Food Musings

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

Star Grill at the Conservatory

June24

The Conservatory at Assiniboine Park has been a long time destination of my family’s.  When my Polish Grandma (with an incredible green thumb) would come for a visit, we would often take her there.  You had to keep your eye on her though or she would try to steal a slip of a favourite plant.  When in her later years (she lived into her 90s) she finally acquiesced and allowed indoor plumbing to be installed, she placed a hoya on the edge of her bathtub.  A soak in her tub was jungle- like when the little plant climbed and twisted itself all over that corner of the bathroom.  The plant itself outlived my Grandma and I have been the caretaker of one of its babies for 23 years-isn’t life amazing?

As is my habit-I digress….  I still go to the Conservatory whenever I can drop in for a quick visit and see the seasonal displays outside of the Star Grill which is the reason I write today.  The park is situated about half way between the homes’ of a friend and business collaborator so is a perfect spot to meet for lunch.  On this day we sat in the beautiful terrace and enjoyed the sun.

Since I am of Aboriginal descent wild rice is a natural craving and because it is so nutritional, we try to include it in as many recipes as possible.  The Wild Rice Bowl is a salad selection on the Star Grill’s menu and includes a delicious mixture of sun-dried cranberries, grated carrots, cucumbers, red onions, lettuce, roasted peanuts & peanut sauce.

The regional menu also features local pickerel served a vaiety of ways and bison, another treat tyipcal of the prairies.  The next time I’m there for lunch, I already know that I will chose the Open Faced Mediterranean sandwich -smoked turkey with artichokes, spicy eggplant , black olives, Feta & Swiss.  The life of a foodie-always anticipating the next meal……

Kath’s quote: “The discovery of a new dish does more for human happiness than the discovery of a new star.” Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826)

Variations on a Sangria Theme

June23

Sangria is perfect for hot summer days.  The basic recipe below can be altered any number of ways, but provides a good base for your own ideas and innovations.  Traditional sangrias are made with red wine but there are lots of options with white wine too.  Let your imagination run wild.  (I have to admit…after a few afternoon batches my recipes become quite unrestricted in terms of ingredients and ratios.  But no one seems to complain).

 

#1 Basic

1 bottle dry red wine

1 T sugar

Juice of 1 large orange

Juice of 1 large lemon

Large orange and lemon sliced thin

2 medium peaches – peeled, pitted and cut into chunks

1 cup club soda

Combine all ingredients except club soda and chill overnight.  Add club soda just before serving and serve ice cold.

#2  Spicy

1 bottle red wine (your preference but a Spanish Rioja is nice)

1 lime, lemon and orange cut into wedges

2 T sugar

2 t hot sauce

1 shot of rum

2 L bottle of citrus flavoured soda (I like Fresca, pink grapefruit etc.)

Pour wine into a pitcher and squeeze the juice from the fruit wedges into the wine.  Toss in the fruit and add rum, sugar and hot sauce.  Chill overnight.  Add soda just before serving.

Easy Sangria

Marinate 1 each sliced lemon, lime & orange overnight.  Add or substitute berries, grapes, melon, mangoes or pineapple if you like.  Upon serving, fill a tall glass with ice and mix half of the wine/fruit mixture with 7 up.

Kath’s quote:Wine is the most healthful and most hygienic of beverages.”-Louis Pasteur

 

Eggplant Reprise

June22

Sometimes I get inspired by my own blogging-how  self-centred is that?  My eggplant post of last week spawned two delicious meals.  The first was the same night as the post when I recreated the Sicilian grilled dinner.  We actually didn’t have any eggplant in the house and so my husband used the closest thing-zucchini.  This (along with grilled asparagus that we just cannot get enough of at this time of year) is one of our favourite barbeque staples.  We toss both in a plastic bag with olive oil and Clubhouse Vegetable Seasoning-so simple and so divine. 

Where was I? Ah yes.  The second meal became many dinners.  I took a single eggplant to make Eggplant Parmigiana and it fed my husband and I on Friday evening, Daughter #1 and I on Saturday evening and then she had leftovers for Sunday lunch and I had leftovers for Monday lunch.  Now that is cost effective meal planning!

I always thought that because the dish was called Parmigiana it would have Parmesan cheese in it but it is so named because of the city of Parma.  But because the recipe centres around the use of tomatoes and mozzarella, it is said to have originated in the south, not anywhere near Parma.  Confused? And to make matters worse-we like a lighter version of the classic and use Parmesan instead of mozzarella!

I cut the eggplant into discs so as not to have any piece on the edge that gets thrown away.  It is often soaked in salt at this stage to extract bitter juices but we like it just fine including these so called “bitter” juices.  Then I dipped it into a milk wash, a flour dusting, an egg wash and finally coat it with breadcrumbs (this is also the process that I use for pork cutlets, chicken fingers and many varieties of fish).  In the mean time, I make a sauce of  what ever fresh herbs I have on hand with a can of tomatoes and plenty of chopped garlic and onion.  While that is simmering I brown the eggplant in plenty of olive oil.  The assembly starts with a generous layer of sauce on the bottom of the baking pan.

Kath’s quote:“…in a well regulated kitchen nothing is ever wasted, but with careful preparation even the ‘rough ends’ of a beef steak may be made into a wholesome, tender and appetizing dish; that ‘stale bread’ may be used in the most delicious ‘desserts’ and ‘fancies,’ and ‘left-over’ food from the day before need not be thrown in the trash-box, but may be made into an endless variety of wholesome and nutritious dishes.”-The Pica Creole Cook Book (1901)

June21

My Papa was a foodie before the word was ever uttered.  One winter (40 years ago) he tried to perfect flat crust pizza dough.  Another time he spent months experimenting with the qualities and flavour varieties of sesame oil. 

His own palate was quite simple- grabbing a plain bun and a piece of sausage for lunch, biting into a ripe pear and not gulping down his coffee until it had reached room temperature.  The only food I ever knew him not to like was celery. 

My habit of making “refrigerator soup” i.e stirring up a pot of whatever is in the fridge comes from my Dad.  He would make amazing hams with intricate marinades and glazes from whatever he found when scrounging around the fridge; one time using up my Mom’s chokecherry jelly, the next time starting with maple syrup. 

He loved steaks pan-fried in butter and would cook one up on a Saturday afternoon for his lunch.  My twin brother and sister and I would sit across the table like little birds waiting for the parent to drop food into their mouths.  Daddy would cut a big bite off for himself and then shave a tender one for one of the open mouths.  It was his turn next and then one of ours after that.  And so it went until the treat was done.

My Dad went to heaven to meet up with his two little brothers in 1997.  I still remember the aromas of his cooking, his crisp and dapper look as he left each morning for the office, his easy ability to cry and the simple and yet eloquent motto he always repeated- “that’s okay.”  It has been 13 Father’s Day’s without you on earth but you are with me every day.  I love you Daddy.

Kath’s quote:  “The fact is that it takes more than ingredients and technique to cook a good meal. A good cook puts something of himself into the preparation — he cooks with enjoyment, anticipation, spontaneity, and he is willing to experiment.”-Pearl Bailey

Crab Rolls

June18

D and I once drove from Quebec City to Provincetown, Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  Our first night was in Rockport Maine.  We were very excited about our first feed of seafood and chose a restaurant way out on the end of a pier.  The restaurant was an octagon shape like a gazebo and everyone including us, had a view of the sunset. When it was time to order, we were intrigued by what the menu highlighted as their house specialty –crab rolls.  When we inquired with our server what these were, here’s how she described them; “Oh, it’s like a crab salad on a hotdog bun. I don’t know what the big deal is”.  Needless to say, we made another selection.  I don’t remember if we stopped again for seafood along the way, but it wouldn’t have mattered because we were just not tempted to try a crab salad on a hotdog bun.

 

On one of last days on the Cape, we went whale watching.  It was about noon and we decided to order something for lunch on board.  The selection was poor (a can of tomato soup), so we dashed off the boat, as it was still loading and went to a little stand near the pier.  No-all they have are crab rolls!  We begrudgingly ordered one each.

OH MY GOODNESS!  They were one of the tastiest seafood meals we had on our two week trip.  The crab was so fresh it felt like it would dance in your mouth and the bun was just baked and soft and sweet, but the outside was crusty and chewy.  We thought we had died and gone to sandwich heaven.

Later that afternoon, when we got off the whale watching boat, we went back to the stand and ordered two more for our dinner.  I think we came back the next day for lunch too.  If you work in the hospitality industry…take note.  It may be a boring, old sandwich to you but to a tourist or new customer, it may be their little taste of heaven.

Kath’s quote: “There was an Old Person of Hyde,
Who walked by the shore with his bride,
Till a Crab who came near,
     fill’d their bosoms with fear,
And they said, ‘Would we’d never left Hyde!'”-
Edward Lear  (1812-1888)

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