Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Jerusalem Artichokes & Roasted Garlic Soup

A fellow urban farmer kindly shares the bounty of his garden from time to time.  He is a big fan of Vicki's Veggies Farm's heirloom tomatoes and plants plenty of these Prince Edward County seedlings each June.  But before he became 'Leamington North', his garden plot had been home to Jerusalem Artichokes, also known as sunchokes.

Well, the thing is, or so he tells me, once you plant Jerusalem Artichokes, you have them for life.  It is the garden gift that keeps on giving.  Each Fall he digs in to see what volume awaits him. Even when he thinks he has them all extracted, they inevitably return again next year.

Jerusalem Artichokes have an earthy flavour and I sometimes substitute them for a potato mash on the plate.  They also go well partnered with potatoes in a mash.

My urban farmer friend spoke well of this particular soup recipe from Vicki's Veggies Farm - Sunchoke & Roasted Garlic Soup.  With a fresh batch of chicken stock coming off the stove, the mister dug into our three pound gift and put together a soul-warming creation.

We didn't have the full complement of potatoes in the pantry so the scales tipped a bit more towards the Jerusalem Artichokes.

The soup really develops its depth if it has had a day or two to chill.  It reheats well and may require a final skim before serving.

The end result is really is a plain look when nestled into our white bowls.  So beige. To bring more colour to the palate and to bring on more flavour, I garnished the soup with small garlic croutons, ristede løg (roasted onions, crumbled) and chives. Vicki suggested small diced sunchokes and bacon!

With any luck, I'll be making this again next year.

inspired by Vicki Emlaw of Vicki's Veggies Farm in Prince Edward County
Serves 6 to 8.

1 1/2 pounds of Jerusalem Artichokes (sunchokes), cleaned, rough spots peeled, then roughly chopped
3/4 pound of red potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
2 heads of garlic, roasted
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups cooking onions, thinly sliced
2 bay leaves
2 stems of thyme
6 cups chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Optional garnishes:
garlic croutons
roasted onion crumble
small diced cooked Jerusalem Artichokes

Heat oven to 300ºF. Cut the root end off each garlic. Place in a tin foil pouch. Dribble with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Close the pouch, leaving open space around the garlic.  Roast for an hour until soft and golden.  Squeeze the cloves out of their skins and set aside.

In a dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat.  Sauté the onions until the soften and begin to brown.  Stir them frequently.  Add the Jerusalem Artichokes and continue to sauté over medium high heat until the Jerusalem Artichokes and onions have caramelized.  As you stir frequently, give the bottom of the pan a good scrape to avoid over-browning of the fond.

Add the bay leaves, thyme, stock and potatoes. Bring the soup to a boil and skim off any foam that may be forming.  Lower the heat and simmer until the Jerusalem Artichokes and potatoes are soft. Continue to skim any foam as it settles to the top.

Add the roasted garlic cloves and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Remove the bay leaves. Purée the soup and return to the pot.  If it is too thin, continue to simmer to reduce.  Season the soup with salt, pepper and red wine vinegar.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Cylie Artisans Chocolatiers - The Taste Off

A friend and I popped into Cylie Artisans Chocolatiers on opening day, September 17th.  The new store is located at 204 Dalhousie Street just north of the ubiquitous Bridgehead. My friend knew the owners and while they chatted it up, I cruised the display cases to see what jewels were in store for me.

I love a high quality bar (locally I had been seeking out Hummingbird's because it is bean-to-bar or Ludwig's because he has lime bar) but I don't tend to be as attracted to filled chocolates. Partly because my likes are so narrow - citrus, raspberry, mint and caramel.  I don't enjoy tea-infused or flowery scents like lavender.

The mister is more of the chocolate aficionado than me.  To give the chocolates their due I had the mister do a taste testing with me.  

Cylie's chocolates are not fondant fillings but flavour-infused ganaches, including some with their own teas.  They also do bars and specialty items like chocolate dipped orange peels.

Now on with the tasting. They are from top to bottom:
  • Praline Noisettes
  • Piment Despelette
  • Milk Chocolate Sweet + Caramel
  • Lemongrass + Ginseng
  • Equateur
  • Milk Granduja + Pear William

The mister agreed they were all lovely and very high quality. His favourite was the Sweet + Caramel.  Mine was the Milk Granduja + Pear William. We found that the infused flavours were not overpowering and sometimes almost not noticeable. Thankfully the creamy ganache is delicious on its own.

The name Cylie is a blend of the partners' names - CYril Nebout and LesLIE Yang.  Both have pedigrees from Le Cordon Bleu, where they met here in Ottawa when Nebout was recently teaching.

With three chocolate shops within 600 metres of each other on the Dalhousie strip (Stubbe is further south and Bernard Callebaut is in the middle of those two), how is Cylie going to set themselves apart from the pack?

Stubbe's chocolate-making genealogy goes back to 1845 through six generations.

The Bernard Callebaut store is an outlet for chocolates made in and shipped from Calgary. Their chocolates are not made in the Ottawa store. The Bernard Callebaut name is highly regarded (though has a complicated past - but that's another story).

Cylie wants to present itself as a more modern twist on style and flavours, while maintaining the traditional techniques behind proper quality chocolate-making.  They enjoy presenting an artistic flair to their work.

Their showy looks make them attractive for gift giving and for including on party menus. They have hit their stride in synch with our descent into the Holiday season. Perfect timing

I was just a fly on the wall during my first visit.  How pleasant to receive a 'Well, hello again. I remember you.' greeting when I returned last week to stock up.

If you want to read more, here are recent articles regarding their opening:

>> Ottawa Citizen Style by Laura Robin
>> Ottawa Magazine by Anne DesBrisay
>> CBC In Town and Out Radio Show

Cylie Artisans Chocolatiers
204 Dalhousie Street
Ottawa, Ontario
Facebook: Cylie Artisans Chocolatiers
Twitter: cyliechocolat

Tues - Sat: 11 am - 7 pm

Cylie Artisans Chocolatiers on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 7, 2013

LCBO Food & Drink Magazine - Holiday Issue 2013

My Holiday holiday is Christmas and I loved all the gold and red glitter of last year's LCBO Food & Drink's festive season issue.  I am always hopeful for a cover that gets me in the Christmas party spirit. A warmth that draws me in. 

I have to say that wasn't my reaction when my eyes made contact with magazine in the store. I wondered about the casual setting, as the holidays are a time to put on the Ritz, get out the finery and fuss over the littlest of details.  Having now read the magazine cover to cover, I love so much of it.  The fancy and the bling is there.

I do love the look of those smørrebrød-like bites - Horseradish and Smoked Trout Paté on Rye Croutons.

It wasn't until I read editor Jody Dunn's welcome that I found out Emerald Green is the 'IT' colour for 2013 says Pantone. I glanced back at the cover and noticed the colour of the logo. The masthead. The skin on the cucumber. The feathering of microgreens.  All Pantone's Emerald Green. There is more of that beautiful green inside.

Tradition is that I weigh the holiday issue of LCBO's Food and Drink. 890 grams. 1190 grams with all the inserts. Heftiest ever!

We were having big talk at the dinner table recently about horseradish.  We all love it and love it strong.  Clean your nose out strong.  The Food Trends article by Lucy Waverman is called Horseradish. Lucy says, "Horseradish is the ingredient of the moment." Happily I am dialed in to what's the latest for once. I agree with Lucy that the best result comes from using fresh root, peeling it and microplaning on the spot.  Jars of horseradish can be handy, but their kick dissipates over time.

A hometown shout out for Steve Robinson.  He is chef Marc Lepine's sommelier at critically acclaimed Atelier restaurant here in Ottawa and he is featured in Sommelier Selections by Nancy Won.

 This issue is loaded.  Why I love it maybe more than other Holiday issues is that it revisits a lot of the classics. A few twists to make them new.  But nothing really wild.  The holiday season is steeped in food tradition for many of us.  Those coming to our table expect some specific once-a-year favourite dishes. The recipes here are not meant to make them so different.  Just better.

Did you know that in 2005 selected the knife as the single most important tool in human history? I learned that from Robert Hercz in his in-depth article called Knives. Thankfully my dining partners have dispensed with the "stuff-and-cut" method of eating meat. Read every word of it. And apparently it "remained acceptable to carry food to the mouth with a knife until the early 20th century." Believe it or not, I still see people do it today.  Stop please! Having an excellent knife is a wonderful gift but consider a gift certificate to a quality cutlery and cookware shop and let them pick their own.

I have parties to attend and food to plan and so I am appreciative of the suggestions in this issue.  Here is what is on my food play list:
  • Butter-Roasted Pear & Apple Compote with Mascarpone Cheese and Deep-Fried Eggs with Asiago, Spinach & Tomato (From Before The Feast by Marilyn Bentz-Crowley)
  • Roasted Vegetables with Horseradish Vinaigrette (From Horseradish by Lucy Waverman) 
  • Key Lime Shooters (From Drink Matchmaker - Sensational Sippers by Julia Aitken)
  • Garganelli with Ricotta & Blistered Cherry Tomatoes and Abalone Mushrooms with 6-Minute Egg and Romesco Sauce ( From Small Plates by Lucy Waverman and James Chatto)
  •  Sparkling Elderflower Ice (From White Wonders by Victoria Walsh)
  • Lobster Diavolo (From Deep Sea Dining by Emily Richards)
  • Herb-Roasted Rutabaga Batons & Cipollini Onions (From Tried & New by Jennifer MacKenzie)
  • Salmon Rillettes (From Late Night Supper by Lucy Waverman)
  • Gruyère & Cranberry Risotto (From Finding Favour with Flavour by Tonia Wilson-Vuksanovic)

I heard there were printing and distribution issues that meant some stores did not receive the magazine on time for Wednesday opening.  I hope you have yours.

Plan ahead: The Winter issue hits the stores in ten weeks on Wednesday, January 15th.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

My CSA Experience 2013 - A Year in Review

Regular readers will know that I have been a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) half-shareholder with Roots and Shoots Farm since they began their operation in the summer of 2010.  Much has changed over the past 4 years.  For them and for me.

They began with an acre of land and 60 CSA shareholders.  When I talked to Jesse Weatherhead at the Ottawa Farmers' Market this past Sunday, she said they are now using 10 acres and have 250 CSA shares representing approximately 280 families.

At the end of year two they acquired greenhouses.

They also put in an irrigation system - a saviour during the drought of 2012.

Robin and Jesse bought a house near by. No more trailer living for them.

They have a refrigerated truck and better storage for keeping the produce after harvest, both short term and longer term.  The produce coming to us is more consistently high quality and also well cleaned.

They implemented a swap box system a few years back to allow for trades.  Sometimes you just don't want another two quarts of zucchini. I used it once when it was first implemented when I was tempted by a beautiful red cabbage.  I take my basket 'as is' as a show of support for learning to use what the harvest provides.

This past season they introduced a vacation policy.  If you gave appropriate notice, you were allowed to forgo as many as three baskets without losing out.  The credit goes towards next years share.  In the past, if we were away we arranged for a friend to pick up the basket and enjoy it on our behalf.  We used the vacation feature for one of our weeks this summer. This was nothing short of a miracle with how our summer plans unfolded.  Getting to the CSA pickup location on our day is a constant challenge because of that active schedule.

There is now an online farm store for their shareholders.  This allows us access to other products all year round.  I have used it to buy extra garlic and to also purchase meat.  Roots and Shoots Farm raised chickens this year and they also have an arrangement with another farm for organic beef.  This feature is very handy when I am not able to meet up with them at the local farmers' market to augment my basket.  I like that I can still get staples like onions, potatoes, carrots, beets and squash even though the CSA shares have ended for the summer.

In year 4, Roots and Shoots Farm extended the season from 16 weeks to 18 weeks.

The farm has established a Fall share program.  We did not use it last year or this year.  Although we were very much interested, we wanted a break from 'pickup deadline' since we have another crazy fall schedule. Their fall share program runs for 8 weeks from the end of October to mid-December and means pickups every other week.

Robin and Jesse extended their growing season into the winter in their third year.  In fact they were recently recognized by the provincial government with the Premier's Award For Agri-Food Innovation Excellence for their innovative winter greens program.

Roots and Shoots Farm is now certified organic, a status not so common in the Ottawa area. Many say they use 'organic practices' in their farming.  It is not the same.  Roots and Shoots prices in the marketplace are also on par with their local non-certified organic competitors.  It is a premium to me to have certified organic produce.

Roots and Shoots Farm have set land aside since year one to grow food for the food bank.

Communication has improved year after year.  In year one, I knew what would be in my basket when I lifted the bin lids at my pickup location.  Now they send us a weekly newsletter a day or two ahead of my pickup where they list the upcoming share content, suggested recipes and the latest farm news.

This is the kind of farm we have hitched our wagon to and we feel so fortunate. As a CSA shareholder, how could I not be happier?  As a seasoned shareholder, I am definitely a lot more comfortable with the concept than when I first started.  But I still have woes.

When I sign up for my share in the winter, I have no idea what my summer plans might hold.  Who will be living here? How much will we be traveling? Can we expect a slew of visiting house guests?

Having a CSA basket coming in the house every other week needs people to eat it.  This continues to be a roller-coaster ride for us.  With the darling son away at university for the summer and the mister traveling constantly with work, there were many days when I was the only person at the dinner table.  I am not a 'tea and toast' eater when I am going solo but I don't always crave a full on, pull out the stops meal.  Many invitations out to with others for dinner meant that sometimes the count went from one to none! Often the volume was overwhelming and I was looking for ways to preserve what I had received or trying to create dishes that could be stored for later. For someone who likes to live in the moment, that created pressure to be organized.

If we were traveling for the weekend, getting the basket on Thursday evening had its challenges.  There was limited time to do anything with it before we headed out.  When visiting family or friends I brought my food with me and thankfully it was well received. This wasn't an option when we were hoteling.  Gah! The pressure.

The first baskets of the season contain the most tender of greens.  Ideally you want to eat them right away. At least in the first day or two.  That gets tricky if we were away or there was just me here.  Tender greens aren't the easiest thing to 'preserve'.

The food in the basket is preset.  If I had plans to make a dish that week that did not include anything provided in the basket, it likely wasn't going to happen.  Focus was always on how to use up the CSA share in a timely way.

Being a CSA shareholder is hard work to use it with care and try not to let any of it go to waste.  Sometimes it means I am cooking whether I want to or not.  I often felt 'behind' and that meant less exploring with new recipes than I would like and more reliance on the tried and true, just to 'get er done'. Recipes I knew that were already crowd pleasers. Despite that, there has been a lot of playing.

Over the 4 years I have become more relaxed with it all.  I do have a larger repertoire of recipes for using my veggies. Some borrowed. Some created. I have been more successful with my food storage to maximize how long my produce will last.  I have become better at preserving my extra food if I can't use it all in time.  And I have hosted more dinner guests (friends and neighbours) to help eat up the bounty.  I definitely know my neighbours better. Good food unites!

Some food highlights for me:

I loved how often we received herbs in our early baskets.  If I had a chance, I picked basil each and every time.  And I turned it into basil pesto just about each and every time.  Some might have considered the bunch too small to bother but pesto is easy to make and also easy to freeze.

I received some gorgeous eggplants.  I don't recall getting eggplants before. Wonderful for curries and also baba ghanoush.

I loved how often we received beets.  I can't get enough of roasted beets and enjoyed them constantly in salads, usually serving them up at dinner parties. In fact, I loved roasting them so much I didn't do any pickling this year. Yet.

I loved  how often we received cucumbers.  This was the summer of tzatziki for us.  We also had Danish cucumber salad often too.

Have I mentioned the garlic?  I received 8 heads of garlic.  They were all beautiful, big and perfect.  They are all gone. I still have 50 heads of garlic from other farmers stored away in my cool, dry basement to get me through the winter.

I don't mind radishes but I was fine that I only received them once.  They are not my favourite to eat in volume.

No cabbage.  The farm had a problem with their field of cabbage.  No napa. No green.  No red.  I missed not having cabbage.  But I get that being a shareholder means sharing in the risk as well as the glory.  I did buy red cabbage from them at the most recent Ottawa Farmers' Market at Brewer Park.  They just didn't have enough to give out in their shares.

The carrots were awesome! So were all the onions and potatoes.  I love getting plenty of the basics.

I received many tomatoes. Give me more tomatoes and I would be over the moon!

In closing, you might be wondering after all my angst, will I sign up for year 5.  Yes. Yes, I will. Take another look at my 8 CSA baskets and you will see why I find that such an easy decision.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Roots and Shoots Farm - 18th Week of CSA Food 2013

It is always with a bit of sadness when we go to pick up our last Roots and Shoots Farm CSA share of the season. Week 18 came so quickly and that was two weeks ago already.

1 quart of Carrots
2 quarts of Potatoes - a mix of Chieftain and Russet
1 Butternut Squash
2 Acorn Squash
1 bunch of Leeks
2 Cooking Onions
2 Garlic
1 pint of Parsnips
1 bunch of Broccoli leaves
1 quart of Beets
1 bunch Swiss chard
1 Rutabaga

Much of of the preparation of this share was very basic. Often just roasted to have the beautiful produce accompany some special meals. As you will see, the dishes speak to the change in the weather.  More comfort food and food to that can be stored in the freezer for another day.

The carrots were roasted with two meals - one was a prime rib roast dinner.  The other was a roasted chicken (Roots and Shoots Farm chickens) dinner.

The Chieftain potatoes were roasted for the prime rib dinner.  The russets were used with the leeks for a scalloped potato recipe to which we also included sweet potatoes, bacon and onion.

The butternut squash went into homemade butternut squash ravioli.  After roasting the squash, I mixed the pulp with a bit of cream, maple syrup, finely diced sauteed onions, sage, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper.

The acorn squash was roasted for the chicken dinner.  Since it was a dinner party, we used both.  A dinner we called Christmas in October. The squash were roasted with a bit of butter, brown sugar, salt and pepper.

The onions were used in French Onion Soup.

The garlic was used in our ubiquitous garlic shrimp pasta dish.

The parsnips were roasted up for the prime rib roast dinner.

The rutabaga was used in the big vat of beef stew.

The broccoli leaves and Swiss chard was chopped up and put in the freezer for another day.

The beets are still in the fridge.  They are not big and will be sweet when roasted.  There is a nice selection of colours too.  It may not be imaginative, but I bet they end up in a roasted beet salad.  We never tire of this dish.

They say they have learned a lot over the last 4 years. I can say that I have too. Thank you Roots and Shoots Farm.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Morning Owl - Revisiting The Australian Flat White

Morning Owl Coffeehouse at 538 Rochester Street, just north of Carling is on my list of Best Espresso Coffee Shops In Ottawa.  I was more of a regular here two or three years ago and then it fell off my flight path. A combination of where my travels would take me in a day and also a few inconsistencies with the drink.

This morning I popped in to get a refresher and see how things have transpired for this weekday-only (7am to 3 pm) shop.  Busy as ever with a steady stream of customers. Clearly a loyal following of regulars, ordering without hesitation or a need to glance at the menu board.

I ordered my usual for the Owl - a small Australian flat white. $4 with tax.The baked goods tempted and I went for what I thought was the least 'sweet' - a beautiful, moist and fruity blueberry scone. $2.50 with tax. Their baker said she has been making the treats for The Morning Owl for two years now.

My barista, Tommy said he has been working there for 3 years.  A really good sign.  The Rancilio espresso machine, there since day one, was still humming along.

What is new as of two weeks ago - and this is pretty important - they now use a custom-blend from Equator Coffee Roasters up in Almonte, outside of Ottawa.  Not a lot of coffee shops in Ottawa are serving up Equator beans (I know of Café Qui Pense on Main Street), so as a fan my interest was piqued.

They are also selling this custom-blend in the shop. Owner, Jordan O'Leary, sent me home with a few beans to try in my own Rancilio machine, Silvia.

How was that flat white? Faith restored.

It was the right combination of caramel-y, chocolate-y notes. Not acidic. Good depth in coffee strength. And not to be overlooked - the right temperature on the milk.  Too many places overheat their milk.

In fact, I was left with a WOW feeling. The kind of wow that makes you want to bring your empty cup back and tell them yourself.

Morning Owl Coffeehouse
538 Rochester Street
Ottawa, Ontario

Mon - Fri: 7 am to 3 pm

Morning Owl on Urbanspoon
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