Monday, July 30, 2007

BBQ Green Tomato Chutney

In my produce box this week, I received a few green tomatoes. There's tons you can do with green tomatoes. There's green tomato pie, fritters, pickles, relish, baked and of course, fried green tomatoes. I've even made green tomato biscotto, green tomato jam-filled cookies and green tomato crumble last year. One of my favorite is green tomato chutney.

You want to pick mature green tomatoes, not rock hard dark green ones. The mature ones are paler and just on the verge of ripening. I usually just pick some from my grow-op of tomato plants.
The front porch lined with tomato plants.

The back porch filled with tomato plants. What can I say? I love tomatoes!

Mature green tomatoes. Just about to start ripening.

I decided to make a BBQ green tomato chutney. Yep. You heard me. BBQ.

I know it sounds a bit loopy but there is method to my madness.
Firstly, it keeps my time in a stuffy, hot kitchen to a minimum. Secondly, the ingredients will take on a deeper and intense flavor thanks to the grilling. Thirdly, I was firing up the BBQ anyways to make a big batch of locally raised and made sausages. Last, but not least, a BBQ green tomato chutney would go perfectly with BBQ sausages.

I made enough to last a few weeks in the fridge. You could can this chutney but that would mean having to get your kitchen all hot and sweaty with the canning process.

The basic chutney components are veggies and/or fruit, vinegar, spices, sweetener. For the BBQ green tomato chutney, I've grilled all the vegetables before adding it to the rest of the ingredients. You could make a regular chutney and just throw all the raw veggies in with the chutney mixture and cook it down until the veggies are soften.

All the veggies, fruit, honey, even apple cider vinegar were all island grown!

I used golden plums that I picked up at the Cedar Farmer's Market a few weeks back. You could use any sort of plum or soft fruit like peaches or figs. Or you could use dried fruit. Just soak them in some hot water before adding to the rest of the chutney.

Here my Fast & Dirty BBQ Green Tomato Chutney recipe:

3-4 medium sized green tomatoes
2 small yellow onions
3 sweet peppers
4-5 golden plums

1 clove of garlic - minced
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 heaping tablespoon curry powder (whatever you have on hand or your own mixture)
A healthy pinch of each: salt, black pepper, chipolte chili powder, ancho chili powder, cayenne pepper (or whatever you happen to have on hand to give it a fiery kick)
1/3 cup honey (or brown or cane sugar)

Mix the curry, salt, pepper and chilli powders together.

Slice the tomatoes into 1cm thick slices.
Quarter the onions. Leave on the top on so that the quartered onions stay intact. Sprinkle both with the spice mixture.
Core peppers and cut them into 3-4 chunks.
Fire up the BBQ to medium high heat and lay the vegetables in a single layer on the grill. You want to char the pepper skins so have those skin side down.
Grill the tomatoes and onions for 2-3 minutes on each side or until starting to soften.
Grill the peppers until the skin is blackened.
Set all the the veggies aside to cool.

While veggies cool, mix all the other ingredients in a medium sized pot.
Bring to a boil and then simmer for 5 minutes.
While the mixture simmers, chop up the tomatoes into 1 cm chunks, chop of the top ends of the onions and chop that into 1 cm chunks.
Remove the blackened skin off the pepper and chop into 1 cm chunks.
Remove the plum pits and chop into quarters.
Dump veggies and plums into the chutney mixture and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Have a yummy week everybody!


Enjoy the summer bounty and take the 100 Mile Diet Challenge!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Smoking Tuna

OUCH! What in the world is that blazing, sphere of fire in the sky?

FYI, you shouldn't look directly at that floating inferno, especially after the eons (well that's what it feels like) of grey, damp weather we've been having. Give you corneas a chance to readjust and those nifty darkening devices are also a good idea. You know, sunglasses. I'm sure you have a pair somewhere in the attic.

Over the weekend, my partner in crime and I ran away to the Saltspring Natural Fibre Festival. What a overwhelming experience! For photos and ramblings about that and my latest knitted creation, check out my knitting blog.
The fiber festival was just a hop, skip and jump from Saltspring's Farmer's Market. I love how the market has one arm of vendors for mainly artisans and such and another arm for mainly foodstuff. The market was already bustling when we showed up at around 9am. We found everything from fresh produce to cheese to fish to breads to various preserves and other yummy treats. It made me swoon!
I picked up a few cheeses from the Moonstruck Organic cheese stand, some local tuna sashimi and smoked tuna that was caught off the west coast and bag of baked goodies for nibbling throughout the day.
I was so tempted to pick up a braid of garlic. They're so pretty.

The following day, I popped over to the Cedar Farmer's Market to pick up some odds and ends and to basically because it's my favorite local farmer's market :)

Every week, there are more stalls and a more variety of fruits and vegetables. My produce box from Nanoose Edibles is definitely feeding us well but we go through pretty quickly. Especially since we're huge salad freaks during the summer.
BTW, for winter veggie gardeners, the Community Gardens has a stall at the Cedar and the Nanaimo farmer's market. They're selling a wide range of winter veggie seedlings. I know, summer has barely made an appearance and the last thing you want to do is think about winter but it's worth the effort.

Here's what I picked up at the market:

The rest of the day was a blur. That night when my tummy started growling and DH looked like he was about the pass out from hunger, I grabbed some leftover rice and vegetables and made a quick fried rice. Basic peasant food. Then I cranked up a notch with some yummy smoked tuna that I picked up from the Saltspring market.

The tuna was rich and intensely flavoured. The flesh was so moist and meaty. Definitely something the enjoy in small amounts.
I topped off the veggie fried rice with a couple slices of smoked tuna and called it dinner. The tuna warmed up just enough over the hot rice and practically melted in our mouths.

DH swooning over his dinner.

Happy Eating!


Nanaimo's 100 Mile Diet Challenge

Monday, July 23, 2007

Survey for another Nanaimo Farmer's Market

I ran into Dirk Becker of Compassion Farms at the Cedar Farmer's Market and he, along with a group of other farmers, are considering starting a mid-week farmer's market in Nanaimo next spring. He passed on this little survey and feedback sheet for any farmers or local food folk that would be interested. I was thrilled to hear this and I don't think I'm the only one that would appreciate a real farmer's market that would run at a time more convenient for locals who don't have time to run down the downtown farmer's market on Friday morning.

You can send you feedback to Dirk at BTW, Dirk and Compassion Farms is right outside of North Nanaimo on 7560 Fernmar Road, Lantzville.

Here's his email:

Hi Folks
a group of us farmers and supporters are wanting feedback from local farmers concerning 2 things:
1. a farmers market at the bowen rd co-op in central Nanaimo (starting next spring)
possibly a week night so as not to conflict with other farmers markets
especially since many of us already do two different farmers markets!
2. a once a year event showcasing local farmers and their products to make people aware of the alternatives
this could be a mid Saturday event when people are out shopping anyway
end of season
harvest time
(last year at that time i still had 2000 of my 3000lbs of squash to sell etc).
and after the last farmers market
which could also include musicians, 100 mile diet info and many other things to get a big turnout to make it worthwhile for us farmers!
please give us your feedback soon
as we will also be bring this forward to the board of the Mid Island Co-op for support in principle to start,
which naturally can lead to several types of support such as
advertising in the news letter
support from the 24000 member-owners
use of on site bathrooms water and electricity etc.
yours in service
Dirk Becker
Compassion Farm

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Deep Dish Blueberry Pie

I've been busy with my top-secret superhero missions and life has also tossed me a few squirrely balls to boot. And when I'm not dealing with all that, I'm running away from to feed my soul with a bit of this:

Or else I'm over here feeding my soul:

The 'Snout' at Arrowsmith.

Doing silly things like this:

That's me!.

Despite the summer mayhem and general chaos, along with my mini-escapes to feed my soul, I've still managed to keep on my 100 Mile Diet journey. I'm pretty much relying on cooking up a big batch of meat and veggies and mixing and matching those with salad greens to see me through several days. Having a big tupperware of boiled Vancouver Island new potatoes, a couple of loafs of bread from Flour, Water, Salt bakery and a menagerie of pickled vegetables that I canned from last year helps round off any meal.
Our latest BBQ dinner party involved a couple of gorgeous locally raised steaks from Piper's. The meat was marinated and then thrown onto the BBQ with some of the Asian BBQ sauce (nope, still not tired of that one yet) and I added a bunch of veggies from my weekly organic produce box and the farmer's market.

The steak that fed us for 3 days ;)

I sliced the steak thinly and let everyone do what they wanted with it. Some folks made themselves a big salad with the fresh greens, some roasted veggies and a few slices of meat.

I stacked meat and veggies onto a slice of baguette from Flour, Water, Salt, for jaw stretching open-faced sandwich.

The leftover meat was carried over onto other dishes including a Fast and Dirty Beef and Broccoli:
Talk about easy peasy. Since the meat was already cooked, all I had to do was stirfry up some garlic and broccoli from my produce box and throw in some leftover roasted peppers and the meat. A few glugs of soy sauce and dollop of Asian BBQ sauce and dinner was ready in less than 10 minutes.

For one of my lunches, I took some leftover potatoes, roasted veggies, some pickled beets, beet greens, fava beans and made a nice little meal. A splash of balsamic vinegar was all I used to dress it.

Of course, this is also blueberry season and one of my favorite ways to enjoy blueberries is in a fresh blueberry pie. Dudinks Gardens, Blue Harvest farms and other farms have yummy local berries for U-pick or farm gate sales. Please support your local farms! They're having a rough year with the crazy weather and the even crazier government bureaucracy. Here's a list of local farms and farmers markets.

I make a 'deep dish' berry pie because it's all about the berry filling as far as I'm concerned. I use a 9-inch springform pan (the sort you use for cheesecakes) and a filling base that uses nothing more than berries, sugar, a bit of cornstarch and lemon juice. It's worlds better than that powdered crap in the pouch. It's an super no-fuss pie to make and it showcases the fresh goodness of blueberries. If you're not in the mood to make a pie, swing by Grandma's Country Pies on 3018 Ross Road (beside Nanaimo Sausage House).

I don't add any extra sugar to my graham cracker crust since I find that the graham crackers are sweet enough on their own. The cinnamon and ginger help bring out some sweetness too. I also keep the sugar amount pretty low for the filling base since I'd rather enjoy the natural sweetness of the blueberry.

Here's my Fast & Dirty Deep Dish Blueberry Pie:

3 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (optional)

Combine ingredients and press firmly and evenly into the base and sides of a 9 or 10 inch springform pan. I press the crumb mixture a good couple inches up the wall of the pan so you have nice deep crust.

Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 15-20 minutes or until the edges are starting the brown.

Let cool on rack while you prepare the filling.

8 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 3 tablespoons of water = slurry
juice of one lemon

Take 1 1/2 cups blueberries, water, sugar and bring to a boil in a large pot, lower the heat and let simmer for a few minutes until the berries are cooked down. You want to use a pot big enough so you can later dump in the rest of the blueberries and have room to mix it. It will save you from dirtying another bowl. I mean, what would you rather do? Eat blueberry pie or do dishes??

Take filling base off the heat and add in the cornstarch slurry. Mix well.

Return the pot to the medium high heat and bring back up to a boil. Stir continuously until the mixture thickens. You want something as thick as ectoplasmic goo but not so thick that your spoon will stand up in it.

Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon juice.

Add in the rest of the blueberries and fold the base and berries together until the berries are well coated.

Dump filling into the cooked pie shell. Let it cool on rack for 15 minutes and then into the fridge for at least an hour for the filling to finish setting.
Pace around the house, sneak a few blueberries off the top of the pie. Re-arrange the berries to hide the berries that you stole off the pie. Impatiently pace around the house some more.

One good way to make the time go faster is to wander over to the store and get some vanilla ice cream to go with your pie ;)

I'm off to the Saltspring Island Natural Fibre Fest this weekend with my tribe of weaver, spinner and knitters. Have a great weekend. Go visit and farmer's market or a farm. For those that are thinking about putting together a winter veggie garden, the Community Gardens is holding a winter plant sale at 271 Pine Street on Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 2pm.

Happy Eating!


Monday, July 09, 2007

Pickled shoots & a not so secret sauce

This past week's produce box brought another bag of garlic shoots to me. Since I was still enjoying the ones from my garden and from last week's produce box, I decided to pickle this batch. Since I was going to eat them within a few weeks, I made a refrigerator pickle version to save myself the sweaty hassle of canning a couple of jars. If you're going to store them at room temperature for a while, you may want to can them. Otherwise, store them in the fridge and eat them up soon!

Here's my Fast & Dirty Garlic Shoot Pickle recipe:
Garlic shoots - well washed and cut to fit into jars
General pickling liquid:
1 cup vinegar - at lease 5% acid. I used a locally grown apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
*spices- whatever your imagination or pantry has to offer.

Mix together pickling liquid and bring to a boil and then down to a simmer for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, arrange shoots in clean mason jars. It's a bit of a game of Tetris but you can fit quite a few shoots in a mason jar.
Pour liquid into jars to cover the shoots. Cover with lid and let stand at room temperature until cooled a bit. Move to refrigerator.
Let it marinate for at least a week before cracking open.

*For spices I used a mix of coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds and szechuan peppercorns in one. For the other I threw in some dill seeds and red pepper flakes. You can add the seeds straight into the liquid and let it cook up with the vinegar or simply pop them into the jar with the shoots. It's up to you.

I've been busy gorging on this summer weather. In the last few weeks, I managed to run away for a paddle in the Discovery Islands off of Victoria and most recently, a nice afternoon of rompy waves in the Winchelsea Island off of Lantzville with a couple of good friends.

With the hot weather, I do my best to spend as little time cooped up in my kitchen. I'd rather 'assemble' dinner than cook it, especially since my kitchen gets blistering hot by late afternoon. Usually I don't start thinking about dinner until it gets cooler and darker. By that time, it's after 9pm and all I want to do is put my feet up or do some spinning or knitting. But I still want good, local eats!

My usual hot weather cooking MO is to cook up a batch of meat and veggies, usually on the BBQ, to see us through the week. I also make up a couple of different dressings that can also do double duty as a marinade or sauce. From there I simply mix and match salads fixings and top it with a bit of meat. Since it's still new potato season, I usually boil up or bbq up a huge batch of potatoes. A loaf or two of breads from one of the local artisan bakers and we're set!

I've had a couple 100 mile diet BBQ dinners these past few week. Besides local meat, there are plenty of local vegetables and even fruit that find their way onto the grill. I have one of those BBQ pizza pans that make grilling vegetables a breeze and save me the hassle of threading them onto skewers. They don't need anything more than a drizzle of oil before being popped onto the pan and over a medium heat. Make sure they're arranged in a single layer or else they won't cook evening. If you want to get fancy, marinate them in a vinaigrette for 20 minutes before cooking or sprinkle on a spice rub.

For my meats, I've concocted a Fast and Dirty BBQ sauce that is reminiscent of chinese BBQ pork and duck. A sweet, soy sauce based recipe that can be used as a BBQ sauce, a marinate or stir dry sauce. It's a nice alternative to pre-made bottle sauces that have ingredients that I can't pronounce. Though, it is still made up of other jarred and bottle ingredients, at least I can pronounce them. I can even spell some of them ;)

For the sweet and spicy base of the sauce, I use homemade red pepper jelly that I made last year with locally grown hot peppers and locally grown apple cider vinegar. It's easy to make and it's a great condiment to have on hand. Or you can pick one up from Golden Maples Farm , who make a huge range of awesome jellies. They can be found at the farmer's markets and various good events. They use their own locally grown produce to make their tasty condiments.

BTW, I find that sometimes the jelly will crystalize but a quick trip through the nukebox fixed that.

Here's my Fast & Dirty Chinese BBQ sauce
2/3 cup red pepper jelly
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 thumb of ginger grated
1 teaspoon sesame seed oil

Mix thoroughly and use as needed.

So far I've used it on chicken in two ways:
Roasted chicken (from Cedar Valley Poultry). I roasted the chicken with a couple spoonfuls of the sauce in the cavity. About 20 minutes before it's done, I brushed the sauce on liberally all over the chicken. I brushed on a second coat once the chicken was done. I had some sauce on the side. It was a zingy version of traditional chinese bbq chicken.

BBQ chicken strips: I marinated a bunch of thinly sliced chicken breasts for 20 minutes then grilled them. I brushed some more sauce on once the chicken was done and served some sauce on the side.

At my last BBQ dinner, I marinated a locally raised flank steak in some of the sauce and then grilled it. Again, I waited until the steak was done before brushing on more sauce:
Chinese bbq steak with locally grown vegetables.

The flank steak was served along with more roasted local veggies, some from my produce box and some from my garden and a huge link of sausage from the Nanaimo Sausage House. It was plenty to feed my dinner guests and the usual unannounced dinner guests (it's hard to not attract hungry bellies when the wind is carrying the smell of yummy food all the way down the street I guess). I still managed to hold onto some leftover meat, greens, blanched snap peas and made a nice salad the next day for lunch. I made a vinaigrette with one part bbq sauce and 1 part rice vinegar.
That dinner ended with a luscious fresh strawberry pie from Grandma's Country Pies, a gem of a pie shop right beside the Nanaimo Sausage House. The strawberries were from Dudink's Gardens. A sweet end to a great 100 mile diet meal!

Last night's meal was leftovers from the flank steak above, with sugar peas and garlic shoots from the garden stir fried with Chinese BBQ sauce and some shrimp noodles. Done in under 10 minutes!

Have a tasty week & happy eating everyone!


Nanaimo's 100 Mile Diet Challenge