While we're sweating out the heat wave, rest assured that in Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon in Northern Canada, the weather is absolutely lovely. This time of year, longtime resident Michele Genest -- author of The Boreal Gourmet: Adventures in Northern Cooking cookbook -- is hiking among the wild berry and rose bushes with her husband and dog, Bella, who is busy sniffing out rare mushrooms. Back home, Genest unloads her harvest and whips up a few batches of raspberry vinegar, mountain blueberry chutney and rose petal meringues. Did we mention the caribou sausages she makes for cassoulet?
At least in L.A. we can pretend we're on a wildflower-laced camping trip by making Genest's campfire blueberry coffee cake and homemade dehydrated lasagna (no need for a dehydrator, as she says the oven works just fine). Or by baking shortbread speckled with spruce tree tips (the young buds of a spruce tree, before they become thorny leaves) that we found on that Hansel and Gretel stroll deep in the Canadian forest (if we actually lived near such a dreamy forest).
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On first glance, the breadth of recipes does seem a touch random, even for Yukon dwellers. One section features those camping cake and lasagna essentials, another is a collection of Greek recipes such as homemade phyllo pastry for a traditional cheese and bitter greens pie (Genest lived in Alonissos for several years).
But it's the stories that come with the salmon chowder with cilantro-laced coconut milk that hold the seemingly disparate chapters together. Personal anecdotes about the friend from Iceland who taught Genest how to make beet and turnip bisque. That time she weed-whacked wild raspberries in her new backyard, thinking they were weeds. The grilled elk liver with bacon, onion and mushrooms recipe inspired by Quebec journalist Francine Dufresne 's circa 1975 regional cookbook.
This is a cookbook about the author's discovery of the region she moved to more than fifteen years ago. It is a very intimate, taste-driven journey, be it of Appalachian stack cake or Canadian moose curry with rhubarb chutney. Even Genest admits that the spruce bud recipe section of the book is "the territory of fairy tale." It's the best kind of fairytale: an inspiring one.