A Love Story

By / Food / April 20th, 2011 / 1

On a sunny spring day many years ago when I was just 14 years old, I walked up the street to the library and checked out a book about dreams. On my way home, with the book in my arms, I met a boy named Ron. He was lean and lanky and by the look of his too-short trousers had probably just gone through a growth spurt. I liked the way his dark brown hair fell over his forehead and I was mesmerized by his beautiful brown eyes, which were wide-set and fringed with long thick lashes. He was 15 years old and, in my estimation, very mature. I fell in love with him on the spot. That night, I carefully wrote this entry in my diary: “I am in love with Ron.”

He was the first real love of my life. Up to that point I had enjoyed a one-sided romance with Paul McCartney and, occasionally, John Lennon. But an imaginary romance with a Beatle simply couldn’t compare to my real love, my true love, my teen love Ron.

As spring gave way to summer, the romance grew. On our first real date, Ron walked the mile from his home to mine, while I waited breathlessly for him on the front porch. He took both of my hands and gently kissed them. Then he tucked my arm into his and gallantly escorted me back up the street to the local movie theatre. Coincidentally, my father decided that he, too, felt like a walk to the movies. He enlisted my younger brother Dennis in his scheme and the two of them followed us, with my father muttering under his breath while Ron and I did our best to ignore him.

Back then, romance moved at a slower pace than it does today. And so it was nearly August before Ron finally kissed me, although he had already professed his undying love for me countless times. I stood on the step to our porch and turned to say goodnight. For a moment, we looked into each other’s eyes. Then he took both of my hands and bent his head towards me. He smelled wonderful — spicy and lemony and clean. His lips touched mine, achingly tender. It was the sweetest kiss of my life. It was the very first kiss of my life. And then my dad appeared in the doorway and told Ron to go home. The spell was broken.
By September the romance was over. Ron had moved on and I never knew why. I was heartbroken and filled two diaries with my teenage angst. To add to my torment, Ron and I hung around with the same crowd and I couldn’t avoid seeing him. Eventually we made our peace. And of course other boys came along to heal my broken heart.

One of the last passages in my diary about Ron involved a dream I’d had: “Ron was holding me, kissing me and telling me that he loved me…I only wish dreams really did come true…”

After high school, Ron and I lost touch. It was many years later that we ran into each other at a party. We were all grown up by then, both married to other people and raising our families. Still my heart gave a little flip when I saw him. I remember thinking how sweet it was that I had never forgotten my first love, my first kiss, my Ron.

The years went by and they were good ones for both of us. And then tragically, Ron’s beautiful wife passed away. A year later, my husband died.

Our mothers happen to belong to the same seniors group. Even though Ron and I hadn’t seen each other in years, he sent a message to me through his mom, who gave the message to my mom, which in turn got the entire seniors group all aflutter. His message was this:  “Tell Nancy I will always be there for her.” Ron and I began emailing each other. And then, when the time was right, we went on a date.

When Ron arrived at my door, a retired art teacher, his dark hair now white, my heart did that little flip again. And when, many dates later, he kissed me, there was his wonderful smell — spicy and lemony and clean — and his tender lips and his gentle hands holding mine. We fell in love all over again, more than 40 years after our first kiss. And now I know: Sometimes dreams really do come true.


Duck Breast with Orange Sauce

Don’t be afraid of duck breast. It’s quite easy to prepare and leaner than most people think. And it makes dinner seem extra special. This recipe calls for slow searing, and much of the fat is drained off midway through cooking. Duck has a natural affinity for orange sauce, although you could serve the duck with a favourite chutney instead. Duck is safe to eat while still pink and should be cooked no more than medium-rare.

2 boneless duck breasts

• Score the skin on each duck breast several times, taking care not to cut through the flesh. Season with salt and pepper.
• Heat a skillet over high heat. Place duck skin side down in pan, lower heat and cover. Cook 10 minutes. Remove breasts, carefully pour off fat. Return breasts to pan, skin side up. Cook about another 10 minutes or until medium rare.

Grand Marnier Orange Sauce
Serves 2

This sweet delicious sauce is just as good without the Grand Marnier if you don’t happen to have it on hand. You can also try it with Triple Sec, Cointreau, sherry or dry white wine.

1 cup orange juice
2 tbsp Grand Marnier
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp orange zest
1 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp cold water

• Combine orange juice, Grand Marnier, brown sugar, honey, and orange zest in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.
• Add cornstarch mixture and cook, whisking, until mixture comes to a boil and thickens. If mixture becomes too thick, add a bit more orange juice. Serve with duck.
Pair with a Beaujolais or a Pinot Gris.


Bacon & Lobster Alfredo
Serves 2 with leftovers

I created this dish by accident. I was making an Alfredo sauce when I decided to add some leftover bacon. Just as I threw the bacon into the pot, Ron called. His car battery had died and he was stranded. I placed the Alfredo sauce in the fridge and left to help Ron. When we returned together, the bacon had steeped beautifully, giving the sauce a well-rounded smoky flavour. It was so good I knew I had to take it up another notch. I thawed some cooked lobster meat under running water and threw it into the pot.

1/4 lb butter
2 cups heavy cream
6 strips bacon, cooked, drained and chopped
1/2 lb cooked lobster tail meat, diced
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, shredded
Spinach fettuccine, cooked

• In a medium pot, melt butter with heavy cream. Add cooked bacon. Set pot in refrigerator and let steep one hour.
• Place pot over medium heat. Add lobster meat. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and cook 2 minutes longer or until lobster is heated through. Add pepper and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Serve over cooked spinach fettuccine.
This dish is lovely paired with a Côtes du Ventoux rosé.


Spice-Rubbed Rib-Eye Roast
Serves 6

This elegant dish will impress and will yield enough leftovers for roast beef sandwiches the next day.

1 boneless rib-eye roast (3 1/2 to 4 pounds)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

• Preheat oven to 425˚F.
• In a small bowl, mix olive oil, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Rub mixture over roast. Place roast fat side up in a roasting pan.
• Roast 15 to 20 minutes per pound or until instant thermometer reads 135˚F for medium rare. Let roast rest for 15 minutes before slicing. Serve with pan juices.
When a hearty beef dish is served, I can’t resist opening a bottle of my all-time favourite Châteauneuf-du-Pape.


Pear with Brie and Mustard Fruits
Serves 2

This is a quick first course using the Italian specialty Mustard Fruits (or Mostardo) which you can find at many Italian and upscale grocery stores. If you can’t find Mostardo, serve the pear and Brie without it. The mellow flavours are quite good on their own.

1 ripe Bosc pear
2 chunks Brie
2 spoonfuls Mostardo (cut up larger fruits)

• Halve and core the pear. Place the pear in the microwave and cook for 1 minute or until slightly softened.
• Place a piece of Brie in the hollow of each pear half. Microwave about 30 more seconds or until Brie is slightly melted. Top each with a spoonful of Mostardo.
Serve with a late harvest Riesling.


Roasted Halibut with Tomatoes and Pimentón
Serves 4

For some reason, I developed a taste for fish with tomatoes, a combination that had never appealed to me before. On my way home from work, I picked up halibut fillets and a lemon and used items that I already had on hand to come up with this recipe. It’s a fine, easy oven meal that tastes like it comes from a fancy seafood restaurant, especially with the addition of Spanish sweet smoked paprika, pimentón.

4 halibut fillets
2 shallots, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup white wine
1 tbsp anchovy paste
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 bay leaf
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp pimentón
1 tsp lemon peel
Arborio rice, cooked

• Preheat oven to 325˚F.
• In a large oven-proof skillet, sauté shallots and garlic in olive oil. Deglaze pan with white wine, reducing wine to about 1/2 cup.
• Stir in anchovy paste and tomatoes. Add bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Place halibut fillets on top of tomatoes. Season with lemon juice, salt, pepper and pimentón. • Sprinkle with lemon peel.
• Roast for 30 minutes or until halibut is cooked through and tomato mixture is bubbly. Serve with Arborio rice.
Serve with a sparkling Spanish Brut Cava.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Quench Food Editor, Nancy Johnson, minced, sliced, chopped, sautéed and sipped her way through George Brown College’s culinary program with a focus on food writing and wine. Nancy cooks by the code her Italian grandmother taught her: For the best results, always use the freshest, best ingredients. She writes for Ohio-based Wine Buzz Magazine and recently published a short story in Woman’s World Magazine. She is always on a diet.

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