Last week we started our tour of Sue Adams' "tour-de-force" fridge in the "Whistler special" home she shares with hubby, Bob. Many Whistlerites think The Grocery Store when they think of Sue, for she and Bob were 27-year owners of what was Whistler's first and, for ages, its only grocery store. But that's just one side of Sue. Former occupational therapist; member of numerous boards and task forces, including Arts Whistler; and founder/chief cook and bottle washer (literally) of several restaurants, such as Vancouver's The Contented Sole, Sue's independent, no-nonsense approach belies her creative streak. Or maybe that's the other way round. Either way, it may well be what happens when you grow up on a huge sheep farm 43 kilometres from the nearest town in Australia. We left off last week after the top shelf and its leftover ricotta, Greek yogurt and feta cheese — harbingers of this fridge's themes: exotic and expansive, yet spartan and practical. Little excess. Much promise.
The second shelf of Sue's fridge is "all bits and pieces." Here we find, among other things, some hummus they'll have for lunch, a can of Greek dolmades (great for an emergency appetizer) and one of the few things Sue didn't realize she had ("I'm usually very good at keeping track of my fridge"): an unopened tin of anchovies.
There's also a jar of jalapeños, and homemade beet pickles to use up leftover beets that she made by marinating them in sugar and vinegar like her mom did back on the farm. Homemade preserved lemons are also underway for things like Lebanese dishes or Moroccan chicken.
Here's a surprise: Sue was recently at Bosa Foods in Vancouver (she and Bob keep a place in the city as well), and she got sucked into picking up a demo product — a hot, spicy Mediterranean-type dip. She doesn't know why she bought it but she'll use it on the weekend for something. By contrast, another Bosa purchase is something intended and much-loved: their assorted mix of Spanish olives, with pits "because they taste so much better."
As you can see, much of Sue's fridge has a Mediterranean/Middle Eastern theme (although the very many condiments on the very full door shelves are mostly Asian). For one, she's always liked to cook what's trendy, and that happens to be popular now. Two, foods from those regions have been favourites since college days.
"When I first left home I was in Sydney. That's an exciting food city — a fantastic food city, absolutely leading edge, it's so international," she says. Lebanese, Turkish, Chinese, whatever — it was all part of Sue's world when she was a student.
On the third shelf we get more international twists interspersed with some local ones. There's homemade panna cotta she'll serve that night with fresh figs and prosciutto on a bed of arugula, and some eggs she bought along with house-made sundried tomato and pork sausages at what she calls "my old store in Whistler Village" (The Grocery Store).
Next shelf, we find wholewheat tortillas and the only bread they eat in their house, Oroweat's 12-grain bread; Bob toasts a slice every morning. There's also leftover pasta and fruit salad — which they have every morning for breakfast — along with some tomatoes and arugula.
Next come two drawers, one for all kinds of cheeses and fruits, including cantaloupe, watermelon, blackberries and raspberries destined for those fruit salads. For Sue they go on top of a mixture of multi-grain cereals she makes, which earned a respectable seal of approval: "One little kid who stayed with me said, 'I quite like that gerbil food.'"
The other drawer is home to vegetables needed to ad lib good meals fast. These include basics like red onions, peeled garlic, red hot chilis and all the salad makings as well as new B.C. potatoes, broccolini and snap peas. Sue also has a little kitchen garden for fresh herbs and some fun, all to do with cooking.
In the Adams' home, the evening meal is important. Sue usually does "a two-course restaurant-style meal" but only shops for that meal's protein each day. As for getting good food on the table fast, her time-tolerance for meal prep is about an hour.
"I'm a really busy woman engaged in a lot," she says. "I start cooking about 6... I use quick recipes unless I'm having people for dinner and then I'll take the whole day and just have a great time doing all sorts of different recipes. But I'm experienced enough I can make a very tasty, fast meal."
For people who are less experienced, or simply want good-tasting, good-for-you meals without investing a lot, Sue has these creative suggestions.
"There are fantastic prepared products now in all the stores like a bag of these new-style salad fixings, which are quite amazing," she says. "They have kale and all sorts of stuff, and a little package of healthy dressing — some of them even have feta. So for five bucks you have a bag of enough salad for two.
"If you want to have some protein, maybe it's just cheese or a quick-baked chicken breast in the oven. Season it with whatever is hanging out in the fridge, whether it's mustard or pesto or some leftover dip — leftover dips are great things to spread on fish or chicken and just bake them. Keeps them moist and gives them lots of flavour."
So you, too, can have a two-course, restaurant-style meal with a little help from the pre-mixed salad, and the chicken is cooking while you're eating your salad.
So practical. Yet so promising. And so very Sue Adams.
Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning journalist who tolerates about 45 minutes for meal prep.