Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day Down Under

I'm on a small island a couple hours SE of Melbourne, Australia, a beautiful spot that feels very removed from the rest of the world.

Perhaps the position of Phillip Island at the bottom of the globe (directly south and you reach Tasmania, then Antarctica) is the reason it's not obvious that it's earth day today -- either that or the locals don't give it credence.

However, when I picked up some groceries in the local market the other day I snapped a pic of some cloth carry bags (above) in the entryway.

The print on the bag says, "Bringing your own bag is a small step to help the planet." Australia, like a number of other countries, either tax usage of plastic carry bags or have banned them altogether.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about the overuse of plastic produce bags (and plastic carry bags). There were a couple of reader responses to that post worth including here:

"Maybe we should buy more permanent bags for our produce, and re-use those bags elsewhere."

I thought Michael's idea was a good one and then a couple days later Dawn suggested this:

"I have several large organic cotton bags I use for produce. Some are mesh and some are woven. You can get woven and cotton ones at Greater Goods.

My response to Dawn's suggestion and link: "Thanks Dawn, I think BYO linen/mesh/woven bags will (need to) be the wave of the future for bagging loose, fresh produce."

Honor Earth Day and consider investing in a number of cloth bags and use them to collect loose produce at the grocery store, farmer's market or wherever you shop for your fruit and veggies.

In addition to noting the cloth bag at the market on the island, I collected my loose mix of bitter salad greens in a "mushroom bag," a very thin paper bag that keeps mushies from deteriorating.

Rather than reach for a plastic bag to contain my greens, I used the paper mushroom bag because it seemed the lesser of the two evils: plastic or paper.

The loose mix of salad greens here is comparable in price to what I'm used to paying at Whole Foods in Boulder (around $6 a pound), though there was no indication that the mix was organic.

There was quite a bit more radicchio in the mix too, which I plucked out in order to create a bed of purple bitters as the basis of my leftover meal (pic below).

As I mentioned yesterday, I intended making a meal using a leftover 3 oz piece of seared salmon cooked the night before.

The salmon is Tasmanian Atlantic salmon, though the bloke behind the counter at the specialty butcher on the island where I bought the salmon didn't know much about it other than he thought it was wild caught versus farm raised. (The website indicates that Tasmanian Atlantic salmon is farm-raised.)

The price was much the same as what I'm used to paying for Coho salmon, though I have to say the flavor of Tasmanian Atlantic salmon is superior. In fact, I have no problem believing the accolade that it "ranks among the best salmon in the world."

To have atop the salmon, I bought a Chunky Dip of baby spinach, cashew nut and Parmesan.

Containers of vegetable dips flavored, nuts, spices, and cheese are now as ubiquitous as Vegemite and Tim Tams in the food markets here.

The list of ingredients looked pretty straightforward: spinach, cashew nuts, Parmesan, and Canola oil. And as the brand suggests, it is chunky, chunkier than say pesto, an oil, nut and cheese-based sauce for pasta.

And as you can see from the pic below, it's thick. I spooned the Chunky Dip onto the salmon and it just sat there without slipping off.

And the ingredient I added to give zest to the dip was chopped lemon -- peel and flesh. Without the lemon, the dip was a tad rich by virtue of the canola oil, cashew nuts and cheese.

Spinach, Nut and Lemon Dip
If you'd like to try making your own dip, in a bowl combine the following:
1) Half a bunch of washed and drained baby spinach.
2) Some coarsely chopped cashews.
3) Several slices of lemon chopped into chunks and a squirt of juice too.
4) Light olive or canola oil to bind the ingredients.
5) Salt, pepper, a pinch of chili and a splash of white or rice wine vinegar to taste.
6) And enough finely grated Parmesan to thicken the dip.

Tasmanian Atlantic Salmon Salad
1) As you can see, I assembled my meal by lining the plate with radicchio leaves from my bag of mixed greens.
2) Then I added a half a grated granny smith apple to radicchio and sprinkled it with dried cranberries.
3) The leftover piece of salmon went next and a spoonful of the spinach, nut, lemon and Parmesan dip topped the lot.
4) I cut a thick slice of avocado into pieces and spread it about the plate and then drizzled the juice from the remaining chunk of lemon over the meal.

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