Finally, it's here! The season I've been waiting for, the season when each day invites a further excursion to extend the trail beyond yesterday's stopping point. It's ski season. I got out for my first ski this year on a visit down to Mount Lorne before Christmas, and the next shortly afterwards on my new home turf on the Klondike. I may have gotten started a bit late, but I am bound and determined to make the most of whatever skiable weather we have over the next few months.
Part of the fun of heading out for a day of skiing is packing a thermos and lunch or perhaps afternoon tea – as Winnie the Pooh would say, a small snackerel of something.
I delight in finding a bend in the river that faces the sun (well, I will once we have sun back in the valley), out of the wind, and clearing off a well-situated log. Then comes the art of backing up with skis under the log without getting snarled, and finally settling down on the little pad of blue foam that I carry with me for just such purposes.
There is nothing like appetite to augment flavour, and well-exercised hunger that develops in the out-of-doors is a spice to beat all others. It is with anticipation and satisfaction that I dig into the pack and extract first the thermos, then the series of boxes and bags that contains the outing's rations.
For beverage I usually choose herbal tea for the big thermos, not too hot, maybe mint and yarrow or rosehip, juniper and chamomile. This substitutes for the water bottles I bring along on summer hikes, and accompanies a smaller mug of coffee or hot chocolate if I'm feeling treatish.
Then the grub.
I make a lot of fruit leathers from the available offerings up here: rosehip-raspberry, apple-blueberry, even highbush cranberries find their way in sometimes. I often pack these with nuts and slip them into my jacket pocket for on-trail munching.
Oatcakes or homemade bread – I am currently in love with a molasses-covered dark rye bread studded with caraway – serve as a vehicle for pesto or cheese that was carefully tucked away in the summer months.
Carrots are a staple as long as we have them. I often borrow from the traditions of a Japanese friend of mine who always brings onigiri (rice balls wrapped in nori, sheets of seaweed), which are the perfect vehicle to filled with whatever we had for supper last night.
We are blessed to have homegrown apples which often make it along and of course no ski would be complete without that fermented glory of the tropical forest: chocolate. With that kind of spread coming along, who wouldn't want to go for a ski?
In the post-festive season I find ski days are also the perfect time for slowly making our way through leftovers that still linger in the freezer from parties – little hors d'oeuvres and cookies and all sorts of bite-sized delights that can be thawed out on the woodstove while the skis are being waxed before being stashed in the pack.
I'm sure one day soon I will discover that we have actually reached the end of these, but even our freezer (aka the porch) seems to abound with nooks and crannies like any conventional unit, the ones that seem to hide items from even the most shrewd and diligent of investigations.
I think they may be related to the wormholes that exist in dryers and are responsible for removing single socks to a far-distant part of the galaxy. The beauty of these spaces is that months after the last Christmas light has been removed I am wont to discover a packet of spanakopitas or mincemeat tarts to accompany the last skis of the season. I hope I am that lucky this year.
We freeze our kale plants in the garden and bring them onto the porch for the winter. I crumble the leaves into a bowl outside to skip the chopping step.
You will need:
1 package phyllo pastry (or if you dare make homemade, send us a picture!)
8 large kale leaves, crumble or chopped, ribs removed
½ cup soft cheese – fresh, aged chèvre or Marcelin
¼ – ½ cup grated hard cheese – pecorino, asiago or similar, vary amount according to strength of flavour
2 tsp basil salt (I preserve chopped basil in coarse salt for the winter) or sub 1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp oregano, dried
2 Tbsp mint, dried
3 cloves garlic
Steam the kale until very tender – at least 30 minutes. Beat the eggs with the cheeses, herbs and salt. Drain kale and add to eggs. Chop onion finely and sauté in butter on low heat until translucent and sweet. Mince in garlic and sauté briefly, then add this to the other ingredients.
Take out one sheet of phyllo at a time onto your work surface, leaving the rest covered with a plastic bag and a damp towel. Brush it with melted butter and cut into four long strips. Place a large spoonful of filling on the bottom of each strip and fold the bottom corner up to make a triangle, repeating over and over until the strip is used up.
To freeze, place on cookie sheets and transfer to ziploc-type bags once solid.
To bake, brush with melted butter and bake at 375ºF.
From frozen they will take 20 to 30 minutes, whereas fresh will be closer to 15 minutes. They are done when golden brown.