A few years ago my husband and I traveled to Canada’s beautiful east coast. Or down east. We drove through Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and PEI; we tried to make travelling from place to place part of the fun.
The thing about travelling – for more than a few days – is you start to get sick of eating out. You buy some simple foods at the grocery store to make a picnic, and some buns or pastries to eat in the hotel before you head out in the morning. And even when you eat well, it still gets tiring to always eat at restaurants and order from another menu. Sometimes even ‘local’ food is just the same as at home.
While we were ocean-side we ate lobster and crab and fish. We tasted beer brewed on the east coast, and munched some biscuits. But we ate at a Mediterranean restaurant one afternoon that stuck with me. I don’t know that the food was necessarily authentic, but it was fresh and lovely and not over-done.
I had a pasta dish with nearly-crisp broccoli and pine nuts, with raisins and lots of fresh garlic and parmesan. I hadn’t had something like it before, but its description on the menu lured me in, and it turned out to be really delicious.
Over the years I’ve tried to recreate the dish but it is never quite right. So I’ve made up new dishes that were influenced by this one. Roasted broccoli and garlic tossed with oil and pasta – with or without the raisins; substituting different nuts. No nuts. Cauliflower in place of the broccoli. Cauliflower and olives instead raisins.
This week I bought a giant cauliflower at the store. It wasn’t on my grocery list or in my loose meal plan, but it was so big and beautiful I had to put it in the cart.
It sat on the table for a day, acting like a bold centerpiece, and then I roasted it. And dressed it with garlic-infused oil, and tossed it with spaghetti and a handful of raisins. It probably could have used some fresh parsley, and for sure more raisins, if I’d had them.
But it tasted good. Good enough to make again, buying the ingredients on purpose this time. And though it really isn’t like the dish I had down east, it made me think of our trip. The restaurant we ate at, how our day was, what else we had been doing in that city.
So now, even though I haven’t been able to recreate that dish I ate in Halifax years ago, I still think of it. Whenever I make pasta and broccoli (or cauliflower) with garlicky oil, I think of Canada’s east coast. And not just their seafood.