And now for the news I’ve been holding back from all of you, my darling friends, peers and readers, for over a week of agonizing solo-excitement.
[Photo courtesy of 365 Days of Dining website]
About a month or so back, I applied for Tourism Richmond’s 365 Days of Dining while thinking to myself, "You’re not going to get it. But maybe you will get it. But probably not. But you never know, right? Ok. FINE. I’ll apply." Thankfully, the thought that bellowed louder than the rest was, “If I pass this up, I will regret it.”
Sweet holy hot crossed buns! Am I ever glad I did. I found out last week that of the 1500 worldwide applicants, I have made the short list of 12. TWELVE PEOPLE. Can you believe that? I’m still waiting for Ashton Kutcher to pop through my front door and tell me I’ve been punked. (Does Ashton Kutcher even host that show anymore? I hope not. It was a stinker.) I digress..
Moving along, I just wanted to mention how incredibly, unbelievably, shockingly touched I am by the support I’ve received even just in the last few hours since the news was made official. You are all my constant inspiration to keep pushing through, working harder and hopefully someday (perhaps sooner than I thought?) make my dreams a reality. Whether or not I make the final 3, I am so touched, honoured and moved to have even made the top 12 in a group of 1500 talented individuals that I will forever remember this day. Truly, I am awed.
Now for the part I really dislike doing. I know you’re all busy and time is hard to find these days… however, starting tomorrow the voting portion of this job opportunity starts. The finalist with the most votes gets an automatic entry into the final 3… which is beyond imagination at this point. Tourism Richmond will choose the final two themselves (which I am glad for!).
If you can find a few spare moments to visit Richmond, BC’s Facebook Page, “like” it and vote for me, I would be eternally grateful.
OK! Now that the housekeeping matters have been taken care of, let’s rap!
I created this Spring Salad for the April issue of Centretown Buzz, a local newspaper I write a monthly food column for. I typically don’t blog about the recipes I write for the paper, but this one is so light and lovely that I just had to. Grassy asparagus laced with peppery thin-sliced radishes, hulled sugar snap peas, and meaty sauteed shrimps all brightened up with some lemon and finished with aromatic Thai basil and cilantro. To make things ever sexier (and less wasteful), I added a last minute addition of pureed pea pods, lemon and olive oil. It’s the perfect afternoon lunch to enjoy over a chilled glass of wine.
Shrimp, Radish and Asparagus Salad
Serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side
The directions in this recipe are quite vague so feel free to be creative and make it your own. The lemony pea-pod puree is optional, but it’s a brilliantly fresh, bright green flavour that really compliments the salad. It’s also a great way to be less wasteful.
small bundle asparagus, preferably tender, thin spears
5-8 radishes, cleaned and sliced thin
2 large handfuls sugar snap peas
10-15 large shrimp, peeled and de-veined
zest and juice from ½ lemon
1/3 cup dry white wine
small handful Thai basil, chopped
small handful cilantro, chopped
salt and fresh ground pepper
freshly grated Parmesan
lemon and sugar pea pod puree (recipe to follow, optional)
Snap off the woody end of the asparagus and slice each spear into 1 ½” pieces. Slice the sugar snap peas down the seam, and remove the peas into a small bowl.
Sprinkle the shrimp with a little salt and pepper. In a large saute pan over medium heat, add enough olive oil to lightly coat the pan. When the oil starts to ripple, add the shrimp. Cook 1-2 minutes on each side until cooked through. Toss in the radishes, asparagus, hulled peas, lemon zest and juice. Pour in the white white and turn the heat up a touch. Cook until vegetables are softened but still have a bit of crunch to them, and the white wine is reduced. Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed. Spoon into bowls and top with chopped cilantro, basil, lemony pea pod puree and parmesan cheese.
Lemony Pea Pod Pureé
zest of remaining half of lemon
generous squeeze of lemon juice
2 tbsp good quality olive oil
1 ½ cups leftover pea pods
Blend ingredients in a food processor, bullet or blender until smooth. Taste and add more lemon or salt if needed.
I’ve never been much of a gardener. My green thumb is more of a green fist of fury that wipes out anything that comes into contact with it. Ferns, flowers, vegetables, or otherwise. Once they’ve entered through my front door, their fate is set. I water too much. I water too little. I love too hard. And ultimately, they end up sagging, sickly and void of life. For shame.
With the sun rising bright on Friday morning, I found myself feeling hopeful. Feeling assured that this was the summer that I would plant something that would grow. Something I could plant from a seed, nurture and love. Something I could pull from the ground, eat and finally understand what it’s like to grow my own food. A skill I find often find myself feeling envious of.
With hope on my side, I strode confidently into the Home Hardware and picked up a bunch of seeds, soil and pots. Before 1pm had hit, I had planted seed upon seed, making sure to do so lovingly so as not to upset the horticulture Gods, and said a little ‘please oh please just let one of them sprout, grow and mature!”. With any luck, sometime in late July or early August, I will have bushels and bushels (maybe one plateful?) of cucumbers, jalapeno peppers, 5 varieties of tomatoes, spinach, sweet basil, wild flowers, green onions, and, my golden ticket, radishes.
I call them my golden ticket because radishes take 3-4 weeks to mature from seed to harvest. Instant gratification is something I am very fond of. Especially since I find myself staring at all the little pots, wondering when something will peek through the soil. Of course, it’s a futile effort. And a little pathetic on my part. The funny thing about my radish excitement is that as of Friday, I wasn’t ever sure if I liked radishes. They’re one of those vegetables that I’ve tried time and time again, but are never really memorable. Forgettable, mostly. With all this in mind, I figured if I was 3-4 weeks away from pulling the pinkish oblong orbs from the soil as my first real gardening success, I had better figure out if I liked them or not.
Because everything tastes better on a disc of thin, crunchy dough, I decided to add the peppery little bulbs to a pizza. Add to that a little anchovy-lemon relish, radish greens and some sharp, nutty Parmesan and I think it’s pretty safe to say, that no matter how many radishes my garden might throw at me, I will find a use for them. Especially if it means making, and better, eating more of this pizza!
Radish Pizza with Anchovy-Lemon Relish and Greens
makes two medium pizzas
Anchovies can usually been purchased packed in oil or salt in or around the seafood section. In this case, I used fillets packed in oil since I wanted to make use of the oil.
I wasn’t especially fond of the dough I tried out for this, so use your favourite dough recipe.
1 lb favourite pizza dough
Zest from two lemons
5-6 anchovy fillets
1 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (1 tsp if you prefer less heat)
2 bunches radishes, cleaned and sliced thin
2 bunches radish greens, cleaned and dried
Anchovy oil from tin
1 1/2 cups Parmesan
Place a pizza stone into the oven and sprinkle with cornmeal. Preheat oven to 450.
Add the lemon zest, fillets, and red pepper flakes to a mortar and pestle and grind to a coarse paste. Set aside.
Place dough on lightly floured surface and roll out the dough. One at a time, assemble the pizza on a cutting board sprinkled with cornmeal (this makes it easy to move the pizza from board to oven). Top each pizza with half the anchovy-lemon relish, half the radishes, half the greens and half the Parmesan. Bake each pizza, one at a time, until crust is deep golden and cheese is melted, about 6-7 minutes.
I served with some green olives on the side, which was lovely, but a cold beer or iced tea will do just fine.