Archive for the ‘Seasonal eating’ Category

Seasonal Eats: Steelhead trout campfire-style from Chef Norm Aitken, Juniper Kitchen & Wine Bar

Monday, September 1st, 2014
(Photo: Brian Walter via Flickr)

(Photo: Brian Walter via Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0)

Steelhead trout is a variety of rainbow trout that makes its way up rivers and streams to the sea — or in the case of Eastern and Central Canada, to the Great Lakes — in spring and fall. Farmed steelhead are available year-round. Similar to salmon in appearance and taste, steelhead trout is ranked highly by SeaChoice as a fish that is abundant and caught or farmed sustainably.

Also like salmon, steelhead trout is good for you. Not only is it packed with lean protein, vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids, it contains low levels of contaminants such as mercury, pesticides, dioxin and polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, says the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch.

This recipe from Chef Norm Aitken of Juniper Kitchen & Wine Bar cures the trout and pairs it with a zesty quinoa salad and a chamomile syrup for delicious late summer dining. You can change up the vegetables according to the season, Norm says, going from spring shoots to roasted or pickled beets and adding sunflower or pumpkin seeds.

The veggies listed in the recipe were sourced from producers such as Rochon Gardens, Acorn Creek and Juniper Farm.

About Chef Norm Aitken

Chef Norm is co-owner of Juniper Kitchen & Wine Bar in Ottawa’s Westboro Village, dubbed one of the city’s top tables by food critics.

A native of Souris, PEI, Norm began his cooking career more than 22 years ago at the prestigious Inn At Bay Fortune under the guidance of Chef Michael Smith of FoodNetwork Canada fame. There he developed the understanding of and respect for fresh local ingredients that form the cornerstone of his personal cooking philosophy.

Over the course of his career, Chef Norm continually pushes the boundaries to create distinctive cuisine that’s also simple regional, seasonal and sustainable. He is passionate about delivering top-notch, house-made quality dishes that surprise and satisfy his customers. He is also committed to ensuring that Ottawa stays a vibrant culinary destination, supports camaraderie among his peers on the Ottawa food scene and believes in giving back to the community through fundraising. He has worked with some of Canada’s top chefs including Ned Bell, Vikram Vij, Susur Lee, Robert Clark, Michael Howell, and Anita Stewart and has been recognized in Gold Medal Plates and Food Day Canada competitions. ABC Good Morning America & LA Entertainment profiled him for bringing “Le Whaf” vaporizing innovation to North America from Europe.

Norm has appeared on FoodNetwork Canada’s Chopped Canada as a celebrity chef. Outside the kitchen, he’s an avid food activist, teacher, and devoted dad to daughters Jade and Erika.

Steelhead trout campfire style

Combined cooking and prep times about 1 ½  hrs

  1. Trout cure

½ c sugar

1/8 c salt

zest of 3 lemons

zest of 3 limes

zest of 1 orange

1 ½ lb cleaned trout

Season the filet generously with the cure and let stand in the fridge, uncovered, for 1 hour.

  1. Quinoa citrus salad

2 c cooked quinoa

2 oranges segmented

shaved fennel bulb

pea shoots / wild garlic leaves

wild fennel fronds (soft green leaves)

  1. Salad vinaigrette

zest and juice of 2 lemons

3/4 cup olive oil

1 tsp shallot and garlic, minced

1/8 c fine grated Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a lidded jar and shake until combined.

  1. Chamomile syrup

2 oz loose chamomile tea

2 c cane sugar

2 lemons, with peels, no pith

1 c white balsamic vinegar

Steep for an hour and strain.

  1. Assemble the plate

Season the skin of the trout filet with sea salt and place it in an oiled, pre-heated pan on high heat.

Turn the heat to medium and crisp the skin till golden brown.

Flip the filet over so that the flesh side is in the pan.

Cook for 2 minutes and turn the heat off.  Add a couple of tablespoons of the syrup to the pan to glaze the fish.  Let stand at room temperature for 3 min (i.e., let it rest) while you plate.

Combine all ingredients for the salad and season with the vinaigrette.

Place the salad and present the trout skin up over the salad.  Sauce the plate with the camomile tea syrup.

What’s your favourite way to prepare fish?

Feast on, Ottawa: These harvest events celebrate the best in local food

Saturday, August 2nd, 2014

 

(Photo: Joan, via Flickr) http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ca/

(Photo: by Joan, via Flickr)
creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ca

 

You could call it summer, or you could call it a non-stop feast that celebrates local food in the Ottawa region, the farmers who grow it and the chefs who prepare it. Here are some of the events you can sample over the next two months.

Double Dig It, Alfresco Dining in the Field – August 16

Enjoy a multi-course dinner that showcases certified biodynamic* food grown on Elm Tree Farm, prepared by the same group of Ottawa chefs who produced last year’s popular menu, and accompanied by local wines. The all-day event also includes a farm tour and tapas tastings served in the garden.

*Biodynamics refers to a method of organic farming that treats soil fertility, plant growth and livestock care as ecologically inter-connected. 

When:                                  Sat., Aug 16, 11:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.

Where:                                Elm Tree Farm, 45 min west of Perth

Cost:                                      $150 (incl. bus transportation from Ottawa, food, wine and tips)

Info & tickets:                doubledigit.elmtreefarm.ca/Double_Dig_It.html

Savour Ottawa Harvest Table – August 17

Hosted by Savour Ottawa, this is one of the city’s biggest culinary events and involves a multi-course, family-style luncheon, with ingredients from local farmers prepared by Ottawa’s finest chefs.

Regular admission includes lunch and two drinks from some of the region’s best, newest craft breweries and wineries. Locally sourced non-alcoholic beverages will also be available.

Tickets can only be purchased in advance — not at the door – and buy them now because this event always sells out!

Savour Ottawa is looking for volunteers to help on the day of the event. If you’re interested, contact info@justfood.ca with the subject line: Volunteer for Harvest Table 2014.

When:                                  Sunday, Aug 17, 12 p.m. – 2 p.m.

Where:                                Ottawa Farmers’ Market at Brewer Park

Info:                                     savourevents@justfood.ca

Ttickets:                           www.eventbrite.ca/e/savour-ottawa-harvest-table-2014-tickets-11590131395

Saunders Family Farm Dinner No. 2 – August 21

This is the second of several local dinners being organized by Saunders Family Farm. The all-local menu will include a classic pig roast, corn on the cob, fresh salads and seasonal fruit grumble with ice cream, as well as local craft beers and craft VQA wines from Ontario.

When:                                  Thursday, Aug 21 -5:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.

Where:                                Saunders Farm, Bleeks Road, Munster

Cost:                                      $25 for adults; $15 for kids

Info & tickets:                www.saundersfarm.com/summer/events

Barns, Farms and Wicked Chefs – August 23

Stroll the grounds and historic barns of the EcoTay Farm and sample food prepared by renowned Lanark County chefs at 10 different stations.

The event is a fundraiser for Perth’s The Table Community Food Centre, an innovative food bank that brings people together to grow, cook, share, and advocate for good food.

When:                                 Saturday, Aug 23, 5:30 p.m. – 10 p.m.

Where:                                EcoTay Farm, 10 min west of Perth

Cost:                                     $100 (incl $70 tax receipt but no beer or wine)

Info:                                      http://thetablecfc.org

Tickets:                              www.ticketsplease.ca

Feast of FieldsSeptember 21

Presented by the regional chapter of Canadian Organic Growers (COG), Feast of Fields 2014 will showcase Ontario and Québec’s organic foods, wines and beers. Three top chefs will join forces with local organic producers and growers to create delicious tapas-size tastings you can pair with organic wines and beer. While you’re there, chat with chefs and organic producers, and enjoy live music.

Feast of Fields 2014 is a key fundraiser for COG Ottawa’s flagship programs Growing Up Organic (see my recent post

on GUO) and Senior Organic Gardeners.

When:                                  September 21, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Where:                                Moulin Wakefield Mill, Wakefield, Québec

Price:                                    $80/person; tickets go on sale Aug 13, 2014

Info/tickets:                    www.feastoffields.ca

Harvest Noir Secret Picnic – September 27

This edgy harvest ball extravaganza combines a pop-up picnic and dance party to celebrate local farms and food in the Ottawa/Gatineau region. Dressed creatively in black, people assemble at a secret urban location in Ottawa for the picnic, then dance the night away at a top venue. Harvest Noir includes a participatory fashion show, flash mobs and more. In the process, it raises funds for BioRegional North America, an initiative that promotes low-carbon lifestyles in existing city buildings.

When:                         Saturday, Sept 27, 5 p.m. – 2 a.m.

Where:                        Undisclosed for now

Cost:                            TBA

Info:                            www.harvestnoir.com

Tickets:                    Not yet on sale

 

What local harvest events are you attending this season?

 

 

The season for strawberries: Facts about the world’s favourite berry

Friday, June 27th, 2014

 

 

Photo courtesy of the Ottawa Farmers' Market

(Photo courtesy of the Ottawa Farmers’ Market)

Strawberries are the most popular seasonal berry fruit in the world, and it’s not hard to understand why: they’re sweet, juicy, refreshing and their punchy pink-red brightens fruit dishes, jams, salads and baking.

But they’re much more than the pretty faces of the fruit world. They’re health-protecting powerhouses with a long history of cultivation.

Why they’re healthy

(All data in this section comes from www.whfoods.com)

  • Among commonly eaten (U.S.) foods, strawberries rank 27th among the 50 best antioxidant sources, based on a serving size of 100 grams, or 3.5 ounces. (Antioxidants are nutrients and enzymes which inhibit the oxidation — and decay — of other molecules and are believed to play a role in protecting against disease.)
  • When only fruits are considered, strawberries come in fourth, behind blackberries, cranberries and raspberries.
  • When common servings sizes for all commonly eaten foods are taken into account (100 grams is too big a serving size for spices and seasonings, for example), strawberries rank third in total antioxidant capacity, behind blackberries and walnuts.
  • One cup of strawberries contains: over 112% of your daily required intake of vitamin C, 28% of manganese, 11.5% of fibre, 8.6% of folate, plus other minerals and nutrients.
  • Research suggests that strawberries: support the cardiovascular system and prevent cardiovascular diseases; help regulate blood sugar and decrease risk of type 2 diabetes, and; play a role in preventing certain types of cancer, including breast, cervical, colon, and esophageal cancers.

How to buy, handle and store strawberries

  • As much as possible, buy organically grown strawberries. The conventionally grown fruit routinely lands on the Environmental Working Group’s yearly Dirty Dozen list for pesticide contaminated produce.
  • Strawberries are highly perishable, so store them unwashed and use them quickly. Studies show that strawberries kept longer than two days lose significant amounts of vitamin C and other antioxidants.
  • To freeze strawberries, gently wash them and pat dry. Arrange them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and place them in the freezer. Once frozen, put the berries in a heavy plastic bag and return them to the freezer where they’ll keep for up to a year.
  • Strawberries can be frozen whole, cut or crushed, but they’ll retain more vitamin C if left whole. What’s more, commercial processing can dramatically lower the fruit’s nutrient content. Fresh or carefully frozen strawberries are more nourishing – and tasty.
  • Choose berries that are firm, mold-free, and deep red with their green caps attached. Under- or over-ripe strawberries contain fewer antioxidants and other plant nutrients.

Where they come from, how they grow

Information in this section comes from Edible: An Illustrate Guide to the World’s Food Plants, published in 2008 by the National Geographic Society.

  • Wild strawberries have been around for more than 2,000 years.
  • Most commercially grown strawberries available today come from Fragaria ananassa, which resulted from a South American species brought to Europe from Chile in the 1700s and hybridized with a North American variety.
  • Because they’re so perishable, strawberries remained a luxury food for the wealthy until the the advent of rail transportation in the mid-19th century.
  • The fruit part of the strawberry is actually the seeds on the outside; the flesh is part of the flower.
  • Strawberry plants have a life span of five or six years, but after the third year, their fruit is less tasty and they’re more prone to disease. New plants are bred from seed and spread by runners that take root and produce clone, or daughter, plants.
  • It’s not clear how the strawberry got its name. A popular view is that it derives from the practice of using straw as mulch to keep the berries clean and off the ground, but the name predates actual cultivation of strawberries. Another theory is that wild strawberries grew near hay fields and were found in the straw after the hay was harvested.

For more on strawberries, check out my guest post Strawberries from field to fork on the Ottawa Farmers’ Market website.

What’s your favourite way to eat strawberries?

Savour the season’s best: feasts, fundraisers and more

Friday, May 30th, 2014
Photo: Vicki (via Flickr) Creative Commons 2.0 Generic https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

Photo: Vicki (via Flickr)
Creative Commons 2.0 Generic https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

Feasts

Savour Ottawa Harvest Table – August 17

One of the culinary highlights of the summer, the Savour Ottawa Harvest Table returns for its fourth consecutive year. You won’t want to miss this multi-course, family-style feast prepared by Ottawa’s finest chefs in partnership with local farmers. It always sells out, so get your tickets now! (All tickets are sold in advance – you can’t buy one at the door). Regular admission includes a ticket to the Harvest Table lunch, and two drink tickets so you can sample some of Ottawa’s best craft breweries and wineries. Locally sourced non-alcoholic beverages will also be provided.

A limited number of Cream of the Crop VIP tickets are available for those who want the full foodie experience including a guided market tour, appetizers and cocktails, plus admission to the luncheon.

When:                 Sunday, August 17

Where:                Ottawa Farmers’ Market at Brewer Park

Cost:                     $75/person ($90/person Cream of the Crop VIP)

Info:                     savourevents@justfood.ca.

Tickets:              https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/savour-ottawa-harvest-table-2014-tickets-11590131395

Fundraisers

Ottawa Foodie Challenge – June 1

Calling all foodies! If you’re up for a fun scavenger hunt, join the Fourth Annual Ottawa Foodie Challenge and help out the Ottawa Food Bank at the same time.

The morning of the event, you’ll receive a list of foodie destinations, along with tasks to perform at each. The more tasks you complete the more points you receive and the better your chances of being crowned Ottawa Foodie Challenge Champion. All proceeds go the Ottawa Food Bank.

When:                  Sunday June 1, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Where:                Starting at Shopify Inc, 126 York St; ending at The Albion Rooms, 33 Nicholas St.

Cost:                     $50 per person – teams of two

Info:                      http://ottawafoodbank.ca/2014/06/ottawa-food-challenge/

Food Aid BBQ and Breakfast with Mayor’s Rural Expo – June 6

This annual event raises funds for the Ottawa Food Bank’s Food Aid program, where all money raised goes to purchasing local ground beef, which is distributed to member agencies to give to people in need.

This year’s Food Aid Day welcomes the Mayor’s Rural Expo for the second year in a row, showcasing the businesses of Ottawa rural communities.

Activities will include a $5 pancake breakfast, a BBQ with hamburgers from The WORKS, live entertainment, and more.

Where:                1) City Hall front lawn; and 2) NHCAP-Skyline Building by Tower 2, corner of Baseline and Merivale

When:                  June 6, 7 a.m. at City Hall; The WORKS BBQ 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. at both locations

Info:                      http://ottawafoodbank.ca/2014/06/food-aid-bbq-breakfast-with-mayors-rural-expo/

Workshops

Permaculture Institute of Eastern Ontario Workshops – May & June

Ecological Design & Gardening: Introduction to Permaculture

May 31- June 1
Perth, ON

Retreat for Permaculture Practitioners

June 21-22
Rockland, ON

Information:      http://eonpermaculture.ca/

Farmer Training Workshop: Post-Harvest Handling for Vegetable Producers – June 23

Find out why post-production activities are key to successful small-scale vegetable farming at this workshop, presented by horticultural scientist and postharvest physiology specialist Dr. Shamel Alam-Eldein. The session will cover the gamut of harvest-to-sale activities, identifying ways to maintain quality and freshness at each step. Topics will include produce maturity, storage conditions such as temperature and humidity, and preventing pests and pathogens. You’ll also get tips on how and when to harvest, as well as advice on containers and packaging, storage conditions, produce transport and presentation for sale.

When:                  Monday June 23, 6-9 p.m.

Where:                Just Food, 2389 Pepin Court, Ottawa
Cost:                     $30, payable at the door (cash or cheque)
Register:            startupfarm@justfood.ca or call 613-699-6850, x15

Volunteer opportunities

Just Food Farm

The Just Food Farm in Blackburn Hamlet is looking for experienced volunteers available weekdays to help with general farm maintenance and property work – particularly over the spring.  This could include lawn mowing and weed trimming, painting, construction and building repair. Get in touch if you have skills to share and are interested in being a part of a growing farm project

Contact:               leela@justfood.ca or 613-699-6850 x15

Torbolton SPIN Farm

Want to try your hand at food gardening? Or turn your backyard veggie plot into a revenue producer? Join the small plot intensive, or SPIN, garden at the Torbolton Institute, just 20 minutes north of Kanata. Benefit from access to SPIN learning resources, such as grower’s guides and marketing aids, and practice food-growing techniques in the SPIN farm’s outdoor classroom. SPIN farming is a market garden system geared to producing high-revenue crops on as little as half an acre.

The Torbolton Institute is an innovations hub whose goal is to make Ottawa locally food secure by 2020.

When:                  Saturdays, 1-4 p.m.

Where:                Torbolton Institute, 3924 Woodkilton Road, Woodlawn

Info:                    https://m.facebook.com/TorboltonCommunityGarden or contact retovell@gmail.com

Opportunities for farmers, landowners

Partnering organic farmers with Wholefoods

This is a great wholesale opportunity for local organic farmers and processors to work directly with Wholefoods Market, and there’s no deadline.

Contact:               Stuart.Coleman@wholefoods.com

New funding available

New funding is available to farmers and rural landowners who want to protect water quality. The Rideau Valley Rural Clean Water Program has introduced new project categories to its existing grant program. As a result, eligible landowners can receive funding for up to 90% of project costs and grants of up to $7,500.

Info:                      http://familyfarmingconference.wordpress.com/

 

 Are there any food events coming up that you’d like to share with Earthward readers? 

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), http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

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?

Seasonal Eats : Chef Andrée Riffou’s Local Apple Pie

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Apple pie from Chef Andrée Riffou of C’est Bon Cooking

 

Apples rank among the most popular fruits consumed in Canada. It’s not hard to see why. They’re good eaten raw, cooked or baked, and the many common and heritage varieties of the fruit offer different colours, textures and flavours. Apples are also packed with antioxidants that protect the heart, help regulate blood sugar and provide anti-cancer benefits. And they’re good sources of vitamin C and dietary fibre.

Apples are at their best in the fall. Chef Andrée Riffou of C’est Bon Cooking uses apples from the Hall’s Apple Market at the Ottawa Farmers Market in Brewer Park for this elegant, easy-to-make, single-crust pie.

About Andrée Riffou

Chef Andrée studied cuisine and pastry with Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa and Paris, attaining the school’s highest qualification: Le Grand Diplôme de cuisine et de pâtisserie. She launched C’est Bon Cooking in 2008,  offering classes, team-building activities, and food tours that allow participants to explore neighbourhood food markets, discover local produce and dishes, and meet area chefs and food artisans.

Featured regularly on local television and radio, Chef Andrée is a staunch advocate of simplicity and homegrown cuisine. She believes in eating locally, sustainably and seasonally,  and in getting to know the people who grow and sell foods. She also believes that cooking and eating are activities to be shared and enjoyed with family and friends.

Local Apple Pie

Prep time – 15 minutes

Cooking time – 20 minutes

Ingredients

1 pie dough recipe (below)

500 g apples, Golden Delicious work well

50 g sugar

50 g butter

apples for garnish, sliced

sugar for garnish

Roll your dough to the desired thickness. Place over pie plate, pinching the edges and making sure there are no holes.

Peel and core the apples. Cut them into cubes.

Melt butter and sugar over medium heat. Add apples and cook until apples are a caramelized colour and al dente (i.e., tender but still firm).

Pour the filling into the pie dough, and arrange sliced apples on top.

Bake in 350° oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle with sugar.

Pie Dough

Makes 2 shells

Prep time – 20 minutes

Time in fridge – 1 hour

1/3 cup (70 ml) cold water

2 cups (220 g) flour

1 tsp (5 g) salt

1 cup (225 g) butter

Mix flour, salt and butter together until completely combined.

Add water. Mix well, stirring and folding, until there are no dry patches.

Chill at least 4 hours or overnight until firm (you could probably justchill for 1 hour and be fine), or freeze. Just be sure to defrost for a few hours before baking.

What apple varieties do you prefer and how do you like to prepare them?

Seasonal Eats: Basil & parmesan gâteau on oven-dried plum tomatoes

Saturday, September 7th, 2013

 

 

Photo: Courtesy Restaurant Les Fougères

In my last post, I wrote about the benefits of fresh, seasonal tomatoes. They’re showcased in this recipe from Charles Part, chef and co-owner of Restaurant Les Fougères in Chelsea, Québec. (Check out another recipe from Charles — summer fruits in lemon verbena and mint tea — here).

Preparation time: 10-15 min

Yield:  one 8-inch gateau, 12 appetizer portions

Basil & parmesan gateau

1 cup (250 mL) fresh ricotta cheese

1 cup (250 mL) fresh cream cheese

1 cup (250 mL) freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

4 whole eggs

2 cloves garlic

Juice of 2 lemons

1 tbsp flour

2 tbsp melted butter

3 cups (750 mL) fresh basil leaves, cleaned and dried

1 cup (250 mL) sour cream

Grated nutmeg

Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 325°F (160°C)

In a food processor, mix the cream cheese, ricotta and parmesan until smooth. Add eggs, garlic, lemon juice, flour, butter and seasoning. Process. Add basic and process until smooth. Add sour cream and mix until just blended.

Pour mixture into 8-inch (20 cm) spring form pan lined with plastic wrap.

Bake 50 minutes. Allow to cool for at least 6 hours.

To serve, use two spoons to make a quenelle (i.e., a small, oval-shaped dumpling) and place on oven-dried tomatoes (see below) drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkled with pine nuts. As an alternative, you could also serve with fine crackers, rice crackers or croutes, or on a bed of fresh, sliced tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with pine nuts.

Oven-dried plum tomatoes

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Yield: 20 tomato cups

 10 plum tomatoes

¼ cup (60 mL) extra-virgin olive oil

2 tsp sugar

freshly ground black pepper

Slice plum tomatoes lengthwise and scoop out interior flesh and seeds. Toss tomato cups with oil. Place tomatoes skin side down on a baking tray. Sprinkle with sugar and pepper. Place in a very low oven (200°C) for 2-3 hours, or in a turned-off oven overnight. Turn over occasionally during drying time.

Seasonal eats: 10 reasons to stock up on fresh local tomatoes

Saturday, September 7th, 2013

 

(Photo by V. Ward)

This is the best time of year for tomato-lovers. The fruit is available in abundance at farmers markets and in CSA baskets, and there’s a wealth of types to choose from: beefsteak and plum, cherry and grape, not to mention the explosion of heirloom varieties — green, yellow, burgundy, black, striped and ridged, oval and oblong, heart- or pear-shaped.

Tomatoes belong to the nightshade family as do potatoes, eggplant, and sweet and hot peppers. Treated as a vegetable for cooking purposes, they’re actually a fruit that originated in Mexico and spread to other parts of the world after Spain colonized the Americas.

Whether you eat them immediately, or can them for later use (try wellpreserved.ca for tips on preserving and preparing), there are lots of good reasons to stock up on delicious, super-healthy local tomatoes.

  1. Flavour, flavour, flavour.  Nothing compares with the taste of freshly picked tomatoes, as anyone who’s eaten store-bought varieties can attest. Most supermarket tomatoes are picked green and ripen in storage with the help of a hydrocarbon gas called ethylene. The fruit lasts longer but tends to be flavourless, with a mealy texture.
  2. Tomatoes are an extremely versatile ingredient, widely used in Mediterranean, Mexican, Indian and other cuisines. Add them raw to sandwiches, salads and salsas; make tomato butters, preserves and chutneys; cook them with herbs to make pasta sauce and tomato paste; or simmer them in casseroles and stews.
  3. When you buy tomatoes from a local farmer, you’re getting a more ethically produced fruit. Industrial tomato production has a dismal track record on workers’ rights: crops are typically harvested by migrant workers, some of whom live and work in conditions that have been described as modern-day slavery.
  4. Tomatoes are good for you – low in sodium, for example, and very low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
  5. They’re a very good source of vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, C, and K, along with potassium, manganese and dietary fibre. They’re also a good source of vitamin E, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, magnesium, phospohorus and copper.
  6. They’re high in carotenoid lycopene, an antioxidant that helps reduce the risk of heart disease by supporting the cardiovascular system and regulating fats in the bloodstream. (By the way, red cherry tomatoes have up to 12 times more lycopene than red beefsteak tomatoes.)
  7. Tomatoes are loaded with other antioxidants that play a part in protecting the bones and kidneys, some studies show.
  8. The tomato’s antioxidant profile and anti-inflammatory properties provide anti-cancer benefits.
  9. Some studies have linked diets that include tomatoes with lower risk of Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases.
  10. Fresh tomatoes are higher in vitamin C, but processed (i.e., thermally processed as part of canning) tomatoes have higher levels of bio-available lycopene as well as total antioxidant strength.

 

Do you preserve the season’s fresh tomatoes? Why and how?

Harvest season: a weekend at Ottawa farmers markets

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

Harvest season is at its peak in Ottawa these days. This weekend, I soaked up some of the sights, sounds and tastes at the Carp Farmers Market and the Ottawa Farmers Market at Brewer Park. Vendor stalls brimmed with late summer produce, and farmers, food retailers, artisans and customers were out in full force. Here are a few of my photos.

Acorn Creek Garden Farm produces about 600 types of fruit and vegetables, including globe artichokes, tomatillos, hot and chili peppers, sundried tomatoes, orange and purple cauliflower, nearly 50 herbs and more than 40 melon varieties.

 

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 comes from a long line of pastry chefs and bakers, and creates her treats based on family recipes and French baking techniques.

 

Heather MacMillan of Heather’s Hearth, with husband Patrick, at the Carp Farmers Market. Heather bakes sourdough breads in a wood-fired oven using organic grain from Castor River Farm or organic flour from Mountain Path, an organic and natural foods distributor south of Ottawa.

 

Multi-coloured heirloom beets from Rainbow Heritage Garden. This certified organic, off-grid farm near Cobden produces 200-plus varieties of fruits, vegetables, nuts and drying beans, with a focus on heirloom types. It also offers a CSA program.

 

Artist and farmer Rosemary Kralik raises free-range Tibetan yak, Highland beef, sheep and goats at Tiraislin Fold, her 722-acre farm in the Lanark Highlands. Her animals are raised without growth hormones or antibiotics, on high-quality, pesticide-free local forage.

 

A glimpse of guests eating family-style at the Savour Ottawa Harvest Table, held at Brewer Park on August 18. At the event, some of the Ottawa region’s finest chefs prepared unique dishes with seasonal local ingredients from local farmers. This photo was taken through an arbour at the amazing Brewer Park Community Garden.

 

Do you go to farmers markets? What do you enjoy most and least about them?

 

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?

 

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 www.facebook.com/OttawaGoodFoodMarkets or contact Kaitrin Doll at kaitrin.doll@ofcrc.org

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 (cgnstudent@justfood.ca) 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?

 

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?

Seasonal eats: Winter kale stir-fry & celery root purée

Saturday, March 23rd, 2013

Photo of kale: Flickr, cJw314’s photostream

My March 16 post featured Chef Ben Baird’s recipes for coconut-crusted cod and tomato broth from Chef Ben Baird of the Urban Pear. While those dishes can be served on their own, Chef Baird paired them with two comforting winter vegetable concoctions: celery root purée and winter kale, mushroom and green onion stir-fry.  If you’re preparing the four dishes together, give yourself about 1.5 hours from start to finish. Quantities will serve two people.

About the chef

Ben Baird is chef and co-owner at The Urban Pear restaurant on Second Avenue and the Ottawa STREAT Gourmet food truck, one of 18 new food trucks and carts approved by the City of Ottawa last month. Starting in May, Ottawa STREAT Gourmet will serve fresh, local, seasonal fare on the north side of Queen, west of O’Connor.

About the ingredients

Baird notes that the celery root and garlic he used in the purée came from Rideau Pines Farm and have been in his cold storage since November (he perked up the celery root by putting it in ice water for 20 minutes before cooking).  “The kale came from my local grocer – Nicastro — but could have been grown locally.  I source my mushrooms from Le Coprin which grows them year-round in Chelsea. “

Benefits of celery root and kale

Celery root, also called celeriac, is a knobby, hairy vegetable with a mild celery flavour and a potato-like texture. You can roast, stew, blanch or mash it, or add it, sliced, to soups and casseroles.  As a root vegetable, it stores well, making it an ideal choice for fall and winter eating. Celery root is a good source of dietary fibre, Vitamin B6, magnesium and manganese, and an excellent source of Vitamins C and K, phosphorus and potassium.

Kale is trendy these days and it’s easy to understand why. Not only is it simple to prepare –  just blanch and steam, or stir-fry – it’s a milder tasting, super-nutritious alternative to spinach. A member of the cabbage family, kale is low in saturated fat and cholesterol and a good source of fibre, protein, thiamin, folate and iron. It’s also packed with Vitamins A, C, K and B6, as well as calcium, potassium and other minerals.

Celery root purée

celery root

4 cloves of garlic, peeled

1 tbsp butter (optional)

2 tbsp milk or cream (for dairy-free, use vegetable broth)

salt and pepper

Peel and wash celery root and cut into 1-inch pieces.

Put celery root and garlic cloves in salted boiling water and gently simmer until celery root is fork- tender. Strain and put in food processor (garlic included).

While the processor is running, add butter and milk or cream and purée until very smooth (5-10 minutes). 

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Return purée to pot, cover and leave in a warm place until ready to plate.  If needed, put it over low heat for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.

Winter kale, mushroom and green onion stir-fry

½ bunch kale, washed and stem removed

2 cups mushrooms

1 bunch green onion, cut in 1-inch lengths

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 tbsp ginger, finely chopped

2 tbsp preserved lemon, skins only, finely chopped (available at most Middle Eastern grocery stores, or but make them yourself,* but allow about 2 months for the lemons to ripen)

oil for sautéing

*There are lots of resources online, including YouTube videos.

In a large hot frying pan or wok, pour in enough cooking oil to just grease the bottom of the pan.  Add mushrooms and cook until golden.

Add green onion, garlic, ginger and preserved lemon and cook for about a minute.

Add kale and toss well.  Put a lid on pan and let the kale steam itself.  Season and set aside until ready to serve.

Celery root  photo: Flickr, Mel Green

8 reasons to grow your own food

Saturday, March 9th, 2013

 

Photo: Brian Everett, EVRT Studio

If you’re thinking about starting a vegetable garden, you’re not alone. According to an October 2012 report on garden trends, 53% to 54% of U.S. households with a yard or garden report growing fruit and vegetables – a figure that’s remained constant over the past three years. Although there are no comparable figures for Canada, the consensus is that food gardening is as popular here as it is south of the border. In addition, Canadian retailers of heritage seeds – that is, seeds from plant varieties introduced pre-World War II, before the era of mass-produced fruit and vegetables – are noting increased demand for their products.

Growing some of your own food is a simple way to:

  1. Save money.

Whether you buy a packet of seeds or a flat of plants, what you harvest will cost a fraction of the price you’d pay a retailer for the same foods.

  1. Eat more, tastier produce.

With the many varietals available as seeds and seedlings, you have the chance to sample produce you won’t find at the grocery store. And it will taste better. It’s hard to beat the flavour of beans you’ve just picked from the vine or the aroma of fresh-snipped basil leaves in a pasta sauce.

  1. Shrink your carbon footprint.

Instead of schlepping to the neighbourhood retailer to buy California lettuce or Chinese garlic, collect fresh food from your balcony or backyard. Food miles?  What food miles?

  1. Know what’s in your food.

You grew it yourself, so you know that you didn’t use GMO seeds, load the soil with synthetic fertilizer or spray the plants with pesticides.

  1. Teach your kids about food.

Let them plant a row of carrots or water the blueberry bushes. They’ll have fun and learn that food doesn’t really come from a supermarket or fast food outlet.

  1. Improve your health.

For one thing, gardening gets you outside. For another, whether you’re standing, stooping, kneeling or digging, gardening can burn anywhere from 120 to more than 300 calories an hour, depending on the task. There’s also evidence to suggest that connecting with nature – in particular, with the smells of nature – lowers blood pressure and increases anti-cancer molecules in the bloodstream.

  1. Learn about seasonal eating.

We’re so used to eating whatever we want whenever we want it that most of us no longer recognize that food is seasonal. When you grow your own food, you see that each fruit and vegetable grows at its own rate and is ready for harvest at a particular time: asparagus in June, tomatoes and corn in August, beets and squash in the fall. If you grow enough food, you’ll also be motivated to learn about food preservation techniques like canning, freezing, dry and storing.

  1. Benefit from an activity that doesn’t require a lot of space or pricey equipment.

If you have a back yard, great. But all you really need is a sunny windowsill, a few containers,  and some seeds to get started. If you want to grow more than you have space for, consider growing vertically, or find out if there’s a community garden in your neighbourhood. And remember that there are lots of resources available in the community and online to get you started. Here are a few:

What food do you plan to grow this summer?

Seasonal eats: Potato & leek soup from Stone Soup Foodworks

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

Chef Jacqueline Jolliffe, Stone Soup Foodworks

Spring will be early this year if you believe the various groundhogs that saw their shadows February 2.  But you don’t need to wait for warmer weather to enjoy some seasonal local vegetables.   Those still available in Ottawa include potatoes and leeks, both of which are featured in this comforting winter soup from Chef Jacqueline Jolliffe.

Jolliffe is the owner of Stone Soup Foodworks, a food truck that specializes in fresh, healthy lunches and sustainable catering. An avid cook and environmentalist since she was a child, Jolliffe taught high school before realizing that the only truly sensible career path for her was to open a soup truck and teach the lost skills of chopping, cooking and preserving real food grown in real soil by real people.

“At Stone Soup Foodworks, we believe that food can be good for people and good for the earth as well as being delicious,” Jolliffe says. “We also believe that local and organic foods should be affordable for all, and that convenience does not mean that we have to forego taste and ethics. Our mission is to connect people with one another and with the land through a rich and healthy relationship with food.”

 Potato & leek soup

Prep time 20 minutes, cooking time 35 minutes (if you have vegetable stock on hand).  Serves 12 as an appetizer.

1/4 cup unsalted butter

6 large white leeks, sliced and well-washed

2 tsp salt

8 large russet potatoes, peeled and cubed

enough vegetable stock* to cover, plus two inches.

1 cup whipping cream (or reserve for garnish)

*You can find simple recipes for homemade vegetable stock at sites such as Canadian Living and Allrecipes.com

Melt butter on medium heat in a heavy saucepan. Add leeks and salt and cook for 10-15 minutes until softened and nearly melted.

Add potatoes and cover them with stock to one inch above the potatoes.  Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are very soft.

Blend using hand blender until very smooth. Stir in cream and heat gently.

 Garnish with chives or cream.

What’s your favourite winter soup recipe?

5 easy steps to seasonal eating

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

Photo: Nick Saltmarsh, provenance.co

 

As consumers in a global economy, we’re used to buying and eating whatever we want, whenever we want it. Whether it’s June or December, we can walk into the grocery store and find asparagus and tomatoes, lamb and shellfish. No wonder we’re losing our sense of different foods being seasonal – raised, harvested, and at their peak of flavour at certain times of year.

This loss is part of our growing disconnection from food.  Fewer Canadians farm the land than ever before, and most what we eat is grown, processed, packaged and shipped, by a handful of multinational food companies, far from our communities and out of public view.

While we can’t expect to eat all- local or all-seasonal here in Ottawa, with its short growing season and long winters, we can become more aware of what we’re eating and the effect that our food choices have. The benefits of doing this, as I wrote in an earlier post, include enjoying better-tasting food, supporting the local economy and helping to build a lower-impact food system.

Here are five simple ways to eat more seasonally.

  1. Find out what’s in season when. (And don’t just think fruit and veg. Meat, poultry and eggs, fish  – all are at their best at different times of year.)
  2. Collect recipes for favourite foods so if you’re suddenly swamped with beans or zucchini from the garden or the CSA farm you belong to, nothing will go to waste because you have options for preparing it.
  3. Buy extra food when it’s in season and freeze or preserve it by canning, pickling, dehydrating or smoking.  Turn a bounty of fall tomatoes into juice, salsa, chutney, paste or ketchup. When cabbage is plentiful, make sauerkraut. If you’re new to food preservation, attend Just Food’s workshops or consult the many books (Put a Lid on It! and Putting Food By to name just a few) and online resources (such as Bernardin Canada or PickYourOwn.org) on the topic.
  4. Get the right equipment for storage or preservation. Invest in a standalone freezerbuy canning equipment, build a root cellar or use your basement to store fall and winter vegetables such as squash, potatoes and carrots.
  5. If you’re too busy for freezing and preserving, you can still make a big difference by purchasing local foods when they’re available instead of buying the same items from half-way around the world. 

What’s your favourite seasonal food? How do you like to prepare or preserve it?

Watch for the next Earthward post: it will be the first of a regular series of recipes from Ottawa chefs featuring local, seasonal ingredients.