I didn't post in December. Posting on things I like to do is my way of managing work and life stress but when the writing itself becomes the stressor, it's time to throw in the writing trowel.
Small whine ... December has become a burden. I become overwhelmed by 'stuff', whether it's decorating, planning for the holidays, cleaning or whatever. All I want to do is just throw everything away and reduce the days to simple, clean, monastic. It's not helped by fact that December is always work-crazy as we rush to finish all the big projects that need to be considered for the following year's federal Budget.
I'm hoping retirement in the future restores more equanimity to the holiday season. I used to love it.
So the boost to the season was some of the gifts I received from friends and family -- inspiring cookbooks with photos opening worlds yet to be explored, both literally and through home-based cooking. Here's two of the half a dozen I received, with reviews of them in subsequent postings.
The first is Vietnamese Home Cooking, written by Charles Phan, who is executive chef at a celebrated group of restaurants that started with The Slanted Door, located in San Francisco. Check out their cutting-edge website!
For each item in the book and on the menu, Phan went to the original region, studied traditional ingredients, flavours and techniques, and recreated the recipe using contemporary methods and organic vegetables and meat.
The recipes, photos and the author's experience as a refugee are engrossing. The restaurant is on the bucket list of places to visit. Second best is to cook some of the recipes like Lemongrass Pork (or Chicken) cooked in coriander seeds, a brothy rich Coconut Curry with a mix of spices, Grilled Five-Spice Chicken with Tamarind, and Roasted Eggplant and Leek Salad. There's also a myriad of fish and seafood recipes for those inclined that way.
The next one is written by an author/chef I've profiled in previous posts: Ottam Ottolenghi, a UK chef and food columnist. The first time I profiled Ottolenghi's book called Jerusalem, as reviewed in this New York Times article. It's become a well-thumbed book in my household too.
This time, I pored over the Christmas gift of Plenty, where Ottolengthi takes vibrant vegetables and grains and puts together 120 vegetarian recipes which prove we can get the majority of our calories quite happily and wholesomely this way.
My frig now always has a small bottle of preserved lemons, freekeh grains are in the pantry and sumac is part of my herb supply. I've yet to find pomegranate molasses and my sleuthing in Middle Eastern shops goes on.
I've marked to try Spiced Moroccan Carrot Salad, Cucumber Salad with smashed ginger and garlic, Ultimate Winter Couscous, and Marinated Mushrooms with Walnut and Tahini Yogurt.
Next up to profile is The Best of the Best Cookbooks from Food and Wine,
bad-boy Gordon Ramsay's Chef's Secrets, and
my new PEI home-boy Michael Smith's Fast Flavours, 110 Simple, Speedy Recipes.
It's all in aid of chasing away the 2014 winter blahs. I've got 'em big time. Hate this wintery year. Attitude adjustment in store....