Food Musings

A Winnipeg blog about the joy of preparing food for loved ones and the shared joy that travel & dining brings to life.

Beach Picnic complete with Pitted Cherries


D and I have been on a week’s vacation at our beach house.  The first few days of our time were cold and windy and although we told ourselves that we didn’t mind being snuggled up inside, we were yearning for some beach weather.  Our routine when the weather is fair, is a lovely one.  D spends the morning playing tennis at Grand Beach which if you walk along the water is only minutes away and by bike on the Trans Canada trail just a wee bit longer.  If you have to drive a car though, it takes twenty minutes to get there.

This leaves me with a leisurely morning to sleep late, read in bed or just stare at the forest that surrounds our little place.  Once I get going, I love to “putsky” in the kitchen and assemble some ingredients for a beach picnic.  Often times, I have a leftover as the pivot to build a lunch.


On this morning I had lean ham, chevre and sautéed spinach for D’s sandwich and some brie, pecans and maple syrup to have on a cheese biscuit, with slices of cucumber and carrots, fresh from the garden, it came together as a nutritious and satisfying lunch.


While I was still in the kitchen, I prepared little bowls of pitted cherries for our dessert.


I have this fabulous little kitchen gadget from OXO called a cherry-pitter.  I use the well-designed contraption even more often to pit olives for Greek salads.


The brie was so delicious that I enjoyed another smear of it on a biscuit and the cherries for my afternoon snack.


On this day I set up in our usual spot so D would know exactly where to find me when he rode his bike from the courts to the beach.  My beach chair is set way off by the trees as we often trek to Grand Beach when it is too windy on our beach.


But this spot proved to be too still, so we moved to catch the breeze on a sandbar.

A glorious afternoon was spent right here with delicious treats, frosty cold beer, walks, naps and reading.  Ah, summer is bliss on Lake Winnipeg.

Kath’s quote: “That last cherry soothes a roughness of my palate.”-Robert Browning


Love-that is all.


The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais


This book published in 2008 has recently been made into a movie with Helen Mirren.  Because I have not had the opportunity to see it, I do not know what parts of the book are detailed in the movie and so you may want to consider this a spoiler alert.

My name came to the top of the wait list at the library for this book just in the nick of time.  I was preparing for my week at our beach house and much as I like uploading (or is it down? I can never keep it straight) books on my tablet, I am hesitant about lugging my Toshiba to the beach which is my favourite place to read).  I have this amazing back pack beach chair that I found on line a number of years ago.  It includes a pillow and foot stool and I can easily have a comfortable nap in it, let alone devour a long anticipated story.

The story as you might have seen in the movie trailers is about an Indian restaurant opening across the street from a classic French one and the stand off that ensues.  But more than this, the novel is a dissection of what makes a chef tick and this I think is what makes the book a foodie must read.

Here is an excerpt (page 151), photos are from our time dining in France:

“Chef, is there any particular way that you want me to cook the hare?”

“Yes. I want you to astonish me.” she said, and without further instruction, she and Monsieur LeBlanc were out the door.


Well, you can imagine, no sooner had they left than the three of us went to work, lips pursed, brows beaded with sweet, keenly aware that each had been given an exam to determine how flexible we were in the kitchen.  Jean-Pierre was soon dusted with flour, whipping up mille-feuille with preserved citrus cream made from Menton lemons, while Margaret, stern-faced with concentration, made a crayfish-and-sherry saffron sauce to accompany meaty chunks of pike grilled perfectly on metal skewers.

If I am honest, most of the day is lost to me in a blur of relentless hard work conducted at a furious pace.  I do remember that after I butchered the hares, I marinated the pieces in white wine, bay leaf, crushed garlic, malted vinegar, sweet German mustard, and a few crushed and dried juniper berries, for that slightly pungent and piney aftertaste.  Suitably softened, the hare then spent several hours cooking slowly in a cast-iron pot.  It was nothing grand.  It was simply my take on an old-fashioned recipe, fleetingly glanced at during a study session up in Madame Mallory’s attic library, but it just seemed right for a chilly day and windy autumn night.


The side dishes I prepared were a mint-infused couscous, rather than the traditional butter noodles, and a cucumber-and-sour cream salad dashed with a handful of lingonberries.  I thought together they would make soothing and light counterpoints to the heavy mustard tang of the stewed hare.  Of course, now, looking back I realize the cucumber and cream was, conscious or not, inspired by raita, the yoghurt-and-cucumber condiment of my homeland.

Madame Mallory and Monsieur Leblanc returned in the early evening, as promised, and we watched anxiously as the chef took off her overcoat an donned her whites, and made the rounds, inspecting what each of us had prepared. I recall that she actually had fairly kind words to say about all of our efforts, for her, albeit she never missed an opportunity to point out how each of us could have improved our dishes, with this adjustment or another.

Jean-Pierre’s red fruit tarts, for example, had a very respectable crust, firm and the lip-puckering crème de cassis filling also had the right balance of fruity sweetness and tart acidity.  But when everything came together it lacked somewhat in originality, she sniffed.   A little grated nutmeg on the crème fraiche would have elevated the dessert into something special, as would have a few wild strawberries from the woods, sprinkled around the rim of the plate.

Margaret, meanwhile, had besides the grilled pike, made rouget stuffet with asparagus, and simmered in a grapefruit boullion, before wrapping the fish in a filo jacket that was lightly baked in the oven.  “very unusual, I grant you Margaret.  But the pastry ruins it for me.  It is a nervous tick with you, always wrapping everything in pastry dough.  You must be more confident and leave your comfort zone. Such strong flavours-rouget and asparagus and grapefruit-they do not need a pie crust slapped on top.”

By now she had wandered over to my station, where I stood nervously, a greasy tea towel hanging from my shoulder,  Madame Mallory inspected the gigot-the spring lamb, its skin perferoated with garlic slivers, dusted in cumin and herbes de Provence, all ready to enter the oven-but didn’t comment.  The pork joint was already roasting in the oven, but as still too raw for tasting, and pigeon avec petits pois simply received a head nod.


Madame Mallory was, however, drawn to the cast-iron pot bubbling on the stove, pulsing and filling the air with a vinegary steam.  She lifted the heavy lid and peered inside at the game stew.  She sniffed, took a fork to a joint of hare, and the meat broke off easily.  Chef Mallory then snapped her fingers, and Marcel rushed over with a little plate and spoon.  She tried the hare with some of the mustard gravy spooned over the minty couscous and the accompanying sour-cream-cucumber salad.

“A bit heavy-handed -handed with the juniper berries, I would say.  You only need three or four to feel their presence.  Otherwise, the taste, it’s too German.  But really, other than that, very well done, particularly the untraditional side dishes.  Simple but effective.  I must say, Hassan, you have the right feel for game.”

The explosion was immediate.

Kath’s quote: “The hare has always been game, not an adjunct of feudal economy, and highly regarded as a richly flavoured food. That’s really the difference – the hare rich and gamey in flavour, the rabbit (good wild rabbit) fresh and succulent. The hare makes one think of port, burgundy, redcurrant jelly, spices and cream; the rabbit needs
onions, mustard, white wine, dry cider and thyme.” –
Jane Grigson


Love-that is all.

Celebrate the September Long Weekend


When you have access to a summer place on the prairies, your season is pretty brief.  As we sit here on the first official day of our summer vacation, we have a small fire in the stove as there is a chilly dampness from the morning rain.  D has the hood from his tennis jacket up and alas for him, the game that he loves is not going to happen this morning.  I am still in my fuzzy bathrobe and if this weather continues, I may not get out of it any time soon.  The time since we opened our beach house for the season on May Long seems impossibly short.  Of course, there may be beautiful September days ahead but we will be away and then our city routine takes hold in earnest.  And so, as reticent as I am, here’s an amazing way to celebrate the September Long Weekend.

In our neck of the woods (literally as we are in the Belair Provincial Forest) a local food and music aficionado has planned a Sunset Dinner on Sunday, August 31st at Lester Beach.  There will be a couple of musical acts with fireworks after sunset.  Plates are by donation to the artists.  I don’t have many more details than this but I will tell you that if we were still at our Beach House on this date, we would absolutely attend.  Not only will the food be delectable but the people of our small beach community are always warm and hospitable.


If you are anywhere in the Grand Beach, Lester Beach, Hillside Beach or Traverse Bay area this weekend, I am sure that there will be posters with more details.  If you want to know more before you leave Winnipeg, leave me a comment and I’ll give you the email I have for the event.

Kath’s quote:  “Youth is like a long weekend on Friday night. Middle age is like a long weekend on Monday afternoon.” –unknown


Love-that is all.



Jerusalem -A Cookbook written by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi


The 90 year old father of my friend was given a book.  He loved it so much that he gifted it to his son and daughter-in-law.  When I was in their home recently, they showed me their gift and when I returned home (they live in Toronto), I immediately ordered a copy for myself.  Since it has been mine, I have shared it with Sister #3 and more recently J2’s Mom.  Treasured books are often shared in this manner, in my circle at least, but rarely is the book a cookbook.  Jerusalem -A Cookbook written by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi is an exquisite collection of recipes as mysterious and fascinating as the city itself.  Consistent with my premise of food=love and the notion that food is a powerful force that can promote healing, forgiveness and reconciliation, the authors of this recipe collection make this bold statement:

Alas, although Jerusalemites have so much in common, food, at the moment, seems to be the only unifying force in this highly fractured place.  The dialogue between  Jews and Arabs, and often Jews themselves, is almost nonexistent.  It is sad to note how little daily interaction there is between communities, with people sticking together in closed, homogenous groups.  Food however, seems to break down those boundaries on occasion.  You can see people shop together in food markets, or eat in one another’s restaurants.  On rare occasions, they work together in partnership in food establishments.  It takes a giant leap of faith, but we are happy to take it-what have we got to lose?-to imagine that hummus will eventually bring Jerusalemites together, if nothing else will.


I witnessed the huddling of persons into compact neighbourhoods myself when I traveled to Jerusalem many years ago.


We had the unique perspective of walking on top of the wall of the old city and could peer over railings and into yards and lanes to see the subtle lines drawn in the sand and the boundaries between “theirs” and “mine”.



In a manner of speaking, the food of Jerusalem has already worked in “unification” (not for the beautiful and complicated country of Israel) but for a group of old friends who spent this past weekend together, celebrating life and friendship surrounded by nature with games, laughter, hikes, sleeps, kayaking


….but most significantly by cooking and eating together.


Our Friday was heralded with welcome drinks and a simple but delicious meal of grilled sausages and a lusty Mixed Bean Salad with capers, cumin and coriander (from the cookbook).


Although the evening and overnight had been warm and humid, the morning was cool enough for us to have our second cup of coffee around the fire (with croissants and muffins from Stella’s).


Before heading out for our hike around the lake, the table was set for eggs.


Of course, they weren’t just any eggs.  They were lovingly made by R who is the most patient cook I have encountered.  None of the high heat that I am always hurriedly setting under my pan was employed here.  With these creamy parmesan eggs, the blueberry pancakes the next morning and the grilling of sausages and chicken, he does everything the “hard” way: constant stirring, live charcoal, timed flips on the grill; while at the same time retaining that unhurried attitude of a confident cook.


After walks and swims we assembled on the dock for Happy Hour (as if we needed to get any happier)!


L had made my favourite dip of baba ganoush and a rich and creamy hummus.


These Feta and Olive Chicken Balls were delectable and I would happily serve them as a healthy main with soft pitas and some greens.

Feta & Olive Chicken Balls
Recipe type: Appetiser
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
  • 1 lb. ground chicken
  • ½ c fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 T onion, finely chopped
  • ½ c feta cheese, crumbled
  • ½ c green olives, chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t Italian seasoning
  • ¼ c seasoned breadcrumbs
  1. Preheat oven broiler.
  2. In a large bowl, mix everything together.
  3. Shape into approximately 16 meatballs and place two inches apart on a baking sheet.
  4. Broil about 3 inches away from the heat until browned on top.
  5. Turn over, and broil on the other side.


As the black silhouettes of the pines were illuminated by the dusky sky, we lit candles and sat down for our “Sabbath” meal together (observed in Israel on the sixth day at sunset).  This was anything but a “holy” experience in a religious sense and yet because “holy” also means a time or place deserving of respect or reverence, it was.  The setting was special, the time carefully carved out, the moments savoured……


The recipe for the  Lebanese chicken was from a friend of R’s.  He and M marinated it all afternoon and then R painstakingly waited for the coals to be just right.  The tender meat was seasoned with fresh oregano and squeeze after squeeze of fresh lemon.


Tabbouleh, we learned, probably hails from Lebanon and Syria and is primarily a parsley salad sparsely dotted with al dente bulgar wheat.


This dish of Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Fresh Figs is the reason why I was so anxious to buy the cookbook and even if for no other reason, I am so glad I did.  We were concerned that the sweet potatoes were white and not orange and we think that they were a Caribbean style of sweet potato (that is, reminiscent of a plantain).  They were delicious in a subtle way allowing the fresh figs to shine.


The figs were so exquisite that we enjoyed more dessert of them with honey cake, philo pastries, grapes, apricots and figs.  The ones in the dish were perfection with a drizzle of balsamic and pungent shards of cheese.


The next morning we were up and cooking and eating again.


But who wouldn’t want to spend time in the kitchen, with granite and the forest as your backdrop.

We eventually hit the road back to the city but not without pledging to be together again-hopefully in a more unified and peaceful world.

Kath’s quote: “If you want to find a good husband, you’d better learn how to chop your parsley properly.”-the mother of cookbook writer Sami Tamimi to his sister.


Love-that is all.





Ode to Bacon


Bacon, how I love thee, let me count the ways……

August has been declared bacon month in Manitoba and in bacon’s honour I went back through my posts to see how often and for what occasions I cook with bacon.  (Writing a blog is a very helpful tool when you have a menopausal memory and a busy life).  Here’s what I came up with:

Warm Bacon Spinach Salad

Bacon Brussel Sprout Breakfast

Bacon Fritatta

Bacony Lazy Person Perogies

Bacon & Squash Pasta Sauce

Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeño Meatballs

Bacon-Wrapped Sea/Chicken Bundles

We’re so crazy about bacon that when I tasted bacon jam for my first time, on a hotdog at The Keg Steakhouse and Bar, I just had to figure out how to make it:

Bacon Jam

We even search out bacon delicacies when we are on holidays in Mexico:

Bacon Bimbo Dogs on Isla Mujeres

and in our favourite city (next to Winnipeg):

Bacon Peanut Brittle in NYC

Winnipeggers will have a fabulous opportunity to check out the bacon and other pork offerings at this weekend’s Winnipeg BBQ and Blues Festival.  Bacon month culminates with a Bacon Party at Rudy’s Eat and Drink on August 30th, 2014. Manitoba Pork also has a draw where 20 lucky winners will get bacon for a year.  See the details at to enter.  Bacon, how I love thee, let me count the ways….

Kath’s quote: “I’ve long said that if I were about to be executed and were given a choice of my last meal, it would be bacon and eggs. There are few sights that appeal to me more than the streaks of lean and fat in a good side of bacon, or the lovely round of pinkish meat framed in delicate white fat that is Canadian bacon. Nothing is quite as intoxicating as the smell of bacon frying in the morning, save perhaps the smell of coffee brewing.”-James Beard


Love-that is all.

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