gastronomic goal no. 4: make pizza totally from scratch

I’ve been eating a lot of cooked tomatoes in the name of crossing off another gastronomic goal and realized that in the process I could make pizza from scratch and cross that one off too.

Now the title of this post is a little bit of a misnomer because in reality to make a pizza totally from scratch would mean not only making the dough but growing the tomatoes for the sauce, making the mozzarella and growing the basil to finish it. I fully intend to do this one day but for now I thought that making the dough and growing the basil would sufficiently meet the demands of ‘scratch.’

At the beginning of the spring I happily went with my mother to a garden centre and bought myself three potted herbs to go with a small pot of assorted baby herbs I had already been growing in my window sill. While I don’t have a green thumb, I cared for them and watched as they grew.

The one I was most exited for was the basil which was the smallest of the herbs and also my favourite. In my mind’s eye I imagined the basil leaves on a homemade Neapolitan pizza and waited excitedly until there were enough of them to harvest.

Then the day came and, using Jim Lahey’s pizza dough recipe and this guide to making Neapolitan pizza, I made a pizza from scratch.

Sure it was nothing special. Crushed San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella, dough and finally a few little basil leaves. But it’s still a gastronomic goal completed.

Now all I have to do is learn to actually like cooked tomatoes and that will be another one. I’m getting there though. Slow and steady.

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food-block

I don’t get writers block (touch wood). Working full-time at a newspaper has taught me to turn my writing on and off at a moment’s notice and while not everything I write is great, I do manage to write completed works with a great deal of regularity. What I do get is food-block. Which is to say that I go through unfortunate fazes where I am simply not feeling particularly inspired to cook. I blame it on the heat, not having as many people to cook for, even a lack of funds sometimes. But the God’s honest truth is that right now, as I write this, I have a terrible case of food-block. It’s so bad that I’m not even as hungry as I normally am.

This will not do.

I love food. I love it more than most other things. The only things that can possibly compete are dogs and some really specific people. And so it pains me to not have the burning desire to turn raw materials into fully composed dishes. But never fear. I have turned to some key sources of food inspiration and am confident that I’ll soon be back on my feet (and in an apron of course).

One of these sources of inspiration is British Columbia. In a few short days I will be returning to Victoria, BC (the city that gave me my passion for food in the first place) and I can’t wait to share some delicious food adventures with you all while I’m there.

The second source of inspiration is former New York Times food writer Amanda Hesser’s book Cooking for Mr. Latte. When I had first heard of the book my expectations were fairly low. The story of a woman dating a man who doesn’t like food as much as her? Really? But after my first read, I was in love with the way Amanda is whip-smart when it comes to the foodstuffs and eats some of the most wonderful sounding things. Some of the meals she describes in the book are enough to have me on my feet and in front of the stove in mere minutes.

And so, with the help of British Columbia and Amanda Hesser, I will be creating culinary delights in no time.

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the kitchen of my grown up self

I like to imagine what the kitchen of my grown up self will contain. And then I like to gather those things so that I have them when the time comes that I don’t live in a student apartment with a revolving door of roommates, each with their own home decorating tastes. These treasures, be they wine goblets, tea trays or a set of vintage egg cups that are proudly displayed on a wooden shelf are not things I own presently but instead they are things that I will own (maybe) someday. My kitchen will be eclectic and functional. I think about my grown up kitchen a lot.

Especially after browsing in stores like Le Chat Noir, a fantastic little antique store on a side street in Guelph. This place prioritizes the kitchen when selecting its curiosities and for that I am grateful. Sadly though, in the name of spending very little money, I left Le Chat Noir yesterday totally empty handed and was forced to scour the internet while dreaming about potential kitchen purchases. I found some lovely things.

a pair of vintage teak lunch trays

vintage egg cups

vintage enamelware lobster pot

vintage pewter pitcher

vintage steak knives

vintage baking set

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i pledge my allegiance to the ovaltine

It all started with Gilmore Girls. How could something so so simple, so innocent breed something so tawdry? The quirky and eccentric Lorelei brings her lovable and brainy teenage daughter Rory a pick-me-up cup of half Ovaltine half coffee and suddenly I’m hauled up in my apartment snorting the powdered malt beverage through a straw and selling my furniture to buy more of the stuff.

I am, of course, exaggerating. Yes, I love Ovaltine. Yes, I was inspired to drink it by an episode of Gilmore Girls. Yes, I drink a lot of it. But the heroin-chic image I created was merely a rhetorical device I used to make Ovaltine seem undeniably appealing and thus right a terrible wrong…

I have heard a lot of misguided grumblings from folks about how the very concept of Ovaltine is appalling and that these poor unfortunate souls will not so much as daine to try the stuff. But I ask you, good people of the internet, who doesn’t like Maltesers? Hmmm? Or Whoppers? The answer is nobody.

The good news about Ovaltine is that it tastes shockingly like the aforementioned much-loved confections. So go forth and drink some Ovaltine. Drink it down. All the way down.

Wrong righted. I will now celebrate with a cup of…(say it will me now)…OVALTINE.

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letters to dead people…not food

This post has nothing to do with food. I stumbled across this blog called Letters to Dead People and felt I should share. Some of them are hilarious and some are really moving or sweet. Here are some of my favourites.

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coldish? rainy? minestrone!

Even though the picture doesn’t really do it justice. This version if minestrone was exactly what I needed after days of blistering heat preventing me from cooking. Suddenly the skies opened up and let out a whole lot of rain and after walking from across town to my house for an hourĀ  without an umbrella, I needed something heart and warm.

I ate this soup at the table like a grown up but next time there’s pouring rain and I decide to make soup, I have to remember how comforting it is to eat soup while sitting on my window ledge, wrapped in a blanket and watching the rain fall on the road below.

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eating in the nation’s capital

On a relative whim I left for Ottawa with some friends for the long weekend. Having never been there outside of a motel in the biggest snowstorm in the city’s history, I was excited to check it out but wasn’t expecting much.

Being away from my home kitchen effectively zaps any desire in me to cook and replaces it with the desire to eat out as much as possible.

I went to Ottawa without knowing that it was a food-town and was pleasantly surprised right from the first meal we had at a little Italian cafe called Pasticceria Gelateria Italiana. In the morning with my friends there are two factions: those who need coffee and those who can wake up without the assistance of some dark, hot beverage. Me, being of the chemically defendant camp, joined two other friends at the cafe around the corner because our Ottawa host promised good, strong Italian coffee. We ordered our hot beverage of choice (mine a cappicino) and a pastry (mine a nutella biscotti) and sat around a little table inside to people watch.

I loved the pace of this little spot, observing that my cappicino would have been hurriedly handed to me in seconds at the Starbucks down the street but instead was slowly carefully prepared by one person who did that very thing every day. The walls were covered in clippings showcasing the cafe’s long history as a favourite in Ottawa and every glass case contained something beautiful that I wished I had ordered. We returned to the cafe every morning we spent in Ottawa.

For lunch on the first day we all agreed it would be shwarma. There is something undeniably delicious about those Lebanese pitas and so we each got one and walked a few blocks to enjoy it in the sun on a grassy knoll in front of a Ottawa University building. With our bellies still bursting from lunch, many of us attempted to squeeze in the Ottawa-touristy specialty: the beaver tail. Obama ate one once, don’t you know?

For dinner we went to a tiny little pho place off the beaten track and took our times eating the delicious noodle soup we had each ordered.

By far the most exciting part of my Ottawa eating, though, was eating my first Banh Mi at the Vietnamese submarine place called Co Cham. I’ve been wanting to try this sandwich for a long time but didn’t have occassion until a friend and I found ourselves hungry and in Chinatown. I regret not taking a picture but we each ordered the most classic sandwich and paid only 2.25 for them (!). The sandwich was so good and we ate slowly, not knowing when we would eat one such sandwich again.

Now, back in Guelph, I am happy to be reunited with my kitchen. I have some ambitious cooking plans for the next little while but let the record state: Nicole, a fairly discerning eater, was very impressed by the eating in our nation’s capital.

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