The Kitchen Shelf
Preserved lemons are a classic Mediterranean condiment. They are wondrous added to prawns, grilled fish, stews or tagines, roasted potatoes, bowls of lentils or chickpeas, grain salad, vinaigrette.
A traditional porchetta means the whole porker, roasted on a spit, seasoned with chopped garlic, olives, fennel, and rosemary. The same lush result on a smaller scale is possible in the oven with a shoulder roast. Start with a large cut: it will be a hit, and leftovers are fabulous. Adapted from Judy Rodgers’ The Zuni Café Cookbook.
This sauce has a risqué story attached – it might have been made by prostitutes for themselves or their clients, or perhaps by a philandering wife eager to keep her husband in the dark about how and where she spent her afternoons. Regardless, it is a quick, umami-laden and utterly yummy pasta topper. It also makes a terrific braising medium for chicken or sturdy-textured fish.
My friend Jyubeen’s version can be made with palak (spinach), mustard greens, amaranth, chard, or other greens. The creamy paneer is spooned into the spinach mixture at the last minute, where it melts into the sauce. Serve with basmati rice.
made these as a birthday gift for my nephew. Susan will forgive me for doubling the cocoa, deepening the custard centre, and sprinkling Maldon salt on top!
Cook the lentils and mushrooms in unsalted water in separate pots until tender. Reserve with their cooking water. Heat the oil and sauté onion, bacon, garlic, and pepper until bacon is nearly crisp. Add seasoning to taste, along with the lentils and mushrooms and their cooking water, stock, and chicken. Bring to a boil, then add remaining ingredients.
dee’s Writing Life
I am a runner. When the weather allows, I run with my friend, Amy Jo Ehman, along the riversides and bridges of Saskatoon when I’m not scudding through the sand and gravel of our rural roads. Last fall, I ran my first ten-k trail race as a family event, with my youngest son and his partner, and in May, I’ll run in the Vancouver Marathon’s 20-k race.
Our neighbours are one of the reasons Dave and I are able to live in the country. Admittedly, as writers, we have the wrong skill sets for rural life. Dave can edit a short story like nobody’s business, and he’s a fabulous writer, but he’s not so good at manual labour or at troubleshooting failed machinery. And me? Well, I am good with animals, a screwdriver, a hammer, an axe, but give me a crashed septic tank or a misbehaving water pump or stalled snow blower, and I revert to Plan B: call the specialists.
This spring, I stood in Mom’s back yard with a wheelbarrow and a shovel, digging out all the soil in her raised beds. “Take it all,” she urged when I slowed down. “I’m done with it.”
“Not even a potful of lettuces?” I asked, thinking of the preceding summer, when she’d grown more lettuces than she and Dad could eat, and wound up giving much of the produce away to me and my salad-loving crew.
“Not even,” she replied.
Gardeners, cooks, and farmers all know, respect, and sometimes love the cycles that circulate throughout our lives. Those cycles – the annual return of summer, for instance – mean that each year we experience a whole boatload of firsts all over again, and if we’re hip to the general wonderfulness of life, we’re open to celebrating all over again with each first. Celebrating matters more as we age – I think it’s the law of diminishing returns that shows us so clearly that as our years diminish, we are moved to make the most of every celebration-worthy event, which naturally includes the season’s firsts. To that end, in our cellar, Dave and I have a bottomless supply of bubbles to mark firsts and other momentous occasions.
One of the great truisms about food is that by cooking the foods of our forebears, we maintain or re-establish a link with our heritage.
My mother’s antecedents were off-Colony Hutterites who arrived in Saskatchewan at the turn of the previous century from a colony in South Dakota. Earlier, my great-greats and their babes had made their way on foot from Ukraine and Russia to board one of six ships that transported over 1200 Hutterites in steerage to the New World in the 1870s.
On a Friday over lunch after our weekly trip to the farmer’s market, I asked Mom what her favourite desserts were. Her 82nd birthday was rolling around soon. I’d already decided on the main course – cioppino, Mom’s favourite fish dish.
“Bread & Water is an emotionally arresting, beautifully written series of essays.”
~ Jurors’ Citation, Saskatchewan Book Awards, University of Saskatchewan President’s Office Nonfiction Award
“Food is a wonderful agent for storytelling... and Bread & Water demonstrates this brilliantly.”
~ Sarah Ramsey, starred review, Quill & Quire
“[Bread & Water is] An amazing feast... riveting... eloquent.”
~ Patricia D. Robertson, Winnipeg Free Press
“[Bread & Water is a] sensuous experience; she brings her poet’s eye and ear to everything within her purview.”
~ Professor emerita Kathleen Wall, Blue Duets
“A deep love of the art of cooking that includes the language of fine dining (cassoulet, confit) even if the lamb was raised in Olds and she picked the rhubarb herself... she impressively manages this collision of worlds with a wholesome, approachable style.”
~ Megan Clark, Alberta Views
“These finely focussed poems [in Wildness Rushing In] invite us into a sensuous and emotionally rich landscape.”
~ Don McKay, winner of the Griffin Poetry Prize
“The writing [in Wildness Rushing In] is honed and textured, the senses so alive that you can practically taste the language. There are moments of brilliance rare in a first book.”
~ Jurors’ Citation, Saskatchewan Book Awards
“dee Hobsbawn-Smith’s stories [in What Can’t Be Undone] are written with a poetic edge. Her descriptions, particularly western landscapes, are often luxurious, lending themselves a kind of nuanced impression, a delicate fingerprint on the reader’s mind. "
~ Lee Kvern, Alberta Views
“[Foodshed is] A rich encyclopedia of facts, farm-gate lore and original recipes... a politically engaging narrative in which Hobsbawn-Smith articulates the challenges and joys faced by small-scale producers... don’ t let the alphabet theme fool you. This is no tame nursery rhyme; it is a locavore call to arms.”
~ P.D. Robertson, The Globe & Mail