Thursday, June 28, 2007

Culinary Christmas

DH and I finally got to pick up our first Nanoose Edible's produce box yesterday after completing a parade of meetings, errands and work. Our pick-up location was the fabulous Nanaimo Sausage House. They make a wide range of dried and smoked meat products right there on the premises and they also sell local cheeses and eggs. There's also an honest-to-goodness made-from-scratch pie shop adjacent to them! It's a dangerous place for DH and I to go to ;)

With a bag of various sausages and proscuitto and a boxful of organic goodies, we wound down our day and headed back home.

This is what we got in our produce box:

I don't know that they managed to fit all of that into the box!
As I pulled out each of the items, my head spun with all the wonderful things I could do with them.

My evening got eaten up with gardening. I did some weeding and general refereeing between the crops. There is a lack of order in my kitchen garden which is the way I like it but sometimes the plants do get a bit unruly and you have to send them back to their corner for a 'Time Out'. After that threw down a bunch of straw for mulch and repotted some of my herbs that I picked up from Hazelwood Herb Farm. Next thing you know, my belly is rumbling.

With the skies painted in an ambivalent grey, I fired up the BBQ and prepared a mid-week First Produce Box of the Year feast. I boiled up a couple cups of organic whole grain spelt from the Peace River for our starch. For a salad, I chopped up some of the cucumber and threw on some tomatoes I got from the Cedar Farmer's Market. The dressing is nothing more than a couple glugs of olive oil, a glug of red wine vinegar, a handful of finely minced herbs from my garden (mint, parsley, oregano and basil) and a couple of moroccan olives. Salt and pepper to taste.
As the salad marinated in it's herb dressing, I threw a selection of sausages onto the BBQ. I sliced up some of the fennel into 1/4 inch slices and quartered and deseeded the bell peppers. I brushed some olive oil onto them, sprinkled a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper and threw them onto the BBQ. I grilled everything up over med-high heat.
I made sure that the pepper laid skin side down so I could get that wonderful charring of the skin.

The fennel I grilled for about 3-4 minutes on each side until they start getting tender. I love grilled fennel. It's sweetness is brought out and it retains a bit of it's crunch.

I saved the green fennel stalk & fronds for chicken stock. The wispy fronds are also great stuffed into the cavity of a chicken or fish that's being roasted whole. It imparts a sweet, slightly anise aroma and flavour.
Fennel can be sauteed, braised, blanched, stir-fried or simply raw. It's great in a stew. One of my favorite stews is a pork butt, fennel bulb and butternut squash stew. All the ingredient get thrown into the crockpot with a cup of liquid (crush tomato, chicken stock, white wine, whatever you have on hand) and just let it do its crockpot magic.

It's texture is very much like a large celery with a crisp, clean anise flavour. It's outer leaves can get a bit tough but if you cut them thin and crosswise, they are perfectly fine. For salads, I prefer to removed the bottom core and slice it paper thin. You can use a mandolin if you have one. The fronds can also be used raw in salads.

One of my favorite fennel salads is what I call my "Very Green Salad" It's composed of thinly sliced fennel bulb, cucumber, green apple and young spinach leaves tossed in a parsley pesto dressing. The tart apple, the anise flavoured fennel, clean crunch of cucumber and the green punch of spinach are all pulled in together nicely with with savory dressing.

With the a scoop of the spelt, grilled vegetables and salad, I made a quick lunch for today. Leftovers are great fodder for experimenting with different flavours, textures and their dynamics.

I nuked up the spelt for 30 seconds in the microwave, tossed in the leftover grilled vegetables and salad. All of that got tossed with some greens from the produce box. For a dressing, I made a strawberry vinaigrette. It's a sweet and subtle dressing that can be dressed up in many ways.

Here's my basic Fast & Dirty Strawberry Vinaigrette:
1 cup fresh or frozen ripe strawberries
2 tablespoons of one or a mix of the following vinegars: balsamic, rice, red wine, apple cider or other fruit vinegar.
1 pinch of salt
several good grinds of black pepper
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

Throw everything into a blender and blend until smooth. This dressing can be stored in the fridge for a few days.

I use Marley Farm's blueberry vinegar made with locally grown blueberries. I picked it up, along with a Kiwi vinegar from the Northgate Liquor Store in the north end of Nanaimo last summer.

I threw on a couple slices of Nanaimo Sausage House's proscuitto into the salad which provide just the right sort of savory counterpoint to the sweet, tangy dressing. Leftover chicken, ham, turkey or even a handful of chickpeas nicely will turn this salad into a full meal.

This dressing goes very well with spinach, romaine, belgian endive or similar greens. It's also a great dressing for beets & carrots salad. It's slightly tart flavour matches up nicely against raw fennel too! It's sweet enough to be used for a fruit salad. Or drizzle some over BBQ grilled figs or peaches or whatever other fruit that can hold up to the bbq grill.

From this basic dressing you can do the following:
-go asian with rice vinegar as your vinegar and toss in some crushed black sesame seeds
-you can dress it up with poppy seeds
-add fresh herbs like tarragon or mint
-for a bit of an edge, add a teaspoon or two of whole grain mustard & /or minced garlic clove
- add a bit of smokiness with a couple pinches of chipolte powder
-balance the sweetness with a crumbling of blue cheese (my vote is for Hilary's Yoo Hoo blue cheese)

Or whatever else you want to experiment with. I know, initially that pink dressing looks a bit odd and so different from what most folks think of when they think of salad dressing.

Along with dinner last night and lunch today, there was bread from Mon Petit Choux , the new bakery beside the Downtown Library. The bakery is from the same folks that run the Wesley Street Restaurant. They focus on using local ingredients when they can. Though most of their local produce comes from the mainland, they are using some island products like berries from Gabriola Island and pork from Sloping Hills and local wild seafood. They're bread is made with organic flour and their focus is on quality, not mass production of mediocrity.

Happy Eating!


Join the 100 Mile Diet Challenge!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Summer on a Stick

Woohoo! The article on the Nanaimo 100 Mile Diet campaign showed up in today's Nanaimo News Bulletin. Thanks Chris for writing it up and helping spread the word.

For those looking for more information about our Nanaimo 100 Mile Diet campaign, check out our website or explore this blog for information on where to buy local foods, recipe ideas and more info about the 100 Mile Diet and local farming issues.

Well, it seems that summer is taking the long way around to get to us. On Sunday, I popped down to the Cedar Farmer's Market at the Old Crow & Gate Pub to grab some veggies to see me through until I get my Nanoose Edibles produce box. ( I can't wait to get my first box for this season tomorrow). I called up some friends to make it a group outing. However, nobody answered their phones :(

However, once I arrived at the market, I ran into those same friends I had called up to join me on my farmer's market outing! We wandered about filling our bags with locally grown goodies and chatting with the vendors. It's such a friendly market and everyone is happy to share information and talk about their products. As we shopped, dark, foreboding clouds rolled in and finally the electric release of lightning and it's subsequent rumbling filled the sky. We quickly finished up our shopping and by the time I drove out of the parking lot the skies opened up.

It continued to storm all afternoon. Over and over again. Well, there went my afternoon plans for a paddle about Nanoose Bay. Instead, I spent the day at my friends' place, checking out their gorgeous garden and helping them process strawberries they had picked at Dudink's Garden before hitting the farmers' market. I though I was hard core. 16 kilograms of strawberries got washed, hulled and either throw into the freezer whole or made into sorbet or jam. That evening, we enjoyed a feast of local bounty, complete with chicken from Cedar Valley Poultry, oysters from Fanny Bay Oysters, green salad from my friends garden, bread from Flour, Water, Salt and cheese from Hilary's Cheese Shop.

I wish I had brought my camera. You're going to have to take my word. I looked and tasted fabulous ;)

Yesterday after work, friends and I popped over the Dudink's Garden to get another batch of strawberries. Again, Dudink's is at 2219 Gomerich Rd (740-0302). Talk about easy pickings!

Here's my berry bounty:

I had about 15 kilograms of strawberries to do something with. After giving them a quick rinse, which is all they really need, I took the ripest ones and turned them into sorbet and popsicles.

Yum! Summer on a stick.

2 scoops of summer, please !

I now have only a mere 12 kilograms of strawberries to contend with. I think I may do a couple more batches of sorbet, dehydrate a batch or 2, freeze some and the rest are going to be gobbled up fresh.
We're huge sorbet and popsicle fans and we consume a heck of a lot of it in this house so I've learned how to make them at home. Much cheaper and healthier than store bought ones. One thing I don't like about commercial products is the amount of added sugar and high fructose corn syrup in them. Since I'm making them from scratch, I can dictate how much or how little added sugar is in them. I can also avoid all the other weird and unpronounceable chemicals and additives in my sweet, cool treats. The best thing is that they're made with locally grown real fruit! Both the fruit sorbet and popsicles have the same basic recipe. The recipe below can be used for berries and other fruits like peaches, nectarines, plums, cherries, apples, grapes, pears, melons...well, you get the idea.

Here's my basic Fast & Dirty Fruit Sorbet/Popsicles:

1 kilogram of fresh fruit - washed, seeded, hulled, peeled or whatever you need to do to it.
1/2 to 1 cup of simple syrup*
juice and zest of 1 lemon or 1 lime or both if you feel like it.
1-2 tablespoons of liquor (optional) - vodka, rum, limoncello, tequila - the booze is mostly to help keep the sorbet from freezing into a solid block. And for a bit of a kick.

*Simple Syrup is nothing more than equal amounts of water & sugar boiled until the sugar is completely dissolved. I usually do enough for a couple of batches of sorbet and keep the extra in a bottle in the fridge.

Simply blend all the ingredients together. If you want big chunks of fruit in your sorbet or popscicle then don't blend it so much. If you want a smoother texture then blend it more. See how that works? ;)

For sorbet: Pour into ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer's instructions.
Without an ice cream maker, you can pour it into a large shallow pan/tupperware container and put it into the freezer. Every 15-20 minutes, stir the mixture and return it to the freezer. Repeat until you get a sorbet.

For popscicles - Pour into popscicle mould. I would also leave out the booze or else the mixture might not freeze solid enough.

You can also freeze the mixture in ice cube trays and use them in a daiquiri, smoothie or any other fruity blender drink. You'll have the fruit and the ice cube in one. This way you'll get a more intense fruity flavour instead of a watered down concoction.
Make sure you use ripe, flavorful fruit. This will involve you having to actually sacrifice a few piece of fruit for a tasting ;)
The amount of simple syrup is dependent on your own tastes. Be careful not to add too much or else you'll lose the intrinstic fruity sweetest and flavour of your fruit.
Now, you could omit the simply syrup completely if your fruit is sweet enough on its own or replace it with unsweetened apple juice, honey or some other sweetener.
Don't be tied down to this recipe. Experiment! Try it with some fresh mint, a mixture of fruit, throw in some local wine or local apple juice for a PG version. Keep in mind that the flavours will be a bit muted by the cold temperature of these treats. If they're not sweet enough or too chunky or too sweet, simply melt down the mixture and add whatever needs to be added and refreeze! It's that easy peasy.

Also, I like to store a few ziploc freezer baggies of strawberry mush in the freezer for last minute dessert sauces or to be used later in a mixed fruit jam. Blended up berries take up much less room than whole strawberries and I'm working with limited freezer real estate.

After getting a backseat full of strawberries, we headed out to Hazelwood Herb Farms. My basil plants have not been liking this cooler weather and I wanted to pick up a few more. Here's what I ended up bringing home:

That place is dangerous for a belly-driven gardener like me. I ended up with a few more mints, some Egyptian onions, a rose bergamot, lemon verbana, oregano, chinese licorce, bay leaf plant, more parsly and cilantro. Oh yeah and a couple of basil plants.

Many of these are fine in containers and are a great garden plants for those that are just beginning to garden or lack space for a large garden. There's nothing better than fresh herbs to liven up a dish. It's just absurd to buy herbs that are wrapped in packaging that weighs more and takes more energy to make than the herbs itself. Don't get me started on all the food miles involved in bringing a sprig of parsley up from Mexico.

To end off today's blog I just wanted to share some lovely surprises I found in my garden:
My bathroom sink garden is blooming!

I see pea pods! I know what we're having for dinner.

Thanks for visiting! For more information about the 100 Mile Diet, check out Nanaimo's 100 Mile Diet website.

Take care,


Friday, June 22, 2007

007 Chicken

On the 100 Mile Diet front, MSN has posted an article on why you should be eating local foods. Check it out! They also include a slide show/article on where you can find local foods. Very cool.

My fabulous in-laws came up island for a visit yesterday. With them, they brought a brimming bag of local treats including smoked salmon and moose from Uncle Ted, a couple of cheeses from Hilary's cheese shop, spelt flour and a pumpkin seed bread from True Grain and a bottle of Saturna Island wine. Such a mindful and yummy gift. Thanks guys!

This morning I cracked open the bread and a wedge of Hilary's Red Dawn cheese for breakfast, along with some strawberries from Dudink's Gardens. What a great way to begin the day.

It's been another busy week and I don't see it slowing down much. We've been living off of leftovers from our 100 Mile Diet BBQ dinner party from the beginning of the week. For the dinner party, I made a couple slabs of focaccia, hummous, boiled new potatoes, green salad with pesto dressing and a mountain of grilled Vietnamese chicken and chorizo sausages. All of the vegetables and the meat was island grown, gathered from farmer's markets, my backyard garden and local butchers.

From those leftovers, I've been having a range of leftover creations. One favorite is a open-faced Vietnamese chicken on focaccia. Nothing more that splitting open a wedge of focaccia, toasting it up and smearing it with some hummous, topping it with leftover chicken and finishing it off with a couple slices of cucumber and some lettuce. Another version I like is simply toasted focaccio with the same chicken and topped with an asian slaw (napa cabbage, cucumber, bean sprouts, carrots and whatever other crunchy, crisp veggies) tossed with Thai it Up sauce. A mix of strong flavours with crisp, fresh textures. A great way to use up leftovers.

My Vietnamese Chicken recipe is the reward for some very diligent spy work that I and another food-loving friend did several years ago in Vancouver. One typical rainy winter night in Vancouver, my buddy and I ended up at some hole in the wall Vietnamese restaurant on Kingsway. There was only one thing on our minds, pho. We were set on diving into a bowl of big steaming bowl of beef broth, shoveling white slipper noodles into our mouths until the chill left our bones.

As we were waiting for our server, I spied an intriguing dish a neighbouring table was enjoying. A chicken that looked like it had been dyed in a mustard bath with the most delectable aroma, a mix of rich, complex spices and the deep, brown aroma of properly grilled meat.

I asked the server what they were having and she just said, "Chicken."
"But what kinda of chicken, what's in it?" I asked.
She shrugged and replied, "Chicken.Vietnamese chicken"
"Ok. We'll have an order of that and a couple bowls of beef pho"

After that meal, we were hooked on this chicken, dubbing it simply Vietnamese chicken. We returned to this restaurant numerous times, each time asking if we could have the recipe. Each time we were refuse. So we started taking tasting notes, trying to figure out the complex of spices and flavours and then we'd return back home and try to replicate it. Once the server caught us and told us that the cook wouldn't be too pleased if he saw. So we were very careful with our food spying after that. It took us a while but eventually we figured it out, or at least something close enough to please us.

My buddy and I sometimes joked about this dish as, "Spy Chicken", not only because figuring out the recipe was a covert operation but because whenever anyone asked what it was, we'd reply, 'Chicken. Vietnamese Chicken' like we were James Bond introducing himself. I know, we're geeks ;)

Ironically, a month after we figured out the recipe for this chicken, the restaurant shut down. Funny how the universe works.

Anyways, here's my version of Vietnamese Chicken, otherwise known as Spy Chicken.

(that's me grilling up a storm)

Fast & Dirty Spy Chicken

2-3 lbs of free-ranged chicken

4 tablespoons of vegetable oil
4 tablespoons of soy sauce
3 tablespoons of freshly grated ginger
3 tablespoons of minced garlic
1 tablespoon of palm or cane sugar (can use honey or brown sugar instead)

Spice mix:
1 tablespoon of ground tumeric
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon coriander seed
5 star anise pods
1 teaspoon szechuan peppercorns
1 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons of salt crystals

Toast the star anise, fennel and coriander seeds in a dry pan on low heat until you can smell the oils being released.
Toss the toasted spices with the rest of the spice mix and grind it up in a mortar and pestle or in a coffee grinder.
Mix the spices with the rest of the marinade ingredients.
Toss in the chicken and let it marinade in the fridge for at least 6 hours.

For grilling on the BBQ you want the chicken in fairly equal sized pieces. The breasts you can slice into even thin strips and them thread them onto soaked bamboo skewers like a satay. This will allow you to cook the breast meat throughly and quickly without risking a raw center or overcooked and dry edges.

Grill the dark meat, uncovered, over medium heat, turning once, for 10 to 15 minutes or until juices run clear.

Grill the breast meat satays over medium heat for a couple minutes on each side until just cooked.

For roasting, I like to keep the chicken whole and roast it in the oven at 350F until the thigh juices run clear.

BTW, this marinade works great for much any other meat. The spice mix can be used on it's own for an interesting spice rub.

A shout out to my furry buddy.
This is my feline friend, Meep. She's recovering from some de-girling surgery. Hope you're feeling your frisky, cheeky self real soon!

Have a great first weekend of the summer! Go check out a farmers market, go berry picking, go visit a farm, go check out the Community Garden's organic plant sale or harvest some goodies from your backyard garden.


Nanaimo's 100 Mile Diet Challenge

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Someone give Billy Jack a hug

It's National Hug-a-Tonto Day! (otherwise known as National Aboriginal Day)
Billy Jack, for those that are wondering, is a Native American, Vietnam vet, hippie school saving, racism busting, sharpshooting, White House cleaning, hapkido jedi. Somebody better give him a hug before he goes on another vision quest.

These days of the SUV diet, you can find a clear cases of tasteless styrofoam nuggets dressed in red with little green leafy berets otherwise known as California strawberries all year round. Now, I'm sure that there are some wonderful, juicy, succulent strawberries grown and eaten in California but they don't show up on our store shelves. These erstaz strawberries have been bred not for flavour or texture but for looks and transportability. You might as well throw a couple of silicon boobs into these berries and slap on a hair weave, they're all for show. They've been bred to look pretty despite being picked 2 weeks before they show up on the grocery store shelves and after traveling 1500 kilometers up the coast. I am happy to boycott these botantical forgeries and wait for the local berry season to get my fill. Luckily, we have a some very awesome berry farms in this neck of the woods and it's now berry picking season.

Yesterday, I found myself on the south end of Nanaimo and so figured I'd pop by Dudink's Gardens for some strawberries. Dudink's Gardens is located at 2219 Gomerich Rd. Just follow the TransCanada Hwy to the south tip of Nanaimo. Turn right onto Minefield Rd. (keep your eyes open for the road sign, the exit is right after it). Follow down Minefield as it meanders through the backcountry of Nanaimo, passed fields, over train tracks and finally it will hit Gomerich Rd. Turn left on Gomerich and Dudink's Gardens will be on your right. They're opened from 8am to 5pm every day.

It was a fabulous final day of spring and just as I pulled in, a couple of kids with big berry stained smiles were lugging their buckets of berries out of the fields.

In the shop, I met Nick, who runs the farm with his wife. They've have over 20 years experience in the berry game and their love and experience shows in their produce.
Nick waxed poetic about how much he loved watching folks come in off the fields with their buckets of berries and big smiles and how he looks forward to berry season each year before assigning me a row of strawberries that I could pick from. The row assignment ensures that each pickers gets a good chance of finding a bounty of berries and helps them manage their crop.

Row upon row of juicy, ripe, just waiting to be picked berries.

A treasure of gems under leaf.

That one has my name written all over it. Always pick the berries with their green caps still attached. Once it loses it's cap, the berry begins to degrade.

Within 15 minutes, I managed to pick 2 huge baskets of strawberries and a few that happened to fall into my mouth ;) It's one of life's blessings to pick and eat a ripe strawberry warmed by the afternoon sun. It's the juicy embodiment of not giving a care in the world yumminess. You can't help but smile as you pick. It's part treasure hunt, part sunshine meditation.

When I was there, it was $1.85/lb or about $4 for a kilogram for U-pick berries, a total bargain! Nick says that they'll be bringing in a freezer so there will be frozen berries for sale soon too.

For those that don't want to pick their own, there are baskets and flats of picked berries. Dudink's grow and sell a range of berries from blueberries to gooseberries. They also have seasonal vegetables and nursery plants.

So grab a couple of light containers (ice cream pails work well), throw a bunch of berry pickers in the car and head down for some berry therapy ;)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Foccacia Therapy

Firstly, the big news...the Nanoose Edibles Produce Box Program begins next week! Yippee! I can't wait. The start date is bit later than usual due to the horrid weather this last winter and spring. The Nanoose Edibles organic farmers have been working hard to get the crops going and finally, the wait it over. This weekly box program is a blessing for local food lovers like me. It's like a culinary Christmas every week. For those that weren't able to sign-up for the box program, the Nanoose Edibles farm is open daily for produce sales. They're at 1960A Stewart Road in Nanoose Bay. Just follow along the 19 to Nanoose Bay, turn right at on Northwest Bay road at the Petro Canada. Turn right again at Steward Road.

I'm planning to visit other local farms and share want I find in the coming months.

Yesterday was a Leftover Monday. Not leftover food but leftover errands, chores, deadlines and bits and pieces of life from last week that didn't get dealt with. So I rolled up my sleeves and got to it. I realized why some of these duties didn't get dealt with last week ;P

By 5pm, I was tired of running from one menial task to another and needed some stress release. Not spinning and knitting stress release but good old dough kneading stress release. I have a BBQ dinner party tonight, so I threw on my baker's cap and made some focaccia to go with all the grilled meat. Why focaccia? Because it not involves therapeutic dough kneading but also the stress erasing pounding to make the herb infused topping.

Here' my Fast & Dirty Focaccia recipe:
3 cups of lukewarm water
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon active dry yeast

7 cups of flour - I used True Grain's Red Fife whole wheat
1 tablespoon salt

In your mixing bowl, stir honey into the water, sprinkle the yeast into the water. Stir until it dissolves and set aside for it to foam and bubble up.

Add 3-4 cups of flour. Mix until smooth. Set aside for 15 minutes.
Add the salt and the rest of the flour. You should have a soft, sticky dough at this point. Pour the dough onto a lightly floured counter and began kneading.
Kneading doesn't mean pounding the life out of the dough. What you're doing is working the gluten in the flour. Well developed gluten will provide the strength in the dough to allow it to rise to its fullest.

With the heel of your palms push out the dough without tearing into the dough. The dough will be soft initially but it will begin resisting the more your work it.

Once it's pushed out, fold it the top half over and turn it around 90 degrees and continue back to kneading it out with the heel of your palm. Usually 20 minutes is enough to work the dough well enough and to start releasing the stress of the day from your body ;) Don't use too much flour on your kneading surface, just enough to prevent the dough from sticking to the counter. If it's not sticking, don't add anymore flour. It's done when it springs back when you poke it.
Dough rises best when it has a smooth, unbroken 'skin' on the top so make sure that the smooth size of the dough ball is facing upwards.

Throw the dough, seam side down, into a bowl that's at least 2-3 times the size of the dough ball. I don't bother oiling up the bowl. I find that the dough comes out relatively easy without it. Cover with a damp cloth and put it aside somewhere draft-free and warm. A sunny corner or inside the oven with the light turned on is fine. Let it rise until it's doubled in size. An hour and a half is the usual time but go by the size of the dough, not by the clock.

Once it's doubled, punch it down and take it out for a few more minutes of kneading. The return for another rising. This rising should take only half of the amount of time of the first rising.
I just dump the dough onto a silpat or parchment paper line cookie sheet and gently press down the dough to form the focaccia. I press it down to a scant inch thick. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise for another 30 minutes.

While it's rising, get your focaccia topping ready.

I used herbs from my garden.

In my Thai mortar they go with a couple glugs of olive oil, a spoonful of Gabriola Island minced garlic, a healthy pinch of sea salt and a pinch of black peppercorns.
Then begins the stress erasing pounding. Yippee!! Aim to make a thick chunky paste.
Dimple the dough with your fingers and slather on the herb and oil paste .

Bake in a preheated 450F oven for 20-30 minutes. Let cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing into it. While it was cooling, I sauteed up a half a link of smoked local chorizo sausage from Quist farms and some greens from my garden. I also whipped up a tub of hummus. I'm saving most of that for the BBQ tonight but DH and I shared a small bowl with our dinner.
The focaccia had a nice crust and just enough chew. The topping provided a hit of extra flavour. Topped with the mellow hummous and the smoky chorizo, this was definitely a tasty and soothing end to a Leftover Monday.

Now I have to go and take care of all the things I didn't do yesterday because I was taking care of all the stuff I had to do last week before all my dinner guests show up. Good thing I worked all that stress out of me ;)

Have a great week!


Nanaimo's 100 Mile Diet Challenge

Friday, June 15, 2007

Mountain & Market Jewels

Just got back from the Nanaimo Farmer's Market. Despite the soggy weather, it was a great shopping trips complete with a mini reunion with an old friend. Here's what treasures I found:
Free range eggs, chicken, tomatoes, peppers, chard, strawberries, new potatoes and artisan foccacia bread.

Each week, the variety of produce grows. I also saw spinach, beets, rhubarb, garlic chives, canned veggies and jams, veggie seedlings and bedding plants.

Along with locally grown food, I also found another source of locally grown fibre for all my 100 mile spinning and knitting project!

Island Fibre Friends sells locally raised alpaca yarns and fleeces. Their stall offers everything from handknit garments, to yarn to fleece. This small company is run by fleece gurus, Janet MacKenzie and Sylvia Gaunt. They can be found at the Nanaimo Farmer's Market in Fridays, the Qualicum Farmer's Market on Saturdays and the Campbell Rive Pier Street Market on Sundays. Here's more info about these other Vancouver Island farmer's markets.

Yesterday, my wonderful, darling DH came back from his top secret superhero mission with a pocketful of handpicked jewels:

I wonder how many jewels he was storing in his belly:)
So lovely! They're almost too beautiful to eat. Almost....

To celebrate his berry booty, I made a spring version of 100 Mile Diet Poutine with new potatoes. The potatoes were leftovers from a previous dinner. Whenever I make potatoes or rice, I usually make a double or triple batch since it doesn't take any more effort to cook extra and they have a gzillion uses. The cheese curds were from Natural Pastures and the gravy was made with homemade locally raised chicken stock and smoked bacon fat. Yep, I think my heart skipped a beat just writing that last sentence.

A quick ride under the broiler for the cheese curd topped potatoes and a ladle or two or three of the gravy and it was good to go.

To compliment the potatoes, I made a quick slaw with marinated pork and pesto dressing:

The pork was sliced thin and marinated in some local apple cider , a dollop of Gabriola Gourmet minced garlic and wildflower honey from the Jinglepot Apiaries for a few hours.

I stir fried it over high heat until there was no more pink meat and set it aside to cool as I assembled the slaw. When I say 'assembled' I mean chopped up a bunch of local veggies to thin slaw strips and throw on some dressing. I used my pesto dressing. here's the recipe.
Fast & Dirty Pesto Dressing:

3 parts olive oil
3 parts balsamic vinegar (I use Auld Alliance Farm's fig balsamic vinegar)
1 part homemade pesto (recipe at bottom)

Throw into a jar, squeeze bottle, bowl and shake, whip, stir, rattle and roll until it's all mixed up.
Really. That's it. There's a reason why these are called 'Fast & Dirty' recipes.

Have a great weekend!

Nanaimo's 100 Mile Diet Challenge

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Calling All Oceanside Farmers

First some PSAs:
Anna Massara is looking for farmers to join the Farmer's Market at Rocking Horse Pub in Nanoose Bay. The market runs every Sunday from 11am to 3pm. This is the first year of this farmer's market and she's still looking for vendors to join.

For more information, please contact Anna at 250-954-0064.

Nanoose Edibles ( 1960 Stewart Road in Nanoose Bay) has a bumper crop of strawberries already coming up. They're looking for part-time berry pickers to work for 3-4 hours a day for a good wag . Students are welcome and they would encourage youth from the Nanoose Bay area to apply. They will provide the training and they can start right away. For more information, please contact Barbara Ebell at Nanoose Edibles at 250-468-2332.

Last night I was flying solo. DH was away on secret superhero business, a reconnaissance mission in fact. I myself spent much of the evening fending off one deadline after another. Why do they come all at once??!?

I didn't get around to dinner until 9:30pm and all I wanted to do was sit back and knit. Dinner was a simple affair of chinese dumplings and greens. The dumplings were made with locally raised pork and veggies. In the waning light of twilight, I harvested the greens from the garden. The dumplings were harvested from the freezer :p

Cooking was nothing more strenuous than dumping the dumplings into a pot of boiling water for 10 minutes and then adding the greens for a minute of boiling at the end before tossing everything into a bowl. A glug of oyster sauce finished it off.

With a yummy dinner in my belly, I shut down most of my cerebral operations for some no-brainer sock knitting. I managed to get the calf and heel turned before began nodding off. Unfortunately, my no-brainer knitting didn't magically lead to a fruitful bout of sleep knitting. For those that are wondering:
-Magic loop on 2.5 mm Turbos
-Top down with a short row heel
-2x2 ribbing
-some Norwegian sock wool from my stash (bought in my pre-100 mile fiber days)
- 3 needle bind-off
If you didn't understand any of that, consider yourself one of the lucky ones :p

This morning has gotten off to a fabulous start. I began the day with a blissful breakfast of strawberries from my garden which I enjoyed on my front porch looking out to a sunny coast. I'm ignoring all those grumpy grey clouds that are looming behind the house. They can grump all they want. Nothing can put a damper on blissing out on a bowl of ripe, juicy island grown berries.

My tomatoes were also enjoying the sunny morning. Despite the cooler than usual weather, the tomatoes are hanging in there.

Have a fabulous day everyone!


Nanaimo's 100 Mile Diet Challenge

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

One book, two visitors and a sock

Here's what I'm reading. It's a collection of essays about the present state of food. Not only does it explore the problems and issues but also present some very realistic solutions or at least directions towards a viable solution. Definitely put it on your 'Food for Thought' summer reading list.

I've been busy managing the garden. 'Managing since' I'm not really doing any of the grunt work. I'm just sitting back and directing where the pea pod stalks should lead to and how far the strawberry runners should, well run, before getting redirected back to their patch. But mostly, I've just been enjoying the fresh, yummy bounty that's already popping up in the garden.

I view my garden as a subtle but subversive Pptthhbb blown into the face for agribusiness and food corporations. Many of the plants, like my black edamame (soy bean) and waxed beans were from seeds saved from previous harvests. Others were seedlings traded amongst friends. Some were bought from the local Community Gardens weekend organic plant sale or from Christex nursery who plant and raise their own seedlings. In many cases, the source of the seeds can be traced to back to an actual person that I've had direct and personal contact with. So different that the faceless, anonymous, factory farmed food that shows up the shelves.
It's also a blessing to have friends and family that share in my zeal for local food. My cousin Paul and his lovely wife, Ai , popped by for a visit on their whirlwind Vancouver Island tour. They were excited to see all the fleece I've been dyeing and all that has been happening in the garden. They were amazed at all the wonderful local food that they found along their tour of the island. I think sometimes it takes outsiders to remind us Islanders just how lucky were are to have the cornucopia that is our backyard.

They even came bearing gifts, a beautiful bouquet of flowers and a bottle of Pinot Noir from one of my favorite vineyards, Cherry Point Vineyards. They managed to swing by the vineyard as part of the their visit. This is ripe medium bodied red that both DH and I give raving two thumbs up. It works very well with salmon and can even hold up next to a meaty steak or match up to some summertime grilled veggies.

Dinner was a simple affair with some greens from the garden, stir fried with Gabriola Island minced garlic, local beef sauteed with sweet peppers and pan-fried udon noodles. Unfortunately, Paul & Ai had to run to catch the ferry back to the mainland.

That night, I managed to finish the first of a pair of socks for DH. Basic dark grey ribbed socks. My DH is a pretty easy-peasy guy with a wardrobe dominated by navy blue t-shirts and khakis. So far he's thrilled with the sock. I'm thrilled that he's thrilled but in the back of my selfish knitter brain I'm already dreading a future with a handknit sock addict for a DH. I'm not a sock knitter. I knit them but I don't drool over sock yarn or swoon over heel shaping techniques. That said, I do appreciate the warmth and joy of a handknit sock. I've already warned DH that since it took my over 8 years for me to knit him one sock, he may have to wait another 8 years for its partner :p

Just kidding. I've already thrown the second sock onto the needles in an effort to thwart the dreaded Second Sock Syndrome. Luckily for him, my newly dyed fleece is still drying and I don't have anything else on needles. Hopefully I'll get the second sock done by the end of the week.

Enjoy the rest of the week!