Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Viva Las Veggies

On my walkabouts around the town of Cowes on Phillip Island yesterday, I noticed a cookware store advertising cooking classes.

I popped in to the store to check the lineup of classes and noted that their popular re-run is Vegetarian Meals for Meat Lovers.

I'd already posted my Meatless Monday essay, but if I were to add a one line addendum it might read thus: Australians are slowly embracing the idea that a meal can be complete without meat.

I've also been back into the island supermarket (Coles) several times and I don't believe I've seen one person using those cloth bags I photographed to carry out their groceries.

I have seen lots of plastic bags being used (large paper bags aren't available), which makes me think no one cares about the small tax applied to plastic bag usage. And obviously they haven't been banned from stores on Phillip Island as they have elsewhere in Australia.

After my online research revealed that the bright orange yolks in my breakfast eggs are the result of synthetic caratanoids, I wandered into the local, independently-owned health food store to inquire about their eggs.

There, I was able to buy eggs from free-ranging hens that had not been fed food enhanced with any agent that would their yolks.

This morning I boiled one of the eggs, and chopping it up on my Vegemite-coated rice cake sure enough, the yolk was normal mellow yellow.

While at the health food store, I asked the proprietor about the availability of organic vegetables on Phillip Island. Apparently Coles periodically carries them, though I haven't seen any since my arrival a week ago.

Then out-of-the-blue a bloke behind me said, "If you're looking for good organics, try Viva Las Veggies." Loving that clever name, I couldn't resist wanting to know more.

As it turns out, one of Phillip Island's farmers grows organic veggies and then delivers orders to locals, on this 20 by 5-mile wide island, who find out about his great service word of mouth.

It seems to me a farmer's market is waiting to happen in this rural spot, though having said that, there is an open-air market on one of two other nearby islands in Western Port Bay.

Accessible by bridge from the north-east end of Phillip Island, Churchill Island plays host to a year-round farmer's market on the fourth Saturday of each month.

I remember a fantastic selection local cheeses, fresh flowers, condiments, pastries and regional organic fruits and veggies there a number of years ago. I'm guessing Mr. Viva Las Veggies sells his cornucopia of organics there now too.

I doubt that the chunky vegetable, nut and cheese dips I featured last week are organic; well they're not labeled as such. Nevertheless, I bought another flavor at Coles, this time Red Capsicum with Feta and Cashews.

That's it in the pic to left (and the one next to it is Beetroot).

Using the recipe I posted last Thursday, swap out the baby spinach leaves for red bell pepper (sometimes referred to as red capsicum in Australia) and swap out the Parmesan for feta.

You will need to either grill or blanch the bell pepper and then peel off the outer fibrous membrane before coarsely chopping the softened flesh and mixing it with the other ingredients.

As you can see in the pic above, I topped another fish meal with the tasty dip.

Steamed Baba and Bok Choy with Red Pepper Dip
Note: Basa is a freshwater farmed, mild-tasting tropical fish, like the mild white fish I was posting about a couple of weeks ago.
1) Wash and chop a baby bok choy and a handful of any other colorful veggies you have in your fridge.
2) Either put the veggies in a steamer or into a pot with a small amount of water.
3) Place a fillet of mild-tasting fish over the veggies (you might like to marinade the fish for an hour of so first in canola oil, lime juice or white white, a pinch of chili, salt and pepper).
4) Squeeze the juice of half a lemon or live over the contents of the pot or steamer and put the lid in place.
5) Turn heat to high and once the water is boiling, turn heat to low and let the fish and veggies stead for about 5-7 mins.

To Serve: Spoon vegetables onto a plate, gently placing the fish atop. Lay sliced pieces of avocado over the fish; add a spoonful of the red pepper dip over the avocado. If you have black olives or capers on hand, you might like to top the lot with one these salty additions. Squeeze the remaining half of the lemon or lime over the meal.

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