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Also known as Fruit for Salad. Also known as The Best Salad in the World Because it Doesn’t Have Anything Green in it!

Also known as the blood orange.

I brought home four of them from our local organic greengrocer and peeled one for breakfast thing morning while Booboo screeched happily at his little avocado nubs.

I took one bite and almost had to sit down. It was shocking. It tasted like the love child of the world’s sweetest blackberry and the Platonic ideal of a juicy orange. Miércoles!

As a teenager, I tricked my parents into sending me to Florence for “extra credits.” One morning there, a glass of the weirdest-looking orange juice was served to me and I wouldn’t even touch it. Thinking back, I realize now: it was effing blood orange. Was I out of my mind? You just don’t get the juice back.

I knew today that I had to do something special with the three blood oranges remaining, so I called my dear cousin ceelunes and asked her to remind me how to make the amazingly simple blood-orange salad her Sicilian husband prepared for us up north a dozen summers or more ago. It was unforgettable.

Turns out it has only two ingredients plus salt, pepper and olive oil. I couldn’t stand it. And so, our contorno was born.

I peeled the oranges and sliced them into little stars:

Then I sliced purple onion as thin as I possibly could – shave it, if you can. (Wayne’s the better onion shaver; he’s the one with the mad knife skills. But he was busy covering the baby’s face in yogourt.)

I let the onion marinate in a small bowl with a teaspoon or two of olive oil, salt and pepper. (ceelunes says you barely even need salt, but I couldn’t resist, as a counterpoint to the sweet.)

When the rest of supper was ready (don’t ask what it was, my friends – it was practically embarrassing compared to this salad), I topped the oranges with the onions and that’s it:

The photograph seems someone inelegant compared to the effect this produced when we ate it. It really was the best thing to come out of my kitchen yet in the Year of the Tiger.

ceelunes, if you’re out there reading, can you tell me: Does it look like I overdid the onion? The flavour balance really worked, but I’d love to hear your refinements.


Yes, it’s Muffin Monday, on Wednesday again. Oy.

But again, worth the wait, I believe, for today I give you Norm’s legendary big-batch bran muffins. This recipe makes a ton of batter that keeps in the fridge for six glorious weeks.

Maybe it’s depressing that I get so damn excited about the illusion of functioning at a high level, just because there’s muffin batter in the fridge capable of producing homebaked goodness at a moment’s notice. My teenage self would cackle in red-hot disgust. But there you go. There’s muffins in the fridge! Just spoon into the tin, bake, and smile – as hard as you possibly can.

5 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (I use whole-wheat)

2 1/2 cups sugar

3 cups bran

2 cups All-Bran cereal (or cornflakes. I’ve used ancient-grain flakes before. Whatever you have on hand)

1 quart buttermilk (if you only have regular milk, peel open the top of the carton, add a couple of teaspoons of lemon juice to it and stir)

3 tbsp baking soda

1 1/4 c. veg oil

4 eggs

1/2 cup molasses

2 to 3 cups raisins (your loss, Raisin Haters)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. In a big bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, bran and cereal.

3. Into the carton of buttermilk, stir the 3 tbsp of baking soda. It’ll froth up a bit. (No big deal if it doesn’t.)

4. In a separate bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients. Add the milk/baking soda mixture to it.

5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir just until everything dry becomes wet. Do not overmix.

6. Spoon into greased muffin tin (you know we love the Pam) and bake for 20 minutes (or a couple of minutes longer, if the batter has been in the fridge).

They’re the branniest.

God bless Donna Hay for the prettiest cookbooks around, and for recipes that work (almost) every time. We swear by her Crisp Rice Omelette from her excellent cookbook Off the Shelf: Cooking from the Pantry.

It’s the best thing to whip up in all of 15 minutes when you have leftover rice in the fridge.

It is this:

2 tbsp peanut oil (I always use sesame)

1 1/2 cups cooked rice (she likes jasmine or short grain for this, but I just use whatever’s on hand, which is usually brown basmati)

4 green onions, shredded

150 grams (4 oz) snowpeas, shredded (o, infuriated measures. I just use two big handfuls, and I shred them in the Cuisinart. If the snowpeas look miserable, I use sugarsnap peas, which are sweeter. I like them better anyway)

2 red chillies, seeded and chopped (I always skip them. I wonder why)

6 eggs, lightly beaten

Soy sauce, to serve

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Heat an 8-inch frying pan over high heat. Donna wants you to use no-stick, but I refuse. (I haven’t allowed Teflon anything into my kitchen in a good 10 year. Unstable lining, toxic off-gassing at high temperatures. Old news.) Tangent: The real trick to making sure absolutely nothing sticks to a stainless-steel pan is to make sure it’s really good and hot (at medium-high heat at least) before you add any oil to the pan. Once you do so, let the oil get good and hot before you add food thing to the pan. Then, once the food is in, let it create a nice seal. Don’t flip it, breaking the seal, until the bottom of whatever you’re cooking is nice and unraw and browned. Get away from there! Let it seal, for chrissake. Do this for fish, chicken, veg, eggs, pancakes and you’ll never be sorry. And you’ll never cook with Teflon again.

Back to the omelette:

3. Add the oil. [Let it get hot.]

4. Add the rice and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until the rice is slightly crisp.

5. Add the spring onions, chillies and snowpeas and cook for 2 minutes.

6. Pour the eggs overtop and stir for 1 minute. Reduce the heat to low and cook, without stirring, for 5 minutes.

7. Finish cooking the omelette in the oven for 3 minutes or until the omelette has set.

To serve, slice into pieces and drizzle with soy. Serves 4. [Very funny, Donna Hay. Serves me and Wayne, easy, with barely a scrap left for the next day’s lunch.]

Accompany this with my Sexiest Asian Coleslaw in Town, and that’s dinner, my friend – before the bloodsugar drops and the wheels fall off the goddamn cart.

If you know another yummy Asian side we should be pairing this with, please lay it on me.

Dear reader: I beg you to tell me what you had for supper last night.

I was scheduled to the teeth this weekend and very little cooking went on. (Though I did manage to get certified in CPR and drink beer in a bar with the baby.)

Friday was Buddha Pie. Saturday was a 3 p.m. clubhouse at Axis. Tonight I fell into a pile, so Wayne made pasta, a creamy, no-recipe crazy-ass Wayne pasta with shrimp, white wine, butter, mushrooms and pepperoncini that was out of this world.

The house was too disastrous to find my camera to take a shot. My eyes are so done with the day, they’re bleeding. The laundry is Mt. Etna.

So: You?

All you lucky people out there who don’t have pescatarian life partners should seriously consider eating chicken wings tonight. Even better if you cook them Norm-style.

No sticky sauce full of sugar and god knows what, no frigging hassle – just the world’s tastiest, crispiest chicken wings that you will eat like candy and that’ll make you wish you’d made twice as many.

Delicious instructions:

1. Buy your chicken. I use a mix of small, split wings, drumsticks and thighs. (Norm says it’s cheaper if you buy them joined and split the drumstick away from the wing yourself. Whether you want to get that down and dirty with raw chicken is up to you.)

2. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

3. Rinse your chicken in cool water and pat it dry with paper towel.

4. Spray the pan with Pam (god love Norm and her Pam) or line your pan with foil to make cleanup easier.

5. Lay your chicken pieces out on the pan in a single layer. It’s really important to avoid crowding your wings. Leave a tiny margin of space around each one, so that they’ll all crisp up. Use two pans, if you need to.

6. Season your chicken with salt and pepper on one side and seasoning salt on the other. If you like herby-tasting wings, add one of these Norm-sanctioned combinations: thyme, sage and rosemary; poultry seasoning; or Herbes de Provence.

7. Pop your pan(s) in the oven. (If you’re using two pans and they won’t fit side by side, place them one above the other on separate racks.) All in all, the wings will cook for an hour. Turn them at 20 minutes. then again at 20 minutes. (If you’re using two pans: Switch the pans when the wings get flipped.) Sprinkle the wings with white wine at the second turn (it’s optional but it makes them really, really good, and it’ll make your house smell like a restaurant, which always satisfies).

8. At the end, change your oven setting to broil, and broil those little wings to get them really crispy. Whatever you do, do not walk away from the oven while they’re broiling. Watch them like a hawk (a hawk watching chickens; stakes are high!). They brown quickly.

They’ll look something like this:

Eat them with a salad or after a pasta course. Norm says to bake a potato with them, since your oven is going to be on for an hour anyway. (Norm has never done this in her life. “No!” she concurs, “because we’re always watching the calories.” Hasn’t gained a pound since 1973.) “Father – Dad” says to eat them with julienned crudité, but we find that too appetizery. Better to roast root vegetables, if there’s room on the second rack in your oven. (I’ll save delicious instructions for those for another day.)

I must tip my hat here to Sarah, who production-managed the wings the last time I cooked for a big group, while I stirred the risotto. She followed Norm’s steps and applied a scientist’s precision to the spacing and broiling. They were out of this world.

Afterwards, she (a Scot) and Gelstein (Hungarian) made a crazy-ass appetizer out of the irresistible pan drippings. They toasted small, thin pieces of rye and smeared the intense salty, fatty goodness on top, sprinkled with more salt. (My mouth is watering.) They were unstoppable, the Scot and the Hungarian. Their people know what to do with every last bit of meat!

Behold the culinary free-for-all:

With friends like these, why would you ever bother leaving the kitchen?

Happiest morning! Wayne had the day off and the baby and I weren’t required anywhere for hours, so on went the Bizet album and out came a can of pumpkin from the cupboard. It came flying out of the cupboard, really, because the night before I found a recipe for pumpkin pancakes that made me fall asleep and wake up with the taste of maple syrup in my mouth. Nothing was going to get between me and the pumpkin pancakes.

The recipe came from So many recipes, so beautifully photographed. Lens envy mingled with the maple hysteria. I had to have those pancakes. I got out my mixing bowls, cracked an egg and – thundering Jesus. Double yolk!

I have never seen a double yolk before. It felt like a powerful omen. I felt like I’d found a four-leaf clover. I felt like the luckiest girl in town. Two yolks, side by darling side – double what I would ever expect of any good egg. And there I was, primitive man with a wooden spoon, sacrificing twins to satisfy the gods for a season of exceptional breakfasts. I was just so excited, I whirled them into the pumpkin before I could snap a picture.

Wayne, meanwhile, sat furrowed with consternation: Would pumpkin make the pancakes soggy? Was it too wet and thick to cook in the minutes it takes a pancake to set and brown?

Like a hungry shark moving forward, I cut him off: The powdered ginger was missing. As we pulled ancient garam masala and unopened packets of brown mustard seed out of the spice basket, he came to life and suggested whirring fresh ginger root in the Cuisinart. Stroke of genius.

I tripled the cinnamon, and added clove and allspice and the raw pulverized ginger to the excellent recipe you’ll find below. (It called for cake flour; I used whole wheat.) The pancakes cooked through beautifully, the pumpkin made them more cakey than any pancake I’d ever made before

and the maple syrup brought all those spicy spices right to the fore.

I knew by the second bite that I’d want them again tomorrow.

Ready for the recipe? Click here.

Pancakes were followed by a busy day. When I left the house, the dishes were stacked on the kitchen counter. When I returned, they were replaced by a few small piles of sentimental detritus that Wayne was clearing out of a box. I peered into an old white vase that he used to keep pencils and guitar picks in. I dumped it out, sorted through the junk and peeled a fortune-cookie fortune from the bottom of it. It read, “You are headed for a promotion.” Double yolks? Lucky pancakes.

Muffin Monday is here!

On Wednesday. (I blame Family Day.) But you’ll forgive me when you taste these, based on a recipe I came upon several years ago in a cookbook recommended to me by Dr. Julie: Liz Pearson and Mairlyn Smith’s The Ultimate Healthy Eating Plan.

Ground flaxseed (lots of it) gives the following muffs an incredible chewiness. I made these and none others for years, they’re so good. And they’re low on the glycemic index, thanks to the flax, the pumpkin and the hefty dose of bran. And believe it or not, these tasty muffins don’t call for butter or oil. Isn’t that sweet of them? You’d never be able to tell.

Flax-and-pumpkin chocolate-chip muffins

1 cup buttermilk (if you don’t have any on hand, just stir a teaspoon of lemon juice or white vinegar into regular milk to help it curdle)

1 cup pumpkin purée

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1/2 cup bran-buds cereal

1 1/4 cups whole-wheat flour

1/2 cup wheat bran or oat bran

3/4 cup ground flaxseed (I grind my seeds in a coffee grinder. They should turn practically to powder and will smell gorgeously nutty when pulverized fresh like this)

2 tbsp wheat germ (optional but nice)

1 to 2 tbsp cinnamon (I go heavy on it)

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

A couple of handfuls of  chocolate chips (I go heavy on them)

1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Mix the wet ingredients along with the bran buds in a bowl.

3. Sift the dry ingredients together in another, larger bowl.

4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and blend until just combined.

5. Spoon batter into muffin cups and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

Makes 9 to 12 muffins, depending on your hand with the batter.

If you have the willpower not to eat them all at once, freeze half the batch, or a few muffs at least, in a freezer bag. They thaw perfectly, as do all the muffins whose virtues I espouse. You will feel like the most organized person on earth when you pull a frozen muffin out of your freezer – proof that the delicious fit of baking you made time for days or months ago was not, in fact, a vermouth-soaked dream.

Let’s get right to it: raw onion. But not crunchy-raw white onions that alarm you with their muscle – the vulgarity!

Rather, I mean red onion that has been shaved as thin as you can get it, that you marinate in the bottom of your salad bowl, in your dressing, while you get everything else ready.

Like this:

The texture of onion totally changes when you marinate it: it mellows it into floppy sweetness. The onion soaks up the flavour of your oil and white-wine vinegar and salt and pepper, and is all you need to transform a bowl of greens from shocking boredom – a shitty, cold, raw thing that you feel you have to choke back in the name of fiber and chlorophyll – to the yummiest part of your supper.

When we’re really in a pinch, we have this as a stand-alone meal, with tuna for protein. It’s perfect:

It’s a no-excuses supper, because we always have lettuce (I like arugula for this particular combo, but any salad greens will do) and an onion and tuna on hand (usually Unico, soaked in oil. If you’re having salad for supper, please use the tuna soaked in oil. Otherwise, by 9 p.m. you’re as starving as an inmate in a jail of your own making and by 11 p.m., you’re eating slices of bread slathered in butter and molasses. But that’s another entry).

In fact, when I was a kid, my dad used to fish the onions out of the salad and pile them on top of a buttered slice of brown bread. An onion sandwich, folded over. I screeched too, until I tried it and got addicted. We’d wash it down with the dressing at the bottom of the wooden bowl, swirled with red wine. Drinking out of the bowl! Punctuate a weeknight supper like that and what the hell have you got to complain about.

But before I conclude, two short notes on Wayne to bring Valentimes Weekend to a close.

First, how sweet was he to bring these home for me on Sunday:

They’re from my favourite shop in the neighbourhood – my favourite chocolatier in the city, actually.

Katarina brought us two perfect truffles from Delight on Friday (Quebec blue cheese, which totally works, and cinnamon, my true love), and it inspired Wayne to get a box full of my favourite flavours. There was cinnamon again (it was that good), a runny, buttery caramel that made us close our eyes while we ate because it commanded our full devotion, a coffee caramel that was sweet and dark, one spicy ginger and one unbelievably whipped and fluffy maple butter:


I love Delight’s truffles because the chocolate casing is so thin and melty – and what it’s wrapped around is so true to the flavour it’s meant to be: The maple is look-at-you-there-with-your-mouth-under-the-spigot-on-the-maple-tree maple. (They’re also organic and fair trade. Top marks – but when you’re falling into a biblical ecstasy with maple butter in your mouth, you forget the fine points.)

And if that wasn’t romantic enough, Wayne also got out four impressive tools to help me bust into the (organic) coconut I carted home last week. I was dying to smash it against a rock like a clever baboon, but that just wasn’t practical, with a baby sleeping.

So Wayne saved the day with an electric drill:

Just look at the size of his bit, dear readers.

He really is quite the man.

Once the hole was complete

we poured the water into a glass, then strained it through a sieve:

It was a lot of water! At least six ounces. Though it wasn’t very good. I wonder if I kept the coconut too long. It was strong, and tasted off. (Anyone know what proper fresh coconut water should taste like? The last I had it, I was 10 or younger and can’t remember.)

Then it was back to the coconut itself, with two more tools and some elbow grease:

A hammer and a chisel. Smack that coconut, Wayne!

And here it is:

Very coconutty, but kinda dry. Does anyone know why? Are fresh ones always that way?

I figure I’ll grate it and freeze it, then use it in muffins and homemade granola (post forthcoming), unless anyone has a better idea. Some in a mango smoothie. Some in a curry?

Not sure it was worth all this trouble:

But it did get Wayne to swing his hammer. No complaints here.

This isn’t a meal suggestion (necessarily); it isn’t something I made. It isn’t even something I have a recipe for. But it was so intriguing, I had to post.

Look what I ate in the name of research today:

It was a black-bean brownie. You read that right. Black beans were in there! No sugar (agave), and no flour (on account of all the beans). I don’t even know if it had any cocoa in it.

It came from the amazing South American coffee shop where I get the sweet-potato cheddar muffins I wrote about a few days back.

Wayne knew from the first bite that something was up. He smiled sagaciously and said, “Did you walk to the raw-food place?” Nope; but that hints at what a black-bean brownie feels like in the mouth. He knew it wasn’t butter and flour and chocolate before he even swallowed. Still, you can tell by the state of demolition left behind on the wrapper that it was really good – kind of cheesecakey in texture, because it was thick and smooth and not too sweet; and it had umami depth, the way real chocolate things do. Halting the predatory instincts it sparked in us long enough to take its picture was utterly impossible until the brownie was gone.

But how did it work? Does anyone have a tried-and-tested recipe for such a thing? I want to reproduce this subterfuge!

My god – are you stewing fruit these days? Highly recommended.

Look what stewing does to fruit and a pot and water and cinnamon:

The last time I made this, it was so damn sweet that Wayne asked how much sugar I put in it. The answer is none!

I just chop up my apples (pears too, if I have them – I leave the skins on everything) and throw them into my beloved All-Clad pot with an inch or so of water. I add a shocking amount of cinnamon, turn the heat on low, and walk away. You sit the lid on it, or not. You can add dried fruit, like apricots and raisins (handfuls and handfuls of raisins), or not.

Just be sure to stir it with a wooden spoon from time to time so that the mixture cooks evenly, and add more water if anything looks like it’s sticking. The longer you ignore it, the sweeter and gooier and more desserty it becomes.

I like it as is, for breakfast. Or on plain yogourt. Or in a bowl with yogourt and granola. We piled it on frozen yogourt all summer long. It’s really addictive and a great way to use up the surplus tree fruit in your tree-fruit bowl.

It makes the house smell like Carolyn Ingall’s (I bet Pa loved her stewed fruit). It’s greener to make than baked apples, for which you have to turn on the whole bloody oven. And it’s actually cleanse-worthy. And good for children. Maybe even babies. Stewed fruit, you’re going straight to heaven.

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Words of Wayne

Look at what Wayne discovered on his breakfast plate (medium: banana string). It's the Playboy Banana. I ask you, Dr. Freud: How does he find this stuff? If he could have, he would have put it in his cherished Food Oddities mug, along with the treble-clef pretzel and the Bill Clinton potato chip.


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