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Over the years our hotel dining in Halifax has improved dramatically and is a treat for visitors and locals alike. Gio, Trendz and Seasons are well known in this city for providing great food to their guests. Now we have a hotel restaurant that embraces not only great flavor but local suppliers in the same way I do at home.
Elements on Hollis in the Westin Nova Scotian has made a commitment to sourcing their ingredients for their lunch and dinner menus from producers who are located within 50 miles of the hotel. Now I have had other establishment tell me this only to find out that they meant that their wholesalers were located in the Burnside Industrial Park (I really wish I was kidding). I decided to question them on their suppliers and was invited to sit down with 1988 Culinary Olympics Gold Medalist Chef Raj Gupta. I was impressed with his total commitment to using local ingredients to build his menu. I am not talking about a token protein, Raj and his team at Elements have build a menu including locally baked breads, local proteins, local starches and vegetables and even local sauces and chutneys. I would estimate that somewhere north of 95% of what you see on the plate was produced within 50 miles of the Westin and that is a conservative estimate. Remember we don’t grow black pepper, citrus, sugar etc. here in province but if it is on the menu and Nova Scotia produces it Elements will use it.
Elements commitment goes well beyond using products from our local producers. They actually credit them right on the menu. The entire first page of the two page menu is dedicated to explaining their philosophy and crediting their 35+ suppliers. They are a visible presence shopping at the Halifax Seaport Farmers market and promote the market in various ways in the hotel.
I would have to say however the most unselfish promotion of local producers is their decision to charge their cost plus $5 for bottle prices for local wine. They still charge full hotel prices by the glass or for imported wine but if you want to share a bottle of Nova Scotia wine with friends you get it at their cost plus $5. They don’t do this because Nova Scotia wine needs to be discounted, they are comfortable charging full price by the glass. They are doing this to encourage tables to try, share and talk about our great local wine. I was introduced to Nova 7 this way and as someone who does not drink very much wine I probably never would have ordered it on my own. Nova 7 is now one of my favorite wines and I will go out of my way to order it. Thanks to Elements for having this great local promotion.
As great as the local promotion is it would matter not if the food was not amazing. Elements combines amazing local product with award winning talent and has produced great results. The meal is down east comfort food with down home fine dining flare. Every meal starts with a fresh hot home baked herb brioche that baked and presented in a tin can. The bread is crusty, rich, flavorful and watching the server slide it out of the tin can it was just baked in adds a fantastic rustic flair. This style of full flavor, rustic charm and elegant execution weaves its way through the entire meal.
Appetizers include comfort food classics like seafood chowder, cod cakes, Mussels and lasagna. The chowder is a silky rich chowder made with real cream and fresh local seafood. This Maritime comfort classic elegantly plated with with plump perfectly cooked shrimp and beautiful mussles. The salt cod cake, a traditional south shore classic, is seared to perfection and served with the traditional green tomato chow produced by The Naked Pickle. Elements add their own flair serving it on a whole grain mustard aioli and topping it with a beautiful micro green salad.
Their main courses take comfort food to that next level. Whether it is a beautiful free range rib eye steak, a whole Nova Scotia Lobster with drawn butter, roasted potatoes and creamy coleslaw or hand made agnolotti you really can’t go wrong. My personal favorites are the Tideview Apple Cider Double Cut Pork Chop and Free Range Chicken breast served on herb spaetzle. The beautiful thick pork chop is topped with a apple cider glaze and is served on a celeriac and potato mash. I can tell you it is the first time I have had celeriac and mashed potatoes it is was unbelievable and complimented the pork perfectly. The chicken breast is cooked to perfection and the hard sear they put on it was a great source of flavor and texture. Served on a bed of herb spaetzle (a german noodle/dumpling akin to baby gnocchi) which are tender and flavorful and a perfect accompaniment to this delectable chicken.
They also have a beautiful dessert menu containing may comfort favorites. Seeing cookies and milk on a dessert menu makes me smile. These light shortbread cookies served with fresh fruit are delightful but what sets it of is the non-homogenized Foxhill whole milk. Nowhere else can you get milk that has never been skimmed and is low temperature pasteurized. They also have a brownie on the menu. What is the kicker here… it is made with Garrison’s Nut Brown Beer. The way this brings out the chocolate flavor has to be tried to be believed. They serve this rich moist brownie with heavy sweet cream and caramel in a large Garrison beer stein. This is a nice tribute to one of Nova Scotia’s best local breweries.
An evening at Elements is topped off by the atmosphere created by their friendly and knowledgable front of house staff. Led by Chef Jonathan, your ambassador to the kitchen, they will answer any questions you have about the local suppliers, will make knowledgable recommendations and can tell you in detail how your locally supplied food has been prepared. Elements on Hollis pays tribute to our local farmers and producers and I would encourage you to pay them a visit and have a little tour of local Nova Scotia flavors.
I started eating local for one reason and one reason only, the quality of the food. I later started to understand the economic benefits, the health benefits and the value of developing a sustainable local food system here in Nova Scotia. But to be honest the reason I started was because the quality of the food I was getting from Superstore and Sobeys was no longer acceptable. I was tired of getting food that was an unreasonable facsimile of the food I remembered growing up in the Annapolis Valley.
Nowhere is this more true than with bacon. The waterlogged packets of chemically treated flaccid pork belly… its just not right. What I was not aware of was that you can get some of the best bacon you have ever had directly from our farmers or local smokehouses. I have sampled 7 different varieties of bacon from 4 different local producers. This bacon cannot be compared to that which you get in a grocery store. The smoke is from… wait for it… smoke. They use natural flavors and spices and do not load the bacon up with chemical filled solutions to increase the weight of the product. The pork that is uses is small farm raised and it shows in the quality of the meat.
The first local bacon I tried came from Active Life Farm just outside of Truro. This lightly smoked bacon was made from Berkshire pork, the kobe of pork. I got a side from them and the first thing that was gone was this rich meaty bacon. From there I started exploring bacon from as many local farms as I could.
The next bacon I tried was from Sweet Williams at the Halifax Seaport Farmers Market. They have an amazing variety of bacon including back bacon, shoulder bacon, and nitrate free bacon. Check in with them and see what they have for you on any given weekend. The nitrate free bacon was great, there was no taste difference and for those who want to remove nitrates from their diet this is a great option. Back bacon has always been one of my favorites and this is a great product. However the most remarkable experience for me was the shoulder bacon.
Pork shoulder is one of the most flavorful cuts of pork and is sought after by BBQ connoisseurs everywhere because of its ability to take smoke. A well marbled shoulder is the essential cut for amazing pulled pork. Sweet Willams takes this cut of meat, cures it (in the same way you would cure belly to make traditional bacon) and then slowly smokes it and slices it thin. This shoulder bacon is full of rich pork flavor, has a great toothy bite and is full of salty, smoky goodness. You can use this bacon in baked beans or use it instead of corned beef with cabbage for a great east coast supper. My favorite application of shoulder bacon though is in a traditional breakfast sandwich. A couple slices of this bacon with a nice poached egg on a homemade english muffin is a real taste treat.
The other location to get great bacon at the Halifax Market is Roselane. They have your standard sliced bacon but the bacon that brings me back over and over is their double smoked bacon. It is well cured, double smoked and then sliced ever so thin. A little bit of this in a sandwich or in a potato salad adds a beautiful rich smokey flavor without overpowering your dish with bacon. The other thing I like about this bacon is it is dry… it has not been loaded with water to increase the weight so when you cook it you can actually get a sear. It is a real treat to cook bacon without getting a steam facial.
The most recent place I have tried getting bacon from is Meadowbrook Meat Market located just outside of Berwick. This farm to table operation produces some of the best bacon I have ever had. Using sustainable farming methods to produce the pork and then curing it and smoking to perfection they produce an amazing product. Their varieties include a maple bacon that has my house smelling like a sugar shack and a Montreal smoke meat spiced bacon that as Chef Greg Clancy of Untitled Eats says “is a game changer.” This farm to table high quality approach has earned Meadowbrook the Taste of Nova Scotia 2011 Producer of the Year Award. Here in the city you can pick up their product at Pete’s or at the Alderney Gate Ferry Terminal 7 days a week.
Once you have sourced some real bacon from one of our local suppliers you need to take your time cooking it. Never slap bacon into a hot pan, this will lead to bacon where the meat is hard and overcooked and the fat is stringy and unrendered. Pork belly requires low slow cooking. On a griddle or in a frying pan heat the pan over very low heat (1 or 2) and then lay the bacon in filling as much of the pan as you can without overlapping. Allow the bacon to slowly cook, I turn it every 3 to 5 min for the first 15 min to ensure even cooking. Then in the end turn in more frequently. It takes about 20 minutes to get it cooked properly. Also never drain off the fat, cooking bacon in its rendered fat helps keep it tender and stops the meat from burning before the fat is rendered out. When you see really small bubbles of fat that indicates that much of the water has been cooked out and you are almost done. Rest your bacon on a clean paper towel and serve. This will give you a crispy bacon where much of the fat has been rendered out so there are no stringy bits.
Pork is the most popular meat in the world and bacon is so popular I know vegetarians who eat it. (I kid you not I roomed with a vegetarian who tried to sick me out when I ate meat but would drive across town to get bacon). However as with many great foods we don’t get the real goods at our factory food outlets. If you want to have the best bacon available I strongly encourage you to try out some of our great local suppliers.
One of my favorite childhood meals has to be sloppy joes. A flavorful rich meaty sauce over grilled bread topped with cheese. My families sloppy joes were made with a homemade meat sauce which is the key. You cannot get the flavor of a true rich meat sauce out of a can and as with most canned goods the sodium levels are through the roof.
A good meat sauce takes time but you can make it in a large batch and it freezes beautifully. For my sloppy joes I use a lean or extra lean ground beef. You can mix in ground pork, veal or chicken as well but for simplicity I stick with beef.
I use grass fed beef from a local supplier (Getaway Farms). You cannot get this kind of flavor in grain fed beef and nutritionally it is far superior. I also know if it is fresh or frozen and can handle it appropriately. It comes from one or at most two cows which makes it more controlled from a food safety standpoint. My butcher and farmer can tell me the exact cut or cuts that went into it so I know what I am eating. With this beef I never get that liver/organ meat taste that I experience from some factory food ground beef.
Unlike a burger which benefits from a higher fat content to add flavor and moisture in a meat sauce you would just strain off the fat so you might as well go lean. Also extra lean ground beef benefits from the long slow simmer we will do a the end of this process to meld flavors. We will also use celery, carrots and onions in this sauce and caramelization to build a deep rich flavor. This sauce is a favorite of mine and it makes the perfect sloppy joe.
To bring this dish up a notch I replace the burger bun with some panini pressed french bread and add in some of the garlic scape pesto from my last post. I also replace the traditional cheese slice with some fresh cheese curd. It is still sloppy and super flavourful.
1.5 tbsp grape seed oil
2 pounds of fresh or thawed extra lean ground beef (allow to sit at room temp for 1 hour before using)
1 large or 2 medium onions (small dice)
3 large or 6 small carrots (small dice)
3 stalks of celery (small dice)
3 cloves of garlic (chopped)
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp smoked paprika
1/3 cup bourbon or rye
1.5 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
2 cups red wine tomato sauce (prior blog post)
salt and pepper
In a large pot or dutch oven heat up 1.5 tbsp of grape seed oil over medium high to high heat, I tend to do mine on MAX. I use grape seed oil here because of it’s high smoke point. My dad used to tease my grandmother about there being other settings on the stove then Max, now I understand why she cooked with high heat… flavor. We have warmed the beef a bit so we don’t cool the oil off, we want to caramelize the beef to build flavor adding cold beef to hot oil will give you boiled beef. Break the beef up and add it into the oil, sprinkle in a tsp of salt to help draw out moisture. Stir the beef with a wooden spoon often, don’t leave it sitting on high heat while you do something else, it will burn. Keep stirring and breaking up the beef until it is well browned. Brown is flavor. We will end up with brown bits on the bottom of the pot, we will get that later too.
When the beef is browned, remove the beef to a plate and set aside. If there is not enough oil to cook the veggies add a tsp more and reduce the heat to medium high. We have find diced the veggies because we want good caramelization and when we simmer it the veggies will almost dissolve into the sauce adding amazing flavor. Add the onion, carrots and celery into the hot oil, add in another 1/2 tsp of salt which will flavor and draw water out of the veggies allowing for better caramelization. Stir the veggies until they start to brown, then add in the garlic. Continue to cook until everything is browned. Be careful not to burn any components here.
When everything is well browned add the tomato paste, and paprika and cook until you see the oils separate, tomato paste is always better when you fry it off a bit. Now we go after the brown bits on the pan which are full of flavor. Deglaze the pan with the bourbon and worcestershire sauce. Then add in the beef, stir well to combine and add in the milk and nutmeg and finally the tomato sauce. Now reduce the heat to low and maintain a low simmer. Cover and let simmer for a good 2 to 3 hours. Stir every half hour or so adding in a little water if it starts to get too thick. This will make the meat super tender and the flavors will meld beautifully. When it has finished simmering add salt and pepper to taste.
This sauce is amazing in lasagna, on homemade pasta or in this case on a sloppy joe. Make lots and freeze it for a quick family meal during the week.
Now for the Sloppy Joe
Slice the french bread horizontally across the middle and then cut into as many servings as you desire. Lightly butter the bread on both sides and put it into a hot panini press and cook until crispy, turning 90 degrees half way through to create cross hatching. Then spread on a layer of garlic scape pesto. The cross hatching we created will grab a little extra pesto which is a nice treat.
Heat up your broiler to 500 degrees, top the bread with the meat sauce and a generous amount of fresh cheese curds. Broil until the cheese is bubbly and starts to brown, top with a little more pesto and serve.
Thanks to my local producers for providing me with ingredients to make this pop:
Beef: Getaway Farms via Meat Mongers at the Halifax Market
Celery and Onion:Taproot Farm
Garlic and Carrots: Evans Farm Market
Milk and Cheese Curd: Fox Hill Cheese House
I love being introduced to new product, it is one of the main reasons I enjoy my CSA share. Garlic scape is the green ropey sprout that grows out of the garlic bulb. During the summer these are trimmed off so the bulb can finish maturing. I got a bunch of these in my CSA share over the last few weeks and went to the internet to figure out what to do with them. They are too tough to just cut up and eat as you would a green onion but they have a beautiful, sweet, fresh garlic flavor.
The first thing I tried was making garlic scape pesto. I removed the flower buds and cut the scape into 2 inch pieces which I then ground up in my food processor. I then drizzled in olive oil until I reached the consistency of a rough paste. Then it is just a matter of adding a little salt and pepper to finish it. I love the fresh garlicky taste of this pesto and set off on finding dishes I could make with it.
Creamy Garlic Scape Pizza:
2 tsp olive oil
1 cup béchamel sauce
1 tsp garlic scape pesto
1 cup spinach
1/2 cup green olives
3/4 cup fresh cheese curds
1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
I have a simple bread machine recipe for pizza dough that I like to use, the bread machine takes all of the time and effort out of this. I can even set a timer so it is ready for me when I get home if I am out all day.
While the dough was in the bread machine I made one recipe of the béchamel sauce from a prior blog post and set it aside to cool. Then I added in 1 tsp garlic scape pesto.
I rolled out the pizza dough onto a square cookie sheet, brushed on the olive oil and blind baked it for about 3 minutes in a 475 degree oven to crisp it up a bit. When the pizza skin came out of the oven I spread on the béchamel sauce until the skin was covered with a thin coat, it took about a cup. Then I topped it with tomato, sliced green olives spinach, and fresh cheese curds. I then grated the parmesan cheese on top and baked at 500 until the cheese started to brown and the sauce was bubbly. Allow to cool so the sauce will set up, slice and enjoy.
Garlic Bread made with Garlic Scape
Garlic bread is a favorite in this household and there is no better way to make it than with garlic scape pesto. Raw garlic is harsh and garlic butter can get really greasy. Garlic scape pesto has a nice amount of oil and will give a fresh garlic taste without it being over powering.
1 loaf of french bread (I used my bread machine for this as well)
Garlic Scape Pesto – enough to cover off the surface of the bread
Fresh Cheese Curds
Take your loaf of french bread and slice it down the middle horizontally butter it lightly and spread with the garlic scape pesto, I like a nice layer across the whole surface, you can be generous with it. Then top with fresh cheese curd and put into a 475 degree oven until it is bubbly and the cheese starts to brown. This is no doubt the best garlic bread I have ever had.
I have one more recipe that I want to share with you but I will do that in my next post later this week. Sloppy Joe’s on panini pressed french bread topped with garlic scape pesto. It is a winner.
This is an amazing ingredient that I was not familiar with but you can pick it up at many of the local farmers markets in Nova Scotia in July and early August.
I would like to thank my farmers for the following ingredients:
Tomato, Spinach, Garlic Scape : Taproot Farms
Milk for the Béchamel and Cheese Curds: Fox Hill Cheese House
Flour for my bread and crust: Speerville Mills
Eating local has become a trend in North America over the last couple years. Around the world a trip to the market for fresh local food is a way of life, but here at home local food has been over run by factory food. This is quickly changing. People are being turned off factory food as we find out we have been lied to for decades. Companies have been caught adding ammonia to ground beef, low feed quality has caused an increase in food born illness, and the levels of salt, processed fats and chemicals have become a major concern.
The beauty of buying local food from a local vendor is that the person you buy from is directly accountable for the quality of your meals. You can question them about what is in the food, where it came from and how it was produced. You can expect honest answers and because these vendors build their business on relationships they will stand behind the quality of their food. Sometimes it will cost a little more than factory food, however it will be the best food you can put on your family’s plate.
The Fish Shop at the Halifax Seaport Farmer’s Market is a prime example of a local food experience. Peter Boudreau, owner of The Fish Shop at Pier 20, takes tremendous pride in the fish he places on his case. He knows where each fish has come from, if it was wild or farmed, he knows when it came out of the water and prides himself on having the freshest fish possible. I often joke that the only thing he does not know about the fish is its name, and I am not sure about that. The fresh fish is on his case a day or two after it was caught. Supermarket fish is often 4 or 5 days out of the water, at which point Peter would have removed the fish from his case. This kind of supply chain makes sense if you live in central Canada where fish has to be shipped in, but here in Nova Scotia we can do better.
Peter keeps his shop clean and it always smells fresh. I can usually smell the seafood counter at a supermarket three sections over and that is not a good thing. This speaks to the freshness and quality of the product. Your fish counter should not smell like the beach on a hot summer day, if it does you may want to look elsewhere for your seafood needs. Peter’s attention to detail is evident and when I buy seafood from Peter I know it will be safe and enjoyable.
Peter also carries fantastic shell fish that are very popular. The local oysters he gets in are second to none and he always has a tank of live lobsters. In season he will have amazing clams and there are usually a great selection of mussels. I have also enjoyed the fresh calamari and he has some amazing frozen cooked lobster meat and great smoked fish products. What ever your seafood desire I suggest you visit the Fish Shop.
Peter and his friendly knowledgable staff are there to answer all of your questions. They answer all questions directly, they will tell you if the fish is farmed, fresh, or frozen aboard ship. Peter is a trained chef who has worked at well known restaurants in Halifax, and he is more than happy to make cooking and serving suggestions. He is there not only to provide you the freshest possible product but to help you prepare great seafood dishes for your family.
If you are looking for a quick seafood lunch then the Fish Shop is also a must. You will get the freshest fish, prepared by a trained chef. Whether it is fish, clams or scollops and chips, seafood chowder or an amazing lobster roll you can’t go wrong. For a special treat I recommend the poutine made with Fox Hill Cheese House fresh curds. These well seasoned fries covered with flavorful poutine sauce and topped with the freshest possible local cheese curd is a real treat.
The lobster rolls are loaded with lobster and fresh herbs which has been lightly dressed. The lobster is the star here, no filler just amazing lobster taste. If you are visiting Halifax and want to get your Nova Scotia lobster fix you should have one of these rolls.
The fish for his fish and chips are cooked perfectly. The fish is moist and flaky and the batter is crisp. The portions are large and you will leave satisfied. The clams and scallops are just as good.
Peter also has a selection of local pop that you can get with his meals. He carries Garrison soda, supporting a local business and providing you a beverage that is not sweetened with high fructose corn sweeteners. These are worth a try.
If you are into seafood I recommend that you visit Peter and talk to him about his product. Take the time to check out the freshness of his fish, talk to him about where it comes from. Feel free to ask him about preparation methods and for serving suggestions. When you do this and then enjoy his product with your family you will see the value in having a local seafood experience.
As we enter summer the variety in my CSA box is increasing. My first strawberries came last week and more were included this week. I received my first new potatoes which I will boil up until just cooked and eaten with fresh herbs and browned butter. For the herb I am going to use the fennel fronds that I received in my box. Fennel is a fantastic vegetable. It has a bright flavor and the three distinct components can all be used. Fennel contains a bulb, stalks and fronds. The bulb can be braised or grilled until tender sliced and served. The stalks add a beautiful flavor to soup stocks especially fish according to my friend Peter at the Fish Shop at Pier 20. The fronds are a great little herb adding a bright anise (licorice) flavor to your dishes.
I also received something that I was introduced to during my Whippletree CSA experience last year. Garlic scape are the green portion of garlic, they are solid tubes that sprout out of garlic during growth. When young and tender these are a fantastic way to add bright garlic flavor to your pasta, salads or garlic bread. I make a pesto out of them, grinding it with olive oil and salt in a food processor or blender. My favorite way to use this is to spread it on fresh bread, sprinkling it with cheese and broiling it. This is the most amazing garlic bread I have ever had. If you can get your hands on some garlic scape it is in season now and I would highly recommend trying it.
I also received some mushrooms, which I will be using in an omelet made with Fox Hill Cheese and free range eggs from Evans Family Farm in Wilmont. I have some kale which I am going to braise in chicken stock and garlic and integrate into a spring pasta dish with some fresh radish and there were also baby carrots and apples which will be eaten raw. There was also some bib lettuce which I will be using in sandwiches, I will pick up some great local sandwich meat at the Halifax Market.
I also got my favorite drink, apple cider, as part of my fruit share and some more rhubarb which I am going to use with the strawberry to make a pie. This is a special July treat and I will be getting some gelato from Fox Hill Cheese to enjoy with my pie.
This was a very exciting basket, and I am really going to enjoy it over this Canada Day weekend, Happy Canada day to all of you who live in our great country and I hope today is bringing lots of great local food to all of you.
My week 10 CSA share included strawberries!!!. I love strawberries and look forward to them every year. They are only good when you get them local, winter California strawberries are red on the outside and white on the inside and taste like sour styrofoam. Fresh local strawberries are sweet and tart and delicious and can be used in so many ways. I love to combine them with rhubarb for crisps, pies and muffins. They are great on cereal, or over biscuits with a little milk or cream. Cut up and put in a salad with a little aged balsamic honey vinaigrette or fresh out of a bowl they are a great early summer treat.
One of the special thing about the Noggins Fruit CSA that I get is that in addition to apples and strawberries I occasionally get some nice canned goods. This week I got some blackberry jam with a little lemon added in. It was great. I enjoy these occasional treats to go with the fresh local fruit.
To round out my CSA I got more greens, beet greens and Kale which are delicious and nutritious. They are a great spring and early summer food as they go well with BBQ . Rich flavorful meats are complimented by properly cooked greens. I did not have greens growing up but am now a big fan.
Spinach also came in my basket and that went into a salad with eggs, strawberries and a vinaigrette. This is accented with some of the green onions that came in my basket. I use these to add freshness to eggs as well. I have a little bowl of green onions cut up that I sprinkle on all kinds of food.
We also got a little bunch of cilantro in this basket. It is a treat when we get some fresh herbs. This I turned into a little olive oil pesto and I will add it to eggs, soups and stews. It adds a nice punch of freshness.
10 weeks in and I am thrilled with my CSA. I love the food and supporting my local farmer. This has lead me to other great local food as well. I highly recommend this experience, you should give it a try .
It has been a busy week so I am a little late blogging out my week 8 CSA, since week 9 is almost here. It has been a pretty cool week for RealCreativeEats.com and RealCreativePhotos.com. I have gotten to visit the Lunenburg Farmers Market and Charlotte Lane in Shelburne. I met some very friendly people and enjoyed some great food. I have also received a call from Breakfast Television here in Halifax and they have asked me to cook my dandelion greens recipe from my week 1 CSA post tomorrow at 7:45. This activity has put me a bit behind but did not cut down on my enjoyment of this CSA share.
This week was heavy on fruit. I got apples, rhubarb, cranberries, strawberries and blueberries. Some of this will stay frozen a for a bit but when they come out the cranberries will go into muffins, the blueberries are destine for a blueberry grunt kicked up with some Iron Works blueberry liquor topped with some whipped cream I will make from skimming the cream off my Fox Hill Cheese milk. The strawberries were turned into jam and the rhubarb is going to be turned into a sour and spicy relish which is great on a burger.
I love beef ribs and the beet greens and turnips were perfect sides for some braised long ribs. Southern style beet greens with bacon, cider vinegar and red chili and an apple turnip casserole with a little brown sugar and butter. Those go great with rich braised grass fed beef ribs from Getaway farms.
Also in the basket was some beautiful asparagus. This is my first asparagus of the season and this was a no brainer. A family favorite is creamed asparagus on toast. We bake our own bread and it makes amazing toast. So I just make a light cream sauce with a little fresh herb and dried mustard, steam off the asparagus add that to the sauce with a little crumbled hard boiled egg and top with parmesan cheese, fresh ground black pepper and minced fresh chives which were also in the basket.
The apples were eaten, sometimes with a little peanut butter and the carrots don’t last long as they are enjoyed raw cut into spears.
Week 8 was a great box and I am looking forward to this weeks CSA, which will lead to even more kitchen fun.
Week 7 of my 52 week CSA experience sees more spring greens coming my way. There are beet greens which were a favorite of my grandfather, kale, mixed salad greens and stinging nettle ?!?! Yeah that was my thinking, but one of the advantages of having your own farmer is that they can tell you all about new products and how to use them.
Here is a clip from the email (which Taproot sends out a couple days before the share arrives) to explain how to use this product. I will give you this because I have no clue what to do with it .
From My Farmer: Taproot Farms
The nettle seems to create some sort of fear. Please do not be afraid and don’t let the kids at them until they have been blanched. If you touch them you will get a bit of a tingle/sting. Dump from bag into water to rinse and then into your pot for steaming. We encourage you to embrace the nettles. There are lots of recipes for them. They are super good for you. We have recipe ideas shared by members on our blog. You can just put nettles in the search area and see what comes up. Please share your ideas with us. Use them for fresh tea, dehydrate them for future tea use, add to bread or biscuits, blanch and freeze for use another day, or make into this delicious soup that people have raved about once they tried it.
Delicious Cream of Nettle Soup
1 pound of nettle leaves
2 Tbsp oil or butter
1 minced onion
4 tsp chopped chives
3 tbsp flour
2 cups hot chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup water
2 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 cup cream
Heat oil or melt butter into soup pot. Saute onion until soft. Add chives and flour and stir until blended. Slowly stir in stock, beating with wooden spoon until smooth. Add remaining ingredients except cream and heat to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Add in cream and heat until just boiling. Season to taste. Run soup through a sieve and sprinkle with nutmeg if desired.
I am going to try this recipe and will garnish with more fresh chives (probably garlic chives) and some fresh grated parm. I am excited to try this.
I got some more apples in my box, and have already filled the slow cooker with them. I cored and quartered them and caramelized them off. I have added ginger and other spices and will be turning them into delicious apple butter.
There are also a couple of nice frozen tomatoes, which will be made into pizza sauce, carrots which will be eaten raw and by special request the parsnips will be turned into a puree again.
I absolutely loved my fiddle heads last week, which I blanched off and combined with a lemon cream sauce and tossed into pasta. They were amazing and I am seriously thinking about creating a breakfast with english muffins, fiddleheads, poached eggs topped with a cream sauce. I think this will be a great Sunday breakfast, what do you think?
I had some more apple cider which you will notice in the pictures never gets photographed before it is opened . I love that stuff. I also have frozen strawberries and cranberries. The strawberries and half the cranberries will be used to make fresh jam and the other half of the cranberries will be put into an orange cranberry muffin.
I am thrilled for another great week of farm fresh food curtsey of my friends at Taproot farms and Noggins Corner Farm Market.
My week 6 CSA share includes more great spring treats. My regular compliment of apple, carrots, dried fruit and cider is being complimented by spring green onions, mixed greens and this week fiddleheads.
Green onions are a favorite of mine in the spring, I chop them up and keep them in the fridge to add a little spring freshness and spark to my plate. I like them in a salad, added in the last few minutes of cooking a fried rice, or home fries and they are great sprinkled on top of a spicy chili. Anytime you want a hit of fresh and the taste of onion these are a great option.
The fiddleheads are a seasonal treat. They are young fern plants that are a spring treat here in Nova Scotia as well as in France and parts of Southern Asia. They are rich in Omega fatty acids as well as antioxidants. They have a very fresh taste, similar to asparagus though nuttier and with a little hint of bitter. They can be prepared with a little butter or olive oil and cider vinegar. Add in salt, pepper and some red chili. This year I want to try them with and asian flair, either in a curry sauce or a thai cocoanut sauce.
I also got more apple cider, which is a favorite, and a bunch of dried pear which I will be using to make some muffins and a sauce to go with a nice pork loin. The mixed greens will be going into a salad which will be dressed with a dressing made of argan oil, maple syrup, olive oil, dijon mustard and cider vinegar.
I got a bunch of apples this week and plan on breaking down and finally making some apple butter. I love this stuff and with all of these apples it is a simple no brainer recipe to make. There are several recipes on the internet and I plan of taking one and kicking it up a bit.
I also got some cabbage, carrots and plumb sauce. I am thinking that this is a good start on making some spring rolls. I will shred the cabbage and carrots, add in some pork loin and the rest of the green onion wrap them fry them off and serve with the delightful spicy plumb sauce.
I am really happy to be getting a little box of spring every week, and cant wait till the farms are bursting with fresh product. Thanks to Taproot Farm, Noggins Corner Farm Market and the other farmers involved in bringing me this amazing food.
I will blog a recipe from this box at a little later in the weekend.