"But, oh my dear [chocolate], our love is here to stay, together we're going a long, long way..."

Readers, I intended to write an entry extolling the virtues of dark chocolate, really I did.

I was going to mention how I contemplated pairing my morning cup of coffee with a square of dark chocolate (which I suppose I've just gone ahead and mentioned regardless), and how being an adult is sometimes marvelous, particularly when you live by your lonesome, as it means few obstacles stand in the way of your eating chocolate before breakfast.

I was doing well in terms of fanciful thinking: there was my short-lived romance with Ruth Reichl and my living vicariously through her via Garlic and Sapphires. I danced for a while with a Mark Bittman title. In the last few days alone, I yearned to be a restaurant critic for The New York Times, a cultural anthropologist, Amanda Hesser, and a journalist.

I'm still fairly determined to take cooking classes eventually, or, on the rare occasion I indulge my fantasies, attend culinary school by taking night and weekend classes and eventually go on exchange in Italy. You might think such fancies would interfere with my thoughts on chocolate, but readers, they did not. And then I made the mistake of getting into this, and, well, all bets were off. In my hands was a book about a very serious matter, and poof, out went all thoughts of a fluffy love poem devoted to deliciousness. Consider yourselves saved -- imagine an entire entry devoted to lines like, I go loco over cocoa. I can't.

I digress. I intended to write about chocolate, you see, but reading a somewhat historical account of marriage as institution over the last couple of days got me thinking again about the restorative properties of food, and how food and eating might serve as a sort of litmus test for our relationships, romantic and otherwise.

I admit fully that I really know nothing about food and cooking, that there is really so much to know, but I think that's okay. As Ruth Reichl points out in Garlic and Sapphires, ethnic food -- apart from your typical Americanized, greasy Chinese food -- didn't really gain any notoriety until the late 90's, so I don't feel so guilty that, apart from the odd Ethiopian stew or Indian lentil dish, I don't dabble so much in ethnic cuisine. It's okay that, relatively speaking, I've yet to dabble in much of anything. I like food, and I like eating. I like people, and I like their stories. I like it best when I'm let in on a cherished family recipe. That's really the essence of this site.

I don't have any of those to offer myself, I'm sorry to say, but here, sipping on hot tea and contemplating in great wonderment what it means to be human, I can't help but think what my own family has passed on to me: the belief that cooking is a very beautiful passion indeed; that making a meal for someone else constitutes an enormous act of love; and that through good, whole food, we can restore our health.

Yes, this entry has little to do with chocolate, but it does have something to do with adulthood, and with taking -- ohh, that wretched phrase that tempts adults to crawl back into the shell of childhood! -- taking responsibility. In Committed, Elizabeth Gilbert discusses how a couple who entered into a pragmatic marriage came to love one another, slowly and surely, over the years, and how in the end, when his wife no longer knew herself as her mind continued to deteriorate from Alzheimer's, the husband dressed her nicely and took her to church every Sunday because he knew she would've liked it and appreciated it had she been cognisant. He fed her, he bathed her, and he took care of her.

I remembered a moment when I worked at a restaurant a couple years ago. A husband was helping his wife to eat because she was disabled and could not do it herself. That's love, really -- the underbelly of infatuation, the act that can't be proven with promises but must instead be demonstrated over the years, chosen repeatedly over time. What a scary, amazing thought. Whether it's re-heating a pot of spicy chili over a hot burner on a cool January night, baking up an enchilada casserole for my family, or preparing roast sweet potatoes in a brown butter vinaigrette, that's my way of saying, I choose to love you again today.

In the name of love and assistance, I'm giving you my recipe for homemade Larabars. There's dozens of these floating around the Internet, but this is the one I've been using. When I first got sick and became someone with inconvenient dietary restrictions, I started buying Larabars. They're portable, they're healthy, they're delicious, they're filling -- I could go on all day about the amazing thing that is a Larabar. Fortunately, the recipe is easy and the bars keep for a good long while so long as they're refrigerated. It's the single person's way of saying to themselves, okay, I guess I'll love you again today, even if you leave the bowl of the food processor in the sink all night because you're super lazy and awfully forgetful.

PS. They contain chocolate.

Chocolate Ginger Date (Lara)bars

Adapted from Clothilde Dusoulier at Chocolate and Zucchini, and Samantha Menzies at Bikini Birthday

Yields about 9 bite-sized bars

Heaping 1/2 cup of pitted dates, roughly chopped (about 200g)
1/4 cup walnuts
10g dark chocolate (I used 2 squares of Lindt's 85% cocoa)
2 tbsp crystallized ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Scant 1/4 tsp sea salt

Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the ingredients are all very finely chopped and clump together. At this point, you can roll the mixture into balls, bars, or do as I did -- flatten the mixture using a spatula, and slice into bites.

*The title of this entry comes from "Love is Here to Stay", lyrics and music written by Ira Gershwin and George Gershwin, respectively.


"yes, you can feel happy / with one piece of your heart"

I'm not sure if this has come across yet on this blog, but I often feel I belong to a different generation – one where no one wore sweatpants outside the home, cell phones hadn't yet been invented, courting was prized, and jazz music reigned (oh Dizzy, I love your cheeks!) I realize this might make me a bit of an anomaly, if not a little square.

Another anomaly? Downtown Toronto on the weekends. During the week, the sidewalks are filled with pedestrians who may or may not know where they are going or headed to, and the streets are packed, bumper to bumper, with cars. It's a dangerous place for someone like myself. I've almost been hit three times in the last month by ambivalent, distracted drivers. I glare at them, I stomp my feet, I raise my voice and express my disapproval in an ├╝ber-polite manner ("I have the goddamn right of way, asshole!"), but still, it continues. My mother wasn't kidding when she told me to look both ways before crossing the road.

On the weekends, the hustle and bustle of the city relaxes.

The streets mellow out into a drug-induced haze, and I can walk freely without being bumped into. After accompanying a lovely friend to the subway station the morning after a rowdy party (or a girls' night of Sex and the City and wine, where everyone who's leaving has left by midnight), I went to the public library and walked around Yorkville, ooo-ing and aww-ing at the Anthroplogie store and all of its gorgeous, overpriced offerings. I picked up plain yogurt. And then I walked back to meet up with another friend whom I haven't seen since the winter holidays for an afternoon of egg sandwiches and conversation. It's been a nice weekend, one that reminded me that my life is round and full.

To demonstrate just how crazy I have become, I made soup. Yes, soup. It was 30°C all of last week (that’s around 86°F for you Americans) and felt about 10, 000°something with the humidity. So I made soup, naturally.

This insanity began innocently enough: it started with a Greek fava spread. Michael Psilakis, who bears a striking resemblance to celebrity chef Michael Symon, suggests spreading the mixture over pita bread and garnishing it with a sprig of dill. However, when I got to the notes and learned the spread also makes for a divine pea soup, I was sold. I love a good dip, but I love pea soup even more. Not even this spontaneous Toronto heat wave can stop me – take that, heat. My kitchen did not love the idea so much, but it came around.

I first came across Michael Psilakis months ago when his cookbook, How to Roast a Lamb, received some serious critical acclaim. He’s known for revolutionizing Greek cuisine in North America and it’s easy to see why. His recipes are shockingly easy to follow, even for the most amateur of home cooks. The ingredients are mostly common and relatively inexpensive, with the exception of the use of olive oil, olives, and cheese. For those who are interested, many of the recipes are vegetarian or vegan. How to Roast a Lamb? It may or may not be the most fantastic title, but the contents more than make up for it.

I finally got my hands on this book last month when I found it at my local library, and I’ve been salivating all over the pages ever since. It’s just that kind of cookbook.

Like most of us pea soup-lovin’ kind, I assume, I grew up with ham and pea soup, or sometimes pea soup with bacon. If you’re ever fortunate enough, I might divulge my ham and pea soup recipe, but in the meantime, you get this one – a garlicky, slick soup made from basic ingredients. Quite frankly, the way it comes alive on the tongue puts all other pea soups to shame. If you’re a very sane person and uninterested in eating soup at this time of year, try it as a spread or bookmark the recipe for the cooler months. You won’t be sorry.

Fava Spread/Soup

Adapted from Michael Psilakis

I realize this recipe really isn’t fooling around with the garlic; don’t be scared. Yes, you’ll be equipped to ward off vampires with your breath, but it’s worth it. Once garlic is cooked, the sharpness mellows quite a bit and sweetens up. However, as a warning, the garlic flavour intensifies the longer the mixture sits in the fridge, so if preparing it in advance, I’d recommend scaling back on the aromatics to account for this. You can always add more minced garlic just before serving.

Secondly, Psilakis originally calls for the use of shallots instead of onion. I had (a very strong) onion on hand, so that’s what I used. If you’re unfamiliar with shallots, they’re small, mild-flavoured onions, and in my experience are significantly easier on the tear ducts. If you’re interested in using shallots, replace the onion called for at the beginning of the ingredients list with 10 shallots.

2 tbsp oil (I used olive oil)
1 onion, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
1lb yellow split peas, rinsed
7 cups of water
4 dried bay leaves

Sea salt and cracked black pepper

7 cloves of garlic
¼ onion, or 2 shallots, chopped
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 pepperoncini (pickled yellow peppers) roughly chopped (I used pickled jalapenos)
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp dried dill

In a heavy-bottomed, large pot (such as Dutch oven), warm the oil over medium-high heat and add the onion and garlic. Cook until the aromatics have softened but haven’t yet browned, about 4-5 minutes. Add split peas and stir for a couple minutes. Rip the bay leaves slightly to release their flavours, and add them along with the water, 1 tbsp sea salt, and a few grindings of black pepper. Cover the mixture and bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer and let cook for about 50 minutes – 1 hour, until the peas are fully cooked but haven’t yet lost their structure. Drain well and let sit until the water has completely drained out, about 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaves.

Combine one third of the mixture with the garlic, onion (or shallots), lemon juice, and pepperoncini in a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth. Add the olive oil with the motor running as if you were making a salad dressing. Mix with the rest of the pea mixture and add the dried drill. Taste, and adjust your seasonings (dill, salt and pepper.) Michael calls for another tablespoon of salt to be added here, but my mixture was plenty salty. If making soup, thin the mixture using water, milk or cream to the desired consistency. Top with a dollop of plain, Greek-style yogurt or a sprinkling of smoked paprika if desired. If using as a spread, serve with pita bread, pita chips or even corn tortilla chips. It would also be tasty with raw vegetables. Use within the week or freeze.

Yields 1 quart.

*The title of this entry comes from "Miracle Ice Cream", a poem by confessional writer Adrienne Rich.


"as if it were a tart on a platter..."

When I was a kid, my Nan lived in the house her father built with a backyard brimming with Queen Anne's lace. She grew rhubarb, and at the back of her yard emerged a large crab apple tree, directly adjacent to the cornfields. My sister and I used to eat fresh rhubarb, ruby red or tart and underripe, and picked as many apples as we could carry. Most of them were filled with worms. It wouldn't have been like my Nan to have used pesticides.

We picked out the bugs, washed the fruit well and bit into those crab apples, subtly sour and crunchy. It was worth the work, I thought. Lessons imparted to me by my Nan, grandmother extraordinaire, maker of the best sausage rolls (or pigs-in-a-blanket, whichever title you prefer) in the world, a woman who made it her life's mission to head to all of the weekly local yard sales, who stored books on an unused pool table upstairs, collected antique dolls, who read history books and loved Alfred Hitchcock films. Yes, we ate rhubarb, and picked at our apples, and learned to love feral cats, good literature and old movies.

And landing employment? That's worth the work, too. I was officially hired on as a server with a recruitment company that deals exclusively in the hospitality/catering business. To add to that, I'm up for two full-time positions, one in the publishing industry and one in finance. Employment, you have never looked so lovely! If this all pans out, I will be the happiest of the happy people. There will be wine in this apartment again yet (and more furniture, artwork and pairing knives, but that is neither here nor there.)

I'd love to say the weekend was full of great food and fun, but dear readers, it was not. Well, fun it was, and I did pick up some local peaches at the market, sweetly fragrant and ripe, juicy and -- just perfect. I also came across the mango nectarine, which happens to be delicious. However, there was a terrible sushi incident. I usually think of sushi the way I do pizza or chocolate; even when it isn't great, it's still pretty good. But after lunch on Saturday, I can say for certain that I'm no longer firmly rooted in that camp. Best sushi restaurant in Toronto? I think we have a poseur in our midsts, ladies and gents.

Yesterday was of a different breed, though, and took me a bit by surprise. I walked with a spring in my step. I ate oatmeal with sliced peaches for breakfast, and leftover daal for lunch topped with a poached egg and sriracha, and for dinner I devoured a couple baked poblano peppers stuffed with mashed pinto beans -- chiles rellenos, I suppose, but modified enough from the original, I suspect, to warrant a debate about that. I interviewed at that recruitment company and had a nice chat with the HR woman. And, as soon as I walked in the door to my apartment and dropped my bag, I poured myself one of these -- a Moscow Mule.

It's such a retro drink. A definite oldie, but a goodie. Even that line is old. Oh well.

Moscow Mule

Serves 1

2 oz vodka
2 oz fresh lime juice
8 oz ginger beer or decent gingerale
Dash of bitters

Mix all of the ingredients in a highball glass with ice.

And I'll leave you with one of my favourite excerpts from one of my recent reads:

"What young people didn't know, she thought, lying down beside this man, his hand on her shoulder, her arm; oh, what young people did not know. They did not know the lumpy, aged, and wrinkled bodies were as needy as their own young, firm ones, that love was not to be tossed away carelessly, as if it were a tart on a platter with others that got passed around again. No, if love was available, one chose it, or didn't choose it. And if her platter had been full with the goodness of Henry and she had found it burdensome, had flicked it off crumbs at a time, it was because she had not known what one should know: that day after day was unconsciously squandered." -Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, p. 270


An ode to quinoa, getting older, and getting...well, hopefully wiser

I turn 25 in a month and 2.2 days. I feel sort of like Lelaina Pierce in Reality Bites when she laments how she was really going to be somebody by twenty-three, and bad boy Troy comforts her by insisting all she has to be by twenty-three is herself (and proceeds to confess his undying love for her, which is neither here nor there.) I have to admit that I feel that same sort of pressure more days than not, this notion of having to be something by X age. But what are you going to do? Blog about it, of course.

As of right now my priorities involve not screwing up the yellow split pea mixture I currently have simmering in a Dutch oven on my stove, not killing my basil plant, keeping my apartment clean, landing a job, and maintaining my friendships. Oh, and reading all of my library books before I have to re-new them yet again because I've spent too much time on here and here and not enough time on my Barney-coloured sofa, my legs perched on the back. Oh July -- you have made me embarassingly lazy.

On an even more positive note, I received a (very timely!) response from a very important HR person at one very important publisher regarding one very fancy-schmansy sounding contract position. Let's not get too excited, as it was a simple request to complete a PI survey -- no invite (yet) to come into the office and woo her with my undelible charm and precocious wit (lay off the snickering.) She did thank me for my interest in the company, though, and I have to say, it's always nice to hear that. Especially if you have, like me, been applying for various jobs at said publisher for months and months without hearing anything. Three cheers for small victories! (Or should it have read !!! ? Punctuation has got me confused today, readers.)

Other reasons to be silly happy this week include, but are not limited to, the following: my sister's weekend visit; the return of a good friend to the Greater Toronto Area, at long last; what will be a marvelously silky and garlicky fava spread and soup (recipe to come); talk of podcasts; the possibility of employment (and therefore the possibility of (!) wine (!) in this apartment again -- not to mention Burrata, locally made chorizo, more fennel and carrot salads, good chocolate, Ed's ice cream, etc.), planned walks down Queen West, browsing through contemporary art galleries for free, huevos rancheros, and, speaking of breakfast foods, more of this.

The lighting is particularly awful here -- 8:30am and a crappy camera, I apologize!

It's a simple breakfast. I'll give you that. It takes a while for quinoa to cook, but not overly long, and unlike a lot of things, this breakfast comes together relatively well BC (before coffee.) The sprig of thyme is optional, but I rather like the earthy and unexpected quality it lends this bowl of seeds.

Quinoa seems all the rage this year. The new superfood and all of that. I don't really care much for trends, but quinoa? She's the ugly duckling of the pack (no offense, q.) It's easy to be won over by something so unpretentious. It's good in salads. Some like to use it as a base for pilafs (meh) or as a vehicle for tomato sauce (more meh). I think it's really fabulous in its sweeter incarnations, particularly if you wake up wanting something hearty for breakfast.

Quinoa with Red Grapes and Thyme

1 cup water
1/4 cup quinoa
1/2 cup red grapes
1 sprig of thyme or lemon thyme (optional)
1 tsp liquid honey, or to taste
Handful of walnuts, roughly chopped
Cinnamon, to taste
1/4 cup (approximately) vanilla soy milk or milk of choice, or a dollop of plain or vanilla-flavoured Greek-style yogurt

On a baking sheet, deposit the grapes and cover with the sprig of thyme, if using. Pop into a 350F oven (or convection oven, as I do) and let the fruit cook until it sizzles slightly, about 18-20 minutes.

Add water and quinoa to a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a strong simmer and cook until quinoa is done, about 10 - 12 minutes (you'll know it's finished when the curly tails, or the germ, appear.) Drain excess water if there is any.

When the grapes are done, discard the thyme. Combine the grapes and quinoa in a bowl, toss with walnuts, sprinkle with as much cinnamon as desired, and drizzle with honey. Pour in the milk or stir in a dollop of yogurt. Devour immediately. Serves 1.


Sebastian Junger, sitting down to dinner, community:

I went to a reading by Sebastian Junger the other night, author of the recently released War. He's a fascinating man. You have to respect someone who, acknowledging that short stories do not a rich man make, decided to up and leave to become a freelance war reporter. You certainly can't accuse the man of taking the safe route when he's at 30, 000 feet, spending time with soldiers all over Afghanistan. I found what he had to say about the war so very interesting and provocative, and was immediately enlightened in ways I didn't imagine I'd be when I left my apartment that night.

On evenings like last night, when I'm feeling particularly down, great news or no, I go back and remember the meals I've enjoyed over the past year and the people I've shared them with. It flat-out makes me happy. Most of us will not experience what Sebastian Junger experienced; we will not know suffering like that, or pain like that, or loss like that. We will not know, first-hand, what goes on overseas. We will not know the oil spill like those who live off the gulf coast will know it, and we will not know the loss of aquatic life the way those whose careers depend on it will know it. For many of us, our biggest battles will be of a more intimate nature: death, heartbreak, concern over being able to make rent, disease and illness in the family, childbirth, finding a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Sometimes they feel mighty and overpowering.

But I think that there's something profoundly life-altering about food. We eat together after a funeral. We feast post-wedding. Inmates set to die get their last meal. We get together over a potluck, or a potato bar. We enjoy a movie accompanied by popcorn or Junior Mints. A pic-nic in the park with fresh lemonade to toast summer, or ice cream and popsicles in August to keep us cool. Before my grandfather died a few years ago, a cup of vanilla yogurt with berries from Tim Hortons was the only thing that appealed to him. That's what I remember about those last days -- my grandfather holding up a cup of yogurt, his feet covered in cold cloths, listening to an old cassette tape of Johnny Cash while my great-uncle mocked him for his music preferences.

I don't need to point out the many reasons we eat. But food ignites the senses. It re-invigorates us. It reminds us.

After all, someone had to plant the seeds. Someone harvested the fruit. Someone cleaned, drove, ordered, stocked. Food isn't just fuel; it re-affirms the relationships we have with each other, and of the reality that we are intrinsically bound to one another by our collective need to fill and nourish our bodies.

If a shitshow's going to hit -- which it surely will to all of us, sooner or later -- perhaps it's best we gather around the table and sit down to a square meal. Let's hang out on a patio and put back a couple pints. Let's laugh a long while about life and disappointment and misery and happiness, and let's toast to being able to keep on doing this, to keep on getting to know one another better, to find ourselves lucky enough that when the time comes, we will be welcomed into the innermost corners of each other's lives. Let's hope we know almost instinctively when to listen and when to speak, when to hold fast and when to let go, and how to comfort each other in a way that keeps for longer than a meal. It might happen that we lose our footing while going through a dark tunnel, and we're going to need that foundation if we ever expect to muster the courage and the confidence to put on that hard hat, yell "Where the hell did my flashlight go?", and keep on trudging.


In other words, three cheers for butter

I'm not sure if you've ever noticed, but people are notoriously protective of their tomato sauce.

I know I'm writing about something red again, but although tomatoes are round, the similarities stop there. I think I've written enough for this week about things that explode in your mouth.

On the topic of tomato sauce, to pull a Susan Holbrook, you either insist on homemade or you rely exclusively on store-bought. You buy Ragu on the regular, or you buy a case of Classico when it goes on sale for $1.99 a jar. You like mushrooms, or you don't; you believe in basil, or you hate dried basil and stick to oregano; you overload on the garlic or you are an onion kind of girl (not to be confused with a Cornflake Girl); you like your noodles slathered in Arrabiata or you prefer your tomatoes tamed; you are a glass jar only kind of eater or a metal can will do just fine kind of eater; imported San Marzano-style tomatoes or domestic, Unico tomatoes; crushed, diced, or whole; Italian-style or plain. Perhaps you grew up just as I did, eating spaghetti with ground beef and tomato sauce every Thursday night, and hating it, and perhaps, just like my family, yours has an ample supply of Hunt's Three Cheese stored in the basement cellar. I've since come around to spaghetti with ground beef and tomato sauce, but (and no offense to Hunt's) I'm a bit more particular.

On one illuminating night, my dad came home from work and pulled out a jar of tomatoes and a plastic container filled halfway with dried basil, and went about preparing dinner. My father has a fairly remarkable palate and enviable cooking skills, what with his roasting maple salmon on cedar blanks, tossing fresh pasta with sundried tomato pesto, offering up plump and juicy rotisserie chicken, grilling zucchini and bell peppers and thinly sliced red potatoes until they've turned crisp. He got his tomato sauce recipe from an Italian friend of his who insisted he try homemade sauce; and it was, in fact, delicious. Bright-tasting, ruby red, perfectly sweet with a hint of basil. While we eventually returned to canned sauce for one reason or another, I remember that sauce. I knew what the good stuff tasted like, and once introduced, well -- there's no going back.

I've always found storebought sauce to be deeply unsatisfying. Most are too sweet, or overly complicated. I like a simple sauce -- tomatoes, butter, red wine, onion, oregano. Sometimes I add sauteed mushrooms or ground meat for substance, but often I'm perfectly content to slurp up those lightly coated noodles with a generous grating of fresh parmesan. Accompanied by a big glass of red wine and a side salad of mixed greens tossed liberally with a red wine vinaigrette, few things are as comforting. I've come a long way from my spaghetti-despising childhood.

I've made (and eaten) my fair share of sauces over the years, but this recipe always comes out on top. Credit goes to Marcella Hazan, somewhat of an Italian food goddess, whose recipe has both appeared and been written about -- obsessed about -- all over the web; you might've even come across it before yourself. In fact, if you haven't, I'm sorry to say that you've been living in a foodie cave.

First things first: don't fear homemade sauce. This recipe, like many other classic tomato sauce recipes, is very simple, straightforward and inexpensive. Secondly, butter makes for an amazingly rich and voluptuous sauce. I know everyone is all about the olive oil these days, which is beautiful and wonderful in its own right, but seeing as butter has special healing properties, I beg you to give it a chance. After all, my Nan used to go through a pound of butter a week and, now in her eighties, is still alive to tell the tale.

If you need another reason to come around to butter, it's this: it makes everything better.

Tomato Sauce
Adapted from Marcella Hazan

1 tbsp oil (olive, canola, grapeseed -- whatever you have on hand)
1 medium onion, about 1/2 cup, diced*
1 28oz can of tomatoes + juice, preferably San Marzano-style
1/4 cup robust red wine (I used a Cabernet Sauvignon)
1 tsp dried oregano
5 tbsp unsalted butter
Sea salt, to taste

Heat the oil in a large skillet or saucepan over medium-high. Toss in the onion, if using diced, and saute until transluscent, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, red wine, oregano, and butter, and bring to a strong simmer. Continue simmering for 40-45 minutes. Remove from heat, taste and salt accordingly (or until just before it tastes salty.) Fabulous served over pasta, of course, but also fantastic with polenta, eggs, chicken or eggplant parmesan, on grilled chicken, or as a pizza sauce. Use within five days or freeze for future use. Yields 4 servings.

Tip: It doesn't terribly matter whether you use diced, crushed or whole tomatoes. Because I tend to keep whole tomatoes on hand, I whiz the contents through my food processor prior to adding.

*Hazan's recipe asks that you merely cut the onion in half, allow it to simmer in the sauce, and discard it afterward. This is a lovely option for those of you who are not fond of onions in your tomato sauce, or of onions period. I like onions very much so I choose to dice and include them.


On Montmorency cherries and rekindled loves

I do love Saturday. I bounced!!! trudged out of bed at 7am!!! 10am and indulged myself in two hours of Canadian news (I am so very uninterested in and unimpressed by the Calgary Stampede), two cups of rich and delicious coffee, a warm breakfast on a hot day, and design blogs. PS. Spike Mendelsohn, you really get around.

I'm sure you're at the edge of your seats wondering what I ate for breakfast, as you should be, for it was a bowl composed of feshly cooked quinoa, a sliced melt-in-your-mouth local peach, a kick of cinnamon, chopped walnuts, a drizzle of honey, and soy milk. Hello, heaven. I'm generally an eggs kind of girl, but I'll admit, even I swooned a little.

My swooning tends to border on the obscene at times.

I walked my way down to the St. Lawrence Market, through St. James Park as I'm known to do,
and exchanged hellos with the man who stands by the front door of the market each week, welcoming incomers.

There was rhubarb and giant strawberries and golden raspberries, hot peppers and artichokes and fresh herbs, massive heads of lettuce and sweet smelling melons and wild blueberries. There's a chocolatier who makes truffles and single servings of chocolate mousse, and a baker who sells salted caramel macarons, oui oui. Sometimes I wonder why I put myself through the sadness that is staring at a giant cart of cheese and having to leave it all behind. If I had scads of money I would've brought home that Burrata, a miraculous, oozy mozzarella di bufala stuffed with cream (!), tossed it with coarse salt and promptly slathered it on some of the crusty bread I have sitting in my freezer from my favourite Windsor bakery. Please, if you're ever fortunate enough to come across the amazing dairy product that is Burrata, snatch it up and keep it a secret from everyone else.

I, unfortunately, did not come home with Burrata. I returned to my little abode with three poblano peppers, a large head of Romaine, two red hot chili peppers, good-quality feta, a dozen eggs, an English cucumber, and a pound of Montmorency cherries.

It seems Montmorency cherries, more commonly known as sour cherries, are little gems in Toronto; they are ridiculously difficult to track down. A couple summers ago while I was still living in Windsor, sour cherries were plentiful -- in fact, I remember hitting the Ottawa St. market, picking up a 3L basket of them and throwing them impulsively in my mouth until my stomach grumbled and my tongue went numb. I digress. Job or no job, I will have my Montmorency cherries! (But the Burrata will have to wait.)

Tonight, I am making tomato sauce and going on a date with my boyfriend.

Yes. He is very rugged and handsome, dashing and witty, hopelessly obstinate and quite the romantic. He's also still in high school, and I graciously share him with many other women; the measures a girl's willing to take in the name of love. Oh, Pacey Whitter, you are so sexy!

My friend Andrea and I are beginning a new tradition, one where I take the subway to her house in the suburbs on Saturdays and we watch hours of Dawson's Creek. I've been waiting in suspense all week to see if Joey Potter will come around, and I think tonight, she just might.

I enjoy that I can re-live my youth vicariously through my former favourite television show. It's not that I have any desire to return to my days as an awkward and insecure sixteen-year-old, oh non, non, non, but I do miss the innocent puppy love that accompanies inexperience (have I just dated myself? I believe I have.)

I remember anxiously awaiting my first kiss, an event that wouldn't occur until months after 9/11, in the springtime, just before the war broke out. I was standing in front of the door to my room at a hotel in Avignon, France, and he tasted like green apple Mentos. Ohh, the excitement! The anxiety! I may have swapped green apple kisses for quinoa and cherries, Avignon for Toronto, but my palate, she's as sharp as ever.


Madness and mischief

Friday, you disappoint me.

Last night my uncle took me to Siddhartha in Little India, which is fairly decent and cheap. We left, filled to the brim with rice, eggplant and potato, chickpeas and butter chicken, and went down to the boat to sit and relax, to talk and philosophize. Usually we drink rye or white wine, but last night it was all water, the air heavy and suffocating, even after dark.

The rain came, but Toronto is still melting, and I seem to be stockpiling rejections the way some people make strawberry preserves, or can the tomatoes that threaten to overtake their yard. This province has had a tough few weeks: police cars set ablaze during the G20 madness, shattered storefront windows, an earthquake, tornadoes, wind bursts, factory fires, a transformer fire at Kipling, the crumbling of a Windsor parking garage. Ontario, you are a danger zone, and my insides have felt equally hellish since last night's feast. Because of this mischievious poisoning of sorts, I've resorted to eating plain foods today.

Despite feeling under the weather -- literally and figuratively -- I ate well. Give me an egg with a rich, runny yolk, coarse salt and butter. Finish the meal with a Saucer peach, and a happier person you've never seen.

On another note, I'm thinking of applying to work on a cruise ship in the fall as my Plan B.


"The times, they are a-changin'"

So: here we are. The first post. Oh, the pressure! I should mention that the title of this entry is thanks to Bob Dylan, one of the great loves of my life. Everyone needs a great love or two, especially if they can produce something as great as "Like A Rolling Stone", a song Bruce Springsteen -- another great love of mine -- once said "[sounds] like somebody'd kicked open the door to your mind." It is pretty spectacular, but enough about kicking doors and great loves.

I'm Sarah, and this is a food blog; I hope that hasn't put you off your dinner. I understand how ubiquitous food blogs are these days. I also happen to think it's kind of rad. If this were 1998, this would be Aubergine: Version 2.0, but since it is not, we'll simply say this blog has been revamped to reflect my life in Toronto in lieu of the time I spent down South. I write this blog to document my experiences with food and with others, to share the stories encompassed in those experiences, and to record recipes I'm especially partial to.

I grew up in southwestern Ontario, spent several months in Tallahassee, FL., and now live in downtown Toronto. I have a Bachelor's degree in English Literature, a minor in history, a Master's degree in creative writing, and a post-graduate diploma in Book Publishing. It all sounds so very pretentious, rah rah.

For a long time I thought I would teach English, and later, after the notion went out with the bath water, I envisioned myself pursuing a PhD in an aloof, distant sort of way; the reality didn't hold up. Until last summer, I believed I would work in publishing, that I would edit for an educational or trade publisher and write on the side. I'm not sure if any of those are right. Until I figure it out I will try my damndest to land a job doing anything (well, almost) by being a cover letter-writing maven of sorts, listening to Bob Dylan, optimistically checking my inbox and voicemail, reading fantastic books (and how!), subsisting on a diet of daytime television and lukewarm coffee, and writing this blog. Plans for the upcoming year include finding work (!), getting out as often as possible, reading more fantastic books, writing as much as possible, and eating as many red currants as I can get my fingers on.

Yes, red currants.

I love red currants, I love July, I love Toronto.
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