meet me in muskoka + a mushroom, cheddar, and leek pie, lake style

mushroom tart

If you follow me on Instagram you may have already seen various points of the mileage I mentioned yesterday; to be quite honest, I was actually surprised at how little pictures I actually took during our travels, and that goes for most of our adventures as of late.

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{captain + first mate}

I’ve been really bad about carting my DSLR on vacations with me lately (partly due to the fact that I desperately need a new telephoto lens – which obviously doesn’t come on the cheap – and I’ve been sticking my head in the sand and pretending my old one works just fine….it doesn’t), and it’s too easy to fall into the habit of snippity snapping away with ye old iPhone.

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I yammered on enough yesterday about how wonderful island living is up in Muskoka, but it would be remiss of me not to mention this mushroom pie – even though I’ve got but one photograph as evidence of it’s brief existence.

{but wait! there’s more…}

the whole shebang: 6300 miles and a whole (lazy) lemon tart, iphone edition

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My past 28 days have looked something like this:

Santa Barbara, CA –> Baltimore, MD –> Wilton, CT –> Lake Joseph, Ontario (Canada) –> New York City, NY –> Baltimore, MD –> Santa Barbara, CA.

We’ve just arrived back home (we being the husband, the pug, and myself, and home being to the farm) after a whirlwind East-Coast-meets-Canada Summer tour that was packed sardine-tin style with cross country flights and long long drives: a marvelous wedding weekend in a picturesque New England town, two weeks spent on an island in the middle of a giant lake in Canada, and a full week back in The City – my old love – New York, New York.

(An aside: Given that these three locales and disparate occasions demanded quite different attire, you can surely ascertain exactly how nonplussed the look on James’ face was when he saw me attempting to heave two full-sized and at-limit suitcases onto the belt in addition to the tote bags/handbags/saddlebags that I looped over his shoulders like my own personal travel burro. Efficient packer, I am not.)

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Having – quite surprisingly – not traversed outside of the Pacific time zone since our arrival on the farm last Winter, we had a veritable laundry list of friends to see, places to visit, and cakes to bake (that’s a normal thing, right?), and in what seems like a relatively long stretch of time (nearly a month), we somehow managed to cram smoosh and shove nearly every single person/activity/baked good in without incident.

The trip was kicked off with our dear friends’ wedding, and we danced under the stars on a horse farm while munching on mini tacos and Polly Pocket sized margaritas housed in tiny Patron bottles. After a weekend full of feting, the car was loaded and aimed North towards the border, and we scanned the crackly FM stations while cruising through upstate New York searching for just the right songs to befit the lush rolling hillsides and endless decorously unkempt farms. A full days drive warranted cooling our jets for an evening at a darling bed and breakfast in Ithaca, and in the most touristy fashion possible we unabashedly chowed down on Buffalo wings at the restaurant that lays claim to starting that whole vinegar-spiked-hot-wing craze.

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We drove into Canada and left the US behind for two glorious weeks; this was the fourth year I have accompanied James and his parents for a mid-Summer break at their lake house, and it has quickly become a yearly tradition that we eagerly look forward to as the days grow longer and July 4th approaches. The cabin is on an island – the kind where there are no cars and oh, you better choose your company wisely, as there is absolutely nowhere to hide once you arrive by boat. And, as such, there is nothing really pressing on the agenda save long and lazy afternoons filled with sunshine and novels and time spent in the kitchen tinkering with new recipes and keeping the fridge full for those who’ve worked up an appetite swimming laps around the island.

{but wait! there’s more…}

best ever beet burgers with goat cheese spread (aka best veggie burgers, ever! )

beet burgers - brown rice and beet patties topped with chived goat cheese

In Boulder, there was a spot  downtown that we’d frequent all.the.time for lunch or a casual supper that made the most delicious beet burgers.  I never got around to trying my hand at them at home, because any time I had a chance to zip down the hill on our Vespa and enjoy my lunch al fresco on an inevitably sunny Colorado afternoon (and someone else was doing the cooking) I was going to take it.

beet burgers, raw beets sliced

Fast forward a couple of years and I’ve yet to find a place in San Francisco Santa Barbara that has a beet burger on their menu.  I guess I understand….beets, after all, seem to be a pretty polarizing root veggie, and I may be in the minority in the fact that these days I almost always default to a ‘veggie’ burger option when given the option.*

*And that is not to say I won’t absolutely-but-only-occasionally crush a double-double-animal-style.  Cause I’d be a liar if I said otherwise. 

beet burgers, shredded in processor

But this isn’t really a beet burger so much as just a really awesome veggie burger.  Yes, you can taste the beets – their earthy sweetness cuts straight through the other more mild binding components – but when combined with brown rice, lentils, chopped onion, fennel, and just a bit of almond butter, their in-your-face dirt-y-ness is mellowed out and complimented juuuuust right.

{but wait! there’s more…}

spaghetti & meatballs with a vegan (and gluten free!) twist: zucchini spaghetti and beanballs with fresh marinara + vegan ‘parmesan’ cheese

zucchini spaghetti and vegan beanballs

I came home the other week with a book called “Raw Food Detox Diet,” and I’d be lying if I said that James didn’t look just a wee bit petrified.

No, I am not on some fad diet (nor do I think the raw ‘movement’ is a fad, but I digress), but you may have noticed I’ve again been slightly scarce around here lately, and that’s because now that we are settled in to our new-ish house and hometown, we’ve been up to our usual hijinx of visitors, entertaining, eating, and drinking. We had visitors staying with us for a solid 4 weeks straight (not all the same ones, mind you), and when people arrive to your new spot the last thing you want to do is go to bed early and eat salad.

No. You’ll want to go wine tasting, and while we’re at it — toss in a cheese plate. You’ll have a hankering to make baby back ribs (3 separate times!), throw marinated flank steak, spatchcocked chicken, and lamb burgers on the grill, and whip up a ‘vodka bolognese’ (with beef and pancetta) as a birthday dinner for a dear friend. There will also be cake at said birthday dinner, and a morning spent mixing up fresh bloodies to enjoy poolside. There will be a lot of indulgences, and not much restraint. The Diem will be Carpe’d, every single day, to the absolute very fullest extent.

So after lots of meat, cheese, wine, beer, and bread (because I failed to mention the brick oven pizza place down the road we’ve been hitting up on the reg), I was left feeling a bit bleh. I, by all natural inclination, am not a huge meat eater, and after feeling like I consumed more animal products in a month than I have in some entire seasons passed, I began to feel a bit queasy.

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{but wait! there’s more…}

pot o’gold: fennel pollen dusted seared salmon with asparagus walnut pesto

fennel pollen crusted salmon with asparagus walnut pesto

I can be dismissive of recipes which demand I zig zag all over town hunting down exotic ingredients. Of course I understand that some Japanese dishes just aren’t the same without yuzu, and that tracking down some real kaffir lime leaves will elevate my curry to otherworldly levels, but back here on planet Earth…

fennel pollen crusted salmon with asparagus walnut pesto - pesto ingredients

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

So please hear me out before you decide not to read one letter further when I tell you that you must – MUST – find yourself a tidy little tin of fennel pollen in order to make this salmon.

fennel pollen crusted salmon with asparagus walnut pesto - seasoned with pollen

Yes. Fennel pollen.

A few years ago (well, five to be exact), James and I naughtily nipped across 8th Avenue (on more nights than I care to admit) to dine at our favorite restaurant, dell’anima. It wasn’t exactly an economic decision as we weren’t merely treating ourselves to a slice and a soda, but every single morsel on the menu was delectable, and we rationalized that one day we’d be happy we took advantage of having such a culinary gem tucked just feet from our doorstep. (Which, for the record, that has proven true.)

{but wait! there’s more…}

and at it again: herb-jalapeno lamb patties in pitas with cucumber yogurt sauce, arugula, and baby tomatoes

lamb pitas with herb jalapeno lamb patties, cucumber yogurt sauce, arugula, and baby tomatoes

Apparently I am having a tough time deciding between tree hugger (KALE! QUINOA!) and burly carnivore, because nipping at the heels of a meat-ball-esque meal, I’m back extolling the virtues of another meat-in-ball-form dish.

lamb patties - perfectly sliced cukes

But I really somehow think you’re going to be OK with it. These bad boys are goo-o–o-ood!  Hear me out:

lamb patties - jalapeno!

Take lamb, add plenty of bright green jalapeno and fresh herbs, make patties and fry them till golden and crisped, then stuff them into warm and toasty pitas filled with creamy and cool cucumber sauce, peppery arugula, and sweet baby tomatoes. Some sliced red onion (because, duh) and a sidecar of vinegary hot sauce, and you’ve got yourself something really special in not a lot of time (and, I’ll add, with not all that much effort).

lamb patties - ground lamb

In non-ground form, lamb is generally prohibitively expensive for more than just the occasional meal; I don’t know about you, but my other/better half has mucha hambre after stomping around avocado groves all day, and seeing as he can put back a cool 7 or 8 lamb lollipops, we’re not exactly dishing those guys out on a random Tuesday.

lamb patties - fresh herbs ready to be chopped

But ground lamb is very affordable, and infinitely more forgiving when it comes to cooking temperatures (because really, is there anything more sad than a gorgeous lamb lolly that’s been cooked even a smidge past medium rare?), and as these pitas come together in less than a half hour, they’re just what the weeknight Dinner Doctor ordered.

lamb patties - herbs!

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you eat & relish, now meet celia west!

CW logo 684x215 jan 2014

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It’s been awhile since I’ve alluded to another project I was working on….in fact, a quick search of my archives confirms it was way back in October. Of last year. And here we are, a healthy five months later, and I am finally – FINALLY! – ready to share it with you!

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(In my defense James and I have had a lot going on in these past five months, both personally and professionally, and as you well know by now we’re living in an entirely new town (hello, Santa Barbara! goodbye SF!) doing something that five months ago I would have thought was totally off the wall ((wearing overalls and farming avocados….or something like that)).  But I digress.)

marina on wood

I’ve started a jewelry line called Celia West, and I am delighted to (finally!) be able to share it with you. I’ve just launched my website at www.celiawest.com, and you can follow us on Instagram or like us on Facebook (and I’ll note doing both of these things would make me a very happy lady).  If you like jewelry, follow along! Otherwise, fear not – I’m still here cooking and baking and tinkering and making a general rumpus in the kitchen.

Thank you so much for your support, and for continuing to support me here on my little-ole-blog soapbox.  Your encouragement, kind words, and continual enthusiasm truly do mean the world to me!

a signoff