A salad of sorts

I've only ever spent January in one of two climes: St. Albert, Alberta or Victoria, British Columbia. In Alberta there are bundles of sun and blazing white snowscapes. It's frosty, sure, but in an invigorating, heart (or should I say throat?)-catching, snot-freezing sorta way. Inside, you're kept perfectly warm by the reassuring roar of the furnace turning over in the middle of the night. 

Victoria is a bit different. There's plenty of green on the ground, but grey in the sky. It's usually damp and dismal, wet with a deep-sinking chill. Any heat that manages to be found indoors quickly disappears out the poorly-insulated windows and sometimes, just for fun, when you check the temperature of your living room with a candy thermometer, it reads 13 degrees Celsisus.

Oh winter! As my Dad never ceases to remind me, we must eat to stay warm. Onion-heady braises bubbling in the depths of your oven, plump beans dancing to tenderness on the corner of your stove. Bright, piping soups, thick, homey stews. Potatoes in any form. These signify January. At least for me. Yet, every once in awhile, in this mid-winterest of months, I crave freshness, a snap to echo the outside air. A salad of sorts.

For awhile, my go-to winter salad contained crisp slices of celery, half moons of Belgian endive, ribbons of radicchio with some celery and parsley leaves thrown in for good measure. A puckering mustard-laced dressing, a sprinkle of toasted nuts (hazelnuts, walnuts, what-have-you) and I was in winter bliss. Well, all that changed when I made this sweet-sour dream of a salad. There's bite and brightness, crunch and crackle, enough tang to tantalize the tastebuds and a swipe of sweetness to smooth it all over. It's enough to wake anyone from a mid-winter reverie. Just the sort of thing we need.

Winter Tabbouleh
Adapted from Casa Moro

1/2 cup medium bulgur

1 garlic clove, crushed
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 tbsp water
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 small head radicchio, thinly sliced
1/2 small fennel bulb, trimmed and finely chopped
1/4 large cauliflower, separated into tiny florets
1/4 cup (or more) roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tbsp (or more) roughly chopped fresh mint 
2 tbsp roughly chopped toasted walnuts
seeds of 1/2 pomegranate, all bitter yellow membranes removed

Place the bulgur in medium bowl and cover generously with warm water. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the bulgur has swelled but is still toothsome. Drain in a sieve.

Mix the garlic, cinnamon and pomegranate molasses together, then add the water and whisk in the olive oil to form an emulsion. Check for seasoning.

Combine the bulgur, radicchio, fennel, cauliflower, herbs, walnuts and pomegranate seeds. Toss with the dressing just before you are ready to eat, and check the seasoning once again.

Makes enough for 4, generously.


I'm back!

And better late than never, right?

My, it has been awhile but I am awfully pleased to be here again. Culinary school shook me up. All of sudden I was dunked underwater and it was all I could do to shoot some bubbles out of my nose and stay afloat. No time for nothing. It did let up a bit, but by that point I must confess I plumb forgot about this space. No, I was busy hooting and hollering, jucking and jiving, enjoying Vancouver immensely. Then, wham, bam, as I was starting to get the hang of swimming it was into the deep end again. Until the end of the semester, the city, the 12-hour-long-work-days-week, the Christmas vacations. Until now.

What can I tell you about the last four months? Should I stick to culinary tales? In that case, I tried some magnificent new things (burrata, oh God yes burrata), learned far, far more than I expected (would you like me to tie a rabbit crown rib roast for you?) and met some amazingly inspiring people.

I did get a little sick of eating three or four full meals a day, none of my own choosing! When it came time to cook (at home that is) it happened far less frequently than I'd like to admit. In fact, it probably fell more under the rubric of assembling than cooking. A salad, a piece of cheese. Have I mentioned how very much I am into cheese right now? Well, we'll get there.

But still, I am oh so glad to have taken this course, even as I wonder and doubt and get excited about what is next. Perhaps the simplest but most rewarding result of this venture is that my boyfriend is now an absolute joy to cook with. Well, not that he ever wasn't. But me, I was a bit too uptight and by-the-book to be much fun - for myself, for others. I don't know what it is - understanding the fundamentals of cooking so you know why a recipe works and where you can bend it as you please, new confidence in my own abilities, acknowledgment of my creativity, laying to rest years of neuroses about food - but cooking is so easy now, so simple. It's a space for me to be whatever I choose to be - extravagant, homely, comforting, pleasurable, fun! It is a wonder.

And that is why I am so delighted to be where I am today, here. Let's raise a glass to the New Year ahead. It will be a wonder!