* [or Concasse, if you prefer the more conventional term. . . but I just loved the word "tracklement" ever since I read it on Lucy's blog, and besides, "Tomato Tracklement" is just so much more alliterative.]
Last weekend was our Canada Day holiday, and this year I learned an important lesson. No, it wasn’t “Canada is 141 years old” (even though it was). Uh-uh, it wasn’t “Canada is a vast and picturesque, multicultural and welcoming country in which to live” (I already knew that one). Nope, not even ”Although Canada is a vast and picturesque, multicultural and welcoming country in which to live, a summer full of rain really sucks–almost as much as a typical Canadian winter.” And finally, nay, it also wasn’t “The Girls are still scared of fireworks” (really, talk about stating the obvious).
No, dear readers, the all-important lesson I learned this past weekend was simply this:
Never (and I mean never) attempt to drive across the province at the beginning of a long July 1st weekend.
Elementary, you say? Well, for some reason, the HH and I, despite 10 years of trekking from Toronto to Montreal and back on a regular basis, have never traveled that particular stretch of the 401 on the long Canada Day weekend. This year, with my dad turning 87, we decided it was a necessity.
The 500-kilometre (about 315 mile) drive usually takes us between 4.5 and 6 hours, depending on (A) time of departure; (B) weather conditions; (C) who’s driving; (D) number of rest stops; and (E) traffic. This past weekend, our multiple-choice answer was overwhelmingly, “E,” or really, more like, “EEEEEeeeeee!!!” To be precise, eight hours’ worth of “E.”
As we slid out of the city and onto the highway, I sensed a barely perceptible increase in the volume of vehicles on the road. Then, within about five minutes, it became painfully clear: everyone and their canines were heading off to the cottage for the long weekend. And us? No cottage; no canines (The Girls were happily ensconced at the doggie daycare for the weekend); and no discernible movement on the roads. I’d completely forgotten our route included a short span of terrain known as ”cottage country” (also known, as the Barenaked Ladies recently reminded us in song, as “Peterborough and the Kawarthas“). And there we were, the HH and I, motionless amid all the eager, impatient, fidgety and perspiring boaters, gardeners, waterskiers and Barbeque-ers, our wheels moving barely a quarter turn every 10 minutes or so.
Even if we could afford one, I doubt we would actually buy a cottage (and this has nothing to do with the fact that the HH is a role model for ”don’t do it yourself-ers”). Still, I do treasure memories of spending summers at various country houses when I was a kid. My parents couldn’t afford a cottage, either, but in those days, rentals were abundant and reasonably priced, and didn’t require reservations a year in advance (one summer, in fact, I clearly remember my parents discussing the possibility of escaping the city on the very evening school let out; by the following afternoon, I’d tossed my report card in the closet, pulled my collection of comic books out instead, and we were on the road toward our temporary summer home).
In those days, my parents rented a house through July and August. They’d pack up the family (my two sisters, our cocker spaniel, Sweeney, and I) in the back of my dad’s station wagon-cum-butcher shop delivery van, and off we went to our rudimenatry cabin in the woods, sans modern amenities or TV. Along with the other husbands, my father helped us settle in the first weekend, then headed back to the city (and his store) during the week, while the rest of us hung around with the moms and kids until the men returned each Friday evening. For five days a week, the wives managed to keep things running smoothly, demonstrating both independence and resourcefulness; yet every Friday, they mysteriously reverted to squeaky voices, soft entreaties and deference, much as early feminists must have done when their soldier-husbands returned from the front.
In the intervals free from paternal presence, we children would run barefoot along the roadside, plucking thick, flat blades of crabgrass to grip securely between tightly pressed thumbs, then huffing and blowing our makeshift whistles, our postures in supplication to nature. We’d seek out the other kids whose parents rented homes around the same lake, for day-long games of hide-and-seek, for building sand forts at the lakeside, or for throwing sticks to Sweeney and the other dogs (who, bored with our weak attempts at “fetch,” would lope off and sleep under porches, squirrel-hunt in the woods, or, toward evening, launch a stealth attack on the hotdogs piled on plates beside the Bar-B-Q’s).
By the end of the season, we’d worn ourselves out with outdoor games, our limbs buff and bronzed in variegated strips of earthtone after two months of shifting sleeve lengths. All the books I’d brought were read and forgotten; I’d colored and drawn and written in my journal about my adventures; my younger sister and I had picked countless plastic sandbuckets full of wild blueberries from the hill at the end of town; and we were, finally, ready to go home.
One of my fondest memories is the drive back south, passing field after field of farmers’ corn as it just approached ripeness. The long, elegant leaves swished and swayed in the breeze like our own welcoming committee, a troupe of Hawaiian dancers greeting tourists as they disembark from the plane. By the time school resumed, we were eating fresh cobs of corn with our dinners, juice trailing down our chins and our cheeks flecked with wayward bits of yellow like reverse freckles on our tanned faces.
I reminisced about that incomparable corn as I contemplated Pancakes on Parade, the event hosted by Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook. I had already decided (though I love sweet pancakes and make them whenever there’s an excuse) that I wanted to do something savory for this event. Corn cakes are a long-time favorite, and they seemed the perfect choice. And while there’s nothing quite like a plump, fresh cob of grilled or steamed corn, juicy and sweet and eaten with the same enthusiasm usually reserved for long-absent lovers, sometimes it’s just impossible to acquire the fresh kind. That’s when frozen, or even canned (heresy!) come in handy.
The crêpes are based on a recipe I created a few years ago for a brunch event. This time, however, I decided to pair them with a sweet and tart tomato concasse, and the combination improved the overall effect considerably. The tracklement cooks up really quickly, in just the right amount of time to serve alongside the crêpes. Savor these right away, or wrap up for later consumption–they’d make a great snack if you ever find yourself stuck on the highway for eight hours or so.
Corn Crêpes with Quick Tomato Tracklement
A savory pancake with occasional bursts of sweetness in juicy corn kernels, these are great with the accompanying tomato concasse for brunch or light dinner. Or use with other savory spreads such as hummus or avocado mayonnaise.
3 Tbsp. (45 ml.) sunflower or other light-tasting oil
1 c. (240 ml.) unsweetened soy milk or almond milk
1 tsp. (10 ml.) apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup (120 ml.) corn kernels, freshly cooked, frozen or canned (drained)
1/2 cup (120 ml.) water, vegetable broth or liquid from canned corn
1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) finely ground flax seeds
1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) agave nectar
3/4 c. (105 g.) light spelt flour
3 Tbsp. (45 ml.) organic cornmeal
3/4 tsp. (3.5 ml.) baking powder
1/4 tsp. (1.5 ml.) baking soda
1/4 tsp. (1. 5 ml.) sea salt
1 tsp. (10 ml.) dried dill weed or 1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) fresh dill, chopped
1/4 tsp. (1.5 ml.) smoked paprika
In a medium bowl, combine the oil, soymilk, vinegar, corn kernels, water, flax seeds, and agave nectar. Mix well and set aside while you prepare the dry ingredients, or at least 2 minutes.
In a large bowl, sift the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, soda, and salt. Add the dill and paprika and mix well.
Pour the wet mixture over the dry and stir just to blend (a few small lumps may remain here and there; this is as it should be. The batter will be thin).
Heat a small nonstick or cast iron frypan over medium heat. Using about 1/2 cup (120 ml.) batter per crepe, fill the pan and tilt if necessary to coat the bottom of the pan evenly. Allow 4-5 minutes before flipping the crepe (it is ready to turn when bubbles appear and pop on the top surface, creating little “craters,” and the edge of the crepe looks dry). Cook briefly on the second side, only enough to dry the surface, about one minute.
Keep cooked crepes warm while you continue with the rest of the batter. Serve immediately. Makes about 6 large or 20 small crepes.
1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, chopped
4 plum tomatoes, skinned and chopped fine
1 tsp. (5 ml.) dried basil or 1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) fresh, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) sucanat or unrefined sugar
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp. sea salt
In a small saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the basil and cook for one more minute. Add remaining ingredients and continue to cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the condiment is thick and almost smooth, 10-15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature over corn crepes, bread or crackers. Makes about 3/4 cup.