What makes life so interesting, so exciting, is the possibility of it all. That one afternoon I might be supervising the muddy back corner of an outdoor trampoline at a 4th birthday party and eating chocolate cake with a neighbour/friend who happens to also be an internationally known voice on the subject of environmentalism and global warming (and yes, a room full of equally interesting partygoers and their toddlers), and a few hours later be sitting down to dinner with a bunch of ex-fighter pilots (including the youngest mass attack lead in NATO), all of whom spun tales that involved going vertical in CF-18s or pulling up alongside an F4 Phantom in a clean 104 (Mike might have gone ahead and peed his pants right there at the table). And climbing to the base camp at Everest. And cycling across Canada. All this over soup, Caesar salad, beef tenderloin, cake, and wine.
Life is just so much fun, isn’t it?
The party game over dessert (another Third-Month-of-the-Year Cake, this time with vanilla bean custard ice cream) was essentially a collective search for the “Best Story Ever” of one particular life, which of course made me contemplate on the snowy drive home which stories people might be telling about me years from now. All of my best stories seem to involve me being an idiot and/or having chocolate splattered all over myself. Which is neither Top Gun cool nor Mount Everest impressive.
I’d better get on that.
But I love that food is the catalyst that brings everyone to the table to share these stories. Well, food and people and birthdays. But who ever went to a birthday party that didn’t involve food? And who ever met a person who doesn’t eat?
That was Saturday; it started to snow at close to midnight, and as anyone in the Calgary area can attest, it didn’t completely stop until Sunday night. So today was more a day of freshly baked no-knead bread with butter and jam and spiced nuts left over from last night, than of prosciutto-wrapped asparagus on the barbie. I made a batch of spiced nuts that my friend S used to make every Christmas for guests to nibble with marinated olives and feta while I wrapped prawns (in prosciutto) and prepped the vegetables. The last of them were gobbled down this afternoon, with enough saved to sprinkle over a salad tomorrow.
1 Tbsp. canola or olive oil or butter
1 garlic clove, finely crushed (or 1/4 tsp. garlic powder)
2 tsp. coarse sea salt or kosher salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups unsalted mixed nuts, such as pecans, walnuts, cashews and almonds
Preheat oven to 325°F.
In a medium saucepan, combine the oil, garlic, salt, cumin, chili powder, ginger, cinnamon and cayenne pepper over medium-low heat. Cook for a couple minutes, just until the spices become fragrant. Add the nuts and stir until well coated.
Spread the nuts out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally, until fragrant and golden. Cool on the pan. Makes about 2 cups.
Per 1/3 cup: 275 calories, 26.7 g total fat (2.3 g saturated fat, 14.7 g monounsaturated fat, 8.4 g polyunsaturated fat), 6.5 g protein, 7 g carbohydrate, 0 mg cholesterol, 3.1 g fiber. 82% calories from fat
At 6:20 I had hunkered down to finish a few (OK, 4) articles that are due tomorrow when my niece called to say that she and her brother and mom were on their way over. Their kitchen is currently gutted and they needed to be fed. So in approximately 15 minutes I managed to summon up a pot of Pasta e Fagioli, made with a single slender pepperoni stick from the fridge chopped right in, then popped some biscuits in the oven, made with about a quarter cup of Parmesan cheese mixed into the dry ingredients. (I realize the above photo is a little cheese-heavy; that was Mike’s.) It was food therapy – there’s nothing like having no kitchen to make you feel completely disconnected (OK, I’m sure there are some out there who would disagree), and nothing like sitting, slightly crammed, in a kitchen nook with a warm bowl of pasta and biscuits straight from the oven, with small boys arguing over who gets to blow out the candles, to remind you that all is right with the world.
So, two happy and memorable meals this weekend. One a result of months of planning and hours of preparation, the other requiring only twenty minutes or so; both bringing us all around the table to talk and tell stories.
Happy Birthday Johnny Mac! May you yet create many more stories to tell.
One Year Ago: Yeast-Raised Waffles and Cinnamon-Phyllo Nests with Chocolate Eggs (very cute, you should check it out)
March 22 2009 09:26 pm | leftovers