Mak­ing it work in the kitchen

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FOOD - Mar­garet Prouse From My Kitchen

One of my favourite quo­ta­tions is at­trib­uted to Arthur Ashe, who made his mark in the world of com­pet­i­tive ten­nis in the 1960s and ‘70s. His ad­vice, “Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can,” has never failed me when I felt un­cer­tain and over­whelmed.

I felt like that for a while last week­end. Af­ter I’d done the week’s gro­cery shop­ping based on meals for just two of us, we in­vited a fam­ily to join us for din­ner.

“Start where you are.” We were at home, and we were hav­ing com­pany for din­ner. I had no de­sire to head out and do more shop­ping, but I needed to plan a meal for com­pany. That was the start­ing point.

“Use what you have.” I’d gone light on meat and fish when shop­ping last week, and look­ing for a pro­tein for the main course had me feel­ing per­plexed un­til I re­mem­bered that there was a bag of shrimp, al­most full, in the freezer. I’d bought a red and a green bell pep­per, and had a can of pineap­ple chunks in the cup­board. We al­ways have cook­ing onions and rice on hand, and so it was de­cided: the main course would be a stir­fry with sweet pep­per strips, onion wedges, pineap­ple chunks and shrimp, served over rice. I could make a sauce for the stir­fry us­ing the juice from the pineap­ple, along with soya sauce, mirin, sesame oil, grated ginger from the freezer, and a few tea­spoons of corn­starch to thicken it. I was sur­prised and grate­ful that although I hadn’t come home with many gro­ceries, we had food in the house that I could put to­gether to make a nice main course.

“Do what you can.” There was about half of a rhubarb cake on the counter, enough so that ev­ery­one could have a small piece for dessert. How­ever, the cake looked plain when served alone, not the pretty dessert that we like to serve to com­pany. What could I do to dress it up? We had about half a quart of straw­ber­ries in the fridge, and the end of a car­ton of whip­ping cream. I pureed the straw­ber­ries, and used a squeeze bot­tle to driz­zle the berry puree in a wavy pat­tern across the bot­tom of each dessert dish. Then I added a small piece of rhubarb cake, a spoon­ful of whipped cream, one whole straw­berry and another driz­zle of straw­berry puree. In­stead of a lit­tle piece of leftover cake, we had a dessert that looked fes­tive and, thanks to the in­ter­play of straw­berry and rhubarb flavours, tasted bet­ter than the cake did by it­self. There wasn’t a crumb of dessert left at the end of the meal.

Here is the recipe ( from my cousin, Karen) for the rhubarb cake that we had on hand.

To sour milk to use in the bat­ter, spoon 15 mL (1 tbsp) white vine­gar into a glass mea­sur­ing cup, and add milk to bring it to the 250 mL (1 cup) mark. Give it a stir, let it sit for a minute or two, and there’s the cup of sour milk that you need.

Karen’s Rhubarb Cake

125 mL (1/2 cup) but­ter 375 mL (1 1/2 cups) sugar 1 egg 5 mL (1 tsp) vanilla 500 mL (2 cups) flour 5 mL (1 tsp) bak­ing soda 2 mL (1/2 tsp) salt (I omit­ted) 250 mL (1 cup) but­ter­milk or sour milk 500 mL (2 cups) rhubarb, cut into 1 cm (1/2 inch) pieces 15 mL (1 tbsp) flour Top­ping 50 mL (1/4 cup) but­ter 10 mL (2 tsp) cin­na­mon 250 mL (1 cup) brown sugar Pre­heat oven to 180 C (350 F.) Cream but­ter and sugar to­gether. Beat in egg and vanilla. Sift to­gether flour, soda and salt, and add to creamed mix­ture, al­ter­nat­ing with but­ter­milk or sour milk. Toss rhubarb pieces with 15 mL (1 tbsp) flour to coat. Fold into bat­ter. Spoon bat­ter into a greased 34 x 22 cm (13 x 9 inch) pan. Mix top­ping in­gre­di­ents to­gether, and drop in small pieces over bat­ter. Bake at 180 C (350 F) for 45 min­utes or un­til cake is firm and a tester in­serted into the cen­tre of the cake comes out clean.

Mar­garet Prouse, a home economist, can be reached by writ­ing her at RR#2, North Wilt­shire, P.E.I., C0A 1Y0, or by email at mar­garet@is­land­gusto.com.

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