Well, the Nanaimo 100 Mile Diet Challenge Week is over. So, how it did go for you? What did you do? What wonderful culinary discoveries did you make? Enquiring culinary minds want to know.
I’ve heard folks have been hosting 100 Mile Diet potlucks and parties. Some have pledged to try one new local item a week. There are even some people that are hard-core 100 milers that are aiming to eating only foods grown within a 100 mile range. That’s awesome to hear! Of course, this is just the beginning. Next, we're aiming for a 100 Mile Thanksgiving. I'll post more info on that once I get my crap together.
One of my biggest recent discoveries was the local booze industry. Vancouver Island has some pretty fine wines and ciders. Unfortunately, the government liquor stores don’t carry any Vancouver Island booze. Fortunately for us, there are a couple of beer and wine stores in Nanaimo that are spirited enough to carry them. Black Bear Liquor Store, North Gate Liquor, Wellington Hotel Beer & Wine, Wheatsheaf Beer & Wine, and the Jolly Miner store are some of the Nanaimo beer and wine stores that carry Vancouver Island booze.
Cherry Point vineyards in one of the highlights of out of Cowichan Valley. They put out a great table white called ‘Coastal White’ which is a blending of Vancouver Island grapes. Their Bete Noire (Black Beast) 2005 is my favorite wine discovery for the year. Deep and complex, a bit fruity to keep all the wine snobs away. The wine comes with a great back story that reaches back in history to 1552 in Hungary. Winemaster, Simon Spencer, is planning on putting our three volumes of this wine. Each volume will continue on with this mythical black beast of a wine. The vineyard is now out of the first volume of this wine and so grab whatever you can find at the wine stores. They will be releasing a new batch of wines within a month or two.
There’s no barley grown here on the island, so no locally grown beer. I’ve heard rumors of island barley experiments but nothing on tap yet. There is cider though. And good, cider. Not the candy apple cider that you used to get drunk on and throw up all over the backseat of your boyfriend’s Impala. Grown up cider made from undiluted apple juice from the wonderful apple orchard that surrounds the Merridale Cider House. Everything from a traditional dry cider to a champagne-style cider is made on the premises. My favorites so far are the Scrumpy Cider, a sharp, dry cider made from crab apples and no sugar, and the Merri Berri which is a sweeter cider mixed with local berries. The ciders have a clean, crisp taste and none of that murky aftertaste that other ciders that have sulphur dioxides or are made from concentrated juice have.
They also make an apple cider vinegar but are out of stock at the moment. Never fear, many local apple orchards are making an apple cider vinegar. I picked up a bottle of First Fruits Farm Apple Cider Vinegar a few weeks ago at the Duncan farmer’s market. At $3 for a 16oz bottle! It’s an organic, unpasteurized cider that needs to be diluted before using, it’s so strong. They also do a milder vinegar with Jonagold apples. BTW, farmer’s markets are brimming with local organic apples. Last I checked, they were going of a dollar a pound and not a single mealy Red Delicious in sight. Instead, there’s a variety of apples that you probably never have heard of before but should get to know better. The farmers selling them will also be able to tell you which ones are best for pies, sauces and just eating. Westwood Orchard on 170 Westwood Road off of Jinglepot Road has been suggested as a great local orchard. I think I may have to give them a visit some time this week.
Speaking of vinegar, I have had some folks asking me about locally grown balsamic vinegars. So far, I’ve only sussed out one locally grown balsamic vinegar, Venturi-Schulze Aceto Balsamico. This is true, traditional balsamic vinegar with no fruit concentrate, no caramel colouring, no blended wine vinegars. This is true artisan vinegar. The sort of thing that the Foodies swoon over. A little goes a long way. You can order up a bottle from their website. MacLean’s Foods also carries the vinegar.
Marley Farms is also making fruit vinegars. They make a blueberry and a kiwi vinegar from fruits grown on the island. I picked up a bottle of each from the North Gate Liquor Store on Metral, just off the Island Highway. The vineyard themselves are out of the vinegars, so pick a some up while you can. A new batch won’t be released for a few more months yet. The blueberry vinegar is light and makes a great vinaigrette. You could also use it to tang up a chicken or pork dish. I’ve drizzle a bit over baked fruit.
So last night, to celebrate the end of the Nanaimo 100 Mile Diet Challenge Week, Kevin and I had an intimate 100 Mile Feast. With veggies and fruit from the Nanoose Edibles produce box and local farms, South African boerwurst sausages from Quist Meat Market in Duncan, and Cherry Points Bete Noire we had quite the meal.
I made a South African version of my Fast and Dirty stew recipe that tastes like something that took hours to make. Here’s the fast & dirty instructions. You can use any fresh sausage. Piper’s Meats has a whole line of sausages made with locally grown grain-fed beasts.
Fast & Dirty Sausage Stew:
1 to 1 ½ lbs fresh sausage
1 onion – chopped into big chunks
2 cloves garlic –crushed and chopped coarsely
2 cups tomatoes chopped in half or quarters
2 carrots –peeled and cut into bite size chunks
2 sweet bell peppers – chopped into chunks
1 stalk of celery – chopped
1 cup of good red wine (I used Cherry Point’s Bete Noire but you can use whatever wine you’re planning to drink with the meal. You have to drink wine with this stew. It’s the rule. I don’t make the rules. That’s just how it is. If you’re going to be a snot-nosed rebel and not use wine, you could use cider or a good stock)
Fresh herbs – ripped/ chopped right before serving
Also – a few glugs of oil, salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 350F. In a heavy oven-proof pot, heat up the oil and then brown the sausage on both sides over med-high heat.
Toss in all the veggies, pinch of salt and let the veggies get a bit of colour.
Dump in the wine (or whatever liquid you’re using) and scrape up all the caramelized goodness that’s stuck to the bottom of the pan. Throw the pot into the oven for 30-40 mins.
Since you’ve got the oven going anyways, you might as well wash up a bunch of potatoes (I used locally grown Peruvian Purple potatoes last night). Cut them into smaller pieces of needed. Toss them onto a small roasting pan with a drizzle of oil and a sprinkle of salt and slide those in beside the stew pot in the oven. You could just toss the potatoes into the stew pot too. They would help thicken up the stew. I just wanted nice crusty roasted potatoes last night so I did them separately.
I also threw in some unpeeled beets wrapped up in foil to roast beside the potatoes and stew. You might as well use the heat and roast up stuff for the next few days. Cooked beets keep a week in the fridge and can be used in so many ways. I’m thinking of making a fast and dirty borscht sometime this week.
Once the timer goes off and the stew is done, turn off the oven and pull out the beets to cool. I just leave everything else in until serving. I blanched up some local organic green beans for a side dish with the beets. Once the beets are cool enough to handle, you can peel them by simply slipping the skin right off. I do it under the tap of cold water to help the process and prevent my fingers from looking like Carrie’s after the school dance. I had some homemade pesto to accompany the side veggies.
A quick blueberry vinaigrette with Marley Farm’s blueberry vinegar and some oil would also go well with beets and green beans. One part vinegar to one part oil. Some dried herbs and a smidgen of Dijon mustard is all you need. Mix it up. Yep, fast and dirty.
Upon serving, cut/rip the fresh herbs into the stew and season according to taste. I used only basil and oregano since that’s all I have left in my garden.
For dessert, we had the last of a rhubarb and apple crumble that I had made a few nights back. Basically a bunch of rhubarb chopped into ½ inch slices and apples ( I used Brambley Seedlings and Gravensteins) chopped into 8ths. Altogether about 6 cups of fruit. A tablespoon of cornstarch and a 1/2 cup of local dark fir honey. You could also use regular sugar. I prefer organic cane sugar because adds a nice deep, caramel flavour. A heavy pinch of cinnamon, some ground ginger were also tossed into. Mix everything up. I chopped up a bunch of hazelnuts and tossed those as my crumble topping. Baked in a 350F oven for 30 mins. Drizzle more honey if you want it sweeter. Or top it with some local fruit syrup or jam. I popped a couple of blackberries I gathered.
So good. I’m having leftovers for lunch. I’m such a lucky kid!