Making a living these days seems to require having many things on the go.

I just had a delicious brunch at Lakeshore gem Huevos Gourmet with close friend and sax player, Chris Gale, and the conversation got deep into issues usually reserved for a bottle of wine and pint of ice cream, not bright and sunny eggs with coffee.

Many people I know are falling into midlife crisis mode right now – reexamining their lifestyle, families and careers.

Part of having the courage to pursue a life in the arts (or to just live life, for that matter), is in the day to day. Jobs come and go – certainty is as unattainable as a unicorn. One day you can bottom out and need to declare bankruptcy and the next could bring glowing success.

I have had some recent sunshiney moments and they came after a time of what seemed like permanent midnight. At the table over egg burritos and americanos we waxed poetic agreeing that, maybe, you need to be completely empty to get full again.

Life is about plugging away and following whatever path is true to you – it may not bring you riches, but maybe one day it will bring you something you didn’t even know you need.

My Harlot’s Artists features are partly a salute to amazing talents I admire that live in that purgatory of unknowing. People who keep the fuel pumping into their art even at the bleakest of times. Who knows, tomorrow could bring an unexpected gift.

What a difference a day makes, indeed.

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This recipe makes super easy skewers that are so delish on their own you can forgo the pizza section all together – they are perfect cottage or camping meals – just marinate, thread onto skewers and freeze in large freezer bags right in the marinade. Thaw and grill when ready to use and serve with salad and roast potatoes.

… one more thing – this can also be done vegetarian without losing the yumminess. All the great lemony oregano-ness still permeate the veg (try adding eggplant), and the garlicky cheese and fresh crunch of the cucumber will have you forgetting all about meat.

 

 GARLICKY CHICKEN (or veggie) SOUVLAKI PIZZA 

serves 4

Ok, so this isn’t exactly traditional, but in lieu of tzatziki and feta I used the garlicky, soft Boursin and Grana Padano for a salty finish.

I adore making pizza on a grill – it prevents the house from heating up and smoke alarms from going off (which is an epidemic when I’m in the litchen). You can achieve super high heat with a pizza stone making the crust crispy and even better than takeout.

If you don’t have a stone – and you really should – simply preheat a cookie or pizza pan or just cook right on the grill. If you want to make it even easier (but slightly less tasty), you can buy some flat breads and grill them up.

This can also be made in the oven. For the skewers – char them under the broiler. For the pizza – just bake at a super high temperature on the bottom rack.

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Souvlaki:

1 lemon, juice and zest

a few cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tbsp dried oregano

1 tsp kosher salt and lots of fresh ground pepper

2 skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut into 2″ cubes

1 red pepper, cut into 2″ chunks

1 large onion, cut into 2″ chunks

Pizza:

1 store bought (or homemade) pizza dough, divided in half and rolled thinly

olive oil

1/2 head of garlic, divided into cloves and very thinly sliced

1/2 cup kalamata olives (or to taste), pitted and torn into halves or thirds

2 roma tomatoes, coarsely chopped

1 package Boursin Herb and Garlic cheese

1/2 an english cucumber, quartered lengthwise and cut into thin slices

1/4 cup fresh basil, parsley or a mix, roughly chopped

1 cup arugula or shredded romaine or a mix of both

1 lemon

fresh grated Grana Padano

kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

 

  • Combine lemon, garlic, olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper in a bowl and toss with chicken. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

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  • Remove the chicken from the fridge, toss with red pepper and onion and bring to room temperature before grilling.
  • Thread chicken, red pepper chunks and onion on skewers – it doesn’t matter the order, just push them tightly together.

 

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  • Heat your grill to high (or preheat the broiler), and place the skewers on rotating them 4 times to char all sides. DO NOT OVERCOOK! Overcooked chicken breast is an atrocity in my books.
  • Remember – these are going back on the heat, so if anything, slightly under cook them. What we want is a smoky charred bits, but tender on the inside.

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  • Remove the kebabs to a plate and pull the meat and veg off the skewers.
  • Get your pizza stone or baking sheet screaming hot by cranking the grill or oven and setting it in for about 15 minutes.
  • Slide your dough in (doing this from a pizza paddle or inverted cookie sheet dusted with corneal), and bake until beginning to crisp up on the bottom. Flip the dough, brush with olive oil and add toppings – whatever this looks like for you. If you are using the grill you can do it directly over the heat. If it is in the oven you will need to remove it 1st.
  • Brush with olive oil and top with garlic, olives, tomatoes, kebab mix and dot with large chunks of Boursin.
  • Place back on the grill or in the oven and heat until cheese melts slightly and crust becomes charred with crispy and chewy bits.
  • Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly before cutting.
  • Cut each pizza into 4-6 pieces.

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  • Drizzle the herb and salad mix with olive oil, pepper and juice of half the lemon. Pile in the middle of a large plate and surround with pizza slices. Using a rasp, grate the Grana Pandana over everything. Slice remaining lemon into wedges and arrange around the greens. Toss any stray pizza toppings into salad. Season the lot with fresh pepper and a tiny bit of salt – the olives and cheese are already quite salty.

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ONTARIO WINE PAIRING

Pairing wine with this dish is almost impossible to mess up. It has so many possibilities that you can grab for almost any wine, save a big bold red (of course, unless you want to)!

wine

Under the category of whites – a sauvignon blanc or chablis might be the most typical. I think an interesting choice would be a bone dry Gewurztraminer with some punchy, bitter grapefruit and lychee acidity to compliment the fresh vegetables and lemon and to contrast the cheeses. Also fun, would be a slightly creamy chardonnay to pick up on the richness of the Boursin and the salty Grana Padano.

For reds – something like a pinot noir or lighter gamay. I’m rather obsessed with the Marechal Foch.

Never overlook sparkling. It compliments so many dishes and can solve a dilemma when looking at a complex mix of flavours or vegetable heavy dish.

Finally, I love a nice, dry rose. They get such an unfair snub from many wine drinkers, but sipping on some vibrant pink, fruit forward, dry finishing rose transports me to a day in Provence. Niagara region has some lovely ones. Take a page from the south of France – look at all the gorgeous produce coming out of that region – lush tomatoes, vibrant peppers, salty olives, plump eggplants, potatoes, artichokes, mushrooms, zucchini, lettuces, asparagus, and my fav – fennel! Rose goes with vegetables of all kinds and livens up most summer grilling dishes.

So my choice for this dish? I am going with two:

Cattail Creek Estate Winery – ESTATE SERIES SERENDIPITY ROSE 2013. $15.95

Full disclosure – I’m drinking it right now! Infact, last night I paired it with one of my desert islands dishes: Jerk Chicken with corn, fennel slaw and roasted potatoes (I’ll be selling my jerk marinade soon here).

Crisp, refreshing and dry, this rose goes with all things chicken and turkey. It is also fantastic to dip into while grilling your skewers and compliments the charred bits from the souvlaki.

I recently had an amazing time with Adam, from their tasting room, who walked me through more than half the wines on their list. Just another reason to visit Niagara and other Ontario wine regions – family run, informative and thoroughly charming purveyors of special wines you won’t necessarily find in the LCBO.

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This summer Cattail also offers a picnic lunch. So bikers plan your route to land here midday.

Caroline Cellars Estate Family Winery– FARMER’S FOCH 2013 $10.00

Such a fun drinking wine! We buy this one by the case, why not at this almost unbelievable price?

Packed with jammy fruits and a dry finish, this wine has a very slight sweetness, but only enough to make it an easy drinker. Here is another winner for patio grilling. Chill this guy for five minutes and you’re laughing.

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This wine is hard to explain – I find people fear a little sweetness in their glass, but this only adds a depth of flavour that has a slap of wild blueberry and loganberry of the top and trails off without a hint of puckering on the palate.

Caroline Cellars is another of the most affordable and fun stops in NOTL. They have some delicious fruit wines and an even more delicious farmhouse dining room providing great nosh also at a shockingly low price tag.

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Wherever you go for your wine don’t hesitate to ask a ton of questions. Wine shouldn’t be a mystery. If you want a great peek into the wine world, check out Somm: Into the Bottle on Netflix.

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