Simple Pleasures

There's nothing like a year-long mystery illness to make you appreciate the simple things in life. These days I find myself feeling grateful for everything - cooking a meal, hanging the laundry, baking a loaf of bread, or pulling a few weeds in the garden all seem like small miracles.

Before I got sick I think I was becoming jaded about food. We're spoiled for choice here on the West Coast. In Vancouver there are so many world-class restaurants, representing virtually every kind of cuisine - and much of it is reasonably priced. New restaurants open up almost every week - from opulent temples of molecular gastronomy to local hash houses (and a few of the other kind of hash house, too). It's almost monotonous in its variety. Having a seriously restricted diet forces you to retrain your palate and really taste food again. You can't rely on butter, cream or culinary pyrotechnics to cover up inferior ingredients.

The chicken stew I cooked last week is a good case in point. The ingredients were simple: free-range chicken, onions, garlic, celery, carrots, rutabaga, potatoes and a few herbs - and that's it! No wine, stock or tomatoes, just a cup or so of water to form the sauce.

All the components tasted entirely of themselves and it was one of the best things I'd eaten in a long while. It didn't hurt that all of the ingredients except the celery were local.

A few days later I was inspired by a blog post by David Lebowitz to make eggplant caviar. I picked up some gorgeous eggplants from my friend Dana and smoked them on the Big Green Egg.


A handful of other ingredients including some roasted Gabriola garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and parsley were pureed together in the food processor.


I finished it with a sprinkling of Piment d'Espelette (a mistake I'm afraid - I know I'll be struck down by lightning for saying this, but the Piment d'Espelette, for all it's cachet, tasted a bit like the red pepper flakes in a Knorr dried soup package). I served the caviar d'aubergine with some market vegetables and toasted baguette slices. The fanciest baba ganoush couldn't hold a candle to it.