I forgot to mention that a few weeks ago at our first picnic that we saw a red fox! We were sitting on the grass in front of the breakers by the lake, and all of sudden, it charges up through the rocks, barking at a dog that was passing by. It stood its ground and barked at the dog until it passed then scurried back into the rocks. She must have a den down there (which seems like a pretty good location). She was beautiful, still with her thick red winter fur, and just sleek and fearless. All these years in the city seeing nothing bigger than garbage squirrels and we’ve got wildlife right outside our door. Who knew?
Friday night, husband and I made a nice French-inspired meal together, and it turned out pretty good. We did an onion tart, a simple salad with a red-wine vinaigrette and French bread with espresso for dessert. Husband made the French bread, and though it didn’t rise quite as much as he would’ve liked, the flavor and texture were fantastic. The onion tart came out decently, though I’ll do a few things differently next time. We used 5 small red onions and diced them – next time I think leaving them in longer julienne would be better texturally. The onion filling was quite simple – I diced three bacon slices and fried them until just crispy, then added the onions. I seasoned with salt, pepper and thyme and cooked them down for about 10 minutes until they were slightly caramelized and translucent. Next time I’ll let them caramelize more because they still had a little bite to them, instead of being wholly sweet. Still good though. We used a standard pie crust recipe, which we baked blind (without the filling) for about 10 minutes at 400 in the oven. Next time I’ll extend that time to 15-20 minutes just to get it a little more done. After that we added the filling to the crust, reduced the oven to 350 and baked it for another 20 minutes. It came out quite good, and with the variations I just mentioned above, I feel like it will be perfect next time. The salad was simple also – mixed greens and big pieces of center-cut bacon (four slices) fried until just chewy with a red wine vinaigrette. No matter what type of vinegar you use, making vinaigrettes from scratch is simple – it’s just a 3-to-1 ration – 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. So I used 3 tablespoons olive oil to 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, and seasoned with salt and pepper. Simple and good, yes. So we had the salad and tart with a bottle of red wine for dinner, and had warm buttered French bread and espresso a little later for dessert. Isn’t it delightful how life’s simple pleasures are more often than not sharing a good bite of food with someone fantastic?
Speaking of food, this spring and summer I’m going to take a few cooking classes, to hone my skills and learn new things. The first class I’m going to take (in May) is a knife skills class. I can hold my own with a knife, but I know I could learn to do it more safely and efficiently if I have someone show me. I’m definitely a visual learner. I’m going to do the classes at The Chopping Block. They have a location near my job downtown and a second location in the neighborhood we’re looking to move into this summer, so it’s convenient. They do wine tastings that husband and I would like to go to, and they also have date night classes we’re interested in. In May, there are three that we’d like to go to (although we’re likely only going to do one per month – it can get pricey!) – Slow Food: Roman Cuisine, Tuscan Olive Harvest and Basque in the Food of France. The first two classes are hands on, meaning you get to participate in the cooking, while the last class is demonstration, so you watch the chef prepare the meal and then you get to eat. We’ll probably do Slow Food: Roman Cuisine, because we both know absolutely nothing about it and the menu sounds tasty – bruschetta with veal caponata, veal and spinach-stuffed manicotti with tomato sauce and a ricotta and pine nut tart. Okay, so dairy products aren’t great for us, but you can’t avoid them entirely and just having them every now and again doesn’t wreak too much havoc on our respective systems. I’m excited – I love to cook (as if you didn’t notice) and getting out and doing it amongst others will be fun.
I’m still on my quest to re-learn French – I’m going to do a language lesson with my book and dvd this afternoon! I’ve also joined a Francophile group and am going to start going to their meetings, which are on Wednesdays I think. And I try to buy printed things that are French or bilingual. I was pleasantly surprised to find out the most of my sewing patterns have bilingual French instructions, so I can kill two birds with one stone in that regard. And I found a bookshop that sells foreign language everything, and I’m hooked on the French version of Saveur magazine now. Immersion is the key to success!