As the local food movement continues to swell across the province, there are more and more ways to find out where your food comes from, and get to know the people that produce it. In the Comox Valley this month there’s a great incentive to meet farmers and chefs alike and to have a lot of fun doing it. Last week the third annual Comox Valley 30-Day Local Food Challenge kicked off and it marks a really neat way to fill up your passport with stamps with a chance to win some neat prizes at the end of the month. Go to the website to find out how to get a passport and fill it out by attending at least 16 of the 40 events scheduled this month. You might think you are going to break the bank by even going to 16 of them so you can qualify for prizes, but many of the events are free, such as the farm tours.
Local chefs are involved as well…at the end of July Tria Culinary Studio is presenting three evenings of local food prepared by Executive Chef Kathy Jerritt, (pictured at left, photo by Stephen Hawkins) with some fruits and veggies coming from Nature’s Way Farm and extensive wine pairings by Blue Moon Winery… Kathy’s recipe for blackberry dark chocolate brownies is now posted below!
Kathy explains the way she has come to work with growers in the Comox Valley is the entire opposite to the way she used to do things. “I would sit down and design a menu and then go to try to find all the ingredients. But now I call up a farmer and say, what are you going to have ready for me next week? It’s much easier to cook that way and it allows the farmer to give you the best stuff that they grow.”
I had a great conversation with Executive Chef Ronald St. Pierre of Locals Restaurant in Courtenay, another participant in the 30-Day Local Food Challenge. He told me that when he began his cooking career in Quebec in the late 70’s, it was at the height of the jet-set food age. Anything you want, it can be flown in, with little regard for whether it was in season or came from a local farm. When he moved to the Comox Valley in 1990, his eyes were opened, people bringing wild mushrooms and wild watercress to the restaurants and scallops and prawns still snapping and squeaking fresh in their shells. He knew he was in a great place, but over the years he saw the farms that grew some great produce shut down because they couldn’t afford to stay in business. So when he created Locals three years ago the idea was to help them stay in business while they sustained him with great produce. So far so good!
Locals proudly features its producers as soon as you walk into the restaurant with a rack full of their business cards, photos of the producers and their products as art on the walls, and all the way through the menu, as you can see from the photo above.. Tomorrow night Chef St. Pierre is presenting some fabulous tapas to go along with live jazz at Locals for his evening of the 30-Day Local Food Challenge.
BLACKBERRY DARK CHOCOLATE BROWNIES – Courtesy Kathy Jerritt, Tria Culinary Studio
I love blackberries and dark chocolate together; it’s an underrated combo in my opinion! This moist and decadent brownie can be made using fresh or frozen blackberries and I use Denman Island Chocolate’s chocolate for this recipe.
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 cup blackberries
1/3 cup finely chopped dark chocolate. Must be dark!
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease an 8×8 inch baking pan.
Whisk the sugar and melted butter together in a large bowl and gradually beat in the eggs. Add the vanilla, then stir in the cocoa powder. Add the flour, salt and baking powder and mix just until all ingredients are well combined. Stir in the chopped chocolate and very gently fold the blackberries into the mixture.
Spread the batter evenly into the pan and bake the brownies for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Serve with fresh blackberries and a little whipped cream for a truly decadent mid-afternoon treat!