Jun. 13, 2012 - Issue #869: Quiet Heart
Pedalling Edmonton's food landscape
That's exactly what Sarah Chan and Leanne Brown hope people will do with the help of their cookbook, Velo Fare, which is comprised of recipes the duo put together through local shoppping excursions in hidden treasures of Edmonton's food landscape beyond the big chain spots. The pair cycle year-round, and while winter cycling may not be the most appealing time to get peddling, the warm summer months give you just enough time to explore before the snow hits again.
The idea began as a fun project for Chan, a music teacher who runs the blog Girls and Bicycles, and Brown, who has since relocated to New York City to get her masters degree in food studies from NYU.
"It was something fun to do, but it was also a way of having something concrete to kind of pay tribute to our city, which is, you know, not one of those Top Five cities that people want to visit before they die or anything. It's Edmonton; it's home," Chan says, adding the feeling of escape and adventure people seek by going on vacation can be replicated at home, despite it seeming much less exciting. "There's a way to experience the joie de vivre that you seek when you're away everyday, even if it's just Edmonton."
Brown can't remember a time when biking hasn't been part of her life, and said compiling the cookbook seemed like a natural fit for the pair's shared interest in local markets.
"Alberta has historically been a farming community, and I think we're doing a better job of embracing that and starting to support it," she says of Edmonton's food scene, adding that this is aided by organizations like Live Local. "People are being brave and making new products and realizing that there actually is a market for good, hand-made food now ... I think if it's nurtured it'll only get better."
This discovery means moving away from the fail safe routine and taking the time to explore areas like the south Italian Market on 34 Street, Little India or, as Chan found out, Lucky 97 Supermarket to find unique vegetables and herbs, as she did with Thai basil to replace mint leaves in mojitos.
"You can find the neatest stuff and it's so inexpensive. You can also get a lot of ideas for things you otherwise wouldn't care to try," she adds.
Brown suggests taking advantage of the abundance of fresh, locally grown produce available in the summer. A personal favourite for her is the H&W Produce Market.
"It's readily available and makes any meal better," she says of fresh produce, which she sees as one of the best parts of summer in Edmonton. "I think our book is a celebration of summer; the short months when we really get out and live."
There's a common misconception that there isn't an opportunity to have a high-end global dining experience without buying into a brand, Chan notes, but says she's discovered the opposite through her cycling travels. She says if people are willing to look locally, they'll be amazed at the quality in terms of the product as well as service. Chan believes Edmonton's local food culture is growing and by becoming active participants in the community by getting out and supporting it, it creates a bigger sense of community and a more enjoyable experience in the city.
However, ditching the car does mean a change in shopping for the week. Chan says she goes two or three times a week for smaller amounts of fresh food, rather than overbuying and throwing everything in the freezer. The payoff is that it allows people to stay active and get out and participate in the community in a new way than the solitary confinement of driving.
Southeast Asian Mojitos
(for as many as you like)
2 sticks lemongrass, smashed
10 kaffir lime leaves
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
6 – 7 thai basil leaves, well muddled
1/2 oz lime juice
1 oz rum
1 oz syrup
Start by making the syrup. Only the bottom five centimetres of the lemongrass are usable. Cut off everything else and only use the white core. Smash the lemongrass with the back of your knife to release the oils. On low heat, add all the syrup ingredients to a pot. Let the syrup come to a boil. Once all the sugar has dissolved, take it off the heat. Leave it to cool on the stove for a few minutes and then transfer to the fridge for two to three hours to soak up the flavour of the lemongrass and lime leaves and cool. Before you use the syrup, strain it.
To make the drink, put the thai basil leaves and the lime juice into a mortar or small bowl. Crush the leaves with the pestle or some other blunt object. Add a bit of sugar to the leaves if they are not getting crushed enough. You want to really release their oils. Once that is done, prepare a small glass with ice and add your rum and syrup to it. Add your muddled leaves and lime juice and stir it well. Top the glass up with sparkling water and some ice to serve.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp cardamom powder (optional)
½ to 1 cup pistachios, crushed
2 cups milk
2 tbsp butter, melted
In one bowl, add all your dry ingredients (including the pistachios) and whisk together. In another bowl, whisk together the milk, melted butter, and the eggs. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and gently stir until everything is just incorporated but still a bit lumpy.
Put a nonstick pan on medium heat. Test the pan with a few drops of water. If they sizzle, it's ready. Add a ladleful of pancake batter to the pan (make the pancakes whatever size you like) and wait until it has bubbles around the edge. Flip the pancake. Wait until the bottom gets just dry. Take it out of the pan and repeat with the rest of the mixture until you're out.
1 cup clear honey
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 large orange, zested and juiced
6 green cardamom pods, crushed
1 cinnamon stick
Add all the ingredients to a pot and put it on medium heat. Bring it to a boil and then turn it down to simmer on low heat for 10 minutes, leaving it undisturbed. Next, take it off the stove and leave for a few hours to let the flavours absorb into the syrup.
When ready to use, pour the syrup through a mesh strainer. Don't worry about getting the orange zest out—you just want to make sure that the large spices are not in the syrup.
Pour it onto hot pistachio pancakes and enjoy!
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