming occurs. I will always think of Naxos as the place my grandpa goes to run all the big errands — talking to the telephone guy, buying tools and supplies for the house or making a pre-holiday grocery run. For that reason, it was always less glamourous to me as a kid, but has grown on me as an adult. 

Now I see that Naxos’ bigness is part of her charm. You can just as easily spend a day roaming through her capital, Chora, as you could spend weeks enjoying the far reaches of the little villages that make up this rolling island.

portara, naxos, greeceDon’t miss: while in port, veer left toward the Portara, an ancient structure that stands proud at the island’s edge. This beautiful monument is especially spectacular at sunset when the sun passes right through the arch. 

schinousa, cyclades, greeceSchinousa

Full disclosure — this is my grandma’s island and not one many tourists visit, though that’s slowly changing.

Our family has a house on this tiny rock of 250 year-round inhabitants — and the island likely is not even on your map, because it’s too small. But that’s what makes it so incredible. Made up of two small villages and the descendants of two main families, half-a-dozen sparkling turquoise beaches, a dozen restaurants and more goats than people (even in the high season) it’s an island paradise.

Through my life, our family has become friends with tourist families (French, Italian, Australian) who have up and made Schinousa their forever summer home, because it’s such a special place. 

schinousa, cyclades, greeceDon’t miss: stay at one of the beautiful apartments on Livadi Beach, one of my favourites on the island for its pristine shoreline and near-endless sandbar into the water. Stop in at Loza along the main street for a glass of ouzo and mezedakia as the sun sets over the island. 

amorgos, cyclades, greeceAmorgos

While I haven’t visited Amorgos in some time, I carry a deep fondness for this island clearly in view directly east from my grandparents’ porch. This is a dramatic, cliffy island and much more mountainous than the other smaller Cyclades, which tend to be low lying and hilly. You can reach the island through either the maze-like and picturesque main town and port of Katapola or the smaller Aegiali port. Amorgos isn’t an island for beach-going as much as it is one to wander and take in the epic landscapes and extraordinary views.

Don’t miss: On the southeast coast is the 10th-century Monastery of Panagia Hozoviotissa, built into the steep cliffs of the island. It’s an incredible sight and worth the 350-step steep climb to see in person!naxos, cyclades, greece

Reaching the Small Cyclades

I’d only recommend purchasing your ferry tickets in advance during the high season (July-August). Otherwise, just show up to the port and request a ticket for the next boat to your destination. And for goodness sake, please don’t fly! The Greek Islands are not a place you should be rushing through. Take your time and the leisurely ferry ride, sitting high up on deck, the salty wind whipping your face. 

From Piraeus (Athens): My favourite line is Blue Star Ferries, hands down. They run on time, have decently clean ships and offer regular service to all the Small Cycladic islands. Be sure not to book your tickets too far in advance, as sometimes the schedule changes. The Blue Star will have you from Pireaus to most of the Small Cyclades in 5 to 7 hours. An economy ticket will run you about 30 Euro one way. 

Tip: find a seat on the top deck at the back of the boat, on the aft side. Partially sunny, partially shaded, breezy… it’s the ideal way to make the trip and watch the boat enter each port of call. 

Another option is the high speed boat lines (Flying Cat, Anek), which will shave about 1.5 hours off most trips. With that said, I’d offer caveats. First, they’re more expensive. Second, seating is indoors, because they travel so fast… and what’s the fun of sitting indoors on a boat?! Third, in my experience, they never run on time. On a recent trip from Naxos to Piraeus, our Anek was over two hours late, for no rhyme or reason. 

While you’re here: You can approach visiting the islands in a couple ways. One approach is to find a home base on one island in a pension (a longer-term apartment rental) and take day/overnight trips to the other islands. Alternatively, you could spend a few days on each island — literally, island hopping from one to the next. Either way, there are dozens of small local carriers to transport you the 30 minutes to 2 hours between these islands. My favourite is the Express Scopelitis (Small Cyclades Lines) run out of Naxos, but pop into a local travel agency in port on any of the islands for help booking your ticket. Commissions are low, and English is always spoken. 

Tip: Many of the small travel agencies on these islands don’t accept credit cards. Save yourself the ATM fees and come equipped with Euros to pay for your ticket. 

Whichever combination of islands comprises your visit, take Beaton’s advice and embrace the timeless haze of repetition and island time. No agenda, no itinerary, no days of the week… and all the time in the world to do nothing at all.

livadi, schinousa, greeceOther Resources

Visiting Greece: a few helpful Greek phrases to learn

Step-by-step guide to building a travel itinerary 

How to pack a capsule suitcase

[Photo credits: Paros by M.T. Magnan | Monastery by Amphithoe]