Text by Sharon Jessup Joyce; most photos by Olivia Schneider
The plan was for Olivia and Ben to get to the Nova Scotia house around 10 on Sunday morning, so Bob and I – and Spenser, the Wonder Wheaten – would have a chance to sleep in a bit after our two-day drive from Ontario. Olivia and I could take our time putting together an over-the-top Sunday brunch: pan-fried fresh haddock, home fries, grilled veggies, cheese-and-chive biscuits, and fruit crisp. Bob and I had stopped at Masstown Market in Central Nova to pick up local fruits and vegetables and fresh haddock.
But by Sunday morning Spenser was vomiting and lethargic, so we rushed him to the regional veterinary emergency hospital in Dartmouth, nearly an hour away, telling Livy that she and Ben should sit tight in Halifax and wait to hear from us. After a few hours of tests and care there was good news: the results were normal, and the symptoms were subsiding. The bad news? It was noon, and we were still in Dartmouth. Bob, Ben and Stewart had a 3:50 tee time in Chester, another hour west of our house. And Livy needed to get back to Halifax by 4 to go to work.
We talked about cancelling brunch, but we had those nice fresh ingredients, and we had all been looking forward to it. Livy and I agreed to strip the menu down to fast and easy, and we promised the guys they wouldn’t miss their tee time.
When we got back to the house, the first priority was to send Bob upstairs for a rest. After doing all the driving on our two-day trip, he had gallantly taken sick-dog duty through the night, while I slept obliviously on. He wasn’t going to get through the meal, let alone a round of golf, without a nap.
Livy and I set our stopwatches and, with help from Ben, buzzed through a simplified menu. The pan-fried haddock was too fiddly to cook quickly for four, so it was BBQ time, with grilled cedar-planked salmon with maple sugar and mustard; haddock en papillote with lemon, olive oil and Italian herbs (okay, it was Williams-Sonoma pizza seasoning, actually – we keep limited ingredients at the Nova Scotia house – but it tasted great); and grilled veggies that included pearl onions, sweet peppers, patty pan squash, zucchini, carrots and mushrooms, seasoned – no time to marinate – with lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and fresh thyme. We also scrapped the biscuits and instead put together a simple garden salad with lots of basil. Fruit crisp was out. Instead, dessert would be a fresh fruit plate of local strawberries, cantaloupe and watermelon, and green table grapes we brought from our garden in Kingston.
Finally, we reluctantly decided to pull the plug on mimosas. To spare Spenser another round trip to the city, Livy would now be driving Ben’s car back to Halifax in time for work, while Ben would catch a ride home with Stewart. So we’d all join Livy in sparkling water.
Somehow, our lavish brunch had turned into spa cuisine.
We decided to inject a bit of self-indulgence back into the menu by keeping the home fries: baby yellow-fleshed potatoes sliced into quarters and sautéed with onion, olive oil, salt, pepper, lots of mild smoked paprika and just a touch of chipotle chili powder.
When the potatoes are either new or raw – or both, as these were – you can counteract their tendency to cook slowly by adding a bit of broth or water to the skillet after the cut side has formed a golden-brown crust, and then covering the skillet just until the potatoes have absorbed the liquid. It was a trick we needed, to make sure the potatoes would be ready in time. But Livy and I knew the home fries were a good idea when Ben came back into the kitchen from lighting the BBQ and said, “Mmmmm. What smells so great?”
In the end, it was a perfect brunch. We ate on the main deck, and everything from the food, to the sunshine, ocean view, and fresh breezes – not to mention the company—was wonderful. Bob and Ben insisted they felt well fuelled as they ran out the door at 2:30 to make their tee time.
We had already set aside some of the grilled veggies for Livy to take home. The only thing left of the food on the table was a bit of fruit, which Bob had as a snack when he got home. Oh, and a smallish piece of haddock. I rinsed it thoroughly to remove the seasonings and fed it to Spenser, who was feeling better. He thought it was almost as good as pan-fried.
|Sharon lives in Kingston, Ontario – though she really wants to live in Nova Scotia – where she dabbles in the domestic arts and eats very well.|
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