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(Note: This post was originally published in February 2013 in the Okanagan Sunday, Kamloops This Week and Prairie Post. The time and date of the reading mentioned has come and gone. But! You can join author Astrid Blodgett on Tuesday evening, October 8 instead. You can contact the Peachland Library or Astrid, via her blog, for further information.)

 

In my grandmother’s kitchen, there were many plastic bags.

Although I never knew her to buy a loaf of bread, somehow the bread bags of other families made their way to her.

She used and reused them, washed and hung them to dry from clothespins suspended on a string over the kitchen sink.

When they’d dripped dry, she stored her own bread in them. White bread, soft as down pillows, the dough for which rose daily in an enameled bowl, covered and set on the kitchen table.

february10.foodpic.darcie     Meanwhile, Grandma would do her other baking. Cookies and doughnuts and buns and roll kuchen.

As many of these goodies as might have been for her and Grandpa, many more were for visitors who dropped by, usually unannounced. Or they were sent home with children and grandchildren.

With the homemade bread in bread bags, the twist ties long ago stripped of their red or green paper ribbons, the cream cookies were packed in one of dozens of kept ice cream buckets.

Salvaged grocery ware, after all, were Grandma’s Mennonite “Tupperware.” A thrifty measure that predated our modern “Reduce/Reuse/Recycle” movement. And one that, some twenty-plus years later, has lately served me well.

While writing and rehearsing the talk and reading I would deliver at the book launch for Mennonites Don’t Dance more than two years ago, I wanted, also, to do something special, and sweet, for readers who have followed this column for so many years.

Arriving at the downtown library an hour ahead of the event, Chefhusband and I brought in ice cream buckets stuffed with pink-frosted cream cookies, the same as my grandmother used to bake. We put on the library’s conference-sized coffee urns. And when the reading was over, we invited the sixty or so people who’d come to listen, to join us for a Mennonite treat.

On tour in Alberta a few weeks later, my mom, sister and niece did the baking, while an aunt and uncle provided the Mennonite “Tupperware” I brought to the library in Lethbridge.

Across Canada, libraries (and independent book stores) have been very good to me: The Ontario Library Association nominated Mennonites Don’t Dance for their annual Evergreen Award, while local librarians have made me feel at home among their stacks.

In the end, the honours went, last week, to Linwood Barclay who wrote The Accident (Doubleday Canada).

Today, however, I’m getting ready for another reading, at another library. This time in Peachland, on Tuesday February 12th at 7pm. A bit of a drive, but all are welcome. And there will be cream cookies, made from my grandmother’s recipe, with a twist, and carried in Mennonite “Tupperware” from my own collection.

“Your aunt says she  needs those back,” my mom said to me when she delivered the cream cookies for Lethbridge.

I’m sorry to say that when I returned them, it was minus one.

 

Mennonite “Whoopie Pies”

2 large eggs

1 cup whipping cream

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

pinch salt

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1tsp baking soda

 

Filling:

1 cup butter, softened

2 cups sifted icing sugar

2 tsp cocoa powder

3 cups marshmallow “Fluff”* (store bought or homemade)

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Whisk together eggs, cream, sugar, vanilla and salt. Whisk together remaining ingredients. Add dry ingredients to wet, one cup at a time, mixing to form a soft dough. Divide into two parts. Wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate to chill.

Preheat oven to 350F. On a floured surface, roll out dough to 1/2-inch. Cut cookies using a medium round cutter. Place 1-inch apart on a greased baking sheet. Bake 12-14 minutes (cookies should remain white, but be set in the centre). Cool completely.

Meanwhile, for filling, cream together butter, icing sugar and cocoa until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add Fluff* and vanilla. Mix until combined.

Spread undersides of cookies with filling and press together into sandwich cookies.

*Marshmallow Fluff

3 egg whites

2 cups light corn syrup

1/2 tsp salt

2 cups icing sugar

1 Tbs pure vanilla extract

 

Using the whisk attachment of an electric beater, beat egg, syrup and salt on high speed for 10 minutes. Add sugar and vanilla and beat on low to combine.

Thank you Discovery Channel..

Without your often fine programming, it may never have wriggled into my consciousness.

It may never have hopped or jumped or flicked its way into my mind.

I may never have know that, pound for pound, grasshoppers provide more protein than chicken.

More protein, too, than beef. Than pork. Than duck, pheasant, venison and, presumably, also, buffalo, quail, ostrich, lamb or goat.

august23.foodpic.darcie    Certainly, I did already know, having grown up on the Canadian prairies, that grasshoppers are plentiful. They are inexhaustible. We could in fact sieve an entire plague off the land, even as it’s munching its way through a wheat or canola crop, and another yummy plague would simply grow up in its place.

And, because a grasshopper once flew into my mouth while I was trying to get to my grandmother in her devastated garden, I know, too, that grasshoppers come in handy bite-sized portions that are light-weight and easy for snacking. As they would be for shipping.

Given a change of consciousness on the part of Canadians, we could probably save our grasslands from grazing livestock, having taken to heart that grasshopper ranching is the future.

And for those lucky enough to have grasshoppers in their own yards, they can be eaten fresh from the garden, sizzled in oil as a popcorn substitute, dried for storage, or cooked up in thousands upon thousands of different, delectable ways, including dry roasted, tossed in a wok or (and this is my favourite idea, courtesy of one very odd blogger) hidden in Christmas fruitcake.

I know, I know. There’s the heebie jeebie effect that we in the West just can’t seem to overcome, no matter how much ketchup we splatter at the idea.

But! Let us consider that in much of Asia, grasshoppers are a symbol of good luck and abundance. Fancy varieties are even kept as cherished pets in intricate handmade cages, while the more ordinary sorts are enjoyed as street food, skewered on bamboo sticks.

And, since pestilences are scheduled to increase as we lunge towards a warmer world, Waste Not, Want Not is an concept we might as well adopt. Especially given that a wasted opportunity just so happens to be hopping around our feet.

Hopping.

Hopping and scrabbling.

Hopping, scrabbling and scratching.

And that, right there, Dear Discovery Channel, is my problem at this very moment: Roughly 0.54 grams of the ickiest creature that’s ever stood between me and my front door.

Now, with my social consciousness adjusted, do I stop and think to myself, “Oh look! An ingredient!”

Or, “There’s the garnish I was looking for?”

No, I do not.

The only thing I think is to slowly, stealthily, slip the flip flop from my foot and  SMACK!  that grasshopper into jam.

A few moments later, however, after my heart rate has knocked its way back to resting, and as I stoop to scrape crunchy-slimy, yellow-green thorax from my sole, I do feel the quickening of an idea.

Grasshopper jam.

Well, okay. Maybe I’m not quite there yet.

Peach and Grasshopper (Jalapeno) Jam

6 pounds fresh peaches (about 15)

2 fresh jalapenos, seeded and very finely diced or processed

6 cups granulated sugar

juice from 1 large lemon

1 Tbs butter

1 (1.75 oz.) package pectin

Twelve 8 ounce canning jars, lids and bands

In the bowl of a large food processor fitted with the blade attachment, puree five peaches at a time until slightly chunky. Transfer to a large pot, add jalapenos, and bring to a simmer, stirring frequently.

When simmering, stir in sugar, lemon juice and pectin until sugar is thoroughly dissolved.

Continue to let the jam simmer for another 15 minutes to thicken. Add butter (to prevent foaming). If any foam does come to the surface, skim it off with a spoon and discard.

Boil jars and lids for ten minutes to sterilize. Use a funnel and ladle to fill each jar, leaving about 1/4 inch of room at the top of each jar.

Wipe each jar and top it with a lid and band.

Place jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes to process, making sure the simmering water covers the jars by at least an inch.

Remove jars and let them cool completely for 24 hours. If any jars are not sealed (lid still pops down when gently pressed), reprocess.

Store sealed jars in a cool dark pantry for up to one year.

Darcie Friesen Hossack: food columnist, author

Mennonites Don’t Dance, Thistledown Press Sept. 2010

shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize (first book, Canada and Caribbean)

Danuta Gleed Award runner-up

stories and recipes from this blog are previously published in the Okanagan Sunday, Kamloops This Week and Prairie Post

p

august1.foodpic.darcieIt wasn’t an easy decision when Sam and Ellie decided, along with Sam’s mother, that the best thing for all of them would be to buy a house with a granny flat.

Sam and Ellie had lived with family before, and it had left everyone involved with lingering resentments that they tried to cover up with pie and ice cream and careful skirting around topics that caused tension.

Esther was happy with her apartment, though.

After a long search, the house they found had a basement walk-out that was flooded in the mornings with sunlight and, if she stepped out onto her patio, right to where it met the grass, and leaned to the south, there was a view that couldn’t be beat.

Upstairs, Ellie was nervous about dinner.

On the day they’d all signed the legal documents, they’d agreed, as a family, that Wednesdays would be family dinner night. One night of the week when they’d plan a menu, divide it between them, then enjoy each other’s company around the table that had been an antique when Esther received it for her wedding 40 years earlier, and now occupied Ellie’s dining room.

This week, while Esther  had offered to make a roast beef dinner, complete with Yorkshire puddings, Ellie had wanted to do something special that both showed her mother-in-law that she was glad they lived so close now (because she wasn’t yet sure she was glad), and that built a bridge that would bring them together. Bridges could be built with food, she was sure of it. The Food Network and a hundred glossy magazines told her it was so.

And so, Ellie insisted that on this first family dinner night, she wanted to do everything. Just this time. Perhaps, she’d said, Esther could bring some veggies and dip to start things off.

Esther didn’t want to say anything. Certainly not that her feelings were hurt by being left in the produce aisle. And not that she thought Ellie had bitten off more than she could chew.

Over the decades, Esther had probably prepared a thousand family dinners, often for several dozens of people. And the one thing she knew for certain was that timing a dinner is something easier done when done together.

Nevertheless, on Wednesday, when the Farmer’s Market opened, Esther quietly drove herself down the hill from their house, parked in the grassy lot next to all the tents, and spend a good two hours buying things she’d never known existed.

In her mesh handbag she had some fresh dill and parsley for her dip, along with a purple cauliflower, yellow baby carrots, and zucchini the size of her fingers. She stopped to eat a tray of little doughnuts, which she vowed to try making at home one day, then went on to stop at the grocery for a carton of sour cream.

Back at home, Ellie’s plans to shop after work, come home, and make a stuffed trout with steamed baby carrots, and creamy bruleed custards for dessert, had come as far as discovering that she should have unpacked her kitchen, and should have asked for a deboned fish with no scales.

Ellie didn’t even like fish. But she was a good cook. She’d just never had the chance to prove it to Esther.

When Ester came upstairs with her veggies, neatly cup up and arranged around a bowl of dip, she found Ellie scraping against the grain of a fish with a butter knife, sending silvery scales flying into her hair.

“Can I help?” Esther asked.

For a moment, Ellie stood frozen, hoping it would render her invisible.

And then, both women began to laugh. Just a little. It wasn’t exactly a bridge. But maybe a footing.

“You can learn new recipes from a magazine,” Esther said as Ellie tore out a recipe for homemade relish, which Esther set aside without reading. “But they cannot tell you how to cook. For that you need someone to teach.”

Ellie took a deep breath, and left the footing where it was.

Fresh Dill Dip          

1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
1 garlic clove, minced

1 Tbs shallot, minced
4 Tbs fresh, finely chopped, dill weed
1 Tbs fresh, finely chopped, parsley leaves

flaked Kosher salt/freshly ground pepper

In a medium bowl, beat together mayonnaise and sour cream with a rubber spatula until combines. Gently fold in garlic and shallot, dill and parsley. Season to taste. Refrigerate for at least one hour  to let flavours develop. Adjust seasoning.

Summer Salad Worth a Thousand Words

july26.foodpic.darcieSetting down the notebook where I stash ideas throughout the days, I sit at my laptop and begin to stir together thoughts about summer.

There was the day of walking around downtown that turned my black-and-hot-pink flip flops into flop flops. There was my certainty, after pulling into a parking spot at a favourite restaurant, and stepping out into a crunch of sunflower seed husks, that holidayers from Saskatchewan must have been there first.

And then POOF! I can’t think of anything.

I don’t know much about my new neighbours. Only that they replaced the old neighbours, with the ceaselessly barking dog.

I know they have eclectic taste in music (anything from reggae to dance to metal to folk). I know they bought new speakers when they moved it. And I know they’ll be considerate and turn them down if I let them know I’m home and bothered.

I am both.

Today it’s dance music. Muffled by the drywall.

But what I want is to hear the birds. Wind chimes tinkling in the warm breeze. The afternoon’s sun showers. I want to hear the quiet, which is exactly what I was listening to before the music.

I send a polite text, and minutes later, the music withdraws back into the wall, and try to find where I left off.

Summer. Heat haze. The swaths of waist-high lavender mounds that make our home and environs look and smell like a Provencal garden. The nodding hydrangea, and day lilies that are true to their name, unfurling creamy morning blossoms that, in the evening are half composted on the stalk, dying so completely on cue that they could never be called day-and-a-half lilies or anything but their true name.

At the hummingbird feeder, which I’ve lately moved my desk to see as I work, this year’s hatchlings sit and sip, blissful and ignorant of the aerial skirmishes being fought out by parent birds trying to claim the entire replenishing litre of sugar syrup for themselves.

Under physiotherapist orders not to spend more than 20 minutes at a time at my desk, I turn off the fifth such timer of the day and set my laptop to sleep. I leave the house, realizing at once that I’ve chosen to mosey out for a green tea lemonade during the afternoon’s hottest hours, which people in cleverer climates have set aside for siesta.

At a busy intersection, a young woman, impeccably dressed and wearing 3-inch stiletto heels and no helmet rides her bike against traffic.

I order my iced tea, turn towards home, and am soon waving my hands through the lavender, stopping to admire local honeybees that have thoroughly pollinated these mounds.

On the lane, I see our neighbour, smile in greeting, then step through my door to find a house that smells of tomatoes basting in hot oil, and Chefhusband putting together a salad with bowtie noodles, goat cheese and ribbons of baby zucchini. A dish and a picture as close to the feeling I was trying to shape as the words I was using to shape it.

Summer Salad with Pasta and Confit Tomatoes

1/2 lb Farfalle (bowtie) pasta, cooked tender

1 baby zucchini, sliced into ribbons with a carrot peeler

1 stalk green onion, very thinly sliced on an angle

3-4 tufts parsley, torn off stalks, finely chopped

1/2 cup marinated artichoke hearts, sliced

1/2 cup favourite black olives, sliced

1 recipe confit tomatoes (follows)

2 tsp white wine vinegar

1 – 113g package goat cheese

flaked kosher salt/fresh ground pepper

In a large bowl, toss together first 6 ingredients. With a fork, remove confit tomatoes from oil and add them to the other ingredients, allowing the oil clinging to the tomatoes to become part of the dressing. Add white wine vinegar and toss until coated, adding more of the tomato oil as needed. Season with salt and pepper.

Reserve goat cheese until plating, then crumble desired amount over each serving.

Confit Tomatoes

10 small Roma tomatoes, quartered, seeds removed

1 shallot, finely sliced

2 cloves garlic, finely sliced

olive oil

flaked kosher salt/fresh ground pepper

Place tomato, shallot and garlic into a small, shallow baking dish. Cover with olive oil. Season with several pinches of salt and 10 turns of the pepper mill.

Cover with foil and place into a 275F oven (toaster ovens are perfect for this) for 45 minutes.  Allow to cool.

*Note: Reserve tomato oil for use in other salads or bread dips.

Darcie Friesen Hossack: food columnist, author

Mennonites Don’t Dance, Thistledown Press Sept. 2010

shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize (first book, Canada and Caribbean)

Danuta Gleed Award runner-up

Lobster is a nice, sweet meat
(July 2012)
“What about this one?” I say, holding up a not-quite-wide-open shell, soot-black and glossy with curried cream. “Dead before the pot? Or after?”
We’re seated on the second story balcony of a downtown Charlottetown pub. Jazz notes are rising from street musicians on the street below. The air is comfortably cool. And I’ve just ordered my first ever bowl of mussels (to share).
When it comes to a love of seafood, I’m a late bloomer.
Having grown up on mostly landfood, I went from farmer’s granddaughter and butcher’s stepdaughter, to spending my teenage years on the other side of my family tree, as a Seventh Day Adventist vegetarian. If I did eat seafood, Levitical-type attention was paid to whether, in life, the fish had swum with fins and scales.
Therefore, my longstanding aversion to bi-valves and crustaceans has deep and twisty roots.
Now, as I stick a slender fork between two halves of shell and finagle an orange oval of flesh from its once home, I swallow an upwelling of panic and open wide.
“P.E.I. mussels are renowned for having the highest meat counts in the world,” a reader will later tell me.
And?
Because I’d put off trying West Coast mussels every chance I’d ever had, I have nothing with which to compare. But these mussels are sweet and pleasing to the bite. They are meaty, yes, and I conclude that I rather like them.
Given the right setting, I could even see myself acquiring a hankering. Maybe.
But more importantly, this shellfish novice suddenly feels ready to move on from the safer waters of haddock and ahi that started off our week in the Maritimes, and consider other things.
Having eaten mussels, maybe raw Malpeque oysters from Raspberry Point will be next. Perhaps even something with an exoskeleton and pincers and alien-like eyes suspended on waving sticks. Like the lobsters that seem to follow us everywhere we go.
And I do mean everywhere. Including, we’ll later discover, the Departures area of the Halifax airport, where one can have a live lobster packed up to take home in a cardboard carrier that is essentially a pet caddy packed with ice.
For now, however, as we drive towards our next meal, a sign under a set of golden arches makes pull a U-turn.
“McLobster is Back!” the sign proclaims.
And while this certainly is not will not be where I will encounter lobster for the first time! we stop, click, and post photographic evidence on Facebook for all of our friends in the West.
Later, it’s in a salt box of a seaside restaurant in Cavendish P.E.I. where I finally work up an appetite for something the Maritimes is famous for: a lobster roll.
Mounded on a soft pretzel bun, the crustacean meat is tossed in a light mayonnaise dressing, and is firm and sweet and everything (I imagined) it should be.
A perfect lunch in a perfect place. So that, before we board our flight home later in the week, I’ll take a good long look in that tank in the Halifax airport, considering whether I want to travel with a giant sea bug by my feet. And whether, once I get it home, I’ll be able to dispatch it into a pot.
I’ll look at Chefhusband, who will fix me with an are-you-kidding look that lets me know he’s not interested in a lobster pet. And when we take off, we’ll already be planning when to come back, and what to eat when we do.
 DSC_0228_2
P.E.I. Lobster Rolls
1 1/2 pounds cooked lobster meat (4-1.5 pound lobsters)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
flaked kosher salt/freshly ground black pepper
4 pretzel rolls (or other soft artisan buns), split and lightly toasted
melted butter for brushing
Extract meat from lobsters; discard shells or use for stock. Chop meat into bite-sized pieces.
In a bowl, gently toss lobster with mayo, lemon juice and celery. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Refrigerate 10 to 15 minutes, allowing flavours to develop.
Brush cut sides of pretzel rolls with melted butter. Stuff with lobster salad and serve.

 

By the Bay
(July 2012)
On Wednesday, we drive towards the Bay of Fundy, en route from Halifax to Prince Edward Island.
After stopping to take pictures of salt-sanded outbuildings and fence lines, and wildly-growing wildflowers, we arrive at the Bay’s interpretive centre where we’re reminded to be aware of the shoreline at all times. “The volume of water that will return to the Bay over the next six hours is greater than than all the fresh water lakes and rivers on earth.”
Once outside with this information, I try to imagine what it means. But while my mind telescopes for perspective, I find there is none. It’s simply not possible to gain a sense of such volume.
And so we walk.
We walk down a tree- and berry-lined path.
We walk down and down an encasement of wooden stairs. We hop onto a rock and then down further still, onto another, then another. We step onto the ocean floor, where the high tide markers suddenly rise five stories above us.
I think to myself how it’s possible that, only hours ago, a whale swam through this very passage which is now bare enough to walk on while carrying a camera and a red plastic bucket we use to collect a few rocks, a few shells, and a possible fossil.
At sand level, I pick up tiny hermit crabs that reach around their shells to touch my thumb, then settle them back in their tide pools, wondering about life in such a dramatically cycling waterscape.
Above are knotted ropes that dangle from trees atop stone towers that will become islands by mid-afternoon: lifelines for anyone caught spelunking in sea caves, or simply caught daydreaming.
I find it’s impossible to not imagine being marooned atop one of these islands, and I take a mental inventory of things that ought to be in our backpack should we find ourselves climbing out of the tide to relative safety.
In truth, everything I think of would better fill a picnic basket. And later, as we continue to travel through Nova Scotia, across a corner of New Brunswick, and the circle drives of P.E.I., we’ll discover all the edible items we could ever want to be stranded with.
There will be fresh raspberries and blueberries, and every kind of vegetable, all sold roadside, by an honor system of taking what you want and leaving money in a wooden box.
We’ll discover a gouda farm and more ice cream stands per capita than seems reasonable, even to us. And we’ll find The Maroon Pig, a bakery in Georgetown where the once-mayor/maker-of-sea-glass-jewellery will send us for olive-studded focaccia. The kind of bread that might make a couple of foolish married people imagine an accidental picnic on one of Fundy’s tidal islands.
For now, though, it’s time to be on our way.
And so we walk back across the tidal flats, climb over one rock, then another and another. Up the wooden stairs and back to our rental car, where we set shoes caked with red mud to dry in the trunk, along with a few rocks, a few shells, and a possible fossil.
“Georgetown” Focaccia
1 1/4 cups warm water
1 Tbs active dry yeast
2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp flaked kosher salt
extra-virgin olive oil
grape tomatoes and green olives
 DSC_0020
Proof yeast in water. Pour into the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk in olive oil.
In another bowl, whisk together flour and salt.
Add half of the flour to the yeast mixture and stir (with dough hook) on low, just to mix. Add remaining flour. Mix 3 minutes more. Increase speed to medium-high and mix for 8 minutes.
Transfer dough to an oiled bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled. Punch down and let rise a second time. Shape into a ball, transfer to a clean bowl. Brush with olive oil and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate 24 hours.
Take dough from fridge an hour before baking. Preheat oven to 425F, with a baking stone set inside.
Spread parchment paper on a baking peel and pour dough onto paper. Brush with oil and top with olives and halved grape tomatoes and a sprinkling of kosher salt. Slide focaccia, along with paper, onto stone. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until lightly golden.
(July 2012)
An Ahi Moment 
In historic Lunnenberg we catch up with tall ships at anchor and fling open the doors to our senses.
There’s a chorus of gulls. Salt in the sea-moistened air. Dense clusters of clammed-up mussels anchored by their whiskers to wooden docks at low tide.
And there is colour.
Along a shore that rises into a gently-sloped amphitheater over the Atlantic, a prism of houses and shops seem to be the creation of a master pastry chef. A fairytale town created from painted sugar cookies, where a kitchen store called Cilantro is green to go with its name. Where a trattoria seems to take its inspiration from nectarines and cream, and an optometrist’s clinic is wild with the colour of strawberries.
For every blue and purple, for every yellow, red, green or aquamarine, there is a natural reference that comes from beach pebbles, wildflowers, sea ice, and sand-washed shards of sea glass. From tree, vine, and cane fruits. From fish scales and heron feathers. Leafy green sprigs and red red mud.
Back at home, our house is a dove-soft grey, and colour sprouts from seasonal planters, taken down in winter. A subtle backdrop that, until now, I was certain I preferred.
Until now, I’ve never supposed I might want to live in a purple house. Although suddenly, I can see myself through the kitchen window of a grape-juice sided two storey, stirring batter to go with wild raspberries that seem to grow along every path-side thicket in Nova Scotia.
I take a hundred pictures. I take a hundred more.
Then, on the docks of this iconic town, we stop for a patio lunch of battered haddock and chips, intended to ease my way into an intention of turning a lifelong seafood aversion into a passion.
This week I plan to work my way all the way up to staring down a lobster.
After scooping flakes of fish out of a heavy cocoon of batter, however, I’m no farther along. And when we farewell what is surely the most picture perfect town in the entire world, I leave it wondering whether the trattoria might have been the better choice.
In Halifax the following morning, we board a boat and set off to watch for whales that do not, this day, decide to watch back.
We know they’re there, however. And somehow just being on the surface of their world helps us better value the depths beneath.
After watching comes a late lunch, and having so far failed to have a seafood moment, we walk up and down the docks and finally choose another ocean-view patio. We order crab cakes, smoked Atlantic salmon and seared-rare ahi tuna encrusted with cracked black pepper and fragrant spices, sliced thin and served on a tomato bun.
With one bite, as the flesh yields to the soft pressure of my tongue, I have what I can only describe as a conversion experience.
If seared rare ahi tuna were my last meal, I would leave this world wanting nothing else to eat.
On the seafood adventurist’s scale, it’s not yet lobster, I know. Or even mussels or raw oysters, which are also on my list.
But for now, as we dip our forks into the ocean, there is nothing but time ahead of us. A week’s worth of diving deeper into the ocean of food that surrounds us.
Seared-Rare Ahi Tuna
1 1/2 pound center-cut Ahi tuna fillet (line-caught)
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 1/2 tablespoon coarse black pepper, freshly ground
2 tbsp vegetable oil
DSC00772_2
Combine spices and spread out on a plate. Roll fillet in spices, pressing gently.
Heat oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat. Sear tuna on all sides and remove from heat. Let rest 5 minutes.
To serve, slice thinly using a very sharp slicing or sushi knife. Serve as an appetizer with slices of baguette, or pile slices onto tomato buns (or other artisan rolls), with mayonnaise, sliced ripe tomatoes and baby lettuce.
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