Posts tagged ‘calgary farmer’s market’

Tomato Basil Sauce (taste of summer)

This summer I spent a whole day chopping up a 25lb box of tomatoes and cooking them into a tomato basil sauce that could be stored away for winter. Well, winter is here. No doubt about that. It’s snowy and cold here in Calgary, and it was frosty even in Vancouver, where we spent the Christmas week.

So, freshly home from our trip and with not much food in the fridge, it was time to bring out a jar of that heavenly sauce for a simple pasta meal. I added a small tin of tomato paste to it along with about 2 cups of fresh spinach, some finely chopped almonds, grated asiago and hot chili flakes and served it over brown rice pasta for a delicious, simple supper that tasted just like summer. Vegetarian and gluten free, of course.

The recipe for the sauce is below. I highly recommend devoting a day next summer to finding a big box of tomatoes and making it. It was a beautiful way to spend a day, and the experience of pulling out a jar of your own tomato sauce in winter time is about a million times better than opening up a jar of Prego. (more…)


December 30, 2009 at 1:28 pm 2 comments

Welcome to fall

sunflower head with ribbon

Calgary’s fall has been less than idyllic so far. We spent 10 days vacationing on Vancouver Island in mid-September, and when we came back the weather was hot and balmy, as if it was still summer. A few days after that it turned cold with the first frosts of the season. Since then, we’ve experienced chilly rains and more than a few days of snow, most recently paired with blustering winds and temperatures dipping to -10C.

Aside from braving the cold for a few brief moments today to hang this beautiful sunflower head from Eagle Creek Flowers for our backyard birds to snack on, I’ve felt mostly deprived of the usual joys of experiencing the fall season outdoors. At its best, fall is one of my favourite seasons. It is soothing and peaceful to watch the plant life in our garden reach its full life cycle and prepare to rest for the winter months. And while I miss the warmth of the summer months, enjoying more time nesting in our cozy house is a welcome shift as the seasons change.

We’re spending this weekend, Thanksgiving weekend in Canada, visiting Lake Louise for a couple of days and after that we’ll enjoy a family dinner to celebrate the holiday. With luck we might also squeeze in the Harvest Country Drive, which is happening between Calgary and Red Deer – a seasonal, farm-friendly activity in our region that I’ve never experienced. My hope is that the whole weekend will provide a thorough dose of fall and some much-needed time outdoors, walking, taking photographs and experiencing nature before the long winter settles in.

October 9, 2009 at 1:33 pm 1 comment

Caprese salad

caprese salad

Caprese (ka-pree-see) salad, aka the delightful combination of fresh tomatoes, basil and buffalo mozzarella. The latter is pricey (about $10 for a chunk that will serve 4 people), but worth it, especially in the summer when basil and tomatoes are at their most delicious. The salad pictured above was made with tomatoes and mozza from our local farmer’s market, and basil grown on our back deck.

Not sure this is even worth calling a recipe – here’s how to make: Place a few tomato slices on a plate. A combination of different coloured tomatoes is nice, as are the funky shapes and colours of some heirloom tomatoes. Use a serrated knife to gently saw off a few slices from a round of buffalo mozzarella and place the cheese on top of the tomatoes. Scatter some fresh basil leaves on top. Drizzle each plate with a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and dust with freshly ground pepper. Eat!

Dead simple to make, but incredibly tasty.

August 18, 2009 at 3:51 pm 3 comments

25lb of tomatoes!

farmer's market haul

Caselot season has begun at the farmer’s market. Big beautiful boxes of tomatoes, peaches, nectarines, apricots, blueberries and raspberries were all on display when we made our weekly shopping trip. As part of our quest to be more conscious about the transportation footprint of our food, I am making a point of stocking up while local produce is abundant. Already I have a couple of pounds of spinach from our very own garden and half a case of blueberries packaged and stored in our freezer. Next up is tomatoes! We purchased a 25lb case of pesticide-free BC roma tomatoes at the market today.  This is obviously a huge amount of tomatoes, as you can see from the photo. It’s a long winter, though, and I make a lot of tomato-based dishes like lasagna, pizza sauce and chili, especially in the winter. I’m sure we’ll have no trouble eating our way through them.

Up until now, I’ve relied on crushed canned tomatoes, organic and delicious, but shipped in from California. Plus, that infamous chemical BPA is found in the top of tin can liners, so I’ve mostly given up buying food in cans. So the case of tomatoes is good – we’ll be eating local and doing away with tinned food almost altogether.

My plan for our case of tomatoes is to eat some this week in salads and salsa, to make a huge vat of the tomato sauce recipe from the Rebar cookbook to freeze, and then to chop and freeze the rest. There’s a character in The Stone Diaries, one of my favourite Carol Shields novels, who accidentally poisons her mother-in-law to death with some improperly canned runner beans (botulism). So although I’ve thought about learning how to can food several times, freezing seems safest. I’m quite fond of my mother-in-law and just can’t shake that story out of my head!

Wish me luck with the tomato preparations over the next few days. Have already sliced a finger with my lovely (but sharp!) tomato knife making caprese salad for this evening’s dinner. Hopefully I’ll fare better with the remaining 24.5lb.

August 15, 2009 at 6:56 pm 1 comment

A better way to eat

local food faves

Over the past year we’ve made a conscious choice to shift our purchasing patterns and lifestyle choices to align with the very intelligent movement around food that is unprocessed, ethical, local, organic and seasonal. In other words, real food. It’s sad and crazy that our North American culture has leaned so far in the wrong direction when it comes to industrial, unsustainable food production practices, not to mention the fact that we as consumers continue to put these products into our bodies and then wonder why health care costs, cancer rates, obesity, fatigue, stress and many other diseases and symptoms plague our society.

The main thing we changed was to drastically reduce our use of traditional grocery stores like Safeway, Sobeys, Superstore etc. Our routine now includes a weekly trip to the Calgary Farmer’s Market, a weekly order from Spud and occasional visits to Planet Organic for staples we can’t find at those other locations. Sunnyside Market is also conveniently located for picking up last minute items and fresh produce. We still make a trip to Safeway once in a while, but it’s less than once a month and it’s starting to seem more and more unnecessary. We’re also growing some of our own food. We have a tiny yard, so it’s not much, but every handful of fresh herbs and plate of salad that we harvest from the deck brings huge satisfaction – it tastes amazing and reinforces what we’re trying to do.

Slowly but surely we’re filling our cupboards and fridge with local foods instead of products that are shipped from thousands of miles away. I’m sure we’ve never been healthier. We’re eating better and we’re cooking better, inspired by more interesting ingredients. I’m thrilled to part with an extra dollar or two knowing that more of my money is going into the local economy and into the hands of a producer who actually cares about the quality of the food we’re eating and is also investing their time, money and effort into creating a more sustainable food system.

July 9, 2009 at 10:31 pm 1 comment

Rainbow chard potato bake

potato bake

Tonight was one of those nights when I had to fight the urge to opt out of making dinner. We have an a couple of really good takeout options nearby that offer real food on the quick (the delicious handmade burritos with refried beans, lettuce, tomato, cilantro and fresh tortillas at Si Senor in Calgary’s Kensington neighbourhood are a particular favourite). But we try to reserve take out as a treat for the truly exhausted days only. I was just feeling lazy today, so there was no reason not to cook.

I decided to make a “whatever’s in the fridge” creation. This is actually my favourite way to cook. As long as you’ve got a few things, the result is usually pretty good, and more so because it’s something new and unexpected. We had potatoes and a bit of asparagus from last weekend’s trip to the farmer’s market, and we received a gorgeous bundle of rainbow chard from Hotchkiss Farms courtesy of this week’s order from Spud. There are lots of herbs growing on the deck and we also had asiago cheese from Springbank Cheese Company. I had the idea of a gratin in my head so I ran with that. It was a complete success – so delicious! Here’s the recipe. It’s perfect on its own for a simple supper. You could also serve it as a side dish with grilled fish and salad for something more substantial.

Rainbow chard potato bake

Slice potatoes into thin rounds and pile into a microwave / oven safe baking dish (I used a 12″ round Corningware dish). The potatoes should fill the dish about halfway (4-5 medium potatoes). Microwave them for 10 minutes to soften while you’re chopping the other vegetables.

Finely chop one small to medium sized onion and 2-3 cloves of garlic. Saute with a splash of oil until onion is soft. Add in 1 cup chopped mushroom and continue cooking until mushrooms are soft and onion is golden brown. Pour in 1 cup of white wine (or 1/2 cup wine and 1/2 cup of water if you’d rather drink more of the wine) to deglaze the pan. Cook for a minute or two until everything has bubbled together. Add in 1 cup of asparagus chopped into 2″ pieces and 3 cups of coarsely chopped rainbow or swiss chard. Cook for 2-3 minutes until chard has wilted. Stir in 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh herbs (I used parsley, oregano and thyme). Pour vegetables over potatoes, season with fresh ground pepper and mix together.

Top potato mixture with 1/2 cup grated asiago cheese (cheddar or gouda would probably also be great) and sprinkle some fresh chives over top of the cheese. Bake for 25-30 minutes at 375F.

July 1, 2009 at 8:54 pm 1 comment

Asparagus recipes

asparagus pasta

Asparagus is a delightful vegetable. It’s in season now and we’ve been buying Alberta-grown asparagus from Edgar Farms for the past few weeks from the Calgary Farmers’ Market. I’ve been trying to eat as much of it as possible now – the season is short and the tender, tasty spears we’re enjoying now are incomparably better than the imported variety. My preference is to feast now, freeze some and then wait until next year to enjoy it again. In honour of feast time, here are a few recipe ideas. If you have a great recipe that belongs on this list, please list it in the comments below.

Straight up and simple. Drizzle oil over a bundle of freshly washed asparagus and then saute or grill it for a few minutes until tender. Pile in a long, shallow bowl or serving dish and garnish with fresh cracked black pepper and a generous helping of shaved parmesan. We had local asparagus prepared this way at the River Cafe recently and it was wonderful!

With pasta. Cook enough pasta for 4 people. Linguini or penne are both good (the pasta pictured above is made with gluten free penne). Saute 1 pound of asparagus in 3 tablespoons of oil along with 2 cups of peas, 1 small zucchini, coarsely chopped. 1 cup of fresh spinach and 3 cloves of garlic for about 3 minutes. Add in fresh chives and any other herbs like basil, oregano or thyme that you have on hand. Finely chop 1 cup of almonds and mix in with vegetables. Toss the asparagus mixture with pasta and top with a squeeze of lemon juice, fresh cracked pepper, crushed red pepper flakes and plenty of crumbled goat cheese or grated parmesan cheese.

Omelets. Making omelets is an every weekend brunch or lunch ritual in our house. The omelets I made recently with some leftover steamed asparagus, finely diced mushrooms, red pepper, garden chives and cheddar cheese were excellent and a great way to use up a bit of asparagus from the previous evening’s dinner. Portobello burgers are a favourite dinner and I often have portobello stems leftover – these are perfect chopped up in omelets. Here’s a basic recipe:

Saute vegetables in a generous amount of oil. Whisk together 2 eggs with 1-2 tablespoons of water. We have been buying organic, local eggs from Sunworks Farm, which are available at the Calgary Farmers’ Market.  Pour egg mixture into pan over top of vegetables. Cook until egg is no longer runny. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of flax seeds over top of omelet along with snipped chives, fresh cracked pepper and grated or thinly sliced cheddar cheese. Fold over the omelet and serve with fresh fruit.

Risotto. Asparagus risotto is one of my favorite things to make for a simple but special supper at home with family and friends. I usually freeze summer asparagus so we can enjoy this a couple of times in the winter months as well. To freeze, just wrap a bundle of fresh, uncooked asparagus in a plastic bag (a bread bag works well) – no need to worry about washing or cooking it until you’re ready to use it.

June 18, 2009 at 9:09 pm 2 comments

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