Sunday, 2 October 2011

Farewell to summer

The clouds looming overhead, the chill in the late night air and the Calender prominently displaying 'October' indicate that summer is over. Yet the figs, tomatoes and nectarines in my kitchen suggest summer has not completely vanished. I am aware this is an illusion and so I decided to round up these final summer ingredients to make some decadent movie night snacks.

My bestest friend Jenny recommended I read a book by Carlo Petrini  called "Slow Food Nation - why our food should be good, clean and fair". I have barely begun to read this book but I can already tell that this is a book with a food philosophy worth living up to. Carlo Petrini introduces the book by describing what he calls the gastronome - a person who lives by a few simple principles. These principles may seem obvious but laying them out creates tangible guidelines that I am now starting to explore in my daily life. 

One characteristic of the gastronomes is that they trace larger problems in the world down to the food system. The gastronome seeks to explore this food system in a rigorous, complex and scientific manner and recognizes that this system is too complex for a sole individual to manage. The gastronome is motivated by a thirst for quality that can be both appreciated by and beneficial to many others. This quality is discovered though self-education and through community with others. Learning and exchanging information, ideas and findings freely with others that seek the same values can assist them in changing the world, even if just by a little. 

This is quite a grand concept for someone as new to the world of food exploration as myself but I love the idea that one can exert an influence over the world through food. I am intrigued by the concept that the more people that accumulate or are recruited with these same interests, the closer the world around us can become to our ideal. 

One simple (sort of) suggestion for supporting this quest is to eat local food; support your own nation and weaken the demand for mass-produced, agroindustrialized products imported from far away. In Canada, with our constantly changing seasons, this also means eating seasonally available food. I have always tried to eat locally (Canadian foods as much as possible) but seasonality is something I have not paid to much attention to before. 

My focus in the past few years has been to create meals that are delicious, that don't require meat and that also may hint to those around me that meat is not really needed to have a wonderful and satisfying meal. I am now going to challenge myself, to show myself, that I can also design my meals around local and seasonal food and try for example to eat less avocados that come from Mexico.

Well, that is where my blog will be headed over the coming autumn months but for now I am enjoying the last of the summer food-fare in my kitchen. The appetizers below are made with all local ingredients but are seasoned with non-local olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I am not ready to accept these staples from anyone but the Italians, but I think Carlo Petrini would be okay with that. I will figure that out as I continue to read...

Balsamic marinated bocconcini, tomatoes and nectarines

A delicious Okanagan nectarine was diced into cubes and tossed in a bowl with grape tomatoes and little fresh bocconcinis with a 5 year aged balsamic vinegar, basil infused olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground pepper. The tomatoes were stabbed with a fork a couple of times so they would soak up the dressing. The mix was marinated for about 15 minutes.
I served these on toothpicks with little basil leaves from the pathetic basil plant on my patio.

Raincoast crisps with figs, brie and balsamic-honey drizzle 

Fresh figs were thinly sliced and a Canadian double cream brie was sliced into thick pieces. The figs and brie were served on 'Fig and Olive' raincoast crisp crackers (made in BC). A small amount of balsamic vinegar and honey were whisked together and drizzled over the figs. The drizzle softened the crackers slightly and was a tangy and sweet addition.

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