The Accidental Garden

When we began the renovation of our house two years ago the entire yard facing the ocean was dug up to provide access to construction vehicles and equipment. The vegetable garden at the side of the house also had to be removed to make way for the Japanese bathhouse.

We had assumed that it would grow back as a tangle of thistles and quack grass but to our delight the disturbed soil produced a treasure trove of wild flowers whose seeds had been sleeping underground for years.

Rose Campion is considered an invasive species on this island but it is relatively easy to remove and I love the contrast between the hot pink flowers and the muted green stems.

I planted the poppies over five years ago. They came up once but we hadn't seen any since.

The purple toadflax attracts hummingbirds and bees.

The foxgloves and California poppies are spectacular. (I'm not so sure about the mullen - it looks vaguely post-apocalyptic.)

With our new fence and gates in place the deer have been frozen out and Mother Nature has given us us this extraordinary "accidental" garden

Pizza Night

I can't remember when we've had a drier spring. It hasn't rained for weeks and there's no rain in the forecast for at least another ten days. I've been firing up the oven as often as possible - there's bound to be a total fire ban as early as the beginning of July this summer. Our wood-fired oven is extremely safe but any stray spark could spell disaster.

Saturday night was pizza night. I usually make a quick pizza dough in the food processor that only takes and hour or so to proof but I decided to try the recipe from my new favourite cookbook, A16: Food and Wine by Nate Appleman and Shelley Lindgren. The special Italian "00" flour called for in the recipe is not available here on the island but organic unbleached Canadian flour made a delicious, if not entirely authentic crust. The proofing time is long, up to two days in the refrigerator, but well worth the extra wait for the nuance of flavour that develops.

Wood-fired oven pizza toppings need to be added with restraint. Too much topping will overload the crust and the bottom will burn before it is cooked through. We started out with pizza Margherita using last summer's home-canned tomato passata, mozzarella, and basil.

A fresh version of a Margherita followed. The crust was baked with the cheese and when the pizza was removed from the oven it was scattered with diced fresh tomatoes marinated in garlic, olive oil, and fresh basil.

The last of my first arugula crop was picked and made into a pesto for the next pizza. I loved the way that it retained its emerald green colour, even after it was cooked. A handful of arugula leaves tossed in olive oil and lemon juice was piled on top for eating. The contrast of the baked pureed arugula in the pesto combined with the fresh arugula in the topping was everyone's favourite.

The final pizza was a version of a French pissaladiere with black olive tapenade, caramelized onions and dollops of fresh goat cheese.