Courtesy of BC Fresh

2 lbs. BCfresh Red Nugget Potatoes 1 kg
1 BC red bell pepper, cored and thinly sliced into julienne strips
4 whole BC green onions, diagonally sliced
1 stalk BC celery, thinly diagonally sliced

Dressing:
1/2 cup buttermilk 125 g
1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh chives 15 mL
1/4 tsp. finely grated lemon peel 1 mL
1 tsp. Dijon mustard 5 mL
Pinch of salt
Freshly ground white pepper

Optional:
6.5 oz. chunk light tuna packed in water, drained 184 g

Instructions

Scrub unpeeled potatoes, cutting larger ones into halves. Place in a large saucepan with 1/2″ (1 cm) water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover and gently steam for about 15 minutes or until potatoes are almost tender when pierced with a fork. Strain, return to the burner and shake briefly to dry. Set aside to briefly cool.

Meanwhile, prepare dressing combining ingredients in a large serving dish. Stir to blend. Add partially cooled potatoes along with red pepper strips, green onions and celery. Toss together to evenly coat with dressing. Refrigerate to completely cool. Add chunks of drained, chunk light tuna and additional gratings of fresh pepper before serving, if you wish.

Makes 4 servings.

1 tbsp    butter    15 mL
1/4 cup    onions, peeled and coarsely chopped    50 mL
2 1/2 cup    asparagus, washed, trimmed and cut in 1-inch (2.5cm) pieces    625 mL
1 cup    potatoes, peeled and cut in 1/4-inch (0.6-cm) pieces    250 mL
1 cup    chicken stock    250 mL
2 cups    whipping cream (or milk)    500 mL
1 cup    plain yogurt    250 mL
white pepper to taste
1/2 cup      blueberry or raspberry sherbert    125 mL
fresh dill sprigs

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and sauté onions, potatoes and asparagus until the onions are translucent.  Add chicken stock and 1 cup (250 mL) cream or milk and simmer until vegetables are tender. Season to taste with white pepper. Purée mixture in a food processor or blender until smooth, then pass purée through a very fine sieve or strainer, using the back of a spoon to help push liquid through.  When mixture has cooled add plain yogurt and the other cup of cream or milk, blending well. At this point the soup may be reheated over medium heat, or chilled for 4 hours if serving cold. Garnish each serving with 1 tbsp (15mL) of sherbet and dill sprigs. Serves 5-6.

Forget your cheeseburgers, pizza, apple pie, meat and potatoes and other tried-and-true traditional dishes; the North American palate has evolved in recent years, fueled by a desire for new, risky ethnic flavours.  “Chinese food” and “Mexican Food” used represent the consumer’s foray outside of their culinary comfort zone, but an influx of cultural influence has thoroughly infiltrated the food landscape.

The reasons for these changes have been out of both necessity and interest.  For food manufacturers and restaurants, experimenting with new flavours is viewed as a great way to spice up traditional offerings.  It’s much cheaper to add spices such as tandoori, curry and jerk to your average chicken dish than revamp an entire operation or menu, and consumers can’t seem to get enough risk with their food.

The Spanish are probably one of the most under served and under appreciated demographics in North America, but that is beginning to change.  This vocal plurality carries a tremendous amount of consumer influence, and companies have downplayed their significance for far too long.  Plus, their food is flavourful, passionate, invigorating and complex.

MediaPost highlights a report on what kind of products are hitting the scene: “Epazote, Seville oranges, aji amarillo chiles and sofritos, according to a new Culinary Trend Report on next-wave Latino foods from Packaged Facts and the Center for Culinary Development (CCD).”

“Epazote is a Mexican culinary herb that smells like “grassy turpentine” in its raw state, but when simmered in a pot of black beans, “mellows to a rich, grounding presence that more and more chefs are finding addictive,” report CCD’s trend-spotters.  They expect the herb to move beyond upscale Mexican restaurants to become a common ingredient in canned and CPG products.

Seville oranges are becoming increasingly popular ingredients in sophisticated contemporary Latin restaurant fare, and CCD predicts that CPGs will soon be using the oranges’ somewhat bitter citrus flavor to add “Caribbean tang” to a variety of products.

Aji amarillo chiles, the most popular variety in Peru, offer a distinctively fruity flavor while retaining chile bite.  The combination adds up to crossover appeal similar to that previously shown by now-ubiquitous chipotles, making aji chiles prime candidates for inclusion in “everything from spicy wings at QSRs to jarred salsas,” reports CCD.”

Other trends MediaPost points out:

•    “Rotisserie chicken flavored with authentic, regionally inspired flavors from Latin America. CCD believes this trend is destined for wide adoption by food manufacturers and restaurants because it offers the familiar comfort food roast chicken with a novel twist, as well as built-in nutritious, wholesome positioning.

•    U.S.-made versions of Mexican cheese varieties are in demand by Latinos and non-Latinos alike, and marketers are gradually catching on. Wisconsin’s Hispanic cheese production has doubled since 1997, and big national brands like Sargento and Tillamook have added Mexican cheeses and shredded jack-and-cheddar quesadilla blends, notes CCD.

•    Bland tableside guacamoles are being reinvented as consumers look for fresh, healthy ways to snack. Freshly made, hand-mashed, chunky varieties that can be customized to taste with more/less onions, chiles and other seasonings are hot–and CCD stresses that marketers should look to apply the same lessons to many other types of food offerings.

•    Soft-corn tortilla tacos–which offer both health and flavor advantages over the crunchy variety–are popping up in QSR’s and casual dining restaurants, and becoming more available in supermarkets as well.

•    Mojito isn’t over. While mojito cocktails may seem old-hat to some, seemingly endless variations on the basic tart lime/mint flavor are now finding their way into soft drinks, marinades, chocolates and even chewing gum. Far from reaching saturation, this Cuban flavor profile “will go on inspiring CPG manufacturers across a broad spectrum of products,” predicts CCD.”

Grocery delivery businesses have become increasingly popular Vancouver over the past few years, especially those offering organic produce.  A few of these businesses include Spud!, Stong’s Market (not exclusively a delivery outfit), Organics@Home and Green Earth Organics.  Haven’t having tried the former three, I would like to talk about the one I did sampled, Green Earth Organics.

The company was started in Vancouver and expanded to Toronto.  How it works is Green Earth Organics makes available a number of different produce options, of which some items come as part of a standard “bin” package and some are customizable.  In Vancouver, we have the advantage of a favourable climate which allows for a lot of fresh, local produce options (relative to Canada) year-round.  These selections include white button mushrooms, red beets, Asian pears and granny smith apples.  Here’s an example of this week’s bin, which is advertised as a portion for one and costs $27:
3 Gala Apples (BC), 1 field cucumber, 1 tomato, 2 navel oranges (CA), 1 green chard (CA), 1 romaine lettuce, 1lb banana, 1lb yellow onion (WA), 1 Star Ruby Grapefruit, 1lb red chieftain potatoes (BC), 1lb carrots.

They also offer medium bins which include a few more selections for $35 and are geared towards couples.  The family bins are $46 and include additional selections such as red beets, Oranghetti squash and white sweet potatoes.  The bin is a plastic Tupperware-esq tote and is available with a $20 deposit.  They switch out your bin every week or two weeks, depending on the requested frequency of your delivery.  In addition to produce, cleaning products, breads and cereals, and snacks are also available, which can be viewed upon creating an account which Green Earth Organics uses to manage your delivery schedule and payments.

I researched the company and discovered they employ a collection of very smart and cost-effective marketing strategies:  tout the benefits of the products within the context of the industry, make contributions or announce support on behalf worthy organizations, advertise through testimonials, have members of the company and community blog on their behalf, and write articles which cite research and sources that reinforce the importance of their endeavor.

“Studies have also shown that the average family spends about 2 hours grocery shopping per week.  This adds up to approximately 104 hours per year.  I’m sure you will be able to find something else to do with your time!”

They also clearly understand their industry and target customer base very well:  socially conscious, environmentally-minded progressives who are active in promoting causes, and who may or may not have the income to support the cost of convenience, but believe enough in the idea that they are willing to make it work.  I can say with confidence that their marketing acumen drives the success of their business, and congratulations to their executives for earning it through their intelligence and business sense.

I was compelled to try the service because I had a 50% coupon from the Green Zebra Book (a $30 book and well worth the price).  The website has been recently revamped and looks much more professional (the old one was very amateurish, almost campy, and even though it reflected their customer base, I agree with the changes they made).  I created an account and could have placed an order online, but I was feeling impatient with technology and decided to order directly over the phone (very 90’s, I know).

I was greeted by an indescribably enthusiastic girl named Melissa, who as I have discovered from subsequent conversations, is an expert customer service professional who never has a bad day.  If she doesn’t love the job and company with all her heart, then create an organic Oscar and read her name from the envelope at the microphone.  Melissa explained that their delivery schedule put their driver in our neighbourhood on Monday, and we would receive our bin (we ordered the family size at $23 with the coupon) after 5:00pm.

The delivery arrived at 8:00pm the following Monday.  My first impression of the bin was that it didn’t seem like that much food for $46, though I understand the cost of delivery and convenience is also included in the price.  I was happy with everything except for the condition of the apples (a little bruised and mealy), the pears (slightly bruised) and the onions (a few were moldy only a day after delivery).  Since I have time to go to the grocery store, and didn’t really want to pay the convenience charges, I decided to cancel my order after one delivery.

I had signed up for the bi-weekly delivery option, and I called the next week to cancel before the Thursday deadline so as to not lock in the next delivery.  I told Melissa I was discontinuing service, and unlike some instances when this can change the tone of the conversation to become condescending, less friendly or uncomfortable, Melissa maintained her cheerful rapport and I felt no pressure or awkwardness after stating my decision.  She did ask why I wasn’t continuing service, at which time I mentioned the deficiencies in some of the produce.  Without asking that I relinquish the items, she offered to replace them for free when her driver came by to pick up the bin.  I was so impressed with the gesture that I declined the replacement offer (which surprised her, I think) and told her to keep them for the next person.  I noticed later that this is company policy, which will further win over the support of their customers.

By focusing on the intangible details i.e. exemplary customer service, spot-on marketing and targeting and impressive guarantees, Green Earth Organics has built a successful operation that is primed for longevity and steady growth.  This company has all the components of a successful business, and proves that with the right approach you can sell just about anything.  Green Earth Organics Ketchup Popsicles?  I won’t even take off my white gloves.

Please visit www.greenearthorganics.com to place your order.

Vegan Quesadillas you ask?  This only scratches the surface of what can be done without meat or dairy.  21st century vegans enjoy a quality and diversity of food that even 10 years ago could only be dreamed of.  Here’s a dish to give you the idea.

Vegan Quesadillas:

1 15-ounce can of chick peas

1/2 cup water-packed roasted red pepper

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon tahini

1 garlic clove, peeled

1/4 teaspoon cumin

8 corn tortillas

1/2 cup chopped green onions

1/2-1 cup salsa

1.  Drain the beans and place in a food processor or blender with the next five ingredients.  Process until very smooth, 1-2 minutes.

2.  Spread on a tortilla with 2 to 3 tablespoons of the garbanzo mixture and place in a nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Sprinkle with chopped onions and salsa.

3.  Top with a second tortilla and cook until the bottom tortilla is warm and soft, 2-3 minutes.  Flip and cook the second side for 1 minute.  Remove from the pan and cut in half.  Repeat with remaining tortillas.

And Enjoy!