white pepper split-pea soup: not only for throwing.

I love split-pea soup. There, I've said it. I know that, by making this statement, I've automatically been relegated to the ranks of food-throwing babies or toothless elderly. But wait, the soup that I love isn't the gelatinous mass which looks like it could become the new Blob and is served to make people even sicker in the hospital, but rather is a lightly spiced, rich soup which exudes comfort and happiness. 
Pea soup has its origins in the ancients. Romans and Greeks were enjoying this long before the art directors on The Exorcist used it for . . . well, let's just say a representation of being sick.
As I've said before, I often think that recipes historically considered peasant fare are some of the most comforting and flavorful. I was able to sit down, work on my quilt, and eat soup. My soul could not be more content (well, a little bit more, if I wasn't feeling so under the weather!). And I believe it was the sustenance of the soup, and Planet Earth with a bit of Curb thrown in, which enabled me to finish the top of my quilt!
Cheap, full of protein, fibre, feel-good tryptophan, and magnesium, split-pea soup is a delightful thing to hunker down with in your living room, with an episode of Planet Earth (yes, I am that geeky) or a good book. But please resist the childish urge to throw a spoonful at anyone who enters the room.
White Pepper Split-Pea Soup
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
3 bay leaves
1 tsp. dried thyme
3 tsp. white pepper
3 small racks of pork riblets
4 c. sodium-reduced chicken stock
2 c. dry green or yellow split_peas
1 small sweet potato, peeled and chopped
salt, to taste

1. Pour the olive oil into a large soup pot and place it on the stove at medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and fry them until brown - about 3-5 minutes.

2. Add the rest of the ingredients and reduce the heat to medium. Let the soup simmer for about 2 hours, or until the peas have become soft.

3. Remove the pork riblets and set them aside to cook. Meanwhile, blend half of the soup and add it back into the pot - if you want no texture whatsoever then just blend all of it.

4. Take the meat off the riblets and cut it into small chunks. Add them back to the soup.

5. Pray. Eat. Enjoy. Remember being a kid again while suppressing the urge to throw your food.

garlic mustard crusted red snapper: when you're sick, why not?

There's something about putting a succulent forkful of fish on your tongue and lightly pressing it to the roof of your mouth, feel it part into flaky little bits. I find its the one 'meat' that I can really handle when my throat hurts.
Snapper has a light taste which lends itself to a strongly flavored crust. Simple, quick and delicious, breaded snapper was just the meal to make last night (and I could eat it quickly, even with a sore throat, in order to do more sewing!). 
Garlic Mustard Crusted Red-Snapper

1 small snapper fillet
2 tsp. seedy dijon mustard
2 tbs. lemon juice
1 tsp. tarragon leaves
2 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. olive oil
1 egg, beaten
1/4 c. panko bread crumbs
3 tbs. olive oil

1. Blend together mustard, lemon, tarragon, garlic cloves, 1 tsp. olive oil, salt and pepper. Marinade the snapper for 20-30 minutes in the mix.

2. Drain the marinade from the fish, place it in a small bowl and beat in the egg. Place bread crumbs on a large plate. Coat the fish in the marinade/egg mixture and then coat it in the bread crumbs.

3. Heat the remaining olive oil in a skillet on medium high. Add the fish and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until brown. Flip and cook on the other side until it is completely cooked and browned.

4. Pray. Eat. Enjoy. Place a sliver of fish on your tongue and let it melt down your throat.

honey-glazed pork tenderloin: layers of flavor and layers of fabric.

It is rare that I make a meal solely for myself. But there is something calming about slowly mixing ingredients together, taking time to smell and taste, knowing that the only stomach I need to appease is my own.
Pork is a traditionally an autumnal meat and although it is not kosher for one culture, it is one of the most popular meats in the world.  A pork loin is one of the leanest cuts of meat as well, ranking equally with that other exulted white meat -- chicken.
Also, like chicken, it is a great meat to cook with because of its malleability in terms of flavors. Sweet, salty, savory, or sour, all tastes seem to meld well in this tender meat. However, I decided on the first last night, thinking I wanted to see the shine of a glaze and aroma of sweetness. My godmother gave me this lovely jar of honey - the real 'mccoy' straight from her one 'worker bee' (she is part of a honey collective here in the city, promoting sustainable urban agriculture). It sat on my counter and begged to be used (I usually just take a spoonful every time I enter the kitchen - but I thought a recipe would do it more justice so it could show off its wonderful strength in an interplay of flavors).
And just as I had inspiration to cook, I also had inspiration to sew. Before the end of May, I had bought material and cut it into strips for a quilt. Unfortunately, it was left to the wayside as other things infiltrated my life. So I sat down last night, put on this Snow Patrol song, thought about all my blessings, and sewed. 
It will grow to encompass the entirety of my bed, but for now, this is what it looks like - lovely. Like cooking, there is something calming about sewing - it can be instinctual and yet clinical. Both are good for the soul.
Honey-Glazed Pork Tenderloin

1/4 c. natural honey
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/8 c. balsamic vinegar
2 tbs. olive oil
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 tsp.tarragon leaves, dried

1 pork tenderloin
2 tbs. olive oil

1 large onion, sliced

1. Blend the ingredients for the glaze together, except for the tarragon leaves. Add them after everything else has been blended smoothly. Pour over the pork and marinade for at least two hours, optimally overnight.

2. Heat 2 tbs. olive oil in a skillet on medium-high. Place onions in the skillet and slightly brown for one minute. Move them aside in the middle and place the pork tenderloin in the pan. Pour any excess sauce over it and the onions.

3. Place a lid over the pork and let it cook five minutes. Stir the onions and flip the pork. Cover and cook for another five. Cook until pork is cooked through, but is still a little pink in the middle.

4. Pray. Eat. Enjoy. Listen to this Snow Patrol song and do something that brings a lightness to your soul.

vietnamese stir-fry: a send off for a friend.

A friend is leaving. Robbie is jetting off, across the world, to obtain a rich accent and perhaps a Welsh pony. We had to send him off in style -- with loving friends around, some wine, and good food.

The night began with an epic board game and progressed to food. Then some more board games. Then some deep and delicious cake. Then the St. Regis pub. What could be a better progression?
Every time someone comes over, we ask them what this one, random object near our fireplace is. So far, we've had a myriad of answers, some probably right, some just . . . odd.
Robbie is a lovely man -- funny, honest, and above all, kind. One who I have known for at least a decade, and have thought he was wonderful the moment I made his acquaintance. We shall miss you friend, have a marvelous time in Wales.
Vietnamese Stir-Fry
(adapted from Mark Bittman

3 tbs. sesame oil
2 chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 large onion, sliced 
1 bird chili, seeded and chopped
1tbs.  minced garlic
1/8 c. fish sauce
1/8 c. soy sauce
3 tbs. packed brown sugar
1 lime, juiced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 c. bok choy, chopped
1 c. mushrooms, chopped
1 c. bean sprouts
1 c. sweet peppers, chopped

1. Mix the lime juice, soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar, garlic and chili together.

2. Place a wok on high on the stove and add the oil. Fry the onions and chicken until the onions are golden and the chicken is barely cooked through. Place in a bowl and set aside. Pour half of the sauce over the chicken.

3. Add the vegetables to the wok, with more oil if need be. Fry until they are almost cooked through. Add the rest of the sauce and the chicken to the wok.

4. Pray. Eat. Enjoy. Send off those you love with a full belly.

tom ka gai: thai chicken soup for the soul, and the sick.

There is nothing I abhor more than being sick. The runny nose, unceasing cough, lymph nodes the size of golf balls, and listlessness that usually results in me entering in random contests online because my mind cannot handle anything more strenuous. Heck, for my brain activity to cease it can either vaguely concentrate on winning free appliances (which I would never use) from Canadian House and Home magazine, or watch Jersey Shore (watching people I hope I would never become). I prefer the former, and would shoot myself before ever allowing the alternative.

Soup, soup, soup. I know, you all believe thats all I've been talking about lately. Well, actually, it is all I've been talking about lately. But, perhaps there was some higher power whispering to me, telling me "Sam, you are going to be sick, stock up that soup in the freezer like a beaver with logs,  a squirrel with nuts, a mongoose with eggs, a fat man with chocolate, a crazy old lady with cats to throw, or hip Japanese with hair gel." (you should all realize by now that God didn't tell me this, Nyquil did).
So I made soup. Yet again. Soup. But dang, it was good. And creamy enough to soothe my throat while spicy enough to help me regain my voice from that of a 95-year old cantankerous smoker -- yes, I was a darn sexy secretary for a day, when they could even hear me. 
After leftover soup, I bundled into my aunt's car while wrapped in a blanket (well, actually, this particular blanket is like my adult 'blankie' -- its white, fuzzy, and perfect all over. I walk around the apartment with it draped over me, even going so far as to cook with it on -- never a good idea). My mom was arriving back from Ontario, and so with soup in my stomach for fortitude, and a sign in my hand for love, we drove to pick her up. Airports are just full of love - people crying they are so happy to see one another. I could spend hours in the arrivals area at an airport. And I truly believe that everyone should experience having someone waiting with a sign, at least once in their life. However, with mine, I thought I might have a flock of middle aged women begin to follow me.
So after much coughing and waving (I'm not hugging anyone right now, as much as I would love to), my night ended. Productive, rambling, and once again, soup-y.
Tom Ka Gai (Thai Chicken Soup)

6 c. chicken stock
2 chicken breasts, sliced
1 lemongrass stalk, tender white flesh minced, and long stalks cut into three
3 kaffir limes leaves (I use dried)
1 thumb-size piece ginger, minced or grated
2 bird chilies, chopped (use gloves!!)
1 can coconut milk
1/2 lime, juiced
3 tbsp. fish sauce
1/2 c. fresh coriander leaves
1/2 c. fresh basil leaves
1 c. mushrooms, sliced
3 green onions, cut finely
1/2 c. bell pepper, sliced
1/2 c. cherry tomatoes
1 c. bean sprouts

1. Simmer the first nine ingredients together in a soup pot over medium heat. Cook until chicken is cooked through, about 15-20 minutes.

2. Add the veggies and simmer for another 5. Serve with a few cut green onions and cilantro for garnish.

3. Pray. Eat. Enjoy. Sniffle a bit, then revel in a sick day.

leek turkey soup: liquid on a day filled with falling water.

The only way to describe this past Sunday is wet. When it wasn't pouring, it was drizzling, and when it wasn't drizzling, it was spitting. I was once again computer-less, book-less, and wandering aimlessly through the sodden streets.
The solution? As always, make soup. This time, however, I had a leek just reclining in my crisper, waiting to be used (peeling back a layer to show me the lovely white flesh underneath - oh scandalous!). When it taunts me like that, how can I not use it?
But, what do I do with a huge pot of soup? I am a self-admittedly moderately tiny person, and a couple gallons of soup would take me eons to get through (hence the over abundance of leftovers in my freezer). So, I called up my aunt and invited her over. Unfortunately, she couldn't make it, so I decided: why not feed as many mouths as possible? I sent Jered a text and brought it over (trust me, carrying a pot of soup on the 99 B-Line bus is not the brightest of ideas, though it smells good). No ounce of the soup was wasted, and I was able to enjoy boisterous company, instead of trying to slowly sip away at the entire pot for several weeks. Sharing food with friends is always better than eating on your own. Always.
Leek Turkey Soup

2 turkey legs, bones in
5-6 c. chicken stock
2 large leeks, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
3 carrots, thinly sliced
1/2 c. Italian parsley, chopped
2 bird peppers, thinly chopped (optional - if you want it hot)
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste

1. Combine turkey legs, onion, garlic, chicken stock and dark green part of the leek leaves in a large soup pot. Add enough water to cover it all. Set the stove to medium-high and let it simmer for about an hour, or longer if able to.

2. Strain the stock and reserve it. Take all pieces of turkey off the bones and place it in the stock, discard the onions, garlic, bones and dark green leek. Put the stock and meat back in the pot and add the carrots, the rest of the leek thinly sliced, parsley and salt or pepper to taste. Let it simmer until the veggies can be pierced by a fork.

3. Pray. Eat. Enjoy with friends, never eat soup alone on a rainy day.

eat! fraser valley: oh i was in my glory.

After a glorious day picking up cheap wine and food at Trader Joe's in Bellingham, Josh and I headed back across the border to experience copious amounts of food. Eat! Fraser Valley was in Abbotsford and overloaded my senses. A large culinary trade show put on by the Food Network, I was flying as high as a kite on the smells of mini burgers, crepes, balsamic vinegar, and a myriad of other smells and sights that greeted me in the Tradex arena. Here are a few glimpses into my ecstatic night.