As the price of supermarket produce climbs, we are often forced to ask ourselves questions like "do I really want to buy two celery hearts for $6.99"?
Having forced myself to adopt a local diet I can attest that I have not bought celery in ages.
There was a 2 year-stint in university where I purchased it biweekly (turns out that pb and celery was exactly what I needed during cram sessions), but since my locavore tendencies kicked in, and celery wasn't typically present at the farmers' market I attended, it was also a no-show in my produce drawer.
But what about those instances where I feel that celery would be a worthy addition? After all, many of my favourite dishes start with a nice mirepoix.
As it turns out, I am fine with forgoing the peanut butter and celery of yonder years since I really only use celery in cooked dishes.
This grossly overlooked herbaceous perennial does exactly what celery does in dishes, which makes total sense given that it is an umbel and closely related to parsley, celery and carrots.
So while only the leaf is palatable raw (the stem is very fibrous, and needs to be finely chopped if left uncooked), the stem gives way more flavour than its humble water-logged celery, and as such, you don't need much of it to add lots of flavour.
A few weeks ago I posted about lovage soup, which I highly recommend, but have fun with it!
Spaghetti sauce, you betcha! Broth is a million times better with lovage. Scrambled eggs, yes please.
So go ahead and swap for celery, and if you really lovage it, plant it in your backyard for yumminess on demand.
Ending with Oregano
Anyone who knows Ryan and I personally will attest to the fact that we expect a lot out of ourselves.
After all, we became farmers with the intent to do better at producing ecologically-sound, nutritious and delicious foods.
While growing nutritious and delicious food seems to happen naturally, environmentally sound food production isn't as easy to obtain.
But there are ways, and it includes using perennials as much as possible. Hence the lovage last week, and the oregano coming in your last spring share this week.
Over the years oregano has become synonymous with spaghetti sauce, but it can be so much more!
As with pretty much any herb, you can turn oregano into pesto. The main benefit to this preparation is that by omitting the parmesan, you can keep fresh herbs in your freezer for the entire year. We sometimes freeze our pesto in ice trays, giving us portion-specific cubes of goodness ready to plop into soups, sauces, chili, or as a spread.
Looking for a reason to get the BBQ fired up? Oregano also happens to pair incredibly well with potatoes, as in this grilled potato salad. Worried about anchovies? I've omitted with splendid results.
But my most favourite way to consume fresh oregano is prepared by my grand-maman Comeau, who bakes said oregano into mouth-watering baguettes, sometimes bringing it over while it is still hot.
Yes, I am lucky.
Chardy, Chard, Chard
This week you will be receiving chard alongside some of your everyday favourites, and that's a cause for celebration.
While chard, which is often mis-categorized as a green, is actually an amaranth, and is closely related to beets.
This means that it packs a different set of nutrients than the average lettuce mix.
For the same reason, it also requires a different set of culinary techniques.
Ever try to eat a raw chard salad? Well, if you haven't, don't, this is not how chard shines.
To avoid the slight bitterness of this beet relative, it is best to cook said chard, but beware, it will cook down as spinach does, so keep that in mind when deciding on portions for supper.
I love sautéeing chard. It really doesn't need to be fussy: a little oil, maybe some garlic, salt, and chard. Perhaps if I am feeling adventurous I will add some lemon juice and toasted sesame oil at the end.
You can also add chard to a host of soups or curry. Finally, when we want to make sure Maddie will eat it, we resort to incorporating it into a dip, which, incidentally, makes it delicious for picky adults too.
And while I wanted to highlight swiss chard for our newsletter, please also send some love to lovage, a most worthy herb that can be tossed into anything you would use cooked celery in.
Still unsure about Lovage? Throw it in spaghetti sauce or potato salad for an extra delicious kick. I've also heard that it lends itself well to a bloody mary ;)
Before I started farming, I would look at the clamshell case holding a head of "Boston Lettuce" in the produce isle and wonder "Why"?
Why would this tiny, often-wilted, head of sadness warrant a high price and an armature of plastic?
It didn't take long for me to recognize that "Boston Lettuce" was what our seed suppliers referred to as "Butterhead Lettuce" (I tend to prefer the latter, as it harkens to the silky-smoothness of the head).
But, aside from having the same humble origins, these lettuces couldn't be more different, and this lies in the fact that they were grown very differently.
We've found that our soil-grown heads are typically larger, taste better, and store longer (provided that you've placed it in a hermetically-sealable container or ziplock-type bag) and hope that this is your conclusion as well.
As my title suggests, the best thing you can do with this melt-in-your-mouth lettuce is to make a wrap out of it.
You don't need to be picky about the filling. We've gotten away with stir-fried mushrooms and onions, quinoa, shaved carrots. The important thing is to add a sauce that makes sense with your accoutrements.
Still unsure how to make this ingredient shine? This write-up is a good starting point to falling in love with one of my favourite lettuces.
Warm salad, anyone?
Your fridge probably looks a lot like ours lately.
What's in the crisper? Greens. And outside of the crisper? A few more greens.
What should we have for supper? Something with greens.
And while they are healthy and delicious, you might, at some point, find that you have too many greens.
After all, even salad lovers can run out of ideas.
When I start feeling like I may no longer appreciate these harbingers of spring, I start getting creative.
Warm salad is one of those back-pocket meals that I start craving on humid spring days. It comes together quickly, and feels hardy and delicious. Here is a recipe that I enjoy along with a slice of homemade cheesy toast (vegan version here).
Did you know that you can make pesto out of pretty much anything green? I can vouchsafe that arugula, radish greens and spinach are ideal candidates.
Feel free to be flexible, as any oil / oily nut will do. Only have lime juice in the fridge? Do it. It will be delicious in a different way. Want to try with peanuts, what a cool twist! Not into parmesan, we never add any and it is always good.
Once the pesto is made, you can use it as a spread on pretty much anything, or spoon it last minute into a bowl of soup.
And if all else fails, just blend it with sweet stuff into a smoothie, like I did with water organic strawberries, arugula, mesquite powder, and dates. Yummy.
Make greens part of everyday meals
Every meal now includes four adults, two three-year olds, and one "sampling" babe.
This means that our everyday meals ressemble a feast, and there is something quite special about all of it.
Since greens is what we have available at this time of year, we are consuming vast amounts of them. Yes, even the three-year olds partake in this green-o-copia.
But, you know, it's not actually that hard to make greens part of your everyday meal routine.
A real easy one to sneak into, well, pretty much anything (including three-year old bellies) are microgreens. Curry? Check. Salad wraps? Check. Chili? Check. Even salads and stir-fry's can be topped with microgreens.
Guess what sat atop yesterday's wood-fired pizza? Yes, you guessed it, microgreens (and arugula, of course!)
And while you will have to wait until you get arugula again, you can keep the radish greens for an easy substitute.
What about you? How do you like to eat your greens?
Join our CSA Shareholders' Group on Facebook and share your favourite recipe for your chance to win a bonus item at next weeks' drop off. Contest closes Tuesday, May 7th at 10 pm.
Those without Facebook can send me their favourite greens recipe via email.
Beat the holiday rush
The holidays can be a hectic time, with everyone trying to cram in visits in the short amount of available time off.
With a big beautiful family on my fathers' side, we are eagerly awaiting our annual get-together at the family farm.
Yes, you read that right, your family farmers are getting ready to host a party of 35 for the first time in our new home!
Some of you probably know that we've been helping my parents with the preparations for the event for years now, so we are seasoned veterans by default, and we've accumulated a few tricks to make the holidays relaxing and enjoyable.
One of the biggest lessons we've taken away over the years is that suppers always seem to require the most work, and that the freezer is your best friend.
For a few weeks now I've been making a little extra of meals that freeze well. Things like soup, spaghetti sauce, broth, curry, homemade pasta, pie crusts, and noodles have all been doubled, labeled with content and date, and frozen, ready for deployment for an easy supper later on.
As suggested in the Holiday edition of Food & Drink, the same logic can be applied while hosting. Pacing yourself can be as simple as making and freezing a Mushroom & Sweet Onion Gnocchi Casserole, a dish that is fancy enough to bust out during the holidays, and that only requires a little thawing and reheating.
The bonus is that you can make your own gnocchi using our potatoes and then serve the dish alongside a nice quick winter spinach salad.
So pace yourself this time of year and plan ahead for the good times, and see you again next season!
It has been snowing for a good month now, and since we are officially past American Thanksgiving, we can now accept the onslaught of holiday-ness that is coming our way.
I say bring it on! Especially if it can bring forth some kitchen inspiration.
Growing up, holiday eating was always synonymous with pies.
Whether it was the minced meat pies commonly known as tourtières, or the blueberry pies made from wild blueberries picked by my grand-maman, we always seemed to have a multitude of pies in the freezer, eagerly awaiting to be showcased during family reunions.
When Ryan and I began courting, I discovered new family food traditions.
One of the dishes that seemed to pop up a lot during momentous occasions in the Spence-Patterson household were vegetable terrines which always featured a healthy dose of mushrooms.
A similar recipe featuring pickled winter squash is a sure hit for the holiday season! You can use the sugar dumplings and the leeks that you will be receiving this week in lieu of the suggested butternut and shallots.
And while I deplore the fact that it took me over twenty years to discover the goodness of terrines, I now hold it dear to my heart, and have welcomed it into the lineup of my holiday cooking repertoire.
Curry: the answer to sweet Spaghetti Squash
Our spaghetti squash is sweet, definitely sweeter than other spaghetti squash I've had in my lifetime.
It is for this very reason that, although we've traditionally eaten said squash topped with spaghetti sauce, I've had to switch gears.
Sweet tomatoes just don't go with sweet squash - ugh, too much sweetness! And altough I've had sucess with some creamy sauces (think alfredo), I'm still missing the balance.
Cue the curry.
Curry has this fantastic way of balancing flavours so that every note is present and yet works in harmony with the bigger picture.
It is also a great tool in the locavore toolkit as it can be amenable to a host of seasonal produce.
So here's how it's done. Cook the spaghetti squash (and forget what the Kitchn says about spaghetti squash being bland, they clearly haven't tried ours!)
Next, grab some curry powder. You can use store bought or prepare a killer curry spice mixture based on what you like. I am a huge fan of cumin, and Maddie will only take a bit of spice, so I usually go a little less on the cayenne and a little more on the cumin. I also tend to suffer from inflammation, so I go heavy on the turmeric.
You then make the "sauce" by cooking the spices with onions, garlic, broth, and whatever veggies you feel like throwing in (carrots, cabbage, kohlrabi, kale, spinach, potatoes, basically anything that is in the bin this week).
Once the spaghetti squash is cooked, shred it and let some of the water come out before you toss the strands into your "sauce" mixture. Alternatively, your sauce can be on the thick side before you throw in the squash.
If you are feeling extra adventurous, you can roast some chickpeas while the squash is still cooking for an extra nice crunchy topping.
And if curry isn't your thing, you can totally go thai with it, because who doesn't love a good peanut sauce?
Cabbage Is More Than Just A Depression-Era Food
Surprisingly, cabbage has this way of either being scorned or adored, and a lot of these biases come from our childhood.
Did your mom overcook the cabbage by way of boiling it to oblivion? Due to the release of hydrogen sulfide gas with this cooking method, this is a surefire way to make your house smell like, well, rotten eggs, and thus, not very appealing to the palate.
So, as a result, cabbage is not the most sought-out vegetable in the produce isle, and it's a darn shame, because it is jam-packed with important nutrients, including Vitamins C and K, and our friend, fiber.
As such, for those who aren't sensitive to brassicas, it is great for the gastrointestinal tract, as it contains a large amount of glutamine, and don't even get me started on the benefits of fermenting cabbage in kraut or kimchi!
And while this was a staple during the great depression, I distinctly remember my mother making an amazing tomato-based soup with rice and spices that, although inspired from a depression-era dish, was both tasty and nourishing.
But my all-time favourite way to enjoy cabbage is, and will always remain, braised with caraway, like this recipe, but with the addition of a tiny bit of honey.
As a natural carminative, caraway goes with cabbage in more ways than just taste, if you catch my drift.
Alternatively, the type of cabbage we will be sending you this week is both tender and sweet, making it the ideal candidate for cabbage rolls (or lazy cabbage rolls using lentils or beef, as your preference).
So go ahead, roll, lazy roll, or braise away with your new friend, cabbage!