Thursday, July 28, 2011

Fresh Peas Go Pop

Photo: Andrew Budziak

It’s true, they do. When they’re just right—when the pod is firm, but the peas are small enough to leave room for an air pocket—they make a great little popping sound.

But I’m sure you know this already. Maybe you too spent time on the porch as a kid, shelling peas for supper. Hardly a chore, really, especially when you’re sneaking them into your mouth by the handful. They’re so sweet.

Photo: Andrew Budziak

This summer, I get to shell peas again. Andrew and I are in Winnipeg, but on the weekends, we go to the farm, where my mum’s garden is gorgeous, and full of promise. It’s also full of beets, summer squash, and carrots. And until last weekend, it was full of peas. But we took care of that.

Photo: Andrew Budziak

I made these peas-on-toast a few nights ago. It’s great as a part of one of those light, I-don’t-really-want-to-eat nights, with a small pile of scrambled eggs. It’s not much of a recipe, more of a splash of this, and a knob of that. And if you have a food processor, it will be even faster than my fork-smashing method.

AND: This sounds crazy. It certainly did when I described my sandwich to my colleagues the next day. But as leftovers, they make a great sandwich, with good crusty bread and smoky cheese.

Fork-smashed peas-on-toast

Makes four large toasts

2 cups of fresh shelled green peas

2 tablespoons salted butter

a good splash of white wine

a crusty baguette

1 large garlic clove, halved

1 or 2 tablespoons of olive oil

In a large saut̩ pan, heat the butter to melt, on medium heat. When it is completely melted, add the peas, and toss to coat. Turn the heat up just a tad, so that the wine will get a good sizzle when it hits the pan. Add the wine, and adjust the heat so that the peas cook gently, and the alcohol evaporates. Well, mostly, anyway. What you want is cooked peas that are still bright green, but soft enough to mash. This should take somewhere between 5 Р8 minutes.

Meanwhile, turn the broiler on in your oven, and set the grill about five inches from the element. Cut you bread; once right across, for two halves. Then cut each through the middle of their lengths. Think: two 6 inch subs. These will be your four toasts. Next, brush the olive oil on the cut side of each toast. Place them on a baking pan, cut side up, and place under the broiler until just toasted. Turn over, and toast the underside.

When the bread is toasted, rub the garlic on the oiled side of the bread. Set aside. Your peas should ready. If they have a lot of liquid, drain them. Then, with a fork, give them a good smushing—they need to be spreadable peas, not the kind of peas that keep rolling off your toast. Finally, spread the peas on the cut side of the toast, piled high. A sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan would be nice, too.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

New policy: Keep your bread recipe handy

I made these loaves months ago, and I’ve been wanting to post this picture for just as long. It's a simple white bread recipe by Nigel Slater, in Appetite. Because my cookbooks are in the Toronto apartment, I can’t refer back to them today to remember just how the recipe goes. That seems a shame. Perhaps a new policy is in order; always keep a good bread recipe handy.

What I can tell you is that Nigel Slater loves good toast. And this bread makes the best toast. A good thick layer of butter, and a veil-thin spread of jelly elevate it to, possibly, my favourite comfort food.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The things that matter

We arrived in Winnipeg yesterday. For me, it means moving home for the summer. We’ll be here for two months—just long enough for Manitoba to sink in, and to get good use of the best of Manitoba’s farms and gardens.

We’re living in a small sublet apartment, in Wolseley. It’s a place where, when it rains, you can stroll on the sidewalk without getting wet. The thickness of the elm canopy protects you. There seems to be a bakery at every corner.

I only packed one cookbook, in an effort to pare down. The Flavour Thesaurus is not a recipe book, but an idea generator. It treats ingredients like they belong on a colour wheel. For each entry—from figs, to capers, to chicken—it has a long list of pairings.

For instance:

Dill. Why not dill and beef? Dill and avocado? You’ve heard of dill and potatoes, of course. But did you think it might work with turmeric and chilies, as an Indian dish?

Of course, The Flavour Thesaurus is more eloquent than I'm being here, but you get the idea. Its purpose is to inspire and guide, not to instruct.

And that is the kind of summer I’m ready for. A pared-down, inspired summer. A summer where the few essentials—close friends and family, a single cookbook, and a few things in the fridge—are the source of inspiration in my cooking.

As for those few items in the fridge, here are some of them. The bare essentials, according to, well, me. Happy summer, and expect to hear more from me.