Thursday, August 28, 2014

Guest Post-Jo's Quick Moroccan Couscous

Well I just picked up my weekly CSA basket and noticed that serendipitously, in it, were ALL the fixings for one of my all time favourite dishes.  And I just realized I hadn't shared it.

It's a quick and dirty way of making a Moroccan couscous using the instant kind, but people swear it tastes as good as the real thing.
The secret lies in using the broth that you used to cook all your veggies in as the base for the instant couscous too.  You have to strain out all the cooked veggies, but it's spectacular and nothing goes to waste.
I have historically used potatoes, carrots, onions and tomatoes in this dish, but you really can put any vegetables you like in it.  I'm swimming in green beans at the moment, so I put those in there, too, today.  Cauliflower, broccoli, peas, kale, chard, spinach... whatever you like.  The originally recipe called to use leftover meats such as turkey, but I am vegetarian, so I skipped that part.  Again, this is a Nye Armstrong special... the goofy American woman I found online last year who'd converted to Islam, put her hijab in Princess Leia buns and makes a mean Moroccan Harira soup.  Her YouTube tutorial can be found at the bottom.  It's worth a watch.  She actually uses a spice called harisa, but I'm allergic to peppers, so you'll note none of my recipes ever have hot spices.  Alas.

Here's how I make it
Jo's Quick Couscous
butter or oil
tomato wedges
carrots cut into bite sized pieces
potatoes cut into bite sized pieces
chopped onion, garlic
(other veggies or meats)
1 can of chick peas
lots of parsley and cilantro to taste (I sometimes use a store-bought bunch each)
broth to cover
2-3 cups of instant couscous (I use pearl aka Israeli couscous, you can get it at the Bulk Barn)

1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ginger powder (or fresh grated)
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cinnamon (optional... this is very strong and changes the taste IMHO)
saffron (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
In a deep pan, coat bottom with oil or butter and brown the garlic and onions.
Add all spices an stir
Put in root/hard vegetables (carrots, potatoes) and coat with pan contents
Add several cups of broth to cover veggies and cook on medium-high until they are softened (usually about 15 minutes)
Add softer vegetables (tomatoes, beans, spinach) as well as chick peas and cook on low for another ten minutes or so. 
When done, lower heat to a simmer (or even turn off), and strain out all veggies.  Taste the broth that remains in the pan and season to taste if it's not to your liking.
Add all the parsely/cilantro, and enough couscous (I use pearl) to soak up the broth.  
Once it's absorbed all the liquid (about 5-10 minutes or longer), fluff with a fork
Mix veggies back into dish, or serve on a platter on a bed of flavoured couscous

When all the vegetables are cooked through, strain them out and set aside in a large bowl, leaving behind the seasoned broth, infused with all the veggie goodness.

And the final product.  I cannot say enough about this dish.  The taste is out of this world!!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

CSA Week 8 and the Tomato Stand is Open!

Well, it's arrived and it is definitely official. Tomato season has arrived.
Just in time for my tomato tasting and garden tour on Sunday, the tomatoes are ripening and ready and it's necessary now to pick everyday.
Lots of the tomatoes are going into the CSA baskets, some to stores and a handful of restaurants and Emily and Mollie have started attended the brand new Fenwick market from 4:30-&:30 on Wednesday evenings.

People have been stopping by too, but as of now I will have tomatoes out at my stand on a daily basis, and a few other things which I have in excess.
It will go like this. Get up, do the chores, walk the dogs, help my neighbour and set up the stand. Assuming I don't get sidetracked, I'll be open by 10 am and open for the rest of the day. Please do stop by.
The baskets today were full and heavy. I hope you eat well my friends.

They contained heirloom tomatoes, mixed cut lettuce, cucumbers, peppers, mini eggplants, zucchini and summer squash, mixed heirloom beans, onion and garlic, basil, parsley, summer savoury and a sample of a few more things like mouse melons.

The following recipe is from Andrea Chesman's "The Garden Fresh Vegetable Cookbook"....enjoy!

Pan Roasted String Beans with Warm Soy Vinaigrette
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp sesame oil
freshly ground pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb beans (any colour will do)
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp fresh minced ginger
1 Tbsp sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 200 degrees
To prepare vinaigrette, whisk together the soy sauce, rice wine, vinegar sesame oil and black pepper to taste in a small bowl
Heat a large cast iron skillet over high heat. Add olive oil, and swirl to coat pan.
Add about one third of the beans, cooking till tender( 4-7 minutes). Put cooked beans on a platter in the oven to keep them warm, and continue in the same manner cooking the remaining beans.
When beans are all cooked, return the pan to the stove and saute garlic, ginger for about 30 seconds, then add vinaigrette and warm.
Pour immediately over the beans and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

CSA Week 7 and Pungent Green Beans and Tomatoes

I had some folks drop over today to buy some tomatoes, and as they waited for me to pick their bounty, they walked around the gardens looking at what was growing. When I arrived back to show them what I had picked for them, they told me how wonderful the gardens looked this year. And they are pretty good, although as the focus is getting to be more on harvesting, the weeds are starting to gain momentum.

"I've been working hard" I said, and they said that it showed.
But after they left I started thinking. I always work hard every single year. That's the nature of what I do, and I know that is why sometimes I get frustrated. I work hard some years and get results, but work just as hard others, and don't. Same effort, same money poured into my business, and I have so much less to show for it. The weather rules all..determines when I can plant, what I can plant, what bugs are around, what pollinators will arrive to work in the garden, whether or not the weeds will be a big problem, and how much I need to water. 

I'm thankful for this year being what it is. I'll take it. (It would work again for next year too!)
The CSA baskets were pretty heavy today, and my girls and I got produce to Bamboo Natural Foods in St Catharines, Churchill Meats in Fonthill and Valli Girls Meats in St Catharines as well. 

Baskets contained, yes, friggin' zucchini. That's what Emily said to call it anyways. 
Also lots of beans, primarily my test garden variety, a french filet bean called Mascott. There were lots of nice tomatoes, cucumbers, summer squash, onions, carrots or chard, basil, leaf celery and likely a few more items I can't remember now.

This recipe from Farmer John's Cookbook will make good use of some of the beans and tomatoes and has a good kick to it. Enjoy!

Pungent Green Beans and Tomatoes

Serves 4
10 cloves garlic, smashed
1 piece ginger (about 1 inch long), peeled, chopped
 vegetable stock, divided
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup mild-flavored vegetable oil
2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
1 whole dried red chile pepper (optional)
2 to 4 fresh tomatoes, stems removed, peeled, finely chopped
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 pounds green beans, cut in half (about 8 cups)
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
freshly ground black pepper
1. Put the garlic, ginger, and 1/2 cup of the stock in a blender or a
food processor; process until a smooth paste forms.
2. Place a large wok (or pot) over medium heat. When the wok is hot,
add the ground cumin and toast it just until it is fragrant. (This will take
only a few seconds—be very careful not to overtoast it, as it can burn
quickly). Immediately scrape the cumin onto a small dish and set aside.
3. Quickly wipe the wok with a damp cloth or paper towel to remove
any remaining spice. Return the wok to the heat; add the oil, let it
heat up for about 20 seconds and then add the whole cumin seeds.
After 5 seconds, add the dried chile pepper. After another 25 seconds
(30 seconds total for the seeds, with or without the chile), add the
ginger-garlic paste. Cook and stir the ingredients for 2 minutes. Stir
in the tomatoes and coriander. Cook, stirring, for 3 minutes.
4. Add the green beans, salt, and the remaining stock. Stir the ingredients
until they come to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to low.

Guest Post-Jo "The Sauce"

Tomato sauce.  The Sauce.  I always thought it was some daunting task, to be done in huge batches with canning kettles at the ready and all tomatoes set to be blanched, peeled, seeded and seasoned.  Don't forget your bucket of ice water!  You read a thousand recipes online and they almost all say you are supposed to take the skins off and spoon out the seeds.  Techniques and suggestions on how best to do this abound.
Paste tomatoes such as Federle or San Marzano are preferred and juicy sandwich tomatoes are pooh poohed.  Making sauce from cherry tomatoes or smaller varieties is unheard of.

This seems like such nonsense to me.  My tomatoes come from either my own gardens or Tree & Twig.  I know the skins are fine... no pesticide use!  I don't worry about ingesting seeds -- I eat them in a toasted tomato sandwich all the time.

When you google "Do I have to peel and seed tomatoes to make sauce?"  the answers vary from "yes" to "hell yes" to "here's how I do it". 

I am here to tell you NO.  No.  You don't need to take the skins off or remove the seeds.  You can if you want to, but I honestly don't see the point.


I  bought seedlings at Linda's Tomato Days this year for the first time.  We planted five plants at my dad's house and one at mine.  We're getting bumper crops -- tons of deliciousness and I've made some soups and salads, but I wanted to try sauce, and was pressed for time.

Also, my most productive plant by far is the Fargo Yellow Pear, and those little guys are about an inch in diameter.  The next most productive is Brazilian Beauty, and they are about two inches.  Lots and lots of little tomatoes.  Too.  Much.  Work.  To.  Peel.

So I cut off the green stems and any blemishes but other than that, I just throw them into my high-powered blender.  In short order, I get a soupy liquid, and I add some onions or garlic or basil and puree some more.  Put in a pot, add some salt and pepper, bring to a boil and simmer or cook on medium-low for about 45 minutes until it reduces to the consistency I like.  Today I added a lot of parmesan and it was...

of course...



Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sunday Evening Garden Stroll

Thought for Food, September 13th at The Shaw

The Shaw Speakers Series

The exchange of ideas is at the base of all we do here at The Shaw. We revel in plays that throw ideas up in the air and keep them spinning compellingly and surprisingly. How appropriate then, to open our stages to some brilliant guest speakers and artists who are celebrated for creating work that does the same and who in their own specific medium show us new ways of seeing and thinking. We welcome their insights and no doubt provocative points of view, and know that they will add a whole new layer to this season’s theatrical conversations.
Generously supported by

Thought for Food

Many of us look at the farm-to-table movement and find the name itself interesting and seductive as it promises a fresher, healthier, a more intimate and sustainable culinary experience. A return to ingredient-driven fare that provides us with a greater appreciation for our local producers. This panel discussion will look at what farm-to-table means to each of the panelists, identify issues and challenges and then focus on each panelist’s community and area of expertise.
This hearty, interesting and entertaining discussion at The Shaw will leave you with a better understanding of the farm-to-table movement and hopefully a desire to explore it through Niagara’s produce, cuisine, wine or simply the principles themselves. A Shaw Speakers Series to savour!
Saturday September 13 I 11am I $35
Festival Theatre



Lucy Waverman
Lucy Waverman,
Culinary Personality
Linda Crago
Linda Crago,
Tree and Twig Heirloom Vegetable Farm
Stephen Treadwell
Stephen Treadwell,
Treadwell Farm to Table Cuisine
Bill Redelmeier
Bill Redelmeier,
Southbrook Vineyards

In association with

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

CSA Week 6 and Planting for the Fall

I got my garlic out this week, a crop that wasn't as big as I would have liked because of the wet planting conditions last fall. It leaves me a spot to consider in my garden.

Our resident toad, "Toadie"

People have been asking lately about what they can still plant now and grow successfully.
Some crops are a sure thing, while some are only possible if we have a great fall season and late frost.
Really though. Why not try? Seeds are inexpensive and some things may not grow to full size, but still are edible when small.
I plant lettuce every week, and without question will continue to do this into September.

Arugula, spinach, chard and various other greens like mustards are a safe bet. Beets I would still risk and baby carrots would likely come along. Radishes including the larger ones like Watermelon would be great now as well as turnips, kohlrabi.

I'll wait at least a month now before I think about planting in the hoophouses for the winter. Winter!
It's hard to start thinking about that now, but it is getting close to the time to think about it. Clean the chimney, get the wood, plant the hoophouses. Oh dear.
I've copied a useful chart  from Seed Saver's Exchange at the bottom of this post, that will help you figure out the likelihood of succeeding with different crops.

Baskets today were still firmly rooted in summer. Tomatoes, carrots, zucchini, cukes, beans, onions, garlic, Italian parsley, curly celery, African Blue basil, golden purslane and perhaps something else I can't think of.
Thanks to Terra for  passing along the recipe for Rad Rainbow Raw Pad Thai from "Oh She Glows" blog. If you wait a week or two to make it you will have fresh edamame in your baskets to use in the recipe.

2014 Tomato Tasting and Garden Tour August 24th

On Sunday August 24, I'll open up my farm to visitors.
There are a few things I hope you'll bring if you come, because this tomato tasting of mine is going to be a bit different than other ones I have held here.
I hope you bring the absolute best tasting tomato variety your garden has, a tomato inspired dish if you wish and the requisite chair as I don't have enough.

We'll have a little contest, you see, to decide as a group which tomato we feel tastes the best. Tomato dish too. I'll be giving gift certificates away to the winners, which will be good for plants (2015) or seeds and veggies.

I'll have lots of my tomatoes out to try too, and a few other things too. I've got some exciting new "artisan varieties" for you to consider and then of course some wonderful heirloom varieties. I planted lots of interesting blues this year that are really something to see. Whoa. I mean it. They are pretty stunning. But better yet the taste is there as well.

My event will be held from 1-4 pm. If you want to take part in the  garden tour part of the afternoon, be sure to get here by 1:30 because that is when it will be starting. As usual it will be a tasting tour, I'll hand you things to try as we stroll along.

Everyone is welcome, and $5.00 per person is the cost, free for CSA members. Children are welcome and free, but please be aware that I have a pond and Joey my pig will bite if he is in the mood. Please keep a careful eye out.
I'll supply beverages (non-alcoholic) and snacks for you, but you are welcome to bring your own wine or beer if you wish. If you are bring tomatoes or tomato dishes to share, I'll supply the plates and cutlery.
Please feel free to let me an know if you are coming, just so I can get an idea of numbers.
Hope to see you then!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Guest Post-Suzanne:Thank you, Jack Daniels, Old Number Seven, Tennessee Whiskey got me drinkin' in heaven.

An ode to Southern food and gardening.

This past February/March, my husband and I took an extended road trip throughout the southern United States. It's been quite some time since we took a trip, and my husband, who is really quite superb at planning interesting getaways and events, did a bang-up job of putting this together.

The first part of our trip took us for an overnight stay to Frankfort, Kentucky, the state capital, so we could visit Buffalo Trace, the oldest bourbon distillery in the US, even continuing through Prohibition. If I did one thing on this trip, I learned to drink bourbon. Bourbon is a good thing. Walking through the barrel rooms means smelling an aroma that is often called the 'angel's share', which is a heavenly aroma you will never forget. 

We continued our travels to Walland, Tennessee, where we stayed at the Blackberry Farm resort. Lest you think a resort in a tiny town in Tennessee sounds dull, it is anything but. The views of the Smoky Mountains alone are worth it, but so is the resort itself; staying in a luxurious little cottage with a working fireplace and canopy bed and Jacuzzi tub, being shuttled to dinner in one of their fleet of Lexuses, eating food that will blow your mind that is all grown or made at the farm, playing with the Italian water dog puppies they began breeding to hunt for the truffles they grew on the land (!), and riding horses through a creek, watching pileated woodpeckers in the trees…my God. You'd never want to leave. I sure didn't. 

We next went on to my favourite city in the whole world, Charleston, South Carolina. If I had a way of doing so, I'd pack my bags today and move there at once. Not only is it stunningly beautiful, but it quite honestly has the very best food and drink in the whole world, has some remarkably nice people living there, and as a bonus you can watch dolphins swimming in the harbour. I've never eaten so well as I have in the Holy City. For me to order fish or seafood off a menu on purpose is really quite notable, but when you're right on the ocean, it's a different story than the stuff that's travelled a long way to me in southern Ontario. I could write rhapsodies about she-crab soup, shrimp and grits, Andouille sausage gumbo, the deep fried chicken skins at Husk restaurant…oh heavens, excuse me while I wipe my salivating mouth. I follow all sorts of Charleston restaurants on Instagram and am always blown away by the food they make. I miss you, Charleston!
Our last stop was New Orleans, in the midst of Mardi Gras. We aren't really party people and didn't partake of the Lundi Gras madness, but I was sort of amused by the fact you can buy booze at a bar at 6 a.m., by the guys drinking shots of vodka on the streets from an open bottle, the, um, half-naked people, and the rather crudely shaped 'go-cups' people carried from place to place. There is something really delightful in all that wildness. I overheard a man say "Don't take my picture; my wife thinks I'm in Dallas on a business trip!" to a photographer and laughed out loud. Even if you aren't incredibly drunk there is plenty to do and see in New Orleans, and to eat; I will never forget the wood fire grilled oysters with chili-lime butter at Cochon. 

OK, so what does my travelogue have to do with southern Ontario agriculture? Well, one of the things we did at Blackberry Farm in Tennessee, other than stuff our faces and learn to ride horses and hug puppies, was to have an heirloom seed lesson with John Coykendall, the farm's master gardener. 

He was excited to meet the Canadians, and had pulled out some whippoorwill peas for us to shell and take home some seeds, as he thought they'd grow in the harsh Canadian climate. (I didn't have the heart to explain that we're in growing zone 7 here and can even grow bamboo). We shelled peas for a while in the garden shed, and then we got to grind our own cornmeal with him. We shelled some Hickory King corn and then ground it, and we took a bag of the cornmeal home. Hickory King dates back to the late 1800s of Appalachia, and was sometimes known as 'bingo corn' because the kernels are so large they were used as chips. 

John often travels across the world to collect seeds and has a story for each one. He had just returned from a trip to Washington Parish in Louisiana; he had driven down there in his truck with his 'chiweagle' dog to collect seeds; specifically 'Snow on the Mountain' beans, which are also sometimes known as Carroll's Calico, and are seeds that date back to the 1800s handed down in the family of Reverend Roy Blount. The stories John had about his seeds I'll never forget.

We took our treasures home from this trip, our seeds, our gas lamp from Charleston, and our bourbon, and returned from 20+ Celsius summery weather in New Orleans to -18 and a giant snowstorm in Grimsopolis. We collected our dog, glumly put the heat on, and began our mountain of laundry and acclimatized again to drab March Ontario weather. You all suffered the polar vortexes with me; you know what I mean.

However, as always summer in Ontario has come on and it has been a nice one. We set up our massive patio garden, and we planted our whippoorwill seeds and Snow on the Mountain beans, both of which are doing nicely. John had said he didn't think we'd get beans to save from the bean plant, but only time will tell; they are beginning to fruit already, and there is lots of time to go yet. It is nice to have growing souvenirs from our trip. I also gave some to Linda to grow, which she has planted; perhaps they'll become a regular feature at Tree and Twig, but even if not, it's nice to share a piece of that trip with her. 

My husband found a single kernel of Hickory King corn in the bottom of our bag of cornmeal, and planted it in a large pot. There was only one seed, and to my surprise it took hold and has been growing nicely. We aren't sure if we'll actually get an ear of corn on it; there is a neighbour growing corn a ways down the street, but of course that will cross pollinate. I am not sure what our condo neighbours think of a cornstalk merrily waving over the fence, but regardless of what it does, it's a lovely memory of a lovely trip and seed lesson. Maybe the beans will take for Linda and become part of southern Ontario as so many other seeds around the world have done. One can only hope. 

I leave you with a recipe that will use both cornmeal and bourbon in a southern fashion if this piece put you in the mood, Cornmeal Waffles with Banana-Bourbon Syrup, courtesy of the New York Times. This isn't really going to use up your CSA supplies, but it will be delicious anyhow. 

  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, more for waffle iron
  • 1 large ripe banana, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 50 grams toasted chopped pecans (1/2 cup), optional
  • 160 grams all-purpose flour (1 1/4 cups)
  • 100 grams finely ground cornmeal (3/4 cup)
  • 15 grams sugar (1 tablespoon)
  • 8 grams baking powder (1 teaspoon)
  • 5 grams fine sea salt (1 teaspoon)
  • 3 grams baking soda (1/2 teaspoon)
  • 1 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 4 large eggs, separated

1. Melt 5 tablespoons butter either on the stove or in the microwave. Set aside.
2. In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter until foam subsides. Add bananas in a single layer. Cook, without moving, until undersides are golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes; flip and brown other side, 2 to 3 minutes more. Transfer to a bowl.
3. Add bourbon to pan and let simmer until mostly evaporated, about 1 minute. Pour in syrup and nuts; simmer until just heated through. Pour syrup onto the bananas and cover to keep warm (or reheat just before serving).
4. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. In a separate bowl, whisk together sour cream or yogurt, milk, melted butter and egg yolks. Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients.
5. In a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks. Immediately fold into batter.
6. Heat a waffle iron and, using a pastry brush or paper towel, lightly coat with melted butter. Cook waffles (using about 1/2 cup batter per waffle) until golden and crisp. Butter the iron in between batches as needed. Serve waffles immediately as they are ready, or keep warm in a 200-degree oven until ready to serve. Serve with banana syrup on top.

YIELD About 10 waffles