Thursday, July 31, 2014

Guest Post-Jo's Augmented Modified Harira Soup

So I used to be a little more cautious in the kitchen.  I would usually follow a recipe exactly, and seldom would I veer off it, especially if I knew I liked it to start with.  It's hard to experiment, especially when you are worried you might mess up a good thing!

I have a yearly guest -- my friend Christine who visits each summer from Egypt, and she's fabulous company.  One thing I adore about her is that she likes to lick her plate clean... both literally and figuratively.  She *hates* wasting food, and I caught her many times these past few weeks pondering over the CSA basket wondering what she could concoct out of it.

We had pesto, stir fries, soups and salads.  We had marinaras and primaveras.  Zucchini loaves and raw carrots.  Mmmm.  Raw carrots.  We meant to make carrot cake but the carrots got eaten too fast.  :)

We found ourselves with leftover wine some days, and it adds an amazing flavour to sauces!  Who knew???

I have taken a page from her book, and I've started to add leafy greens to a lot of stuff... whether or not the recipe even calls for it.  Smoothies, even!  I just made a big pot of my Harira soup (quite possibly my favourite soup ever) and just veered off recipe to add handfuls of greens to use them up and add iron to the dish.  I've done it once before and it tastes just as good (if not better!) as if you don't add them at all.  I love it!  

I am also adding other things I find in my kitchen.  I just added pearl barley to this batch.  Extra lentils.  Garlic this time.  All the parsley in the basket!

I just made a double sized batch to freeze, as I'll be having surgery in a few weeks and I want a freezer full of pre-made meals.  Soup is exactly what the doctor ordered!

In case you missed the recipe for Harira last year, here it is again.  And feel free to add whatever else you like to this.  It's hard to ruin.  :)
Modified Harira Soup


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

CSA Week 5 and Tomato Zucchini Bake

I'm a bit late getting the post up for this week. It should have been last night, CSA day, but Niagara Falls intervened.
Over the past 8 days my family played host to a girl from Brooklyn through The Fresh Air Fund .
It was our second year participating and we had a different girl each year. Last year our girl was such a character, she was loud, boisterous and so much fun. The young gal we had this year was lovely too, but so very quiet and reserved.
I can't imagine what they thought of our lifestyle, and I don't think either of them will be a convert to country living. But they both enjoyed all our four legged and feathered family members, tenting, bonfires and of course Niagara Falls.
And I messed up. I thought tomorrow was the departure day, but as it turns out it was early this morning. So after basket delivery yesterday we made the requisite trip to Niagara Falls, hence no blog post.
In addition to having a house guest there sure has been lot going on. Someone asked me a while ago what I think about when I am in the garden hour after hour, day after day. The time really flies by fast and my mind is always busy. I think about things that have happened, analyze situations, try to arrive at solutions or snappy responses. And lately there has been so much to think about that I've really tried to block all my thoughts because they are driving me crazy. But it doesn't ever work.
One of my elderly friends has been really struggling lately. I've been keeping really busy trying to make sure she is getting the basics taken care of on a daily basis, but it is starting to wear me down too. Enter her adult children and the situation is downright difficult. Everyone has different ideas about what is best, but more than anything they just want their own lives to carry on as always, and with an elderly parent whose needs are great, things need to change.
I have felt so much like a social worker again this past while, in the trenches again. I forgot how exhausting it can be, and how much better a physical exhaustion is than emotional/mental exhaustion. When I'm physically tired, I sleep. But these issues are keeping me up at night. I worry too much and sometimes I wonder how I got myself in this position.
Getting older in a rural setting has it's own unique challenges. Without a car or family nearby you become dependent on the goodwill of those around you in order to stay in the environment you love. It's tough, but I get it.  Once you leave the country setting because of age, you don't come back. Giving up your home, some degree of independence and the wonderful familiarity of it all forever has to be the hardest thing. And it will be hard for me to see her go when that time does come in the not so distant future, so we all try to do the best we can for now.

Back to the CSA baskets for the week. Yes, they are getting heavy, a few folks extra-so because of rather large zucchinis. In addition there were onions, a good few tomatoes, kale, basil, sweet marjoram, summer savory, beets, carrots, mixed lettuce, cucumber and a few mouse melons.

I had expected beans for this week, but the nights have been so cool, that they are slow to come along. But once they come it will be like opening the floodgates. There are so many, and so many different kinds. Get ready!

David of Niagara Gourmet sent this recipe along that will use up some of the zucchini.
David said he substituted unripened cheese for the parmesan and liked it very much. We'll be using vegan cheese and I bet it will be great too. Thanks!
(This recipe is from Health)

Tomato Zucchini Bake


  • Cooking spray
  • 1 pound sliced zucchini
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 1 1/4 pounds sliced vine-ripened tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup panko
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan


Preheat oven to 400°. Coat a 2-quart shallow baking dish with cooking spray, and alternately layer sliced zucchini, corn kernels, and sliced tomatoes. Combine panko and Parmesan, and sprinkle on top. Bake, uncovered, in the center of oven 30 minutes or until top is golden brown. Cover with foil, and bake for 10 minutes more or until vegetables are tender. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

CSA Week 4 and Black Currant Sorbet

I hold no illusions that either of my girls will ever choose to do what I do for a living.  Emily is enthralled by the sciences and envisions herself working in a laboratory and is working towards that goal. Mollie is young enough to have a millions ideas and change them daily. It is a great time in your life. The possibilities are endless, as are your interests. But perhaps they always are and we just don't see it that way.
It's nice to have them both home together with me this summer. I fully understand that this might never be the case again as Emily gets ready to strike out on her own. Although gardening isn't really their thing, I'm glad to have them give me the occasional hand in the garden, especially on delivery days when I'm quite busy.
I listen for their comments that make me understand that some of the value I see in this lifestyle, they can see too.
Weeding to some may seem tedious, monotonous and therefore "boring".  That's definitely one thing the girls know not to say around me, because there's always an alternative...there's always something to do. It could be that you just don't want to do those things. And weeding is not boring at all. It is relaxing, stress relieving, contemplative work. I love looking back over an area I've weeded. I'll go out for a final walk around at night and give myself an imaginary pat on the back for a job well done.
I think Emily sees that. Last week as we weeded quietly together she let me know that it wasn't too bad at all. It was relaxing. She marvelled too that the seeds she planted grew as quickly as they did and that it was all so simple. Seed into the ground, cover it, water it and the growing begins. Simple, miraculous, wonderful. It is all those things. I think she had forgotten that since her Junior Gardener days at the Royal Botanical Gardens. The intervening stress of university, work, relationships and life erased those memories of what a simple joy gardening can be, and how important our connection with nature is.
When Emily was little, she loved bugs. She made a little moss garden and collected pill bugs to put in it. She turned stones and pieces of wood over to find bugs, she looked at them with her magnifying glass, she was excited to find new ones she had never seen before.
Now she's 26. I'm thrilled to see her out in the garden, lifting up rocks and looking for bugs. It is her way of stopping to smells the roses. It also thrills me to know that she wants to grow her own food and that she wants to have some land. This will be her balance after her days in the lab, just as it's been mine after a stressful career. I hope anyway.

Today's CSA delivery is week number 4 of 25. The zucchini in the baskets made them a bit heavy, as did the beautiful Long Red Florence onions, garlic, baby carrots (REAL baby carrots), Slim Jim eggplants, leaf celery, chard, kale, golden purslane, summer  savoury, lime basil, black currants, and a taste of tomatoes.

I love black currants. My mom always used to tell me that there was more Vitamin C in currants than there was in oranges, and we always had them on the farm.
I've got a bumper crop this year and am going to make some black currant liqueur with some of mine. You know, Vitamin C and all, so it's got to be worthwhile.
Another super great use is sorbet. It's absolutely delicious.

(From the NY Times-adjust quantities accordingly)

Black Currant Sorbet

Time: 35 minutes plus freezing time
3 cups granulated sugar
2 3/4 cups fresh black currants.

1. In a medium saucepan combine the sugar with 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, stir until sugar dissolves, and remove from heat.
2. Place currants in a clean saucepan and add 2 cups of the sugar syrup. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes. Purée using an immersion blender or stand blender. Strain through a chinois or fine sieve, discarding solids. Allow to cool completely; mixture may be chilled in a bowl set in an ice water bath.
3. Stir in 1/4 cup water and 3/4 cup to 1 cup of the remaining syrup, to taste. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions, if available. Or freeze in a container, stirring every few hours as the mixture hardens. For firmer sorbet, transfer to a covered container and freeze until solid, several hours or overnight.
Yield: 1 1/2 quarts.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

CSA Week 3

It's been a rather sad week for me.
My aunt, my mom's sister, passed away late last week. She was a very special person, a bit of a rebel in some ways, although you wouldn't think it to look at her. She looked precisely like one role she played, which was a little old lady. A grandma.
She was also the first female member of what is now the Welland Motor Cycle Club, the first Canadian member of the Motor Maids, a Harley rider for 50 years and was inducted into the Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame.
She influenced me in that way too as I ended up riding and getting my motorcycle license. But more than any of that she was family. She was a kind and gentle person, my connection to my mom, grandparents and the past. I'll miss her but I'm glad she is at peace now.

Some of the black currants in the baskets today are from bushes that were dug from her back yard and transplanted into my garden many years ago. They are pretty special.
Over the last week, we have had some great weather to get things done. It has also been great weather for the weeds to grow and I am spending hours trying to rescue my teeny tiny carrots from the weeds surrounding them. Why (oh why) do the weeds grow so much faster than anything else?
It's been a few hours a day working on the carrots, more time weeding around the tomatoes and mulching them and more time weeding everything else.
It's true. I'm a bit tired.
Things are growing well though. Although the CSA baskets are not heavy now, they will be as we get a little more into the summer season. We'll turn that corner soon.

Zucchini is starting to show up, beans will be very soon, as will more tomatoes. The early planting of carrots is nearly a good size to pull, as are the beets.
Today's baskets contained mixed cut lettuce, chard, kale, basil, assorted celery leaf, thyme, dried beans, possibly zucchini or eggplant and a small container of black currants/gooseberries. And the purslane? It is the golden domesticated version.

I haven't bought a cookbook for years now, but couldn't resist the OH SHE GLOWS cookbook. I actually feel inspired to be creative in the kitchen again, hallelujah!
Great timing, especially now that the garden is coming in.
Here's an interesting use for the basil from the book:

Summertime Cherry-Basil Bruschetta

1 cup fresh cherries, pitted and chopped
3 cups strawberries, hulled and chopped
1/4 cup basil, minced
1/4 cup mint leaves minced
3 Tbsp red onion, minced
4 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 baguette, sliced on an angle into 1" pieces
2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
Balsamic reduction

Preheat oven to 450 degrees
In a large bowl combine cherries, strawberries, basil, mint, onion and vinegar. Set aside for 10-15 minutes for flavour to develop.
Brush one side of each bread with olive oil and place oil side down on a large rimmed baking sheet.
Bake for 5-7 minutes until golden.
Spoon some of the bruschetta mix on each bread and drizzle with balsamic reduction. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

CSA Week 2 and Greens and Beans

Over the last week I finished up the main plantings...finally.

My strategy this year because of the late start, was to quickly get in a good sampling of the main crops for earlier harvests, then follow-up with big plantings of the main crops. Last week I got in tons more carrots and beets, more soybeans for edamame, and the final type of corn, Golden Bantam.
I am trialling a sweet blue corn in my Organic Gardening test garden, so it went in first. 2 weeks later it was red dent corn I am trialling. I guess most test gardeners weren't sold on the idea of a dent corn, so I was the happy recipient of many packets. Then the Golden Bantam and sadly that's it for this year.
I had a few more varieties I had hoped to get in, but in another two weeks when I could plant again (the two week separation being important for avoidance of cross pollination) it will just be too late for the corn to mature.

The garden looks good. It was dry up until yesterday, but after a good drenching yesterday, and a super heavy rain today there are definitely no dry areas at all.
Other than my weekly seeding of lettuce, the main mission now is weeding.
Most of the weeds popping up now are annuals. There is an abundance of purslane, lambs quarters and red rooted pig weed, all indicative of a fertile soil and all quite edible, tasty and good for you too.
Also showing up are tomatoes, ground cherries, morelle de balbis and tomatillos, tomatillos and more tomatillos.
If you need any of these for your garden, let me know quickly before I yank then all out. I'll pass them along quite happily.
In addition to the CSA this year, I'll be dealing with a few stores and chefs again, and have committed to a small new market in Fenwick on Wednesday nights from 4-7pm  in the parking lot of St Ann's Church. Once the garden starts kicking out the produce, particularly the tomatoes, my girls will be a regular fixture there.
The CSA is my priority though, and based on the amount of planting I have done, I think it could be a good year for getting a few things in the freezer, doing some canning, or perhaps even some dehydrating if you are in my CSA.

Today's baskets were green...what a great colour that just screams healthy. There were lots of different tastes to try out, including 4 different greens that all look rather similar.

From left to right : Blonde celery leaf, curled celery, Amsterdam celery and parsley.
How I ended up with two celery haters in my CSA is beyond me. I am hoping their partners appreciate my celery efforts and will even more so when I harvest the red celery later on.
Also in the baskets were chard, kale, lambsquarters, basils including African Blue and lime, garlic ( a variety passed along by a friend from Italy), onion topsets, mixed lettuces, rosemary chocolate mint, Korean licorice mint and a single solitary Stupice tomato. The first one I ate ate this year was most enjoyable, hope yours is too.
So, what to do with all those greens? Beans and greens of course!

  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1 large bunch greens...include the kale, lambsquarters and chard to good effect
  • 1 cup  vegetable broth 
  • 2 cups cannellini (white kidney beans), rinsed, drained
  • 1 teaspoon (or more) Sherry wine vinegar
Heat 4 tablespoons oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and dried crushed pepper; stir until garlic is pale golden, about 1 minute. Add greens by large handfuls; stir just until beginning to wilt before adding more, tossing with tongs to coat with oil.
Add 1 cup broth, cover, and simmer until greens are just tender, adding more broth by tablespoonfuls if dry, 1 to 10 minutes, depending on type of greens. Add beans; simmer uncovered until beans are heated through and liquid is almost absorbed, about 2 minutes. Stir in 1 teaspoon vinegar. Season with salt and pepper, and more vinegar if desired; drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and serve.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

CSA Week 1 and Garlic Scape Basil Pesto

The first CSA baskets of 2014 have gone out.
The cool and wet spring have put me behind by possibly a month or so, but the garden is looking good and it is large.

I didn't anticipate it or perhaps even really plan it. I had in my head that I had wanted to scale down the garden this year and I had decided to just have a smaller CSA group.

But then I pulled out the seeds. I have a huge, huge quantity of seeds, pretty much a seed bank.
And I looked at them. And then of course there were certain things I couldn't do without for a year, so a whole lot went in, and kept going in.

I was a bit sad because the late start means I couldn't get in some of the grains like teff, quinoa and my naked oats. So next year for those.

I had some beautiful Bronze Arrow lettuces, probably 100 heads that were ready last week, but other things were not. When I tasted it I was disappointed, it had started to turn bitter, but I knew it was just by appearance. Joey, my family's porcine member happily gobbled it up, believing I bet that he had hit the jackpot. My chickens have become way too fussy and were not amused when I presented it them.

We could use a nice rain now, but I am not complaining. I'm watering from the well, via the pond and would rather have it on the dry side than the wet. The clay is holding onto the moisture as best it can.

Baskets today contained lettuces, chard, onions and topsets, sorrel, garlic scapes, basils, mint, summer savoury, sweet marjoram, arugula and possibly some purslane and lambsquarters.

I have gone crazy with lambsquarters this spring and have created a patch, that deems it no longer a weed, but an esteemed part of my garden. A super spinach substitute, it is tasty and so good for you. I love it and  have taken to eating it over chard and kale.
Pesto time has arrived! Basil pesto or scape pesto are both terrific. Or how about both together?

This is extra good made with a great olive oil from Della Terra. Their products are just wonderful.
Garlic Scape and Basil Pesto

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped garlic scapes and basil (1/2 each)
  • Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • A few generous grinds of black pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese


  1. 1
    In a small, dry pan set over low heat, toast the pine nuts, stirring occasionally until just beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for a few minutes.
  2. Combine the scapes and basil, pine nuts, lemon juice and zest, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse about 20 times, until fairly well combined. Pour in the olive oil slowly through the feed tube while the motor is running. When the oil is incorporated, transfer the pesto to a bowl and stir in the grated cheese. If you plan to freeze the pesto, wait to add the cheese until after you've defrosted it.