Friday, July 29, 2011

Out with the Pasta...

Yes, meatballs and broccoli.
Lately I've been omitting the bulky carbohydrates from meals simply because it's so hot outside. Cycling, weight-lifting and swimming are all much more enjoyable on a semi-empty stomach. We've been living off of vegetables, fruits, beans, eggs and meat for the last little while. Hot summer weather is such a blessing in Canada and the last thing you want is to be too-full, having to "wait until my stomach settles" to enjoy the outside. Between crossfit WOD's (workouts of the day) and being outside, I manage to exercise a few hours each day. There's almost not enough time to cook proper food, instead opting for a salad of raw vegetables. On the 100-mile diet, winter-time means that at least 75% of one's macro-nutrients are from carbohydrates (pasta, wheat, spelt, barley, oats, kamut, starchy vegetables, etc), but summer is totally different! And it makes perfect sense doesn't it? Bulky food in winter to put on weight and stay warm, and light food in summer to shed winter pounds, enjoy the sunshine and prep for the next cold-spell. Okay, so we're not exactly going into hibernation or gaining/losing 20+ pounds like our paleolithic ancestors, but it's enough of a change that you CAN feel the difference. Eating local not only puts you in-touch with the seasons, but puts you in-touch with your body as well.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Best Beets

Up to the age of 14, I had never tried a beet. Being Italian, I had eaten many other vegetables: fennel, eggplant, rapini, etc. And it's not that I was a picky eater either... Mom just never made them. And you wouldn't catch her buying canned beets. Our pantry was stocked with fava beans, canned fish, chick-peas, and other medeteranian flavours. (Although now - and for the record - I have no objection to canned vegetables). Images of cold buffets featuring gelatinous purple vegetables flooded my mind until I finally made them for myself. On an impulse-buy in the summer, we brought home a bunch of beets (tops and all) and I made them for dinner. Back when I was a beginner cook, I simply boiled them, peeled, chopped and salted them, but even so, they were delicious! I ate every bite with purple-stained hands and have been using them ever since. Whenever I see borscht featured on a restaurant menu as an appetizer, I always order it. It's magnificent served with a dollop of quality sour cream and sprinkled with herbs like dill or chives. Years later, my favourite way of cooking them is still relatively simple. I chop off the greens (leaving an inch of stalk on each bulb to prevent colour bleeding) then boil them vigorously until a knife will poke through easily but not slide out. (There's probably a better method to finding a just-before-tender beet, but I have yet to read-up on the matter). I drain them, let them cool for a few minutes then peel them. Now, some people wear gloves to prevent their hands from turning purple, but I find if you work fast and use fresh beets,the skins slide off with minimal effort. It's no big deal anyhow, just a cooking battle-scar for a few hours. :D
Quarter them and you're good to go! From this stage I saute them in oil/sliced garlic/butter/thyme/summer savory and salt & pepper. Let them finish cooking all the way through and spoon into a dish, drizzling all the butter and oil over the top.
They will glisten and be a sweet and savory summer treat.
*Save the beet greens for other dishes. They are delicious cooked the same way you would Swiss-chard/collard greens, etc.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What's for Dinner? Maple/Squash Ravioli with Cherry-Tomato Cream Sauce

In one word? ...Sweet! Inside a homemade pasta dough I spooned teaspoons of a tasty, cooked orange mixture: acorn squash (in cold-storage from the winter months), maple syrup, cream, thyme, salt& pepper. I folded the dough over, pressed and sealed with a sticky finger and used a shaped cutter to achieve the beveled edge. The sauce was made from squashed, cooked cherry tomatoes, blended with some creme fraiche and seasoned with salt, pepper and basil. Each person ate about 6-7 of the large ravioli. The plate was garnished with candied, cubed squash, roasted whole tomatoes, a drizzle of maple syrup and more basil. *No need for cheese.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

I must admit, this is a copy-cat recipe from Jamie Oliver's cookbook "Happy Days with the Naked Chef." He managed to create the most kid-friendly, delicious summer treat around and I've been making it for years.
In a food processor blend a 1/2 cup of any frozen fruit (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, bananas, etc) until you have a pulpy, frozen dust. Add a 3/4 cup of plain yogurt and 2 generous tbs of honey. Blend everything together and scoop out into an ice-cream dish. Top with some homemade jam or cookie crumbles or whipped cream. This recipe is so versatile and will never taste the same twice. It's ridiculously easy. So, so easy.
I used: Strawberries from the Kitchener farmer's market, Perth County natural yogurt and Bauman Apiaries elderflower honey.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

CwC featured in the KW Record

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure to sit down with Renee Francoeur from the Waterloo Region Record & Grand Magazine. Over a glass of icy strawberry water we discussed the challenges and rewards of taking on the 100-mile diet as a local teenager. I couldn't be more pleased with the story - featured in the "Etcetera" section of the newspaper this Saturday. If you didn't get a chance to, and would like to read the story, here's the link -->

Beans on Toast

Okay, so not exactly the British version of Boston-style baked beans smeared on a good slice of toasted bread, but I love this just the same. I take dried white beans (Canellini or "navy" beans) and soak them over night to reduce the cooking time. Once they have doubled in size, throw in a pot of salted boiling water and cook until tender and drain. In the same pot, fry some chopped thyme, rose-merry and/or oregano (any hearty herb) in oil and immediately toss the drained beans in before the herbs burn. Reduce the heat and add a few dollops of creme fraiche or sour cream or heavy whipping cream. Salt and pepper generously.
Serve these beans on a thick slice of farmer's bread and top with whatever green you fancy.
I used some sauteed swiss-chard, but kale, arugula or pea tenders would be nice too.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

100-mile Pizza

Who says you can't have 100-mile pizza!?
The thin-crust dough was made from Oak Manor Farms' flour and canola oil from Pristine Gourmet.
A homemade tomato sauce (roma tomatoes, onion, roasted red peppers) was smeared over the pressed dough, topped with local buffalo mozzarella, basil, salt & pepper. Yum yum!! Bake for 425 degrees F for about 15-20 minutes until bubbly and golden.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Spring Vegetable Medley with Creamy Dressing

A lovely 100-mile mix of wheat-berries, potatoes, onion, turnips, peas, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, carrots in a homemade mayonnaise-like dressing, bursting with fresh herbs! I topped the bowl with a fried zucchini flower. The flowers are such a treat at this time of year.
I essentially threw every ingredient into this, and it was delicious! Key to bringing it all together was a balanced dressing. Keep on tasting as you add more vinegar/lemon, salt and herbs to get the perfect balance.
*A potato-salad type dressing should always be stronger when eaten on its own. When it spreads over the vegetables the strength will mellow out.  My measure? If you dip your finger into the bowl and the sauce makes you pucker.. you're golden!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Helping out at the Kitchener Farmer's Market


This Saturday I helped Angie Koch from our CSA farm sell vegetables. 6 am, bright and early to set-up then finished after noon.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Fried Zucchini Blossoms

Also known as Fiori di Zucca in Italy, the flowers of the zuchinni plant are coated in batter (often dredged in flour or breadcrumbs too) and then fried in oil. Because the flowers are so delicate, and must be hand picked and used immediately, it is VERY difficult to buy them from a store or market. I was fortunate enough to have farmer Angie let me pick them right off the farm. They are such a treat and have a flavour all their own. They are best picked in the morning when they begin to open up, but I snagged mine towards the end of the day. In doing this I had to hand-open each one and remove tiny little cucumber beetles which found a cozy home amid the petals. (A small price to pay for organic produce). Once home I coated them in egg/milk, dredged in flour/breadcrumbs/salt/parsley and fried in canola oil. All the ingredients were local, and let me tell you, it was delicious! Fluffy, crackly and soft and sweet on the inside. *Remember to remove the pistils before cooking.  I also sliced up half a patty-pan squash and cooked it the same way.

A Day at the Farm

Yesterday I helped Angie out at her farm, watering, weeding, irrigating, picking and washing all the items for CSA and the Saturday Market. Fertile Grounds is located in St. Agatha and was actually featured in The Record newspaper a week ago.





Friday, July 1, 2011

Step by Step Farmer's Cheese

While this is not professional cheese of any kind, I really enjoy making it and use it as a 100-mile substitute for ricotta. Use it pasta dishes (ie: cannelloni) , on bread, hor dourves, etc. It can be made out of any kind of milk, I used goat's this time.
It does not contain any rennet, just milk, an acid, salt, and herbs if you like...
Essentially, bring a high fat milk (3% +) to a scald, pour in a few splashes of vinegar or lemon juice and let the curds/whey separate. Remove the mixture from heat and let it sit for about 15 minutes. Using a cheesecloth and colander, strain the mixture and squeeze out the excess whey (you can save the whey if you like and use it in baking). Salt the mixture and press it into a salted dish. Pack it down and wrap it tightly to keep in the fridge. I find it is best to eat after a day or two when it has stiffened and cuts more easily.