Friday, July 23, 2010

Northern Underexposure, And Corn Salad With Zucchini Bread

I do this thing that drives Husband crazy, and not in a good way. Whenever we're driving out of town, I'll usually find myself saying something like "Let's go visit a local dairy!" with the hopes of picking up some freshly churned ice cream, or a few pint glass bottles full of local milk that came from long lashed cows named Bitsy and Dotty Jo, milked by kindly-dispositioned farmers sitting on wooden stools. I think I'm labouring under the misapprehension that there are dairies and creameries dotting the province's northern landscape like stars in the night sky, just waiting for wide-eyed city folk like me to come by. Husband usually rolls his eyes and does this deep exhalation thing, "Hhhhaaaaa", and I'm left to contemplate why my fairytale vision of rural Ontario is so ridiculously out of touch with reality.

There's a part of me that's sure it's not like this at all. I'm quite confident the Rockwellian version of farming I've internalized through movies and fiction is all wrong, is just another faraway idea I've built in my head to escape to when city life sometimes loses its lustre.
But even more so, I think at heart I romanticize because I want to forge some kind of connection with the food that's grown here, in our country. I want to believe that the produce, the meats, the milks and cheeses and grains I buy have been lovingly tended, produced and sold by the folks who yielded them. I want to rinse my imagination of the realities of industrial-sized farms, unnaturally fattened animals in cages, hormone-injected meat, pesticide run-offs.

So I suppose for someone like me who eschews what is for what should be, getting my Good Food Box is the perfect compromise. I get mostly local produce to play with, the farmers get a fair deal and Husband gets to keep his sanity on road trips. (Actually, he doesn't. I don't foresee a point in the future where I don't ask about local dairies. I can't help myself.)

So with last week's box and a lunch date with my best friend, I decided to make a corn and zucchini salad and some zucchini bread. I want to note that this was NOT the most awesome corn I've ever eaten. While I'm a firm believer that fresh is always better than frozen or canned, I don't think we're yet in the heart of corn season, and these cobs were a little ornery, a little stingy with the flavour. These cobs had been woken up too early and were fighting deliciousness all the way.

I pan-fried the corn kernels I'd sliced off with some chopped up zucchinis in some olive oil and a dash of oregano, just until everything was a bit softened. I set it aside to cool while I made the zingy dressing;

I put it together with some avocados, a bit of tomato, a mountain of fresh cilantro and green onions and set it aside. While the flavours sat around getting to know each other, I got the zucchini bread ready with some arm-aching grating;

My KitchenAid mixer in Cobalt Blue was a flurry of motion;

And after a spell in the oven (who's been behaving quite well indeed lately, necessitating, for now, the removal of the descriptor "Demonic") out came a lovely little loaf with flecks of the green zucchini and a tasty texture that hovered between muffin and cake;

I packed everything up and biked over to my best friend's workplace, now ravenous from my morning's industriousness; a hunger that makes food taste like a miracle when you finally sit down to eat. And I realized that the life cycle of a meal - from raw ingredients and recipe, to preparing, to cooking and eating with a beloved friend - was perhaps the most heartfelt connection I could make with my food.

Corn And Zucchini Salad With Zingy Dressing:

2-3 ears of corn, kernels shaved off the cob
1 large zucchini, diced
1-2 tbsp olive oil
A healthy pinch of oregano
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tomato cut into small pieces (if you like tomato, use more! I only had a half.)
1 ripe avocado, diced
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup packed cilantro leaves, finely chopped
salt and pepper, to taste


1. In a large skillet over medium heat, warm up the olive oil. Add the corn and zucchini, oregano and cayenne and stir frequently till the corn and zucchini are softened but not too broken down. Set aside to come to room temperature.

2. Once cooled, add the rest of the ingredients and top with the dressing. It's best to let this sit a few hours, and is even better the next day.

Zingy Dressing:

2-3 tbsp olive oil
juice and zest of 1 lime
dash of honey
1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (more or less, to your taste)
1/2 tsp chili powder
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients. Whisk till well mixed and pour over salad.

Zucchini Bread, from Joy Of Baking: (I didn't use the nuts or frosting that was part of the original recipe, but I bet they'd taste amazing with this loaf)

1 cup zucchini, grated
1/2 cup apple, peeled and grated
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup vegetable, safflower, corn or canola oil
1 cup white sugar (I cut it down to 3/4 cup and it was great)
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a regular sized loaf pan. In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients; from the flour to the nutmeg.

2. In stand mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add the grated zucchini and apple; then the flour mixture, beating till just combined. Pour batter into loaf pan and bake for approximately 50-60 minutes, or until a tester knife comes out clean. Let cool properly before slicing.



    No more excuses... it's near both Orangeville and Fergus... and they do tours and have a store. :)

  2. I would visit a local dairy anytime with you, and thanks to the above link it is possible. P can keep husband sane!

  3. Jocelyne, thanks very much for the info! I see a day trip coming in my near future!

    Melissa, let's do it! (As soon as the car gets fixed!!!)

  4. it's not cows, but it's a Goat Farm you can visit!

    I'll keep looking for a Cow Farm :)
    They are out there! Just waiting for you. :)


    Missed this one, but I bet there will be more! :)

  6. Candice, I think I just heard a husband-like groan from the next room. But I can't be sure, because I was too busy squealing with delight at the prospect of vising a GOAT FARM! Thanks for the tip!!!