Farmhouse Ribs

IMG_7764Summer is full on now, no dew in the mornings, and warm breezes through the night, with lots of eating out of doors, watering of gardens, and chatting in the shade. The cows hunker down in the copses in the valley for the afternoon, flicking their tails, and chewing their cuds. The three horses all gather in our big walk-in shelter, waiting until the afternoon heat subsides. In the late afternoon, we take the dogs down to the beach for a swim and retrieve session, cooling us all down. July on the Gulf Islands is only surpassed by August on the Gulf Islands.

We gather more often for casual meals in the summer, most likely because it’s easier. No one wears much of anything anyhow; flip-flops and cut-offs are our A-list of fashion. It feels easier to drop what you’re doing, come on over, get a cold beverage, and visit while dinner gets ready.

I have no concerns about braising meats in the summer. It doesn’t really matter if the oven’s on low for several hours, as we’ll be eating outdoors anyhow. One of my favourite summer meals is ribs & coleslaw, we usually have some bread or rice to accompany it, and maybe some pickles, and if we’re really being fancy, a tossed salad. The ribs get braised for 3 hours, and can be cooked just before finishing them, or the day before, ready to be glazed with the BBQ sauce.   They still taste wonderful, and the meat falls off the bone. I put out a big dish of them, letting folks take as many as they want, with lots of napkins to clean off sticky fingers.

We sit and talk until dusk, most of the meal is put away, but we’re still lured to stay put, enjoying the few first cooler breezes of the night. These nights the sky is light well past 9:00, but by the end of August, we’ll be finishing our outdoor dining in the flickering light of candles and mini lights, while we watch the stars get brighter above. Continue reading

Glazed Harissa Spiced Pork Ribs with Roasted Oranges

IMG_7642Our community is often on the look out for great fund-raising ideas for our little island for different social assistance programs, the school, and maintaining & improving our community hall. The essentials are that it be interesting enough to attract at least 30% of our population, be something that we can pull off with the expertise we have at hand, and an event that makes the most money possible given the first two requirements.

One year we decided to do a walk-a-thon to raise funds. We don’t have a circuitous route on Thetis, so we had boats move us from one road end point to another. Already we had a built in infrastructure consideration that made the walk more interesting! The walk was planned for a Saturday morning, so some of us realized that most people would already be here the night before, so why not feed them?

I led the group, and we served big servings of lasagne and Caesar salad. This was the event that I created my Roasted Vegetable Lasagne for. We sold 80 tickets for $15 within the first three days, and as there were only 350 residents on the island that was pretty good!

Then my head started tumbling over ideas… If we already had a captive audience, how about doing some sort of auction?

Our house is full of art. We have many pieces waiting to get hung if another piece gets moved. What if others are in the same boat? What if some of that art isn’t ever going to get hung? What if we had an auction where folks could put the art up for auction whether it’s a print or an original; acquired or created by themselves? What about artisans? Before I knew it, the idea had created itself!

By the time of the event, we had a beautiful quilt, original sketches, acrylics, funny little thrift shop finds, and some amazing current and antique prints offered for sale.

I can’t remember how much money we made that night, but I do remember the quilt being sold for $1,500. Many people took home new art, as well as selling one of their own pieces.

The weekend was a huge success, and although we didn’t offer the art auction again the next year, the walk-a-thon continued on for several years raising money for our little one room schoolhouse.

A decade or so later, in 2011, the community dusted off the idea of an art auction. Instead of being a last minute idea, we would take the time to figure out logistics, and try to make it a “huge” event. This year will be our 4th in a row, and each year has done substantially better than the past.

The main draw, besides an awesome evening out, is the dinner. We have decided to go with a Moroccan inspired meal this year, so from an appetizer tent to the main meal served on linen clad tables on the tennis court, every item draws from the southern shores of the Mediterranean.

I spent most of a day figuring out this recipe for this year’s event. Braising the ribs in harissa spiced orange juice, and incorporating roasted oranges to the final glaze, which elevated a basic rib recipe into something exotic. The ribs can be glazed either on the barbeque (as we’ll be doing for the event) or simply glazed in the oven, as I’ve done with them here. Continue reading

Pan-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Dijon Cream Sauce

IMG_6205Last weekend we were catering for a large group, with multiple meals.  Menus were gone over carefully making sure we weren’t duplicating anything, and that each meal would be memorable on its own.

Dish selection for buffets can be quite difficult, when you’ve got the same group of people back again the next night. The two most useful meats for a buffet are chicken & pork.  If you go to other poultry or red meat, there should be an alternate. Time and space constraints were at play last weekend, as well as sticking to a tight budget.

We served chicken the first night as part of a casual Indian inspired buffet.  The second night was to be a bit more formal, so we did herb crusted pork loin with roasted potatoes, glazed carrots, broccolini, and Waldorf salad after some appetizers and before a dessert of blackberry compote filled Pavlovas with orange cream and pistachio crumb.

The smell of the herb-crusted roasts was fantastic, and we wanted to support that sensation with a great sauce to serve over the cut slices of pork.  I used a Dijon cream sauce that I typically make while deglazing a pork tenderloin pan. It is super easy, and always works.   Pork tenderloin is quick and tender, and can be on the table in about half an hour, which gives you just enough time to cook a side, and make a salad.  Continue reading

Herb Crusted Pork Roast

IMG_5394When my parents would visit my younger sister and I in our apartment in the late 70’s (returning to the city from their back-to-the-land adventures on Thetis Island) I would try to make a really sumptuous feast at least once during their visit.  I can remember buying a huge pork roast (in reality it was probably no more than four pounds) to serve one night.  I carefully sliced it through almost to the bone, every couple of inches, and stuffed it with nuts, herbs, and dried fruits.  There wasn’t a recipe to follow, it was just an idea I had.  I stuck garlic slices into it, and salt & peppered the fat.  I roasted it on low until the meat could be pulled from the bone.  I still have no idea what cut of pork it was, but its flavour holds fast in my memory.

Pork does so well when treated to a good crust or stuffing, or the both.  This herb & salt mix takes the humble pork butt roast to an amazing centerpiece.  The butt is full of flavour due to the lines of fat that run through it. The fat pulls the flavours in and through it.  Let it sit at room temperature for one hour after covering it with the seasoning.  It will give the pork a chance to take advantage of all you have offered it. Continue reading

Pulled Pork

IMG_2510We used to raise pigs.  We started with two, Murdoch and Ogilvie.  Each year they would arrive in the spring, and be butchered in the late fall.  The next spring we’d go pick up that year’s version. And so on.  Until we decided three would be better.  The third became McIntyre, named for our dear Saeko’s publishing company.

When my sister was writing “The Lotus Eaters”, she morphed the names into Mortimer and Ogilvie for the film’s two pigs, and her production company.  At some point the three pigs, became Mortimer, Ogilvie and McIntyre.

The joy of raising a few pigs is their personality and stubbornness.  They are funny, smart and bond to their handlers.  We also were able to have exactly what cuts and curing we desired.  There is something very special about smoked jowl.  The sticky sweetness of it cannot be replicated.

Our pig years ran simultaneously to our dairy goat years.  The pigs loved the goat’s milk, which we’d mix with crushed barley, apples and malformed carrots.  They grew beautifully on this feed, and the meat had a richness that we’ve never tasted since.

Our neighbours at Jollity Farm are now growing a few pigs each year, and they have a couple of dairy goats as well.  As they have a large market garden, their pigs get lots of fresh veg, too.  We’re looking forward to some more “real” pork! Continue reading