Friday, 25 January 2013

Fourth Thursday - dinner and a movie

For this weeks Thursday extravaganza, we had a super quick dinner of spanish-inspired chicken stew (think smokey chorizo, white beans and tomatoes) and portuguese custard tarts, before rushing out to the movies.  We saw "Quartet", with Maggie Smith, Tom Courtney, Billy Connolly and Pauline Collins heading the cast.  I have to say it was quite charming and very entertaining.  Highlights were audience reactions to the gardener (whose name was Nobby - much hilarity for middle aged same-sex couples in the audience apparently), and to a couple of choice moments of "language", which seemed much less shocking to me given my British up-bringing.  I was rather surprised to be likened by my peers, to the Michael Gambon character (named Cedric.....and most definitely pronounced "Ceeedric"!).  He spends most of the movie wondering around in various kaftans, kimonos, turbans and the like, screaming orders at people and visibly squirming at anything outside the spectrum of classical music.

Spanish chicken - white beans, smokey chorizo and succulent chicken pieces in a delicious, herby tomato sauce.

The Portuguese custard tarts were so good that we devoured them before I remembered to take a photo.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Third Thursday

Lamb tagine, heady with fragrant spices, meltingly tender, and presented splendidly.
On the "third Thursday" of 2013, Bobby hosted for the first time this year.  When Bobby hosts, it's always a treat.  Not only is he a prize winning pie-maker (I kid you not....look at the winners at the Rockton World Fair, under "P" for pies), but he is the consumate host, even on a mid-week, "work next morning" occasion.  Last night we were treated to a fabulous lamb tagine, served in the beautiful golden-ochre tagine that he found in a market when we were vacationing in Provence with twelve of our nearest and dearest,  a few years back (imagine fragrant spices, sweet dried fruits and meltingly soft pieces of lamb).  This was followed (after much banter and a bottle of Bevmo-winning Chilean red) by an apparently simple (according to Bobby) olive oil cake, light as a feather, and rich in flavour, accompanied by a delicious "fruits du bois" compote.
I can only apologize for the fact that I fell asleep on the couch, immediately after dinner.....I had a very early morning.
Next turn to host.
Olive oil cake with Fruits du bois compote.   Simple but "oh so delicious"!

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Mid January activities - Mozart Festival at the TSO

It's mid January.  I'm in Toronto.  There is no snow on the ground.  It is FOURTEEN DEGREES CELCIUS!
When I first arrived in Toronto, almost 18 years ago, we had snow on the ground from late Nov/early December, until March.  January temperatures were frequently in the range of -10 to -20, even worse with wind chill.  Snowstorms would be so bad, the mayor would call in the army for help.  Well, actually, scratch that last comment, because the one time that happened, it was very dubious as to whether military intervention was truly warranted.
The weather this weekend is warm enough for Mimico residents to go out on Lake Ontario in kayaks.....typically at this time of year, the shoreline is thick with ice, and marinas are frozen over.
These guys were getting in a spot of fishing....and not even ice fishing!  This was happening just off the Mimico shoreline
In any case, I don't normally expect to see unfrozen, bare earth in my garden at this time of year, and I certainly shouldn't be flinging open the windows of the house to let in a balmy breeze.  However, that is what I did yesterday.  I was shocked to see crocuses already poking through the ground, and it looks as though the hellebore I planted last year is very close to blooming.  I know we are about to see temperatures plunge towards freezing again this coming week, but hopefully these wild swings in temperature will not have overly damaging effects on my plants, who should be in deep slumber right now!

These ornamental cabbages have that sort of  "bloom" of fresh growth, and were bejewelled with rain drops.  Very pretty.
Crocuses have broken through the soil surface....about 2 months earlier than they should.
Plenty of flower buds are visible on this hellebore.
On another note, if you ever have the opportunity to hear violinist Augustin Hadelich in must jump at the chance.  I heard him playing Mozart with the Toronto Symphony last night, and it was a truly breathtaking performance.  Attached is a very interesting short biography on this highly gifted performer.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Second Thursday, 2013

Host: Kitkat
Pepperoni Lasagna (you may laugh, but reserve your judgement until you have tried it.  I have never eaten a more delicious lasagna, and of course the pepperoni was an accent, not the main feature).
Individual lemon curd pavlovas, served with berries and mint.  Very refreshing.
Wine: If only I could remember.  France and South Africa
Viewing pleasure: Herb and Dorothy - fascinating documentary about two very ordinary people (or at least "seemingly ordinary"), who collected one of the most significant collections of late 20th century American art, which is now housed at the National Gallery in Washington D.C.
Pepperoni lasagna - certainly a new recipe to me! But delicious!
Individual lemon curd pavlova with berries.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Kitchen refresh: before, during, after.

In September, I will have been living in My Mimico Maison for 10 years.  I find it hard to believe it's been that long, until I start thinking about how many New Year's Eve parties I've enjoyed here, how many gardening seasons have come and gone, and how many cozy winters evenings by the fireside.  Having my chimney rebuilt was the first significant renovation I did to the house, and although it seemed expensive at the time, it has definitely repaid itself in the pleasure it has given me.
Back in the fall, after exterior stucco renovations, I started to get it into my mind that it really was time to get something done with the kitchen, which hadn't been touched in the 10 years I've lived here.  Although it was perfectly functional, it was feeling very tired, and despite grand ideas I have to reconfigure the layout, to open up the back of the house, and provide a space for a powder room on the ground floor, I set my goals more modestly, on just a little bit of a spruce up, with a minimal budget.
It turned out to be a lot of work of course, but I tackled it during an hour or two here and there of an evening, over the course of several weeks, and completed it with a marathon of effort during the last few days before Christmas.  The lights and backsplash were replaced, walls and cabinets painted (thanks to Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations), and crown mouldings applied.  I did get some help from a couple of friends, both in labour and through loan of equipment, which must be gratefully acknowledged.  There are still a couple of touch-ups to finish, and I haven't decided what to do about flooring yet, but here are some shots before, during and after.  I am pleased with how it turned out!

Although my kitchen cabinets were in good shape, they were a bit grubby and dated looking.

I had always disliked this "apron" over the windows, which concealed fluorescent lighting tubes. They were so harsh that I never turned them on.

I like this pot rack (Ikea), and it's handy to have things right by the stove, so that has stayed in place.

I didn't like the grey tile backsplash, and some of the tiles had cracked over time.

Basically, the kitchen was in good shape (which is why I hadn't done anything in 10 years), but the time had come for a change.

First, I started taking off cabinet doors, one by one for painting.  I used the Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations kit, in Espresso.  It was very easy to use, and came with good instructions.
After I had started work, the ceiling had to be opened up because of an issue in the bathroom.....this ending up delaying progress for several weeks, and I hated living in such a muddle! Uugh!

Ta-da!  What a transformation!  The crown moulding was a challenge, since neither ceiling nor walls nor cabinets have a straight line or consistent angle to them.  Thankfully the dark paint conceals and is very forgiving.

I got the schoolhouse lamps from the Aladdin's cave that is Der Dietemann Antiques, 747 Broadview Ave.  Really pleased with those.

I think removing the fluorescent lighting and apron above the windows makes the kitchen look a little bigger.  I will need to figure out a window covering though, and I still have not decided what to do with the floor.

I extended the backsplash to wrap fully around the stove.  The white subway tile was inexpensive and although it is ubiquitous, I think it does look nice and clean and simple, in an older home.  I contemplated dark grout lines, but because the walls were so wonky, I was apprehensive about doing anything that might emphasize that.

The matching ceramic chair rail is one of my favourite things in the kitchen!  The wall colour is Benjamin Moore, Aura, Dulce de leche, CSP-250.

Time to go and rattle some pans in the kitchen!

Thursday, 3 January 2013

First Thursday, 2013

For nearly a decade, I have spent Thursday nights in the company of two other gentlemen.  We have wined, dined and entertained each other, through thick, and through thin.  In the face of broken romances, work pressures, financial woes, relocations, and great successes, new joys and good times,  we have found the time to commune together.  Some weeks, it's all Grand Baroque and home preserved, duck meat,  shot by the fair hand of the chef, other weeks, it might be homemade pizza or a menu inspired by travels or imagination.  The running theme has always been an opportunity, just once a week, to enjoy the company of others, the pleasure of someone taking the effort to prepare a proper meal, and the adventure of trying something new, for what you know will be an appreciative and supportive audience.  Otherwise known as "Survivor Night", because originally we started out by arranging to watch the foresaid reality TV show together, it has evolved into a very different "Survivor Night", and it is truly a highlight of each and every week for me.
Since I feel unable to invite you to join us for dinner of a Thursday (which is an honour very rarely bestowed), I plan to at least record the key culinary highlights of each week for our 10th anniversary year.....what, with my new camera and all (thanks Davey!)

Here was our Bill of Fare for Thursday, January 3rd, 2013:

Cocktail - sparkling rum and pomegranate punch (for this I can take no credit....thanks Davey (via CHOW).  Easy, very "more-ish" and readily adaptable for the grape-allergic (substitute sparkling cider for the sparkling wine - equally delicious.)
Soup: Cream of Celery - courtesy of BBC GoodFood.  Well received, and well presented - SUPER EASY!  Definitely one to make again. If only I had the foresight to make a delicious 1 hour, soft pretzel to go with it....need to ask Andrea for the recipe!).

Delicious Celery Soup, with a sparkling rum and pomegranate punch in the background ( just to set an edge on the appetite, you understand.)
Main course:  A classic, which we have enjoyed together several times before.  Fruity lamb tagine (again, see BBC GoodFood, with a few customizations based on what was to hand....i.e. substituting left over Christmas dates for the apricots, stewing beef for the lamb).  Served, this time, served with bulgar wheat, because no couscous was to be found.

Dessert: after all the over-indulgence of the last couple of weeks, I thought fruit salad might be welcome.  Persimmon, grapes, kiwi, banana, pomegranate and out of season rasps made for a palate-invigorating mix.  I managed to restrain myself from topping it off with some vanilla ice cream from Sweet Olenka's.  Maybe next time.