Yesterday was glorious! Sunny, mild, breezy, and offering just a taste of spring. The clouds have moved in again and the wind is chillier as it blows up from the bay, but the yearning for spring salads isn’t diminished.
We grilled a steak and searched for provisions in the fridge – some spinach, a few leftover pickled beets, and an end of goat cheddar. With the addition of some walnuts and a drizzle of spicy mango dressing, it seemed like a good transition from the soups and stews of winter to the salad days we know are coming.
Last night, a lovely, if smaller, family dinner. And this morning, a chance to relive the memories over a plate of corned beef hash, topped with a nice fresh egg. One more meal to go out of last night’s Boiled Dinner…for lunch, Potato and Cabbage soup.
For the breakfast: in a nonstick skillet or seasoned cast iron pan, cook a chopped mix of whatever veg are left over, with a small dice of any leftover corned beef (if there is any!) when it’s getting nicely browned, make a small hollow for each egg and tip them gently in. Cover and cook until the eggs are done as you like.
Next…off to Mass and then to prep for the afternoon ceilidh.
It’s been said that St. Patrick’s Day was given to the Irish as a break from the sacrifices of Lent. Whether or not that’s true, one thing is for certain: around here St. Patrick’s Day means Boiled Dinner. Whether the family gathering is large or small, we cook a bit pot of corned beef with onions, carrots, potatoes and cabbage. Somehow no matter how much meat is set aside to make hash the next morning, it is somehow stolen by leprechauns and only the vegetables remain. Still, they make a lovely soup, combined with the cream left over from the Guinness cake.
When we had a houseful of teenagers, “leftover roast beef” was an oxymoron. But our home is emptier now, and our eating habits have changed as well. Today at lunch we needed to use some roast beef. But not too much. Also on hand: a couple of roasted beets, some arugula, and the last ounce of Shropshire Blue from our New Year’s party. We sliced the beets on a bed of arugula, then the beef. Next, a vinaigrette using a tablespoon of grainy mustard (ours was Kozlik’s), a couple of teaspoons of olive oil, and the zest and juice of half an orange. A grating of the cheese and we split about a tablespoon of pecans over the two plates for extra crunch.
We’re really getting back into our healthy habits. Our two most important weapons are exercise and meal planning. Going into the day with a food plan means we don’t have to worry about being distracted by circumstances. We’ve also taken time to choose recipes that account for how much we have going on, on that day. Busy days get simple, tasty solutions…like this one.
It’s a delicious recipe from Cooking Light, which has been a tremendous resource on our journey. Since we’re being very conscious of getting our veggies, we served it with a nice salad on the side. We made three adaptations; we cooked the garlic in heart-healthy olive oil, and we substituted a mix of chili powder and cumin for the taco seasoning. We also used cheese that we already had on hand, and weighed the portions carefully.
Christmastime at our house always involves tourtière, usually on Christmas Eve, after Mass. The year we moved to the walkablefeast Neighbourhood, I went shopping at Royal Beef for my ingredients. I didn’t see any ground pork, so I asked the butcher. And do you know what he asked me? “Are you making tourtière ?” and ” What mix with the beef, 50-50? Because I can just make that up for you.”
Those are the sort of touches that make you know you’re at home, even if your “real” home is miles away. And they’re also what make you want to be a small shop shopper, and turn in your big box membership forever.
Yesterday we were at Fermentations to bottle some lovely Malbec. As we often do, we ducked next door to pick up something good from The Friendly Butcher. As always, we were spoiled for choice and almost couldn’t figure out what to do! But we settled on these delicious, tender steaks. Grilled just right (rare, thanks)…we served them with red potatoes boiled together with a clove or two of Ontario garlic, then smashed. Steamed green beans and yellow bell pepper rounded out the plate. Fresh, local, and delicious. Dinner doesn’t get any better than that.
PS, a disclaimer. Although we’re walkable, we did not try and walk home carrying two dozen bottles of wine and our steaks. But if pushed, we could!
The other night we didn’t have as many people for dinner as expected, so there were leftover lamb chops. Plus we had a piece of beef tenderloin that hadn’t been used. (Such is life when adult children begin to flee the nest…sometimes here, sometimes eating elsewhere).
The idea was that we should make something a bit liked mixed grill. We didn’t have sausage, but the meats were enough. We browned them nicely with some red onions, peppers, and a carrot or two, diced. Then, a little wine tipped in to loosen the nice browned bits. At the end of the browning, we put in some mushrooms, and a good handful of rosemary, chopped, plus a grind of pepper.
We covered this with a can of diced tomatoes with herbs, and popped it in the oven for an hour, with the cover on. Then we removed the lid, and left it bubbling along (at about 350F) while we made some mashed potatoes.
In the end, it was a great way to celebrate what we hope was the last day cold enough for braising until the autumn!
One of the things about shopping and eating as locally as possible is (1) you need to learn to menu plan and (2) you have to be willing to adjust the menu plan.
We were all set to have a nice big Kitchen Sink Salad (more on this later!) for lunch today, because we’re working in the home office. But we had this great Chili Braised Beef last night, and there was some left over. You can’t just let a batch of slow-cooked deliciousness go to waste, so we halved the salad and used up the reheated beef. I admit it isn’t quite as pretty as yesterday…but like chili, it sure tastes great on the second day.
Now as for the Kitchen Sink Salad, it’s just what it sounds like – a big bowl of vegetable yumminess. Here’s what we featured today:
Start with the dressing – an acid, some mustard, and oil. In our case, the zest and juice of 1/2 an orange, 15ml/1 tbsp. sesame oil, and 15ml / 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard. Whisk this together. Then I grated in 1/2 a red and 1/2 a yellow heritage carrot I bought at Kelly’s. Next, some artisanal lettuce – curly endive and a bit of butter lettuce. There was a bit of broccoli – not enough for two, but enough for salad. I steamed it for a minute to take the edge off the crunch, but when I’m in a hurry I’ll just chop it a bit more. Peel and dice the remainder of the orange, and throw in a few black sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and almonds for good measure.
Toss it all together and start imagining – you can change the ingredients every time. Beans instead of nuts – sure! Vinegar instead of orange? Why not? Olive oil, or canola…yum!