(*NOTE: This the third in a multi-part series chronicling the extreme, sustainable, yumm-osity of Canada’s Pacific Rim. MyWholeDeal.com was generously hosted by Tourism Tofino to attend Grazing in Gardens, the main event of the Tofino Food and Wine Festival, and to experience what Tofino, BC, has to offer a clean-eating traveler. Special thanks to Kirsten Soder and the friendly folks of Tofino, BC. Be sure to read part 1 and part 2 and check out my posts on the Get Fresh Guide blog)
The Part in Which We Stuff Ourselves Silly and Continue to Get Silly
Miraculously, the majority of our party made it back to the Ocean Village fully clothed and 84% coherent. This is not to say that there were not issues. For instance, although I was also 84% sure that I abandoned my progeny several hundred kilometres back, there was a small child and a babysitter occupying our cabin upon arrival. She was cute, so we allowed her to stay, but paid the larger female to leave almost immediately.
After a glorious afternoon being spoiled at the 10th Annual Tofino Food and Wine Festival’s Grazing in the Gardens event, it was difficult to resign ourselves to the sad fact that no-one was going to fill our commemorative goblets but ourselves from here on out. But soldier on we did and settled in to enjoy MacKenzie Beach and each other’s company.
Despite the jovial atmosphere and world-class vistas, it soon became apparent that we were dodging several big questions looming ominous and unanswered, casting shadows over our light-hearted crew. The first and foremost of which: where the heck was this little kid’s mother? (The second: taking into account how many other organs you actually have, in the whole scheme of things, how vital is the liver…really?) And then it dawned on us! We were down a man. Or a lady. Or just a super-great hostess. Before we could get properly distraught, in burst said hostess with food, and caterer, in tow.
Located in the Industrial District of Tofino, BC, right across the street from the Tofino Brewing Company, Red Can Gourmet is described as “a professional open concept commercial kitchen” where patrons can “interact with chefs as they create inspired west coast dishes.” Chef and owner Tim May, who was, just moments prior, fervently feeding grateful guests at Grazing the Gardens, has been cooking professionally for over 30 years at some of the world’s best hotels. He graciously agreed to create a very special vegan spread for MyWholeDeal.com and even hand-delivered it to our cabin by the sea, picking up our wayward hostess en route. Cuz that’s just how they do in Tofino. They are right personable like that.
As you can see from the above photos, Chef May really did go all out. Veganized for my pleasure were a humongous garden-fresh salad, a tender and delicate mushroom risotto topped with perfectly prepared asparagus and portobella and an entrée that rivalled any carnivorous fare. Check these out:
Do you know what those are? If you have a respectable level of reading comprehension, then you totally do because I just told you in the caption! See, right up there! Go on, take a look. I’ll wait. Oh, healthful-minded taste seekers, those cannelloni were a lovely and thoughtful creation, striking that ever-elusive vegan chord of being visually arresting, scrumptuous and wholly satisfying.
Rather than the traditional pasta tube, Red Can utilised thin slices of potato, cooked al dente to encase a light-yet-truly-satiating filling of julienned vegetables in a tangy and umami tomato sauce. Having recently converted to a gluten-free diet–which is so amazing that you have to call me so we can chat about it, or, if it’s easier for you, I can just write about it more here at a later date–this was a very happy surprise. Though fully prepared to compromise my values this particular weekend, let’s face it, I was so full of locally-grown fermented grape juice and revelry by this point that it was probably a good idea to hold on to a wee semblance of self-control.
So much more than a series of side dishes, Red Can Gourmet was able to embrace the concept that vegetables are food, not just garnish, and put together a meal that pleased even the most hunter-y of diners among us.
In homage to this valiant feat, I tried to recreate the dish at home last week. Thank you so much, Chef May. This is what came out of my kitchen.
Red Can Gourmet Inspired Gluten-Free Vegan Cannelloni
Keeping the spirit of the dish, I opted for toothsome eggplant and squash for the “noodle,” then added beans for extra protein, wilted spinach and our most coveted vegan staple, snoochi-nooches, to give these cannelloni a traditional, hearty and cheesy flavour.
- 1 large eggplant, sliced 2mm thick, lengthwise
- 2-3 large zucchini, sliced 2mm thick, lengthwise
- 1 can seasoned diced tomatos (I used Aylemer’s Bruschetta variety) OR 2 cups of your favourite pasta sauce
- 4-5 tablespoons nutritional yeast, vegan parm or your favourite vegan cheese subsitiute
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1/2 red onion, finely diced
- 1/2 cup red wine or broth, for sautéing (or a bit of olive oil, if your diet allows for processed food)
- 3 cups finely julienned vegetables such as carrots, summer squash, broccoli stems* and bell peppers, (*hint I, and Red Can, I suspect, added a package of pre-cut broccoli slaw to the mix for easy-peasieness)
- 1 cup mushrooms, sliced, if you’re not living with a closeted fungi-a-phobe
- 1 cup cooked beans of your choice. White beans, fava or delicate red lentils are divine
- 1/4 cup fresh or 1-3 tsp dried herbs, to taste. Fresh rosemary, thyme, sage and parsley are great, or even dry Italian seasoning (about a teaspoon and a half) works too, if fresh isn’t available.
- sea salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste.
1. Preheat oven to 350º. Using the mandolin slicer that you definitely own if you fell for those late-night TV ads in 1999 and bought one from the dollar store and still have kicking around but doesn’t really work that well, slice eggplant and zucchini in 2mm slices lengthwise.
When that proves waaay too frustrating to articulate without swearing, exercise a steady hand and knife those veggies.
2. Grill or steam slices until just tender, about 3-5 minutes and set aside to cool.
3. In a large sauté pan, cook onions and garlic, and dried herbs, if not using fresh, in wine, broth or oil until very tender.
3. Add julienned veggies, beans and mushrooms (if you are so lucky!) and cook over medium heat, stirring regularly.
4. Once most of your cooking liquid has evaporated (or, your veggies are nice and tender, if you are using oil), turn off heat and stir in spinach and fresh herbs, if using fresh. Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking.
5. Assembly time. Spread 1/4 of sauce or the juice from the diced tomatoes into a 13″X9″ baking dish and top with a layer of eggplant and zucchini (2 slices each) cross-hatched to form a manipulate-able, lasagna-sized “noodle.”
6. Spoon 1/8-1/4 cup of sautéed veggies onto the bottom quarter of your “noodle.” Carefully roll it up, securing with toothpicks, as necessary.
7. Repeat steps until you are unable to repeat the steps any longer due to lack of wrappers, filling or baking space. Cover cannelloni with remaining sauce or tomatoes, top with nutritional yeast (snoochi-nooches!) or vegan cheese and more salt and pepper. Bake for 25-30minutes, until very tender and bubbly.
Serve with crusty bread, crunchy salad and love.
Tune in this week for more Tofino adventures and my coverage of the first ever Victoria Vegan Fest, wherein a juggler makes my 9 year old question his self-worth. Good times!