There are two food blogs I really enjoy: The Kitchn and Food Republic. The Kitchn is mainly directed at home cooks, while Food Republic comes at the subject from a professional’s point of view.
I suppose the main element of both of these blogs that attracts me is their down-to-earth way of talking about food. By and large, while the authors are certainly foodies, they talk about food in a realistic way, rather than getting all precious about it.
I like food that, while often complex in flavour, is simply presented and does not put on airs. My favourite pizza is a great crust, a great sauce, garden-fresh sweet tomatoes, freshly grated mozzarella and parmesan, and of course basil. Add some anchovies for a salty counterpoint to the tomatoes, and I’m in heaven.
One of my best pastas is a simple pomodoro sauce on spaghetti. Good olive oil, garlic, a few chili flakes, soften them a bit, add quality canned tomatoes (I like Pastene the best) run through a food mill, and simmer for 10 minutes while the pasta cooks. Then add salt to taste, a few leaves of fresh basil, and the cooked pasta. Mix well and serve, topped with grated pecorino Romano and some good extra-virgin olive oil. Add a crusty loaf and a glass of red wine, and you have a feast!
I asked Val what her favourite meal is, and she quickly named ham and scalloped potatoes. While this sounds like a simple meal, a lot can go wrong in the preparation. Scalloped potatoes take about twice as long as you think to cook, and the milk, butter, flour and seasoning ratio has to be right for a creamy sauce. Of course, cheese always helps, but should it be cheddar, parmesan or maybe Gouda? Then there is the crunchy top. I have used crushed potato chips on occasion, and their salty crunch is a really good contrast to the creamy goodness inside.
Ham is another tough one. I do not enjoy sweet sauces on protein, other than cranberries on poultry, so the pineapple-maraschino route is not one I will take. (That reminds me of a very funny Martha Stewart show I saw involving Aretha Franklin and ham...the look of semi-concealed horror on Martha’s face when the yellow mustard, cola and pineapple came out was a treat to behold.) A good barbecue sauce or a Dijon mustard sauce would be ok, I guess. Maybe a sauce with an Asian flare would work. I need to do some research.
Bobbi Jo surprised me when I asked for her favourite food. Now Bobbi Jo admits to being in a small box when it comes to food she will eat – no fish or seafood, no “weird stuff,” but her favourite dish is chicken curry. It’s Bryton’s favourite dish too! Who knew that two young Saskatchewanians would choose chicken curry?
There are as many chicken curries as there are people who cook them. Sonia makes our curry paste and oversees the curry preparation. She is very particular about the curry powder she uses, as well as the other spices she adds. If the curry powder is too bitter, she has to add tomatoes. If it is too spicy, she adds coconut milk for the faint of heart. The most interesting thing about Sonia’s curry is that she is from Mauritius, an island in the Indian Ocean east of Madagascar. Mauritius was a French colony for many years, which has influenced its food. I have never had a curry exactly like hers; the Creole influence is apparent with the red peppers, tomatoes and carrots. She has obviously won over converts, if two of our team members name chicken curry as their favourite.
The point is, all of the above foods are simply presented and could be called unpretentious – no complex saucing or exotic ingredients – but each dish is a well-thought-out mix of flavours that must be blended just right to achieve perfection.
For me, a simple approach to complex flavours is a good foundation for a great meal.