ice-cream season



Summer is a dry spell for writing here – it is dissertation time, guests visiting from out of town, time for us to travel back home. But blogging is about nothing if not keeping momentum, even if it feels as though I have a lot on the stove and not that much emotional energy to think or write about it in an intelligent way.

After three years in Toronto we have our first houseguests, friends from the UK. Friends from a different life, when Johannes was there for his PhD, from a time before we had ever thought about this city. We’ve been serving them the oven-roasted chicken shawarma from Sam Sifton in The New York Times, about which I cannot say enough good things. You can prep it the day before serving, and serve it with some fresh flatbreads from the Lebanese bakery down the street, and it tastes like you spent hours working when really you just gave the chicken a night of getting very familiar with lots of lemon and garlic and paprika. And since the guests are not used to the Toronto humidity, ice-cream.

There is a fridge of ice-cream in this house, partly a way to deal with the glut of fruit we carry back from Kensington Market after a day’s work, and partly because making ice-cream feels so quintessentially summery, so downright transgressive in a country mired in snow for much of the year. So we’ve been making frozen yoghurt following David Lebovitz’s recipes, with strawberries, and with mango. Pulped fruit, sugar, Greek yoghurt, some lemon juice. Mixed together and left to chill in the fridge, it allows you to wake up the next morning, have coffee, and then churn a batch. It makes one feel incredibly in control of one’s life, regardless of whether that’s true. That counts for something.

There has also been ice-cream, both of this year’s favourites recipes that don’t require making a custard. When I’ve spent hours writing and the house is dirty and I really want to just sit on the couch and drink wine, making a custard is very low on my list of priorities. The first is this delightful Serious Easts Snickers ice-cream, where peanut butter and half-and half gives you a consistency of a custard without having to stir for half-an-hour. (For those in countries where half-and-half is not a thing, substitute half cream and half milk, and you’ll be close.) I tweaked the recipe a bit – omitted the peanuts and used crunchy peanut butter instead, and instead of chocolate chips did straciatella (I’ve found this article really helpful in generally making tastier ice-cream). I also added some Oreo cookie crumbs, because I live in North-America now.

The other wonderful ice-cream is Yossy Arefi’s apricot buttermilk sherbet from Sweeter Off the Vine. You roast the apricots with some sugar, and add buttermilk and cream and a tiny bit of corn syrup and a decent amount of salt. It’s rich but tangy, and feels like something you could easily serve after a dinner party, little scoops in little bowls, and have a very happy table.

We brought out all our ice-creams and frozen yoghurts, along with a cranberry sorbet that’s been kicking around the fridge since fall (!) and a rhubarb semifreddo that’s at this point not quite semi in consistency, and had the house guests make the rounds between them.







Johannes had a birthday. So we bought some steak. We never buy steak, here, bewildered by its price. But this is a birthday. Which meant we also drank the last of our special occasion Hendricks gin, and ate the steak with roasted potato and, because we were too tired to make a proper béarnaise, added a lot of chopped fresh tarragon and a little bit of garlic to mayonnaise, and it was delicious. This weekend I’m finishing a skirt, and preparing for the (very first) houseguests we’ll be receiving here in Toronto.

In the meantime, I leave you with this:

Since The Toast stopped posting I’ve been rereading old favourites, like this one on how the comment section of all articles on pubic hair grooming always look the same.

If you’re sick of washing the dishes today, go read Silvia Federici’s Wages Against Housework manifesto, originally published in 1975.

The War Room, a fun documentary on the 1992 presidential race, which Bill Clinton eventually won, featuring a very young George Stephanopoulus and directed by Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker. Sadly Hillary Clinton only makes a few sparse appearances, but her hair makes up for it.

This episode of This American Life, on being fat, has stuck with me for weeks after listening to it.

And to end things on a happy note (ha, got you there, no happy notes here), Andrea Dworkin’s short story The New Woman’s Broken Heart, part of an anthology under the same title. You can download the anthology here for free (along with most of Dworkin’s other books, too! )


the rest of the rhubarb

Every day I wake up, walk to Kensington Market, and sit and write in a café for a few hours. I have officially started writing the first chapter of my dissertation, and it feels as if all of the interesting things I have to say at the moment are being deposited there, which leaves me at a loss for what to write here. I used to write mostly about film and being-towards-death but these days I am writing about film and schizophrenia and waiting for a man who will never arrive, and suddenly, unexpectedly, also about the joy and labour of domestic life, about cooking and gardening and the implications of recording the minutiae of the everyday, especially if you’re a woman. So for the next while my posts might be rather straightforward – I do not want this blog to feel like work.
 So let’s talk about rhubarb. I realize that we are just about at the end of rhubarb season, and that I should probably tell you about the rhubarb recipes I haven’t had the chance to post about yet. There was of course the rhubarb semifreddo and rhubarb gin. I’ve also been adding raw rhubarb chunks to Marion Cunningham’s nutmeg muffins that I wrote about here, and I think they make pretty splendid gifts for anyone you owe something to. Once rhubarb season hits I find myself buying stalks whenever I see some, struck by the seasonal panic of spring, terrified that the next time I hit the store there won’t be any left and it’ll be a year before I get to touch a rhubarb recipe again. Which means that during weeks where I really should not be involved in elaborate cooking projects I am faced with what the fuck to do with all the rhubarb I bought that is now obstructing the fridge door from closing properly. So I end up roasting vast amounts of rhubarb during summer, to use in different ways. Some of it we blitz to a pulp and drink with club soda (pretty, pink), some we eat with yoghurt and granola for breakfast. I also like to use it for topping cakes – plain white cake (Smitten Kitchen’s best birthday cake recipe is my Platonic ideal in this regard), cream cheese icing, and slivers of roasted rhubarb. I pretty much always roast rhubarb in the same way, from a recipe originally found in Rose Bakery’s Breakfast Lunch Tea (my Platonic ideal of a cookbook, fyi). Rose Carrarini has you chop up the rhubarb and mix it with some sugar, some orange juice and a vanilla pod, and through roasting you keep the colour that so often gets lost if you do it on the stovetop.
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The other rhubarb project I attempted was Yossy Areffi’s rhubarb and rosewater galette from Sweeter off the Vine. The galettes others have made from the book have been amazing (thinking in particular of the sublime sour cherry galette Lindsay made this weekend, and that I had the pleasure to eat), but mine kind of fucked out, largely because of my lack of pastry skills. To make your day better, go look at Lindsay’s galette on Instagram, here.




If you’re eating at my table this summer, there will be cornbread. It will be one of two recipes: either Huckleberry Bakery’s Buttermilk Cornbread, or my friend Marie’s Perfect Cornbread. Both are bloody delightful. Huckleberry’s version is sweeter and richer, with a honey glaze. Marie’s cornbread is one you can afford to bake more often, and has a lightness to it one doesn’t often seen in cornbread, largely due to the whipped egg whites. I add fresh corn kernels to both recipes, but they’re just as great without.

In this house cornbread often gets served with pork, it’s fatty savouriness a good foil for the sweet cornbread. This weekend the pork was in the form of a belly, rubbed in soy sauce, five spice powder and lots of garlic (recipe by way of Nigel Slater), and baked. We do the crackling once the meat is cooked, a slab a time perched on two wooden spatulas, right under the grill. On the side two oven pans of roasted rapini, tossed in a vinaigrette of chopped anchovy and lemon juice and zest, and served with some Parmesan. I served five people with $3 worth of rapini. In my world that’s a bargain.




Dessert was from Yossy Arefi’s new book, Sweeter off the Vine, a rhubarb semifreddo. I’d never made a semifreddo, so that was pretty exciting, and it tastes deeply of rhubarb, which is how I like my rhubarb recipes. Don’t disguise it with strawberries or raspberries or whatever else – it defeats the purpose. The semifreddo is just eggs, sugar, cream and roasted rhubarb –  basically anyone who learnt to cook while Nigella Lawson was on television in the 90s and 2000s should have these ingredients on hand in the summer. I served it with some more roasted rhubarb on top. It is a pretty dish, but you’ll have to take my word for it – by the time we ate dessert we had all had a decent amount of wine, and the light was awful, so the pictures are all pretty gross. (You know those food bloggers that have great pictures of every party they throw? Yeah, me neither.)





fruit + booze



In summer an entire kitchen shelf gets taken up by rhubarb and various berries soaking away in gin or vodka. There are a number of reasons for this – unlike most projects centered on preserving the best of the season this is a quick and easy task, and during spring and summer we were working too much to have energy for anything beyond chopping up fruit and adding it to alcohol. There is also the fact of what we actually consume a lot of in this house. There is a finite number of jams, jellies, and preserved fruit we can eat, and none of those are on daily rotation. But we make cocktails every night. This is a gin house.




Pictured here is a combination of this year’s batches, with some still left over from summer 2015. The bulk of our stash is rhubarb gin – cheaper than the berries, and during the season I keep on buying rhubarb a few times a week and don’t always get to actually bake with it, which means it gets dumped in gin, or more recently, vodka. Sometimes we add sugar, other times we don’t, and mix in some simple syrup into whichever cocktail we’re doing instead. We’ve been following the lead of our friend Marie, and adding sugar to the blackcurrant and redcurrant gin, which makes it less astringent. There’s also a strawberry vodka, and a raspberry vodka, and I realise both of these sound very California Barbie, but fuck it, they are delicious. I plan on spending my summer drinking it mixed with some Cava for a bastardised French 75, if you will.



Peter Veldsman’s Sjokolade-Truffel-Mousse



The first time I made Peter Veldsman’s Sjokolade-Truffel-Mousse was the night before my eighteenth birthday. My life between the ages of sixteen and nineteen was very lonely, although not completely unhappy. In my ideal life I would have many friends and a house with a table where I could cook for them. At eighteen I had fewer than a handful friends, most of them old enough to be my parents, but I was intent on cooking a birthday lunch with a dessert that signified a different life, even if I had only one friend to ask to lunch that day, in the garden of my parent’s house, where I still lived. This chocolate mousse was that.

The process took three hours that night. It still does. Veldsman’s recipe, culled from the back of the Rapport Tydskrif somewhere in the early 90s and kept in my mother’s recipe file, is reminiscent of his French culinary training, and labour-intensive in a way that so much French cooking is, which is to say that anyone making it with any type of regularity certainly was not doing it themselves. It is also very, very good, and the recipe makes enough mousse to serve around twenty people, if not more. (Veldsman claims that it serves twelve, but the appetite of Afrikaners then must have been fucking enormous if that’s the case. I stick with twenty portions.)

It is everything I want in a special occasion dessert: the time and labour involved makes it feel worthy of a celebration, but the end product is something you actually really want to eat. It contains no sugar, written as it is for the chocolate available in South Africa in the 1990s, which was all quite sweet. So if you use chocolate with a higher percentage cocoa solids, I would adjust the sugar to counter the bitter bite of the chocolate. I also replace the fine instant coffee powder with some cold espresso, want ons drink nie Nescafé in hierdie huis nie. Although I should note that I have also made this with ground Ricoffy in times of need, and it turned out fine. If you want to use Koffiehuis, go away.

I still make it every year for my birthday. There are more people around the table now.


poppy seed torte

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We’re spending a lot of time on our little jungle balcony. Plants in Canada are so happy when the weather turns that they grow in such an exuberant style that we never know what will await us from one day to the next. It reminds me of a line from Marian Engel’s Bear where she writes about Canada, noting “In this country … we have winter lives and summer lives of completely different quality.”

I came home from class feeling like cake. There’s a bag of poppy seed in the fridge that I’ve been meaning to work my way through for a while, so I decided to make the poppy seed torte I wrote about here. Always looking for ways to grind the poppy seeds, which makes for a flavourful and generally more successful cake, I followed the advice of someone on the internet and tried hand-grinding it in our Hario coffee grinder. You should never fucking try that. After ninety minutes of grinding I had poppy seed all over the floor, and only enough fine poppy seed for a tiny cake. I had also broken the grinder.

So I baked a tiny cake, and frosted it with the dark chocolate and melted butter. We ate it on the balcony. Johannes fixed the grinder.

late spring/early summer



Some good things we’ve eaten in the last month of two. After Easter we scored some heavily discounted legs of lamb from the supermarket (first time we’ve cooked a leg of lamb since 2008), and slathered it in a Mechouia-style spice mix, inspired by a recipe in Persiana. Some garlic, a lot of paprika and coriander and cumin, some thyme. It was beautiful, but then again, leg of lamb is hard to fuck up as long as you don’t cook it too long.

Lunch time salads are still on heavy rotation. I’ve been topping a lot of ours with coconut flakes tossed in a mix of tamari and sesame oil, and then roasted till golden, stolen from this recipe by Heidi Swanson. It’ll probably also make a pretty good snack.



The bounty of fingerling potatoes that are around also means that we’ve been making a salad of roasted fingerlings and zucchini and peas, dressed with a basil pesto-olive oil-vinegar-thing. Best eaten at room temperature, it travels well and does not feel like a sad packed lunch. It made a particularly good meal on a day I watched Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman with my students, relishing in their frustration at having to watch a woman clean her house for three and a half hours.




It also feels like we’ve been eating our weight in asparagus. (Waiting for someone to make a pee joke.) New favourite thing to make is shallow frying them in a little olive oil and salt, and then tossing them in a dressing of miso, a little garlic, olive oil and rice wine vinegar. I made a pan full the other night, for a dinner party, and they were gone within within the first minute.




And then, finally: barbeque baked beans. First up: I’ve never had a thing for the canned variety – someone once tried to serve them to me on a burger when I was a child, and I just about died. (Also, who the fuck eats baked beans on their burger?)  But when I was in Boston I had a scoop of beans prepared by Sweet Cheeks Q (along with some brisket that was an existential epiphany), and now this is all I want to eat. I made a massive pot of beans (it freezes well, and makes for a lovely Sunday night dinner if you don’t want to cook but just sit on the couch and drink beer), and I am amazed at how happy that made me. The recipe is off of Serious Eats, and it’s sufficiently complex even though it really doesn’t take that much active preparation time. I halved the sugar, honey and molasses, and advise anyone else to do so too – even halved it’s quite sweet.



birthday dinner



I turned 31 on a Monday. Johannes and I both took the day off work, and went to Nadege on Queen Street West where we shared a $8 cakelet for breakfast that seems unethically indulgent any other time of the year but on a birthday. We hung out at a bookshop, had a cocktail at Bar Raval, and then went home to cook burgers (ground meat from Sanagan’s or Cumbrae’s, mixed into patties with toasted and then ground coriander and a little bit of cumin, salt and pepper and an egg, then cooked in a dry, very hot cast iron pan sprinkled with salt so that a crust quickly forms. Buns from Black Bird Baking Company if we’re around Kensington Market, smeared with mayonaise and Dijon mustard, topped with rings of raw onion, Johannes’s fermented dill pickles, and some very mature Cheddar. Burgers are serious business in this house.)

Then we cooked dinner for some friends. In Arcadia I had an average of four birthday parties every year, over the course of around a month. Ten years of accumulated friends and family will do that. In Toronto, in the middle of a PhD, one party is all I can handle. (I look forward to a post-PhD life where this is not the case. All dinner parties, all the time.)

So this was dinner. To begin, a savoury kataiffi attempt with finely chopped olives, feta, fresh oregano and walnut, rolled sliced into rounds.




We bought billowy pitas from the new Paramount Fine Foods that opened down the street, and served them with Sam Sifton’s oven-roasted chicken shawarma. The chicken, marinated overnight in lots of lemon juice and garlic and paprika and cumin, is roasted the next day, then shredded, then placed under the grill. It was a revelation. On the side we made Michael Solomonov’s hummus tahina from Zahaav, which I’ve read a lot of people rave about. In our case it was close, but no cigar. For the amount of work that homemade hummus requires the results needs to be stellar. Solomonov’s did not change my life. We also roasted aubergine and topped it with garlicky yoghurt and dried sour cherries, and roasted cauliflower and tossed it with a vinaigrette and some flat leaf parsley.






Dessert was chocolate mousse, but it deserves its own post. This is what we woke up to. Immediately cleaning up after a party is anathema to me. Why would you want to erase the memory of the evening? Leave the table be.





It’s always awkward returning to a blog after you’ve been gone for a while. You’d think that after having blogged for ten years I’d have that figured out by now, but here we are.


I won’t bore you with the details of my absence, except to say that after a three year hiatus I am teaching my own course again, and it is absolutely wonderful and absolutely exhausting, and everything else has taken a backseat in the meantime. There’s also this quote from Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts that pretty much exemplifies my joy right now:



We’ve been eating our way through the new summer produce. A lot of asparagus, a lot of zucchini (which I’m increasingly considering as a pretty pointless vegetable), and a quart of strawberries a day. And others have been cooking for me – last weekend my new friend Tess served us maple breakfast sausages and fleshly baked corn bread studded with blueberries for brunch, and last night Jihee grilled Korean short ribs and served them with scallion pancakes and a kimchi stirfry, and it finally feels as if we have a community in this city. That counts.



More on what we’ve been cooking, soon. (In the meantime, brighten up your day with this.)