Fresh, Local, Feast

Last Friday was one of those classic Vancouver days where the weather seems to change every time you blink. But after a gloomy afternoon, the weather gods smiled and the changeable day turned into a perfect summer evening. A few friends and I decided to celebrate the sunshine and the upcoming weekend with dinner and drinks on my patio.

The evening began with my specialty, a blender drink of stoly vodka, organic raspberries from the community garden and organic Santa Cruz (or homemade) lemonade.

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I’m originally from a small town called Buckhorn, where people like to drink. Really like to drink. In fact, the largest building and town centre is the liquor store. As they say, you can take the girl out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the girl. So whenever I make cocktails, I tend to do this thing my friends call the “Buckhorn Pour”. I’m not quite sure how it happens, subconsciously maybe… but  a LOT of alcohol ends up in my cocktails. Needless to say, I’m a very popular bartender!

Next up is our first course, Kusshi oysters from Vancouver Island. In this case, good things do come in small packages. Kusshis are small, sweet and addictive. The oysters were served with a mignonette and cocktail sauce (all recipes listed at the end).

The dinner discussion flowed, covering many, many subjects. But the one that left the biggest impression on me was the topic of people dining with their blackberrys or iphones right beside them. Thoroughly attached to the internet, it’s so very common now for people to disconnect from their in person companions to hunch over their telephones, frantically texting, emailing or posting a status on facebook. One of my dinner companions had recently read an article explaining that when people communicate in person, face to face, bonding hormones are released in the brain. The hormones immediately connect you to the person you are speaking with. When you communicate with someone via an electronic device, guess what? Absolutely no bonding hormones are produced. Is this why our society is becoming so alienated and disconnected from each other? Probably. This is especially upsetting since every psychological study ever done has found that humans receive their deepest feelings of happiness and contentment from connection with other humans. So as a society, we are turning away from the very thing that would give us our greatest pleasure.

Definitely food for thought.

Okay, back to the food for our stomachs, as we move on to our main course. Halibut tacos served with homemade guacamole and spicy salsa. This course was accompanied by a crisp, fruity pino grigio from St. Hubertus winery in BC`s Okanagan. The slight sweetness of the wine makes it a wonderful companion for spicy food.

Fresh BC halibut went into the oven, soaked in a beautiful marinade.

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And 30 minutes later, tacos are served!

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Last but not least, dessert. Earnest Vanilla ice cream topped with fresh basil from my herb garden and a bowl of strawberries to share. This was the cherry on top of a three course, four hour dining experience.

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Mouth watering food? Yes. A face to face bonding experience with really awesome friends? Definitely! And nobody looked at their cell phone even once.

The recipes…

Cocktail sauce

  • 1 cup organic ketchup
  • 1 Tbs. strong horseradish
  • ½ Tsp. lemon juice
  • ¼ Tsp. sweet smoked paprika

Mignonette Sauce

  • ½ cup chianti vinegar
  • ½ cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 medium Shallot minced fine
  • ¼ Tsp. granulated roasted garlic
  • 1 to 2 pinches sea salt
  • quick grind mixed pepper fresh ground
  • 1 Tbs. honey
  • 2 Tbs. brown sugar

Pico de Gallo Salsa

  • 3 to 4 heirloom tomatoes, various colours
  • ¼ med. red onion finely diced
  • 2 med mixed orange, yellow, red peppers finely diced. Complement the colours of the tomatoes.
  • ½ squeeze fresh lime juice
  • 2 Tbs. fresh cilantro
  • Several pinches sea salt
  • Fresh pepper
  • ¼ Tsp. chili powder, or to taste
  • ¼ Tsp. chipotle chili powder. Or to taste
  • ¼ Tsp. granulated roasted garlic

Combine all and let macerate for 3 to 4 hours to let the juices come out.  Strain and taste, pre-season as needed.  Save the liquid for the fish.

Guacamole

  • 3 to 4 large avocados
  • ½ Tsp. Buffalo brand chipotle salsa hot sauce.
  • ¼ Tsp. granulated roasted garlic
  • Several pinches sea salt
  • Fresh pepper

Scoop out and use a pastry knife to coarsely chop.  Add all ingredients and fold in, being careful not to completely mash the avocados.

Halibut Marinade

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro
  • ¼ Tsp. granulated roasted garlic
  • Several pinches sea salt
  • Fresh pepper
  • ½ Tbs Korean chili flakes( any dry chili will work)

Let marinate 6 to 8 hours.  Place in a roasting pan add reserved salsa juice.  Roast at 350’ just until cooked.  Should be flaky but moist.

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