A Simple Summer Meal meets the Problem with my Blog

August 25, 2012

grilled peppers

Many of my cooking class students are curious about my home cooking and my family’s eating habits. In almost every class, it seems, I am fielding questions about my personal life, the most common two being:
“Will your kids eat this?” and “Do you cook like this at home?”

The short answer to these kinds of questions is “most of the time” and “almost never”. The long answer is, of course, much more complicated.
I am passionate about cooking and eating, I have serious chops in the kitchen, but in real life, the bulk of my cooking is done either at work, or in a narrow focused period of time between swim club and soccer practice.  As you can guess, I rarely have the time (or, let’s face it, the desire) to pour into an elaborate meal.

This brings me to the problem with my blog. I have long felt that the blog should be an extension of my cooking classes – lots of information about ethnic ingredients and professional cooking techniques, with dazzling recipes to wow your friends and family. But unless I take time out to photograph at work (and you can imagine how utterly annoying that would be for the students), there is no way I can post those kinds of recipes, because I don’t produce blog-worthy food at any other time.

In fact, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in my personal life, away from the spicy and exciting food that I cook in my classes, towards the very simple meat-and-two-veg that I grew up eating. Gasp! Still, I like to eat well and I make sure my kids eat well, too. We usually manage to put a good (and simple) homemade spread on the table every evening. That leaves me, Chef Heidi Fink, purveyor of amazing Thai recipes, Indian cooking techniques, and endless gourmet vegetarian menus, eating simple grilled meats and vegetables almost every night. Who wants to read a blog about that?!

Sigh… Looking over my blog, I see a lot of recipes for desserts. As in, half of the recipes. Odd that, since desserts and sweets make up a tiny fraction of all the cooking I do, both at work and at home. It seems that when I carve out time to make a dessert, I am also taking time to slow down, to enjoy the process, to even take some pictures. But savoury food is the fuel of our daily grind; it gets to the table with no time for measuring of ingredients or artful photographs.

Clearly, I am not prioritizing my blog the way I should.

What I have realized this week is that my blog struggles in that difficult place between what I want it to be and what I can actually make of it. What I want is an extension of my cooking classes. What I have is a blog that limps along because I think no one will be interested in the ordinary doings of my life in food.

BUT! I have decided to put this theory to the test.

I plan to spend the waning weeks of the summer posting many of the simple but delicious meals we have been making at home. Local produce, quality meats, and a woman who would rather be at the beach then in the kitchen. That’s what you’ll get and I’m hoping that might be what you are looking for. Where do I grocery shop? What foods do I spend my money on? What kinds of things do we eat most of the time? And, most importantly, was it worth it? You may read about meals that I didn’t think were worth it, or things that I made only out of desperation. Let me know what you think!

In the meantime, let me start with a meal we ate before we went to Cortes Island, a meal that, to my mind, epitomizes a West Coast summer.

simple west coast summer meal on a plate of grilled salmon, grilled peppers, corn, and my Mother's summer cabbage recipe

Local corn on the cob, grilled Spring Salmon, grilled peppers, my mother’s easy summer cabbage recipe

I could have used other veggies to sub in for the cabbage and pepper. Green and yellow beans have featured quite heavily this summer, as have new potatoes, simple salads, and mountains of broccoli.

The corn was picked up at Silver Rill Corn farm (I was on my way up the Peninsula for another reason anyway, but I have been known to drive up there just to buy corn), as was the cabbage. The rest came from my neighbourhood Thrifty Foods.

I’m guessing that you don’t need recipes on grilling salmon or peppers (my only tip: do not overcook!) or on boiling corn, but I will give you my mother’s summer cabbage recipe. It’s notable in our family for being the first vegetable that my youngest sister willingly ate after years of “raw carrots only”.

My Mother’s Summer Cabbage Recipe
Serves 6 as a side dish. Recipe is easily doubled or tripled.
This delectable recipe is notable in our family for being the first vegetable that my youngest sister willingly ate after years of only eating raw carrots. This recipe works best with fresh, juicy, local cabbage.

1/2 fresh green cabbage (local, if possible, because they will be sweet and crisp)
1/4 tsp to 1/2 tsp salt (to your taste)
4 to 6 Tb unsalted butter
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
at least 1/2 cup grated hard cheese (we always used freshly grated Parmesan, but this is also delicious with Gruyere, cheddar, etc)

Core and chop the cabbage. I usually cut into wide shreds. Rinse under cold water and drain. Place cabbage in a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Add just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan (about 1/4 to 1/3 cup) and sprinkle the salt over the cabbage. Cover and turn heat to high.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, keep covered, and steam cabbage for a couple of minutes. The key here is that the cabbage is softened a bit, but still crisp. Remove cover, drain off excess liquid, and throw the butter in the pan. Stir over low heat while the butter melted and the cabbage cooks a bit more. Taste for salt, add the pepper and half the cheese. Stir well.

Serve immediately, sprinkling each portion with extra cheese.

simple west coast summer meal on a plate

Comments (14)

  1. I think this is a great idea for your blog! And it might just fill the “do you run a cooking class that’ll help me feed my kids more interesting food than pizza or mac ‘n’ cheese?” void, which I’m pretty sure exists. I love your exotic recipes, for special occasions or when I’ve the time, but the rest of the time I’m in the same boat as you: too tired, too little time yet dinner still needs to be on the table… I look forward to reading more!

  2. Fantastic idea.

    Your post remind me of dinner last night: bbq’ed veggies (eggplant, yellow and green zucchini and heirloom tomatoes) with greek lamb sausages from Moss Street Market. My husband and I both agreed that nothing could have tasted better. Plus it took all of 15 minutes to make, which we spent catching up while flipping the veggies.

    I’d love to hear more simple dinner ideas using seasonal ingredients.

  3. Will definitely be trying this recipe because the one for your brown sugar pork chops blew my husband and friends away! I made it the day after you gave it to me when we met on Cortes Island. My husband and I drove straight to the butcher in Campbell River and marinated those chops all the way to Kelowna. My daughter says they’re now the family pork chop recipe with the legendary story of how Grandma got this recipe. :)
    Awesome blog, and congratulations on your EAT Award.

    1. Joy – so nice to hear from you!! I’m glad to hear the brown sugar pork chops turned out so well. They will be on my next blog post. Let me know how the cabbage turns out, if it needs fine tuning or any changes. All these “simple” recipes are things I just throw together, so I often don’t know if the proportions are exact.
      Thanks for the comment and the feedback!

  4. So glad you’ll be dishing out simple every day fare in your blog, because as much as we love cooking gourmet meals for friends and family, the reality is that’s not every day. My husband is passionate about pork chops. Could you please share the brown sugar pork chop recipe.

  5. Love the idea! I am tired of cooking the same things every week (and I am sure the kids are tired of eating it!) and will totally try out the cabbage recipe. During the week it is nice to spend as little time in the kitchen as possible and still get something delicious to eat! Looking forward to the next recipe.

  6. Oh thank GOODNESS! I totally figured you cook fancy restaurant style meals at home and your family just devours them between “swim club and soccer practice” like it’s the most ordinary thing in the world, while I’m secretly feeding my kids grilled cheese sandwiches over here. Ha! I look forward to hearing more about the life of a chef while she’s at home being mom :)

  7. I just wanted to stop by and say that I love your blog. It was the very first food blog I followed and actually trusted. By the way, I am a big fan of Rebar in Victoria:) I used to live there and then moved here in Vancouver.

    Congrats on making the top 100 mom food blogger list! So well deserved:) I love your recipes and I’m so impressed at how well your blog is doing, considering you don’t blog often. It’s not about how often you post. It’s all about how well you post:)

    I can totally relate to the dessert posts, btw. People are more attracted to the dessert photos than the regular food photos, that’s for sure. I see this all the time on Twitter. Whatever you decide to post, I’m sure it will be great! Your personality shines through every post and I love your honesty. Keep up the good work;)

    1. Hi Susan, thanks so much for all the feedback! It means a lot to me. Your blog looks great as well. I’m looking forward to reading more.
      Thanks again,

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