Monday, September 25, 2006

Biodiesel, Berries, Borsht and Bikers

Please excuse the mess. The kitchen is a disaster zone. You might want to keep your shoes on. It’s been crazy around here & the house-elf is down in the Baja for some house-elf conference…

So Thursday, I popped over to MalU for the Climate for Change Fall Fair. Talked to some very cool folks including Daryl from a Biodiesel group down in Duncan. The guy is running his car on veg oil from a freaking Chinese restaurant! I’m loving that J.

Supposedly, as long as you’ve got a diesel engine, you can run on used restaurant oil too. He even told me that the residual by-products are glycerin and soluble potash. Sounds great but what about the smell? I mean, I’ve spent much of my life smelling like bowels of a restaurant and one of the perks of my non-chef life is not having my whole body reek of eau de french fry. No worries, according to Darryl, most used cooking oil burns without a smell, with the exception of oils from fish ‘n chip shops. That was a bit strong, he warned. But you end up being very popular with cats…

Now onto Friday, um…

What the frig happened on Friday?

I started off with a trip over to Gabriola Island on Saturday morning. The morning promised a bright, shiny fall day and I was already peeling off my cardigan by the time I walked onto the 9:30am ferry.

I brought my knitting with me. I’m starting up the X’mas factory early. This year I’m knitting leaf-lace scarves for the gals and fisherman scarves for the guys. Let’s hope my wrists hold up. The 20 min. ferry ride over to Gabriola Island gave me time to squeeze in a few rows. Lately, I haven’t had much time for long knitting sessions with all that’s been happening. My first scarf of this bunch took a whole freaking week! It’s a good thing I’m getting an early start this year.

The timing of the ferry was perfect with the start of the farmer’s market. By the time I wandered up the hill, it was opening up for business. I made my way to the back of the market, to the Good Earth farm stall. The table was heavy with the most beautiful veggies. There were raddichio the size of basketballs. The chard was bright and plump. I picked up a mesh bag of a variety of onions, some green beans and a couple of golden beets that were the size of baseballs. (What’s this weird compulsion to compare food to sports equipment?)

Right next to the farm stall was Slow Rise Bakery. Though they don’t use locally grown grains, they are on the right path with organic grains and artisan baking techniques. I picked up a dark chocolate panini to help fuel the rest of my morning. Didn’t you know, dark chocolate panini is the official breakfast of champions. Good thing since I ran out of the house with my belly tank near empty. The bread was chewy and had a good sour tinge to it. The chocolate was deep and bitter and generously filled the center of the bread. It’s one of those things that I think about baking myself but don’t for fear that I’ll just end up with a burnt tongue and in a sugar coma within 10 seconds after they come out of the oven.

I wandered down to the Auld Alliance Farm stall. There, the lovely Jocelyn, was selling her line of fruit infused vinegars, chutneys and mustards. The vinegars aren’t from a local producer, however the fruit she uses in them are from her own farm. Good enough for me. I am a huge fan of her fruit infused vinegar and she suggested the Pear Balsamic Vinegar this time. I picked up a small bottle and a couple of pounds of grapes from her. The grapes are also from her farm and were picked just the night before. Don’t they look like something out of Bacchus’ playground?

My final stop was Ike, the apple farmer. He was thrilled to hear that I was helping spread the 100 Mile Diet idea. I was thrilled to have farmers like him growing something other than the usual factory farm apples. He had around a dozen different varieties of apples and a few pears varieties today, including heritage varieties and some of my favorite baking varieties. I was doing a little inner-happy dance! Without any consideration for the hike back home, I ended up picking up several pounds of apples for a dollar a pound. Good thing my backpack has a good support system!

After a quick coffee stop, I headed back down to the docks just in time to catch the ferry back to Nanaimo. The hike back home along the seawall was filled with a jumble of ingenious scheming for my apple bounty, heron sightings, a quick snacking stop through a secret blackberry bush for the last of the season’s berries and a not-so-quick knitting stop on the breakwater.

The afternoon was filled with a steady but mellow baking session, berry jamming and other preparations for the SOS Toy Run on Sunday. By the time the flour settled it was nearly 8pm and I hadn’t given much of a thought to dinner. I decided to whip up a pot of borsht. It’s one of my favorite cold weather peasant soups. BTW 'Peasant soup' is a fancy way of saying freaking dirt cheap.

Here’s my Fast & Dirty Borsht recipe

4-5 medium beets – peeled & chopped into bite size chunks

2-3 cups cabbage -shredded (doesn’t really matter what variety, they’re all good in this)

2 red onions- sliced fine

2 tbsp vinegar – either apple cider or balsamic. I used my locally grown apple cider vinegar.

Veggie stock 1-2 litres

Salt & pepper

1 tbsp Fats/oils – I used smoked bacon drippings for an extra layer of flavour and because it’s soooo good. It’s from locally smoked bacon from Quist Farm Meats. You can use whatever you have on hand

Basically, heat up the oil over medium heat. Throw in the red onions and let that caramelize up good and brown. Then simply toss in everything else. Add enough stock so it covers the ingredients plus a couple cups more for extra soupiness. Bring it to a boil then lower it to a simmer for 20-30 mins. Salt and pepper to taste. Voila! Fast and dirty borsht.

We had it with some Black Russian Rye that I baked and Hilary’s blue goat cheese, Sacre Bleu. Mon dieu, that’s my kind of peasant dinner!

Sunday started with a 6am wake-up call. After a couple rounds of snooze alarm bingo, I scrape myself out of bed and got going to the Coombs Rodeo Grounds for the S.O.S. Biker Toy Run. S.O.S. (Society of Organized Services), has been running this Toy Run for 23 years and they do such important work helping out families in need throughout the year.

I big 'HELLO' to everyone at the SOS Biker Run. It was grand meeting you all!

It’s such a fun event for everyone and I got to meet some really interesting folks from all over the Island. I talked to the fella who runs the pink & purple ice-cream truck down at Maffeo-Sutton park. He’s planning on making fresh fruit smoothies and milkshakes using local cranberries and other berries next year. That’s so good to hear!

I gave out samples of locally grown food, encouraged folks to have a 100 Mile Thanksgiving and shared stories and insights with some kindred souls. Food is the constant connector, one of the few things that you can talk about with anyone, anywhere. We all have childhood memories and pivotal food moments that we love to share and that connects us with others. Many folks talked about past family Thanksgivings and the gathering of local bounty. Other shared with me recipes and even harvesting tips. I had a blast!

I made a cranberry-blueberry preserve from all locally grown products. It was a big hit. It’s basically 2 lbs of fresh/frozen cranberries (I got mine from Yellow Point Cranberries), 1 lb fresh/frozen blueberries, ½ cup – ¾ cup dark honey, 1 cup of unsweetened apple juice, 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar. Dump the ingredients into a pot, bring it to a boil and let it simmer away for 20-30 until it's thickened up a bit. You can use sugar, preferably organic cane sugar since it imparts a nice caramel taste, instead of the honey. I like it a bit tart as a cranberry sauce or fruit spread. You can up the cider vinegar to 3 tbsp, throw in ¼ tsp hot red chili pepper flakes for a chutney.

At noon, the Toy Run rumbled out of the rodeo grounds. Hundreds of bikers took to the roads in a black leather, roaring snake-like caravan, collecting toys along the way so underprivileged kids will have something cool to unwrap on X’mas morning. I Heart Bikers.

I got home by the early evening and went for a wander down to the beach to soak up the last few rays of the weekend. Later on, Kevin and I had a rerun of last night's peasant meal, shared a bottle of Scrumpy cider from Merridale Cidery while watching Terminator 4. I know I said that I hate watching TV while eating dinner, but it just felt right to be eating real, homey food while watching a movie about technology destroying the world.

Happy Eating!


Nanaimo 100 Mile Diet Challenge

1 comment:

Julie said...

Great meeting you too! Thanks for all the baking tips!