Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Food Trends for 2014. My Hopes and Dreams For You And Me.

As the final hours of 2013 tick down, who isn't writing a post about the food trends coming and going on the cusp of the year's change.  I find flatulating about trends and fads as tabloid fodder.  Perhaps I am taking a bit of a snobby stance.  It just seems that what is 'in' and what is 'out', is more about social belonging than saying anything respectable about food.

As I headed to the kitchen to build my lunch today, it was just a wee bite I had in mind. New Years Eve feasting was on the horizon and I needed to pace myself.

A soft-boiled egg captured my thoughts.  I longed for the soft texture and the solid protein.  But I could also visualize it on my plate.  Bare. So utterly bare as two jaundiced-coloured eyeballs of half eggs would be staring up at me.  So I needed to create a canvas for it.  A half bagel didn't seem too much.  We keep Ottawa Bagelshop's bagels sliced and in the freezer for such occasions. But that would mean carbs and so maybe I could balance that out with some veg.  The fridge doors opened and out spilled my choices.  Freshly washed romaine lettuce, a week old avocado at the height of ripeness, oven-roasted grape tomatoes, recently thawed homemade basil pesto, a partial red onion, chives, dill, a small piece of Quebec's Le Douanier cheese.  I ended up passing on the onion, dill and chives, but everything else was piled on.

As I reached for the salt and pepper grinders, I also grabbed the ristede løg (crisp onions). My tower of flavours and colour was taking on a life of it's own and now I was REALLY looking forward to my 'wee bite'.

That's when I realized that I too have hopes and dreams for food in 2014.

1. Be authentic.  Eat the food you love, not what people tell you is hip and happening.  If you don't like or get food trucks, it's okay to say so.  If you aren't a card carrying member of the pork belly protein club, that's okay too.  Your food is still good, even if you aren't foaming it or pho-ing it.

2. Don't waste food. Learn a food's life cycle and how to stretch it.  If you have tomatoes sitting on the counter pushing past their prime and no good plans for them, they can be given birth again by roasting them and storing them in the freezer to be used for another day.

3. Share your food experiences. Share them because it was a special moment for you, not because you need to build converts or crave a compliment. Many are genuinely interested in what you are doing in the kitchen when you tell your story, no matter how non-Michelin your creation.  Seeing others cook, learning and exploring for learning's sake, inspires the rest of us. Stay humble in your sharing.

4. Enjoy and respect your food ancestry.  Some might think pea soup is peasant food but if it was your favourite dish growing up, serve it and serve it often. A dish does not have to have a pedigree to deserve to be on your table or shared with guests.  

4. Embrace the littlest food moments.  Even if it is JUST a piece of toast, make it with love.  Serve it on a special plate.  Cut it just so. Eat it at the table, not over the counter or sink. Chew it slowly and enjoy each and every bite.

5. Play with flavours and play with colour.  How often do we find that mixing flavours we love individually make an even bigger impact when mixed together. Fuss a little bit with your plating. It doesn't have to be auctionable art, but well presented food does taste better. It will likely make the cooking experience more enjoyable too.

6. Know that food is meant to nourish. Many of us have the luxury to eat for pleasure, but food's primary role is to nourish.  As you chase your sinful food passions, balance it out with lots of healthy choices.  We aren't being truly good ambassadors for food if we don't speak to both sides.

7. Give what you can of your food wealth. Too many do not have access to healthy food on a regular basis and question where their next meal will come from. Share your riches. Your food knowledge. Your food talents. Your food dollars.  We all deserve this basic necessity of life. Your food enthusiasm will be infectious.

8. Live in food communion with others.  One of our kindest gifts we can give is to have others to the intimacy of our dining table.  Invite others in and regularly.  A friendly cup of coffee and a biscuit from the freezer is still a very large gift just because you are there and giving of your time. It isn't the size and the grandness of the banquet but the size of your heart that will determine how good the meal tasted.

Wishing you all the best for the new year. As we continue our food journey into 2014, I will continue to reflect on my hopes and dreams for what's food trending. How about you?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Alberta's Awesome Italian Meatballs and Sauce

I fell in love with my girlfriend's meatballs three years ago.  She said it was an old family recipe and when her mum made her next visit to Ottawa she had me in to learn from the master.  Alberta is Italian through and through.  Her lively love for life meant that I would get every important detail to make my meatballs just as good as hers.  Her Italian accent was intoxicating and I hung on her every word.

I put a post together as a result of that visit but have found that I have been tinkering with that recipe ever since.  Alberta said she doesn't measure much, so although these meatballs may be a  gentle departure from hers, I feel that essentially the bright bold flavour of the tomato sauce and the tenderness of the ball is very much the same.

I do consistently add milk to my meat mixture to ensure a tender ball.  If I have it on hand, I will stuff the meatballs with ricotta.  I like using San Marzano tomatoes and think this recipe is worth the splurge.

When I made this particular batch, I picked up my fresh ground veal at Nicastro Fine Foods on Merivale Road here in Ottawa.  They say they grind their meat fresh several times each day and that the same meat is never re-ground.  The milk-fed veal comes from a farm in Ontario.

I am sure it would be delicious with pasta. We typically serve up three meatballs with sauce. For us, it is a dish on its own.

This recipe freezes well.

Makes approximately 24 meatballs

2 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoon lard
2 onions, diced
1/2 pound ground veal
1/4 pound ground pork
56 ounces Italian plum tomatoes, whole, (2 cans)
6 whole cloves
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper

1 pound ground veal
1/2 pound ground pork
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 eggs, lightly beaten
zest from one lemon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, 3" x 3" cube, finely grated
1/3 cup milk, homogenized
3 tablespoons ricotta cheese (optional)

SAUCE: Heat lard and olive oil together over medium heat. Add diced onions and sauté until soft. Add veal and pork. Brown the meat. Add canned tomatoes. Loosely cut the whole tomatoes into pieces. Add whole cloves, salt and pepper. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours

MEATBALLS: Put all the ingredients together and mix thoroughly. Form into 1 1/2" balls. I was able to make 28 balls with this quantity. Drop into the sauce that has been simmering for 1 1/2 hours. Continue to simmer for another hour until the meatballs are cooked through.

Serve a bowl of meatballs and sauce with a few slices of Italian bread that can be used for soaking up the excess sauce! 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Santa's Favourite Christmas Eve Treat Is The Ginger Crinkle Cookie

With the many snacks set out around the world for Santa each Christmas Eve, it's a wonder he can still fit down the chimney.  Although the treats aren't an everyday thing, this gig of running his one night toy courier company from the North Pole still means a year's supply of calories.

I don't know if you give much thought to what cookie you will put out for him in less than two weeks time but I can let you in on a little secret.

Santa's favourite treat on Christmas Eve is definitely the Ginger Crinkle Cookie. In our home we put out plenty for him to snack on and to also share some with the elves.

This year, the Ginger Crinkle Cookies are going to be extra special.  I have added a handsome portion of michaelsdolce's candied ginger, which I bought at the recent Locavore Artisan Food Fair.  The extra ginger kick will make them particularly peppery.  Like Santa, I like my ginger cookie to have a good bite.

This package contained 55 grams of candied ginger. It measured about 1/2 cup when chopped.

Here is another little secret you may not know about the jolly old soul.  Santa doesn't tend to favour milk with his cookies.  He actually prefers 35% heavy cream. Yes, there are people who really do that!

Truth be told, Santa really likes all kinds of cookies and feels quite chuffed that many would go to such lengths to make him something special.  Do you have a traditional treat that you will be leaving out for Santa this year?

Ginger Crinkle Cookies
Inspired by a recipe in the Canadian Living Magazine of October 2000

3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
5 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup fancy molasses
1/4 cup cooking molasses
2 tsp vinegar
1/2 cup of chopped candied ginger - michaelsdolce's is preferred!

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon and cloves.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter with the sugar. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Continue beating until the batter is light and fluffy.

Beat in the two molasses and the vinegar. Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture in 3 additions.  As the 3rd addition is almost incorporated, add the candied ginger.

Form into 1 1/4-inch (3 cm) balls; place, 2 inches (5 cm) apart, on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. 

Bake in 325ºF oven for 12 to 15 minutes. If they bake too long they will not get the chewy centre that contrasts with the crispy crinkle outside. Try a pan at a time to determine the best baking time based on your oven.

Let the cookies cool on pan for 2 minutes to let them set before transferring them onto a rack to completely cool.

This recipe makes 55 to 60 cookies. They freeze very well.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Lagkage - Danish Layer Cake

Although I was totally off the hook for the first 5 courses at our dinner party last night, the dessert course was my playground. I decided to make the traditional Danish celebration cake, lagkage or lagekage (translates as layer cake). 

The cake is a bit spongy and is filled with a silky pastry cream and a dribbles of raspberry jam in each layer. Then a fluffy blanket of Chantilly cream adorns the outside. 

There were leftovers! So for breakfast, the mister and I each enjoyed a piece along with our morning coffee. It was just as good the morning after.

4 layers of cake (make the following cake recipe twice)
Pastry cream
Raspberry jam
1/2 to 3/4 litre of whipping cream, whipped and sweetened to taste

Optional garnishes:
Coulis or pastry cream 

(Adapted from one posted by Karen Hansen on Food.com.)

This cake recipe bakes two layers of the cake. You need to make the recipe twice to have the four layers you need.

2 egg yolks from extra large eggs
1 1/2 tablespoon cold water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup flour
1 3/4 teaspoons cornstarch
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 egg whites from extra large eggs

Preheat oven to 435ºF.

Measure out the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. Mix well.

Separate the eggs. Whip the egg whites until stiff.

In a separate bowl beat the egg yolks until lemon yellow. Add the water and sugar and beat for 2 minutes on high. Beat in the vanilla extract.

Add the flour mixture gradually and beat well.

Fold in the egg whites.

Bake in two ungreased 8-inch cake pans (I used my springform pans) for 8 to 9 minutes.


Pastry Cream:
Yields 2 1/2 cups

2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 egg yolks
1 egg
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract *

Combine milk and 1/4 cup sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Heat milk to near boil.

Meanwhile whisk yolks, egg, 2 tablespoons sugar and the cornstarch together. Temper the eggs with the scalded milk by pouring the milk slowly into the egg mixture stirring constantly. After 3/4 to 1 cup of the hot milk has been mixed in, the remaining milk can be added and whisked together.

Pour the egg and milk mixture back into the pot and bring to a near boil. Stir constantly. Watch the temperature of the custard closely when it reaches 140ºF. When the first bubble forms, remove from the heat immediately. Quickly run the custard through a sieve. Add the butter and the vanilla and stir until the butter has melted and is fully incorporated.

Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard. Place in the fridge to cool down completely. At least 3 hours.  Overnight is better.

* If you use a vanilla bean instead of extract, scrape the seeds out of a 1/2 bean and add to the milk as it is heating. You can also put the bean pod in the warming milk to further infuse the vanilla flavour. Remove the pod as you begin to temper the egg yolk mixture.

Place one cake upside down on a cake plate. Cover with at least 1/2 cup of the cooled pastry cream. Drop small spoonfuls of jam all over the pastry, using about a tablespoon of jam.

Repeat with the next two layers. Top with the 4th cake, baked side up. Chill the cake for half an hour.

Whip the cream in a chilled bowl with chilled beaters. Sweeten to taste with extra fine granulated sugar. Maybe one to two tablespoons.

Skim coat the cake with the whipped cream. Then add a layer of cream to cover it completely without any cake showing through. Using a piping bag, decorate your cake with your own design flair!

Consider serving it with a raspberry coulis and berries. This morning I served it up with leftover pastry cream and raspberries.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Jerusalem Artichokes & Roasted Garlic Soup

A fellow urban farmer kindly shares the bounty of his garden from time to time.  He is a big fan of Vicki's Veggies Farm's heirloom tomatoes and plants plenty of these Prince Edward County seedlings each June.  But before he became 'Leamington North', his garden plot had been home to Jerusalem Artichokes, also known as sunchokes.

Well, the thing is, or so he tells me, once you plant Jerusalem Artichokes, you have them for life.  It is the garden gift that keeps on giving.  Each Fall he digs in to see what volume awaits him. Even when he thinks he has them all extracted, they inevitably return again next year.

Jerusalem Artichokes have an earthy flavour and I sometimes substitute them for a potato mash on the plate.  They also go well partnered with potatoes in a mash.

My urban farmer friend spoke well of this particular soup recipe from Vicki's Veggies Farm - Sunchoke & Roasted Garlic Soup.  With a fresh batch of chicken stock coming off the stove, the mister dug into our three pound gift and put together a soul-warming creation.

We didn't have the full complement of potatoes in the pantry so the scales tipped a bit more towards the Jerusalem Artichokes.

The soup really develops its depth if it has had a day or two to chill.  It reheats well and may require a final skim before serving.

The end result is really is a plain look when nestled into our white bowls.  So beige. To bring more colour to the palate and to bring on more flavour, I garnished the soup with small garlic croutons, ristede løg (roasted onions, crumbled) and chives. Vicki suggested small diced sunchokes and bacon!

With any luck, I'll be making this again next year.

inspired by Vicki Emlaw of Vicki's Veggies Farm in Prince Edward County
Serves 6 to 8.

1 1/2 pounds of Jerusalem Artichokes (sunchokes), cleaned, rough spots peeled, then roughly chopped
3/4 pound of red potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
2 heads of garlic, roasted
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups cooking onions, thinly sliced
2 bay leaves
2 stems of thyme
6 cups chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Optional garnishes:
garlic croutons
roasted onion crumble
small diced cooked Jerusalem Artichokes

Heat oven to 300ºF. Cut the root end off each garlic. Place in a tin foil pouch. Dribble with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Close the pouch, leaving open space around the garlic.  Roast for an hour until soft and golden.  Squeeze the cloves out of their skins and set aside.

In a dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat.  Sauté the onions until the soften and begin to brown.  Stir them frequently.  Add the Jerusalem Artichokes and continue to sauté over medium high heat until the Jerusalem Artichokes and onions have caramelized.  As you stir frequently, give the bottom of the pan a good scrape to avoid over-browning of the fond.

Add the bay leaves, thyme, stock and potatoes. Bring the soup to a boil and skim off any foam that may be forming.  Lower the heat and simmer until the Jerusalem Artichokes and potatoes are soft. Continue to skim any foam as it settles to the top.

Add the roasted garlic cloves and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Remove the bay leaves. Purée the soup and return to the pot.  If it is too thin, continue to simmer to reduce.  Season the soup with salt, pepper and red wine vinegar.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Cylie Artisans Chocolatiers - The Taste Off

A friend and I popped into Cylie Artisans Chocolatiers on opening day, September 17th.  The new store is located at 204 Dalhousie Street just north of the ubiquitous Bridgehead. My friend knew the owners and while they chatted it up, I cruised the display cases to see what jewels were in store for me.

I love a high quality bar (locally I had been seeking out Hummingbird's because it is bean-to-bar or Ludwig's because he has lime bar) but I don't tend to be as attracted to filled chocolates. Partly because my likes are so narrow - citrus, raspberry, mint and caramel.  I don't enjoy tea-infused or flowery scents like lavender.

The mister is more of the chocolate aficionado than me.  To give the chocolates their due I had the mister do a taste testing with me.  

Cylie's chocolates are not fondant fillings but flavour-infused ganaches, including some with their own teas.  They also do bars and specialty items like chocolate dipped orange peels.

Now on with the tasting. They are from top to bottom:
  • Praline Noisettes
  • Piment Despelette
  • Milk Chocolate Sweet + Caramel
  • Lemongrass + Ginseng
  • Equateur
  • Milk Granduja + Pear William

The mister agreed they were all lovely and very high quality. His favourite was the Sweet + Caramel.  Mine was the Milk Granduja + Pear William. We found that the infused flavours were not overpowering and sometimes almost not noticeable. Thankfully the creamy ganache is delicious on its own.

The name Cylie is a blend of the partners' names - CYril Nebout and LesLIE Yang.  Both have pedigrees from Le Cordon Bleu, where they met here in Ottawa when Nebout was recently teaching.

With three chocolate shops within 600 metres of each other on the Dalhousie strip (Stubbe is further south and Bernard Callebaut is in the middle of those two), how is Cylie going to set themselves apart from the pack?

Stubbe's chocolate-making genealogy goes back to 1845 through six generations.

The Bernard Callebaut store is an outlet for chocolates made in and shipped from Calgary. Their chocolates are not made in the Ottawa store. The Bernard Callebaut name is highly regarded (though has a complicated past - but that's another story).

Cylie wants to present itself as a more modern twist on style and flavours, while maintaining the traditional techniques behind proper quality chocolate-making.  They enjoy presenting an artistic flair to their work.

Their showy looks make them attractive for gift giving and for including on party menus. They have hit their stride in synch with our descent into the Holiday season. Perfect timing

I was just a fly on the wall during my first visit.  How pleasant to receive a 'Well, hello again. I remember you.' greeting when I returned last week to stock up.

If you want to read more, here are recent articles regarding their opening:

>> Ottawa Citizen Style by Laura Robin
>> Ottawa Magazine by Anne DesBrisay
>> CBC In Town and Out Radio Show

Cylie Artisans Chocolatiers
204 Dalhousie Street
Ottawa, Ontario
Facebook: Cylie Artisans Chocolatiers
Twitter: cyliechocolat

Tues - Sat: 11 am - 7 pm

Cylie Artisans Chocolatiers on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 7, 2013

LCBO Food & Drink Magazine - Holiday Issue 2013

My Holiday holiday is Christmas and I loved all the gold and red glitter of last year's LCBO Food & Drink's festive season issue.  I am always hopeful for a cover that gets me in the Christmas party spirit. A warmth that draws me in. 

I have to say that wasn't my reaction when my eyes made contact with magazine in the store. I wondered about the casual setting, as the holidays are a time to put on the Ritz, get out the finery and fuss over the littlest of details.  Having now read the magazine cover to cover, I love so much of it.  The fancy and the bling is there.

I do love the look of those smørrebrød-like bites - Horseradish and Smoked Trout Paté on Rye Croutons.

It wasn't until I read editor Jody Dunn's welcome that I found out Emerald Green is the 'IT' colour for 2013 says Pantone. I glanced back at the cover and noticed the colour of the logo. The masthead. The skin on the cucumber. The feathering of microgreens.  All Pantone's Emerald Green. There is more of that beautiful green inside.

Tradition is that I weigh the holiday issue of LCBO's Food and Drink. 890 grams. 1190 grams with all the inserts. Heftiest ever!

We were having big talk at the dinner table recently about horseradish.  We all love it and love it strong.  Clean your nose out strong.  The Food Trends article by Lucy Waverman is called Horseradish. Lucy says, "Horseradish is the ingredient of the moment." Happily I am dialed in to what's the latest for once. I agree with Lucy that the best result comes from using fresh root, peeling it and microplaning on the spot.  Jars of horseradish can be handy, but their kick dissipates over time.

A hometown shout out for Steve Robinson.  He is chef Marc Lepine's sommelier at critically acclaimed Atelier restaurant here in Ottawa and he is featured in Sommelier Selections by Nancy Won.

 This issue is loaded.  Why I love it maybe more than other Holiday issues is that it revisits a lot of the classics. A few twists to make them new.  But nothing really wild.  The holiday season is steeped in food tradition for many of us.  Those coming to our table expect some specific once-a-year favourite dishes. The recipes here are not meant to make them so different.  Just better.

Did you know that in 2005 Forbes.com selected the knife as the single most important tool in human history? I learned that from Robert Hercz in his in-depth article called Knives. Thankfully my dining partners have dispensed with the "stuff-and-cut" method of eating meat. Read every word of it. And apparently it "remained acceptable to carry food to the mouth with a knife until the early 20th century." Believe it or not, I still see people do it today.  Stop please! Having an excellent knife is a wonderful gift but consider a gift certificate to a quality cutlery and cookware shop and let them pick their own.

I have parties to attend and food to plan and so I am appreciative of the suggestions in this issue.  Here is what is on my food play list:
  • Butter-Roasted Pear & Apple Compote with Mascarpone Cheese and Deep-Fried Eggs with Asiago, Spinach & Tomato (From Before The Feast by Marilyn Bentz-Crowley)
  • Roasted Vegetables with Horseradish Vinaigrette (From Horseradish by Lucy Waverman) 
  • Key Lime Shooters (From Drink Matchmaker - Sensational Sippers by Julia Aitken)
  • Garganelli with Ricotta & Blistered Cherry Tomatoes and Abalone Mushrooms with 6-Minute Egg and Romesco Sauce ( From Small Plates by Lucy Waverman and James Chatto)
  •  Sparkling Elderflower Ice (From White Wonders by Victoria Walsh)
  • Lobster Diavolo (From Deep Sea Dining by Emily Richards)
  • Herb-Roasted Rutabaga Batons & Cipollini Onions (From Tried & New by Jennifer MacKenzie)
  • Salmon Rillettes (From Late Night Supper by Lucy Waverman)
  • Gruyère & Cranberry Risotto (From Finding Favour with Flavour by Tonia Wilson-Vuksanovic)

I heard there were printing and distribution issues that meant some stores did not receive the magazine on time for Wednesday opening.  I hope you have yours.

Plan ahead: The Winter issue hits the stores in ten weeks on Wednesday, January 15th.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

My CSA Experience 2013 - A Year in Review

Regular readers will know that I have been a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) half-shareholder with Roots and Shoots Farm since they began their operation in the summer of 2010.  Much has changed over the past 4 years.  For them and for me.

They began with an acre of land and 60 CSA shareholders.  When I talked to Jesse Weatherhead at the Ottawa Farmers' Market this past Sunday, she said they are now using 10 acres and have 250 CSA shares representing approximately 280 families.

At the end of year two they acquired greenhouses.

They also put in an irrigation system - a saviour during the drought of 2012.

Robin and Jesse bought a house near by. No more trailer living for them.

They have a refrigerated truck and better storage for keeping the produce after harvest, both short term and longer term.  The produce coming to us is more consistently high quality and also well cleaned.

They implemented a swap box system a few years back to allow for trades.  Sometimes you just don't want another two quarts of zucchini. I used it once when it was first implemented when I was tempted by a beautiful red cabbage.  I take my basket 'as is' as a show of support for learning to use what the harvest provides.

This past season they introduced a vacation policy.  If you gave appropriate notice, you were allowed to forgo as many as three baskets without losing out.  The credit goes towards next years share.  In the past, if we were away we arranged for a friend to pick up the basket and enjoy it on our behalf.  We used the vacation feature for one of our weeks this summer. This was nothing short of a miracle with how our summer plans unfolded.  Getting to the CSA pickup location on our day is a constant challenge because of that active schedule.

There is now an online farm store for their shareholders.  This allows us access to other products all year round.  I have used it to buy extra garlic and to also purchase meat.  Roots and Shoots Farm raised chickens this year and they also have an arrangement with another farm for organic beef.  This feature is very handy when I am not able to meet up with them at the local farmers' market to augment my basket.  I like that I can still get staples like onions, potatoes, carrots, beets and squash even though the CSA shares have ended for the summer.

In year 4, Roots and Shoots Farm extended the season from 16 weeks to 18 weeks.

The farm has established a Fall share program.  We did not use it last year or this year.  Although we were very much interested, we wanted a break from 'pickup deadline' since we have another crazy fall schedule. Their fall share program runs for 8 weeks from the end of October to mid-December and means pickups every other week.

Robin and Jesse extended their growing season into the winter in their third year.  In fact they were recently recognized by the provincial government with the Premier's Award For Agri-Food Innovation Excellence for their innovative winter greens program.

Roots and Shoots Farm is now certified organic, a status not so common in the Ottawa area. Many say they use 'organic practices' in their farming.  It is not the same.  Roots and Shoots prices in the marketplace are also on par with their local non-certified organic competitors.  It is a premium to me to have certified organic produce.

Roots and Shoots Farm have set land aside since year one to grow food for the food bank.

Communication has improved year after year.  In year one, I knew what would be in my basket when I lifted the bin lids at my pickup location.  Now they send us a weekly newsletter a day or two ahead of my pickup where they list the upcoming share content, suggested recipes and the latest farm news.

This is the kind of farm we have hitched our wagon to and we feel so fortunate. As a CSA shareholder, how could I not be happier?  As a seasoned shareholder, I am definitely a lot more comfortable with the concept than when I first started.  But I still have woes.

When I sign up for my share in the winter, I have no idea what my summer plans might hold.  Who will be living here? How much will we be traveling? Can we expect a slew of visiting house guests?

Having a CSA basket coming in the house every other week needs people to eat it.  This continues to be a roller-coaster ride for us.  With the darling son away at university for the summer and the mister traveling constantly with work, there were many days when I was the only person at the dinner table.  I am not a 'tea and toast' eater when I am going solo but I don't always crave a full on, pull out the stops meal.  Many invitations out to with others for dinner meant that sometimes the count went from one to none! Often the volume was overwhelming and I was looking for ways to preserve what I had received or trying to create dishes that could be stored for later. For someone who likes to live in the moment, that created pressure to be organized.

If we were traveling for the weekend, getting the basket on Thursday evening had its challenges.  There was limited time to do anything with it before we headed out.  When visiting family or friends I brought my food with me and thankfully it was well received. This wasn't an option when we were hoteling.  Gah! The pressure.

The first baskets of the season contain the most tender of greens.  Ideally you want to eat them right away. At least in the first day or two.  That gets tricky if we were away or there was just me here.  Tender greens aren't the easiest thing to 'preserve'.

The food in the basket is preset.  If I had plans to make a dish that week that did not include anything provided in the basket, it likely wasn't going to happen.  Focus was always on how to use up the CSA share in a timely way.

Being a CSA shareholder is hard work to use it with care and try not to let any of it go to waste.  Sometimes it means I am cooking whether I want to or not.  I often felt 'behind' and that meant less exploring with new recipes than I would like and more reliance on the tried and true, just to 'get er done'. Recipes I knew that were already crowd pleasers. Despite that, there has been a lot of playing.

Over the 4 years I have become more relaxed with it all.  I do have a larger repertoire of recipes for using my veggies. Some borrowed. Some created. I have been more successful with my food storage to maximize how long my produce will last.  I have become better at preserving my extra food if I can't use it all in time.  And I have hosted more dinner guests (friends and neighbours) to help eat up the bounty.  I definitely know my neighbours better. Good food unites!

Some food highlights for me:

I loved how often we received herbs in our early baskets.  If I had a chance, I picked basil each and every time.  And I turned it into basil pesto just about each and every time.  Some might have considered the bunch too small to bother but pesto is easy to make and also easy to freeze.

I received some gorgeous eggplants.  I don't recall getting eggplants before. Wonderful for curries and also baba ghanoush.

I loved how often we received beets.  I can't get enough of roasted beets and enjoyed them constantly in salads, usually serving them up at dinner parties. In fact, I loved roasting them so much I didn't do any pickling this year. Yet.

I loved  how often we received cucumbers.  This was the summer of tzatziki for us.  We also had Danish cucumber salad often too.

Have I mentioned the garlic?  I received 8 heads of garlic.  They were all beautiful, big and perfect.  They are all gone. I still have 50 heads of garlic from other farmers stored away in my cool, dry basement to get me through the winter.

I don't mind radishes but I was fine that I only received them once.  They are not my favourite to eat in volume.

No cabbage.  The farm had a problem with their field of cabbage.  No napa. No green.  No red.  I missed not having cabbage.  But I get that being a shareholder means sharing in the risk as well as the glory.  I did buy red cabbage from them at the most recent Ottawa Farmers' Market at Brewer Park.  They just didn't have enough to give out in their shares.

The carrots were awesome! So were all the onions and potatoes.  I love getting plenty of the basics.

I received many tomatoes. Give me more tomatoes and I would be over the moon!

In closing, you might be wondering after all my angst, will I sign up for year 5.  Yes. Yes, I will. Take another look at my 8 CSA baskets and you will see why I find that such an easy decision.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Roots and Shoots Farm - 18th Week of CSA Food 2013

It is always with a bit of sadness when we go to pick up our last Roots and Shoots Farm CSA share of the season. Week 18 came so quickly and that was two weeks ago already.

1 quart of Carrots
2 quarts of Potatoes - a mix of Chieftain and Russet
1 Butternut Squash
2 Acorn Squash
1 bunch of Leeks
2 Cooking Onions
2 Garlic
1 pint of Parsnips
1 bunch of Broccoli leaves
1 quart of Beets
1 bunch Swiss chard
1 Rutabaga

Much of of the preparation of this share was very basic. Often just roasted to have the beautiful produce accompany some special meals. As you will see, the dishes speak to the change in the weather.  More comfort food and food to that can be stored in the freezer for another day.

The carrots were roasted with two meals - one was a prime rib roast dinner.  The other was a roasted chicken (Roots and Shoots Farm chickens) dinner.

The Chieftain potatoes were roasted for the prime rib dinner.  The russets were used with the leeks for a scalloped potato recipe to which we also included sweet potatoes, bacon and onion.

The butternut squash went into homemade butternut squash ravioli.  After roasting the squash, I mixed the pulp with a bit of cream, maple syrup, finely diced sauteed onions, sage, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper.

The acorn squash was roasted for the chicken dinner.  Since it was a dinner party, we used both.  A dinner we called Christmas in October. The squash were roasted with a bit of butter, brown sugar, salt and pepper.

The onions were used in French Onion Soup.

The garlic was used in our ubiquitous garlic shrimp pasta dish.

The parsnips were roasted up for the prime rib roast dinner.

The rutabaga was used in the big vat of beef stew.

The broccoli leaves and Swiss chard was chopped up and put in the freezer for another day.

The beets are still in the fridge.  They are not big and will be sweet when roasted.  There is a nice selection of colours too.  It may not be imaginative, but I bet they end up in a roasted beet salad.  We never tire of this dish.

They say they have learned a lot over the last 4 years. I can say that I have too. Thank you Roots and Shoots Farm.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Morning Owl - Revisiting The Australian Flat White

Morning Owl Coffeehouse at 538 Rochester Street, just north of Carling is on my list of Best Espresso Coffee Shops In Ottawa.  I was more of a regular here two or three years ago and then it fell off my flight path. A combination of where my travels would take me in a day and also a few inconsistencies with the drink.

This morning I popped in to get a refresher and see how things have transpired for this weekday-only (7am to 3 pm) shop.  Busy as ever with a steady stream of customers. Clearly a loyal following of regulars, ordering without hesitation or a need to glance at the menu board.

I ordered my usual for the Owl - a small Australian flat white. $4 with tax.The baked goods tempted and I went for what I thought was the least 'sweet' - a beautiful, moist and fruity blueberry scone. $2.50 with tax. Their baker said she has been making the treats for The Morning Owl for two years now.

My barista, Tommy said he has been working there for 3 years.  A really good sign.  The Rancilio espresso machine, there since day one, was still humming along.

What is new as of two weeks ago - and this is pretty important - they now use a custom-blend from Equator Coffee Roasters up in Almonte, outside of Ottawa.  Not a lot of coffee shops in Ottawa are serving up Equator beans (I know of Café Qui Pense on Main Street), so as a fan my interest was piqued.

They are also selling this custom-blend in the shop. Owner, Jordan O'Leary, sent me home with a few beans to try in my own Rancilio machine, Silvia.

How was that flat white? Faith restored.

It was the right combination of caramel-y, chocolate-y notes. Not acidic. Good depth in coffee strength. And not to be overlooked - the right temperature on the milk.  Too many places overheat their milk.

In fact, I was left with a WOW feeling. The kind of wow that makes you want to bring your empty cup back and tell them yourself.

Morning Owl Coffeehouse
538 Rochester Street
Ottawa, Ontario

Mon - Fri: 7 am to 3 pm

Morning Owl on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Roots and Shoots Farm - 16th Week of CSA Food 2013

This is my Roots and Shoots Farm CSA basket heading into Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving is a holiday where my people count on the traditional favourites.  It might be risky business to mess with those expectations.

The onions typically go into the stuffing and the giblet stock.  The carrots, acorn squash and potatoes get roasted with a minimal of extra flavours. They have their own earthy taste in the mouth.  Together on the plate they need to share the stage, complement the other and of course, go well with gravy!

I could get away with turning that kohlrabi into slaw again, if I can find a decent Northern Spy.  The garlic won't make it to the end of the week, since it's a daily staple.  I patiently wait for those green tomatoes to take colour.  They will.  The leek has already been set aside for soup.

But kale for Thanksgiving would be something new. We've never had kale for Thanksgiving before.  Have you?

1 Bunch of Red Russian Kale
1 Bunch of Dinosaur Kale
1 Quart of Carrots
1 Quart of Chieftain Potatoes
2 Delicata Squash
1 Acorn Squash
1 Bunch of Leek
2 Cooking Onions
1 Garlic
3 Green Tomatoes
1 Bunch of Hakurei Turnips

Monday, October 7, 2013

My Father - A Man Missed and Much Loved

For the past eleven years October 7th has been an autumn day that seems to trumpet the changing of the season.  On this day I see, hear and feel that shift.  Whether the rain is a bit colder, the wind a bit stronger, the sun a bit lower in the sky.

My last day with my father was at his bedside, embracing the family and waiting.  Waiting for his racing, heaving heart to end its marathon. He lay in peaceful comfort and was attended to with the greatest of care.

That sunny Sunday morning I plucked the only red leaf from a newly planted maple tree already bursting with yellow, orange and rust. Like my father, that one red leaf stood out among the others.

My father had many talents. I am particularly proud of his time as a Canadian farmer.  Besides the business itself, he and my mother architected a very large garden to provide for the family.

Although my mother tended to much of the planting and then preserving, I felt my father was more involved with the potatoes and carrots.  With his equipment and strong arms, we stored away countless 50-pound burlap bags of root vegetables to feed us through the winter.  He was always there with the tractor when we were harvesting the high hanging fruit from our abundant pear tree.

Perhaps his greatest gift to us was choosing to call Canada home.  Because of his courage to see Canada as his future, he enjoyed 48 years here and his growing family now lives in the finest country in the world.

That sad Sunday morning the lone red maple leaf was a last minute grab before heading to the hospital.  I wanted a little piece of the outside world to be touching my father as he lay sleeping in his windowless, sterile, high-tech setting.  As the hours past, the bright red maple leaf continued to shine like a badge against his blue gown.

When so many details of finality were looming large, in all the blur, I still somehow managed to bring the tired maple leaf back home.  A little bit drier and curled.  It lays tucked in the pages of my hymn book at song 67 - Silent Night. Perhaps my father's favourite hymn.

On this cold, sunny, windy, rainy day, I see the leaves glowing red again. A reminder for us of the changing season. A reminder for me of my last day with a very special man.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Roots and Shoots Farm - 14th Week of CSA Food 2013

We are almost done this last Roots and Shoots Farm CSA basket as we are just days away from getting the next.  It was an exciting basket because of all the great colour. We have been enjoying some delicious dishes. I have a few pictures from my smartphone to share with you throughout the post.

4 leeks
1 bunch of Swiss chard
6 green tomatoes
2 ripe tomatoes (I took one red and one yellow)
1 head of garlic
1 quart russet potatoes
1 bunch beets (I picked a bunch that included red, golden and candy cane)
1 kohlrabi
1 quart carrots
1 bunch of kale
2 acorn squash
2 red onions

The leeks and Swiss chard went into a Martha Stewart recipe - Leek and Swiss Chard Tart.  It was a lot of work.  We enjoyed it best when it was first made.  We didn't think the leftover reheated that well.  I would consider making this again but playing with the ingredients a bit.  The mister suggested adding bacon.  Let's not be surprised. I appreciated making a pâte brisée again.  It is not my regular crust.

Danny was emphatic that the green tomatoes would stay green.  I am glad they defied him.  All 6 of them turned red over the week before we ate them.  I turned them into a tomato salad with a few of their yellow cherry tomatoes that I picked up at the market.  They were tossed with some chives and a dressing of Kricklewood Farm's sunflower oil, Temecula Olive Oil Company's California Balsamico Bianco vinegar, salt and pepper.

The two ripe tomatoes were used in an heirloom tomato salad along with other heirlooms I bought at the market.  We make this recipe each September and I blogged about it here.

The entire head of garlic went into our favourite Garlic Shrimp Pasta dish.

The russet potatoes were used in a mashed topping for the Shepherd's Pie. It sure isn't a pretty thing to photograph when it hits the plate!

The beets were roasted and used in a salad with goat cheese, Spicy Maple Pecans and mixed greens.  By now you know we love that salad and make it a lot.

The kohlrabi was made into a matchstick slaw along with an Empire apple, celery and CSA carrots.  The dressing I used was adapted from Bobby Flay's Creamy Coleslaw dressing.

The carrots we used for lunches with other raw veggies for munching, in the Shepherd's Pie and in the kohlrabi slaw.

Still outstanding are: the kale, the two acorn squash and the 2 red onions.  The squash and onions can keep for quite a bit. The kale will become a salad or I will put it in the freezer for a future dish.  Frozen it will still be fine in a soup or quiche.

I think overall this basket can be declared a success.  We had a number of dining out experiences mixed in with the home cooking that has made managing the fridge a bit tricky.  We are striving to use all of our basket and to use it well.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...