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Eat a Gulf Island

Food! Living on a southern gulf island in the Salish Sea, I have been lucky enough to grow many vegetables and fruits, and to have access to fresh fish. In a lifetime of enjoying cooking, I have also created lots of recipes. Many are vegetarian or vegan. Years ago, as the editor of the Slow Food Vancouver newsletter, I began to write down my best recipes so other people could make them, too.

CLICK on the name here of the photo/recipe to go directly to it.

Juicy Stars

Fruit juice made into a jelled (vegan) dessert is comforting in winter if you’re not feeling up to much, and it’s cool and fun to eat in summer. It takes about 4 minutes to make from scratch. I use AGAR, a powdered flavourless seaweed that is better than gelatin: it dissolves more easily, jells faster, doesn’t need refrigerating to set, and it’s not an animal product. Agar is available at Asian grocery stores. I use a Thai brand; one small packet of 25 grams with a picture of a trophy cup on it jells a lot. The only measurement to remember is that 1 measured teaspoon of powdered agar will jell 1 cup of liquid. Scale up from there.

   

    EQUIPMENT: Juicy stars are made in a cheap silicone mold, the same kind as for chocolates, ice,  soap, or candles. You could make juicy hearts or bears or santas. If you don’t have a cute mold, or you have extra, just pour the liquid into a pan, and cut it after it’s jelled into sparkling little cubes.

    JUICE:  You can use orange or any tasty blend OR a diluted smoothie. You can intensify the flavour of a thin juice like orange by adding a bit of lemon or lime and honey or sugar. With a blender, you can be creative and make your own juice with a can of pineapple or pears or blend some fresh melon or mangoes plus water..

    RECIPE RATIO: 

    1 cup fruit juice

    1 tsp. agar powder

    optional: 1 tblsp. lemon or lime juice + 1 tblsp. honey or sugar

First find out how much liquid is needed to fill up your mold or pan, by pouring in a cup of water. After emptying it out, no need to dry it. Use the ratio to figure out how much you will make. If you are adding lemon juice and honey, place it in the bottom of a measuring cup, and fill with juice to make 1 cup.

    HOW TO: Put your liquid in a saucepan and stir in the agar powder. Bring it to a boil on medium heat, stirring occasionally. Turn it down and let it cook a few more minutes, stirring, to dissolve the agar. If you pour it back into a spouted container, it will be easier to fill the mold. If your silicone star mold is flimsy, place it on a small rack. Slowly fill each star of your mold or your whole glass or ceramic pan. Let it cool on the counter briefly, and then, for quick jelling, place it in the fridge. Make it not long before you start preparing dinner, and it will be ready for dessert. To turn out the stars, turn the mold upside down over a plate and push each individual one inside out (very satisfying.)

    PRO TIP:

Do you need a fruit plate as a special dessert, or to serve with champagne? Try Sun, Moon, and Stars plates: arrange on each plate a sliced orange circle, an apple eighth, and some mango Juicy Stars.

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Push each star out of the silicone mold.

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Juicy Stars look great in a glass dish.

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A pile of jiggly Juicy Cubes is fun.

 

BBQ Carrots

sandwich spread & side-dish

​Surprise #1: Vegetables taste very different when cut differently. If you peel your carrots, discard the skins, and then KEEP PEELING, you will have delicious carrot curls to eat (and leftover carrot cores for soup). They don’t taste like grated carrots or carrot coins. Use big old carrots and you get nice big shavings like thinly sliced cold cuts.

Surprise #2: This BBQ sauce is simple and you don’t need to simmer it long. You don’t need a grill. BBQ carrots are the best topping for any kind of burger, and a great veggie side-dish, and their own signature sandwich with avocado or cream cheese.

Surprise #3: If you put your garden to bed for the winter under a blanket of leaves and you didn’t dig up the carrots, you may have a great surprise in spring. The vintage carrots that overwintered down there may be short or have crossed their legs, but they will still be edible, and extra sweet.

RECIPE:

    3 loosely packed cups of carrot shavings

    ½ cup any tomato sauce or stewed tomatoes

    ½ cup water

    2 tblsp. sugar

    1 tblsp. molasses or honey

    1 tblsp. vinegar

    1 tsp. EACH cumin, oregano, garlic powder, and smoked paprika

    ½ tsp. cayenne pepper

    good dash of salt & white or black pepper

    optional: ½ tsp or more of your favourite hot sauce

    1 tblsp. lemon juice

 

Combine all the ingredients except the lemon juice in a small saucepan. Bring it to the boil, then keep the lid ajar and simmer for about half an hour, stirring occasionally. When the sauce has almost coated the carrots, add the tblsp. of lemon juice, and simmer uncovered until there’s almost no liquid left. Serve at any temperature. Store in the fridge.

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Greater Scones

very adaptable, dairy OR vegan (V), no egg, handmade

 

    The best scones are light and fruity. These scones can be made with whatever fruit you have on hand. I suggest fresh or frozen blueberries or raspberries or strawberries OR dried fruit such as raisins, currants, cherries, or apricots. If you use fresh blackberries, you will regret your purple hands and purple counter.

    An apple gives the scones moisture and body, and so does a zucchini half, (as in zucchini bread). Both create a tender dough that seems “short” but doesn’t have a lot of fat. I don’t peel the apple or zucchini, but I like all the colourful flecks - peel them if you prefer. You can use a medium hand grater or a food processor if you are afraid of grating your fingers. You don't need any other appliance to make these.

    The flour measurement is not fussy but do not scoop it into a cup and level it off. Pour or spoon flour into your measuring cup with a light hand and aerate it a bit. I like 2/3 all-purpose unbleached white flour and 1/3 whole wheat flour. In Canada, I like organic flour from Cedar Isle Farm or Anita’s.

 

  Ingredients:

½ a zucchini (not a monster hidden under a leaf) OR 1 apple

3 tblsp. butter, frozen, OR (V) solid cold coconut oil

3 cups flour, all white OR 2 cups white flour + 1 cup whole wheat flour

1 ½ tsp. baking soda

1 ½ tsp. baking powder OR 1 ½ tsp.cream of tartar

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 pinch salt

3 tblsp. honey OR 2 tblsp. sugar + 1 tblsp. juice or water

½  cup yogourt OR ½ cup any kind of dairy milk OR (V) nondairy milk + 1 tsp. lemon juice

¼ cup frozen or dried fruit

 

Preheat oven to 400F. If you are using dried fruit, cover it with water to soften.

Grate the zucchini or apple. Right on top, grate the frozen butter and/or solid coconut oil. Put these in the fridge. Cold ingredients make a light dough!

In a big bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt, and sugar (if using it).

Pour in the yogourt OR other liquid. If using honey, add it and mix it in. If you used sugar, add 1 tblsp. juice or water.

Now gently mix the grated ingredients into the bowl. You can start with a fork, then use your hands. Squeeze the mix together lightly so it coheres into a rough mass, a shaggy dough. Transfer it to a lightly floured counter. Pat the dough down with floured hands OR place wax paper on top and roll it out to about 8-10 inches.

Drain your choice of fruit well; cut it into bits if you like. Place the fruit on top of the dough, in the middle. To incorporate the fruit, lift up the edges all round towards the centre. Turn it over. It will get slippery; just tuck any escaping fruit back into the dough. Now pat it into a chubby circle, about ¾” thick and 8” around, cake pan size.

If you have a sweet tooth, you can sprinkle the top with some cinnamon sugar.

Cut it in half. If you cut each half into 3 triangles, you can make 6 big North American-style scones. If you want more delicate UK-style scones, cut each side into quarters so you have 8 scones.

Spread out the triangles artistically on ungreased parchment paper on a baking sheet. Bake 15 to 18 minutes, or til they are a bit golden. Cool for as long as you can wait.

These are delicious plain, or with butter, or with traditional accompaniments like jam and cream. If wrapped individually, Greater Scones do not get stale the next day. You can also freeze them.

I deployed my Greater Scones as shortcake below, and covered them with strawberries and cream.

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The strawberries started out like this in my garden.

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They are everbearing strawberries so there were still a few ripening in October!

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In these scones, I used whole wheat flour and some dried cherries. I soaked them in water, then added them

along with (believe it or not) zucchini.

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Giant Rosemary Cracker

Spring is the time for sky-blue flowers on rosemary plants. Both the flowers and leaves are edible and distinctive. This is one free-form crisp cracker to snap and share. No spread is needed. A giant cracker is just the thing with a bowl of soup.

 

1 cup unbleached white flour

2 tblsp. olive oil

3-4 tblsp. water

3-4 inches of a young fresh rosemary stalk

1/8 tsp. salt (+extra)

 

Preheat oven to 400. Cut a piece of parchment paper and a piece of wax paper, each the size of your baking/cookie sheet. Strip 3-4 inches of rosemary leaves off the stalk and chop half into bits.In a bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and oil, rosemary, and 3 tblsp. water. Mix with a spoon, then with your hands, kneading in the bowl. Add up to 1 more tblsp. water to make a smooth dough. Roll the dough into a tube and place it on the parchment on the counter. Place the wax paper on top. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin (or wine bottle) to about 1/8” thick so it covers almost the whole parchment. No problem cutting and piecing the dough to make a rough rectangle, and ragged edges are fine. Transfer dough and parchment to the baking sheet. If you love salt, sprinkle more on top. Bake for 15-17 minutes. Check after 15 minutes. It will be a light golden colour. Almost immediately after it’s out of the oven, you can snap off pieces to eat.

variation: use 1 tblsp. poppy or cumin seeds instead of rosemary

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Our green conure Nocturne thought he could lever the whole cracker off the plate, steal it away, and eat it all. Yes, Polly wants a cracker!

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Rhubarb Compote

with Pepper Gingerbread

 

My gingerbread recipe is a fusion. Historically, Dutch and German gingerbread and French pain d’épices included honey and pepper. American gingerbread features molasses. Mine has molasses and honey, lots of spice, no sugar and no butter. It’s as rich as chocolate. Use fresh ginger root, sweet and pungent, and also dried ginger, mild and spicy. It’s convenient to measure all the dry spices and put them in a small container together. The cool, sweet and slightly sour rhubarb is a good contrast to the warm, spicy pepper gingerbread. Make this very easy compote first, as it needs to chill.

 

Rhubarb Compote

rhubarb: 4 large stalks of rhubarb, if they are huge mutant-celery size, or 8 stalks if they are skinny

¼ cup honey

¼ cup water

a pinch of cinnamon

 

Cut the rhubarb into 1” pieces. Put ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn down to simmer and cook uncovered until the slices have broken down but not disintegrated completely. Cook about 15 minutes, stirring a few times, but not much. It will thicken on cooling: put it in the fridge as soon as possible. Even the night before is a good time to make the rhubarb, so it can chill. A bowl of it straight up is like applesauce in heaven.

 

Pepper Gingerbread

Preheat the oven to 350. You can make this in a bowl or a blender or a food processor. Really, the brute force of a blender is best, since in this cake you are not creaming butter and sugar. Add these ingredients, in this order, and mix or blend well:

¼ cup oil

½ cup molasses

½ cup honey

1 egg

2 tblsp. grated fresh ginger root

½ cup water

 

Blend in, but do not overmix:

1 ¾ cups flour (all white or part whole wheat)

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tblsp. ground dry ginger

1 tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. ground cardamom (or well-pounded whole)

½ tsp. ground cloves or allspice

¼  to ½ tsp. white pepper, if you like

 

Finally, blend in 1 tblsp. vinegar. It will react with the baking soda, causing it to rise right away. The batter will be very liquid. You remembered to add that water, right? Bake in an oiled 8” square glass or ceramic pan at 350. Stick a skewer in it at 35 minutes. It may need 5 more minutes or so. When it’s cool, you can cut the gingerbread into 6 extra large or 9 small pieces. Tightly wrapped pieces keep very well. The flavour mellows. You can keep extra in the freezer. Serve a piece of gingerbread with a dollop of rhubarb compote on top, or sidling up to it. A large mound of plain yogourt or whipped cream is also good.

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Dandelion Samosas

 

Yes, you can make these without dandelions, with other cooked greens instead, but dandelions combine well with kale or chard or collards or parsley or nettle. Mix them with what you have available. Identify your dandelions. Not hawkweed, which has multi-branched stems and smaller flowers. Not growing in city sidewalks or city parks. Pick leaves without dark edges or spots. Rinse them well at home, and keep them in a bag in the fridge. Dandelions are wonderfully nutritious; they are pulling up the calcium and other minerals from compacted soil, and when their big leaves stand up, they’ve done their job. If there aren’t any dandelions around, use any fresh greens except spinach. This makes 6 (vegan) samosas.

 

a mixing bowl full of greens (a heaping bowl if it’s frilly kale)

a red or yellow onion

2-3 garlic cloves

olive oil or mild oil

2 very big or 3 small potatoes

1 tsp. each ground cumin and ground coriander

optional: some fennel or nigella seeds

ground cayenne or other chili pepper to taste

salt and black pepper

paprika, smoked or sweet

3 plain wraps or flour tortillas

your hot sauce or garam masala

 

Turn on 1 pot of salted water to boil for the greens.

​Preheat the oven to 375.

Quarter the potatoes and put them in another pot of cold salted water; cover, bring to the boil, and simmer until potatoes are fork-tender, not mushy. Run cold water over them. Slip off their skins.

Peel and chop the onion and garlic. Put 1 tblsp. oil and a few tblsp. water in your frying pan. Fry the onion and garlic, adding the spices and seeds too. Add a bit more water if it starts to stick.

For kale, chard, collards, and dandelion, cut off and discard the ends of the stems. Stir all the greens into the boiling water. After it boils again, cook 5 minutes or less, until the greens have turned dark. Drain them in a sieve under cold water, then press down firmly. To chop them very finely, and avoid long stringy green things, I prefer to whirl them in a food processor, but you can also slash them vigorously on a cutting board.

Add the greens to the frying pan with the rest and mix well.

Cut the potatoes roughly and add to the pan. Leave some chunky, and press a fork down on some to blend them into the green mixture. Stir it.

Now taste. Add more spices, your hot sauce, or garam masala  - or nothing more.

Cut your 3 tortillas in half.

Place the half moon on your (left) palm, round side at your wrist. Spoon a mound of green mixture into the middle, shaping it into a gentle triangle pointing up. Fold up the round lower centre to make a flap holding the green mixture in. Fold the right point over it, and tuck its lower edge under. Then fold the left side across and tuck that in. You’ve made a triangular packet.

Make 5 more. Don’t cram them with greens; if you have extra, save a bowlful of it for later.  Place your samosas, foldover side down, on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Put a tsp. of paprika, preferably smoked paprika, in a small bowl. If you want a surprise when you bite into the samosa, add some cayenne pepper to the paprika. Stir in a few tablespoons of water (not oil). Use a pastry brush to brush this on top of each samosa for some colour.

Bake about 15 minutes at 375.

Serve with optional hot sauce or juicy tomato salad as a side.

I like dandelion flowers, too. They require a bright day to open, and that response to light is called photonasty! When it's cloudy or night-time, the flowers shut because the lower petals grow faster than the upper petals, so they close up.

All images and text on this website are copyright Julie Emerson. Enjoy making the recipes. If you use my images or text, you are stealing.

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