Late Night Music

February 10, 2008

This is a 2003 version of Traffic’s classic “Dear Mr. Fantasy”. Stevie Winwood’s voice sounds pretty much the same as it did 30 years before. But the guitar work and the tightness of band are superior to the original. I think.

Thanks as always to the YouTube gods.

The Great Dish Hunt

February 10, 2008

OK, I know it is not so romantic or apparently intimate, but I was planning to buy my wife a pie dish for Valentine’s Day.

When we had lunch at the Art Gallery Cafe last weekend, she saw a dish they have that she really wanted. It is a pie dish with a wide pre-fluted border. It would be perfect for her best-in-the-entire-world English-style meat pie. I decided to get it as a present.

It seemed simple enough. Vancouver is awash in kitchen equipment stores and boutique china suppliers. But try as I might — and I visited a whole bunch of fascinating stores in Chinatown and East Vancouver — I just couldn’t find what I was looking for. A simple dish had turned into a complicated problem.

I told my wife of my dilemma — always the best solution, I find. She got on line and quickly found a half dozen dishes that would be suitable. The images link to three suppliers just in case you are in need of a good pie dish.

The Joy of Cooking

February 10, 2008

Cooking CurriesFirst, let me heap praise on a cook book: Jane Lawson’s wonderful “Cooking Curries“. Every double-page consists of one or two recipes and a gorgeous colour photograph. She covers the widest range of curries from the obvious — India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, for example — to the more obscure — such as Goa, Burma, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Bali, and Kenya. Under her steady guidance, I have learned to mix and make a dozen or more new curry pastes, and she has really taken my hand and led me to a new confidence in using coconut milk and different fruits in my cooking. I picked the book up by chance from Book Warehouse for $7.99 last fall and have already derived hundreds and hundreds of dollars worth of education and pleasure from her writing. This was probably the best buy I ever made in a cookbook.

Yesterday, I wanted to cook supper and had actually remembered to get some chicken breasts out of the freezer to thaw in the morning. I had also vaguely decided that I would make something from “Cooking Curries” and had picked up a stem of lemongrass and some fresh cilantro from Chinatown. Other than that, I had no real idea of what I was going to do. As I slowly sauteed the chicken pieces in an oil and crushed lemongrass mix, I scanned my way through the book until “thai red duck curry with pineapple” caught my lemongrasseye. I chose it because I knew I had most (not all) of the stuff needed to make the red curry paste. The fact that I didn’t have either duck or pineapple was of no concern: I had sauteed chicken and — at the perfect suggestion of my wife — mandarin orange segments.

To cut a fun time of chopping and boiling and simmering and stirring short, we ended up with a pretty darned good meal. A chicken curry over rice, sweetened with coconut milk and orange segments (which, like good anchovies,had melted away), seasoned with a hot red paste (made from homegrown Thai peppers, I am proud to say), and with strong Thai undertones from the lemongrass, lemon zest and fresh cilantro.

The late Vancouver chef James Barber taught that you make do with the ingredients you have; that you cannot not cook something just because you are missing an item from a list; that the spirit and love you put into cooking is almost as important as basic technique. Combining this ethos with Jane Lawson’s already inventive recipes allowed me last night to fully experience the joy of cooking.