Savour the flavour…

Yesterday was an absolutely stunning day here in Toronto; we took a nice long walk (about 5.7km) through the city, taking in the sights and eventually making our way to St. Lawrence Market for produce. We stopped in along the way to take in the awesome Gothic Revival Cathedral Church of St. James, with memorial plaques commemorating many of Toronto’s noted citizens. We were intrigued by the very contemporary Stations of the Cross.

To the south, we swung by Berczy Park’s new dog fountain enroute to the market. Kids and pets alike were enjoying the spraying water. We had fun finding the one cat statue amongst the dogs, and to discover just what she was looking at. (We won’t tell just now – you should check out the mystery yourself!)

The sun was blazing and hot, so by the time we arrived home, we were in the mood for something quick and cool, that wouldn’t overheat the kitchen. We put some potatoes on to cook while we enjoyed a cool beverage on our balcony and took in the sights of the neighbourhood. When they were cooked, we let them cool in the fridge while we prepared the rest of this tasty curried salad. For two, as a main course:

For the dressing, whisk in a large bowl:

3 tablespoons (45ml) mayonnaise

1/4 cup (60ml) cider vinegar

2 tablespoons (30ml) curry powder – more or less, to your taste

3 boiled potatoes, cooled and peeled, and cut into chunks

1 red pepper, diced in bite-size pieces

2 cups cooked chickpeas (or one can)

1 cup frozen green beans

1/4 cup (60ml) chopped unsalted peanuts

3 leaves basil, sliced finely

Mix all the vegetables into the salad, including the chickpeas. Divide between the plates and sprinkle with peanuts and basil. You can easily scale up this recipe to serve more people, and it keeps well in the fridge, gaining flavour as it sits. Enjoy!

Keep it simple!

Sometimes when you’ve had a long day, it can seem onerous to make homemade food. That’s when something like a one-pot or oven dinner comes in handy. Also, if you’re really tired, the best thing for you is to get some fresh air and exercise, so you’ll be able to sleep when the time comes.

Earlier this week we combined both of these – after a long day’s work, we walked up the street to our friend Mark’s butcher shop, and picked up a couple of pork chops and some fresh Ontario asparagus. We circled back home for this tasty oven dinner:

First, heat the oven to 400F. Line a sheet pan with parchment. Then scrub your potatoes and slice 1/4″ or a little less than 1cm thick. Brush with olive or canola oil (we use canola, because it’s Canadian). Press a sage leaf into the top of each slice and place on the pan in a single layer. Sprinkle sparingly with salt, if you like, although they are very tasty with just the sage.

To prepare the pork chops, we brushed them with some fig mustard from Kozlik’s, and put them in their own parchment-lined pan.

Lastly, we took a sheet of foil and put the washed asparagus on it. This could probably have cooked less, but we didn’t want to fuss with it. We chopped a couple of cloves of garlic and added this along with the zest and juice from half a lemon. Wrapping the packet securely, we put it on the sheet pan and added all the dishes to the oven for half an hour.

That’s it! While we were waiting, we enjoyed a beer from the latest batch we bottled at Fermentations  on the Danforth. Charles and his team can match the flavour of your favourite beverage, or help you create wine from juice or actual grapes.

We’re feeling pretty fortunate with all of the great food and drinks we can find within a short walk or streetcar ride. Thanks for letting me share.

Seeds grow more than plants

IMG_5006Learning to grow your own food, whether it’s a single pot of herbs on the kitchen counter, or a bigger enterprise, like this, is an empowering activity. When you grow something you can eat, you appreciate all your food just a little more than you did before. For many of us, gardening is a labour of love, and out of tiny seeds, many lessons grow. Here are just a few:

  1. Attention: some gardeners plop seeds or plants in the ground, water, and walk away. If they don’t see something happening immediately, they stop paying attention. They don’t realize that daily attention will help them learn when to water, whether there are pests or problems, or how to recognize the living things they are producing, at each and every stage.
  2. Patience: plants can be fast-growing, and beans, or other species, are useful for first-timers. They show themselves very early. This is why transplants can be helpful in the first-time gardener’s plot. The beets and carrots, on the other hand, make us wait. And wait. But we learn they are worth it.
  3. Resilience: sometimes things don’t work out as we hoped. Gardens teach us to go with the flow. They demonstrate that sometimes we get something more wonderful than we expected, but that there are also disappointments – yet the garden carries on regardless.
  4. Ingenuity and charity: over-abundant plants, whether they are tomatoes, zucchini, or other super-producers, provide us with an opportunity to research ways of preserving them to eat later. They can nourish us in the winter, when food prices escalate, or they are natural, healthy gifts we can share with our friends and family.

Gardens need not be restricted to giant country or suburban plots. Small spaces produce amazing and wonderful amounts of food. Busy lives mean that parents may never have learned to garden, and so can’t pass this valuable skill on to their kids. Fortunately there are dedicated volunteers like the folks at Green Thumbs, who are making sure the gardening knowledge is passed on to new generations of growers. I urge you to click the link and check out these neighbours of mine!

 

We Interrupt this Plan For…Fresh Local Food!

Fresh from the GardenMeal-planning is an important way to stretch your food budget, to keep mealtime interesting, and to get other family members involved in the harvesting, shopping, preparing, or cooking. However if you’re gardening, vegetables wait for no man (or woman). They ripen on their timeline, not yours. The consequence of this is that you may have veggies or fruit that are ripe when you didn’t plan on using them, or more than you needed, or not quite the same quantity as you had imagined. How do you reconcile a well-thought-out meal plan with home-grown produce?

Homemade PestoBefore you go thinking, “you don’t”, consider the possibilities. For produce where you have an over-abundance, or early ripening, consider whether you have space to preserve – by canning, freezing, or dehydrating. We’re cautious in the volume of veg we are putting up for winter, since this is only our first harvest year in our small condo. But some things, like this pesto, let us pack a lot of flavour, and volume, into a small space.

I don’t use a recipe for pesto any more, because I’ve made it many times. But the easiest one I found when I started out was from Jamie Oliver. Nowadays, I add other herbs sometimes, or use walnuts (the sacrilege!) or make other variations according to what’s on hand. One thing I always do, though, is this: I freeze my pesto in small mason jars like the ones above – just enough for a week or so of flavouring, or a single dinner’s worth of pasta for two. To freeze, simply pour a small layer of olive oil on top of the pesto to keep it from discolouring, seal the jar, and pop in the freezer (make sure it’s upright, at least until it is fully frozen). This will give you delicious, fresh basil-y flavour anytime you want, and is especially welcome on a drizzly day in February when you don’t want to venture out and there’s nothing in the cupboard but a little dried pasta. (Yes, those days are coming, my friends)!

Oh, the controversy!

The other day I posted a gorgeous purple cabbage and blueberry smoothie on my Facebook. It was met with much skepticism and derision (yet, might I add, more discussion than any post in recent memory). So today I have another tasty smoothie for you. What you need to know is that it can be a bit like mixing paint…putting many beautiful colours and flavours together like this:


May result in something not quite so pretty (but amazingly tasty), like this:


I want to take a moment to thank all of you who follow, comment, and interact. It’s very gratifying to share this wonderful planet with you. You’ll notice in the coming days and weeks that I will continue to have lots of food posts, but the “walk” and “live” parts of WalkEatLive will be given a bit more space as well. It’s also my plan to do some more promotion and review of resources I use, like cookbooks, tools, resources, workout gear, and places and things to see and do. I hope you’ll stick with me on the journey.

Tangy and Tasty…For Two!

  
This weekend we were treated to above-normal temperatures, and found an abundance of locally-grown greenhouse greens at the market. It put us in a salad sort of mood.

While some ingredients aren’t local, we have tried to strike a balance.

For two: 

In a large salad bowl, combine:

Zest and juice of one lemon

15ml/1T oil

10ml/2t Dijon mustard

(Did you know Canada was a world-leading producer of mustard seeds?)

Add:

1l/4c washed mini greens and herbs (parsley in our case)

1 diced avocado

1 diced zucchini 

2 cherry tomatoes

90g/3oz diced goat cheese 

Toss lightly and enjoy!

Grainy Goodness…

I bought some farro a couple of weeks ago for a recipe, so when I went casting about for ideas to use more of it, I came across this great recipe from Jamie Oliver. It’s the perfect sort of thing to make on a lazy weekend – it takes an hour or two, but with lots of breaks for reading or tv watching…

  
It makes large servings, so could easily feed more for a potluck. Also, we decided to leave our veg much chunkier than in the original photo. Can’t wait to make it again in summer, with grilled veggies instead.

Lunchovers?

Call them what you will, one of the best ways to stretch your grocery bill is to incorporate leftovers or things that need using up into your lunch. 

We’re off to run a couple of errands before the Super Bowl and we were smart enough not to eat the two extra lamb chops in the grocery store package (on sale last week and held in the freezer). We broiled the lot last night and sliced the leftovers for lunch. They’re served on a bed of local baby greens and cukes, both hothouse-grown.

  
For the dressing:

1/4 c / 60ml homemade wine vinegar

2T / 30ml olive oil

1oz / 30g crumbled feta

1T / 15ml Dijon

1T / 15ml dried oregano or basil 

6 dry-cured olives, chopped

Sprinkle on top:

1T / 15ml chopped sundried tomatoes 

Any meal, anytime…how can I use THIS up?

  
For us, today is meal-planning and market day. We mostly plan dinners, eating leftovers the following day, or a salad or soup. At the end of the week we take stock: what didn’t we make? What made too much and needs to be used up?

Last week we tried a recipe for bacon and leek risotto. Even reducing the arborio by half, it was more than a meal’s worth for the two of us. So we tucked away the leftovers in the fridge with all good intentions. Here we are, Saturday, and that little package of risotto either must be used or thrown away. Sure, it could form the basis of a creamy rice soup. Or it could get buried in some casserole, or formed into patties and browned until slightly crisp on the outside, given that it has absorbed the liquid and sort of, well, solidified. But all that seemed boring. 

What about breakfast? I sautéed an onion, four mushrooms and a stalk of celery (all sliced or diced) with any leftover fresh herbs from the fridge, chopped. Then I tipped in the risotto (about a cup, for two) and a chopped tomato that was on its last day. A quick stir, and then I cracked in two eggs. On low heat with a lid, it took just 5 more minutes for a tasty medium poached breakfast bowl to be ready for each of us.

A grind of pepper on top and we are off to a healthy, happy start to our weekend!

No Fish Were Harmed in the Making of this Chowder

  
One of the great things about this time of year is the fantastic selection of vegetables. Although it isn’t tomato season quite yet on the coast, everything else on this tray came from our garden: red onions, pattypan squash, and turnip. Diced with our own oregano and a splash of olive oil and vinegar, we roasted this tray for 30 minutes at 400F, then let them rest in the oven 30 minutes or so while we boiled water and made pasta. Half the batch formed our pasta topping, so then today…what to do with the leftovers?

  

We diced a potato and cooked it in 2c water until tender (about 6 minutes). To this we added the 2c roasted veg, and an equal amount of 1% milk (plant milk would work just as well). Heat until piping hot and serve with a sprinkle of smoked paprika and basil on top.