First up... Barbeque in Calgary.
In the last year, I have spent at least a few days of nearly every month in Calgary. While I have been fortunate to have enjoyed some really good meals, none were home-cooked. This last visit was different. For the first time since these trips began, there was home-cooking and I wasn’t the one doing the cooking!
This all started when I invited myself over to (my coworker-now-friend-too) Chris's house for a barbeque. Almost immediately after I was carried away by "let's just...," I backpedalled in embarrassment with "good grief... I just invited myself over to your house. I hope that's okay???" Clearly continuing to take liberties, I invited his friend Doug to join... "hope that's okay." It was.
Phew x 2.
And just as quickly as I invited myself over, it quickly became a night where dinner was cooked for me.
Dinner consisted of grilled steaks and chicken with Chris's spicy barbeque sauce, Doug's summer salad, sauteed mushrooms and grilled asparagus. When asked what went into the barbeque sauce, Chris summed it up with "whatever is in my fridge... a bit of this, a bit of that." Thinking on his feet... and it worked out well! Though lamenting the substitution of pecans for the intended walnuts, Doug's salad was a sweet combination of red grapes, green apples, blueberries and celery on mixed greens. Bonus points awarded for the care in weeding out any soft blueberries (I think that squishy blueberries are like mushy brains for some, likely completely melodramatic and childish, reason).
I can't quite find words to say how much fun we had. We laughed, told stories, watched Nikki's party trick, listened to music, told more stories, discussed the important role of cookie taste-testers, and so on and so on. I cannot wait to do it again… and hopefully will, sooner rather than later.
Second up... Dinner in Edmonton.
This meal started as a wander through the City Market... and, once started, it was difficult to stop. There were the mixed mushrooms at Mo-Na, the sundried tomato and garlic chevre (made fresh that morning) from Smoky Valley, Yukon sourdough from Prairie Mill, baby potatoes and dill from Riverbend Gardens, and Berkshire pork shoulder steaks from Irvings Farm Fresh. I was so excited for this meal that I could hardly stand it. Oh oh! I also picked up some walnuts that were hand cracked by "Grandma Lutz"... those are going to make some killer cookies in the next few weeks (take note, taste-testers).
I have to say, I love that the Irvings Farm Fresh website not only educates you on their product and the virtues of Berkshire pork but also provides you with cooking guide to the various cuts. If the farmer that raised the animal doesn't have the best advice on how to cook it, I'm not sure who would.
I really didn't do much of anything to these beautiful ingredients... and that is probably the best choice that I could have made.
The potatoes were parboiled, then cooked through with a bit of cream and a few tablespoons of chopped fresh dill. The mushrooms were steamed in a parchment parcel filled with herbs (that I grew!), salt and pepper, olive oil and a bit of white wine. I put them on the top rack on the barbeque at the same time as I put the shoulder steaks on the bottom. They were seasoned with salt and pepper. Then, when I flipped the steaks, I topped each with seasoned butter that I had made earlier that day.
In my little mini food processor, I combined 3 tablespoons of butter with 2 tablespoons of dried cranberries, 10 sage leaves, garlic clove, a teaspoon of grainy dijon mustard, salt, pepper, lemon zest, and a slight bit of lemon juice (a bit less than half of the lemon).
We finished things off with little molten chocolate cakes (a recipe courtesy of Nigella and How to be a Domestic Goddess, though I added some chilli powder and cinnamon to her batter) and a bad "scary" movie.
There’s not much more that I could ask for…