Perfect Pulled Pork

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When you think ‘pulled pork’, you may also be thinking ‘a mother lode of time and effort’. First you’ve got to rub the pork with some spices, then you stick it in the oven while continuously fiddling with the temperature knob, then you undertake the laborious task of pulling 1.5 kilograms of meat apart, strip by strip – and here, I’m not even mentioning the long moments one spends sitting on the floor in front of the hot oven, staring at the slowly roasting pork in a mouth-watering daze.

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Before the oven

Yes, the image I have just painted is surely a reality. You need to come to terms with the fact that, in order to make a near perfect pulled pork roast, you need to be willing to dedicate 8 hours of your time to a single hunk of meat. But don’t worry, there is a silver lining. Those 8 hours – during most of which you can sit around and do other things – will be filled with good scents, good sights, and most of all, the constant promise of the finished product: a buttery, tender mass of flaky pork.

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After the oven

And the best part of it all? In exchange for your time and dedication, you spend little money at the grocery store on this cheap cut of meat. Due to the toughness of the shoulder, it needs to be cooked at a low heat for a long period of time in order to achieve ideal results, and thus is often overlooked in favor of more tender cuts of meat.

I served my meat with some homemade BBQ sauce and fresh chives, then gratuitously stuffed it into some homemade buttermilk potato buns. As an added decadence, I recommend whipping up a quick batch of potato salad with crushed hard-boiled eggs, which can add a wonderful second layer to that pork sandwich.

In my opinion, if you’re spending your day at home or even running some errands, you can find time to make this roast. At the end of the day, you remove the pan from the oven, and everyone within a 100-ft radius is flocking to your doorstep in search of that heavenly scent. Doesn’t sound so bad, eh?

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Now, instead of an album review, I am going to introduce a new feature to my blog. I will paint an image and consequently construct a short compilation of songs that I associate with said image. Today will be the first.

Presenting:

The Pastel Beach

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This image makes me think of a late afternoon on a beach. The shoreline isn’t buried beneath a sea of drowsy couples, children with plastic buckets, and young friends  splashing about in the shallows. Instead, the shoreline is relatively empty, the wind is calm, and the air smells like salt and heat. You’re with a friend, sitting beneath a colorful umbrella, nursing a few bottles of beer, having some good laughs. Now hit play.

The music that accompanies the scene is light, lively and warm. The pastel color scheme creates an image that is well-worn and comforting, like an old pair of jeans.

1. “The Ruminant Band” by Fruit Bats
2. “Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)” by Unknown Mortal Orchestra
3. “Still Sound” by Toro y Moi
4. “The Line” by Cherry Chapstick
5. “Quitter’s Raga” by Gold Panda
6. “Since I Left You” by The Avalanches
7. “Idle Heart” by Bear In Heaven
8. “Keep On Lying” by Tame Impala
9. “Bees” by Caribou
10. “Cooking Up Something Good” by Mac Demarco
11. “I Don’t Wanna Pray” by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
12. “Little Things” by Doug Hoyer
13. “Disappear Always” by Wild Nothing
14. “At My Heels” by Twin Shadow

Now, back to the food!

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Perfect Pulled Pork

1-1.5 kg pork shoulder, with bone
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Line a roasting pan with a layer of foil and place the pork shoulder inside. Evenly rub all sides of the meat with the dry rub, then put uncovered in the oven for 45 minutes. This initial blast of heat will give your pork a nicely caramelized skin.

Remove pan from oven, decrease oven heat to 275°F. While the oven is cooling, cover the pan with foil or put a fitted lid on top. Slow cook in the oven for 6 hours, removing once every two hours to baste the pork in its own juices (I used a silicon brush to drag the liquid over the meat).

After 6 hours, remove the pork from the oven and baste for the third time. Reheat the oven to 400°F. Set aside the overlying foil (or the lid). Put uncovered pan in the oven for 20 more minutes, or until the outer layer of the pork is a beautiful golden brown. Remove the pork from the oven, replace overlying foil, and let the pork stand for 30 minutes before pulling.

To pull, use two forks or your fingers to flake apart the meat – this step will be intuitive, trust me. Place the pulled meat in a separate bowl. When deciding how much fat to discard, I usually leave out a large portion of the outer layer, but I always let some slide by – without it, your meat will be dryer!

Serve as is, or with your favorite BBQ sauce. I made my own BBQ sauce, then stuffed the meat into homemade buttermilk potato rolls.

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White Chocolate Tart with Raspberry-Mint Coulis on Hazelnut Crust

DSC_0011There’s this thrift store directly across the street from my apartment. Actually, I suppose I should address it by its proper name – une friperie – which, in French, is derived from the verb friper, which means literally to crumple or crush. For our purposes, une friperie is a second-hand store. This friperie is a hodgepodge of wonders and atrocities – hidden gems amidst, put delicately, a pile of worthless crap. For instance, you’ll find a multitude of ancient tablecloths, plastic dish ware from the 90s, and a box stacked with taper candles that are either broken or bent at dubious angles.

However, throughout my incessant trips to the store in constant anticipation of a great (and dirt cheap) find, the friperie has stood up to the test. Over the 10 months that I’ve lived in this apartment, I have found countless cups and mugs, a beige vintage suitcase, a handful of LPs, a small Le Creuset skillet ($1.50), and a few floral-print dresses that are delightfully susceptible to being blown around in the wind. And the list goes on.

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So, naturally, as I was conjuring up the perfect flavor combinations for this here tart, and in realizing that I was tart pan-less, I sauntered down 3 flights of stairs and journeyed across the street. Within minutes, I spotted a sturdy looking spring-form pan, and I thought to myself, “this place is awesome.” As I paid at the cluttered counter, I chatted with the store owner, a jovial woman from Senegal, in broken French before heading back across the street to bake a tart.

And about this tart. I’m not one to toot my own horn or anything, but this tart is the reincarnation of delicacy, richness, and tang. “Reincarnation, Chris?” you ask. “That’s a strong word.” Well, folks, yes it is, but it’s entirely appropriate. The filling, made almost entirely from white chocolate and cream – and at this point, I’ve either lost you for health reasons, or I’ve got you fully on board (do me a favor and fall into the latter category) – is smothered in raspberry coulis, which is infused with mint and lemon rind. The whole thing sits on top of a buttery, crumbly crust of roasted hazelnuts. The finish is airy, yet dense, and the creaminess of the custard-like pie is offset by the snap of raspberries and lemon.

Really, need I say more?

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Now, time for some tunes.

Presenting:

Josephine Foster's "Hazel Eyes, I Will Lead You"

Josephine Foster’s “Hazel Eyes, I Will Lead You”

Amidst my first musings about this album, I created a playlist titled, “magic meadow”, into which I dropped bits and bobs of psych-folk rock. For me, the words “magic meadow” conjure up a vivid image: a bright, green clearing in the woods, wildflower in bloom, a group of friends sipping red wine, and of course, some seriously good tunes. Someone would need to cart along a musical instrument—perhaps a pedal harp. Usually, I would rely on Joanna Newsom to bear the burden, but recently I have discovered an equally talented songstress.

Josephine Foster does not just play the harp. Originally studying to be an opera singer while she lived in Colorado, Foster mixes falsetto with the twangy plucks of her guitar and ukulele. The warbling rise of her voice can peak like morning over the mountain, or dip low in a sound rich and primal.

Of all her albums, I have most quickly connected with this one. Perhaps it is the beat of her jaunty, plucky rhymes, or perhaps it is the distinct feeling that her music instills—as if you’ve drifted somewhere into the past. Whatever the reason, the aching sweetness of her songs is guiding me into the warmth of spring.

Listen here to a few of my favorites:

“Hazel Eyes, I Will Lead You” (Foster plucks the harp to this title-winner)

“Hominy Grits” (a short lil’ doozy that conjures up images of a clopping horse ride along the prairies) 

“Pruner’s Pair” (a soft, sad ballad)

White Chocolate Tart with Raspberry-Mint Coulis on Hazelnut Crust Filling:

Pie progression

Crust:
1 1/3 cup ground graham cracker
3/4 cup hazelnuts
4 tbsp brown sugar
5 tbsp butter

Filling:
1 cup heavy cream
10 oz white chocolate, finely chopped
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt

Raspberry-mint coulis:
3/4 cup fresh raspberries, washed
1 tbsp freshly chopped mint leaves
1 tsp lemon rinds
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp powdered sugar

Make the crust

Roast the hazelnuts for 10 minutes at 400°F. Remove hazelnuts from the oven, then rub them together inside a damp dishcloth to remove the skins.

Lower the oven heat to 350°F.

In a food processor, pulse the graham crackers, skinned hazelnuts and brown sugar until the mixture is coarse-grained and gritty (no large chunks). Add the butter, tablespoon by tablespoon, and pulse just until the mixture comes together (the mixture should keep its shape when you pinch it together.

Press the crust into an ungreased spring-form pan (or a tart pan), making sure to press it up against the sides. When the crust is uniformly flattened into the pan, par-bake the crust in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.

Make the rest

In a small saucepan, heat the cream over medium-low heat. When the cream is warm and slightly foamy around the edges, add the chocolate, stirring to melt. When the mixture is fully combined and slightly glassy on the top, remove from heat. Whisk in eggs, flour, vanilla and salt. Pour the mixture into the pre-baked crust. Bake the tart at 350°F degrees for 25 minutes.

While the tart is baking, make the raspberry coulis. Pulse raspberries in the food processor until the mixture is liquid and uniform. Add the chopped mint leaves, lemon zest, lemon juice, and powdered sugar, and pulse to combine. Set aside.

Remove the tart and let cool for 10 minutes. Carefully run the edge of a knife between the crust and the pan to loosen the crust. Remove the ring of the spring-pan, then evenly spread the raspberry coulis over the top. Slice and serve with fresh mint and raspberries.

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Chilled White Russians

Around this time of year, when the snow shrinks into pockets of soil-infused ice piles and constant, quiet ropes of water thread through the gutters, I am suddenly faced with an optimistic realization: though it’s muddy and sloppy, spring is coming.

DSC_0385Winter here is long and the days are short. Though sometimes overwhelming, the indescribable innocence and beauty of a fresh night snowfall is sure to keep your head up and your feet moving. Now that daylight saving time has passed, I’m starting to get excited for the upcoming summer.

A change in season, in my opinion, calls for some good transitional music, and a little something to drink. The White Russian is thick and comforting enough to warm you in the winter, but cool and refreshing enough to be an early spring favorite. I’ve also served them warm before, so if you’re up North and still cozied inside blankets by the fireplace, I suggest heating the ingredients gently over the stove.

To continue with this theme of seasonal passage , I provide you with a fitting album.

Presenting:

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I’d describe this album to be an intimate mix of folk and alternative. The album is shared by two voices, a man and a woman’s, which weave together the edgy romance of their words and instruments. I’ve enjoyed this album in many settings—a late night winter drive, a bright afternoon in the park, cooking slowly in the kitchen—and it works with everything. It’s easy on the ears, and puts a restful smile on your face.

Listen to “Love Comes to Me

Listen to “Cursed Sleep

Listen to “Then the Letting Go

~                     ~                     ~

White Russians
Serves one

1/2 to 1 oz. chilled vodka
1.5 oz. Kahlua
3/4 cup whole milk
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg

Into a tumbler, drop 2 large ice cubes. Add vodka, according to your preference (I used 1 oz. and I found the vodka flavor quite strong, so I tightened it to 1/2 oz.) Add the Kahlua, then stir gently, so as not to foam the mixture. Sprinkle the nutmeg on top, serve.

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Unsweetened Skillet Cornbread

This Christmas was a bountiful one. In addition to some new casserole dishes and a seriously adored copy of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, my brother, who lives in Kansas, brought something extra special up to Montreal. Bundled up in his suitcase was 10 pounds of beautiful non-stick iron.

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My beautiful cast iron skillets!

You know where I’m going with this. Just as the wrapping paper fell to the floor to reveal these beautiful pans, I was already thinking of all the kick-ass cornbread I was going to make. I’d heard the hype about – or rather necessity of – baking cornbread in a skillet, but had never tried it myself. I can proudly say I will never again stoop to the cake pan level. I am a changed woman.

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Let me list but a few observations regarding my switch from pan to skillet. 1. The bread browns evenly on the bottom side of your loaf. 2. The top forms into gold-encrusted peaks of heavenly cornmeal. 3. The rich, smoky taste of bacon fat coats and lightly fries the outer surface of the bread. 4. The crumbly, moist texture is truly divine.

Homemade preserves from a family friend - tomato jam and mustard pickles. The sweet tang offsets the savory cornbread.

Homemade preserves from a family friend – tomato jam and mustard pickles. The sweet tang offsets the savory cornbread.

Hot sauces - why not?

Hot sauces – why not?

I’m going to assume that you readers will take my skillet advice and toss away the cake pans. If you are skillet-less, consider picking some up from your local cooking store – they can run as low as 30 bucks for a set of 3, and if taken care of, can last you a lifetime. These skillets also have natural non-stick properties and serve as a source of iron (ladies!) Essentially, when you heat the pan, the molecules expand and the pore spaces open up, allowing in oil. When the pan cools and the pore spaces shrink, the oil is trapped inside the pores. So, when you reheat the pan, this oil will be released again, hence the natural non-stick properties. The more you use the pans, the more you’ll build up a non-stick coating. Cool, huh?

If you still remain unconvinced and must resort to other cooking methods, keep me in the dark about it – I’m not sure my heart could take the blow.

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And without further ado, here’s a music review!

Presenting:

Forever Dolphin Love

“Forever Dolphin Love” by Connan Mockasin

These guys are producing some pretty rad psychedelic rock for my generation. This album features strong, primal vocals that are paired with funky percussion and synth (xylophones, clog shoes) and an airy, ethereal guitar. The result is a mind-bending, turbulent ride that commands every bit of your attention.

The night that I purchased the album, I was on my way home on the bus. On impulse, I hopped off the bus about halfway home and decided to walk. It was night, we’d had our first snowfall that day. I unhurriedly wandered along the canal, peering down from the bridge into the gaping locks while Connan Mockasin narrated the whole experience in my ears.

Upbeat, quirky—Megumi the Milkyway Above

Lazy, reflective— Faking Jazz Together

Just plain cool—It’s Choade My Dear

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A hearty slice served with tomato jam, mustard pickles and sweet chili jam.

Unsweetened Skillet Cornbread
Adapted from A New Turn In the South by Hugh Acheson

2 cups yellow cornmeal or polenta
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder (optional)
1 tsp onion powder (optional)
1/2 tsp paprika
1 cup whole milk
1/2 whipping cream (sometimes I use sour cream)
1 large egg
1/4 cup bacon drippings

Preheat the oven to 425℉.

In a large bowl, mix cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, onion powder, garlic powder and paprika. Make a well in the center and add the egg and milk and cream. Mix liquid with a fork, beating the egg into the milk, before fully incorporating into the dry ingredients.

In a 10-inch cast iron skillet, heat bacon drippings and coat the bottom and sides of the skillet. Cook until hot, but not smoking. Pour drippings into the cornmeal mixture and stir in immediately. Then, pour the mixture back into the skillet, flattening the top with a flexible spatula. Bake for 20 minutes.

Remove the skillet from the oven and allow to sit in the pan for 10 minutes before flipping it onto a cutting board. Serve warm, with assorted jams (I used sweet chili jam, tomato jam and mustard pickle jam to offset the savory cornbread with a bit of sweetness.)

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Roasted Grapes

 

So, I’m presenting myself with a particular challenge: all of the food that goes into my fridge will get consumed. I watch helplessly as the wasted souls are tossed straight from the grocery bag to the fridge to the garbage. This occurrence is not only metaphorically tragic, it is also kind of embarrassing, as I am supposed to be studying environmental science. So, I’ve decided it’s time to put my money where my mouth is.

My heavily-guarded olive oil: a result of our Italian trip

At the end of October, I vowed (or perhaps I was procrastinating) not to take a trip to the grocery store until November, or until all of the fridge food had been eaten up. I made a lot of risotto, omelettes, curries and soups. I even began to experiment more with meat, which I’d previously shied away from in favor of tofu or vegetables. I wasn’t a vegetarian, but there were a few foreseeable problems that I had with meat. One, it is expensive, especially for university students. Two, it’s kind of finicky when you’re trying to find the tender balance between undercooked and dried out. Three, I would be forced to confront what I was eating. So tonight I decided to cook a whole chicken. What lay before me was not a plate of moist, cooked chicken breast. This was a great heaping slimy mass of chicken meat, and I was groping it clumsily as my fingers worked their way into dark, unseen places. My boyfriend stood over my shoulder, and we made the necessary jokes as I intimately felt up this chicken. But in the end, it wasn’t all that bad, and I feel like I’m ready to climb up the proverbial next stair on the tower of meat mastery.

Anyway, about these grapes. They’d been sitting in my fridge since last week, and I was beginning to worry that my self-induced challenge would go to the gutters if I didn’t use up this bag of fruit. They were good grapes, too, but with four seeds per globe, they were more of an annoyance than anything. So, tonight I sat down to carve out the tiny seeds from approximately 30 grapes, and boy was it worth it. The roasted version of this fruit teases out the grape’s inherent sweetness, the finished product tasting somewhat like roasted pear. I served it with roasted chicken and creamy roasted garlic polenta, but I can also envision these guys with some crackers and soft cheese.

I won’t write a full music review today, but I will leave you guys with this soulful little doozy.

Presenting:

“Little Dragon” by Little Dragon

This Swedish sensation is headed by the impassioned vocals of Yukimi Nagano, and the  finished product, a smooth blend of electronic and R&B, is an unexpected revel.

Listen to a few of my favorites, here:

Place To Belong

Constant Suprises

Scribbled Paper

After The Rain

Roasted Grapes
Serves two (as a side dish)

About 30 red grapes, washed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon rosemary spears
Salt
Pepper

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Half the grapes lengthwise and dig out the seeds with a knife (or a small corer, if you don’t mind losing some of the grape flesh). Pat the grapes halves dry.

Pour the grape halves into a casserole dish and toss with olive oil and rosemary. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bake the grapes for 35 minutes, then increase the heat to 425°F, and bake for 8-10 minutes longer, or until grapes have reached desired softness. Serve warm.

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Curried Pumpkin Soup

Over two months later and I am finally posting. I won’t fib and tell you that I have been working constantly. In fact, I spent the entire month of August in Italy, enjoying the company of a certain lounge chair next to the pool as the cypress trees tattered the blue blanketing sky overhead. I couldn’t really have been expected to write a blog post amidst such restful recuperation. Right?

Now, I don’t know how this happened, but Autumn is here. All this talk of looking forward to the warmth of the summer, and in a blink of an eye, the air has begun to chill. That’s Montreal for you!

Now, I’m an autumnal girl, myself. Mont Royal, Montreal’s own little mountain stumped right in the middle of the city, is beginning to change in color. Still grasping at its green, it won’t be for a few weeks more until it begins to glow yellow – a thick, vegetated torch looming above the tallest of the town’s concrete towers. This time of year, the mountain is filled with all sorts of folk: joggers and yoga teams, tourist families, dreaming photographers and university students who are wonderfully up to no good.

Autumn foods are some of the most comforting and colorful meals you’ll ever eat. I am currently fixated on the pumpkin. Pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie, pumpkin ravioli, even pumpkin bubble bath – I simply want to surround myself with this beautiful orange orb. If I keep myself together, I hope to post several pumpkin delights to my blog.

In fact, I love pumpkin soup so much that I have the desire to post more than one pumpkin soup recipe (!) I don’t know the “rules” of the cooking blogosphere, but I proclaim right here and now: Damn the rules that say it’s taboo to post 50 different pumpkin soup recipes! I am on a pumpkin quest, and am determined to give these North American gourds the proper homage they deserve. Who’s with me?

Now, for a music review.

Presenting:

Joanna Newsom’s “Have One On Me”

So, anyone who knows me understands my reverence for Miss Joanna Newsom. My friends and I often dream up scenarios of living with her in a wood cabin in the forest, lying out in grass strewn with fairy dust and yellow flowers as she plucks us sweet tunes on her pedal harp. This sentence but skims the surface of our respect for this unusual songstress.

When I first began to listen in earnest to Newsom’s work, I, like most, had to gently and tentatively slide into the tub of her music – by this, I’m referring to her voice. Unlike her previous albums, notably Ys, she has tamed her vocals quite a bit in this album, but often you will hear the jarring (but wonderfully so) highs of her voice, which Newsom has meticulously constructed. Her work may not be your thing, but any with a true appreciation for the complexity of music can recognize the woman’s skill.

If I go on too long about this album, it is simply because there is an immense amount to say. Each song is a complex story, portrayed through earnest imagery and often with the accompaniment of a full orchestra.

Joanna alone with harp in “’81

Joanna with brass in “You And Me, Bess

Joanna with piano in “Soft As Chalk

And finally, the longest song on the album, and holding the title for the album, Joanna with a culminating orchestra in “Have One On Me“.

Curried Pumpkin Soup

Serves 4

One 2-3 pound pumpkin
Olive oil
2 teaspoons rosemary leaves
1 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, halved
4 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon yellow curry paste
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon paprika
¼ cup heavy whipping cream

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Wipe the outside of the pumpkin clean. Lop the stem cap off in a polygon pattern (as if you were going to carve the pumpkin). Cut the pumpkin in half, slicing parallel to the pumpkin’s grooves. Scoop out the innards and reserve. Cut the halves once more (again parallel) so that you have four slices. Put the slices on a baking sheet and brush generously with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and rosemary. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until the flesh is tender. Remove and let sit until cool enough to handle.

Take the reserved innards, pick out the pumpkin seeds, and place them in a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix, then spread evenly along a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake these at 325°F for 20-25 minutes, flipping over halfway through (feel free to add more oil if the seeds become too dry). Use later for garnish.

In a stockpot with olive oil, sauté onion and garlic over medium-low heat until the onion has sweated and is translucent, about 10 minutes. Reserve a quarter cup of the vegetable broth, add the rest to the onion mixture, along with the ginger and the bay leaf. Scoop out pumpkin flesh and add to the pot.

In a small bowl, add reserved broth, curry paste, cumin, coriander, nutmeg and paprika. Stir until smooth, and then add to the pot and stir the mixture. This step ensures that the spices and curry paste are added uniformly to the soup.

Bring the covered pot to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and purée the soup until smooth. Pour back into the pot and simmer for another 15 minutes, or until the soup has thickened – watch out, it may splatter. Add cream. Pour into warm bowls and garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds, a drizzle of olive oil, and some lightly fried matchstick potato slices.

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Gin and Tonic (ft. blueberry, basil and lavender)

Our liquor cabinet is pleasantly full these days. I’m not sure how this happened, as my boyfriend and I are both university students relying on a student budget. But just the other day, as we were packing up to move into our new apartment, I surveyed the liquor bottles and took stock. Gin, of course, and lots of it. Jack Daniels (and lots of it), rum, Grand Marnier, port wine, sherry, as well as a healthy hoard of beer and wine.

Now, some of you may be sitting there completely unimpressed. In my eyes, I see a grandiose liquor cabinet teeming with bountiful spirits and smiles. In your eyes, you may see a crumbling shoebox, barren but for a few half-empties and reminders of a youthful haze in your life that you’d really rather forget. Whatever your opinion may be, I think we may all agree upon the fact that a cabinet of gin, whiskey and rum is an okay place to start.

Last summer, my roommate, Irena, and I had just moved into our new apartment. We both shared similar sentiments about our first year at university—it was slightly insane, and we wanted to begin our journey into adulthood. First stop? Developing a liquor shelf that consisted of more than a 500 mL bottle of vodka.

Throughout the year, we used our trusty shaker to construct a variety of beverages. Pear cocktails, Sidecars, dirty mojitos, and a little something special we like to call “À bientôt”. I accredit the idea for this blueberry-lavender-basil creation to a creative year spent with Irena, mixing, spilling, and breaking. And toasting to the end of a long day.

Now, for a music review. If you had perchance read my post titled “The Music Project”, you well know that I have been on a musical binge lately. I’ve made some great discoveries, here’s one of the best:

Presenting:

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Bill Callahan’s “Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle”

Bill Callahan’s deadpan voice would seem apathetic and disconnected at first listen. Yet, you’ve only to listen to the words he’s singing to realize his utter unity with the music. The album is like a dream sequence, each song a single step in an ethereal dance.

I distinctly remember listening to this album with my friend Hashmita one evening this summer. We sat on the upper curve of a grassy hill across the street from my house. The sky was dark but for the pinkish glow of lights and pollution. Some stars stuck through. A blanket warmed us as we stared across the grassy expanse at the rain that was beginning to fall. We felt it on our faces, our palms and legs. All the while, Bill Callahan sang of trees and birds, and I grinned, unadulterated, unworried, as the electricity rose from the ground and shattered the sky into a detonation of purple light.

I mean, you gotta listen now, right?

Too Many Birds

Jim Cain

The Wind And The Dove

~~~

Gin and Tonic with blueberries, basil, and lavender
(makes one drink)

Gin
Chilled tonic water
Lavender simple syrup (recipe to follow)
1 tablespoon frozen blueberries*
2 fresh basil leaves
A healthy squeeze of fresh lime (I used half a lime)

*If you prefer to use fresh berries, be my guest. I chose to use frozen blueberries because they add a nice syrupy texture to the drink.

Lavender Simple Syrup

1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon dried lavender buds

To make the lavender simple syrup, heat water in a small saucepan on medium-high heat. Add sugar and allow the mixture to boil until all the sugar has dissolved. Remove the mixture from the heat but keep in the saucepan. Add the lavender buds and cover the pot. Allow the lavender to steep for 10-15 minutes. Pour the mixture into a bowl covered in a cheesecloth (or strainer) to separate the lavender and the simple syrup. You may bottle what you don’t use—just put a lid on the container and store it in the fridge.

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Mixing

Your proportions per drink should be 1 part gin: 3 parts tonic water: 1 part simple syrup. Feel free to fiddle with these measurements to suit your taste (I personally can’t get enough of that lavender simple syrup).

Fill a shaker about halfway full with ice. To the shaker, add the gin, tonic water, simple syrup, and lime juice. Shake, shake, shake. Take 1 tsp. of this mixture and pour it into a mortar and pestle. Add the basil leaves and grind until you see an algae-colored mixture. Strain this through the cheesecloth and into the drink. Shake, shake, shake.

Put ice cubes into your serving glass. Drop blueberries onto ice, pour the drink on top, and serve.

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