My father was an amazing Chef. As a teenager, he ran away from the boarding school where his father had sent him and hopped a train to Montreal. Once there, he worked in a bakery and then, when war broke out, he lied about his age and joined the RAF because Canada had not yet joined in the conflict and he was a British subject. He first became a gunner but lost too many friends and switched over to feeding the troops instead. When he married my mother in India in 1943, she couldn’t cook. Eventually moving to Canada, he taught her everything he knew. Together, they shared in his passion and love of entertaining making Sunday dinners in our house famous. People vied for invitations, always knowing there would be a gastronomic feast to devour along with the good company, and spirits, always present in my parents home.
Growing up, I didn’t cook much. Why cook when your parents always had the situation covered?
Even though I didn’t spend much time in the culinary arts, their love of cooking and entertaining was contagious. Once I was living on my own, spending time in the kitchen became a favourite past-time.
I loved to experiment. My theory was always, if you can read, you can cook. If you can imagine, you can create. And so, I’d take a recipe and experiment with ingredients adding dollops of this and measurements of that to see what novel thing I could create that had my signature on it. The joke has always been that if you like something Louise cooked, don’t expect it again as she seldom cooks the same thing twice.
Yesterday, my friend Jane called to check on what time they were expected to be at the house for dinner. Jane and her husband Al are my daughters, ‘other parents’. They have been in my life since before my daughters’ births, and have been there always to support, care, love, nurture and guide both girls (and me) through life’s ups and downs, trials and triumphs. Along with their daughter and son, who are close to the same ages as my girls, they are family in the best way possible.
“Are you having a good day?” Jane asked when she called.
“I am having a perfect day!” I replied.
And I was.
Immersed in the creative space of my kitchen, my heart was full, my imagination on fire and my creative juices flowing as I prepared a meal for 14 that had to meet the dietary needs of everyone. Celiac. Vegetarian. Lactose intolerant. Meat eaters.
C.C. was in charge of the roast and getting things on the BBQ. I was in charge of the rest. A gluten free pasta salad with roasted tomatoes. Black Bean Rice Burgers, Guacamole, roasted beets, sautéed green beans, roasted potatoes, a chocolate mousse for those who couldn’t eat the cake. There was more — but you get the picture…
As my parents taught me, the perfect way to express your love is to gather people who are important to you around a dinner table and share what you’ve created.
And it was. A perfect kind of day capped off by a perfect evening spent sitting around the table on the lawn set beneath the canopy of the apple tree. The air was warm, the sky blue. Birds sang in harmony with our voices laughing, sharing, enjoying the thing that binds us all — Love.
And for my daughter….
Black Bean Rice Burgers
750 ml cooked or canned black beans, rinsed and drained (I cooked mine as I find the cans too soft and mushy)
250 ml cooked whole grain rice
1 med carrot, shredded
80 ml ground flaxseed
1 lge free-range egg
2 garlic cloves (I omitted as Alexis is sensitive to garlic)
10 ml Dijon mustard
5 ml ground cumin (I used fresh herbs from the garden)
pinch sea salt
1 ml black pepper
Grapeseed oil for grilling
Add black beans to food processor container and blend until broken down but now completely smooth (I had a big bowl handy as the beans plus other ingredients were greater than the size of my food processor bowl) You can also use a potato masher. Add rice, carrot, flaxseed, egg (garlic), mustard, cumin (herbs), salt, and pepper; pulse until well combined (I mixed it all together in big bowl and then ground it up in batches.) Form mixture into patties.
Preheat grill, or if doing on stove-top, heat oil. Cook 5 minutes per side.
1 lge avocado
Juice of 1 lime
handful of chopped cilantro
hot sauce, cayenne pepper, or Habanero pepper chopped fine
1 medium-sized tomato, seeded and chopped (or a salsa sauce works too)
In small bow, mash together avocado, lime juice, cilantro, hot-sauce or Habanero or cayenne pepper, tomato (or salsa) and a dash of salt.