Spring is a trickster, pouring down rain when you have outdoor plans and serving up glorious sunshine when you’re stuck indoors. I would have loved to be weeding and planting yesterday when it was mild and sunny, but I had a full day’s work and more to do. Today, when I was free(ish), the weather was rainy and chill until well after suppertime.
I was hoping these salmon burgers would be my first patio meal of the summer, but instead, they made for a lovely indoor brunch. I picked up a beautiful piece of sockeye salmon at The Daily Catch and got some brioche buns at East End Food Co-op. Sadly, the buns didn’t make it home with me (I shouldn’t have put my bag down in the vegetable market I visited next), so I decided to serve these over lightly dressed greens with a side of oven-roasted potatoes. I’ve never been much of a burger lover anyway, so I think I’m happier with the meal as it turned out.
The salmon burgers themselves were delicious, with dill, capers, mustard, and lemon stirred into yogurt as the binder for this patties. Some people had trouble keeping them from crumbling in the pan, but mine held together beautifully. I think resting the mixture overnight in the refrigerator helped with that, while intensifying all the flavours beautifully.
I think I’ll be revisiting this recipe several times this summer. So far, all the recipes I’ve tried from Everyday Dorie have been ones I’ve repeated. I can’t wait to work through some more as we cycle through the the growing season.
You can read through everyone’s posts here. You can join in on the singular pleasure of cooking, writing, and eating your way through Dorie Greenspan‘s Everyday Dorie with a group of French Fridays veterans, Doristas, and lovely people at Cook the Book Fridays.
I have an ice cream problem, and not the one you’d think. I’ve stuffed the freezer with homemade tomato sauce, berries, rhubarb,and all the other summery goods that I’ll be grateful for in winter. But, I’ve left no room for the bowl of my ice cream maker. So, instead of apricot kernel ice cream, I’m catching up on the other two recipes for August’s Cook the Book Fridays, which I made on time and then neglected to post about.
Stuffed Vegetables (Légumes Farcis)
I made these at the beginning of the month, but I was just so busy that I didn’t have an opportunity to post about it. I made the full amount of these, sending some home with my mother so that she could have an easy dinner component while my Dad was away. I was grateful for the same with the ones I kept.
I used eggplant, zucchini, red pepper, and tomato as the vessels for this dish and I used ground moose in the filling. I changed the seasonings a little, adding some smoked paprika and mixing it with fresh thyme and rosemary from the garden. Otherwise, I stuck to the recipe, finishing the dish with Italian parsley and basil from my garden.
I enjoyed these, but they were a little drier than my usual recipe, which incorporates rice. They made for a good meal, though, with duck fat potatoes. (Hey, that makes three catch up recipes this week!) You can see the potatoes at the top of this post.
Kirsch Babas with Pineapple
These were fun to make. They’re a little like popovers, but they seem so brittle when they come out of oven. I thought they’d disintegrate when I gave them their syrup bath, but they plumped and shone, becoming miraculously resilient. The pineapple is a terrific accompaniment for these, and so easily made, once the messiness of breaking it down is through. I stuck with rum for these, simply because I couldn’t find kirsch at the closest liquor store.
I’ll leave you with a photo of a dish only tangentially related to the group – a tomato and goat cheese tart that I made to test-drive Mardi’s pâte brisée from In the French Kitchen with Kids. It was so easy to work with and baked up beautifully!
You can read through everyone’s posts here and here. And consider joining this community of wonderful cooks and lovely people, as we work our way through David Lebovitz‘ My Paris Kitchen.
As our cities move upward and inward, with concrete replacing much of the green space that intertwined traditional neighbourhoods, we risk losing more than just a little elbow room. Urban green spaces are the only connection some of us have to nature and when they’re farther and fewer between, we may lose that connection altogether.
At the same time, social disconnection in our cities is increasing. The Vancouver Foundation‘s Connections and Engagement report has become famous for exposing the loneliness and social isolation that many Vancouverites feel and its findings highlight the challenges of finding community in this city and others.
Sue Biely was well-aware of these issues, but she was focused on solving another problem: resistance to climate change action. There is a gap between the science and the action taken by governments and at climate summits. There’s an even larger gap in the understanding of the urgency of these issues between climate change experts and much of the world’s populace, especially in privileged regions of the world.
She began wondering, “What would be the minimum intervention that could increase awareness of environmental issues?” Activism and larger interventions won’t have an impact on people who don’t, in her words, have a lived, visceral connection to the natural world.
She was also looking for an additive intervention, as most of what we’re told around climate change action is what we shouldn’t be doing. What kind of small action would add to someone’s life, while connecting them to the planet?
“A wacky idea that took a while to articulate.”
Eventually, Sue found the inspiration she needed in her own home. As someone who travelled for work for many years, her first act upon returning home would be to check in on her plants. Her attachment to her plants was the genesis of Inside Green, leading her to wonder what impact plants could have as an additive intervention in city-dwellers’ lives, first as vehicles to increase climate change awareness and later as a method of increasing green space and social connection in urban environments.
From there, the idea of creating a web of plant stewards across Vancouver grew into a pilot project, funded by a grant from Arts BC and Creative BC. Inside Green started with a website and 400 plants that were selected by Brian Minter, who chose 10 plant varieties that are easy to look after and easily propagatable. Sue said she was especially thrilled to have him on board, as she’d grown up listening to him on the radio, which helped to develop her own love of plants.
A network of plants.
The first questions they wanted to answer were whether or not people would want to become part of a network of plant stewards across the city and then, what percentage of those people would propagate their plants.
After an initial test with friends and family, they took the project to Vancouver Farmers Markets. Just as Brian Minter had, they understood the project’s mission right away and allowed them to book community tables at four of their markets, in parts of the city that are the most urbanized. The response was overwhelming.
There are now 500 Inside Green plants in the City of Vancouver, with a 30% propagation rate thus far, and with some plants in their third generation. That more than answers their initial questions.
Over the next six months, Inside Green will be asking a host of new questions and exploring avenues for funding and expanding the project. The hope is that Inside Green will spread to cities across the world, but they like to have local impacts as well. Their first round of containers for the plants, which act as “cribs” for plant propagation, were made from tomato cans that were removed from the waste stream in a Yukon community that has the capacity to collect recyclable materials, but has nowhere to send them on for recycling. They’re also looking at working with the local binners program to collect and prepare cans, going forward.
Another initiative they’re testing is using proceeds from corporate gifting of Inside Green plants to fund plants for low-income people in places like social housing or seniors’ facilities. Making green space available to as many people as possible, regardless of socio-economic status, is something Inside Green is keen to explore.
It will be interesting to see where they’ve taken the project a year from now.
“Everybody deserves to have something to nurture.”
Most of us know that houseplants improve the air quality in your home, pulling out pollutants and carbon dioxide, while replenishing the air with oxygen and water vapour. They also calm the mind and provide some of the same mood and health benefits as taking a walk in the woods. As Sue points out, “people relax, heal faster, and learn better” when they live and work with plants in their spaces.
But it’s another one of plants’ benefits that is key to their role in Inside Green. They provide their stewards with an opportunity to nurture and intimately interact with a living thing. This is something that is becoming rarer in this city and in urban environments around the globe. In Vancouver, it can be nearly impossible to find pet-friendly accommodations, private outdoor green space is being eliminated with every new development, and the wait lists for community gardens can make them seem like a retirement dream.
For Sue, the idea that, in ten or twenty years, many people may have no visceral connection to how nature works is sobering. But houseplants provide an intervention against alienation from nature, one that works in the most urban of environments, across economic circumstances. Caring for a plant requires attention to natural cycles, as plants grow at their own pace, with active and dormant periods. Inside Green’s plant stewards create a relationship with their plant that gives them a reason to connect – with their plant, with other people who have Inside Green plants from the same propagation lineage, and ultimately, with nature and the environment.
To join Inside Green’s network of plant stewards, start here. Alternatively, you can make friends with one of the many plant stewards who have plant babies on the way. Once my plant babies are ready to leave the nest, I’ll be sharing a follow up post, on my experience as a plant steward, another steward’s thoughts, and more.
Thanks to Sue Biely and Regan Gorman of Inside Green, for taking the time to talk to me about the project.
I learned about Inside Green from a friend who became a Plant Steward on a visit to Farmers Market. I reached out to them for interviews and signed up to be a Plant Steward. No compensation was received for this piece.
It’s been so long since I’ve written about my garden. Perhaps that’s because I’ve hardly been able to attend to it until now. Three days after our annual soil delivery, I sprained my ankle rather badly and lost five weeks of backyard time. Luckily, I had planted tomatoes and strawberries in containers on the balcony, along with pineapple sage and tarragon, so I’m not as behind as I’d otherwise have been.
It’s only this week that my ankle has been strong enough to do some real gardening. Much of my time is spent battling morning glory, blackberry cane, buttercups, and nightshade – so much so that it’s almost become a refrain as I work. I’d cleared the worst of it in March, but by the time I got back to the garden properly, they’d all made riotous progress.
I spent a day clearing blackberry cane and morning glory, pulling blooming shoots from the centre of the long-suffering bay tree at the corner of my yard. Then, I finally tilled the soil in my vegetable garden with a claw and a new-fangled hoe that my father found that looks more like a weapon for the zombie apocalypse than it does a garden tool. It was very satisfying. All I’ve got to do now is top up and mix the soil, mark off my square foot sections and plant. I’ve got lettuce, peppers, celery, and cucumbers waiting in pots, but I’m also going to take my chances late-sowing radishes. It’s perfect timing for my Tante Vivienne’s beans, which have been saved over generations, and I’m looking through my stash of seeds to see what else I can manage this year.
Then, I’ll tackle the flower beds, though I’m leaving as many wild carrot plants intact as I can. I know they’re considered weeds, but I’ve seen at least eight different species of pollinator feasting on them. Maybe that makes me a bad gardener (along with the dandelions I leave in place in early spring, for similar reasons). Perhaps I’ll think of myself as a good host, instead.
Hello, Raincouver, it’s been so nice to have you back, even if it’s only for a week.
The current issue of Ricardo Magazine has a fistful of banana bread recipes and I have a cupboard full of the Piña Colada jam I made a few months ago from Preservation Society Home Preserves. Add two very ripe bananas and my jammy hack of Ricardo’s Tropical Banana Bread was born. There’s only half a loaf left. (Yes, I had some help.) Bonus: I freed up some jars to fill with Preservation Society Bluebarb Jam and I still have lots of Piña Colada jam left for other experiments (and toast).
Quiche + Potlucks is my formula for building community. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as bringing home an empty tray, after an evening of conversation and sampling terrific dishes.
My parents’ backyard is full of flowers and vegetables – a pollinator’s paradise. Luckily for me, our extended family, and a number of their friends, they grow far more than they can eat. Cucumbers, beets (both root and greens), carrots, potatoes, and beans are only some of vegetables they’ve been sharing this week.
It’s been an early spring here in Vancouver and despite all the rain that’s come with the Pineapple Express, the early flowers and warmer temperatures have been kind of great. I’ve even heard that some of the cherry trees are already in bloom.
For now, though, I’m going to drink in the colour and get an early start on cleaning up and preparing my garden beds. And I’m going to start dreaming my way through the copy of the West Coast Seeds catalogue that just showed up in my mailbox today.
It’s peak harvest time in the garden now and many of us are focused on eating and preserving as much as we can. But it’s also time to think about next year’s garden, so leaving a few fruits and vegetables to fully mature so that you can harvest the seeds can be part of the plan, too. As I’ve told you before, I’ve been successful saving seeds from the heirloom beans my family grows, but I’m trying to expand those skills.
With that in mind, I headed over to Figaro’s Garden on Sunday to attend their Intro to Seed Saving workshop. The owners are committed to becoming a centre for our neighbourhood’s organic gardening needs and they’ve been providing regular workshops to share skills and build community. They’ve also got a strong connection with Environmental Youth Alliance, which works with young people to build skills and connections with the natural world. One of the owners is the Executive Director of EYA and EYA’s Volunteer Co-ordinator, Katrina Sterba, is also Figaro’s Event Co-ordinator. This crossover has meant that there is a strong grassroots ethos at the garden centre, along with a deep knowledge base for teaching and community outreach.
Sterba led the workshop, allowing some folks from around the neighbourhood to benefit from her expertise. We all had various levels of experience and success with seed-saving, from complete novice to regular experimenter. The workshop led us through a primer on which seeds are the most viable for seed-saving – open pollinated, self-fertile plants are easiest for beginners, while hybrids and some heirloom seeds won’t necessarily grow to resemble the plants they came from. Each of us got a pamphlet with a run down of the concepts she covered and a resource guide for further exploration.
Next, we had a demonstration of the two most common methods of seed-saving: dry and wet. Katrina gave us hands on experience of threshing and winnowing some spring wheat that had been grown right here in East Van. Then, she demonstrated the wet method with one of the most luscious-looking Green Zebra tomatoes I’ve seen.
We also learned from each other. I now have a plan in mind for starting tomato seeds indoors next winter – no small feat in a two-bedroom apartment. There was also a spirited discussion of how to rescue sunflower seeds from hungry birds, or whether we even should.
If you’re in Vancouver, I recommend stopping by Figaro’s Garden for a look at their demonstration gardens or a chat with their staff about your gardening needs. I’ve gotten a number of plants from them over the years, from a dogwood bush for my parents’ (late, lamented) farm to a flat full of annuals for my flower baskets. I’m also going to keep an eye out for more workshops, like the Mason Bee primer they’ll be hosting on September 27th – I think I might become a regular student. In the meantime, I’ve already expanded my seed-saving to the sage plant that flowered abundantly this summer and the peas I grew from seed I got at a seed swap this spring. I’m also keeping an eye on the nasturtiums I picked up from the Kensington-Cedar Cottage Seed Sharing Library so that I can return some to them and keep some for next year’s garden.
Maybe someday, if I keep up the learning, I’ll be able to stop calling myself a beginning gardener.
I may get impatient for the harvest. I may worry that my flower beds are too sparse. But, something I never forget to do is to take pleasure in the bits of beauty the plants in my garden create. I’d much rather look at the plants and watch their progression than weed. And I often do.
Today’s post should be about delicate zucchini blossoms in a tempura-like batter, but I’m not there yet – or rather, my garden is not. I am short on blossoms as yet, but that should correct itself by tomorrow or Sunday, latest.
Instead, I’m catching up on the two previous weeks’ dishes, which were so simple it makes me wonder how I let life get in the way of making them before today. They were perfect for a hot summer’s evening graze, which also included hummus, salsa, and crudités. (Not that it qualifies as hot here by the rest of North America’s standards, I’m aware.)
Guacamole with Tomatoes and Bell Peppers
This recipe came up in the rotation on the last Friday of June and was whipped up in my kitchen in less than fifteen minutes today. The recipe calls for the guacamole to be presented chunky or smooth. I chose smooth and used my food processor to make it, instead of a mortar and pestle, as Dorie does – mine isn’t big enough.
I used a little too much jalapeño for Kevin’s taste, but I enjoyed the bite. The inclusion of the tomatoes and red pepper made this guacamole reminiscent of a green avocado salsa, though I think I like this recipe better. Tomorrow, it’s going to be even spicier than it was today, so I’m going to pick up some sour cream to cut the heat. Along with corn tortillas and some vegetables sautéed in cumin and oregano, I think we’ve got tomorrow night’s dinner covered.
For the month of July, the choices for each week’s assignment were made a little differently than usual. Four of our regular participants were each asked to pick one recipe and to start the month, Kathy of Bakeaway with Me chose Dorie’s Tomatoes Provençal.
Local tomatoes are starting to show up in the markets and roasting them is such a nice way to deepen their flavour. I was especially pleased with the topping – minced garlic with a mixture of herbs from the garden. I love being able to go outside and take as much as I need from the plants in my backyard. It’s one of the many pleasures of summer, isn’t it? I used basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary, and chives. Nothing else was needed but a little salt, pepper, and olive oil.
We loved these tomatoes, so much so that I saved the leftover juices to use for salad dressing or cooking down vegetables for the frittata I’m planning for later this weekend.
If I were you, I’d give them a go and then visit Kathy’s blog to tell her what a great choice she made.