Archive for July, 2013

Seasonal eats: 10 reasons to buy fresh green beans

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

Photo by Megg, via Flickr

Green beans (also known as string or snap beans) are at their peak in the summer months. Besides adding flavour, texture and vibrant colour to many dishes, they’re nutritional powerhouses, full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other health-protecting properties.

You’ll find green beans in grocery stores year-round, but they’re much tastier and more nourishing eaten fresh, so seek them out at farmers’ markets and farm gates or enjoy them as part of your CSA basket. Better yet, grow them yourself and eat them straight off the vine.

Green beans have a long history in the human diet. Along with other members of the common bean family (phaseolus vulgaris),  they originated in Central and South America thousands of years ago and were introduced to the Mediterranean – along with corn, squash and other indigenous Native American crops — after Columbus returned from the New World in 1493.

Despite the “common” label, they’re exceptional in many ways. Here’s why they deserve a place on your dinner table.

  1. Their clean flavour makes them an ideal accompaniment for meat and poultry, other vegetable dishes, and international cuisines.
  2. Their crunchy texture adds good mouth-feel while their emerald green colour brightens the plate.
  3. Like most veggies, they’re low-calorie.
  4. They’re excellent sources of vitamins A, K and C.
  5. Fresh green beans boast a higher overall concentration of antioxidants (including vitamin C and manganese) than other foods in the pea and bean families. Antioxidants can help prevent some forms of cancer and heart disease, and enhance your immune response to infections.
  6. They offer cardiovascular benefits as a result of their strong antioxidant profile, and possibly their omega-3 fatty acid content as well.
  7. Early research suggests that green beans’ carotenoid carotene and flavonoid content may provide anti-inflammatory benefits, potentially offering protection against type 2 diabetes. (Carotenoids and flavonoids are responsible for many plant colours and act as antioxidants.)
  8. The vegetable is a good source of nutrients such as fibre, folate, Vitamins B6 and B2, and potassium. It also contains vitamin B1, iron and calcium.
  9. Green beans are easy to prepare. They retain more of their health benefits when steamed or sautéed whole, and can be combined with other veggies like corn, cauliflower, red peppers and mushrooms, or included in main dishes, soups or salads. (For recipe ideas, try sources like Food & Drink, Bonnie Stern’s website, Food Network or Eating Well.) They’re also a frequent ingredient in French cuisine (think salade Niçoise or haricots verts almandine) and Asian dishes.
  10. They freeze well and can also be canned or pickled. (Note: Freezing will retain more nutrients than other types of processing.)

My favourite bean dish is Madhur Jaffrey’s spicy, garlicky Gujarati-style green beans. What’s yours?


Seasonal Eats: Chef Justin Faubert’s recipe for lamb chops with fresh BBQ sauce and potato salad stack

Saturday, July 27th, 2013

Photo by Justin Faubert

This colourful summer dish pairs fresh tomatoes with grilled lamb and adds flair to an old picnic mainstay – potato salad.

To prepare the meal, chef Justin Faubert chose lamb from Maple Meadow Farm in Osgoode (you can also find Maple Meadow meats at The Piggy Market), eggs from Bekings Poultry Farm, and potatoes and tomatoes from Roots Down Organics. The herbs and the vegetables shown in the photo came from Justin’s garden.

Justin Faubert is chef for Thyme and Again Catering and for his own private chef and consulting company, Landwaterfork Foods. He is also the local auditor for Leaders in Environmentally Accountable Foodservice (LEAF), a national sustainable foodservice standards organization. A Vancouver native who graduated from the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts and holds the Red Seal Chef designation, Justin has contributed other recipes to Earthward.

Maple Meadow lamb chops

Serves 4

2-3 lamb chops per person

salt and pepper

Prepare the chops by trimming the fat (if desired). Sprinkle them with fresh chopped oregano or mint and season well with salt and pepper.  Set your grill to medium hot (400˚). Grill the chops on each side for approximately 4 minutes or until they reach the desired doneness. Be careful with flare ups! Remove the chops and let them rest.

If you don’t have a grill, broil the chops in the oven, or sear them in a pan on the stovetop.

Fresh BBQ sauce

Prep time:  5 min

12 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

1 tbsp red onion, minced

2 tsp honey

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, oregano, basil

salt and pepper to taste

Put all ingredients in a bowl and mash them lightly with a fork. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Spoon the tomatoes and juices over the lamb chops.

Potato salad stack

Prep time: 10-15 min

Cook time: 20 min

4 medium yellow or red skinned new potatoes

2 eggs

1 red onion, thinly sliced

1 tsp Dijon mustard

2 tsp chives, finely sliced

1 tsp tarragon, minced

½ lemon, zest and juice

2 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Boil potatoes in salted water until tender. Drain and chill. Hard cook eggs in boiling salted water for 12 minutes. Cool and peel. Combine mustard, herbs, lemon, oil, salt and pepper in a bowl. Reserve.

Cut cooled potatoes into 1 cm slices. Thinly slice the eggs and place one slice on each slice of potato.  Top with a few slices of onion. Spoon a little dressing over each potato/egg and stack 3-4 potato/egg pieces together. Garnish with a sprig of fresh herbs or celery flowers.

Serve with fresh garden vegetables.  Pictured are snow peas, asparagus and Chioggia beets.

What’s your favourite summer grill dish?


Celebrating Ottawa’s summer harvest: farmers’ markets, food festivals, gourmet tours and picnic pop-up’s

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

Photo by Lorna Rande (Flickr)

Besides hot weather and non-stop music festivals, summer in Ottawa means an explosion of local produce and food celebrations across the city. Visit farmers’ markets for just-picked fruit and veggies. Dine at open-air picnics where Ottawa’s chefs prepare dishes using fresh local ingredients. Tour regional farms and food artisans. Learn to forage for wild edibles.

Not only will you enjoy the best food Ottawa has to offer, you’ll help support the local food economy and learn more about how the region feeds itself. Here’s a taste of what’s coming up over the next six weeks.

Harvest events

Partnering with local farmers, some of the Ottawa region’s finest chefs prepare unique dishes from seasonal local ingredients for family-style dining. Participating restaurants include Beckta Dining and WineCourtyard RestaurantFairmont Château Laurier and Thyme and Again Creative Catering, among others.

Tickets start at $75/person and are available at Event Brite and the Ottawa Farmers Market. VIP tickets ($90) cover cocktails and appetizers, and a tour of the Ottawa Farmers’ Market by C’est Bon Cooking.

  • Harvest Noir Secret Picnic, September 7, 5 p.m.

Described by media as a game-changer when it burst on the Ottawa scene a few years ago, the Harvest Noir Secret Picnic is a pop-up foodie and social happening whose location is announced at the last minute. In the past, as many as 1,500 people have attended to celebrate local food and farms, strut their stuff in black vintage clothing, dance, and enjoy the spectacle of flash mobs and a pop-up parade.  The event is modeled on similar picnics in Europe, New York City and Montréal.

Tickets range from about $37 to $57 and can be ordered online. 

Food markets 

  • Farmers’ markets

In full swing right now, many will remain open until October/November. Others, such as the Byward Market and the Savour Ottawa Parkdale Field House, are open year-round. Check here for a full list of urban and village markets in the Ottawa region. For tips on how to shop smarter at the farmers’ market, read my May post.

  • Good Food Markets, summer

These community non-profits sell good quality, affordably priced fruits, vegetables and dried goods in neighbourhoods that don’t have farmers’ markets or food stores nearby.  For information about dates and locations, go to or contact Kaitrin Doll at

Food festivals 

The herbfest is geared to gardeners, foodies, environmentalists, families, artists and entrepreneurs who are interested in healthy living alternatives. Highlights will include live music, local food producers and a chef cook-off, hosted by Debbie Trenholm of The Savvy Company. Buy tickets in advance ($4 per person/$12 per family) or at the gate.

  • Garlic festivals, August 10-11, Carp and Perth

Sample different types of garlic from a variety of producers, see cooking demonstrations and check out other food vendors and artisans at the Carp Garlic Festival or the Perth Lions Garlic Festival.

Tours and walks 

  • Wild garden plant walk, August 7, 17, 21

Learn how to identify, use, harvest, process and store safe, common wild plants. Walks are led by Amber Westfall, founder of The Wild Garden and a start-up farmer with Just Food. Tickets cost $20 for a single walk and $15 for multiple walks. Sign up online or contact Amber.

The day’s agenda includes trips to three organic farms: Arc Acres Farm (vegetables, beef and pork), Grazing Days Farm (beef) and vegetable farm Roots and Shoots (to be confirmed). Go to the COG website for more info or send an email to register.  Instead of admission fees, COG encourages donations to help support its educational programs.

  • Just Food’s 7th Annual Urban Agriculture Bike Tour, August 25

This relaxed-pace 12 km bike ride will take you to five of the city’s more than 30 community gardens where coordinators will share their garden experiences and answer questions. For more info or to sign up, send an email ( or call Agathe Moreau at 613-699-6850 (x12). Tickets are $5 each. 

Get a taste of Ottawa’s varied culinary scene by visiting farmers’ markets, and chefs and food artisans in neighbourhoods such as Westboro, the Glebe, Hintonburg, Preston Street and rue Eddy. Tours start at $40 plus taxes.

What’s your favourite way to celebrate Ottawa’s summer harvest?


Get creative: Help Hidden Harvest Ottawa make aprons for “fruit superheroes”

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

Hidden Harvest Ottawa volunteers
Photo: Courtesy of Hidden Harvest Ottawa

If you’re a supporter of local tree fruit, join Hidden Harvest Ottawa this Sunday, July 21 for a free sewing workshop where you’ll help make “fruit superhero” aprons for the volunteer harvesters of Ottawa’s fruit and nut trees. No experience is necessary and you can register online for the event, to be held at Fabrications.

The workshop is one of several activities Hidden Harvest has planned for the summer as part of its long-term goal to make Ottawa a food-tree friendly city.  The group rescues fruit and nuts that would otherwise go to waste by organizing harvests of suitable trees and distributing the produce to community food agencies.

Here’s a closer look at Hidden Harvest Ottawa, what else it has scheduled for the summer, and how you can help.

Tell me more about Hidden Harvest Ottawa.

In operation for just over a year, co-founders Katrina Siks and Jay Garlough created Hidden Harvest to provide Ottawa residents with the knowledge, organizational support and legal means to access edible fruit and nut trees on public and private property. The five-year goal is to make Ottawa the largest urban orchard in Eastern Canada.

The business connects tree owners with volunteer harvesters and Ottawa Food Bank agencies that can make good use of the food, which can range from apples, pears and soft fruits to black walnuts and hazelnuts. Harvests are shared with the community agency, the homeowner and volunteers. Hidden Harvest also uses a portion of the fruit for activities such as juice- and jam-making workshops.  In addition, it sells high quality food-bearing trees suited to Ottawa’s soils and climate, such as paw paw, serviceberry, heartnut and Asian pear.

Hidden Harvest follows in the footsteps of Not Far From the Tree and similar groups across Canada dedicated to supporting urban orchards.

Is it a for-profit business or a charity?

Siks and Garlough say the organization uses a social purpose business (SPB) model. SPBs are for-profit but place equal emphasis on creating measureable social benefits. In the case of Hidden Harvest, the social benefits include boosting Ottawa’s food security, making the city food-tree friendly, and addressing climate change by strengthening the local food economy. Plans are for Hidden Harvest to be financially self-sufficient in three years through strategies such as the tree sales.

How can I help?

Besides the fruit superhero apron workshop, what other events does Hidden Harvest Ottawa have lined up for the summer?

The key activities will be the harvests themselves, along with volunteer training workshops. Siks estimates that about 40 harvests will take place this year, up from 10 in 2012. Once a harvest event is arranged for a certain neighbourhood, volunteers who’ve signed up to pick fruit in that area receive an email with the date, time and locations.

At this point, two volunteer training sessions are on tap for August:

  1. Introduction to being a Hidden Harvest Volunteer

When:                  August 12, 6-7 p.m.

Where:                 HUB Ottawa,  F6, 71 Bank Street

Register online.

  1. Introduction to being a Hidden Harvest Neighbourhood Leader

When:                  August 13

Where:                 Also at HUB Ottawa

Other activities are also being considered for the coming months, such as a fundraising jam-making event and a permaculture yard tour.

What fruit and nut trees do you have in your neighbourhood? Is the food harvested or does it go to waste?

Seasonal eats: 6 reasons to love garlic scapes

Friday, July 12th, 2013


Photo by Nocivelgia, from Flickr

The Carp and Perth garlic festivals are a month away but in the meantime, we have a few weeks to enjoy the green, mild-tasting shoots, or scapes,  harvested from hard-necked varieties of garlic at this time of year.

What are garlic scapes?

Like its relatives in the Allium family (onions, leeks, shallots and chives), garlic grows underground, developing into a soft bulb. As the bulb grows and hardens, a shoot resembling a green onion pokes up through the soil and twists into a tight curl before straightening.

Harvested while green and crisp, garlic scapes make a delicious, versatile addition to salads, dips and grilled vegetables. Unharvested, the scape turns into the woody garlic stalk or neck, and reduces the potential size of the garlic bulb.

While the health benefits of garlic scapes haven’t been studied, they likely have similar advantages to garlic itself, such as reducing the risk of certain chronic diseases and improving the immune system.

Storing and preserving

Store garlic scapes in the refrigerator and use within a week so they don’t wilt and lose their flavour. You could also freeze them (blanch first for 60 seconds, then plunge into icy water) or even pickle them.

Tasty, nutritious, easy to prepare

Here are six reasons to make garlic scapes part of your early summer eating.

  1. They combine fresh, mild garlic flavour with crisp texture and add visual punch to any dish.
  2. They’re versatile:  You can eat them raw or cooked. Chop them into a salad, stir fry or soup; grill them with other veggies; purée them to make pesto; or sauté them and add to an omelette. (Try sources such as Canadian Gardening, Canadian Living and Saveur for recipes.)
  3. In season, garlic scapes are easy to find at farmers’ markets or may be included in your CSA basket. (BTW, you won’t find them at the supermarket — at least not yet.)
  4. They’re only 30 calories per 100 grams.
  5. While studies on the topic are hard to come by, it’s reasonable to assume that scapes share nutritional benefits with garlic bulbs. For example, garlic is: high in manganese; a very good source of vitamin B6 and vitamin C, and; a good source of fibre, thiamin (vitamin B1) and the minerals phosphorus, selenium, calcium, and copper.
  6. Garlic has been known for its healing properties since 3000 BC. Studies show that it contains anti-microbial, anti-cancer, and antioxidant benefits, as well as the ability to reduce cardiovascular disease, boost immunity, and protect against diabetes. Again, garlic scapes may offer similar medicinal attributes.

Where do you buy garlic scapes? What’s your favourite way to prepare them?