DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS has moved! 

If you’re reading this page, you’ve landed on the old site.  Please visit the new location by clicking here–and don’t forget to update your readers and blogrolls!

As always, thanks for reading.  I look forward to seeing you at the shiny new Diet, Dessert and Dogs!

“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.” 

 

* [or Concasse, if you prefer the more conventional term. . . but I just loved the word “tracklement” ever since I read it on Lucy’s blog, and besides, “Tomato Tracklement” is just so much more alliterative.]

Last weekend was our Canada Day holiday, and this year I learned an important lesson.  No, it wasn’t “Canada is 141 years old” (even though it was).  Uh-uh, it wasn’t “Canada is a vast and picturesque, multicultural and welcoming country in which to live” (I already knew that one).  Nope, not even “Although Canada is a vast and picturesque, multicultural and welcoming country in which to live, a summer full of rain really sucks–almost as much as a typical Canadian winter.” And finally, nay, it also wasn’t “The Girls are still scared of fireworks” (really, talk about stating the obvious). 

No, dear readers, the all-important lesson I learned this past weekend was simply this:

Never (and I mean never) attempt to drive across the province at the beginning of a long July 1st weekend.

Elementary, you say?  Well, for some reason, the HH and I, despite 10 years of trekking from Toronto to Montreal and back on a regular basis, have never traveled that particular stretch of the 401 on the long Canada Day weekend.  This year, with my dad turning 87, we decided it was a necessity.  

Big mistake.

BIG.

The 500-kilometre (about 315 mile) drive usually takes us between 4.5 and 6 hours, depending on (A) time of departure; (B) weather conditions; (C) who’s driving; (D) number of rest stops; and (E) traffic.  This past weekend, our multiple-choice answer was overwhelmingly, “E,” or really, more like, “EEEEEeeeeee!!!”  To be precise, eight hours’ worth of “E.”

As we slid out of the city and onto the highway, I sensed a barely perceptible increase in the volume of vehicles on the road.  Then, within about five minutes, it became painfully clear: everyone and their canines were heading off to the cottage for the long weekend.  And us?  No cottage; no canines (The Girls were happily ensconced at the doggie daycare for the weekend); and no discernible movement on the roads.  I’d completely forgotten our route included a short span of terrain known as “cottage country” (also known, as the Barenaked Ladies recently reminded us in song, as “Peterborough and the Kawarthas“).  And there we were, the HH and I, motionless amid all the eager, impatient, fidgety and perspiring boaters, gardeners, waterskiers and Barbeque-ers, our wheels moving barely a quarter turn every 10 minutes or so.

Even if we could afford one, I doubt we would actually buy a cottage (and this has nothing to do with the fact that the HH is a role model for “don’t do it yourself-ers”).  Still, I do treasure memories of spending summers at various country houses when I was a kid.  My parents couldn’t afford a cottage, either, but in those days, rentals were abundant and reasonably priced, and didn’t require reservations a year in advance (one summer, in fact, I clearly remember my parents discussing the possibility of escaping the city on the very evening school let out; by the following afternoon, I’d tossed my report card in the closet, pulled my collection of comic books out instead, and we were on the road toward our temporary summer home).

In those days, my parents rented a house through July and August.  They’d pack up the family (my two sisters, our cocker spaniel, Sweeney, and I) in the back of my dad’s station wagon-cum-butcher shop delivery van, and off we went to our rudimenatry cabin in the woods, sans modern amenities or TV. Along with the other husbands, my father helped us settle in the first weekend, then headed back to the city (and his store) during the week, while the rest of us hung around with the moms and kids until the men returned each Friday evening. For five days a week, the wives managed to keep things running smoothly, demonstrating both independence and resourcefulness; yet every Friday, they mysteriously reverted to squeaky voices, soft entreaties and deference, much as early feminists must have done when their soldier-husbands returned from the front.  

In the intervals free from paternal presence, we children would run barefoot along the roadside, plucking thick, flat blades of crabgrass to grip securely between tightly pressed thumbs, then huffing and blowing our makeshift whistles, our postures in supplication to nature.  We’d seek out the other kids whose parents rented homes around the same lake, for day-long games of hide-and-seek, for building sand forts at the lakeside, or for throwing sticks to Sweeney and the other dogs (who, bored with our weak attempts at “fetch,” would lope off and sleep under porches, squirrel-hunt in the woods, or, toward evening, launch a stealth attack on the hotdogs piled on plates beside the Bar-B-Q’s).

By the end of the season, we’d worn ourselves out with outdoor games, our limbs buff and bronzed in variegated strips of earthtone after two months of shifting sleeve lengths.  All the books I’d brought were read and forgotten; I’d colored and drawn and written in my journal about my adventures; my younger sister and I had picked countless plastic sandbuckets full of wild blueberries from the hill at the end of town; and we were, finally, ready to go home.

One of my fondest memories is the drive back south, passing field after field of farmers’ corn as it just approached ripeness.  The long, elegant leaves swished and swayed in the breeze like our own welcoming committee, a troupe of Hawaiian dancers greeting tourists as they disembark from the plane.  By the time school resumed, we were eating fresh cobs of corn with our dinners, juice trailing down our chins and our cheeks flecked with wayward bits of yellow like reverse freckles on our tanned faces.

I reminisced about that incomparable corn as I contemplated Pancakes on Parade, the event hosted by Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook.  I had already decided (though I love sweet pancakes and make them whenever there’s an excuse) that I wanted to do something savory for this event.  Corn cakes are a long-time favorite, and they seemed the perfect choice.  And while there’s nothing quite like a plump, fresh cob of grilled or steamed corn, juicy and sweet and eaten with the same enthusiasm usually reserved for long-absent lovers, sometimes it’s just impossible to acquire the fresh kind.   That’s when frozen, or even canned (heresy!) come in handy.

The crêpes are based on a recipe I created a few years ago for a brunch event.  This time, however, I decided to pair them with a sweet and tart tomato concasse, and the combination improved the overall effect considerably.  The tracklement cooks up really quickly, in just the right amount of time to serve alongside the crêpes.  Savor these right away, or wrap up for later consumption–they’d make a great snack if you ever find yourself stuck on the highway for eight hours or so.

Corn Crêpes with Quick Tomato Tracklement

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

A savory pancake with occasional bursts of sweetness in juicy corn kernels, these are great with the accompanying tomato concasse for brunch or light dinner. Or use with other savory spreads such as hummus or avocado mayonnaise.

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

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If you’re reading this page, you’ve landed on the old site.  Please visit the new location by clicking here–and don’t forget to update your readers and blogrolls!

As always, thanks for reading.  I look forward to seeing you at the shiny new Diet, Dessert and Dogs!

“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.”]  

 

opencrepe.jpg 

I really hate making mistakes.  Not only because they sometimes wreak havoc (“What?  The model of Stonehenge on stage was supposed to be 18 FEET high, not 18 inches???” or, “What?  But I thought the BLUE was the ‘panic button,’ Mr. President!!!”), but also because they make me feel really knuckle-brained sometimes (“Um, HH, can you come pick me up?  I’m kind of stranded out here in the woods with The Girls. I’ve locked my keys in the car. . . and it’s running.*”).

Of course, that’s not to say that I don’t have my share of doozies lurking around in my past (though at least mine aren’t as egregious as the  Y2K fiasco, or 8-track tapes, or Julia Roberts in Mary Ryan, Steel Magnolias The Pelican Brief Stepmom anything except Pretty Woman).  True, there were those three months I dated philandering Rocker Guy (he of the black leather pants); but for the most part, my mistakes tend to the be the innocuous kind, such as dialing my friend Babe’s number when I meant to call the CFO instead (I may be great at remembering phone numbers, but I don’t always note to whom they are attached); or buying decaf instead of regular; or wearing stripes with paisley (which, as we all know, couldn’t possibly go together). 

And then there’s the entire gamut of food mistakes.

Salt instead of sugar?  Done it.  Chocolate seized while melting? Been there. Pie crust with soggy bottom?  Don’t ask. Noodles so al dente they could double as a gardening implement?  You betcha.  Usually, these mishaps don’t bother me too much.  Especially when it comes to baking, I realize that the process is so mercurial that what works perfectly one day may turn out completely different the next, so I compensate by adding extra sweetener, reducing the amount of flour, substituting a different kind of nut, or doing whatever is required to appease the petulant confection.   

When it comes to cooking, I’m less inclined to experiment.  Yet that’s exactly what I did this past weekend, purely as a result of my own gastronomical gaffes. 

You know how some women will work an entire outfit around a single accesory? For instance, they might spy a cute little fuschia-and-orange flowered scarf and then go out and purchase matching pumps, belt, handbag and turtleneck, just so they can wear that scarf to a dinner party on Saturday night.  In the end, that little rectangular scrap of rayon costs $872.48.  Well, I must confess, I am that woman when it comes to ingredients.  Which brings me to. . . . The Mistake of the Miso.

Mistake Number One:  On Sunday, I decided to construct a brunch menu based on some extra miso gravy in the fridge. Originally, I’d planned to serve the gravy with sweet potato fries for dinner on Saturday, only to discover that I’d grated the last potato as part of The Girls’ dinner the previous night.  (“And we really did appreciate that, Mum.  But don’t worry about the extra gravy–we’d be happy to help you out with that.”)

Having gravy but nothing to slather it on, my imagination went to work. Mashed potatoes and gravy at brunch?  Excellent. But what to accompany it?  I pulled out a recipe I’d been eyeing for Tempeh-White Bean sausage patties from Vegan with a Vengeance .  I planned to finish off the plate with simple pancakes sans the typical fanfare (my usual recipe contains fruit and other extras, not necessary here).  Everything, it appeared, was in order.  

Mistake Number Two: Since the sausages were somewhat time-intensive, I started with those. Isa does caution that these are softer than typical processed sausages, but mine fell completely apart on the plate, looking something like shards of clay from an old planter that had fallen off the windowsill.  Would the HH eat broken patties? They did smell heavenly, however, so I set any worries aside and kept them warm while I moved on to the pancakes.

Mistake Number Three: Ah, yes, bad things always come in threes, don’t they? Perhaps it was something in the air.  Perhaps it’s finally time to fill that new eyeglass prescription.  Whatever the reason, the pancakes were a disaster as well.  As thin as the line between sexy and hooker; as flat as the line before you call a Code Blue; and altogether too chewy, though not quite enough to cross the line from springy over to rubbery. I knew these would not pass HH muster, as my Honey favors airy, light, cake-like pancakes.  (“Mum, seriously, we can help you out with that! Just toss a couple our way. . . “).

These griddle cakes were, it occurred to me, much more akin to crepes than true pancakes (though, according to Epicurious, a crepe is “the French word for ‘pancake,'” which would suggest the only difference between the two is the language in which you mumble,  “Please pass the syrup”).  For many of us, however, crepes evoke a thinner, more flexible cake, suitable for enveloping a sweet or savory filling.  It’s sort of like the distinction between a scone and a biscuit, I think; but to get the scoop on that one, you’ll have to read Johanna’s blog.)

 So.  I found myself with crepes.  And decided to just go along with that. 

Rectifying all the Mistakes in a Single Delectable Brunch: In the end, I decided to re-assign the basic elements of the meal, crepefilling.jpg crumbling the sausages as if they were ground meat, and mixing in a few chopped veggies. I stuffed this mixture into the crepes, then smothered the whole shebang with miso gravy.  The dish was accompanied by a tried-and-true dandelion salad.

The resultant meal was a bit more elaborate than I’d anticipated, perhaps, but truly memorable. The HH appeared to relish every mouthful, peppering the meal with an occasional interjection of “Very nice,” or “Very tasty,” somewhat like Anthony Hopkins in 84 Charing Cross Road.  When he’d polished off the first crepe, he requested another, and thoroughly enjoyed that one, too. 

I once read that “there are no mistakes in cooking, only new recipes.”  I can only agree. And this new recipe is definitely a keeper–make no mistake about it.  

Because it worked out so well, I’m submitting this dish as my entry to Weekend Breakfast Blogging, the event started by Nandita and this month hosted by Suganya at Tasty Palettes.

Savory Filled Crepes

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This dish makes a satisfying, filling brunch or light dinner.  Vary the filling ingredients according to your own tastes–we didn’t have any mushrooms when I made this, but I think they’d be excellent in the filling, too.

TO VIEW THE COMPELTE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.