Category Archives: summer

SALAD DAZE

I think I have a new favorite salad. It’s true love. Sadly, our relationship can’t last forever.

Isn’t she a beauty? Alas, our relationship is temporary because the ingredients are 90% seasonal. Our tomatoes are practically gone, and this is the last week for corn. Don’t even get me started about fresh cannellini beans and those tender green beans. Sigh.

Some mornings I wake up with wicked cravings. Recently, it was Salade Niçoise.

After a quick run to the market, I had absolutely every fresh ingredient I needed. The freshly shelled cannellini beans were the crowning jewel.

So pretty. I could hardly bear to throw away the bean’s papery, creamy husks.

The wannabe-stylist in me loved assembling this gargantuan salad. I thought about organizing all of the colors in a rainbow sequence, but then thought better of it. I was missing the color blue, anyway.

Adam surprised me with a few treats of his own, too, including this platter of ripe figs. I’ve learned so much about proper fruit from him — like a fig that isn’t jammy, oozy, sticky, and basically sugary mush isn’t worth eating. I’ve learned to steer clear of all of those firm, tasteless, expensive figs. Goodbye.

He had another surprise, too — wild Quebec blackberries, smaller than my pinkie fingernail, and so sweet and tender. I haven’t had this much fun eating blackberries since I lived in Portland and ate them everyday.

The finest kind of salad, in my opinion, is just thoughtful assembly. I once had a mindblowing Salade Niçoise in a small bistro in Paris, but honestly when you have ingredients this splendid and this fresh, nothing else will ever compare. Nothing else will ever come close. Ingredients to consider in varying degrees of proportion when putting together your own Salade Niçoise:

Sliced avocado (that would be my California upbringing rearing its head, saying, “put avocado in every salad you make, ever”)
Sliced tomatoes
Fresh, raw corn
Summery green beans, blanched briefly
Diced red onion, carrots, and celery
A fistful of freshly shelled cannellini beans, boiled until tender
Soft-boiled eggs (note: I hate hard-boiled eggs, but that would be the more traditional option)
New potatoes, boiled for 20 minutes, then cut into discs
Halved olives (we used Kalamata)
Can tuna packed in oil
Some kind of tender lettuce (I spotted some handsome heads of Boston lettuce at Birri recently)
Parsley to garnish; lemon vinaigrette to dress.

I’m really trying to enjoy my salad days while I can. And honestly, this was one of the best lunches I’ve had in along time.

“..My salad days, / When I was green in judgment, cold in blood…”

A PAIR OF TARTS

This was my first year at Montreal’s Oysterfest, and man was it good. Plenty of Montreal’s culinary heavy hitters were there — Cafe Myriade, Olive + Gourmando, DNA, Osteria Venti, Kaizen,  and my friend Michelle, the lovely pastry chef at Laloux. She orchestrated the most remarkable dessert, a three-bite Ontario peach tartlet with a hidden sour cherry tucked underneath, topped with a spoonful of dangerous bourbon cream. It reminded me — in the best way possible — of those tiny plastic cups of fruit cocktail that you got at snack time as a small child. Syrupy, sticky, wholesome, and glowing. As her assistant, I was allowed to devour as many tarts as I wished. I think I ate about six.

The day began early. 7am for Chef Marek, and 12pm for me, her tableside helper. Around noon, we were still at Laloux, and without a car. How were we going to transport 200 delicate, still-warm tarts to Old Montreal?

Michelle, always the resourceful one, called a cab. We sat through the bumpy ride, our laps cradling baking sheets lined with tarts, the trunk filled with tubs of pastry cream on ice. Pretty sure our driver thought we were crazy.

Things picked up around 2pm, when we were handed our first sandwich — DNA’s massive, clownish prochetta “sandwich.” It was bigger than our dinner plate, heaving with waves of fat and dripping with aoili. The pork belly was tender, and slathered with a fragrant herbal spread and capers. I managed a few bites and passed it on.

The others didn’t fare much better. Everyone gawked and put away a couple of bites, but in the end, I don’t think we made much of a dent in the sandwich.

The other highlight was Venti’s magnificent timbale, which was coated in one of the freshest-tasting tomato sauces I’ve ever had. Michelle and I were in awe.

After stuffing ourselves silly, we finally set up our table at 4pm. Okay, so maybe our little booth wasn’t as flashy as some of the others. And maybe we completely forgot about signage until halfway through, when Michelle brilliantly thought to write the name of her dessert on the back of a plate. The queries of, “Who are you?” and “What is this?” just got to be too much. Oh yeah, and for the first 20 minutes we didn’t even have napkins, plates, or forks. People still bought them, though. They were that good.

And after two hours, they were all gone. Every single one. I guess I shouldn’t have eaten six of them after all. Next year, I have to get the Dep in on the action.

THE PAST IS PRESENT

My  old friend Meghan was in town for the weekend in preparation for her inspiring workshop at Le Pick Up, so the night she and Claudia were to arrive, I had a cozy, hot meal ready and waiting. We snacked on leftover charcuterie, cheeses, and homemade pickled carrots with hummus and breadsticks, and then moved onto dinner, starting with a salad of wild arugula laced with toasted hazelnuts, nectarines, and avocado, thinly dressed with walnut oil and sherry vinegar. We finished with a vibrant herb and mustard-rubbed pork loin served over beluga lentils (I love their rich, glossy black color) and new potatoes roasted in bacon grease. And finally, the fruit crumble seems to be every cook’s go-to uber-lazy dessert (it is for me anyway), and this luscious dish of halved golden plums roasted in blueberry honey and minced thyme was no exception. I often prefer my fruit desserts more tart than sweet, and this almost had an addictive sourness that I loved.

It’s so great to see old friends. A decade later, and very little has changed about our friendship, though we’ve grown so much in individual ways. So nice. I often wish I could gather all the people I love into one city, so I can see them whenever I want. Selfish, I know.

SUMMER THRILLS

Funny how time gets away from us — especially when there’s a wedding in the works. Especially when there’s 200 people coming to the wedding, and especially when you’re the maid of honor. But, as with events that seem to take a million lifetimes to plan, they all seem to be over in a split second. So I’m back in Canada, for now, and I have plenty of things to do — like this workshop that’s just around the corner. It’s going to be just great, and you know? It’s nice to be back.

WORKSHOP! Radicalizing Herbalism and Activating the Healers

And now, for a Dépanneur Le Pick-Up-related missive, another workshop that I’ve organized….

Our friends Meghan Murphy and Claudia Abbott-Barish, two lovely California-based food and food justice activists, are traveling across North American in their cherry red 1980 Ford Courier pickup truck and touring bicycles… and making a stop in Montreal! They will be hosting the workshop “Radicalizing Herbalism and Activating the Healers” at the Dep on Sunday, August 14 at 6pm.

Both have been local food and food justice activists for many years and have come to look at their herbalism studies as another side of the same coin. Feeling a significant lack of social analysis and activism around herbal medicine as they have encountered it, they have been cultivating a common desire to radicalize herbalism, and mobilize healers to realize the innate activism in their pursuit of an alternative paradigm of healing.

Not to miss an opportunity for broad geographical and social engagement, the ladies have decided to fold their road trip, cycle trip and workshop tour into one jammed-packed adventure of intrigue, physical tests, emotional and psychological trials, community involvement and anarchist hedonism.

Here’s what they have to say about the Montreal workshop:

“Using popular education, our workshop will cover a brief history of corporate power and how herbal medicinal use has been prevented in the past, barring us from actions of self-sufficiency. We will focus on why cultivating, wild-crafting and teaching about herbs creates new possibilities for us to create more healthy, reciprocal systems (social and economic) in the rest of our lives. This analysis will include examples, past and present, of how people have used herbs and herbal medicine to resist exploitation by those in power. The workshop will end with a dialogue on how to engage around these issues with members of our communities; what methods are inclusive, representative and equitable, and how to collaborate with the most people.“

They’ll also be doing fun, hands-on activities like making salves, tinctures, and tea blends.Spots for registration are extremely limited, so please email me at natasha.pickowicz AT gmail.com for a spot. Unlike our other workshops, this event will be charged on a sliding scale of $10-20. Please pay an amount with which you feel comfortable.

This workshop is aimed at healers, herbalists or self-taught herbal-medicine makers, who are interested in how their work can have a greater community impact beyond the traditional forms of engagement. That said, it is open to ANYONE who is remotely intrigued by the subject matter. Your contribution is valuable no matter who you are.

For more information, please visit their website, Root Medicine. We hope to see you there!!

SHOWERED

The bridal shower I keep going on and on about? I was also in charge of the food. The vibe was simple and light — and I didn’t want to go the finger sandwich and chicken salad route — and I decided on grilled crostini two ways: broiled garden tomatoes soaked in balsamic and torn basil, and white bean, mushroom, thyme, and zucchini, drenched in white wine and lemon. Two salads, too: red leaf lettuce with dill, terragon, basil, garden cucumbers, and fresh summer corn, and arugula with grilled radicchio, blueberries, and homemade rye croutons. And dessert, of course — two summer fruit crostatas, one peach and raspberry, the other blueberry. Not only was it the first bridal shower I’ve ever hosted, it was the first bridal shower I’ve attended, ever. Hopefully it had the low-key and ladylike vibe befitting the lovely bride!

Heidi’s Grilled Fava Beans

I was already sold with Heidi’s original recipe and photos, but it was Ashley’s images that really put me over the edge. As soon as I saw her recap, I couldn’t get it out of my mind — grilled fava beans! How was that even possible? Did you have to shell them after they were cooked? Would they get limp and soggy? Was it really worth the effort? But we set out to Jean-Talon Marche, where Joe, our favorite dude at Birri, informed us that their most recent batch of favas were young and tender enough that the pods within could be eaten whole — no shelling required — and raw. I was sold. We went home that night and grilled a fistful of favas in a light marinade of lemon juice, grapeseed oil, and plentyof flaky sea salt. It was like a heartier version of the traditional edamame — just terrific, and a unique addition to your barbecue repertoire.

Full recipe here.