Creativity is a funny thing. It seems, so often, to have a mind of its own, like a wild creature you can’t pin down and even if you bait it with inspiration and woo it with promises of productivity it can scuttle away just as you think it is within your reach. When I was in art school I had a frustratingly brilliant professor who told us, quite bluntly, that none of us were creative and that the very concept of creativity is nothing more than a construction of ego: we hold onto the idea of being creative because it makes us feel special, unique, to know that we have created something. What he was trying to do was make us understand that our own creativity does in fact exist, it just doesn’t exist in a vacuum. We don’t create anything without the influence of things that have come before us. Even the most innovative ideas are based on something else, or at the very least they are based on things they are not. I find recipe development very much a creative process, but that means accepting that there is a whole international history of food that has come before my idea, and in most cases, what I am making has been done before. How could that not be so? For almost long as there have been people, there has been cooking. There is nothing earth shattering and unique about this Asparagus Tart but it is simple, spring-flavoured and special. (more…)
I have never known anyone who hates raisins as much as my niece, Justine. When she was a little girl someone made her a carrot cake for her birthday and lo and behold: raisins. Too sweet to draw attention to the offending fruits, she ate around them, eating all the cake and cream cheese frosting. It wasn’t until the table was cleared that the small pile of discarded raisins was found under her napkin on the edge of her plate. Well, 20 years later, nothing has changed. (more…)
These little treats are the perfect size: 4 bites. More than a mouthful but not enough to merit the need for a fork and knife. They are perfect finger food and always welcome at a party.
The last time I made these was not for a very festive party but for my grandfather’s memorial, or as our family likes to call them: a celebration of his life. It was an overcast afternoon, as most June afternoons are in Vancouver. After much debate and searching we had decided on a handsome, rustic hall in a beautiful cedar-filled park that was by the ocean. It had a quiet, simple dignity to it. Pleasant and humble, not entirely unlike Bert.
If you’ve never thrown a funeral, let me tell you: it’s a tremendous amount of work, even when its divided and delegated amongst several family members. Like any dignified gathering it was more than a chips and pop event, lovingly catered by our family. I have mentioned before that I am so blessed to be in a family of people who can cook and likes to cook. It makes events such as Bert’s Final Farewell simpler, especially when the homemade-ness is more than welcome amongst the tears. We really did celebrate his life and it was a group effort to bring all the parts of the day together. One of my aunts and her two young daughters made beautiful flower arrangements, everyone cooked, photo albums were assembled and his records and medals from his service in the Canadian Military were on display. He was a voracious reader so another of my aunts made a book mark for each guest to take away with them. Many of his friends and bridge partners attended, and many of them joined family members in telling stories about Bert. Some were tear jerkers; so many of them said such kind and lovely things about him. Others were full of humour, like the one about my Grandad teaching one of my aunts to drive, nervously popping nitroglycerin tablets as she gracefully high-centered the car, stranding them on a country road.
By the time we had thanked all the guests and packed things up we were all smiling, laughing even. We stepped out into sunshine, the clouds had lifted and we stood in the warmth and watched a family of juvenile bald eagles circling through the trees no more than 100 feet above us. They were majestic and silent in their flight and we marveled at their beauty. It was a perfectly peaceful cap to an emotional day and a life affirming reminder, in a way, that we are all in constant flight.
Life has a way of poignantly coming full circle sometimes. It wasn’t until we were driving home and discussing the serenity of our eagle sighting that I remembered the book mark my aunt had made and the line of poetry on it and how perfectly it fit, how it had all come together:
The Bird of Time has but a little way to fly and the Bird is on the wing.
– from The Rubayyat of Omar Khayyam
4 Bite Quiche Basic Recipe
This basic recipe takes no time at all to put together and can be combined with any number of delicious add-ins. I’ve provided the basic egg mixture and its method as well as a list of yummy fillings that you can combine and customize. The sky is the limit!
4 eggs, beaten
1 ½ C milk
1 ½ C grated cheese of your choice, divided
¼ tsp ground black pepper
a scant pinch of grated nutmeg
24 frozen (or chilled fresh prepared) tart shells
Try one or more of the following add-ins:
- 6 strips of bacon, very well cooked and crisp, chopped small
- 1 C diced mushrooms, sautéed
- ½ C finely chopped green onion
- 1 C diced ham
- ½ roasted red peppers, chopped
- ½ C crumbled feta cheese
- 2 small shrimp per tart
Preheat the oven to 375°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay out 24 tart shells (still frozen, or if fresh, well chilled). If you are mixing in bacon, onions, etc. spoon them into the tart shells now. Remember, each one only needs a little bit and you want to leave room for the egg mixture.
In a medium bowl, beat the eggs until well scrambled. Add the milk, pepper and nutmeg and half of the cheese. Pour into tart shells and top with the remaining cheese. Bake for 30 minutes until the quiche are puffed and the cheese and pastry are golden. The quiche will ‘deflate’ as they cool – this is normal. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store any leftovers for up to two days in a tightly sealed container in the fridge.