It’s a time of year when all the cookbooks get pulled off of the shelves, family favourites are clamoured for and we say, ‘just one more piece of fruitcake won’t hurt, right?’ Food plays a huge role in the holidays, and I think you should put local products on stage with your Christmas pageantry.
Every good cook knows that preparing ahead of the big meals is key, and I guess I could argue that I start preparing in the summer and fall when I put up my preserves that will help me impress my guests at this time of year. But I know not everyone has my zeal for canning or freezing, so I have some suggestions that will help you showcase local products over the next few weeks with some easy recipes to get them on the table, as they say, with no muss and no fuss. Well, maybe a little bit of muss…
First I want you to consider your sources…sources which I’ll put on my blog, and people can feel free to recommend their own as well, since I’m sure there are some I’m not aware of.
– You can really shine just by putting good bread on the table, so make sure you check out your local bakery, and I’m happy to say there are a growing number of artisanal bakeries on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. Order ahead if you can and make sure you know their opening and closing hours over the holidays.
– Butcher shops and charcuterie shops. This is really where you want to go if you want high quality meats and the advice to go along with it. Think about the great charcuterie places I’ve featured on this blog before like the Whole Beast Artisan Salumeria and Markt Artisan Deli in Nanaimo. These are people who can help you put together an amazing cured meat or pate platter complete with pickles and other condiments that go well.
– Cheesemakers: We have excellent Island cheesemakers. Hilary’s here in Victoria and Cowichan Bay, Little Qualicum Cheeseworks and Natural Pastures from up Island, Saltspring Island Cheese and Moonstruck Organic Cheese from Salt Spring Island.
– Fishmongers, some good shops in Victoria, Cowichan Bay, Duncan, Nanaimo and more. This is where it really pays to phone ahead and get your orders in early because the seafood supply can be limited. Try Cowichan Bay Seafood in Cowichan Bay, Mad Dog Crabs in Duncan, or Finest At Sea in Victoria.
Now for some recipes: One of the dishes I made for Jo-Ann Roberts on All Points West yesterday was an albacore tuna loin brushed with olive oil, then sprinkled with Organic Fair Old Bay Spice, and seared quickly on all sides in a hot cast iron fry pay. You can download the recipe in Word format by clicking here. How about the recipe for Fanny Bay oysters and preserved lemon aioli? Click here for that one. Get your preserved lemons at Stage Small Plates Wine Bar or various specialty shops in and around Victoria. For the hazelnut meringue recipe, try this one from the Country Living website. All I did was to replace the plum topping you’ll see in the recipe with some Deacon Vale Farm preserves. I’d love to hear from you about where you purchase your artisan food products on Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and the Sunshine Coast, just enter a comment below. And be sure to tune in next week to All Points West, when on Food Matters, just after the 4:30 news on Wednesday, Dec. 7th, we launch a contest with a grand prize of a brand new KitchenAid food processor!