Reverse Migration and Van Life Cookery: Grilled Canadian Vegetable Stacks

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250px-Pelee_Island_mapFWSflywaysmapMy reverse migration to Chicago started at what scientists judge is the single most important spot for migratory birds in North America. Point Pelee Peninsula dangles like a wattle hanging down from Canada into Lake Erie, and during the thick of migration season serves as landing strip for exhausted birds, including neotropical migrants traveling up to 90 miles each day on the way to breeding grounds in the UP and in Canada. Ontario’s Point Pelee National Park is also at the confluence of two important migratory routes: the Atlantic and the Missisippi ‘Flyways’ as these bird superhighways are known. Given all the traffic, perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that more than 390 species of birds have been spotted on this narrow spit of land.Thanks to a long, cold spring, the trees were barely budding, which made it easier to lay glass on the warblers we were all hearing, including a common yellow warbler I saw two different times and a more rare prothonatory warbler several other people spotted. The park has a visitor’s challenge to spot 100 species during the festival which was a simple task for birders who were there longer than my own day trip.

 The chilly week prior, birdwatchers spotted a flock of migrants make a U-turn and flutter back south across Erie to wait for a warm-up, according to one birding couple I met, in an event known as a reverse migration. Basically the birds showed up, said “You gotta be kidding me with these temperatures,” and went back to the relative warmth a bit further south.

Given the slow start to the season, the display of majorly expensive spotting scopes and telephoto lenses felt like an outsized show of force. I recently lost my good binoculars, and was self conscious about my underpowered thrift store replacements. I felt like I normally feel when other golfers look in my bag; fully judged and embarrassed at how badly my clubs are outclassed.

I smuggled eggplants and tomatoes across the Canadian border into Detroit at Windsor, Ontario (and they were delicious)

It was just outside of  Leamington, ON, a small city that fringes the park, that I came across the Canadian eggplants and tomatoes I used to make these vegetable stacks. I had never seen a fruit and vegetable stand seemingly devoted to just one thing before: Eggplants, and because I have a love of all nightshades, I pulled over.

Even though I was back at my place in Chicago when I cooked these, I decided to use only the tools and spices I brought with me in my mobile pantry. I will do a blog about my van kitchen setup soon, but the panini press continues to be the rocket stove of my operation. 

Basically, this “recipe” is a matter of evenly cutting and grilling the vegetables, which I did with liberal squirts of olive oil. Then you stack them attractively and top with the dressing of your choice. I used eggplant, onions and tomatoes but you could add or swap in mushrooms, zucchini and fresh asparagus. My sauce was a balsamic vinaigrette but you might choose to make an herbed aioli or classic Hollandaise sauce.

DSC00981 My sauce ended up balsamic vinaigrette PLUS runny egg yolk.

If you enjoyed this, please subscribe to my blog and share with others. I have a bunch of content upcoming from all over the US and recent road trips. Don’t miss my culinary flirtations with Michigan, Boise, ID, Portland, Montana and more.

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