|Chef about the house||Jun. 4, 2005|
|Written by: MARILYN LINTON|
"Honey, I'm home!" That's not a greeting you hear very often if your partner's in the restaurant business. Sure, everybody works hard today. But restaurateurs take the cake when it comes to working day and night. "I'm never home," says Franco Agostino, who owns the posh Il Posto Nuevo, a Yorkville area restaurant. "He may have to work six or sometimes seven nights a week," confirms his wife Dr. Nancy Walton. "He never gets to stay home."
"I can't remember when we last spent New Year's Eve together or Valentine's Day," says Jean Geary, whose husband Peter is a partner with superchef Martin Kouprie in Pangaea, a four-star restaurant in the stylish Bay/Bloor area. "December is a complete write-off," she says, adding that occasionally she or her daughter will check coats at the restaurant just to spend some time together with him. "It's like the old saying, 'Bringing the mountain to Mohammed.' "
Yes, that's the way the cookie crumbles -- which is why it's time to celebrate restaurant families. It turns out that they all bring home the bacon. Each of the three partners also work -- and usually they're also home alone and cooking! For example, Grappa's Lucy cooks soup for the twins and Sunday lunch for the whole family: With the twins so young, going out for lunch is just no fun, she says.
Lucy also still works on Saturdays. "You build up a clientele and you miss it," she says, explaining that on Saturday, the busiest day at Grappa, it's all hands on deck. Walton, a former nurse, is now an associate professor at Ryerson's school of nursing -- a full-time job in addition to her caring for their 5-year-old daughter, Georgia, who is developmentally handicapped. And Geary has a demanding job as director of communications with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health Foundation -- as well as being a busy mom to their two daughters Siobhan, 15, and Monica, 10.
These are families who know they have to work extra hard to stay together. Though de Sousa is on call six days a week, he now tries to make it home for three or four dinners a week. "It's too much on Lucy and the kids," he says of his wacky schedule; the couple have been married 21 years. "We take the small moments when they come," says Walton, married seven years to Agostino; they count on their annual weekend away in New York, just the two of them. "In summer, Georgia and I will walk down to the restaurant and have an early dinner with him."
"It was more difficult in the beginning when the restaurant was launching," says Geary, who has been married for 20 years. "Now, Peter is off every Sunday. That's our big day and we can count on that." He also takes a day off during the week to be home for his daughters. One great perk of being married to a restaurateur? "On Saturdays, the girls and I go to the Y and finish up with lunch at Pangaea. Martin's an amazing chef, so it's a real treat."
Franco Agostino of Il Posto Nuevo calls this the healthiest most delicious meal you can make in minutes. He uses the quick-cooking Spinosi fettucine air-dried pasta (available at Pusateri's or other fine gourmet stores) but you could use your own favourite brand of quick-cooking pasta. For regular pasta, allow a little more cooking time.
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
12 cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 green onions, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely minced
10 whole basil leaves
1/3-1/2 lb. quick-cooking fettucine noodles
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
1. In a large bowl, toss together the oil, tomatoes, green onions, garlic and basil; salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
2. Bring to boil a large pot of salted water. Cook the pasta as per package instructions; drain.
3. Toss pasta with tomato mixtures. Divide among two plates and drizzle each with a little more olive oil.
GREEN PEA SOUP
At Pangaea, this soup is served as part of a spring triptych -- three cold soups side by side, the other two being white asparagus and wild mushroom. This is an intensely flavoured vegetarian soup; it can be made ahead and kept cold for up to three days.
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
4 tbsp. butter
8 cups fresh green peas
3 litres vegetable stock
2 tbsp. fresh finely chopped mint
1. Using a medium stock pot, saute chopped onion in oil on medium heat until cooked but not browned.
2. Add butter and three-quarters of peas. Stir in vegetable stock and bring to a boil.
3. Reduce to a simmer and cook for five minutes, add remaining peas and mint and bring to a boil again.
4. Remove from heat, puree mixture and pass through a medium fine strainer. Let cool, then refrigerate for up to three days.
Serves six to eight.
Grappa's David de Sousa says this veal dish is "fit for a queen" -- meaning his wife, Lucy. Morels, a kind of wild mushroom, are available dried in Loblaws and gourmet shops.
1/4 cup dried morels
1/4 cup hot water
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
1 tbsp. finely chopped garlic
2 tbsp. virgin olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup veal or beef stock
1 cup 35% cream
2 tbsp. brandy
4 thin slices Provimi veal
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Soak dried morels in the hot water for 15 minutes; set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan, sweat shallots and garlic in one tbsp. of olive oil on a low heat until soft, about five minutes. Add morels in their water, white wine, veal or beef stock, cream, and brandy. Bring sauce to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for five minutes or until sauce is thickened and reduced by half.
3. Meanwhile heat one tbsp. of olive oil in a separate saucepan; add veal and saute over a medium high heat until veal is cooked through. Serve veal topped with the morel cream sauce.
|MORE COLUMNS BY MARILYN LINTON|