Archive for April, 2012

A Freezer Full of Perogies

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

My mother and I have not always been close.

There was a time when, passing through Vancouver (where I lived for ten years), she’d call me from the airport. She’d been to visit my brother in Seattle. She’d tell me what a lovely time she’d had, and how there hadn’t been time to call me earlier.Then, her boarding call would be announced, and she’d hang up the phone.

I told myself it didn’t matter. I was queer, and had no use for biological family.

Time, and the passing of some family members have melted that sharp, icy wall. It’s a relief. Sometimes you don’t even know that something used to hurt until the source of pain has disappeared.

My mother visited me in Toronto last week. At age 85, she doesn’t travel as much as she used to. But she wanted to check out my new home. And I wanted to give her a holiday from doctor’s appointments, hospitals and the labour of self-care.

We kept each other busy. I made soups and ice cream, and nutritious cereals. She gamely participated in all the actvities I’d organized: a farmer’s market; an art gallery; a fancy restaurant (Frank); a stroll through India Town.

There was a day we spent at home, making perogies. The Librarian, who has taught herself how to make those delicate little doughy things, came over. My ma generously gave us a master class.

The Librarian noticed all the details that make my mom’s perogies so great: the caramelizing of onions; the unbelievable amounts of butter. My ma showed us how to knead the dough until it’s just the right texture. And some important tips: The potatoes have to be really dry. The perogies have to be swathed in butter right after they’re cooked, or they’ll stick together.

I took pictures, mixed up gin and tonics. The Librarian was dead serious, fully focused. The Hair Dude showed up with a bowl of salmon congee she’d made, just for my ma. I was touched; usually people don’t think to bring my mom something she can actually eat.

Three hours after we began cooking, we sat down for dinner, happy, tired, relaxed. Food provided the necessary diplomatic element, mixing up different ingredients: straight, queer, Catholic, Buddhist, Asian, Caucasian, disability, ability, older, younger.

And, I now have a freezer full of perogies.

Spring, and Roasted Vegetables

Sunday, April 8th, 2012

Spring is always an uneasy surprise.

Classes end, suddenly it seems. The light sharpens, anticipating summer, and I see disarray everywhere; the piles of marked midterms on my desk; the litter at the edge of my garden; the dust in the guestroom.

Out of the corner of my eye I see crocus; narcissus; cherry blossom. The landscape of trees outside my new house is a daily surprise: the chartreuse of the willow; the small dusty pink buds of an unknown tree that slopes across the frame of my bedroom window.

The city is mine to explore again, but, newly released from the cage of my teaching schedule, I stay close to home. Nonetheless, there are things to discover nearby: a new hipster art gallery – Gerrard Art Space – in the middle of India Town, fresh paint on its walls; a new cafe about to open, called, intriguingly, Tea ‘n Bannock, promising aboriginal cuisine.

Cooking slowly returns to me. I make manicotti, for no other reason than that the Italian grocer in my ‘hood sells a delicious housemade ricotta. More-or-less following a recipe in The Rebar Cookbook, I stuff shells with with ricotta, fontina, chard, sundried tomatoes, sunflower seeds; that sustains me through the final, draining week of teaching.

The students are unruly,brusque, exhausted, that week. They know more than they did, but they are now aware of the limits of their knowledge. In other words, they know what they do not know, and this is what transforms them into scholars.

I buy a mess of vegetables, too, and roast them, using a wonderful recipe, Moroccan Mint Roasted Vegetables, from 101 Cookbooks. Thrown into salads, or frittata, or just eaten on their own, they help me transition from the last few weeks of winter vegetables into a new season of food.

Happy Spring.

Moroccan Mint Roasted Vegetables

“As I mention in the main post, I used a mix of what looked good and seasonal at my local market here, but feel free to mix it up a bit. You could certainly do pumpkin or other winter squash here, or straight potatoes (no cauliflower / radish), or green beans and broccoli in the summer. Asparagus and artichokes in the spring, etc.” -101 Cookbooks

1 lb / 16 oz / 450 g mix of potatoes, cauliflower, and a few radishes (save the tops)

1 1/2 teaspoons dried mint
1/2 teaspoon red chile pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
a squeeze of fresh lemon juice

toppings: fresh mint, toasted sesame and/or pumpkin seeds, plain yogurt (seasoned with a bit of salt)

Preheat your oven to 425F / 220C. Wash and dry the vegetables, then cut the potatoes and cauliflower into 1/4-inch thick slices/pieces. Trim and quarter the radishes, setting aside the green radish tops.

Place the dried mint, chile pepper flakes, cumin seeds, and salt in a mortar and pestle and pound a bit, long enough to somewhat break up the cumin seeds. Add the ground cumin, cinnamon, and ground ginger. After that, add the olive oil and stir until combined.

Place the potatoes, cauliflower, and radishes in a large bowl. Pour the spiced olive oil over the vegetables and toss gently but thoroughly – until everything is equally coated. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or until everything is cooked through.

Remove from the oven and serve on a platter topped with the radish greens, a squeeze of lemon and any/all of the other toppings. A fat dollop of salted yogurt really brings everything together.

Serves 4.

Prep time: 5 min – Cook time: 15 min

Guest Blog Post: Dinner With Friends

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

By guest food blogger Mette Bech

I love Marusya Bociurkiw’s food blog because it captures exactly what I love about eating: being with friends and having great conversations while indulging the taste buds. When I saw she wanted someone to write a guest blog, I couldn’t resist. Thanks for reading.

Elaine and I met in Grade 8. We had two classes together: Phys. Ed., and Foods. When we consistently tied for last place in the 1K runs in P.E., we became friends. That friendship solidified in Foods where we learned how to make cinnamon pinwheels and macaroni and cheese. We excelled in that class!

Elaine and I were immigrant kids in a school where most kids brought peanut butter sandwiches and grape drink for lunch. We used to joke that since she’s Chinese and I’m Danish, between us, we could eat pretty much anything. We sure prided ourselves in trying.

Twenty years later, she and her sister are still my best friends. We still love cooking and eating together.

I recently visited Elaine,her husband Terrence, and their daughter in Toronto. Elaine and Terrance work full time so even though they are foodies, it’s hard to spend much time on food prep. We brainstormed easy recipes. When I suggested pulled pork, they thought that sounded complicated. Actually, it’s the easiest thing in the world; since they already had a slow cooker, we went for it.

We got a pork shoulder, marinated it in ketchup, brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce. And, like the infomercials of our youth, we simply ‘set it and forget it’.

To accompany the pork, we made some corn muffins with cheddar and jalapeno. That was surprisingly easy, too.

For a salad, we made an apple fennel slaw.Terrence took charge of grating the apple and fennel on their mandolin. After that, we made a vinaigrette of grainy mustard, balsamic vinegar and lemon juice. This salad is so fresh and delicious, it makes the perfect accompaniment to a rich pulled pork dish. And the best part is that you can throw it together in less than ten minutes.

There is really nothing like making dinner and sharing food with the people you love. I feel grateful that even after so many years, Elaine and I are still the same goofballs we were in Junior High. Neither one of us got any better at sports but we still love feasting.

Bette Mach’s essays have appeared in Vancouver Review, First Person Queer (Arsenal Pulp Press), Second Person Queer (Arsenal Pulp Press) and Visible: A Femmethology (Homofactus Press). Her journalism has appeared in The Advocate, The Globe & Mail, WestEnder and Xtra.
Off the Highway is her first book. Georgia Straight called it one of the best reads of 2010.

*all photo credit goes to Terrence Chu