Much as I love spring with its freshness and spring sprouts, colourful flowers and being able to see the ground again, I also love fall, with its crisp days and cold nights, bountiful harvest of comfort foods and homegrown fruits and vegetables.
It’s so rewarding to be able to pick squashes, potatoes, garlic, onions, tomatoes, parsley, thyme, oregano, tarragon and basil and combine all of that in one sumptuous dish that screams THANKS for all these fresh flavours.
I think that’s why I love this vegetable casserole so much. It’s such a traditional ritual now that we have it many times around this time of year when there’s lovely fresh basil to scatter a chiffonade on top of the hot vegetables as the casserole comes out of the oven.
And, how better to celebrate Thanksgiving than with a dish that exemplifies what we’re giving thanks for: fresh, homegrown food that we can cook up and share with the family and friends we love.
Sharing local foods when they’re in season with those we love is an important part of our social culture. All special occasions are marked by particular foods, from the birthday cake to the turkey at Thanksgiving; from the Canada Day barbecue to the spiral sandwiches traditionally served at wedding showers.
As the fall Okanagan Wine Festival wraps up this week, take a few hours to enjoy at least one special event, even if it’s just a visit to a local winery to pick up a perfect bottle of wine to pair with dinner, and in the process learn a little more about the industry that’s become such an important part of the economy of this valley.
For details of events, go to: www.thewinefestivals.com
If pairing wine and foods interests you, pick up a copy of my book, Jude’s Kitchen, which includes nearly 200 recipes like this vegetable casserole, for local food, in season, as well as wine pairings with B.C. wines, written as margin notes by renowned wine writer John Schreiner.
It’s available at such bookshops as Mosaic Books in downtown Kelowna, or the B.C.Wine Museum; Calona Vineyards Wine Shop and Quails’ Gate Estate Winery in West Kelowna.
Quick Blueberry Sorbet
A light dessert makes good sense after a heavy meal of turkey with its trimmings, and there’s little that’s lighter or more refreshing than a fruit sorbet. Use the B.C. blueberries you froze last month in this. Thanks to the B.C. Blueberry Council for this recipe.
1 c. (250 ml) water
1 1/2 c. (375 ml) sugar
1 lb. (500 g) frozen blueberries
1 tbsp. (15 ml) lemon juice
In a medium-sized pot, bring the sugar and water to a boil and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and cool.
In a blender, combine blueberries, half the syrup mixture and the lemon juice and blend until it’s smooth.
Taste and add more syrup if the mixture is not sweet enough.
Pour into a container or moulds and freeze until firm, about two or three hours.
If you have an ice cream maker, you could finish this in the ice cream maker.
Vegetable Layers with Basil & Cheese
This dish has wide appeal, even for those who profess not to care much for some of the individual components. Vary the cheeses with fresh parmesan or gouda in addition to the Swiss if you like. The vegetables used can also be varied according to what’s available. For instance, asparagus, other summer squashes and eggplant are all good in this as well.
We paired this with the 2012 Intrigue Wines Riesling, which was delicious, with loads of fresh orchard fruit balanced nicely with crisp citrus for a refreshing finish. It would be fabulous with turkey too.
2 cloves garlic
1/4 c. (60 ml) olive oil
2 large potatoes
1 large onion
1 1/2 c. (375 ml) swiss cheese
1 tbsp. (15 ml) fresh herbs
handful of fresh basil leaves
salt and pepper, to taste
Pre-heat oven to 425 F.
Use a fairly shallow casserole dish, about 9×12 inches.
Smush and peel the garlic cloves, mince and heat the garlic in the olive oil in a very small jug so the oil is flavoured with garlic.
Pour a wee drizzle in the bottom of the dish and spread it around.
Thinly slice the potatoes, onion, zucchini and tomatoes and grate cheese.
Arrange a layer of half of each vegetable, in that order, and sprinkle with salt and pepper, fresh herbs of your choice (parsley, oregano, thyme and even a little tarragon are all good), and some of the grated cheese.
Repeat with the remaining vegetables, topping them with the garlic and the oil, drizzled as evenly as possible, then top it with all with the remaining cheese.
Cook, uncovered, in a pre-heated oven for 40-50 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender when pierced with a skewer.
Pile the basil leaves and then roll them up from the side and slice them thinly.
Remove the vegetables from the oven and sprinkle the shredded fresh basil over the top.