The Cookbook Club chose this month to honour BC Day by making recipes created only by local BC chefs. BC Day is celebrated in British Columbia on the first Monday of August, so we decided that a Cookbook Club date of August 11 was close enough. Another theme that emerged as we sampled our dishes was Local Products and Local Produce. A great many of the ingredients used in our dishes this month were sourced locally, sometimes super locally as in our own back gardens.
I hosted this month on the terrace in front of our home on the west side of Bowen Island. The weather cooperated beautifully–cooling off considerably from the heat wave of the previous week and holding off on the rain until we finished dessert. It was a perfect west coast summer evening. Even the mosquitoes behaved themselves.
In keeping with the BC Chefs theme, we all consulted different cookbooks and websites. Here’s just a selection:
We began the evening with Coconut Mojitos. As the host, I was responsible for concocting a cocktail–a responsibility that weighed heavily upon me since I’ve never concocted a cocktail in my life. All I knew was that I wanted it to be rum-based, mostly because rum is the only spirit I actually like dating back to my misspent youth sipping Rum ‘n Cokes. I chose a Coconut Mojitos recipe I found on the Food Network website because it included copious amounts of the mint currently growing in the two tower gardens on my deck. As it turned out, I wasn’t the only Cookbook Clubber who made use of local ingredients. Below are pictures of my Tower Garden–the mint used in the Mojitos on the left and the broccoli used later in the Broccoli Salad to the right. If you’d like to learn more about growing vegetables with no soil and minimal amounts of water, check out www.towergarden.ca
Back to the Coconut Mojitos. They turned out to be very simple to make, much to my relief. I combined as much mint as I could get from the tower gardens (about a cup and a half) with simple syrup (sugar and water) and the juice of four plump limes. The recipe called for muddling–a process I’d heard about but had never done. The Internet came to the rescue, but unfortunately did not provide me with the requisite muddler. I improvised with a spoon, pressing and swirling to release the mint into the liquid. I then poured in a lot of coconut water and a bottle of rum (one of the half ones) and that was it. To my delight, the Mojitos were a big hit, although I personally found them a tiny bit too sweet. I had already cut the sugar in the simple syrup in half, but still could have used less. The verdict was – coconuty, limey, rummy, and very, very minty. As soon as the mint in the tower garden regrows, I may well make a pitcher of these Mojitos for myself!
Jacqui presented us with a plateful of delectable Romanesco Bruschetta made from a recipe included in the Rebar Cookbook. These little darlings were a huge hit coming on the heels of the Mojitos. The Romanesco topping consisted of roasted red pepper, pine nuts, bread crumbs, almonds, cayenne pepper, paprika, mint and parsley spread over a brown rye baguette purchased from the Ruddy Potato, our local health food store on Bowen Island. Local sourcing was definitely a theme this time around. Cubes of roasted eggplant were piled on the Romanesco spread and then topped with creamy, salty, sharp Gorgonzola cheese. The combination of flavors was spectacular. I ate two and would have gone for another but I needed to save room for another six dishes.
Corinne rounded out the appetizer course with a plate of basil-enhanced goat cheese from the fabulous Saltspring Island Cheese company and a basil and blackberry confiture served on Lesley Stowe crackers. Everything was local!
Kate outdid herself with a Tomato Gazpacho that I could personally have drunk by the quart. From one of Rob Feeney’s cookbooks, the Gazpacho consisted of fresh tomatoes from Kate’s own garden whizzed in a food processor with peppers, red onions, garlic, and cucumber and then mixed with tomato paste, balsamic vinegar, cilantro and basil (again from Kate’s garden). A bit of hot pepper gave the cold soup a nice kick. Kate topped the individual servings of soup (she even brought her own lovely glasses) with dollops of kale and basil pesto and sour cream. The garlicky pesto deserves a mention in its own right. It is sold to raise funds for the Missy Foundation on Bowen Island, an organization dedicated to providing love and care to senior animals. With its combination of so many of the freshest ingredients of summer, the Gazpacho was a definite crowd-pleaser.
Main Course and Side Dishes
I contributed Coho Salmon Steaks with Soy Wasabi Glaze–an adaptation of the Wild BC Chum Salmon with Soy Wasabi Glaze created by Karen Barnaby, the Executive Chef of The Fish House in Vancouver’s Stanley Park. I couldn’t find Chum salmon and so substituted Coho Salmon, delivered fresh and plump to my door by the local Fresh Street Market in West Vancouver. The sauce was a huge hit–salty, limey, and buttery with a hint of heat from the wasabi. I used wasabi mayonnaise rather than pure wasabi which probably toned the heat down somewhat but was still delicious.
Mariana made beautiful spiralized roast potatoes from one of the Whitewater Cook books. The very thinly sliced potatoes were baked to perfection in individual muffin cups. They were tender and tasty–and looked amazing!
Three salads rounded out the main course. Becky contributed Composed Salad of Du Puy Lentils with Roasted Beets, Walnuts, and Chèvre with Orange Tarragon Dressing from Menus from an Orchard Table by Heidi Noble. The delectable vinaigrette made with blood oranges and lemon tarragon made the salad a real winner. Although not a beet fan, I loved it as did everyone else. The lentils added a slightly crunchy texture that paired well with the sharp and creamy feta cheese and tender beets. Corinne contributed a yogurt dressed salad of cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and parsley–all local produce bought fresh from the market near her new home on Saltspring Island. I used up two large heads of broccoli from the tower garden in a Broccoli Salad I found on the Better Together blog, which is a “a partnership between the BC Ministry of Health and BC Dairy Association … as a resource for, and a network of, people sharing their stories and tips around eating together.” Unlike all the other dishes, my broccoli salad was somewhat lacking in flavor. I’m not sure why, but basically, it was just “meh”! I guess broccoli needs a lot more work.
And now on to dessert–the scrumptious end to a lovely evening.
Helen, a baker by trade, created Lime Cupcakes with White Chocolate Icing from the Butter Book, a collection of recipes from the Butter Bakery & Cafe in Vancouver. One word–perfection! The fluffy lime-infused cake was fresh and not too sweet and the white chocolate, lime-infused, butter-brindled icing was just too good to be allowed. I want to go right out and buy the Butter Baked Goods cookbook by Rosie Daykin and re-connect with my inner baker.
We decided to focus on the recipes by Nigel Slater, a British chef suggested by Becky. Here’s a selection of his cookbooks that we’ll be consulting. I can’t wait to dig in!