greenola celebrates tradition

Geenola Organic

Since long before the invention of the refrigerator, each culture has practiced its own techniques and recipes for food preservation. For thousands of years pickling, fermenting, drying, salting, smoking and canning have all served as invaluable methods of keeping foods that would otherwise spoil. Today such products continue to contribute greatly towards the dishes they are served with (or become a part of) by adding flavours, aromas, textures and colours, as well as cultural and regional identity. Just think…..all that mango chutney brings to a fresh baked samosa, sauerkraut to a Bratwurst sausage, kimchi to a carnivorous Korean grill.....even tomato ketchup to the beloved French frie.

Though I consider myself to be a culturally diverse eater, I’d never experienced much in the way of Polish food until my friend, Agata Kosinski, introduced me to the line of organic pickles that make up her family’s nine year old food import business. Greenola is entirely imported from Poland where, up until the end of Communism in 1989, agricultural practices dictated small, collective farm holdings (average 7 hectares) and agricultural production made up a whopping 40% of Poland’s GNP (gross national product). Keep in mind that this had always been an entirely organic process. Under the communist regime, Poland simply did not have the means to incorporate industrialized food growing practices. What, at the time, seemed backward and inefficient, today allows for easy certification from the EU (European Union) as the farmland has never been anything but organic. Supporting today’s Polish farmers not only helps them maintain organic land, it also allows them to make their living while growing healthy and sustainable products that, in turn, help to keep their cultural heritage alive.

Greenola’s organic product line includes dill pickles, sliced or whole pickled beets (beets are the top sellers), traditional sauerkraut as well as sauerkraut with carrots (for extra sweetness and less ‘bite’). The Kosinski family moved to Canada from Poland in 1984, when Agata was just 10 years old. These days her father returns to Poland once a year to source new products. Planned additions to the line include roasted peppers, horseradish, pickled mushrooms, a cranberry preserve and a line of naturally sweetened juices. Greenola products can be found at Thrifty’s and Super Valu, as well as some IGAs and Commercial Drive shops.

Chlodnik Litewski (Cold Beet Soup)
Chlodnik (Cold Beet Soup)

This chilled summer soup is a refreshing traditional dish that is quick and easy to prepare (and pretty to serve). Make it 4-12 hours ahead of time and chill in the fridge, allowing the flavours to combine. Try it served with a really fresh slice of dark rye bread and a wedge of cheese that isn't afraid to stand up and be noticed. As the Polish would say, "Jedzcie, pijcie i popuszczajcie pasa"... "Eat, drink and loosen your belt".

1 ½ c buttermilk
2 tbsp sour cream mixed with 1 tbsp cold water
1/2 cucumber, quartered and sliced thin
4 medium radishes, halved and finely sliced
1 ¼ c cubed, sliced Greenola pickled beets
1 green onion, thinly sliced
2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
2 tbsp fresh dill, plus extra for garnish
S & P to taste

Mix the buttermilk and sour cream mixture in a bowl. Stir in the cucumber, radishes, beets, green onion, dill, salt & pepper. Leave in the fridge for 4-12 hours in the fridge, allowing the flavours to combine. Serve chilled, garnished with the hard boiled eggs and a sprig of dill. Serves 4.


pesto perfection

pesto with basil and cashews

I hate to admit it, but he was right. I met Marco one month ago, at a dinner hosting some of the students and faculty from Italy's University of Gastronomic Sciences. As dinner was being served, he and I stood away from the group having a lively conversation.....about pesto. Marco was very clear (and animated) when discussing his list of ingredients: basil, pine nuts, olive oil, garlic, salt and no cheese. According to him, parmigiano is only to be added later, at the time the pasta dish is being prepared. Though I'm the first to appreciate the passion and sensuality of an expressive Italian man..... I have sometimes found Italy's culinary rules to be tediously locked in tradition, lacking in creative flexibility. It did appear that he considered my substitution suggestions such as almonds for pine nuts and arugula for basil, though perhaps he was just being a polite guest on foreign soil? Regardless, I made a basil pesto last night that was probably the best I've ever made. It contained no cheese.....and cashews in place of pine nuts. Delizioso Marco!

Cashew Pesto

1 cup cashews, lightly toasted
3 cups fresh basil, washed and dried
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients together in a food processor. Store in the fridge in a tightly sealed container.


cafe talia

It was during my last visit to Salt Spring Island in July of 2007 that I first met Tony DePasquale, the talent and force behind Bloom Breads. Since then his partner, Helen Mears, had decided to create an island business of her own. Before the couple moved from Vancouver to Salt Spring, Helen had enjoyed 17 years as owner and operator of Mecca, a successful consignment clothing store located on Commercial Drive. Her extensive experience in retail certainly came in handy when she began directing her creative energies and business savvy towards a different kind of venture.....Cafe Talia. Located in the heart of Ganges in the original Salt Spring Telephone Exchange, this sweet little spot combines a casual European flair with a kicked back West Coast vibe. But it certainly didn't look that way when Mears took over the lease just 8 months ago. At the time the renovation began, the floors were mud, the building's exterior was covered in bramble bushes and the functioning indoor plumbing was a thing of the past. Today its bright and airy interior is decorated with bistro-style furnishings, a vintage chandelier and original art by Ian Thomas. Umbrella covered tables provide extra outdoor seating for those wishing to sip and nibble alfresco. Cafe Talia serves its customers beautifully barista-ed Ethical Bean coffees, fresh sandwiches and, of course, lots of delicious fresh baked goodies from Bloom Breads. Also available is a selection of Vij's take home Indian food, a perfect dinner alternative for locals, campers and boaters who are not in the mood to cook. Cafe Talia is located at 122 Hereford Ave., Salt Spring Island.

Cafe TaliaCafe TaliaCafe TaliaCafe Talia


going tribal- west coast seafood boil

Good Lord. I haven't written a damn thing in over a week. I did spend a good portion of my cyber-absence on Salt Spring Island, to attend the birthday party of my friend and former culinary school classmate, Myles. As he was very much in the mood to celebrate the arrival of his next year of life, he decided to prepare a spectacular and unique feast for his guests.....

Though I had never before experienced a seafood boil, I once saw an episode of Julia Child: Lessons With Master Chefs where she goes to Louisiana to visit a young Emeril Lagasse (during his pre-BAAM! days) to observe him making his version of a craw fish boil. This famous regional dish is made by first boiling up an enormous cauldron of specially seasoned water and then adding potatoes, onions, garlic, corn on the cob, lemon wedges and, finally, fresh craw fish. When all ingredients are fully cooked, the liquid is strained away and the piping hot contents are then scattered directly onto a newspaper or plastic covered table. This outdoor communal feast is eaten without cutlery, shell crackers or seafood forks....just bare hands, plenty of cold beer and lots of paper napkins. After Emeril has strewn his creation out onto a newsprint covered table, he sits down to lunch with Julia, teaching her how to suck the meat from the head of 'these mud bugs'. She ends the episode back in her studio kitchen, where she summarizes by referring to the dish as a 'terrific table'.

I think that the West Coast version Myles created was even more impressive than Emeril's. Substituting the craw fish with a seafood medley of local mussels, skate, whole crabs and B.C. spotted prawns made for a truly spectacular spread. The length of the table was decorated with small white dishes of hot sauce and home made aioli intended for dipping. Ice cold cans of Lucky Beer were not only thirst quenching libations.....it was soon discovered that slamming the base of a beer can onto a crab claw served as the perfect shell cracker, at times spraying milky crab juice onto fellow diners. As we devoured the feast and discarded our emptied shells onto piles of seafood shrapnel, we kept remarking at what a fun way it was to dine. Eating outdoors with our hands.....in celebration of our birthday boy, friendship and a bounty of beautiful food. I'll take tribal bonding over fancy restaurant dining any day. Especially that day.


gitte goes

I clearly remember doing a workshop excercise which required me to identify who in my life I considered to be the most creative. Immediately, my friend Gitte came to mind. The glamour and style she draws from her skills and experience as a makeup artist combined with a fantastic eye, an abundantly creative spirit, and a consistent joie de vivre all make for a stylishly crafty gal who, in turn, makes living a full, artfully expressive and adventurous life look delightfully fun (and effortless). On the day of my last visit she was sporting a t-shirt that read I (heart) LIFE, was in the process of making hand cut leather tiaras (see above) and had just completed painting her sun deck bright pink (also see above).

I have been a huge fan of her photographs for years. In the last few weeks, a montage of her food photos have found themselves adorning her kitchen cupboards, documenting good eats she has enjoyed on recent travel adventures to Thailand, Mexico, and L.A., as well as here at home in Vancouver. Gitte explains that having these images in plain view inspires her when feeling peckish, encouraging her to take those extra few minutes to prepare something fresh, healthy and tasty......as opposed to her earlier habit of reaching for chips or crackers. She now keeps her kitchen well stocked with a constant supply of fresh avocados, greens, garlic, chiles and cashews, as well as orange mint, lemon balm and chives which come from her own indoor herb garden. She also keeps some good tequila on hand....for balance.

A simple dish of green mango, beef, lime, garlic and mint proved to be Gitte's 'culinary highlight' and most inspiring food photo during a recent trip to Thailand (at 'Fruit' Restaurant in the mainland village of Pai) Gitte Photo.

Mango Crepes. Gitte Photo.

Fresh caught fish poached in a spicy broth, served in a shack at Railey Beach, Thailand. Fellow diners included construction workers, rock climbers and a few flies. Gitte Photo.

Cupboards in Gitte's kitchen serve as both a photo gallery and culinary inspiration. Gitte photos.


happy canada day, eh!

In any world menu, Canada must be considered the vichyssoise of nations; it's cold, half-French, and difficult to stir.
- Stuart Keate