Saturday, February 19, 2011

A new day dawns, and a new journey begins.

HEN last you heard from your dear intrepid adventurers, I'd had a complete meltdown over my inability to remember what non-local foods tasted like, and Nathaniel had gone completely AWOL because of various work responsibilities. That was six months ago, and needless to say, a great deal of change has happened since then.

We did manage to adhere to the 100 Mile Challenge until mid September, at which point we abandoned it with much gusto and curled up with bowls of awesomeness at Thai Elephant on Queen West. Digging into a bowl of padh thai after three months of having no exposure to any spices was almost transcendental: I'm not over-exaggerating when I say that I got teary-eyed as I ate, and I have a vague memory of Sir N cradling his bowl of green curry rather tenderly. It was quite an interesting experience in terms of basking in flavours we were no longer accustomed to -- without regular exposure to those spices and seasonings, our taste buds had become more acute, and we found that we had greater sensitivity to subtleties in the foods we'd been eating. While before the challenge, I might have huffed in a bowl of said padh thai without much thought (probably whilst reading a book), this meal was a symphony to my senses, and I think we spent as much time talking about what we were tasting, as eating the meal itself.

In November, we moved into a new apartment close to the High Park area, and have been making regular sojourns to check out this part of town. Never having lived around here, we're reveling in the artistry of the area's Arts and Crafts homes, and we're both drawing a lot of inspiration from our surroundings for our own art and writing practices.
Since we're so fond of delving into this city's history, we're currently in the process of compiling a list of historical places within 100 Miles of our town that we're interested in exploring (including the multitude of fascinating nooks around Toronto itself, of course!) and the 33 Leagues form York blog is evolving into a celebration of Toronto and its surroundings.

There will be postings from dear Sir N and myself on topics such as:

- The architecture and history of various buildings
- Gardens and wild spaces
- Farmer's markets (and recipes to go along with foods purchased at them!)
- Wild foods that can be foraged and whereabouts one can do so
- Native species, their habitats, and why we find them interesting
- Dates that have historical significance (and any festivals surrounding them)
- Various other happenings around Toronto that pique our curiosity
...and so much more.

So the new journey begins, and with it, a meal to launch this mighty ship.
It's far (FAR) from anything we would have eaten in our 100 Mile challenge, and I'm more than happy to celebrate that. In fact, I may light a candle in thanks to whoever established the spice trade to begin with.

Our repast this evening consisted of hand-made flour tortillas, black bean mash, pico de gallo, guacamole, plain 1% yogurt in lieu of sour cream, shredded old cheddar, and sliced limes. This was served with a side of corn bread, but it wasn't pretty enough to take a picture of.
Just imagine perfect, golden wedges of cumin-laced cornbread deliciousness.
Great, thanks!

I can't give any recipe measurements per se because neither Nathaniel nor I actually use recipes or measurements when we're cooking. I can tell you that I've found the most perfect cornbread recipe EVER, and will be using this for all future cornbread-ish endeavors.

There's a trick to making really exquisite pico de gallo as well: if you're like me in that you're not fond of having mouthfuls of raw onion to contend with, try mincing the onion very finely and allowing it to cure in lime juice for 10-15 min before adding in the tomatoes and cilantro. The sweetness of the onion will come through along with a subtle bite, but that manky, overpowering "onion-y-ness" won't assault your face or come back to haunt you later.
The hand-made tortillas are super easy as well: just flour and a bit of baking powder and salt mixed with a 50/50 solution of water and oil until it makes a roll-able dough. These are rolled out into flat rounds that are approximately 6 inches in diameter, then thrown onto a hot (ungreased!) pan on high heat,  and tossed around back and forth until the bubbly bits start to go brown. The oil content keeps them pliant so you can fill them with all manner of deliciousness and then roll the up for easy devourings.
*Note: For my own cornbread, I substitute unsweetened organic soy milk mixed with a tiny bit of water in lieu of cow's milk.

With the exception of the cheese and sour cream, this meal was completely vegan and could be made entirely so with the use of vegan sour cream and cheese alternatives. Since we're not vegan (as mentioned before, Nathaniel is lacto-ovo veggievore and I'm a "pescetarian") we revel in dairy delicacies rather often, but it's nice to know that we can tweak recipes so our vegan friends can indulge in the food we create as well.

More to come soon!  I'm now going to curl up with a lovely cup of PG Tips and a book, and wish you all a wondrous weekend.