Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Dried Corn Experiment

~karen hunter
The corn we grew last summer was, in my Eastern Canadian opinion, not very tasty. Of course, I've had GREAT Comox Valley corn, but apparently we failed to grow the sweet, juicy kind I was hoping for. So what to do with a few rows of corn that you don't want to eat fresh or freeze?

Being a huge fan of the Rebar cookbook, I am known to make its version of buttermilk corn cakes with blueberries (p. 74). The ingredients call for both fine and stone ground corn meal. I will admit absolutely that this recipe was the sole reason that I decided to harvest and husk all the somewhat dry and drying corn from the garden in late August last year. The experiment to make my own corn flour was born.

There may be something a little crazy about having 50 cobs of corn sitting quietly in a warm, dry and dusty kitchen. I'll let you decide. The experiment resulted in a scene that included cobs balancing on a homemade drying rack (meant for pasta). We waited a few weeks before hulling the cobs to ensure the kernels were bone dry. Despite all the waiting, the result was pretty fantastic! Oh, and the TASTE!!!

It worked so well that I have used most of the dried kernels in various pancakes, waffles and corn breads. Being the recent owner of a new Estrella tortilla press, you know what I'll be up to next in the kitchen to finish the last of my beloved kernels. I can't wait to grow corn just to be able to dry it all over again.

Now, you may be wondering - how to crush hard kernels into meal or flour? For that I used what has come to be a trusty friend. It makes amazing fresh and tasty flour, and it can be adjusted to pastry-fine texture or like stone ground. It also provides a form of light exercise on cold and rainy days... The contraption I use is a "Country Living Grain Mill" ( You can purchase electric models as well, but we like having our mill as a permanent fixture in the kitchen and it was a few hundred dollars cheaper than a quailty electric model. Either way, Happy Grinding!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Upcoming Cooking Classes and Events

Local Cuisine

A cooking class that focuses strictly on local foods and helps you find out where to buy ingredients!

June 14 and 21, 7-9pm.
Karen Hunter and Carrie Holt, instructors

Register through Nanaimo Parks and Recreation

Cooking Classes will be held at the Bowen Complex.

Wild Greens Festival
by invitation from the Nanaimo Area Lands Trust (NALT)
April 24, day-long event at Bowen Complex and Bowen Park.

We will be hosting our market table and offering a 10-mile diet appetizer using a *not so secret* wild plant ingredient. Looking forward to seeing you there!

Welcome to our first post!

~karen hunter
Looking at this picture taken in the deep of last summer, I find myself longing for not only the taste of these fine fruits, but more the anticipation of them being of good enough size to pick, and the satisfying, yet troubling moment of removing the food from the plant itself. People say gardening helps to establish the connection between people and their food. Rightly so, but I do find the statement somewhat unspecific. In my recent experience, it is the exact moment of harvest, of sacrifice, of both the plant and the harvester that makes the food-person bond the strongest. It is the moment of receiving a reward after quite a lot of giving, and the quietness that notes the movement of the season towards inevitable winter with the removal of each reward. Ho-Hum. Thankfully spring is here!

Recipe Talk
For now I'm concentrating on using the last of the frozen summer squash from last season. I've been trying to avoid making a cake. Why, you ask? Well, it's because I discovered chocolate beet cake and have had quite a lot of that lately (I use frozen beets for that as well but I'll share that recipte another time soon). For now, frozen, soggy zucchinni is what I'm left with and cake is out of the question.

I had a brocoli soup flavoured lightly with cilantro not long ago at Mon Petit Chou ( It was delightful and I bet some cilantro would be a nice combination with summer squash and bringten up my frozen soggy squashy mess. Here's the recipe I'm going to try, adapted from Curtis Aikens. I'll let you know how it turns out.

* 1 tablespoon butter
* 1 1/4 pounds zucchini, crookneck or pattypan squash, roughly chopped
* 1 large onion, chopped
* 6 cups Vegetable Stock
* 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
* 1 1/2 tablespoons butter, softened
* 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
* Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
* Sour cream or plain yogurt as an accompaniment


Heat the butter in a large saucepan or stockpot, add zucchini and onion. Saute for 5 minutes or until onions are translucent. Then add stock, bring to a gentle boil, reduce heat and partially cover and cook for 15 minutes. Add cilantro during the last 5 minutes of cooking. Mix the butter and flour together into a paste. Remove 1 cup of simmering stock and whisk in butter mixture until smooth. Add back into soup, stir until thickened. Remove soup from heat to a blender and puree until smooth. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt (Island Farms is local).

Local Food for Nanaimo is a volunteer group that works in the Nanaimo community to promote local foods. Our mission is to provide help and access to local foods information combined with cooking skills. We host a market stall at the Bowen Road Farmer's Market every Wednesday between May and October. We also teach cooking classes using local ingredients in the spring and fall with the city of Nanaimo (look for Local Cuisine under the Cooking section).