Archive for February, 2014

Seasonal Eats: Purée of wild black walnut and butternut soup

Sunday, February 16th, 2014

Black walnut trees abound in Ottawa. The nuts can be used in a variety of dishes, including pâtés and soups.
Photo: Carol von Canon (via Flickr),

The Ottawa region is full of black walnut and butternut trees that bear tasty, nourishing fruit each fall. Squirrels love to stockpile them (as we found out last year when we discovered a huge stash of butternuts in our woodshed), but what most of us don’t realize is that they’re good food for people, too.

Thanks to groups such as Hidden Harvest Ottawa and the  Torbolton Institute, more of these flavourful local nuts are being gathered and used for cooking and eating. Shelling butternuts, and black walnuts in particular, can be challenging, but worth the effort.

Greystone Locavore In-season Fetes

To show how versatile wild local nuts can be, Chef Darryl MacDougall has decided to feature them on the menu for a February 25 locavore dinner to be held at his Constance Bay restaurant, the Greystone Grill. The dinner is one of a series dubbed the Greystone Locavore In-season Fetes that showcase foods and producers within a 100-mile radius. The Fêtes are an initiative of the Torbolton Institute, an innovations hub whose goals include making Ottawa locally food secure by 2020.

In addition to puréed nut soup – the recipe’s below — Chef MacDougall’s 5-course menu will include:

Wild black walnut and butternut pâtés

Handmade local butternut squash ravioli from Parma Ravioli, in a butter sage sauce

Rack of lamb from Our Farm CSA, served with root vegetables and a port reduction*

Fresh apple pie from Alice’s Village Café, with ice cream, drizzled with local maple syrup

*You can choose between this main course and vegetarian lasagna with béchamel sauce.

Greystone Locavore Winter Fête

6 p.m., February 25, 2014

179 Constance Bay Road, Ottawa

Price: $40/seat

Call to reserve your spot:  613-832-0009

About Chef Darryl MacDougall

A native of Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, Darryl MacDougall learned his cooking skills at George Brown College and completed his apprenticeship at The Windsor Arms Hotel under Chef (and Masterchef Canada judge) Michael Bonacini. He opened the Greystone Grill a year ago and operates it with his wife Nadine. The couple is proud that the Greystone has been nominated as restaurant of the year for West Carleton by the West Ottawa Board of Trade.

Purée of wild black walnut and butternut soup

Chef Darryl adapted this recipe from one developed by his friend Chef Tony de Luca with whom he apprenticed in the 1980s. The original appears as Purée of Chestnut Soup in de Luca’s 2009 cookbook Simply in Season.

¼ c (60 mL) unsalted butter

¼ c (60 mL) olive oil

2 c (500 mL) black walnuts and/or butternuts, shelled and chopped

1 large onion, chopped

1 potato, peeled and chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 small cloves garlic, minced

6 c (1.5 L) vegetable stock, chicken stock or water

3 sprigs Italian parsley

2 whole cloves

1 bay leaf

2 tbsp (30 mL) dry sherry

35% cream

kosher salt and black pepper to taste

parmesan cheese

truffle oil

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and add the butter and oil. When the butter foams, add the nuts, onion, potato, celery and garlic and cook, covered and stirring frequently, for about 15 minutes or until the onion is softened by not browned.

Add the stock and bring to a boil, then simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until the nuts and vegetables are soft enough to purée. Add parsley springs, cloves and bay leaf and simmer for another 5 minutes. Remove parsley spring, cloves and bay leaf.

In a blender (not a food processor), purée the soup until very smooth. Pour the soup back into the rinsed-out saucepan. Stir in the sherry and a bit of cream, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Keep warm until ready to serve. Top with grated parmesan cheese and a few drops of truffle oil.

What local foods do you gather and how do you prepare them?

Share the love on Valentine’s Day with handmade local treats

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

Go local this Valentine’s with a heart-shaped chocolate torte from Carolina’s Box of Goodness.
Photo courtesy of Carolina’s Box of Goodness

Even with climate change, it’s unlikely that cocoa beans and sugar cane will ever grow in Ottawa. But that doesn’t mean sweet-toothed locavores are stuck with mass-produced candy on Valentine’s Day. Far from it. The region boasts a growing number of small-scale artisan bakers, chocolatiers, and confectioners who make their products from scratch, using local ingredients as often as they can.

With February 14 just days away, here are some ideas for treats made in the Ottawa region.

Auntie Loo’s Treats

Ottawa’s first 100% vegan bakery, Auntie Loo’s makes fresh desserts in small batches, from scratch, using organic and local products when possible. Many treats can be made in gluten-free versions.

  • Single-layer 6-inch cakes ($15 + HST)

Available in flavours such as champagne and chocolate strawberry, and decorated with Valentine messages.

  • Cake pops (6 for $15)

Choose from double chocolate and chocolate peanut butter.

  • Sugar cookies (6 for $15)

Available in sets with and without Valentine’s Day messages, and in mixed packs.

Other Valentine treats include: Cupcakes for 2 ($10 + HST), donuts with Valentine’s sprinkles (6 for $20), and a giant heart-shaped whoopee pie ($15 + HST).

Order online or call the store at (613)238-ALOO (2566). Arrange pick-up for February 13, 14 or 15.

Carolina’s Box of Goodness

Carolina Foresti, owner of Carolina’s Box of Goodness, specializes in artisan brownies, custom cakes and dulche de leche (a kind of milk jam similar to caramel but more complex). A native of Brazil, she creates her products based on family recipes and French baking techniques.

  • Valentine’s Sweet Duo ($12.50)

A small jar of dulce de leche and a large chocolate fudge brownie, packed in a craft box with red satin ribbon. The duo is perfect for sharing, Carolina says. “Just warm up the dulce de leche, cut the brownies in small pieces and serve like fondue, with berries. Or try a brownie a la mode, only add ice cream.” 

  • Heart shaped Chocolate Torte ($10.50)

Available in chocolate fudge, dulce de leche, caramel sea salt or raspberry swirls decorated with pearls of Belgian chocolate.

  • Box of 6 or 12 artisan brownies ($13.00-$25.00)

An assortment of chocolate fudge, caramel sea salt, dulce de leche, gianduia, cookie and raspberry swirl.

Place your order online.

Hummingbird’s Chocolate’s handmade, single-origin bars with Valentine wrappers.
Photo courtesy of Hummingbird Chocolate

Hummingbird Chocolate

A small-batch producer of dark, organic chocolate, Hummingbird Chocolate  is making a name for itself with handcrafted bars from single-origin Latin American and Caribbean cocoa beans. Owner-artisans Erica and Drew Gilmour make the chocolate using 19th century methods that bring out the unique flavours of the cocoa bean varieties.

  • Cinnamon-studded bars
  • Hummingbird’s regular bars (Bolivia, Bo-nib-ia, Hispaniola, Fleur de sel, Momotombo) with a Valentine’s wrapper

All bars are 50 g, cost $6.50, and can be found at locations such as: Red Apron, Thyme & Again, Kitchenalia, Pêches & Poivres, and Equator Coffee Roasters.

Hummingbird is also hosting a Valentine’s Day “Chocolate 101” tour of its workshop in Almonte; reserve at For the month of February, it also launched a series of Saturday tours.

Isobel’s Cupcakes & Cookies

A family-run business, Isobel’s Cupcakes & Cookies makes its treats from scratch daily, working from quality ingredients (no mixes, shortening or preservatives) in a 100% nut-free environment. All boxes, cups and napkins are made from recycled materials.

  • Valentine cakes, $25 and up

Choices include white chocolate, raspberry charlotte, bleeding heart chocolate mousse cake (shaped like a heart).

  • Valentine cake pops, $2

Other offerings include and several decadent chocolate cupcakes, and chocolate cookie sticks dipped in white chocolate with Valentine sprinkles.

What’s your favourite spot for sweets in Ottawa?

Mountain Path’s Robert Hogg: poet, farmer, miller, organics advocate

Saturday, February 1st, 2014

Mountain Path mills organic flour on Robert Hogg’s farm south of Ottawa.
Photo by Mitch Lenart


He’s not an eco-poet, he says. Nowhere in his five books of published poetry does he rant about the contamination of natural resources or the perils of climate change.

Nevertheless, Robert Hogg — founder of Mountain Path, a specialty flour mill and food distributor south of Ottawa – has lived his life based on a deep respect for the land and a desire to protect it for future generations.

Dedicated to sustainable, organic food and farming

Since the early 1970s, Hogg has grown food organically on his 140-acre farm in North Dundas, and the small commercial flour mill he started on the property has been certified organic since 1987. The Mountain Path food distribution business he launched in the 1990s supplies exclusively organic and natural foods, and also supports regional organic farms and businesses, and fair trade.

Over the years, Hogg has been active in organizations such as Canadian Organic Growers, the Ecological Farmers of Ontario and the National Farmers Union, and has converted a number of farmers to organic practices.

Remarkably, he has managed to combine all of this with busy literary and teaching careers.  A participant in the 1960s Tish poetry movement with likes of George Bowering, Frank Davey, and former Canadian poet laureate Fred Wah, Hogg is working on his sixth book of poetry and editing an anthology of Canadian poetic theory.  From 1968 until he retired in 2005, he taught modern Canadian and American poetry and poetic theory at Carleton University.

Last November, Hogg, 71, sold Mountain Path to Signature Food Concepts but has stayed on as sales director.

Robert Hogg talked to Earthward recently about Mountain Path and his commitment to sustainable farming.

How did you get interested in organics?

It happened through my mother. When I was a child in Edmonton, she had some health issues that didn’t respond to treatment, and they became severe enough that she decided to go Vancouver to consult a naturopath. The doctor put her on a course of treatment that included a eating a diet of peeled grapes, strange as it may sound. She completely recovered. The experience turned her into a health advocate and supporter of natural foods. She founded the Canadian Health League, and some years later, when we’d moved to B.C., she opened a natural food store — the first in the Fraser Valley and probably one of the earliest in Canada.

Why did you become an organic farmer?

Once I had children of my own, I began to think about their health and how to protect it. Growing our own food organically seemed like a good way to do this. For several years, my wife and I rented land from the NCC where we planted an organic vegetable garden, kept chickens and raised goats for milk. Then, in 1973, in the midst of the back-to-the-land movement, we bought the farm we live on today. I’ve always believed in organic methods and organic certification. Farming organically and sustainably is about so much more than profit. It’s about the health of the soil and the water table, the health of people and animals.

How did you get into specialty milling?

One year I brought some Glenlea wheat I’d grown to Watson’s Mill in Manotick for grinding. The results were good so I started selling my flour to places like Herb & Spice and Rainbow Natural Foods.  When demand for the flour began to grow, I found a bigger mill – a 30-inch stone mill — to handle the volume and had it brought to the farm in 1983. We’re using it three decades later.

Stone-milling makes for better tasting, healthier flour than industrial milling. The slower process protects the grain from the high temperatures that promote rancidity and vitamin loss. Stone-grinding also maintains the original proportions of endosperm, bran and germ in the grains and preserves the nutrients that go with them.

How did the food distribution business develop?

After a while, people wanted to buy more than just flour from us so we began to source other products, like seasonings and spices from Frontier Natural Products Co-op and oils from Spectrum Organics. The business kept expanding from there.

What’s ahead for Mountain Path?

Being under the same business umbrella as Signature Foods and Natural Gourmet will benefit Mountain Path through more exposure and new customer relationships.  Just one example: there’s the potential to build on the large clientele Mountain Path already has among co-ops – rural buying clubs, basically.

What’s ahead for you personally?

As director of sales for Mountain Path, I’m still very involved in the company and excited about its future. But at 71, I’m happy with a somewhat smaller role than I had when I was the owner.  I’m looking forward to having a bit more time to farm, write poetry and spend time with my five grandchildren.