There’s something epically satisfying about the early morning, isn’t there?
Like, if I didn’t have a column due or clients needing website work done, or recipes to test, or laundry to throw on the floor, or poop to be pooped, I’d get up at 5am and do positively nothing at all until the rest of the world woke up.
My rental condo faces in, not out. Kind of like a good belly button. So behind me is a slightly dodgey alley way (pretty sure I’ve heard at least 2 cars get stolen back there in the middle of the night), an upscale fitness facility and lots of blue sky. Or at least, it’s blue sky right now. Give it about 10 minutes and it should be pissing down. This is Vancouver, after all. Right?
Weather aside, the point being is that there isn’t a ton of foot, car or horse and buggy traffic outside my glorious balcony. Or my belly button. And by glorious, I mean a concrete slab, tucked up against the second floor of my building. But hey – there’s a half wilted pot of thyme and some old Christmas lights hiding in the corner with an axe.
After too many years without my very own outdoor space, I’ll take it.
And since there isn’t a ton of foot, car or horse and buggy traffic outside my glorious balcony, I get to wake up in utter peace with only the caws of the seagulls to keep me company. And let’s be honest: living on the sea, seagulls are gonna happen.
In fact, the sound of seagulls gets me right giddy.
Sure, they’re noisy, dirty, flying rats but I have fond memories of the incessant cries and screeching of seagulls. Uh… That sounds creepy. Not cries; friendly ca-caws. When I first moved to the West Coast from Alberta they’d gently rouse me from slumber as the sun rose in the sky and the scent of fresh ocean air greeted my face.
No really – my whole face! I believe it’s a universal truth that air can either hurt your face (remember my 2 years in Toronto?) or air can make your face feel alive. Between fresh Pacific Northwest air and clean drinking water, my face is quite happy thank you very much.
So yes. The seagulls. The Vancouver. The peace and quiet. It’s all very hippie-dippy and West Coast, isn’t it? Now roll all that flowers-and-peace-signs-bull-crap into a sunny, early morning and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. And where you’ll find me.
Right. So the other morning, in a clawing need to get out of the house – despite the 6 degree (that’s Celsius people) temperature and glorious balcony at my disposal – I layered on a couple of hoodies, threw on my kicks and I plodded down to the beach.
You have to understand of course, the only other people around at this time in the morning are dog walkers and homeless people. Oh wait, we call them transients here on the coast. Free people. So I gathered amongst them as the sun climbed the Earth (or does the Earth climb the sun?), found a little spot in the very cold, very wet sand and plunked my ass down on the shore.
And I waited.
What for? I’m not entirely sure. Some epiphany of clarity perhaps. Breath. Or maybe I just wanted to see what the fog would do. Well, it lifted. Slightly. This is Vancouver in January after all and without relentless fog, what kind of Winter would this be? I got a lot of deep, full breaths in my lungs. And while no life changing revelations came to me, a dinner plan did.
And hey – if I know what’s for dinner before 7am, I think it’s gonna be a good day.
High five for small victories. For finding the joy. And for coconut curry steamed mussels.
I first posted these on Instagram and you guys went so gaga for them, I decided to whip another batch together and give you the oh so simple recipe. All you really need are a few seasonal ingredients and some fish.
A Note on Your Fish: Clams are pretty much always Ocean wise. Farmed mussels are typically a good choice when it comes to inhaling seafood – just make sure they’re “off-bottom culture” and not dredged from the seabed. If you have them in your area, the ones from Salt Spring Island are gloriously fleshy, delicious and locally raised. Look for shellfish that are kept in salt water (not fresh – that will kill them) and don’t smell like anything at all. When it comes to seafood, fresh is best. For a whole host of reasons.
Enjoy my friends. Enjoy the dish, enjoy the day, enjoy yourself. Ow ow!
Thai Coconut Curry Steamed Mussels
Yield 2 servings
- 12 Fresh Cultured Mussels
- 12 Fresh Cultured or Wild Caught Clams
- 1 Can Coconut Milk
- 1 Package of Yellow Curry Paste
- 1 1/2 C Fish Stock (I bought mine from The Stock Market on Granville Island - any specialty market should carry a variation of it)
- 2 Shallots, diced
- 1 Clove Garlic, minced
- 1 Bunch of Swiss Chard, cleaned & roughly chopped
- 1 Head of Cauliflower, stem removed and broken into small florets
- 1 Lime, for juice
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Pinch of Saffron
- Coarse Sea Salt & Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
- Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees F.
- Chuck the cauliflower onto a baking pan, drizzle with olive oil and give 'er a good dose of salt and pepper. Mix to coat and arrange in a single layer on the pan. Place in hot oven and roast till golden and well coloured, shaking occasionally. This will take approx 25 - 35 minutes, depending on how big your florets are. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- As that roasts: Place a large pot over medium heat with a good glug of olive oil. When shimmering but not smoking, add the shallots and garlic. Cook until translucent and fragrant, approx. 3 minutes. Stir often to prevent burning. Toss in the chard and allow to cook until tender. Shouldn't take more than another 3 minutes or so. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Add about 2 Tbsp of oil to the pan and squeeze in the curry paste. Stir until it starts to turn darker. Throw the shallot/garlic/chard mixture back in and top with coconut milk, fish stock and saffron. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Add the mussels and clams, cover and allow to steam in there for about 4 to 5 minutes or until the shells are open. Discard any that haven't opened because it means they were dead long before you got 'em - don't want you eating any of those.
- Add the roasted cauliflower, stir well and serve with a big hunk of lime, lots of bread to sop up the sauce and a bowl to catch the shells as you discard them.
When it comes to mussels, you'll want to make sure you "de-beard" any that have seaweed stuck to them before you cook them. Simply grab the seaweed between two fingers and give it a good tug. It should dislodge fairly easily. Wipe off any excess sand from the clams too if it exists.To store uncooked mussels and clams, place in a tea towel over ice in the fridge until ready to cook them later that day; You want them to stay as cold as possible until they're ready to be prepared. Cooked mussels and clams can be eaten for up to 2 days.
How do you find joy in the small moments? How do you find peace and quiet? What do you love about where you live? What would you change? Have you breathed today? Tell me about your morning.