Rye & Ginger Peach Crisp

Rye & Ginger Peach Crisp

I stopped by Companion Books last week, a lovely used bookstore in Burnaby Heights. As much as I love new bookstores, I’m glad that there are still a number of well-curated used bookstores around. They carry titles that have disappeared from the shelves at new bookstores and even libraries, because they’re out of print or out of fashion. There’s a little triumph in finding a title that I’ve been desultorily seeking for years. I know I can find most things online, but the tactile pleasure of browsing through books is something I’d rather not give up. It’s also a great way to find new favourites that you might have overlooked if you’d only been looking online. The landscape of online reviews can be disappointingly homogenous, unless you already know what you’re looking for.

The Silver Palate Cookbook

I picked up a well-loved copy of The Silver Palate Cookbook, one that I was a little too young to be aware of when it came out. It’s like a handbook of ’80s food, both the celebrated and (often unfairly) maligned. I was surprised at how many now-familiar dishes it contains – ones that seemed exciting and new to my family in the restaurants we visited when I was young. It also serves as a cheat sheet for the entertaining that my parents and their friends did through my teen years. The Forty Cloves of Garlic Chicken that I learned from the Urban Peasant was in this book first, along with all the tarragon, raspberry, quiche, and mousse recipes that first became ’80s cliché and now have been reclaimed.

What surprised me even more was how in tune it is with how I cook today, French-inflected, grounded in the mostly English traditions that pass for “Canadian” or “American” cooking, incorporating elements from across the globe. What’s changed today, of course, is that the European elements of cooking and eating in Canada and the States aren’t dampening the presence of all the other cuisines that are present here (including indigenous ones).

Its influence could also be seen in the magazines that came to our house, like Chatelaine and Canadian Living. I learned a lot about cooking from them, probably even more than I did from the cookbooks on my mother’s shelf. Cookbooks have a much larger presence in my cooking life today, as anyone who has read my blog probably knows. But, there are still terrific magazines like Saveur, Bon Appetit, and Ricardo that distill the influences of today’s cooking landscape for home cooks. Along with a host of blogs and cooking websites that can teach you anything you can think of.

It seems as though we’re more in tune with the influences that are rippling through the cultural landscape these days, mostly because there’s a legion of commentators and aficionados ready to break down the latest trends as soon as they become apparent.

All of which leaves me curious: What were your favourite cookbooks or magazines when you were young? Are there classics like The Silver Palate Cookbook that influenced you, though you discovered them much later? Where do you look for inspiration and edification today? Also, do you do all your book shopping online or are you a brick and mortar fan?

I’ll leave you with a recipe that’s very much in the spirit of how I cook today, but harks back to flavours popular in my early childhood (not with me, though – don’t worry!).

Rye & Ginger Peach Crisp

Rye & Ginger Peach Crisp

There are so many wonderful ways to eat peaches and I’m happy to try them all – grilled, in a pie or tart, in cakes, in chutneys and salsas, or just eaten out of hand. But, my favourite is peach crisp. If I don’t make at least one peach crisp each summer, I feel like I’ve missed the whole season.

Ginger and peaches are a classic combination, one I’ve posted about before. Canadian whiskey, generally called rye, is also another good companion for peaches. Together, they’re an improvement upon a ’70s standard drink that I can remember my grandparent, great-aunts and great-uncles drinking at barbecues when I was very small. Personally, I’d take this crisp over one of those any day, though if you’ve got a lot of liquid in the bowl after macerating the peaches, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to strain some of the juice into a glass, topping it up with soda and a little more rye. Now, that’s a cook’s treat to keep to yourself.

1 8X5X2 baking dish

6 – 8 ripe, juicy peaches
1 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
1/8 cup Canadian rye whisky
1/8 to 1/4 cup brown sugar (depending on how sweet your peaches happen to be)

Topping

1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup softened unsalted butter, cubed

Preheat your oven to 375°F.

Peel and chop the peaches into bite-sized chunks. Stir in the fresh ginger, rye, and brown sugar and leave the peaches to marinate for ten minutes or so.

To make the topping: Whisk together the brown sugar, rolled oats, flour, spices, and salt. Using your fingers, work the butter into the dry ingredients until you have a crumbly texture.

Put the peaches into the baking dish, then cover them with the oat topping.

Bake for 25 – 35 minutes.

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Lemon Madeleines and Delicious Reads

Lemon Madeleines from Baking Chez Moi

Baking Chez Moi – Lemon Madeleines, a TwD Rewind

I’ve made madeleines before, though you might not know it. I’ve managed to resist buying a madeleine pan, using mini-muffin pans or a vintage tea cake pan that belonged to my grandmother, instead. But yesterday, I got one as a present and I’m very pleased. As much as I talk about avoiding single-purpose cookware, a madeleine pan has always been on my wish list.

And so, I decided to bake the lemon madeleines from Baking Chez Moi for today’s Tuesdays with Dorie Rewind post. They originally popped up in the rotation in March of last year and they were a great choice for christening my new baking pan.

These are lovely, light cakes with a subtle lemon flavour. I chose not to glaze them, but I can imagine they would be even prettier, with an extra lemony-ness that would make these perfect for afternoon tea.

Lemon Madeleines

I would have been pleased with slightly more pronounced bumps, which means I’ll just have to keep using my madeleine pan regularly, until I perfect my technique.

Holiday Cookbook Reviews

I might have to put the madeleine project on hold for a few more weeks, as I’m right in the middle of this year’s holiday cookbook review series, which I’ve been doing since 2013. It’s one of the highlights of my blogging year. This year’s crop of books has been a lot of fun to work through. I thought I’d list all my posts in this year’s series here, updating as they’re published. (Canadians can enter to win each of the books posted until December 22nd, so check the posts for the links.)

Scratch by Maria Rodale

How to Bake Everything by Mark Bittman

Dorie’s Cookies by Dorie Greenspan

Better Baking by Genevieve Ko

Marbled, Swirled, and Layered by Irvin Lin

River Cottage: Love Your Leftovers by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Dispatches from the Chesterfield

Strawberries in the balcony box

Hanging out on the couch has put a damper on my recreational activities. Gardening has been limited to watching the strawberries on my balcony grow, cultural outings are virtual ones, and my culinary endeavours are just a little pinch-hitting with chopping aromatics. 

At least I can catch up on my reading.

Most of my immediate stack is non-fiction:

No Such Thing as a Free Gift
Storm Warning: Water and Climate Security in a Changing World
Where I’m Reading From: The Changing World of Books

I’ve also got a pile of cookbooks to read through:

The Violet Bakery Cookbook
Honey & Co.
True North: Canadian Cooking from Coast to Coast
Food52 Baking
Mamushka

I’ll be back in action soon, but until then, do you have any reading recommendations?

Cookbooks galore!

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Things are getting festive around here – I just attended the first cookie swap of the season and on Commercial Drive, my local high street, there was a tree-lighting ceremony and festivities.

We’ve also reached the mid-point of my holiday cookbook review series – there are seven books this time around, so close enough. There are giveaways for five of the books, so I thought I’d post links to those posts here, so you can make sure you’ve entered.

Two of the giveaways are open to readers from Canada and the States, while three are (sorry U.S. friends) just for Canadian readers.

For Readers in Canada and the United States:

True to Your Roots will make you want root vegetables at every meal. The recipes are healthy, vegan, delicious.

Decolonize Your Diet is full of wonderful vegetarian recipes for healthful, modern Mexican-American food.

For Readers in Canada:

Pierogi Love takes this delicious dumpling in directions you’ve never imagined. It also offers the very dangerous knowledge that pierogies are really easy to make, once you know how.

DIY Vegan will have you filling your pantry and everyone else’s with their delicious staples, sauces, and treats.

Made In India is making Best of 2015 lists for good reason – it’s full of delicious recipes, great advice, and beautiful writing.

After that, I have two more cookbook reviews. Any of them would make great Christmas gifts – it’s been fun to read and cook through them!

Before the end of the year, I’ll also be talking to you about the Vancouver Tea Festival, reviewing a fine dining restaurant hidden away in a spectacular garden, hanging out with the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie bakers for some spectacular holiday desserts, and bringing you at least one more G-W Portraits interview.

Sounds like a nice finish to the year.

Yes In My Back Yard

  

As we get closer to the holidays, hamper drives, toy collections, and cold weather clothing donations are on the public radar. But the rest of the year, though the need remains, donations subside, until the holidays come again.

That’s why year-round gestures can make such a difference. Starting a spring or summer food drive, making monthly donations to a food bank or shelter, donating clothing and other wishlist items to places like Downtown Eastside Women’s Shelter – these are a few of the ways that can help people stay healthier and safer throughout the year.

Day-to-day gestures matter too, like Nelson the Seagull‘s suspended coffee program. Not only do they get food or a hot drink into the hands of someone who would otherwise go without, but it also keeps year-long needs in the public consciousness. And it benefits people who are often shut out of participation, or even acknowledgement, in the neighbourhoods where they live. The opportunity to be seen as a customer instead of a problem is no small thing. It opens the door to conversation and comfort, in place of isolation.

Today, while meeting a friend for coffee on Commercial Drive, I noticed that Renzo’s Coffee was participating in a pay-it-forward project created by four students through the City Studio program. Yimby Vancouver is a week-long experiment in paying it forward at four Commercial Drive cafés.

  
It’s not just about coffee, either. You can pay for any menu item, have it noted on one of Yimby’s cards, and pin it up on the board outside the café. Then, someone in need can turn the card in at the register.

I’d love to see this become a permanent program at businesses on the Drive and throughout the city. For now, you can participate until November 28th at Renzo’s, Eternal Abundance, Café du Soleil, and Babylon Café.

Vote, Canada!

  
The polls are still open for an hour-and-a-half here in British Columbia, in what feels like the most significant federal election we’ve had in decades.

We’ll be up late tonight, awaiting the results.

As I’ve often said, voting isn’t the only way to help create the kind of society you want to see, but it’s an important one. 

  
I voted earlier today and am headed home with supplies for the live-stream watching ahead.

A tip of the hat to everyone who took the time to vote in this election. I’m looking forward to seeing what our collective decision brings us tomorrow.

Tea-Tasting at Tea Sparrow

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Rainy afternoons and tea-drinking go hand-in-hand, or at least they do in my world. Well, in my world, tea is a suitable accompaniment for any time of day or type of weather, so let’s just say that rain, afternoon, and tea make a classic combination.

This drizzly afternoon, I was drinking tea at Tea Sparrow headquarters, taking part in one of their famous tea-tastings. I’ve told you before how lucky Vancouverites are to have a say in which teas go into Tea Sparrow’s monthly boxes. This time, I was one of the lucky few who got to sip and rate Tea Sparrow’s newest discoveries.

In anticipation of their Second Annual Tea-Off next week, Tea Sparrow invited a few bloggers, podcasters, and recipe developers over to experience one of their tea-tastings.

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We rated six teas and two of them were favourites for me, personally – a dreamy Jasmine and a pure Ceylon cinnamon tea. Two others came close – a light, refreshing herbal mix by the Austrian company, Sonnentor, and a masala chai that was fragrant and flavourful.

And as a bonus, we were treated to Michael Menashy’s enthusiasm and expertise while we sampled our tea. When I share some photos of next week’s Tea-Off with you, I’ll also share some of the things I learned today.

Tea Sparrow’s Second Annual Tea-Off is next Sunday, October 25th, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Heritage Hall on Main Street. Tickets are 2 for $10 in advance and $10 per person at the door.

However, I’ve got two tickets to give away, so one of you can go for free and take a friend. If you’re going to be in Vancouver on Sunday, leave a comment on this post (with a contact email) and tell me about your favourite tea. The first person to do so is the winner!

It’s your chance to get in on the tasting and adjudication that helps to make Tea Sparrow’s monthly boxes so special.

G-W Portraits: Jak King

I’m starting a new series that will appear on the blog from time to time. It’s called G-W Portraits and it celebrates the citizens of my neighbourhood, Grandview-Woodland. We’ve got a diverse cast of characters in this part of Vancouver, so you can expect to meet activists, food lovers, artists, musicians, families of all configurations, and more.

I’m asking three questions: Who are you? What are you doing (as a practice, job, vocation, hobby, or right this minute)? What do you love about Grandview-Woodland?

I’m excited to share the stories of the people in my neighbourhood with you. To kick things off, I’ve got a short interview with long-time G-W resident, Jak King – a historian and neighbourhood activist.

I’m using Periscope as a platform for this series, so you can catch it live on Twitter and join in a conversation during the broadcast. I’ll start giving a heads up tweet a few minutes before each one to facilitate that. Afterward, I’ll upload the videos to YouTube, then share them on the blog.

I expect the first ones will be a little rough around the edges, as I get used to using my phone as a video camera, so bear with me.

Blog Break

  
After the French Fridays wrap up, I decided to take a little blog break.

Starting July 28th, I’m back with my usual Tuesday fare. And I’ve revamped Fridays into “Catch Up Fridays” so that I can bring you some of the French Fridays with DorieCottage Cooking Club, and Tuesdays with Dorie selections I missed along the way, or some of the events I’ve been meaning to tell you about.

Hope your summer has been going as well as Roxy’s!

Got Craft? Spring Edition 2015

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I was given free admission to Got Craft?, but received no other consideration. All opinions in this post are my own.

Craft fairs have come a long way since I was a little girl. Back then, there were tables full of simple knitted toques, sugar-stiffened lace figurines, beadwork, and Phentex slippers. Everything felt homespun and full of a grandmother’s love, but it wasn’t exactly the right place to find stylish gifts or exciting home decor.

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These days, craft fairs are where you look for the newest trends in the making, across a number of disciplines. You’re much more likely to find a unique, on trend item at a craft fair than you are in a department or chain store.

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In Vancouver, Got Craft? was a pioneer of this new style of craft fair. I’ve got them to thank for a number of my favourite pieces of jewellery, home decor items, and well-received gifts. And they’ve helped to establish a healthy network of craft fairs and shows throughout the year here, supporting a diverse array of makers and crafters.

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Today I visited the first day of the spring edition of Got Craft? and was happy to find lots of new things to get excited about, along with some that have been favourites for a while. And once you finish shopping, you can take in one of workshops led by local favourites like A Spool of Thread.

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They’re back at it tomorrow and here are some of my personal highlights:

  • Anonum Design, one of a number of vendors that repurpose materials that would otherwise be headed for the landfill. They turn rubber printing blankets into an array of colourful, useful goods.
  • Craft’ed‘s whimsical cards, magnets, and bookmarks.
  • Cabin + Cub‘s wooden accessories. (I came home with a bicycle crest pin for my partner, who was delighted.)
  • The Green Flamingo Design‘s dapper ties and pocket squares, for any gender.
  • Graveley and Sons‘ syrups and infusions

I could go on, but you can check out full list of vendors instead.

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You needn’t worry about getting hungry, either. The area around the Maritime Labour Centre may be light industrial, but there are treasures around every corner. You’re only a block away from Parallel 49 Brewing, and there are plenty of tasting rooms, restaurants, and coffee shops within blocks. You can find a list of many of them at the East Village BIA website.

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But, you don’t have to wander far to find something tasty – there are food trucks parked right outside and treats from the likes of Livia Sweets and The Lemon Square in the foyer.

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And if you can’t make it this weekend, the folks at Got Craft? are also behind Strathcona’s London Fields Shoppe, or you can head over to Tiny Finery in Hastings-Sunrise for a similar commitment to the best of local makers.

3There won’t be another edition of Got Craft? until the the end of the year, but thanks to them and the other entrepreneurs that support Vancouver’s vibrant craft scene, the city is full of markets and shops that will keep you busy until then.