This day was our last full day on Isla. On this and most last days on the island, we try to fit in all of the events that we haven’t experienced yet. Most of the circumstances involve food or cocktails. True to form, J2, her Mom and the Wee One picked us up at 7:30 am for breakfast at Mango.
I love the food at Mango but I adore the décor just as much.
We shared Coconut French Toast
& Eggs Benedict.
Both the Wee One’s Glammas took turns entertaining her while we ate.
Can you see that she has her Poppas enormous blue eyes?
J2, Glamma V and the Wee One headed for Punta Sur as D and I strolled home.
And then just like that…the weather changed and a deluge began.
The weather was so extreme that it felt totally like a new day had dawned. But you know what they say? Even a rainy day on Isla is better than most days anywhere else. We coped the best we could by visiting family members to say our good-byes and having a few cocktails along the way…
Kath’s quote: “When we lose, I eat. When we win, I eat. I also eat when we’re rained out.” -Tommy Lasorda
Flexibility and resourcefulness are primary features regarding beach house cooking. For example, on this morning I had planned on making omelettes but went to the fridge to find that I only had 5 eggs. I had already texted D who was off playing tennis to ask him to pick up some bakery bread so I did not want to bother him again. As a result, my omelette plans morphed into frittata. This is pretty easy to achive at this time of year when fresh produce is more than plentiful. Freshly picked spinach was the pivot of the egg pie.
When we packed up our family home, precipitated by our Mom’s move to a nursing home, we dispersed many of the kitchen items that she had requested, back to the person who had originally filled the request. This meant that I received her mandolin (not the musical kind, but the culinary one). The device is a simple one and I get a special kick out of efficient low-tech items. Hers makes perfect little matchstick potatoes that work great for this purpose.
The potatoes were cooked first and separately. Make sure that you patiently wait for them to crisp up before you stir or turn them. Have a little taste to determine that the starchy surface that potatoes sometimes retain, has been cooked away.
Select a metal handled sauté pan that can go from stovetop to oven.
Fry potatoes, peppers and garlic together in oil until the potatoes are done to your likeness.
Remove from pan and set aside.
Cook the bacon until crisp.
Remove from pan and set aside.
Pour off all bacon drippings except for approximately 1 T.
Place spinach into the pan, cover and cook just until wilted.
Stir the potato and bacon mixture together and then place on top of spinach layer.
Whisk the eggs and milk together.
Pour into the pan until the liquid just covers all the ingredients (you may need more or less eggs depending on the width and depth of your pan).
Cover and cook on medium heat until the eggs have started to set.
Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan and place under the broiler until eggs have completely set and cheese has melted.
Cut into wedges and serve immediately.
Placing the sautéed spinach on the bottom layer will ensure that the eggs will not stick to the pan.
Oh yum. Use a fork.
Kath’s quote: “The two-pronged fork is used in northern Europe. The English are armed with steel tridents with ivory handles – three pronged forks – but in France, we have the four-pronged fork, the height of civilization.” E. Briffault, ‘Paris a table’ (1846)
I once wrote a cook book. This was pre-computer days and I typed it on a IBM Selectric typewriter and it was difficult to hide my corrections made with white out. You might say that it was a pretty transparent work. Next I had a small number of copies covered with a sheet of construction paper and “spined”. The title and dedication were on the cover. “I Cook, Therefore I Am”. I thought that the title was absolutely brilliant! Even in those days with a repertoire of Jean Parre, and Best of Bridge recipes, cooking for my loved ones, defined me.
Yes, I love to cook but I will admit this: I especially love to cook for an appreciative audience. I am blessed that D and our children and their significant others are my biggest fans. But back in those days, and I am speaking of a time thirty years ago, I was friends with a man who I dubbed a “Famous Eater” in this same dedication. He didn’t just enjoy good food, he loved everything about the act of eating. His appreciation oozed out of him as you watched him eat. His Caribbean blue eyes glinted, his musician’s hands gestured and his voice, that famous voice-praised. Not with phrases like “oh, this is good” but with accolades that indicated the he understood why you had prepared it just so. He got food.
The gift of this cookbook was at a wedding shower that I was hosting. This man was marrying one of my best friends. She was (is) a beautiful, vivacious woman but I had a grave concern. She could not cook in those days. But oh how she tried. She wanted to love her new husband with gifts of food and so I decided to help her along. And so I compiled this cookbook of easy recipes that I knew would please. I loved them both so much that I wanted her to be able to successfully love him with the offering of food.
The next line of the dedication was this “A Collection of Recipes given to Trish on the occasion of her marriage to David Mann-A Famous Eater”. I so clearly remember that in Trish’s surprise and excitement, she unwrapped the cookbook and read the dedication like this: “I cook, therefore I am a collection of recipes”. I recall that we all giggled at her error and yet, I think that her statement is absolutely true.
I was the only female attendant at their wedding-their “Matron of Honour” (matron not maid, because I was married to D). Trish told me yesterday, that she loves to look at the picture in their home of us all together. She told me this yesterday, at the memorial service for her husband David. He had succumbed to cancer of the esophagus. The irony of this does not sit lightly with me. Not only was it his voice that was the reason for our becoming acquainted (he was the morning man at Q 94 and I was the Marketing Director for The Keg ‘n Cleaver Restaurant) but his esophagus delivered the food that he delighted in, to nourish his body.
David loved Keg Steaks, but also 529 (where he and his family celebrated birthdays) and Rae and Jerry’s. Rae and Jerry’s catered the refreshments at his memorial service yesterday. In fact, they cater every celebration of life service at the church that we attend. There was a time when I loved their fancy sandwiches but recently I only ever eat them when I am very sad.
I introduced David and Trish to each other. My D was living in Toronto finishing his degree in foodservice and hospitality at Ryerson. Trish traveled a lot with her work with Estee Lauder. David and I often found ourselves together by default. He once called me to say he had been loaned a motorcycle and wanted to drive to Lockport for a Skinner’s hotdog but it wouldn’t be the same without someone on the back of the bike and Trish was not available. I was afraid of motorcycles as I had lost two acquaintances in separate accidents but somehow David talked me into it. He promised me he would drive slowly. Liar. David loved speed. He loved the wind in his hair. At that time his car was a Scirocco, so named for a Mediterranean wind that comes from the Sahara and reaches hurricane speeds in North Africa and Southern Europe. He was fond of quick acceleration times. I chuckle when I think of this because Trish was the opposite. As we raised our young children together, she would run alongside the toboggan as it slipped down the hill, for fear of injury to the kids.
D and I and David and Trish have not been close in recent years. David was our financial planner and we decided that it would be best if we kept the relationship a professional one. But it was also this: I try to live my life without grudges but I allowed one to stand between me and Trish. I believe that she has forgiven me. I know that I have forgiven her. David would have wanted this. I have promised that I will contact her next week as she tries to get back to some normalcy in her life- a life without the father of her children, without the Famous Eater.
Have you watched any of the “Focker” movies? When the in-laws of an engaged couple, come together for the sake of their children, it is the pretense for hilarity to ensue.
Perhaps we are not as eccentric as the families in the movies, because our experience has been one of quiet chats and the opportunity to gaze into the inner workings of a loving family. This past weekend I traveled with Reb and Seb to his hometown of Peterborough, ON. We arrived early enough on Thursday for a light lunch and the Frenchman’s Mom began a weekend of loving us with food.
If any dish embodies a Mom’s love of her family, it is risotto-a dish that I will be frank and tell you that I have never had the patience to make for my own family. The Frenchman’s Mom on the other hand, is more than willing to spend a half hour or more, committed to the constant stirring and ladling that is required to perfect this dish.
Every family members gets into the “act” of getting dinner on the big antique dining table. More chairs are always welcome.
The pea and basil risotto was accompanied by savoury chicken breasts and asparagus spears.
8 c chicken or vegetable stock, heated and ready with a ladle
salt to taste
½-3/4 c freshly grated parmesan (Romano)
1 c fresh/thawed peas or other vegetable
½ c fresh leafy herb such as basil
Melt 1 T butter and canola oil together.
Turn up the heat add the rice and stir constantly for one minute until it begins to brown.
Add first ladle of hot stock.
Turn the heat down to a simmer.
Keep stirring the rice as the first ladleful is absorbed.
Continue to add the stock in this way until it is all used (will take between 15 -25 minutes).
Taste the rice for doneness and salt-add time if necessary and adjust taste.
When rice is cooked to your likeness, remove from heat and stir in butter and grated parmesan.
Stir in peas or other veg.
Stir in basil or other herb.
Garnish and serve immediately.
After dinner we were going to take a stroll and then find an ice cream place until the Frenchman’s Mom volunteered to make the ice cream herself. It utilized fresh strawberries and then she made her own chocolate sauce to ladle over top for an extra helping of love.
A full moon watched over us.
The next morning she was at it again with homemade waffles, bacon and scrambled eggs.
Later that evening, the family was hosting an engagement party for the happy couple. Their spacious kitchen meant that when it was time to get dinner on the table, there was lots of room to maneuver.
Mother of the groom and yours truly. In-laws that love to cook together. This marriage will definitely not fail.
The Frenchman’s Mom made the Quinoa salad
and I assembled this spinach, strawberry, almond and feta salad.
She stuffed this pork roast with delicious results.
My favourite was the chicken roasted in a tajine (I can’t wait to get one). This clay casserole has a chimney-like cover which produces a chicken which is moist and tender. They supposedly do a great job with lamb too.
Love-on a plate.
Speaking of love-dessert was an amazingly refreshing and light lemon filled cake. As pieces were being distributed to all the guests, we shared marriage and relationship tips with the bride and groom to be.
Kath’s quote: “Cooking is an art and patience a virtue… Careful shopping, fresh ingredients and an unhurried approach are nearly all you need. There is one more thing – love. Love for food and love for those you invite to your table. With a combination of these things you can be an artist – not perhaps in the representational style of a Dutch Master, but rather more like Gauguin, the naïve, or Van Gogh, the impressionist. Plates or pictures of sunshine taste of happiness and love.”-Keith Floyd
When we arrive at the beach house on a Friday evening, haven accomplished the grocery shopping, packing and helping D load the car, the last thing that I want to do is think about is making supper.This is when we sometimes grab a U bake pizza or shop at the deli on the way out of town.But last weekend J1 and J2 made a Crockpot supper of pulled pork and since I have an extra pot at home, I decided to bring it out to leave here permanently.I assembled the ingredients at about 8 in the morning, plugged it in and got on with my day of work.
Here’s a beach tip: I plugged in the pot outside and had it sitting on a wooden step (in the shade).This way, even this small appliance didn’t heat up the house.The only downside was that I was afraid that the amazing aroma would attract the bears that have been roaming around recently.
I served this with a leftover potato salad and made up a simple green salad when the roadside corn that I was hoping for did not materialize.Easy, peasy and hardly any dishes!
sage leaves and rosemary branches or other “sturdy” herbs
Stuff the whole lemon and garlic cloves in the cavity of the chicken and set aside.
Place veggies in the bottom of the crock pot to create a cradle for the chicken.
Rub the skin of the chicken with chili powder.
Nestle the herbs around the birds.
Cover and turn crock pot onto highest setting.
About half way through your projected cooking time, reduce to low heat.
When the chicken begins to fall apart, take the entire insert out of the heating element and place under the broiler until the skin has crisped up (about 10 minutes).
The key to crockpot chicken is adding moisture to the cooking process without the chicken “stewing” in the liquid. This can be accomplished with preparing a ledge out for hard veggies for the chicken to sit upon. If none are available, roll up balls of aluminum foil to raise the chicken from the bottom of the pot.
In addition to rubbing the seasonings directly into the flesh of the bird, surround it with fresh herb leaves.
One last tip: if you have one of the crockpot styles where you can lift the ceramic liner away from the element that heats up, do so and place the chicken in the ceramic pot right under the broiler and allow the skin to crisp up. Friday night Beach House dinner is done.
Kath’s quote: “One of the faults which a cook should most seriously guard against, is bad temper….It is in the power of the cook to do much for the comfort and prosperity of the family….Never let the family have reason to say — ‘The cook is always cross!’”-Sarah Josepha Hale, ‘The Good Housekeeper’ (1839)