The Frenchman’s Birthday

February20

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We are a family who loves to celebrate. In fact recently the eldest Wee One, listed the 7 birthdays between now and September. She leads the time of sharing where we go around the dinner table and tell the birthday boy or girl, what we love about them. With regards to the Frenchman, whose birthday we celebrated in advance last weekend, she declared that she loves him because she could hug him for hours.

The birthday person also gets to decide what we will share for supper and what dessert will be served. The Frenchman typically chooses pork ribs but this year he requested steak with hot fudge sundaes for dessert. The fudge recipe is D’s Mom’s and is often requested by the gang. But back to the steaks, D went out and purchased an entire strip-loin. He cut the steaks himself but decided that they should be marinated because he was concerned about a line of silver skin that he detected. The process took place overnight and added a ton of flavour as well as greater tenderness.

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He spent the day in the kitchen and assembled a complete dinner worthy of a high end steakhouse: Cesar salad with homemade croutons, garlic mushrooms, baked potatoes with green onions, sour cream, butter, and a pound of bacon made into bacon bits. Steamed green beans rounded off the plate. The Wee Ones had triple servings of them.

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I love this picture that I took as we got organized to sit down. You can see J’s baby bump. I will be a Glamma again in May!

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The youngest is three and not a baby any more.

So what do I love about the Frenchman? I love how devoted he is to our youngest daughter. I love how he fits like a glove into our family. I love his passion and perseverance. I love his heart-his enormous kind, tender, loving, compassionate heart!

Kath’s quote: “Sometimes you never know the value of a moment until it is a memory”. -Dr. Seuss

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Love never fails.

 

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Raw Almond 2019

February19

D has worked for a number of years importing flowers to be sold in many retail places. Many of the blossoms come from Colombia, South America and recently a gentleman from Colombia temporarily moved to Canada to assist with the business. Rodrigo marvels at the winters here and loves the beauty of the frozen landscape. D thought that it would be fun for him to experience Raw Almond where architects design a pop up restaurant right on the frozen river where the Red and Assiniboine rivers meet. And so it was that D invited another couple along and the five of us brunched together.

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Architects also design warming huts along the winter river trail and this one by a Chicago architect caught my eye. It kind of captures my reality. In a couple of sleeps, we will be in summer-like weather of Isla Mujeres, but this week we were brunching on a frozen river.

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From the outside, this looked like a mound of snow covered by a tarp and more snow but inside it was this lovely space with Jenga-like wooden slats pieced together perfectly. I was especially impressed by the arc of this one of two dining rooms. The temperature when we arrived was pleasant enough to doff our coats and by the time we left I was darn right toasty.

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We found places on the wooden slats to hang our coats and we shared one long communal table. This might not go over in many places in the world but on the Canadian prairies it has the same festive atmosphere as a church basement fall supper but elevated by the culinary creativeness of two local Chefs-Talia Shire and Ben Kramer. Having tasted their fare many times previously I knew that we were in for a treat.

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First up was a potato dumpling (we are the land of perogies after all), with shredded pork and a poached egg. The egg was topped with hemp gomashio (a typical Asian condiment or topping usually made with sesame seeds). Then the servers came around with thermal canisters of hot pork broth which got poured over top. The little bowl was very tasty indeed.

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This dish was my personal favourite.  A beet and yam hash was topped with poached pike and then with dill hollandaise. A kale cole slaw accompanied. We eat a lot of pike up at our summer house and I was very impressed with this version. The pike was meaty and perfectly cooked and the hollandaise took it up a good couple of notches to stellar.

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A handsome dollop of braised beef cheeks was perched on top of a creamy polenta. Grated manchego cheese (I eat a lot of it in Mexico)  and a hint of horseradish adorned the dish and the combinations were a resounding success.

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I was done by this time but could not resist the three pancake medallions topped with marscapone and a fruit coulis. A fun element was added-that of puffed grains (and not just wheat that you might have had as a kid). The dish satisfied the need for a Brunch dessert.

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We decided to walk off the four food servings with a stroll on the river. En route we found an ice bar where drinks were served in these stylish ice tumblers. The walk was pleasant in one direction but a bit nippy in the other. Remember we were accompanied by someone from Colombia. I believe that he was especially cold and so we headed back up to the cars and enjoyed the winter scenes from a decidedly warmer vantage.

Kath’s quote: “Going to a restaurant is one of my keenest pleasures. Meeting someplace with old and new friends, ordering wine, eating food, surrounded by strangers, I think is the core of what it means to live a civilised life”.-Adam Gopnik

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Love never fails.

 

 

 

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Casa O’s Lime Soup from Cocina Islena

February13

On my first vacation on Isla Mujeres (2005), we mistakenly stayed near Punta Sur not knowing the layout of the Island. Now there were some benefits…we walked so much we didn’t have to worry about our calorie intake, there was a beautiful quiet pool at our villa and the sunrises on the craggy cliffs were exquisite.

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I couldn’t find any food photos from that evening but I did find this blast from the past. The three sisters taken that night at Casa O’s.

One evening we walked the dark road to see what might still be open and couldn’t find a thing but with research we discovered Casa O’s and set out to celebrate my sister’s birthday on one of our last evenings on the island.

I can’t tell you a whole lot about what we ate and drank but I can tell you that the Lime Soup was a.m.a.z.i.n.g! On subsequent trips to Isla we heard that Casa O’s owners Lynn and Tom McGrath decided that they had to close the restaurant. Does anyone know what is in that space now?

Anyhoo the reason for that preamble is that I found the recipe for their soup in my Cocina Islena Cookbook. Here’s what it indicates with the recipe:

This Maya-style soup was a favorite of Paul Newman when we had Casa O’s restaurant. We didn’t have any photographs of Paul enjoying his meals as we didn’t want to bother him or create a fuss when he was in our restaurant. What a great, great guy he was.

Here’s the recipe:

Casa O's Lime Soup from Cocina Islena
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetiser
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
In the Yucatan , where the recipe for Sopa de Lima originated, it is made from Yucatan "limas agrias" which translates as sour lemons.
Ingredients
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2 tomatoes
  • ½ white onion
  • 2 sweet chilies
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 whole head of garlic
  • 1 pound of limes
  • ½ T cinnamon
  • dash of herb, epazote
  • 2 pieces fresh mint
  • 1 quart of chicken broth
  • 2 T liquid Knorr Swiss Chicken flavoring
  • olive oil to sauté vegetables
  • ground pepper to taste
  • corn tortillas and/or fresh crusty bread
Instructions
  1. Pour chicken broth into a pot large enough to hold all ingredients-approximately 2 quarts.
  2. Roast chicken in an oven, or barbeque and shred into pieces when cooled and add to pot.
  3. Cut corn tortillas into ½ inch strips and fry in hot oil until hardened but not crisp.
  4. Drain on paper towels, lightly salt and set aside. (These will be used as a garnish on top of the soup).
  5. Chop tomatoes, onion, chillies, and celery, sauté in a T of olive oil until soft-add to pot.
  6. Mince and sauté garlic, add to mixture.
  7. Add spices such as cinnamon, fresh mint, black pepper and epazote.
  8. Add Knorr Swiss Chicken Flavoring to mixture.
  9. Slice limes into thin circles, add to pot, (reserve one slice per bowl to use as a garnish).
  10. Simmer ingredients together for 15 minutes until the vegetables are soft and the flavors are melded.
  11. Reheat tostadas (fried tortilla) strips.
  12. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and float a lime slice on top of the soup.
  13. Decorate each bowl with a few reheated tostada chips.
  14. Cut up fresh crusty bread-serve with soup.
  15. Pretend Paul Newman is your dinner companion.
  16. Enjoy!

Over the years we have found many other Isla restaurants that do a good job of Lime Soup too….La Lomita for one!

Kath’s quote: “A person can only be judged by their actions, and not by their good intentions or their beliefs.”-Paul Newman

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Love never fails.

 

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Made with Love

February11

I have a dear friend who has a Christmas birthday. She is so busy throwing parties and giving perfect gifts to everyone in her life that Christmas kind of trumps her birthday. But I believe that you can commemorate a person any time and we were only too happy to celebrate wonderful her about 6 weeks after the date of her birth.

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The festivities were planned when her husband gave her five different bottles of Apothic as a gift (one of her favourite wines). The two decided that the best way to enjoy their unique tastes would be with courses and pairings. And so she sent out invites which we all gratefully accepted.

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We arrived on a frosty Friday to be warmed up with Strawberry Crush Cocktails. They were served in tippy scotch glasses that were a lot of fun but were a subtle warning not to imbibe too much or our worlds may look a bit tippy too.

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Cheese, fruit and biscuits were placed in a casual manner around their enormous kitchen island. A fine champagne gift was poured out next and shared all around. I am not partial to champagne but I sure can tell a good bottle of one!

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We sat down to a gorgeous table with a line up of glassware which included a map of the wine choices that would be served throughout the evening.

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Also at our places were menus of the rest of the evening’s fare.

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To accompany the delicious pear, pomegranate, butter lettuce salad with a honey balsamic vinaigrette was Apothic Inferno.  This wine boasted dark fruit flavours with hints of maple and spice.

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Apothic Red was paired with sautéed sea scallops. They were finished with brandy and cream and I savoured each tiny bite to make the luscious seafood morsels last as long as possible. The Red had a lighter body to offset the richness. The scallops were d.i.v.i.n.e.

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The robust tastes of Vietnamese lamb chops, coconut rice and snap peas almandine were complemented by Apothic Dark. Wine and food were perfect together, eclipsed only by the friends old and new, loving on each other and getting right to the heart of the matter; strengthening our bonds and intimacy.

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Dessert was prepared by the birthday girl herself. I had tasted it on another occasion and dearly hoped they would serve it again. The chocolate torte was delectable on its own; sublime when drizzled with a fine olive oil and sea salt. Apothic Brew was appropriately served with the final course.

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I think that I can easily say for all the friends that we felt pampered and loved. In deed, that was the secret ingredient in each and every dish. And this is the generous man (with his wife of almost 30 years to the right) who put the fabulous evening together so that we could delight in each other’s company.

Kath’s quote: “I love the way women friends have with each other. When I gather with a group of women friends, inevitably someone begins to rub someone else’s back. Hair gets played with. Merciful, tender, caressing healing touches are given.” -Stasi Eldredge

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Love never fails.

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Mexican Rice from Cocina Islena

February8

I was at an event this week and a person sitting opposite me wondered where she could find an authentic Mexican Rice recipe. I have made this one oodles of time and sent it off to her.

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The first meal I ever ate on Isla was decades ago at La Lomita. Where was yours?

We are off to the island in 14 sleeps and I am eagerly anticipating one of the many reasons we love the island so much and that is the food! When I come home I cook Mexican food to keep the memories and experiences vivid. It occurred to me than many persons on the Isla Mujeres’ Food page (that I moderate) would be interested in these recipes too, when they regretfully arrive home.

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So here we go:

Mexican Rice from Cocina Islena
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
This is the way the Islenas make their rice. You can cook it ahead, then heat it thoroughly but gently, in a tightly covered pot for about fifteen minutes. Leftover rice can be heated in the same way the next day and it freezes well. To reheat, make a foil package with the rice and place still frozen, in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes.
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups rice
  • ⅓ cup oil (I use canola)
  • I large tomato (1/2 pound) chopped
  • 1 glove of garlic chopped
  • 3½ cups chicken broth
Instructions
  1. Wash and clean rice, taking out any stones that may be in the bag.
  2. Drain in a colander.
  3. Heat the oil in a pan.
  4. Stir in the rice until all the grains are well covered, then fry until a light golden colour, stirring and turning the rice over so it will cook evenly and not get too dark.
  5. This should take about 10 minutes and should be done over a high flame.
  6. In a blender, blend the tomato, onion and garlic until smooth.
  7. Add the vegetables to the fried rice, then continuing to cook over a high flame, stir and scrape the bottom of the pan until the mixture is dry.
  8. Add the broth and add salt as necessary then stir well.
  9. Cook over a medium flame, uncovered until the liquid has been absorbed and small air holes appear in the rice.
  10. Remove from flame and cover tightly, so that no steam can escape, for about 20 minutes and the rice continues to cook in its own steam.

The cookbook was originally a fund-raiser so I ask that each time you print or cook a recipe, please make a donation to one of Isla’s many worthwhile charities. I will do the same. Here are a couple of our favourites:

http://littleyellowschoolhouse.org/

https://islakids.org/

http://islaanimals.org/

https://www.islascholarships.com/

Kath’s quote: “Education is the most powerful tool you can use to change the world”.-Nelson Mandela

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Love never fails.

 

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