I love my home, but being in a basement suite- even one which is more of a "garden suite", barely below ground- means that I have to step outside to really get an idea of what the weather is doing. So that's partly it. Also, I'm still on this health kick, and nervously sure that if I take a day off from moving my body in some way, I will turn back into a dough-y couch potato for good.
This weekend has been particularly active, kind of as an antidote to feeling let-down. My sweetie and I had made vague plans to get away on a bicycle trip this weekend, but he was too busy and I was too broke to make that a reality. So I resolved to make as much fun for myself as I possibly could, with an emphasis on things that were affordable (free, if possible), outdoors-y, and healthy.
Reader, I succeeded! In fact, it's been such a lovely weekend that I'm not even sorry we didn't get away, although I can always use more time with my love. Here's what I've been up to so far:
- On Thursday, I biked all the way to Richmond for a job interview, Then I biked over to the Flying Beaver Pub, which is pure heaven because it is situated by two things I love: water (the Fraser River), and the airport. In case you don't know this about me, I am a giant nerd about planes, and even though I don't love flying in them, I do love watching them take off and land. The bigger the better. I biked around Richmond and back to Vancouver and then I think I slept for about 10 hours because I was exhausted. But oh, so happy. (I'm not going to review the food at the Beaver because it's pretty standard pub food; neither particularly good nor particularly lousy. I find that if you've exercised at all in order to get there, you'll enjoy the food more than if you drive.)
- On Friday, I hiked to Quarry Rock, in Deep Cove. I made this a weekday trip as I'd heard it was a popular destination, but it was still super-busy. If you like solitude, this hike is definitely not for you. At just over an hour (round-trip, and for me, although I seemed to walk at a fairly average pace compared to others on this hike) it's not very challenging, and I saw little kids, little dogs, and poorly-shod tourists all successfully navigating the trip. The woods are green, shady, and calming, even though you might be weaving your way around children or little old ladies. Quarry Rock itself has a gorgeous view back into Deep Cove, across Indian Arm to Belcarra Park, and even back towards the city, although the sight of so many people taking selfies is a bit off-putting. I mean, I love social media, but come on! My favourite sighting was of a French family I passed on the way to the rock. Papa was clutching a large box of Honey's Donuts, which was clearly an excellent incentive for the rest of the family to follow him all the way along the trail. When they got to Quarry Rock they sat on the smooth stone ground and eagerly opened the black cardboard box. A well-earned snack! Honey's is a Deep Cove institution, and it was packed when I finished my hike. I virtuously avoided the donuts, but ordered a ham sandwich. Several dollars cheaper than at most other cafes, it came absolutely packed with black forest ham, cheddar, and not too much mayo. Perfect. And even though Honey's was so busy, it took almost no time at all. I was seriously impressed! (True story: as I was reading some Yelp reviews just now to get a feel of what others thought about Honey's Donuts, I saw one that said "Was very knowledgeable and down to earth. As well they have a naturopath on hand for any questions." This seemed odd, until I realized I was reading an add for another place altogether! Anyway, you probably won't find a naturopath at Honey's (unless they're over there on a break), but it's a must-visit if you go to Deep Cove, even if you're avoiding donuts.)
- Yesterday was the opening day at the PNE, so I enticed my sweetie to leave his work for a while and come with. Added incentive: admission was only $1.50 with the wearing of a red item of clothing! Absurdly clad in a red dress with white polka dots (me) and a dark red dress shirt (him), we biked over to the fair with great expectations of greasy treats. I always love seeing what the ridiculous trends in fair-food are going to be. This year's seems to be chocolate cotton candy, which sounds... unappealing. We were there for Waffles With Benefits, the only time I will cop to liking chicken with waffles. However, I was underwhelmed this year. Perhaps it was because it was my third summer in a row trying them, or because the teenagers making them weren't putting a hell of a lot of loving care into them, or just... ennui? The waffles were dry, the cheese sauce on my Buffalo Chicken waffle was bland, and there was't a shred of the promised arugula. I think I have exorcised the waffle demon for good. If you're battling your sugar and deep-fry nemeses, there's not a heck of a lot you can eat at the PNE. Even the drinks are almost certain to be packed with sugar. I finally found a place selling only 2 things: blended watermelon, or blended pineapple; mixed with ice and served either in a cup (8 dollars- yikes), or in a hollowed-out melon (or pineapple) FOR A CRIMINAL TWELVE DOLLARS OH MY GOD PEOPLE HOW IS THIS LEGAL??? There's also a dim sum truck selling steamed shrimp dumplings which I love, so when I returned to the fair after a 40-minute swim at New Brighton Pool (the best-kept secret in Vancouver as far as I'm concerned), it was shrimp dumplings and melon juice for me. All in all, while I had a great time hanging with my guy and then later returning to snap pictures of cows, chicks, and other cuties in the agriculture buildings, it was a good reminder that you should eat before going to the PNE (the prices! the way all the batter tastes the same!) and maybe just indulge in one really awesome treat while you're there.
So, I always thought this dip was called baba ganoush until I read Smitten Kitchen this afternoon. And now I guess I should call it Moutabbal, except that no one will know what I'm talking about unless they're middle eastern. I'm more inclined to go with Catherine Newman's name: Smoky Minted Eggplant Dip.
Do I follow either of these recipes? Well, not exactly. I certainly started with Newman's recipe earlier this summer when I was house-sitting and suddenly found myself in charge of a number of eggplant plants (which is an awkward phrase. How should we say it? Egg-plants? Eggplantplants?). But unlike her, I'm not inclined to soak almonds and then blend them, all to avoid tahini, which I like anyway. Do I use as much tahini as Smitten Kitchen? Nope. I probably used 3 tablespoons, and in the past I've used less. Like Newman I use mint, but I also add a leaf or two of basil, because it's so plentiful and sun-warmed in my garden. In fact, the joy of a dip is that you can improvise! To an extent, anyway. Start with the basics, so you can add more if needed. Smokey is best, so if you can get those eggplants on the barbecue they'll be perfect. But an open flame (or the broiler at a pinch) is just fine.
It's rich, it's lemon-y, it's garlic-y... and for the first time I am eager for more eggplants, the smokey base for all this fresh summer deliciousness, and the perfect healthy dip when you need to duck back into your cool, slightly dark house to refresh yourself before the next end-of-summer adventure.