Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Monday, December 29, 2008

Sweet, salty, sour, bitter, hot

This salad has wonderful contrasting flavours. Farid (from one of the Maghreb countries) made this at a dinner party years ago and I've been happy to make it from time to time ever since.

I'm never good at proportions; it's a matter of what looks and tastes good to you.


Moroccan olives: the sun-cured, black, wrinkly, shiny ones
Clementines or oranges.
Fresh thai peppers, or hot sauce*
Lettuce of your choice: Boston lettuce, leaf lettuce, mixed baby bourgeois lettuce, etc.
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar

Pit the olives: Squish them under the blade of a wide flat knife, then squish out the pit. This kind is easier to pit than, say, Kalamata olives, because the pit doesn't cling to the flesh that much.

Chop the olives into smallish bits. Cover them with boiling water and let stand for a few minutes to remove some of the salt and to partially rehydrate the olives. Don't leave them too long, unless you like mushy olives. Drain the olives.

Peel the citrus. If using oranges, remove the flesh from the membranes. If using clementines, that's too difficult, so just slice them thinly.

If using fresh peppers, chop them very fine, mix with the citrus, and let them macerate for a while. If using hot sauce, you can skip this step.

Dress the lettuce with olive oil. Then add the hot sauce (if using) and a little bit of balsamic vinegar. (You don't need a lot of vinegar, because of the citrus fruit's acidity.) Toss to evenly distribute.

Garnish with the citrus and olives, and serve. Enjoy!

* The original recipe used harissa, but I didn't like the flavour of the brand I used. It's not very Mediterranean but my favourite hot sauce (first tried years ago, and not displaced by any other) is Arizona Gunslinger's Habanero Pepper Sauce.

Friday, December 26, 2008


Strategically self-induced nausea in response to smoking, gloom at the most wonderful time of the year, and adding insult to injury: why?

Yesterday, on Christmas Day in the morning, I took the metro and bus to get to and from the church where I was singing. Christmas is "supposed" to be a happy day, and while I know not everyone has an easy time at Christmas, it was surprise to see so many long faces on the bus and metro. Whence happiness?

Today, I went to the pharmacy to fill a prescription. While I was waiting, the pharmacist was helping the client ahead of me. She handed him his pills, and asked if he knew how they worked, and then she explained: these pills would help him quit smoking because smoking would henceforth make him dizzy and nauseated. The full course of this treatment runs for 12 weeks - yup, 12 weeks of nasty revulsion. I gained a new sympathy for smokers if quitting is so hard that sometimes self-inflicted nausea is the best way to go.

In other news, a friend of mine spent the summer cycling from BC (where he currently/most recently lived) to Newfoundland (where he spent part of his childhood). He extended his stay, spending a few weeks in Newfoundland visiting family, planning what to do next, and fixing up an old VW camper van. In late November he started to drive back to BC in his new (old) van. Alas, he wiped out in a snowstorm in the US midwest, totalled the van, and was stuck for almost a week waiting for news from his insurance company. When they finally made up their mind (yes, the van was indeed totalled), he flew home to Vancouver, just in time to catch the start of some of the nasty weather that's been the recent delight of North American travellers. Oh yes, then he got home to Vancouver and a few days later, his father in Newfoundland died.

Why, why, why? There's the Hungarian joke from Soviet times that everything that is not prohibited is compulsory. Or as the physicists (or is it the statisticians) say, if it isn't impossible, then it's going to happen somewhere at some point in the universe. So "why" isn't always a fruitful question to ask. I guess that leaves the next best alternative as "what will we do in consequence", or maybe more concisely, "how, not why".

Monday, December 8, 2008

Voting: from blues to bliss

Today, I voted in Quebec's provincial election today. A day of depressing thoughts was transformed, after voting, into a smug sense of satisfaction and gratitude.

Elections usually make me depressed. It's not the voting part; it's that elections remind us about the politicans whom I find so distasteful that I generally prefer to ignore them. Here in the province of Quebec, our government is 2 years into its mandate. Our premier decided he didn't like leading a minority government and that now was a good time to call an election to try for a majority government. How wonderful! We're about to head into difficult economic times, and our leadership apparently has no better idea on how to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars than an utterly unnecessary election. Yet out of a sense of duty, off I went to vote.

Often something happens on election day, and this time was no exception. Sometimes it happens before marking my ballot, sometimes after, but once again my election epiphany came. Voting is such a privilege. I can't swing a cat without hitting someone for whom voting is or was a matter of life and death. Why did my grandparents flee their country in the middle of the night? What about my fellow volunteer mentioned in my previous post?

Maybe I don't like my politicians, but it sure is a nice feeling that every few years I have a chance to let them know what I think about them. And when I cast my vote, no matter how I vote, I won't get blacklisted or imprisoned. My politicians - those whom I often so dislike - want me to vote, even if it's not for them.

(Thoughts on frigid winter-cycling today are on my other blog.)