Sometimes all it takes is a few words to change the course of your life. A little over three years ago my brother said to me "Ren, you should buy my house." And poof! Just like that everything changed.
I'd been living in a different city, sort of stuck in a rut, I guess you could say. Same old apartment, (though it was quite lovely), I was renting, and rent was escalating beyond what was reasonable and affordable. My job was quite good, but I'd been doing it for so long, things were a bit, well, repetitive. (Great people, great place, but it had come to a point where I needed to cook different food.) The relationship I was in felt scratchy like an ill-fitting sweater, with no room for expansion either. All that was keeping me in Edmonton was a heaping handful of really good friends, and while they were sad to see me go, they understood why. So when my brother put those few words to me, I thought about it for a little while, at first hesitating because change always scares the crap out of me. But then through the haze of fear and uncertainty, I saw that a lifeline was being extended. I grasped at it and haven't looked back since.
Three years ago this past week I moved into my little house in Saskatoon. Good friends borrowed a trailer and helped me move my belongings the six hours East. Halfway through our journey we stopped for Chinese food, and my fortune cookie read: Life is a series of choices. Today yours are good ones. Goosebumps allover. While I was certain I was doing the right thing, I had no job lined up and I knew I'd have to make new friends in my new city. Question marks always freak me out a little (or a lot!). Luckily I had my family nearby to see me through the transition. My Mom lives just a few blocks away, and my brother is across the city. Being here also means I get to see my sister way more frequently than before; especially important because she totes along her gorgeous little girls who have Aunty wrapped their tiny fingers. It took some trial and error but I found a pretty great job doing what I love and I've made some really great friends too - some of the best people I've ever known, in fact. And the house! I love owning my own house. I love my massive back yard; planting and harvesting the vegetable garden. I love sitting on my patio admiring the flower beds full of bees. I love that I can paint whatever colour I want on my walls - my bathroom is pink! I love that I can play music at all hours if I like, which I don't that often, but it's nice to have options. I love that I have a garage. I really do. With a garage door opener and everything. I love my little green kitchen, with the gas stove, and the fridge in the laundry room because, well, my kitchen is little. It's quirky, and it's mine.
And my city. I love Saskatoon. It's a beautiful and vibrant, with tremendous growth happening right now, and I love being a part of it. And I love that it's named after one of my favourite berries in the whole world. Saskatoon berries are native to North America, but especially abundant in Western Canada. They grow wild along riverbanks and coulees and my summers when I was a kid were spent picking them. They look kind of like blueberries, but with their purple-black skin and sweet almond like taste, there is no comparison. If you don't feel like being a hard-core bush whacker, there are U-Picks a-plenty where you can get some that are cultivated. Still quite good, but not the same as stumbling across them in the wild.
In honour of my 3 year anniversary in the city, I decided to bake a Saskatoon berry tart, just because I'm a total cheese ball. And the recipe said I could make my own crème fraîche - something I always wanted to try. You basically combine some whipping cream and sour cream together and let it stand overnight on the counter. 12 hours later you have something like thickened whipping cream. At least that's how my turned out. Later on it's folded into the custard for the tart and it turned out beautifully. The cornmeal in the crust yields a nice crunch to the creamy, berry bursting filling, and I love the cracks that formed on the surface of the tart. This being the first time I've tried the recipe, not sure if that was supposed to happen, but hey, they are only cracks! If you don't have Saskatoons, you can use any other berry you like, or a combination. Blackberries and raspberries would be insanely good. Peaches and plums, heck even pears would be delicious.
You'll never do a whole lot unless you're brave enough to try. Dolly Parton
And she's right. I've always been a bit of leaper into the unknown kind of girl. Be it moving across the country to study art, or moving back across the country to hone my culinary skills, or moving to the wilds of the Yukon to take my first cooking job. I guess I have an adventurous spirit (at least that's what my resumé says). Don't get me wrong. I've been terrified while undertaking such ventures. But sometimes you have to let faith trump fear. Bravery trump boredom. If someone extends a lifeline - grab it.
Saskatoon Berry Crème Fraîche Tart
To make your own Crème Fraîche:
Combine 1 cup whipping cream and 1/4 cup sour cream in a container. Stir well and cover. Let stand for 12 hours at room temperature. When the mixture is nicely thickened you can store it in the fridge for up to two weeks.
For the pastry:
1 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup cornmeal
pinch of salt
1/2 cup cold butter
grated rind of one lemon
3 cups of Saskatoon berries, or your favourite berries (fresh or frozen)
3/4 cup crème fraîche
1/4 cup ground almonds
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla or almond extract
For pastry: pulse ingredients together in a food processor just until dough forms a ball. Alternatively combine the dry ingredients, cut in the butter with a pastry blender and stir in the egg until it forms a ball. Press dough into bottom and up sides of a 10 inch tart pan with removable bottom. Prick the sides and bottom with a fork. Chill for one hour or overnight. Bake in a preheated 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 15 minutes. Arrange the berries in tart shell. Whisk together filling ingredients. Pour over fruit and bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes, until firm, golden and puffed. Dust with icing sugar before serving. Excellent both warm and cold. I did have it for breakfast and it was delicious! Serves 6. Adapted from "High Plains" by Cinda Chavich.