A Northwest Picnic

A few friends and I planned a fresh, local, wild, seafood picnic on idyllic Keat’s Island last Sunday. We excitedly hopped on my buddy, Greg’s boat, loaded it up with food and headed out to sea. But as we sailed along to our island destination, nothing seemed to go as planned.

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First the bright, sunshine of the morning abruptly disappeared and we were overtaken by ominously gloomy skies. I glanced up to see dark, heavy clouds looking like they were getting ready to burst open. And then, yes, they did burst open and we found ourselves drenched in chilly rain. Next, an air bubble formed in Greg’s fuel tank causing the boat to sputter and move at an extremely slow pace. With the last development, we had no choice but to turn and head back to the mainland. Although we were all disappointed, everyone handled this change of plans with a lot of grace and zen. If even one of us had been too invested in things turning out the way we had planned or the way they were “supposed to”, this morning easily could have been a disaster. But instead, it turned out to be a really great reminder that usually when your well laid plans don’t work out, it’s because the universe has something better or different in mind for you and your only job is to go with the flow.

So, we exited the boat and after a bit of driving around, ended up in a sweet, little park in North Vancouver. It was surrounded by tall, leafy trees, a beautiful, sparkly stream and a maze of off-leash dog walking trails. Our picnic table was situated right beside the walking path and tons of friendly dogs and their humans came over to visit. I sipped my wine and watched the clouds float away as the afternoon turned into sunny, crisp, autumn perfection.

Oh, and we had some mouth-watering, gourmet food too…

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Chef Pedro’s Recipes:

 Poached Mussels with Red Curry Sauce

 2 lbs. Fresh Mussels/ pair of needle nose pliers

1 cup dry white wine or fish stock

2 tbs olive oil

1 shallot, finely minced

1 400 ml can coconut milk

3 tbs Thai Red curry paste

4 fresh Kefir lime leaves

Loaf of fresh crusty bread

To prepare:

In a sink carefully pull the beards off of each mussel using the pliers. This is important as they aren’t edible. Purchasing note: shell fish should not smell overly fishy but like the ocean. Purchase only the day before as they are particularly unstable and will not taste their best after a day in your fridge. When you bring them home, remove from the plastic bag and put into a bowl with damp paper towel on the bottom and lay a damp towel over the top. Don’t leave soaking in water or sealed in a bag. They are alive and need air to live.

When ready to cook, put the olive oil into a hot stock pot and sauté the shallots, curry paste and lime leaves. Add the mussel and stir, deglaze with the wine and coconut milk. Cover and let cook for 30 seconds. Stir, watching the mussels as they should be opening, cover and keep checking every 30ish seconds until the curry has reduced and 90% to 100% of the mussels are open. If mussels don’t open or very few open, they are old and dead it would be wise not to eat them.

Alder Whiskey Grilled Halibut with Mango Salsa

 1 Cup Alder wood chips (pickup at a hardware store)

½ cup Whiskey to soak chips

1 cup water

Halibut filet with skin on

Olive oil

Blackening spice

Mango

Red peppers

Red onions

Fresh cilantro

Serrano chilies

Salt and pepper

To Prepare:

Place the chips in a mason jar with the water and whiskey, weigh down so wood is covered with liquid. Let soak for a minimum of 24 hours but the longer the better for the wood to absorb the liquid.

Marinate the halibut with olive oil and blackening spice. Let marinate overnight.

Remove mango from seed and and dice ¼”.

Mince finely red onion, pepper and Serrano and add to mango. Mince cilantro finely add salt and pepper to taste.

Heat BBQ on high to warm-up. Turn down to a medium heat. Place drained wood chips in an aluminum “bowl” and place on grill, wood should smolder and burn creating smoke. Once smoke starts, place halibut skin down on the oiled grill (I like the top shelf to cook, it gives great flavour while limiting scorching to the fish.) Cook until centre is opaque but flakes. Remove immediately so as not to overcook. Add salsa and serve.

Black Bean and Avocado Salad

 1/14oz can Eden Organic Black beans

1 large avocado

¼ cup red onions

½ tsp Buffalo Salsa Chipotle Hot Sauce

3 pinch granulated roasted garlic

Pinch salt and pepper

To Prepare:

Drain the beans and rinse in cold water, then let dry. Split avocado and slice lengthwise and into ¼” cubes. Finely mince red onion. Combine first three ingredients add seasoning to taste, more chipotle sauce for a spicier flavour.

New Potato Salad

 1 lb.tri-coloured nugget potatoes

1 cup red, orange and yellow peppers

½ cup red onions

½ cup green onions

1 cup mayonnaise

2 tbs dijon

3 pinches granulated roasted garlic

1 tbsp sea salt

1 tbsp fresh pepper

To Prepare:

In a well salted pot of water place the potatoes in and bring the water to a boil. Check potatoes regularly once the water boils. Potatoes should be firm but cooked through. Check multiple potatoes and colours to ensure cooking consistency. Once cooked, drain thoroughly and lay on a baking sheet to cool completely. Don’t put them in the fridge hot or you will have a starchy potato salad. Finely mince all vegetables. Once potatoes are at room temp, combine mayonnaise, Dijon and seasoning in a bowl, add potatoes and vegetable and mix thoroughly. Place in the refrigerator overnight or a minimum of 8 hours for the flavours to combine. Check the next day for consistency, add more mayonnaise if too dry.

Watermelon Sorbet

2 cups or 1 baby watermelon, peeled, seeded

liquefy and strain

Caster Sugar

Fresh mint

To Prepare:

Once the watermelon is liquefied and strained measure off 2 cups. Measure off 1.5 cups castor sugar and combine in an ice cream machine. Add very finely julienne mint. Process as per instructions of machine. A simple way if you don’t have a machine is to purchase rocket Popsicle stick makers. Process as above but whisk sugar until completely melted into watermelon juice, then add mint, ladle into Popsicle holders and freeze.

And, there you have it, a gorgeous, gourmet picnic menu. Fresh, local, wild and guaranteed to impress.

“If you just go with the flow, no matter what weird things happen along the way, you always end up exactly where you belong.” – Tom Upton

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