Thursday, March 31, 2022

Have You Tried Chimichurri?

Chimichurri Mise en Place - fast and simple!
Chimichurri is a fresh condiment originating from Argentina and Uruguay made from finely chopped fresh parsley, oregano, garlic, olive oil, red pepper flakes and red wine vinegar. It is a bright, tangy, fresh sauce traditionally used on grilled meats, but is good on almost anything and everything!! Try it tossed with steamed vegetables, with chicken, fish or shrimp, drizzled over eggs, used as a dressing for pasta salad, drizzled over pizza after baking, used as a sandwich spread with (or without) mayo. The possibilities are endless ... and it takes only 10 minutes to make!

Chimichurri - start to finish

Chimichurri is not Pesto, they may look similar ... they are both herbaceous, green sauces made with olive oil but they are not at all similar in flavor. Also, Chimichurri has no nuts or cheese making it a perfect, condiment for nut and dairy sensitivities, vegetarian, low carb, gluten free and Paleo diets.

 Some Chimichurri recipes use cilantro instead of oregano and some add smoked or hot paprika and shallots which are not authentic. I prefer the cilantro version for vegetables, salads and pizza, and the authentic oregano version for grilled meats. Although, the flavor of cilantro is an acquired taste for many.

Creamier sauce
For a creamier sauce, add everything into the food processor then pour the olive oil in while the machine is running. This will thicken the sauce slightly and blend it to creamy looking and smooth.

With grocery prices on the rise, why not add cilantro and Italian parsley to your herb garden this year? Chimichurri can be made all summer and frozen for future use to liven up your winter meals. It can be stored in a covered container in your fridge for up to 5 days or packed in small jars and given as gifts marked with the preparation date, best before date and freezing instructions.
If you have never heard of ... or tried this tangy, fresh sauce, what are you waiting for? 

Chimichurri with Cilantro        Yield: about 1 cup
1 cup fresh cilantro *see Notes below
Chimichurri drizzled over Vegetarian Pizza
1 cup Italian (flat leaf) parsley *see Notes
1 shallot 
3 large cloves garlic
Zest of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. coarse ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes, optional
1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil

Thoroughly rinse the cilantro and Italian parsley several times. Pick out any bruised or yellow leaves, remove heavy stem ends. Peel shallot and garlic, roughly chop. Combine all ingredients except olive oil in a food processor and pulse to reduce the bulk of the herbs. Slowly pour in the olive oil and pulse to desired consistency. Stop periodically and scrape down the sides of the processor bowl. Allow to rest for at least 15 minutes for the flavors to marry before using.
Fresh and packaged for the freezer
Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. For the freezer; package in 1/4 to 1/2 cup portions or freeze in an ice cube tray. Then store in airtight containers in the freezer for up to 1 year. Thaw only the amount needed.

Do not use dried herbs for this recipe, only fresh will do!
One 'bunch' of fresh cilantro or Italian parsley is about 1-1/2 cups each.

Until next time ... Bon Appétit!

Recipe by Sally Rae
Photos by Sally Rae

Monday, March 7, 2022

Thai Double Blue Butterfly Pea

The 'Blue Butterfly Pea' is an edible, blue flowered, vining plant, native to Southeast Asia. The vines are smothered in dazzling indigo petals. The flowers are used as a natural food dye and soothing tea to calm the nerves. The double flowered type seed I grew was found in Thailand, where blooms are used to dye everything from teas to rice and desserts. Butterfly pea has a mild, floral flavor and a most intense natural color making it a novelty culinary ingredient.

At the beginning of Covid lock downs in 2020, I received 'The Baker Creek Seed Catalogue' as a gift. I was really impressed at their speed of delivery, impressive selection of rare and unusual seeds and free shipping! I published a Blog March 2020 with my selection of seeds. Since then I have grown and tried all of the seeds, some not very easy to start or grow and as one of my clients said, "... these seeds are rare ...and difficult to grow is one reason why." Also this year shipping is no longer free, there is now a set rate charged.

Grown in a sheltered space

Previous to finding the seeds in this catalogue, I had been unsuccessfully searching for 'Blue Butterfly Pea' flowers for tea and to color food and beverages. When brewed into a tea, it is a beautiful blue color ... add lemon juice and the color transforms in front of your eyes to pink. Desserts, beverages, ice cubes, hard boiled eggs, pasta and rice can also be colored blue with these incredible little flowers. 

Blue Butterfly Pea tea changes color when lemon juice is added

You can purchase the dried flowers online in various forms; teabags, dried whole flowers and powdered. Or grow the plants from seed, save and dry the flowers for special occasions or package and give as gifts to your foodie friends... or use them fresh.

I have seen 2 different methods to color white rice: add the rice and water to a rice cooker and add 3-4 fresh flowers, stir then turn the rice cooker to the 'Cook' position ... or to use dried flowers ... steep the tea, cool; add rice and use the cooled tea instead of water. The steeped, cooled then strained tea method was used to cook this beautiful Blue Thai Jasmine Rice. 

Blue Butterfly Pea Tea used to cook Thai Jasmine Rice
Butterfly Pea is a tropical perennial that can be grown as an annual in cooler climates. It is most commonly started from seed but I found it spotty to germinate even after scarifying the seeds and soaking over night. My efforts and frustration were worth the effort. I was thrilled to grow, collect and dry a small jar of the flowers for my culinary use. The plants prefer full sunlight and will trail freely along the ground or up a trellis or stakes. A beautiful, rewarding gardening and culinary experience!

Until next time ... it sure feels like Spring is in the air, looking forward to garden season!
Bon Appétit!

Photos by Sally Rae 

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Winter Garden and January Harvest

Snow and cold, unusual for the Island ... Dec. 30, 2021
Finally the weather has warmed up after 3 weeks of snow and cold that started on Christmas Eve, I checked the winter garden crops last week. The cabbage heads outer leaves were slimy from the -15C and didn't fare well through the cold, even though I had them covered with tarps. They are edible with all the damaged leaves removed but I've used them as chicken food. The hens went crazy for the fresh, crisp vegetables!! Great food and entertainment for them in this weather. The kale did well and is now very sweet from the cold. I pulled back the maple leaves and straw mulch from the root crops and was really surprised to see the beets are still okay. I dug 3 celeriac roots, a gallon pail of carrots and the few beets that were left in the garden. With the warmer temperatures the carrots are starting to grow little 'hairy' roots so I piled the mulch back on top of the remaining 2 rows for harvest in 3-4 weeks or when I need them.
January Harvest - beets, celeriac and carrots

The garlic shoots are poking through the mulch and even the strawberries are showing signs of new life. I had to pull some perennial weeds and grasses to try and stay ahead of them. Once the snow and ice was gone and the temperatures above 0C we had a good stretch of fog. It was cold and damp but at least it wasn't rain, so digging the root crops was a bit easier than if the soil was really wet. Not much can compare to the flavor and crunch of fresh, organic carrots harvested in January! After growing up on the prairies, I still marvel at the food I can grow here year round! I've put in my seed orders for the garden this year and am starting to plan and gear up for Spring!

On a sad note, our eagles' nest blew out of the tree in two crazy wind storms we had in December. The eagle pair was back in October and November bringing more branches to the nest. They were back early in January, sitting in the perch tree I'm sure wondering, where the heck is our home? We hear the eagles around and sometimes they come to the perch tree but so far there has been no activity to rebuild the nest in the same location. At this point it is too late in the season for them to start building. We will miss the close entertainment of Nature they gave us. The extreme weather conditions have been breaking records and making headline News for more than a year now. Every season has had an extreme, difficult result. Welcome to the new normal...

Until next time ... Stay safe, warm and dry,
Bon Appétit!

Photos by Sally Rae

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Seasons Greetings

Another Covid Christmas

British Columbia has taken a beating this year... with our summer Heat Dome, too many Atmospheric Rivers to count, Cyclone Bombs, wild fires then severe flooding and landslides... and that was just the tip of the iceberg! We are now facing a Polar Vortex for Christmas with freezing rain, snow and minus temperatures. Not something we usually get here on the Island. Add in raging Covid case numbers and it has been a crazy, record breaking year.

We have so much to be thankful for... to live on Denman Island where many of the weather hardships were not an issue. 

Seven hens, a cold afternoon and a bowl of warm mash
As for Covid, we stay home a lot and are lucky to have a big property, winter garden, a warm, dry house with fur and feathered companions to occupy our time.

The hens have been such a joy in my life. With the cold weather I've been making them a warm mash each afternoon. Even the two shy birds get their head in the bowl with everyone else. It is heartwarming to watch.

Part of the Joy - beautiful eggs!



Even though the temperatures are dropping, the hens continue to lay their beautiful assortment of colored egg shells, from a yellow/green with speckles, pale pink/brown, dark/dark brown, pale blue, mint green and blue. 

So here we are ... looking at another quiet, Covid Christmas ahead of us. Much gratitude and appreciation for where we live and the type of lifestyle we have. Caring, helpful neighbors, technology for winter entertainment and to stay connected with friends and family ... plenty of food, water and firewood. We are beyond grateful!

From my home to yours, I wish you a safe, joyful Christmas and all the Best in 2022!

Until next year ... Stay safe, warm and dry ...
Happy Holidays and Bon Appétit!

Photos by Sally Rae

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Soup Recipe Switch Up

Sunshine Squash in the garden
My 'Featured Post' last month, 'Thai Sweet Potato Soup'... highlights one of my favorite flavor combinations and a soup recipe all served up in a bowl of comfort! Last week I had time to make a few recipes to fill the freezer. I had a great harvest of Sunshine Squash and wanted to use them for squash soups. The first go-to was from my cookbook that starts with a big pan of 'Curry Roasted Squash' from page 270+271 of 'For the Love of Food'. The left over roasted squash becomes 'Creamy Curried Squash Soup'. Yummmm!!

There were no sweet potatoes in my cold storage but lots of winter squash, so I decided to experiment and transform last months 'Feature Recipe'. The soup switch up became 'Thai Squash Soup' and was a great success. Sunshine, Buttercup and other Kabocha type squash are what I prefer for their dense, sweet flesh and vibrant color. Give it a try and let me know what you think...

THAI SQUASH SOUP      Yield: 8 servings
This soup is easily made vegetarian by using vegetable stock and omit the whipping cream. If you will be freezing the soup, do not add the whipping cream.

1 large Kabocha type squash; peeled, seeds removed and 3/4"diced (8-10 cups diced)
1 onion, fine diced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 generous Tbsp. organic coconut oil
1 1/2 Tbsp. freshly grated ginger
5-6 cups flavorful chicken or vegetable stock
1/8-1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
Thai Squash Soup

1 fresh lemongrass stalk
2 Kefir lime leaves
salt and black pepper to taste
1 can (400 ml) unsweetened coconut milk
1/2-1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice, optional
1/2 cup whipping cream, optional
Finely chopped cilantro or chives for garnish

In a large stock pot melt coconut oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onions, garlic and ginger. Sauté until softened and fragrant but do not brown. Clean the outer leaves then pound the bulb end of the lemongrass with a skillet or flat meat tenderizer. Add the stock, cayenne, lemongrass, Kefir lime leaves, salt, pepper and diced squash. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered for 20-30 minutes until the squash softens.Stir occasionally.

Remove the lemongrass and Kefir lime leaves. Use an immersion blender and purée the mixture until smooth. Whisk in the coconut milk and bring back to a simmer, stirring often... do not boil!

Stir in the whipping cream if using. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary with lime juice, powdered ginger, cayenne, salt and pepper. Ladle soup into servings, sprinkle with finely chopped cilantro or chives.

Until next time ... Stay safe, warm and dry,
Bon Appétit!

Recipe by Sally Rae
Photos by Sally Rae

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Summer Recap

Where has the time gone?? Storm Season is already upon us with high wind warnings and rainfall for the next few days ... at least! Finally I have time to sit in front of the computer and as long as the hydro stays on through the storm, it's all good.

Pullet Eggs from the 4 Chicks
The extreme weather events of this year made for a more labor intensive existence for the garden, the hens and us! Several daily hikes to the garden for shading, picking and watering, ice blocks and bed sheets up to keep the chickens cool, hosing down the dogs and we even used the air conditioner in the house this summer. By August the four 'Olive Egger' chicks started to lay ... obviously from the photo of their eggs, they are NOT Olive Eggers but an assortment of brown, blue and green'ish shelled eggs. Out of the four chicks I raised, all four were hens ... now that's like winning the chicken Lottery!! Not one Rooster in the bunch! After hand raising these chicks from 3 days old, I couldn't bring myself to splitting up the gang, or sending some to new homes, so I have kept them all. They are friendly, personable girls and they add joy to my Covid lifestyle.
Celebrity F1 tomato -greenhouse grown
The tomatoes I grow near the house for seed saving were a disaster. With the heat dome, their pollen was sterilized and each plant managed to produce only one or two fruits. The Yellow Hawaiian never matured and my Sally's Outdoor Salsa were small and half of the fruit had hard green flesh that were eventually raided by rodents. 
Heaviest tomato this summer

The only tomatoes that did well were the Celebrity F1 that I had in the greenhouse. Unfortunately in my opinion, they looked great but not much flavor. I got a very heavy harvest of large, uniform fruits but most of them ended up in the Roasted Tomato Sauce pot!

The Mercury Cucumbers were a slow start. I staggered plantings in the greenhouse and still lost five plants earlier in the season to stem rot. I had to restart more seed so ended up a bit behind. Once I got four plants thriving in the greenhouse they just took off. There was no way I could keep up, so friends, neighbors, the deer and chickens shared the bounty. I cleaned out the greenhouse when the weather started to cool and just a few days ago finished the last few from the fridge. I have tried numerous varieties of cukes and prefer the smaller Persian types. For one person they are perfect for snacks, salads, sweet pickles and every morning as a snack as I watered.

Greenhouse harvest
This summer I introduced more pollinator flowers to the vegetable garden. I really noticed an increase in bees and other pollinators so will continue this. The sunflowers and nasturtiums always self seed as does the dill weed and oregano. One of the sunflowers produced a two-faced flower. I have never seen this before so had to get proof ... an unusual sight indeed! I have had 'Siamese Twins' on the dill cukes, patty pan squash, some tomatoes and the Mercury cukes but never a sunflower until now!
Two-faced Sunflower

The garlic and onion crops were fantastic this year. The largest garlic heads were set aside for seed and planted in a new, prepared bed on October 4th. The bed has been mulched with straw and I have six large bags of dry maple leaves in the shed for winter mulch when the weather turns really cold.

For now I'm happy to get a few indoor chores done and finish making my Christmas gifts of truffles and chocolates.

Until next time ... Stay warm and dry,         Bon Appétit! 

Photos by Sally Rae

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Heat Wave

From June 25th to 29th, 2021 we were locked in a Heat Wave. Record breaking daytime temperatures in BC that (for us) were 34-38 degrees Celsius, with the humidex taking us into the mid 40C range. There was little relief through the night with temperatures higher than what our normal daytime would have been. The sweltering temperatures were due to what climatologists call a “heat dome” – a strong ridge of high pressure that traps warm air underneath it like a dome, allowing the sun to bake the earth below, creating a heat wave that lingers for days. So from cold, wet Juneuary to sweltering, record breaking heat, it has been quite a month for the record books!

Chicken Shantytown with Dr. Bonnie and Peeps
The first few days I wasn't prepared well enough to keep the chickens cool. We have never experienced temperatures that high in our 31 years on Denman. The chicken run is in a partial shaded area but the afternoon sun just baked them. They were panting with their wings held away from their bodies even in the shade. By afternoon the thermometer inside the Ritz reached 110F. After a day of that, I put up their rain tarps but it was still too hot so out came the old bed sheets and panels from the old greenhouse. It looked like a shantytown but it worked to keep most of their enclosure in the shade. 

Frozen fruit and vegetables, cool down treat
In the evenings I took in the hose and wet down the yard hoping to bring the temperature down a bit with the cold water. They have an old kiddie pool with sand for dust bathing so I poured in a pail of cool water and the older birds were in immediately cooling their feet in the mud. I tried ice cubes to cool their drinking water, only to see them melt before my eyes. So I started freezing big ice blocks in stainless steel bowls to float in their water dishes. Also at night I put a block of ice in each house when the birds were closed in, hoping again, to reduce the temperature a bit inside. In the heat of the afternoon I froze a larger stainless steel bowl with some cooked rice, diced frozen vegetables, old berries from the freezer and other vegetable and herb scraps. The big frozen blob freaked them out at first but once Buffy realized there were blueberries in that frozen blob she was pecking and getting a nice cold treat along with being entertained.

Greenhouse; burlap shades and fan
The garden and greenhouse were another story... I hung burlap along the south side of the greenhouse and put in a fan to blow the heat through. Everything is thriving but I watered every morning and evening for an hour or so. From the wet, cold early June, I still had the burlap on the ground around the garden boxes and hoops over the beds. The hoops were used to suspend burlap, double remay and shade cloth over the delicate or newly seeded beds. One bed that isn't doing well are the strawberries, I didn't shade them and in hindsight I think that might have helped. The fantastic picking I got in my last Blog post is no longer. The berries are small and some either shriveled and dry or have white, burn marks on them. The only good thing is that they become more food to put in the chickens fruit and veg frozen treat!

Garden shades on hoops; remay, burlap, shade cloth
Today our temperature is bearable, everyone is more comfortable and we can have the house windows open again. There is a breeze off the ocean and we can see the Coastal mountains again so the haze of pollution is blowing out a bit. I have continued with the watering and making ice blocks for the chickens. Our local News has said, "welcome to the new normal of climate change" ... we have never used the air conditioning of the heat pump but finally on day three I was tired of toughing it with just fans. Even though the dogs were groomed short, they were having a hard time in the heat, so we all appreciated the cooler house. It did cross my mind to find a way to bring the chickens into the cool house ... but I think that was just the heat getting to me.

Most of BC broke temperature records for the month of June and also broke all time records for heat. I don't look forward to this experience every summer but at least this was a learning experience of how to keep everyone here safe and healthy in the extreme heat.  

Until next time ... Stay cool ... and Bon Appétit 

Photos by Sally Rae