Tuesday, April 17, 2012

April demands certain things of us: rain boots, patience and a shift in menu-planning. We slowly phase out the heavy dishes of winter and replace them with bright greens and lemon-laden proteins. No more casseroles or 10oz glasses of merlot. Gone are the rich stews and spicy curries. Instead we'll grill chicken and crush mint into our cocktails, seek out produce that's gone into hiding and build tall cones of ice cream. 

And rather than a meaty bolognese, it's time to coat our pasta in something fresher. Pesto. While it's readily available pre-made, I'm always a proponent of taking ten whole minutes to do it yourself. 

You'll thank me.

Basil Pesto

3 loose cups of fresh basil
2 cloves of garlic
Half a cup of lightly toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup of fresh-grated parmesan
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
Some lemon zest
Avocado oil

In your food processor, pulse the basil and garlic. Add in the toasted pine nuts and parmesan and continue to grind into a pulpy mash. Add the lemon juice and zest and slowly add your oil until you reach the desired texture.  I used avocado, though extra virgin olive is customary. I found the avocado was lighter in flavour and slightly thinner in texture creating a more fluid pesto.

There are lots of ways to serve pesto, of course, but I worked mine into some super-thin spaghettini before scraping a shock of lemon zest and fresh parmesan across the top. Light, bright, and perfect for these early-Spring days.

Tips: Pesto is best-served to friends and close-relatives. With its propensity for teeth-nook-clinging, it's not recommended for that nail-biting dinner for the boss or a first date situation. 

Stirring it Up (April 17, 2011)
Pizza Night (April 5, 2011)
On Colour (March 22, 2011)
Spring May Come (May 2, 2011)

Monday, April 9, 2012

This weekend one of our favourite people in the world celebrated his 40th birthday. John is a southern belle from North Carolina via New York City who (much to our delight) moved to our fair city 4 years ago when his partner Chris took a post at one of our arts organizations. As you can imagine, leaving NYC for any reason would be a tough one, but that's the thing about John. He's nothing if not open-hearted. 

In that spirit, friends and loved ones assembled to ring in John's new decade at the Flying Beaver Pubaret (a terrific and intimate live-music venue in Toronto's Cabbagetown) with musical and comedy offerings. From T.J.'s reworked version of "Taylor the Latte Boy" to a 6-minute comic retelling of crowd-favourite Steel Magnolias, it was definitely . . . super gay. (And that's glazing over Sharron Matthews' performance, monologues from Designing Women and a live-reading of John's hysterical Twitter feed.)

It was one of those warm-and-fuzzy, magical nights we hope John remembers for a long, long time.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

March, while expected to go out like a lamb, went out like a herd of vindictive lions instead, even threatening snow. We had summer-like weather in its midsection, trees and flowers even cropping up, only to be smacked with a cold snap. I hope April treats us with more kindness, or, at least, consistency. 

Lately, through my headphones, my music choices have been just as varied. Aside from Madonna's new album (edited for my pleasure with the most-obnoxious tracks eliminated) I've been listening to typically rough and emotional, pre-Spring piano balladry and folksy crooning. 

Birdy has been big for me, the latest British-ingenue to cross the pond. Her debut album is made up of covers, though quite expertly chosen and interesting. She does a bit of everything, from Phoenix and The XX to Fleet Foxes, The Postal Service and Bon Iver, all treated with a piano-based moody wash. I dig it. Enjoy a couple in this mix and snag the rest.

Music I'm looking forward to? Patrick Watson's new one is due soon, as is Rufus Wainwright's seventh studio album. All soon enough. 


Songs for Cold Snaps

  1. Hello Tender Love - Zeus
  2. I'll Never Forget You - Francis and the Lights
  3. Was I On Your Mind - Jessie Baylin
  4. Months - The Middle East
  5. Shelter - Birdy
  6. Port of Morrow - The Shins
  7. Towers - Bon Iver
  8. Don't Ask Me Why - Laura Marling
  9. Life Thru the Same Lens - A Girl Called Eddy
10. Port of Call - Beirut
11. Nothing to Remember - Neko Case
12. Myth - Beach House
13. Skinny Love - Birdy
14. Star - Randy Coleman
15. Heartache - A Girl Called Eddy

A note on Track 12: I've loved this song for years, since hearing it on the soundtrack to The Event. It's old school in a piano-ballad kind of way, with a hint of music theatre-meets-emo. You might not love it, but I'd love to hear if you do.

Songs for April (April 1, 2011)
Songs for Marching (March 25, 2011)