First of all, it's been a wild week. Someone stole my beautiful bicycle, things at work were very unstable and then the atmosphere on the home front was, well let's say, difficult.

Life is one big long transition.

But I think work is going to be better, as of this moment, and I think I'll stay for a while; it's important to not be too impatient and demanding in life, especially when friends like Louis want to go eat Montreal smoked meat at Schwartz's with you after work. Today was unusually freezing cold and windy and rainy, which is unfortunate, but also perfect for a meaty, fatty sandwich with mustard, a dill pickle and fries.

On the average day, the restaurant is packed with people sitting next to each other, biting into huge over-stuffed sandwiches from which thick shredded meat and mustard drip. They reach into huge baskets of fries and slurp cherry sodas; they knock elbows with their neighbor, whether they know them or not, and splash hot sauce over everything. The waiters are efficient and friendly, speaking a multitude of languages, rapidly serving customers so they can move through the enormous line of people stretching out their door. This year they opened up a take-out place next door, so people don't have to wait as much in the weather or long lines. I've walked past this place at 2:30 in the morning and there are still people eating, laughing, guffawing inside, or even yes, waiting outside for the big Jewish men, who wipe their hands on their aprons and clink their knives together as they shred and shred and shred the meat, to serve them.

I've been there four or five times over the years, each time marveling at the piled high hunks of salt-peppered meat in the windows, the speed and dedication of the workers and the simplicity of the entire concept; they're just sandwiches! But no one seems to do them better and I always leave there with a huge belly, greasy fingers, and that infamous grin on my face.

- murph

Localized Me

People: I believe I have accomplished true Midwestern status. I spent this past Memorial day "opening the cabin" and then taking in the fruits of this lush food basket. Let me explain.

Matt's family has a cabin on Lake Oakwood, just west of the Minnesota border in South Dakota. It is the pride and joy of his family because it is both where they gather and where they relax. It was a joy to be a part of their cleaning and prepping festivities as well as their dining, because this group knows how to eat.

Our Saturday meal, which followed a long day of work, featured not only seasonal fruit and veg, but regional favorites and fresh Walleye catches. (Read, me, agog). I got a few sideways glances as I gleefully snapped photos of our meal, but for the most part all parties were amused.That bacon wrapped delight to the right of my plate is half of a "cowgirl," a favorite of Midwesterns who shop the local grocery chain Hyvee. Summer in the Midwest is made official by the collective and constant grilling of these cheese and jalepeno stuffed chicken breasts. Our asparagus came direct from the Brookings South Dakota Farmers' Market and was grilled with a bit of olive and sea salt, Walleye from Oakwood, panned fried with a bit of butter and garlic, and a wild rice salad prepared by Matt's nutritionist Aunt with roasted almond slices, golden raisons and green onion. Oishi.

And as if that wasn't enough to thrill my culinary senses, friends of the family brought a rhubarb pie for dessert, with a flakey, tender, oil and milk crust.
Between the collection of drift wood and the consumption of asparagus, fresh fish and rhubarb I believe I established a true Midwestern existence. Here is to the lake days (and dines) to come.

Extravagant simplicity and Molly Wizenberg

A while ago I started reading Orangette, by Molly Wizenburg, from the beginning, word for word, and I've continued on in this manner until late; I've evolved to a less obsessive following, now I read just one month of posts instead of four while eating breakfast. I also bought her book, A Homemade Life which I devoured in the Vancouver airport and now just pick up and fondle, bursting with excitement for the various cakes (Molly really likes cake) and small one person dishes I can make. She loves high-quality ingredients to make simple delicacies. It's the way it should be done.

This morning, I read March 2007 and found this post for french-style carrot salad, which consequently led me to this post for a gloriously simple looking chickpea salad. Then, seeing as I still had some of her bouchons au thon that I made the other night left in the fridge (with only one egg, less crème fraiche, and pesto, which still produced slightly extravagant little tuna casseroles) and ryvita crackers in the cupboard, a combined salad of chickpeas and carrots seemed to be a brilliant addition. And, then, just, you know, I had some fiddleheads from the market lying around.

A note on fiddleheads:

In the food reference book, On food and cooking, fiddleheads are listed under "Toxins in some fruits and vegetables". The author, Mr. Harold McGee proceeds to inform us that they're the cause of several blood disorders and cancer in animals who graze on them, and they should be eaten in moderation.... However, luckily I was around when Libby's Uncle Ian prepared them for dinner one night. You want to have two pots of boiling water. Dump the fiddleheads into the first pot, let them simmer around for 3-4-5 minutes. Then move them into the next pot and simmer again until they reach your desired tenderness. You will see that the water in the first pot is dark brown and full of debris (do not drink this), not because it's poisonous, but because you use this double-dip method to remove the bitterness of the skins. Then you could fry them in some butter and garlic, which I didn't do, olive, salt and pepper is perfect for me.

And then, cause I know you're squirming in your seat with impatience about my salad! Here it is in all it's ingenuosity and simplicity:

Chickpea and Carrot Salad

1 person

1 C cooked chickpeas
1 carrot (grated, mandolin unnecessary)
2 TBS olive oil
1/2 lemon (juiced)
1 small clove garlic (minced)
1/2 tsp cumin seed (whole)
1 tsp salt
ground pepper

Mix it all around and around and eat it in great big spoonfuls out on the porch.


I couldn't resist!

This is in honour of all biscuit lovers, however you like them.

They remind me of the southern United States, and my grandmother's long soft drawl. My mom makes them for dinner with white flour and all the butter required; she's damn proud of them, cause they taste like her mom's, maybe even better. My dad makes them for breakfast with spelt flour and 3/4 of the butter required; he's damn proud of them cause he doesn't need as much butter for them to be delicious. I beg both of them equally to make biscuits at any time of day or year.

Since it's Sunday, I made Kelsey's biscuits this morning. I recently started a summer class in translation, but because I'm translating into french instead of into english (McGill makes you translate towards both languages - ultimately a good thing) it's excruciatingly difficult and I've spent a good part of my week very worried. So I haven't given myself the quality Judy time that I usually try to. A long morning of first yoga, then a big bowl of yogurt, then flaky warm biscuits smothered in jam and honey, with Greg Brown's "The Live One" playing on the stereo, was very necessary.

I'll just add that I substituted equal parts spelt flour and buttermilk for the white flour and milk. Yes, I used the same amount of butter; I guess I kept the best of both worlds from old mom and pop.

Hey Kelse! Just use your fingers to incorporate the butter. In biscuits I like bigger than smaller chunks 'cause they're flakier. If you use really cold butter, it works. Who needs food processors anyways?

I don't need a food processor after all

I'm convinced I need a food processor. Ultimately, there is truth to this because food processors are way more useful than blenders, but the later seems to be the more common applicance in student kitchens. I'm not convinced however that it is the more useful of the two. Every time I try and blend something, the blades just whir and fizzle around while my heap of basil or chickpeas stays in the same place. That's cause you need liquid to help blenders prove their utility and worth in the kitchen. The problem is that we don't always want to blend or purée; sometimes we need to just chop.

I had this huge, lush bunch of basil left over in the fridge that I bought from a man in a thick plaid shirt one windy morning at the market for the tomato soup Leigh and I made together last weekend. I am notorious for worrying constantly about wasting food, and for five days I told myself, every time I opened the fridge, good lord Jude do something with the basil! The dismayed response was, But I don't have a food processor! (Therefore making pesto would surely be impossible). And to further increase my level of anxiety, there was left over cilantro: immediate action was imperative.

So, after work on Wednesday I went and spent too much money on pine nuts (these things seem to happen when you need ingredients NOW), and got right down to work. I of course tried to use the Osterizer, but my three cups of packed basil and two of cilantro just sat there bored and humble. Then I had the innovative idea to use my Shun chef's knife that my parents gave to me for my birthday (so shocked I teared up when I opened the box) to simply chop up these fine herbs. While I toasted 5 tbs of pinenuts, I thunk thunk thunk thunk thunk scraped thunk thunk thunk thunk thunk scraped the basil and cilantro into a fine green purée. Then I whizzed the nuts in the coffee grinder, finely chopped up 2-3 cloves of garlic, squeezed half a lemon and grated 1/4-1/2 C parmesan cheese, adding all the ingredients together into the same bowl as the basil and cilantro. Last, I added enough olive oil (1/2 C) to mellow out the flavours and make a thick mixture. At the end I adjusted the seasoning by adding salt and pepper, and more cheese. Some of you might want more garlic, less salt, more lemon, etc. The great thing about pesto is that it's easy and you can riff on the ingredients, making it your own.

Since we're on the subject, I should add that a good knife is the most important, if not the only kitchen tool you own. Who needs blenders or food processors anyways? Buy a good knife sharpener, (I recommend the Lansky turnbox crock stick which is super compact and very effective) and take the time to sharpen your knives before you put them away (in a very safe place where the blade won't be damaged, ie. not in the drying rack point down or in a drawer with other cutlery or for heaven's sake in the dishwasher) so they'll be ready to use the next time you want to use them. To preserve the sharpness of your blade, don't cut on plates, counter-tops, stove-tops, table-tops or what-have-you. Also buy a cutting board that's big enough so you aren't constantly going off the board with the tip of the knife when you chop. I just bought an Epicurean cutting board today for 25 bucks. They're awesome: they don't keep odors and you can put them in the dishwasher, plus they're environmentally sustainable. I'm so excited to not be cutting anymore on the tiny plastic cutting boards that were here in this apartment when I moved in and stink like onions.

Before I end this epic rambling, I just wanna shout out my never-ending appreciation to my good old inspiration Tommy Douglas, Seattle chef/owner of the Dahlia Lounge, Lola, Etta's Seafood and the Palace Kitchen, among others, for this delicious little pesto recipe that he recommends for his Tuscan bread salad with fresh mozzarella and basil. I put some on a sandwich with avacado and asparagus and I've had the same sandwich, minus the asparagus, plus some cheese for three days since. Can't get enough of it, and there's tons of pesto to spare.

Sharpen your knives! Peace and love to all!

- murph

I like to eat like a peasant.

Heidi and Chuck Thompson of Painted Hill Farm sent me home with a few left over treat's after last Market day, including this lovely pork sausage. For breakfast, I ate it cold (it's that good) with a thick slice of home made bread (plain, cause I'm a Finn like that). Coupled with a fine earl gray, it made for a superb start.

Good Man. Makes Biscuits.

This is what greets me most Sunday mornings. And although it pains me a bit to admit it, he makes a better biscuit than I do. When I read "cut in butter" I say, "hello, food processor," which ultimately heats the butter up too much resulting in little to no flaky layers. But when Matt reads "cut in butter," he hunkers down with two table knives and pyrex bowl and dutiful cuts the butter into the flour he until he achieves small pea sized bits. What a man, what a man, what a mighty fine man.

Matt's Sunday Morning Biscuits
an economical breakfast for 2
a la The Joy of Cooking

3-4 Tbsp. cold butter
1 cup flour
1 and 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup milk, plus a bit

Preheat oven to 450. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl, and then cut in butter with two knives or a pastry cutter. When mixture resembles bread crumbs, mix milk in with a fork until mixture forms a ball. Flour hands and surface and need gently until dough is uniform. Flatten dough out until uniformly 1/2 inch thick. Use jar, glass, or cookie cutter to cut out round biscuits. Collect and flatten out scraps, continuing process until there is not enough dough left to be flattened. Place on a greased baking sheet and bake until golden. Serve with lots of butter, honey, and jam as well as a good pot of black tea.

Life at the Murphy house

It's very important to constantly emphasize that my family is a group of seriously devoted, disciplined, and passionate individuals. This results in an extremely high energy level at home that can be a rather constant humming, if not hysterical buzz. But as soon as I realized how wonderful it is to be part of such a group, and that we're not a bunch of crazy stressed out people doing more bad to our health than good, I found some inner peace and have consequently thrown myself even more enthusiastically into this great activity called living. Of course one must not take things to far to the extreme (ahem), and in order to remedy the fatigue that comes from such a high-paced life style, we must once and a while sit down. Luckily, we find ourselves in the glorious situation where three times, if not more per day, we must feed ourselves. And so from morning until night, we devote ourselves to eating and feasting well. But like all things we do, it is of course not an affair we take lightly....

So here we go, here's a small insight to the culinary artistry I consumed, created and was exposed to while recently in Victoria.

To celebrate my graduation from university, Katherine made a cake.

She's quite the talented lady when it comes to decorative art of baking. I walked into the kitchen and there she was, with a wooden spoon jammed under our heavy cutting board, the well-oiled handle sticking out over the edge of the counter, pot of melted sugar in one hand, a spoon in the other, newspaper on the floor to catch the drips, apron on, just lacadaisically drizzling the melted sugar back and forth in such a way that it formed long wispy strands over the handle (oil the handle first so you can get it off later). How she then got this golden birds nest onto the sourdough chocolate cake covered in fudge, I don't know. All I know is that she's a genius.

For dinner we had:

Filo wrapped halibut with spinach and a lemon caper sauce (Thank you Eric Akis - food writer for the Times Colonist in Victoria)

Asparagus with olive oil and vinegar (sorry no photo: imagination required)


Amaranth soufflé (Thank you Heidi Swanson of

It was an evening to be remembered, filled with delicious wine, champagne even I believe, and extremely good company. My dear friends Fabienne and Rosanne were able to be there and since they are practically like family, they fit right in. I am so grateful that I have such highly esteemed individuals in my life, even if most of them live quite far away. However, I'm beginning to find that in Montreal there are these sorts of food-loving people as well. And so, my journey continues.


I've found a new role model.

Please note, I also have some things to say about asparagus. Thank GOD for Spring, eh? But until then...

In eighth grade a much beloved English teacher left part way through the year to pursue a new job. She was replaced by a young teacher, with a hyphenated name and a short, practical haircut. My class was unimpressed. We found distaste for her simply because she was NOT what we knew.

This new English teacher, in retrospect, was very good at what she did. I remember reading Farenheit 451 with her, a book I continue to reflect on even as an adult. I worked as a teacher's assistant for her, and at the end of the year she brought me a rose. She gave us a handout on citing sources that I used into college, and she took the public bus, in rainy Seattle weather, while weighed down by adolescent essays. I admired this about her, and appreciate that she endured my class despite our general unwillingness to like her.

I share this with you because I just learned that this English teacher's husband, is in fact, a rock star.

Or at least a rock star, in my terms. He is a stay at home dad/food writer. And in the infinite wisdom of Tina Fey, I want to go to there. Or rather, I want to be that there.

Matthew Amster-Burton recently published a book about "raising an adventurous eater." You can see why this appeals to me - as I too, was raised by a food inclined father that insisted I try the sea scallop even though I thought it looked like a dirty piece of soap. As a growned up (no that was not a typo), I desire nothing more then to have babies, cook, and write. Just yesterday I asked my fella if he thought he could make enough money to support me staying at home, cooking, writing, and taking in the occasionally post-noon cocktail. His only reply was to chuckle, as he wants to be an educator. But hey, if the Amster-Burton's can do it, so can the Maki-Denton's.

Needless to say, I am inspired by this ghost of English past and the partnership and work of her husband. Maybe if Jude's and I keep the blog up for five years we too will have, babies, lovers, good taste, & a book deal.

Read Matthew Amster-Burton's Blog Roots & Grubs
Read about Matthew Amster-Burton's Book in The Seattle Times

Asparagus cannot go unmentioned!

Well, here it is, my asparagus post.

Thank goodness I love to cook, I'd be way more stressed out if I didn't (although sometimes I get so excited about what I'm going to cook my heart beats in leaps and bounds) and it's the best way to spend time with people, especially if they are equal food enthusiasts.

Here's what happened: a friend from work, Leigh, with whom I talk constantly about food instead of putting the Arcteryx and North Face jackets back in order, came for dinner with her boyfriend Pat. We made a tomato soup with cream and cognac from the Vegetarian Epicure (if you don't own this, you should get it quick out of the library, or purchase a copy), grilled cheese with gruyère, bacon and roasted asparagus, and tapioca pudding à la vanille.

As far as I'm concerned grilled cheese never fails to impress. In Belgium, they got me through some fiercely lonely rainy days. And in high school, I frequently came home, collapsed dramatically into a chair and said, "Dad, will you please make me something to eat?" He'd say, after a bit of convincing on my part "How 'bout a grilled cheese." And then he'd whip up these neatly browned and buttered cheesy sandwiches, adorned with some ham and tomato we had lying around = comfort food to the T. However, if I ever tried to replicate this experience, it was never quite the same; I always impatiently burned the bread and never let the cheese melt.

So, aside from growing older and much wiser, here are some notes about grilled cheese:

Turn the pan on to medium high, when drops of water sizzle, turn the heat down to medium low. In the meantime, assemble your sandwiches. Then put some fat into the pan. I used bacon fat tonight, but butter is lovely, and even olive oil is supreme. Place your sandwiches in the pan, cover with a lid and wait. Then, when you see the cheese is melting (doesn't have to be completely) and the underside is browning, flip them over.

Make sure you use your imagination! I think my next one will involve black beans, cilantro and chipoltle chile powder.

Hooray for spring and deliciousness!

Eating breakfast in the Vancouver Airport

I will excuse my absence with a move to a new apartment, a trip home to Victoria and general mental chaos.

I just spent 5 glorious days in Victoria, B.C, otherwise known as "the homeland". The only activities I participated in were cooking, eating, coffee drinking, café hopping and laughing with deliriously good friends and family (upcoming posts will document these experiences in more detail). I exercised of course...

I forgot my camera in my suitcase, so I am unable to simply show you a picture, but I want to share the blissful moment I had in the Vancouver Airport at 6 AM while waiting for my flight home to Montreal.

I got up at 3:45 to fly out of Victoria at 5:30, and by the time I reached Vancouver I was very hungry and quite foggy headed. So I got in line at Starbucks, something I never do, primarily because I don't drink a lot of coffee and then there's the usual political concern about drinking fair-trade etc, anyways, I thrust out my 16 oz travel mug, paid $1.63, and walked away with a very strong cup of steaming coffee. It was delicious! I'm not sure why I was so surprised, but I was. Then I sat down beside a huge window with a view of the Coastal mountains and took out the spelt-cornmeal biscuits that dad made the night before upon my request. I had packed little Tupperware containers filled with peanut butter and Katherine's peach jam, and I carefully spread these condiments generously onto the biscuits with a spoon. Then I took a sip of coffee, peeled my hard-boiled egg, bit in, took a mouthful of biscuit, took another sip of coffee and grinned gleefully to myself; what a meal! especially considering the extreme fatigue of the situation and the sadness about leaving home. Then I read the rest of Molly Wizenburg's A Homemade Life with my brain buzzing blissfully from the coffee and the good read!

I guess these days we're always flying to and from the various corners of the planet. It's rather normal, but I find constant change unbearably difficult. However, good food is a constant, and I live to create and feast upon its deliciousness. So as long as I have some special treats and take time to prepare some special eats, I'll be fine.

Spring has sprung, and so has the Asperagus.

I recently started reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. And given that I read at the pace of a turtle, I may be able to follow her farming exploits in perfect synchronization with actual events. For instance, I just finished up her ode to asparagus, and it is in fact asparagus season. The market has been absolutely bursting with it, and vendors sell out quickly. Late coming patrons wander frantically up to me asking, "Where is the asparagus?" and I have to tell them that they must arrive earlier if they would like to share in the bounty of spring.

I have thus, been dabbling in this lovely veg, although Matt refuses to partake. In fact, when i brought home a bundle his comment to me was "I hope you got that for free." It is my goal to someday turn him, but as of yet, her remains staunchly anti-asparagus.

The asparagus I bought at the market was lovely, fresh and sweet. So in other words, perfect. I roasted a generous handful for myself in a grill pan to top a fake pasta carbanora, which is a staple around our house because it is cheap and delicious. We buy bacon, not pancetta, at our local socialist grocery, Aldi (you pay a quarter to "rent" the cart, and the checkers sit in high rolling chairs. Plastic bags cost a nickel, and you must follow the trajectory they lay out through the store. It reminds me of Finland, I love it) and then I cut it up into chunks and freeze it. One package lasts us a month. I love that I can consider "BUY BACON" a cost cutting tip, but it really is. Needless to say, Bacon & Asparagus = magic.

A few days later I whipped up a cream of asparagus soup for one. I tried to tempt Matt but was unsuccessful. He had Raman. Certainly his loss.

I know the asparagus season is fleeting so I am trying to eat up now. Someday I hope to have a permanent home rather than a rental, where I could really invest in an asparagus patch of my own. Perhaps then, I can convince the man that asparagus is indeed, the sign, and the taste, of spring.

Suito Pasta Carbonara with Roasted Asparagus
Really this is just pasta in a homemade cream sauce...but we like to think we are fancy.
  • Boil enough spaghetti to feed your crew. I believe in a glug of olive oil and a generous dash of salt in all pasta water.
  • While that is happening, cut up enough bacon for every diner to have a handful of lovely little squares. Toss these in a small fry pan over medium-high heat, and cook until golden.
  • Scoop the bacon out with a fork and drain on a paper towel (or toilet paper, whatever you've got that's absorbent).
  • Return the pan with fat in-tact to burner, turn heat down to low. Add spoonfuls of flour and stir into fat until you have a paste the consistency of shampoo. Be careful that everything remains at a low temperature. If your pan gets to hot, this roux will burn and that would be, well, sucky.
  • When your roux is ready, add a few generous glugs of milk, half & half, or cream. Stir constantly, and be sure to scrape down around the corners of your pan. You will see the roux separate into little bits within the cold milk, that is fine. As the milk heats up, the roux will also.
  • Season the mixture as you like good additions are Italian seasoning, white or black pepper, garlic, and of course salt. Be sure to taste as you go.
  • With a little time and constant attention the sauce will thicken. If it seems too thick, add more dairy, too thin, whip up some extra roux with butter and flour and add until you reach the consistency you desire. My dad keeps prepared roux in the freezer for this, I do not have that much forethought and thus periodically end up dirtying an unnecessary number of pans.
  • When the sauce is ready, mix with drained pasta and prepared bacon.
  • Top with whatever veg you like, pan roasted asparagus, spinach chiffonade, etc.
Cream of Asparagus Soup for One ("on a budget" style)

five spears fresh Asparagus
1 shallot or half an onion
olive oil
1 tbsp. prepared roux
1/2 can condensed milk
salt and pepper

Snap the ends of asparagus spears and par boil until they are bright green. While asparagus is boiling chop up a shallot or 1/2 an onion. Fry in a bit of olive oil until sweaty. Drain asparagus and place in food processor, along with the onion/oil mixture. Process 1-2 minutes until everything is very smooth. Place mixture in sauce pan with roux and milk. Stir constantly over low heat until thickened. Season with thyme, salt and pepper. Serve with toast, and garnish with a dash of plain yogurt or fine oil.

Crumbs 2

I just showered for the first time in 4 days and I've eaten Domino's pizza for my last three meals. Once fresh, twice as leftover. I would do just about anything for a fresh baked chocolate chip cookie or a salad with a summer vinaigrette.

We do not have a single clean dish, with the exception of pickling jars - which are serving quite nicely as glasses and receptacles for dirty silverware. I am currently still in my pajama pants. They are holiday themed. I am beginning to wonder why I didn't pursue a nice job as an office assistant like most of the capable people I graduated with.

Clothes, books, and plates adorn every surface of our home and yesterday I accidentally burned a ring into our landlord's Persian rug with a hot pot of popcorn - who knew carpet melted? Apparently the world minus Maki. Matt was unamused, but sympathetic to this event.

One day and 1/2 a paper to go, then summer, cleaning, and I pray to the good Lord, inexpensive vegetables.