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naramata-blend

Life in a slow place that quickly steals your heart.

Month

October 2016

Fall farmer’s market leek soup

FullSizeRender.jpgSweeter and milder than onions, leeks make a lovely, creamy and delicious fall soup loaded with bucketful’s of fresh market garden vegetable healthy goodness like carrots, onion, potato and celery and a dollop of Naramata Bench wine for added flavour.

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Some assembly required

  • 8 medium leeks (3 pound), trimmed, leaving white and pale green parts only, and chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 small potato
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine…I chose Tightrope Winery’s 2015 Pinot Gris (Why not use a nice wine as you only need a 1/2 cup and the Chef can appreciate it a wonderful glass or two while cooking.)
  • 3 cups chicken or turkey stock …I used my homemade turkey stock frozen from my Thanksgiving turkey
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves…still growing in my garden luckily
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup chilled heavy cream

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Directions

Wash sliced leeks in a large bowl of cold water and lift out and drain well in a colander. Leeks collect a lot of dirt and sand generally so need a good wash. My market leeks were perfectly clean which was a bonus. Cook leeks, onion, carrot, celery, salt, and pepper in 4 tablespoons butter in a large heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes.

Peel potato and cut into 1/2-inch cubes, then add to onion mixture along with wine, stock, water and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.

Stir in parsley and simmer soup, uncovered, 5 minutes. Discard bay leaf and keep soup at a low simmer.

Melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in a 1-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, then add flour and cook roux, whisking, until golden, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add 2 cups simmering stock (from soup), whisking vigorously, then whisk mixture into remaining soup and return to a simmer, whisking.

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Simmering soup before blended.

Blend soup in 4 batches in a blender until smooth.  Reheat if necessary, then season with salt and pepper. Any leftover soup freezes well. (Don’t add the cream topping before freezing).

Beat cream in a bowl with an electric mixer until it almost forms soft peaks. Serve soup topped with cream. A dollop of sour cream would also work well.

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Meet you at the market – Penticton revives the town square of old

 

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Joy Road Catering is one of the must-visit stalls at the Penticton Farmers Market. Run by the Okanagan’s top catering chefs, Cameron Smith and Dana Ewart, they sell their signature galletes, wood-fired oven breads, cinnamon buns and these beautiful tarts.

One of the largest and most successful farmer’s markets in British Columbia is in my hood and has become one of our greatest weekly pleasures. Today’s last outdoor market of the season is a time to reflect on the growth of the combined Downtown Penticton Association Community Market and the Penticton Farmers Market and the growing appeal of farmer’s markets across North America.

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This beet “pumpkin” reminds me of volleyball Wilson in one of my favourite movies of all time, Castaway.

A trip to the market is much more than about the food that will fill my wicker market basket. It’s about community, identity, pleasure and as food writer Michael Pollan puts it so well, “about carving out a new social and economic space removed from the influence of big corporations on the one side and government on the other.”

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Still life in leeks.

There is a lot more going on at the Penticton markets than an exchange of money for food. Sitting with my Backyard’s Beans coffee, in a returnable china mug, I look around and see a pair of talented musicians signing an old Joan Baez tune. Someone else is collecting signatures on a petition. Kids are everywhere. Every second person has a dog on a leash. Friends are meeting up and blocking foot traffic as they exchange hugs. Someone is taking photos of the cabbages. I overhear a discussion on leek soup recipes between farmer and customer. I see strangers talking to each other in line.

I read a study that calculated that people have 10 times as many conversations at the farmers’ market than they do at the grocery store. Like going back in time, the market has taken on the function of a lively new town square reminiscent of old world markets from centuries past. How great is that?

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Still life in green and purple.
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Parsnip hair…genius.

The rise in popularity of my local market and markets across the province is not just anecdotal. The latest stats from 2012 show that total economic benefits of all farmers’ markets in British Columbia was greater than $170 million, a 147-per-cent increase from 2006. The study said that the five most important factors market shoppers consider are nutritional content, where it’s grown or produced locally, in season, whether it’s grown or produced in B.C. and animal welfare issues. I think a sixth factor should be added, the mre intangible benefit of farmer’s market shopping –the chance to see people, meet friends and have meaningful exchanges with the farmers that grow our food.

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Lemon tart love.

Willis showing off his apple juggling skills which involves a knife spearing as his grand finale. Don’t try this a home…

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Leaf off already

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Orchard

 

Still banging on about the fall colours. Can’t help myself this year. A few more photos from a walk today in the Village.

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Shut the front door! Guessing they painted the door of this Village home in the fall.
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Heritage Inn and flaming friend.
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Manitou Park looking lonely but pretty.
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Naramata’s only sidewalk.
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Lion’s Head Japanese Maple.

Naramata Falls

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It is possible to take landscape photos in the Okanagan that don’t include the lake. Yesterday’s fall walk with friends to the dramatic canyon that created Naramata Falls is in my hood. The first time we discovered the falls it was like an unbelievable scenic bonus. Our raspberry farm borders one of the numerous creeks (Arawana) that spills water into the lake but this much larger one has carved an impressive canyon that doesn’t get much sunlight and is home to mosses and other flora that stand apart from much of the Okanagan’s desert-like environment. It smells all damp, mouldy and piney and the rushing water is audible long before its visible.

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Working without a net here (tripod), I did my best to brace myself and hold my breath to capture the falls with a long shutter opening, hence the blurry leaves.
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I used a rock as a tripod in this shot.
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I love this interesting angle.

 

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It would have taken a lot of years of rushing water to carve this canyon wall.
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The canyon, just above the Trans Canada Trail or Kettle Valley Rail trail, is a cool place for a summer hike on a hot day. 
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Thanks guys for your patience as I lagged behind taking photos.

Enjoying capturing this long autumn long kiss goodbye this year.

The long gleaming farewell

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Old vines with the Naramata Bench in the background

We are into borrowed time now in our gilded season. The low, slanting light that is wonderful for photography and that fleeting feeling, knowing the blue skies and gold light will too quickly fade to our long season of gray are getting me outside every chance I get.

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The light: thick, plush, gold is not something we are imagining. The position of the sun in the sky is changing. That, in turn, alters how we perceive colour and light. In the height of summer, the sun is as far overhead as it gets. But the sun drops and drops after the summer solstice in June — and the change speeds up at the midpoint toward winter, which is the light I’m capturing in these photos.

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This special golden light is also great for photographing people bathing everyone in a warm glow.

The farther from the equator, the more obliquely the sun’s light strikes Earth — that’s the longer, slanted light we are bathed in now, instead of the full-on beams we bask in at high summer.

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Such a great name for the winery where these shots were taken…Blue Mountain… yup.

Winter is coming but not first without this gleaming farewell.This year’s fall colour has been supreme. No hard frosts or strong winds to crash the party early so nature can do its thing and linger in all its golden glory.

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The view from Blue Rock on North Naramata Road yesterday.
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Still nice enough for a sail on Okanagan Lake.

Orange is the new green – The $100 view

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Okanagan Lake banded with orange for a few more days before the stark beauty of winter takes over.
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Atop Munson Mountain in Penticton is a good spot to be benched although they present a Goldilocks dilemma.
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The 360-degree views from the mountain offer a view of ordered orchards and vineyards with a peak at Skaha Lake in the distance. 
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Looking toward Penticton and my favourite swimming beach.
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The park sits right above Penticton’s landmark giant letters first created in 1937 to put the town on the map. The sign has been maintained by volunteers ever since.
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One hundred dollar view – literally – The view from atop Munson was featured on Canadian $100 bills from 1954 to 1974. 
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Aside from the striking views, native vegetation makes this a special place with its spicy sage smells.
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I’m lichen this rock close-up.
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In the distance is the road to Naramata that is a beautiful drive home no matter the season.

The Holy Grail of ginger cookie recipes

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Literally dozens of ginger cookie recipes carefully filed away are now in the recycling. I have found it. Best-ever ginger cookies that more than live up to their name.

The ultimate in fall comfort cookies, the humble ginger cookie, can get no better than these. The recipe is from my new favourite local cookbook called The Butcher, the Baker, the Wine & Cheese Maker in the Okanagan and it’s genius creator is the Bean Scene Coffee Works in Kelowna.

It’s hard to pin down what makes this recipe so good. I think it’s the combination of the spices and of course, butter.

IMG_9186.JPGIngredients

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp good quality cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 3/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/3 cup white sugar + 1/2 cup for rolling cookies
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tsp real vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup fancy molasses
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Fit for a king

Preheat oven to 375F. Whisk the flour, baking soda and spices in a medium bowl and set aside. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat butter, brown sugar and 1/3 cup of white sugar together on high speed, until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue mixing on a lower speed until blended. Add molasses and mix again for about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the dry mixture, mixing on low speed until all the flour is incorporated. The dough will be soft and slightly sticky.

Roll dough into 1 tablespoon-sized balls and drop onto a plate containing 1/2 cup of white sugar. Roll cookies in sugar and press lightly to form a disk, making sure to coat both sides. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, spaced 1 inch apart. Bake one cookie sheet a time on the middle rack for 11 minutes. The cookies should come out of the oven with the traditional crackle appearance and looking slightly under-baked.

IMG_2503.JPGBest eaten warm with a lovely cup of coffee or hot chocolate.

I’m not kidding about these being the ginger cookies I’ve ever baked although I fully admit I’m prone to exaggeration. I love it when you can bake the best of the best of simple, traditional recipes… like the shortbread cookies I made yesterday which were elevated into another realm with the addition of fresh vanilla bean (French Laundry recipe).

The pink hat

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Jaunty angle
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Jauntier angle
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Serious town
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Happy town
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Bearded
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Jaunty and bearded
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Selfie
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Inspiration

Fall and soup go together like a good book and a crackling fire – Roast maple butternut squash soup

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I used my wood-fired oven to roast the squash…a regular oven will do the trick too.

Only a few simple ingredients are needed for this recipe which can easily be scaled up if you plan to make a lot and freeze some.

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Butternut squash are inexpensive to buy and are a farmer’s market staple.
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I cook outside whenever possible. I get the whole idea of a summer kitchen. All the mess is easier to sweep off the deck.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups roasted butternut squash (2 medium squash)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1 apple and/or 1 pear
  • pinch cinnamon
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons salt (to taste…important as some chicken stocks are very salty and you may want to only add 1 teaspoon of additional salt)
  • pinch of pepper
  • 1/4 cup real maple syrup
  • 3 cups chicken stock (substitute vegetable stock if you like)
  • 1/4 cup cream or milk
  • 1/4 cup sour cream (for garnish, optional)
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Here is a batch roasted in a conventional oven.

Instructions
Roast the squash, apple/and or pear: Preheat oven to 375° F. Cut squash and apple and/or pear in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop out and discard the seeds and dark orange stringy flesh and the apple or pear core. Brush with a light coating of olive oil. Place squash and fruit cut side down on to a baking sheet.  Roast in pre-heated oven for 55-60 minutes or until very soft when you press on the top of the squash.
Remove from oven and using a spatula, flip the squash halves and fruit halves over and allow to cool a few minutes. Using a spoon, scoop all the roasted squash flesh out and in to a bowl, being careful not to take any of the skin.

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For the soup: In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, melt 2 Tbsp. butter over medium heat. Add diced onion and cook, stirring, until onion has softened and is translucent. Add the 4 cups of roasted squash and stir. Add the chicken stock (or vegetable stock) and stir to combine well. Bring to a light boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, then reduce heat to medium-low and allow to simmer, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes to blend the flavours. Add in the maple syrup and cinnamon. Using an immersion blender or in small batches in a blender, puree the soup just enough to remove any big chunks. It doesn’t need to be perfectly smooth unless you like it that way.
Taste soup. Add salt as needed and some freshly ground pepper. You may wish to add a splash more maple syrup, again, if needed.

At this point I cool and freeze any soup I have made for later. (Do not add the cream or milk before freezing.) Before serving, heat up the soup again and add the cream or milk. Garnish with some chopped parsley or croutons and a tablespoon of sour cream. I like to add a side of homemade corn bread.

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