From The Culinary Trail – A Salt Spring Island Retreat

A Retrospective in Purple.

The story began over ten years ago, when our dear friend Sandy wanted to start a book club.  She recruited nine girlfriends with different backgrounds and interests.  The majority of the women didn’t know each other, but quickly discovered they had more in common than their love of literature and their connection with Sandy.  All the ladies also had an appetite for great food and wine.  Hence, it was only fitting that the first book was called Eating My Words (by Eve Johnson).  The name stuck as the theme for the book club which meets monthly for a social, home-cooked dinner, and book discussion.  Over 120 meals later, the group has gone through a range of love and lost, joy and sadness, laughter and disagreements, marriages and divorces, births and deaths, successes and disappointments, celebrations and farewells, also great and not so books. Through it all, genuine friendships and sisterly support prevailed.  It is a pleasure to be part of this cheerful circle of clever, courageous and caring women!

Each summer, the Club organizes a weekend retreat. This year, we escaped to Salt Spring Island, the largest and most well known of the Southern Gulf Islands in British Columbia. Our base was the beautiful waterfront cottage of fellow book club member, Nancy.  It was the perfect setting to relax, reflect, read, chat, cook, and drink gin/tonics!  At times, we tore ourselves away from Nancy’s sprawling deck of endless views to explore the island; this included kayaking, blackberry picking, wine and goat cheese tasting, lavender sampling and market shopping. Personally, I think Salt Spring Island is the most interesting of all the Gulf Islands. Like so many people, I’m drawn to it because of its laid back (some would say ‘hippy’) vibe and eclectic mix of markets, organic farms, artist studios, charming villages, wineries, B&Bs, and natural scenery.  If you’ve not visited or heard of this beautiful island, then I would like to give you a better appreciation through photos. For this post, from the culinary trail, I am happy to share a few vignettes of my visit to Salt Spring island.

A most peculiar thing happened when I reviewed my photos after our trip.  I noticed that much of them included objects with a shade of purple.  In my regular life, I do not gravitate to anything purple.  There’s no hint of purple in my home….I don’t even own purple socks!  So, imagine my surprise when purple topics or objects prevailed in my photos.  As one would do on Salt Spring Island, I am going with the flow and have created a mini photo retrospective in purple for you, with a splash of superfoods.  I recently learnt that purple superfoods contain some of the highest levels of antioxidants and polyphenols. Their power comes from the compounds – flavonoids, anthocyanins, and resveratrol.

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Photos above: Nancy showed us her secret lane for picking blackberries.  I think we collected 20 lbs for various dishes and consumed another 10 lbs of berries while picking: )  Mary, the most creative chef in the group, made a gorgeous and delicious pie.  The rest of the berries were artfully used in other ways, including a breakfast parfait. Blackberries are superfoods and high in vitamin C.  They have anti-inflammatory advantages and their polyphenols help to increase antioxidant levels enough to make them potentially beneficial for the cardiovascular system.

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Photos above: Salt Spring Island is a haven for artisan food producers and organic farmers.  One of the highlights of visiting Salt Spring Island, between April and October, is the Saturday outdoor market in Ganges.  It’s a lively event showcasing the best of the Island’s homespun products – from pottery, body care to food.  For me, it’s a dream spot for my photography and superfoods!  There are so many purple superfoods – cauliflower, corn, sweet potatoes, and carrots to name a few.  Pictured here are Dragon Tongue Beans, spring onions, eggplants and kale. Refer to our superfoods page to learn about their potential health benefits.

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Photos above: Chive flowers from Nancy’s garden. Giant barnacle on display at the cottage.  Enjoying the views from the deck. And, lavender from the Sacred Mountain Lavender Farm.

Until our next Eating My Words book club retreat or visit to Salt Spring Island, I leave you with some non-purple impressions (below) of the Saturday market and other experiences on this idyllic island.

Travel Far, Explore More! – {Kale}

P.S. The retreat book was Doris Lessing’s Golden Notebook, which was chosen (2005) by TIME magazine as one of the 100 best English-language novels since 1923.  In 2007 Ms Lessing was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

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From the Culinary Trail – Sailing and Savouring the Gulf Islands Part 2

Does kitchen size matter? In Amsterdam (The Netherlands), we lived in a small top floor apartment of a canal house that was built in the 17th century.   My partner and I loved this cozy flat particularly for its location, that is – in the historic center of the city and overlooking one of the grand canals.   It had a lot of nice features, such as a roof deck and a wood-burning fireplace.  But, like so many small flats in the city, our place had a teeny-tiny kitchen. It measured roughly 3 x 4 feet and included a dual burner electric stove, sink, short counter, and mini-fridge.  Only one person could squeeze into the L-shaped space to prep/cook; but we managed to make elaborate and gourmet meals….and, without an oven!  I didn’t miss the baking…after all, I’m the {Kale} in this blog and prefer savoury dishes.

Typical sailboat galleys are no bigger than our old Dutch kitchen. There is a common misconception that the confined galley space limits your cooking to simple or camp-like meals.  Not at all.  In my view, the quality of our culinary creations has never been affected by the size of the kitchen or galley.  Even though I am pretty creative with menu planning and provisioning for our sailing trips, I am always interested in cookbooks that focus on galley-friendly options.  I recently discovered a cookbook that is fantastic and worthy of sharing with our blog circle.  It’s a fairly new cookbook from Vancouver Island called “Sea Salt: Recipes from the West Coast Galley“.  This cookbook has received rave reviews and won ‘Best Fish + Seafood Cookbook in Canada’ and ‘Third Best Fish + Seafood Cookbook in the World’ by Gourmand International.   During our Gulf Islands sailing trip on the Amritha Catamaran, we had the pleasure of meeting two of the cookbook’s authors.  We were sailing with a friend from a yachting magazine and because he was preparing an article about the cookbook and interviewing the authors, our group was able to experience a unique dinner prepared by the authors and based on the cookbook’s recipes.  This part 2 of 2 posts is my recap of our spectacular culinary evening and includes a recipe of a dish that we sampled from the cookbook.
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The mother-daughters collaboration behind this successful cookbook is made up of Lorna, Hilary and Alison Malone.  They are a family of sailors and reside in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.  Alison, an accomplished lifestyle writer and editor, is one of the daughters but was not available to join us. We met Lorna, the mom and avid racer, and the other daughter, Hilary, a chef and an expert food styler.  Both are incredibly down to earth and their passion for their project and the local food/wine scene shows when you meet them.

The award-winning Sea Salt cookbook is a collection of over one hundred sea worthy recipes which are fast and delicious, whether aboard in the galley or at home on land.  I love that the eight chapters are logically organized by the time frame of a sailing trip.  My favorite chapters include: i) Chapter one (Breakaway) highlights recipes with fresh ingredients on the first nights, ii) Chapter five (Entertaining: On the Dock and Rafting Up) showcases recipes for appetizers, dinners and desserts that are ideal for sharing, and iii) Chapter six (North) features recipes of food with a longer shelf life that can be used near the end of a trip.  There is a lot more to enjoy from their cookbook, from stocking and provisioning tips, suggestions about markets to the stunning food photography by Christina Symons.  But, what stands out is that the recipes are inspired by the freshest local flavours of Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. Products from twenty artisan producers of food, beer and wine are featured and stories of the producers are included with various recipes. Our 4-course Sea Salt dinner comprised of:

Balsamic Beets and Goat’s Cheese Crostini with beets from a Nanaimo farmers market, chive flowers from the Malone garden, goat cheese from the Salt Spring Island Cheese Company, and red fife sourdough bread from Bodhi’s Artisan Bakery
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Seared Qualicum Beach Scallops with Sweetcorn-Basil Purée and Heirloom Tomato Salad with Qualicum Beach scallops from Island Scallops Ltd.
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Pacific Cioppino
with mussels from Island Sea Farms on Salt Spring Island and sea salt that is hand-harvested and natural from Vancouver Island Salt Co.
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Cranberry and Hazelnut Coffee Cake
with hazelnuts from Foote’s Hazelnut Farm
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Four wines, handpicked by Lorna, accompanied this amazing meal.  My favourites were the Averill Creek’s Cowichan Black and Joie Farms 2011 Pinot Noir.

There were so many superfoods in our Sea Salt dinner.  Scallops, clams, mussels, salmon, prawns, beets, tomatoes, hazelnuts and cranberries were just a few of them. Go to our list of favourite superfoods to see the nutritional benefits.

I highly recommend the Sea Salt cookbook, whether you’re a sailor or not, and regardless if you cook in a small or large kitchen.   I wish the Malones continued success with their cookbook and I look forward to trying all of their recipes!  Thank you to Lorna and Hilary for an unforgettable culinary experience.

The Seared Qualicum Beach Scallops with Sweetcorn-Basil Purée and Heirloom Tomato Salad recipe and cookbook cover photo are courtesy of Sea Salt: Recipes from the West Coast Galley by Alison Malone Eathorne, Hilary Malone and Lorna Malone, with photographs by Christina Symons, Harbour Publishing, 2013, www.harbourpublishing.com

Travel Far, Explore More! – {Kale}