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Archive for April, 2010

The folks at HarperCollins were kind enough recently to share a copy of new book Locavore by Toronto author Sarah Elton, and to offer me the chance to ask her some questions. As someone who’s pretty well versed in the food system and in local eating in Toronto and Canada, I was impressed at how much I learned from the book about some of our food sources, and I was beyond impressed at the ingenuity of the farmers Elton profiled in the book. I came out of it with a positive attitude toward the future of our food, which certainly isn’t the norm. Support your local food system and your local authors and check out the book!

Since this blog is about eating local in Toronto, and Elton lives in Toronto, I asked questions on that theme – but don’t think that the book is focused on Toronto, because it isn’t at all. I think my favourite story was of the farmers in Richmond, B.C., who have to bring their cows into the barn when the tide comes in because the rest of their fields are flooded.

So, without further ado, the questions…

What are your favourite places in Toronto to shop/eat local?

There are all sorts of great places in Toronto where you can buy fresh foods produced nearby. I regularly visit the St. Lawrence Market, as well as other farmers’ markets including the Riverdale farmers’ market, which is my summertime favourite. I love the Gilead Cafe and the Brick Street Bakery too.

What are some of your favourite local products/produce from the region?

I am a big fan of Ruth Klahsen’s Monforte cheese. Her Toscano is a big hit with my kids. I always head straight for farmer Ted Sharpe’s veggies when I visit the Riverdale Farmers’ Market or the Greenbarn Market. Evelyn’s Crackers are delicious and made from local ingredients. And I look for Sleger’s Greens which are tasty and come with a good story – they turned their tobacco farm into organic greenhouses – that I tell in my book.

How do you find new products/produce to try?

I am always on the hunt! Whenever I go to a farmers’ market, I take a close look at the stalls. Signage isn’t the best so you have to ask questions. I found some incredible beets this weekend at the Jean Talon Market in Montreal. They are long and fat and look like overgrown carrots, except they are beets! The farmer told me that they are an old variety that they have to harvest by hand but taste fabulous. We’ll have them for dinner tomorrow, I think.

If you could have everyone in Toronto make one change toward local eating, what would that be?

I would have everybody eat in season. That would mean waiting till May or June for our fat and delicious local asparagus, rather than eating the spindly imported stuff in January. Or savouring melons when they are hot from the summer sun rather than eating those styrofoam-esque cantaloupes and honeydews that you can buy the rest of the year. If we all chose to eat in season, the grocery stores would cater to the seasonal palate and we’d be closer to having a local and sustainable food system.

How do you find/adapt recipes to suit your local-eating needs?

I use the index in my cookbooks to look up ingredients so I can plan my meals based on what is in season. Also, I experiment. I once made a Thai green curry with pumpkin and Brussels sprouts and it was delicious! The Brussels sprouts soaked up the coconut milk and we all enjoyed the meal.

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I saw this recipe linked from Smitten Kitchen ages ago and finally got around to trying it tonight, when I was craving dessert and had nothing around the house.

It’s a three-ingredient peanut-butter cookie recipe: just peanut butter, sugar and egg (and I threw in some vanilla). As you’d guess from the quantities, they’re quite sweet. And I found I needed to cook mine a bit longer than the “6-8 minutes, no more” that the author recommends.

But for an emergency cookie? These are great, albeit candy-like.

I made mine with local Ontario peanut butter from Kernal Peanuts.

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Fried chickpeas and kale

I had never thought of frying chickpeas until I came across this recipe for Pan-fried Chickpea Salad from blog 101 Cookbooks. I made it one night and was impressed with the tenderness frying gives canned chickpeas, and with the simple flavour of the curried yogurt dressing.

So tonight, I mixed up my own modified version of the recipe. I included shiitake mushrooms but I wouldn’t recommend it – they weren’t bad, but didn’t add anything.

You need:

1 red onion
1 14-oz can chickpeas (or equivalent from dried)
1 bunch kale
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 Tbsp curry powder
salt and pepper to taste

Fry ingredients over medium-high heat, starting with the onions and chickpeas, then the kale. Add salt and pepper to taste while cooking. Meanwhile, mix yogurt with curry powder. When chickpea mixture is done, remove from heat, transfer to a bowl and blend with dressing. Serve warm or cold.

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Pink pancakes for brunch

I was recently given a copy of new cookbook Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Flours by Kim Boyce. As someone who loves to bake but doesn’t love to eat tons of white flour, I was excited by the potential of trying recipes using whole grains as varied as amaranth, teff and kamut to boost the nutrition and flavour of recipes.

First up? I couldn’t resist the lure of the pink pancakes: Quinoa and Beet Pancakes, that is. It uses half a cup of pureed roasted beets for colour, flavour and a bit of a nutrition boost (plus they lessen the need for sweetener), and the flour is 1/4 whole wheat, 1/4 quinoa and 1/2 white.

The verdict? 1. They are very pink, and I love it, and I imagine they’d be really fun to make with kids, especially the ones obsessed with the colour pink. 2. You can definitely taste the beets, but as a beet-lover, I think that’s a good thing, and roasted beets are very sweet and go well with syrup and yogurt, which is how we served them. 3. I couldn’t really taste the quinoa flour, or I didn’t think I could, but I’d be interested in doing a comparison test between these and all-wheat pancakes. 4. The recipe definitely makes enough for four, and since we’re only two, I’m going to try freezing them for quick breakfasts in the future.

Oh, and I love this recipe book. For once, something on the market that’s actually got a new (and challenging) angle on cooking.

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