Sunday, February 7, 2016

Saturday Night's Dinner

I am hooked on the chocolate cake recipe in the cookbook
from the Dunbar bakery: Butter. It is to die for.

I pulled off a pretty good night last night. Sue, Bruce, Robert, Sally and Maureen came for dinner — no big deal except that Chris and Frani arrived on Thursday afternoon to stay the night, launching me into a shopping/prepping/cooking marathon. I made an Ottolenghi dinner for both nights; last night’s was four courses.

The place was spotlessly tidy and I’d bathed and was relaxed at six-thirty, so for the first time in my life I opened some champagne and started drinking alone.

Last night was a success in many ways: the food was really great because it was an Ottolenghi recipe and I’d practiced every one before. Plus, I enjoyed myself. I did not get that “I wish they would leave” feeling I often get with company.

I’ve pretty much got this cooking thing down to my satisfaction. I love my electric knife sharpener. It made my little OCD festival —cutting the super hot red pepper into teeny weenie flakes — a total joy (as does having a huge box of disposable latex gloves so that I don't suffer afterwards). And I love my digital scale and array of cutting boards that ensure tastes and heat don’t transfer.

Most of all, I truly appreciate having the time to do things well and yet stay relaxed. It was like meditation denuding the individual shoots of cilantro one at a time and taking only the finest leaves. I could never do this if I had a lot of responsibilities. One recipe calls for caramelized spicy macadamia nuts. They tell you to mix in a quarter teaspoon of chili flakes; I do, but I grind the flakes first in my mortar and pestle so that I get more heat overall and more heat on each nut.

My parsnips, carrots and squash are all cut to roughly the same mass so that each piece cooks to the same al dente texture I like. The proximity of so many food stores means that I can choose to use only the firm meat of my papayas and mangos; I can easily get more if I am disappointed in the meat of my fruit.

And the abundance of time means things that need to drain — like my leeks — can drain thoroughly and components can cool completely before being tossed, greens can be washed and left to air dry so that dressings cling to every leaf and you can let eggs and butter reach room temperature for baking.

Plus, I began my day with a walk on the wall. And today I go to Bowen Island to see my friends David and Aubin. I have not seen David, a good friend, since his diagnosis with cancer and his treatment that has been harsh. I have a surprise for him today. I can hardly wait to tell him: I have sent his nephew, his namesake, some cash so that he can come to visit this summer from London.

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