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Happy-Gourmand

Support our community

The universe has been in my face this week, showing me signs that seem to be saying I need to get in the game, be a part of things.

I see things that make me sad, and the signs are telling me I will be even sadder if I don’t try and change those things. It all comes down to supporting our community.

The first sign was relatively subtle. Hubby and I were walking in downtown Kelowna and we went past a restaurant we had been to a few times over the years. The thing was, it wasn’t there.

The building looked empty.

“Ah, that’s a shame,” we said. “It was a fun place.”

We felt a bit better when we chose to eat at a place that had to close on the Westside due to troubles with vandalism.

The Thai Terrace is busy now in its location on Water Street and we had a lovely evening – delicious food and attentive service on the patio with a view of City Park.

We were happy to be supporting an independent local business.

The second sign was news I heard, about the fate of the early fruit harvests here in the Okanagan. The cherries have suffered with the rain that came so close to picking time, leaving a smaller amount for consumers and a deficit for farmers.

Can you imagine losing up to 60% of your salary?

Apricot farmers are even worse off due to our unusual winter weather.

Late warm days at the end of 2018 meant the trees were tricked into coming out of dormancy and buds started to form. The cold snap in February froze those buds and left the trees without the ability to form fruit for this season.

The odd apricot is out there, but certainly the international market will be without Okanagan apricots this summer.

Having apricot jam in our pantry makes us very fortunate. This morning, as I frugally spread some on my toast, I felt a bit like a pioneer, savouring the flavours preserved from another time.

I will be diligent in my canning this year.

The sign that really made me sit up and take notice was in the form of a tiny 99-year-old woman. That might sound like a fairy tale, but her stories were anything but that, although they did have a happy ending – she is still here.

I saw a Facebook post about an author speaking about stories from her life, and the book she wrote. Being a history buff on the Second World War, I was intrigued.

The third time the post showed up in my feed I decided I should attend the event.

I am so glad that Chabad Okanagan organized a visit by Marthe Cohn. This little spitfire of a woman talked for two hours, telling the packed conference room of tales of her time in the French Resistance, being a Jew in occupied France in the 1940s.

What struck me most was not what I thought would affect me from her stories. I had read of the atrocities perpetrated on the Jews in Europe during the war, and I have visited a concentration camp.

Her memories must have been so intense, and so numerous, but she didn’t speak of that.

Marthe Cohn spoke of her missions to gain information and help others trying to get away. What she stressed though, was how grateful she was for people who had helped her.

People in her community who had risked their safety, their lives and the lives of their families, to help her to make the world a better place. She was doing the same thing, but she wanted to be sure we knew how important their help was.

I left the room that night thinking that some of the reason this woman is still going strong at 99 years old must be her positive attitude, her will to do more and help others. She was gracious, and she had a wonderful smile.

All of us are not cut out to be spies, but we can all do something. Support our local small businesses – get out to a community restaurant or coffee shop (Starbucks and Boston Pizza will still survive even if they see us a bit less often).

Support our farmers and their workers. (We don’t need to buy our cherries at Walmart, even if we do stop there for other things.)

All these efforts support our community.

  • Look out for your neighbours.
  • Pick up a piece of garbage on the ground.
  • Donate to the Food Bank.

You never know; it might increase your life span.



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Summer garden party

I wanted to create a post that would showcase something elegant for a summer garden party.

I was thinking of keeping up to Martha Stewart and all her beautiful flower arrangements amidst pastel-coloured cocktails, or perhaps Alice Waters-style with sprigs of just-snipped herbs on every plate.

Things didn’t turn out quite as I planned. A busy week meant my ideas were a bit more random, just like my garden.

The garden at Rabbit Hollow is more of an old-fashioned English garden, with plenty of plants, a jumble of textures and colours that in my case represents plenty of enthusiasm with not nearly enough time to maintain the results.

But the birds, bees and butterflies love it and when I get the chance to stand back and enjoy it, I do too.

One of my favourite elements is what we call the edible fence. Our property line is covered on one side of the yard with all kinds of fruit trees and berry bushes. The most prolific of these are the golden raspberry canes that are now in their 11th year here.

They are wonderful fruits, a bit less tangy than red raspberries and certainly more exotic to look at. The ones we have are ever bearing, so from June through November, we get to nibble on these little delights every morning if we want.

I usually sneak a few after I walk the dog and water the garden in the morning. There is something wonderfully rebellious about stuffing yourself with mouthfuls of raspberries into your mouth even before you’ve put your business clothes on. 

The catch is, the little bit of nibbling is not keeping up with production. As a result, I have started to look for recipes that highlight their delicate flavour, and Raspberry Financiers are just about perfect.

They are a lovely afternoon tea treat, but I have found that they make a decadent Sunday breakfast. You can be lazy and add the berries to pancakes, but this recipe is sure to impress everyone at your table.

I have gotten better at capturing the garden bounty in the eleven years we’ve lived here.

I make raspberry and tarragon vinegars, basil oil, herb salts, quince compote, plum and lavender chutney, mint tea and gooseberry syrup. Using those ingredients makes me smile and enjoy the garden all over again, and when we share them at Rabbit Hollow events I love to see others smile, too.

I’ve decided the point to my rambling gardener’s musings is that any gathering can be elegant if you are intent on enjoying it.

Be serious about having fun. Life is short and it is meant to be enjoyed and shared. Have an extra mouthful of berries and let yourself smile.

If you don’t have a garden, you can join us at our table at Rabbit Hollow. Click here for this summer’s schedule of events.



Plate It forward

If you haven’t already spent time with family and/or friends around the table now that summer has started, it will happen very soon.

An intrinsic part of the summer season is shared meals. We gather on holidays to share a meal or two, but in the summer the whole season is about impromptu eating with whomever is around.

Sometimes you can plan for a potluck, but if end up with unexpected guests that get hungry, you need to have a few tricks up your sleeve.

This week I am going to help you “plate it forward” – be able to whip up something flavourful without stressing.

First, let’s talk about summer flavours.

This season is the one that has plenty of ingredients available fresh from the markets and gardens, so that’s an advantage. Many items don’t need to be played with too much as they already taste great raw.

Here are my top five choices, but once you get to your favourite market or farm stand feel free to be inspired by what moves you. Make sure you always have these items in your kitchen, along with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and some kind of citrus fruit.

  • Fresh mixed greens – salad for lunch or dinner is a great plan when it’s hot, and you can add almost anything over top of greens. (I’ll speak about details later in the column.) At markets, look for wild greens, edible flowers or even herbs like cilantro or parsley to include.
  • Local fruit – there is something just picked from late June through September, and fruit can be used in so many ways besides on breakfast cereal.
  • Zucchinis (in early summer) then tomatoes (in late summer) – these veggies work raw and cooked in all kinds of dishes, and they are inexpensive in season and full of flavour.
  • Onions, Garlic and Pasta – this just might be the magic combination for providing a quick and easy “from-scratch” meal for a crowd.
  • Fresh Herbs – pick at least two herbs that you like to use. If you need suggestions, thyme & oregano are great separately and together; chives and basil give lots of punch when added to dishes, and dill & parsley work to perk up your taste buds.

Secondly, you need some handy meal plans. Simple works best, especially these days when many people are on diets or have allergies or restrictions. Here are my three main suggestions:

Fish or meat with salad

We eat this kind of dinner at least three nights a week all summer long. (We do it in the winter too, since I got my Tower Garden and can grow fresh greens at home for less than five dollars a head.)

You can easily grill the fish or meat and avoid cooking inside when it’s hot. Even using leftovers works well – think of grilling extra pieces of chicken or a slightly larger roast and slicing pieces cold over a salad.

And note to self: salad doesn’t have to be greens; it can include the poke bowl/Buddha bowl variety using grains or even legumes with other veggies.

One more salad tip: make your own dressings and avoid all kinds of extra sugars, preservatives and other unpronounceable things. Google is your friend – just look up the style you want, like “Asian, tangy, citrus, herb…” for flavours and use “dressing, vinaigrette, sauce” to get the right category.

Something in a bun, on a tortilla or a lettuce leaf

This option is particularly good if everyone can’t sit at a table and eat. A meal in an edible package or wrapper works well when you’re standing. Again, you can use leftovers to add to the substance if need be, and salad could be the filling if you’re stuck for ideas.

If time is a challenge, you can make this a do-it-yourself meal, too: set out cheese, meats, veggies on a counter with assorted condiments and sauces and the wrappers at one end.

Give people some suggestions by grouping things together in themes (e.g. a taste of Italy with prosciutto, cheese, sliced tomatoes or zucchinis, maybe olive tapenade or garlic mayo and arugula).

Picnic-style meals (this includes the potluck format)

Al fresco dining is the quintessential option in summer.

If you’re hosting a potluck, give people some direction so you don’t end up with a bunch of pasta salad (hint: try to think of what people like to make when you assign the categories).

Whether your picnic is on location or at home, make it fun. Include some treats that you might not usually have, like a cheese spread or pâté. Decorate the table and/or the room with enthusiasm and you can put sun in a rainy day or take the stress out of a work-day.

This can be an assortment of leftovers when they start to pile up in the fridge or it might be the result of a trip to a local deli section.

Bonus picnic tips:

Go wild with condiments – this is your chance to make sure you finally use the mustard and chutney in the fridge.

Watermelon is the perfect picnic dessert.

OK, let’s bring it home in style – let’s make sure everyone is happy at your table. The other elements of a great meal are beverages, and dessert. Both of them can be handled easily.

Beverages — if your meal is impromptu, just go with the flow. Use what you have, and if that’s water then the only thing to worry about is if you want to put ice or lemon in your pitcher. If you’re inviting people over, guide them about what to bring or what you will supply.

Dessert – again, it’s important to remember we wanted a no-stress meal so go with the flow. You know your crowd, so think of what they like. If you aren’t sure, fresh fruit is always a lovely way to end a summer meal.

Any kind of biscuit, chocolate, or ice cream is a delicious accompaniment but not required.

So now you have the secret to being the summer host with the most fun meals. Your only problem might be that everyone likes to hang out after they eat your food.

That’s when you tell them you’d love to come to their place next time, bringing your favourite dish to make (wink wink).



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A taste of Canada

O CANADA 

As Canadians, we tend to be humble about our great and spacious nation. Our national day is upon us, and as a foodie I like to represent my patriotism in my food.

The catch is, there isn’t just one way to do that.

Americans have hotdogs and apple pie across the country, but in the True North there are regional specialties that showcase our varied history and landscape. I was thrilled to discover Canada Post honoured this recently with a stamp collection.

There are five “food stamps” available, featuring classic dishes from east to west coast. This by no means offers a complete synopsis of Canadian cuisine, but it is a taste of the many flavours of our country.

Here are the dishes:

  • Blueberry Grunt, from the Maritimes
  • Tarte au Sucre, from Quebec
  • Butter Tarts, from Ontario
  • Saskatoon Berry Pie, from Saskatchewan
  • Nanaimo Bar, from British Columbia

The folks at Canada Post didn't think recipes to accompany the stamps were a worthy inclusion. So, I did some history homework. My research made for a longer column than usual, but there is quite a bit of worthy information here.

Pour yourself a drink and read on.

The Canadian Encyclopedia is good reference for many culinary tidbits. One thing to remember about classics though, is that they are adapted over time.

As ingredients change and chefs interpret old-fashioned flavours with modern twists, new versions of those classics are remembered.

With that in mind, I chose a recipe that seemed to embody the original style and taste of each dish. Full disclosure: I am including two recipes from my own collection.

However, I'd be happy to hear of other coveted classic recipes if anyone has them. Please feel free to send me an email if you have a favourite to share.

BLUEBERRY GRUNT is a Maritime classic, but no one knows exactly where or how it originated. The best guess is that it's a combination of the Acadian tradition of using foraged ingredients with the ubiquitous British stovetop pudding format.

I can attest to the fact that "grunt" is a worthy name for the noise the blueberries make as they cook in the pot before the biscuit dough is added on top.

The Canadian Encyclopedia has a good recipe that offers advice for using either fresh or frozen berries.

TARTE AU SUCRE is the quintessential Quebecois recipe, especially for outsiders. It has the rich sweet flavours indicative of the French traditions that fill the region. Contrary to some people's idea, this recipe has no maple syrup. Instead it is the brown sugar and cream with a flaky pastry that works the magic here.

Having married a Quebecois chef, I am fortunate to have sampled some wonderful Quebecois food, not the least of which is his sugar pie. It is a cornerstone of our yearly dessert party every Christmas season. Unfortunately, it’s a secret recipe, so I can’t share that one.

BUTTER TARTS were first recorded in a recipe in Ontario, but it was considered a classic across central Canada and adapted from the 1880s to the 1920s, and beyond.

Some say this is the Canadian dessert, but oddly enough there is still much discussion about the details a hundred years later. Currants or raisins? Nuts or not? Vinegar in the batter?

This dish has been the quintessential Canadian sweet treat for me since childhood. I made it while I lived in France to showcase our character, and it was a suitable success. I was proud.

I am including my butter tart recipe as a representation here. I prefer currants to raisins, as the smaller fruit seem more fitting in a smaller package, but feel free to substitute if you wish. If you don’t have a preference, maybe try some

SASKATOON BERRY PIE is especially dear as a Canadian recipe, as the namesake berries are an endangered wild plant, now listed on the Slow Food Ark of Taste to help preserve it.

Did you know the town of Saskatoon was named after the fruit, and not the other way around?

I am thrilled to have a Saskatoon berry bush in my front yard. It stands in honour of childhood memories picking wild berries in the Kootenays. My parents and aunt and uncle argued for a whole day about what kind of berries they could be... no one had conclusive evidence to support their choice and so that summer we ate huckle-blue-toons.

I purposely took the tag off my bush, and if anyone asks, that's what we have - huckle-blue-toons.

There is plenty of history and tradition in this family recipe for pie even the photos included  have a vintage look. (There is no pastry recipe included, but you can click on my link for the Tenderflake pastry ,a true classic. 

NANAIMO BAR

Although the Nanaimo Bar is a popular recipe and a western Canadian classic, it's not one of my favourites. Too sweet for my taste.

However, I haven't made the recipe that has been the gold standard since 1986, when all things Canadian were kicked up a notch with the Expo in Vancouver.

This is another dessert where a bit of debate exists as to just where it was first made, and what it was originally called. A recipe was included in the Nanaimo Hospital Cookbook in 1952 and that seems to have cemented the name and attachment to the town.

In 1986, a local contest was put up by the mayor of Nanaimo and a unanimous winner was chosen by the judges. Joyce Hardcastle's recipe is still listed on the city's website.

Just as the history of these desserts has been nebulous, the current favourite versions are also varied. When the food stamp collection was released, a debate started up about the proportions of the Nanaimo Bar layers in the picture.

One could argue that we shouldn’t argue about the classics, but perhaps the point is more that we keep them alive.

If people keep cooking these recipes, the classics will live on, even as they are adapted over time. In the same way, letters and cards can still be sent on occasion, even as people use the internet to stay in touch.

So, have a piece of pie, send a card or letter, and celebrate this wonderful country of ours.



More Happy Gourmand articles

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About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."

 

E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com

 



The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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