The Kitchen Shelf


Tomato-Walnut and Cilantro Bruschetta

Based loosely on muhammara, a classic Turkish relish, this spread is spectacular on simple grilled bread as a lunch or an appetizer. It works equally well as a sauce for grilled or roasted fish. In corn season, add a handful of grilled or roasted corn kernels; in pepper season, add diced roasted peppers. Serves 4. From Foodshed: An Edible Alberta Alphabet (TouchWood, 2012.)

Summer Cobbler with Buttermilk Crust

After making this favourite almost daily in my restaurant, Foodsmith, I now take this freezer-friendly cobbler to potlucks, year in and year out. In the summer, I use fruit fresh from the market. In the winter, I use frozen fruits and berries, or apples and pears enlivened with simmered dried fruit.

Spatchcocked (Grilled/Roasted Butterflied) Chicken

From The Food Lab by J. Kenji López-Alt. Butterflying equalizes the cooking time needed for breast meat and legs.

Sourdough Chocolate Cake

When I couldn’t visit friends willing to adopt my sourdough starter extras and couldn’t stand the idea of tossing out the discard when I made bread, I went hunting for ways to use up my excess starter. This is adapted from a recipe I found on the King Arthur Flour website. Yes, it has two toppings. Make both.

Sourdough Bread

Three ingredients. Magic. This is days in the making, but worth the wait. For best flavour, use locally raised flours. (I use Red Fife flour for no more than one-fourth of my total flour.) I use a scale (in metric) when I make bread for the best results. Adapted from Chad Robertson’s Tartine.

Sheet Pan Supper

This supper has endless variations, and is ideal for all of us who adore vegetables. I use it to cook up a variety of vegetable dishes simultaneously, with or without a protein roasting on top.

Roasted Winter Vegetables

If you are feeding your dog and counting calories on Fido’s behalf, you may wish to roast a separate pan of vegetables without oil or onions/garlic for your mutt. Regardless of who will eat this, cut everything into similar sizes to ensure even cooking.

Roasted Tomato Sauce

This “oven-queen’s special” minimizes splatter and mess while producing a sauce bursting with fresh tomato flavour. One “quarter sheet” baking pan (about 13” x 18”) makes 6-8 cups of sauce. For Tomato and Lovage Soup, sauté minced lovage and add to the sauce, thinning with stock as needed. Vary endlessly.

Dorothy Caldwell’s Roasted Salmon

This beautifully balanced dish relies on the extra fat from the mayo and the sweet-tart vinegar to enhance wild sockeye salmon’s richness. If you don’t have umeboshi plum vinegar, substitute Japanese-style rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar mixed with a bit of melted honey. Thanks to my friend Dorothy for sharing.

Rhubarb-Raspberry Pie

Rhubarb is nicknamed “pie plant.” The first fruit to emerge from the spring garden, it is the ideal tonic for palates jaded by winter, and it’s incredibly prolific. Turn some of last year’s rhubarb from the freezer into a syrup to serve in sparkling water as a refreshing shrub, and use the last frozen packages – or the new season’s, if you can wait that long – to make this pie. It’s even better than my Gram Smith’s.

Chicken Tagine with Olives and Preserved Lemons

Chicken Tagine with Olives and Preserved Lemons

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.

Pasta Puttanesca

Pasta Puttanesca

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.

Palak Paneer

Palak Paneer

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.

Susan Mendelson’s Nanaimo Bars

Susan Mendelson’s Nanaimo Bars

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!

Lentil Soup

Lentil Soup

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

Winter Vegetables

Our golden retriever, Jake, is lying at my feet, waiting while I write. He won’t let the clock slip past eight AM in midwinter without getting up and nudging me. Sure enough, on the stroke of eight he’s beside me, his beautiful head in my lap, insisting we get moving. Time to get outside, throw a ball and run around.

Celebrate! Add Carrot Pickle to Your Festive Table or Gift Boxes

All month I’ve been pestering Mom for stories. You’d think I was five again. But no. Truth is, we’ve been in closer proximity than usual. She’s recovering from glaucoma surgery, which has eliminated lifting, bending over, or carrying anything heavier than a supper plate. So I am at her house, lifting, bending over, and carrying.

Fishers and Farmers

Early fall, and I am on a West Coast holiday with Mom, revisiting the foods, places, and faces of her youth. Mom is a retired dryland farmer, and like me, she misses the ready access to fish and seafood that we enjoyed during our earlier coastal life while Dad was in the Canadian Air Force. So on this west coast vacation, we eat west coast fish every day – wild sockeye salmon, halibut, tuna, spot prawns, ling cod, rockfish, sablefish.


Dave is mourning the passing of the lake that almost surrounded our house for seven years. It covered fifteen acres at its peak, in fact a large slough, but ‘lake’ dignified what was a difficult situation. And now he mourns its loss.

The Alchemy of Sourdough Bread

Gluten and wheat intolerance has been on my family’s radar for decades. My sister Lee gave up eating all wheat-based foods in her early twenties after a childhood and teenager-hood filled with bellyaches and gastrointestinal distress. Fifteen years ago, my own body started to experience similar negative reactions to bread.

Cheese and Virtual Rescue Missions

Life in a pandemic takes its toll in many ways. One of the noticeable changes is how we spend our leisure time. No trips this year – not that I was actively planning, and not that I go often, but I’d love to see Europe again. I want to see Asia, too, and Australia, Africa, South America, more of North America. But not under these conditions. Not now.

Making the Best of a Tough Tomato Harvest

War contributes to the transportation and appropriation of goods around the globe. For instance, tomatoes were among the plants and animals that ended up in Europe in the unequal exchange of goods, disease, slavery, land theft, and genocide between New World and Old, beginning in 1492 and culminating in1650, called the Columbian Exchange. This event led to the emergence of some remarkable Mediterranean dishes, many centering on the tomato, and making them among the world’s most popular fruit for home gardeners like me. My tomato-growing is bittersweet, knowing the history of the plants.

South Asian Favourites, Part I: Pakoras

When I told her I thought I was a changeling, my mom laughed out loud. “With those eyes? Those cheeks? That chin? You are the spitting image of your aunt Lila.”

Canadiana Classics, Part I: Nanaimo Bars: A Fat Slice of History

I lived in Vancouver in my twenties. Yaletown didn’t exist yet, other than as hulking rows of empty warehouses to be bicycled past quickly. Granville Island was an industrial wasteland, the Fairview Slopes didn’t, and False Creek was still a reclamation project. Elsewhere in town, the Ridge Theatre became known as the city’s repertory theatre, home to second run and art-house films. It showed midnight screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, classics like Casablanca, and weeks-long series by Kurosawa and Hitchcock.

Lentils from the Ashes of War

In 1923, Jirys Ya’qūb Sallūm kissed his wife and young sons goodbye in the town of Qar’awn, located in the Biqa’ Valley, in the French protectorate of Lebanon and Syria. Speaking only Arabic, he traveled to Canada to work for a relative who had a farm in southwestern Saskatchewan. He wanted a safer home for his family than the Middle East, turbulent in the wake of the First World War. His region had been occupied by the Turks of the Ottoman Empire, then by the French, and it seemed to him that Canada was a long way from this strife.

Running on Beans

Running on Beans

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.

Good Neighbours

Good Neighbours

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.

Giving Up the Garden

Giving Up the Garden

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.

Family Traditions

Family Traditions

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.

Reasons for Cooking

Reasons for Cooking

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

Taste Canada Book Awards Finalist
Taste Canada Book Awards Finalist



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