Sunday, July 25, 2010

Herbfest 2010

I had an excellent day at Herbfest today. Perfect weather, great demonstrations, beautiful grounds, tasty food and generally a good combination of vendors (the parking left something to be desired).

According to their website, "Herbfest has been an Ottawa Valley tradition for fifteen years and is a must-attend event for those interested in herbs, gardening, cooking and living a healthy lifestyle". Let me share some of my photos from the day.

A variety of products, mainly local, were for sale.

I tried raw Ginseng for the first time today.

Apparently, you can preserve it by putting it in Sambuca. I'm not sure if it's my aversion to anise or the taste of Ginseng, but I'll just say it's an acquired taste. Though it seems like a good, natural way to boost your immune system.

I bought a bag full of scapes. It must be nearing the end of the season because last time that I bought scapes they were $1 for 7. Today I got a bag full of about 75 scapes for $5. Looking forward to making some scape pesto tonight. I may also blanche and freeze a bunch.

I thought of Giz when I saw this site -- look ma - no sodium (added)! (Message for Giz -- if you want me to get some for you, check out their website. I think the price was $20 for 3 jars)

EcoOttawa sells and home delivers organic products. Check out their website here.

Some days I want to just say "screw the budget" and buy a full set of handmade pottery dishes. Jane Snider's work is so beautiful.

I was going to walk past this vendor, but I'm glad I didn't. The lovely ladies from the Mississippi Textile Museum (located in Almonte, Ontario) were happy to answer questions/demonstrate their art.

One of the highlights of the day was the chef cook-off. We only caught the last portion, where Chef Jason Duffy from Arc the hotel (a boutique hotel in downtown Ottawa) made his BBQ Chip Crusted Lake Erie Pickerel, Sweet Pea Purée, Dill-Smoked Paprika Corn Milk.

Definitely have to make a point of checking out their restaurant.

The most exciting part of the day came when I won something! I swear, my luck has turned around. Ever since winning free tickets to the movies from Girl About O-Town, I've been on a roll (recall that I also won Mark Cullen's new book at Ottawa is Blooming).

Well, this time, my name was drawn from an even larger pool. I won something from Savvy Company, an interesting Ottawa-based company that has a multifaceted approach to sharing their love for wine. The company is involved in marketing, organizing wine tours, events, classes, and a wine of the month club (in both Ontario and BC).

I won a $50 gift certificate to use toward the cost of a Savvy U wine appreciation "class" or tickets to Savvy Company's wine & food events. Sweet! I will definitely make good use of that. I've already signed up for their newsletter. If you're in the Ottawa area, go sign up for their newsletter too (near the bottom of the page on their website.

After all of the winning and watching food preparations, we were hungry.

Although there was a variety of delicious-looking food...

and drinks...

I settled on a yummy curry stew with basmati rice made by the folks at the Cheshire Cat Pub, based in Carp, Ontario (not far from Ottawa).

For dessert, I bought a macaron (can you believe that it's my first macaron ever) from Pretty Fours. I'm usually strong enough to resist their delicious looking set up at the Farmer's Market.

But, convinced myself that dessert would be a nice way to cap off the day.

All around, an excellent day! StumbleUpon

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Kale and Hungarian Sausage Pasta

As you can see, I'm on a Kale experimentation journey. It's official - Kale is now my favourite vegetable and I'm looking forward to trying the different varieties. This pasta dish was so comforting with a good kick! I'm submitting this dish to the 173rd edition of Presto Pasta Nights. This week's hostess is Janet from The Taste Spice and we can't forget our fearless Pastarian, Ruth from Presto Pasta Nights/Once Upon a Feast .

1 bunch of fresh kale stripped from the ribs and coarsely chopped
2 spicy Hungarian sausages sliced (or mild if you don't like the heat)
1 medium onion, diced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb shell pasta
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
butter or margarine
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese
4 cloves minced garlic

Start a pot of boiling water for the pasta While you are waiting for the water to boil, heat up the vegetable broth in a separate sauce pan under medium-high heat setting
While you are waiting for everything to heat up, rinse and dry Kale and begin to chop it. Once pasta water is boiling add water and cook according to package directions
Once finished chopping Kale, add it to the broth and let it simmer while pasta cooks.
Slice and brown the sausage it in a separate pan in oil for a few minutes. Add your chopped garlic to the sausage to bring out the flavors a bit. Drain the pasta once it is done cooking, and toss it with some butter (you decide how much).
Once drained and buttered, add to the skillet with the browned sausage. Add in the kale/broth mix and the .pecorino romano or parmesan cheese to taste.

Note: I didn't use the cheese. Instead I finished the pasta with a chili olive oil.
Chorizo would also be a fantastic sausage to use here. StumbleUpon

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Kale and Bacon Quiche

Here we are - Tuesday again - where did last week go? A total blur of helping a friend prepare for her daughter's wedding. AND...because it's Tuesday, it means that it's Two for Tuesdays Day. I love this event! I get to share REAL food with other bloggers who are like minded thinkers. Not only that - there are a number of hosts who post your creations on their blogs which automatically multiplies your exposure. I also get to see what other people are doing in the real food category. To find out more about how to participate and who's connected to this blog hopping event, make a point of visiting Girli Chef .

For the longest time, for health reasons, I wasn't allowed to eat Kale. It didn't really bother me too much since I didn't appreciate the value of this green.

So what's all the fuss about? Having an inquiring mind, I decided to do some research and get smarter on what's really good for me and now that my health does allow me to eat it, let's just give it a try. Here's what I found. Firstly, this incredible green has more nutritional value for fewer calories than almost any other food around. It's anti cancer properties are widely known. Kale is totally packed with nutrients:

Pretty impressive, no? There are pages of positive attributes - let me just send you over to the World's Healthiest Food Site and see for yourself.

Moving right along - I wanted to make something that highlited kale and found an interesting recipe at All Things Nice for Kale and Bacon Quiche.

A bunch of green kale, roughly chopped and cut away from the middle rib.
Several rashers of good quality, thinly sliced smoked bacon
1 medium white onion, diced
1 tbs olive oil
3/4 cup of Buffalo Parmesan, grated (I used regular parmesan)
5 large eggs
3/4 cup of whole milk
1/2 cup of whipping cream
1 tsp of sea salt
1/2 tsp of freshly ground black pepper
1 sheet of pie dough

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  • Butter the pie tin and press the pie pastry along the base and up the sides. Brush the pastry with a little olive oil. Set aside.
  • Heat the remaining olive oil in a fry pan over medium heat and saute the onions until they are slightly browned. Add the kale and fry for about 3 minutes or until it has wilted slightly. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • Fry the bacon strips until they a little crispy. Remove and drain on paper towels.
  • Next, spread the bacon, kale and onion over the base of the pie shell.
  • Beat the eggs and mix in the milk, cream, Parmesan, salt and pepper. Blend well and pour into pie shell.
  • Bake for 15 minutes in the preheated oven at 450 degrees.
  • Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the centre of the quiche is almost firm.
  • Remove the quiche from the oven and let it stand for about 10 minutes before serving.

  • Verdict: It's fabulous!!! StumbleUpon

    Thursday, July 15, 2010

    Cherry Picking

    It's been hot! I mean it's been very hot! Throw in an injection of humidity and smog alerts and you've got a serious case for not cooking. BUT - that doesn't stop us from getting in the car, driving to the Niagara Region where you'll find some of the finest cherry picking in the country. Next to Ontario, British Columbia is the only other cherry growing province so I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to get out and pick (even if it is the end of the season)

    My helper and I were getting right into the picking.

    The trees are beautiful and heavily laden with fruit.

    Raspberries are in full picking mode too and how is it even possible to go home without.

    Over the next couple of weeks the pears should be ready for picking. I guess we'll be making another trip.

    After picking, it was time to do some exploration around the Niagara Region. I think I might have to retire there.

    German rhubarb is a little sweeter and requires less sugar when you cook it. My fridge is now full.

    The first pickling cukes are ready and so sweet.

    Can you ever really have enough garlic?? This is winter garlic - generally harder to find in the city and much stronger than the summer garlic.

    A little tired and alot thirsty we continued on to explore the area, have a picnic lunch and visit a gelato place we spied as we were driving in. Our primary stop was at the Wayne Gretsky Winery.

    Since "R" has always been a Gretsky fan I made a point of picking up a bottle of Gretsky's wine called, of course, No.99. Naturally, I had to get some for myself too. We did a tasting at the winery - 2007 was a great year and this is a wonderful wine.

    For those who watch Jay Leno or David Letterman - sometimes they feature road signs that pop out at you and give you a laugh. Here's a couple we found along the way.

    I'd say it was a fun day!

    Wednesday, July 7, 2010

    Play Food & Wine

    I had been wanting to go to Play Food & Wine for quite a while. They feature a small plates menu that offers a variety of flavours. I like the idea of small plates. I find it really encourages you to take your time with each plate and think about the flavours. Plus, for someone like me who tends to resort to "old standbys", it's easier to venture out of my comfort zone because there is less commitment to any one plate seeing as each person generally orders at least 2 plates and shares with others at the table.

    I went with two friends, so we shared 6 plates. Being my mother's daughter, I thought it may not be enough food. But, slowly savouring the food allows your brain enough time to figure out that it's full even though the plates weren't loaded with food.

    We started off with a cheese plate and paté. Our waitress informed us that most of the cheeses we selected were available at The House of Cheese. I think I'm going to have to find an excuse to have a wine and cheese at my house.

    The cheese plate was a hit. We even had to barter over who got the last portions of cheese. I happily took the rest of the paté, which had a really good, strong mustard.

    Mid-way through our first course -- my friend said, "OMG -- that's Brian Adams!" Any attempts to be sophisticated rather than giggling school girls was thrown out the window at that point. Since he was sitting at the table next to us, I reminded my friend, who kept saying his name, of the cocktail party effect (which explains why you can hear your name being spoken across the room, even if you're at a busy cocktail party). So, we calmed down and switched to calling him "BA".

    Ok - back to the food. For the next course, we had ricotto gnudi and a chicken panini. The ricotto gnudi was quite good. If I recall correctly, if was on a bed of blended olives, which made the dish quite salty. I haven't had gnudi before. In my mind, I pictured it to be more like gnocchi. But, it reminded me more of a croquette that gnocchi.

    By the time the next course came, we were starting to feel pretty full. Thankfully, the shrimp with halloumi portion looked conquerable. Somehow we found room for grilled hanger steak with fries and aioli sauce.

    The shrimp was probably the low point of the meal. To start, I wasn't crazy about the appearance of the shrimp. Plus, the combination of halloumi and salt sprinkled on top of the shrimp made it too salty. The hanger steak also had a fair bit of salt on top (you can see it in the pictures). We informed our waitress that we didn't want to send the food back or exchange the dishes, but recommended that they use a lighter hand with the salt, particularly when many of the dishes already contain ingredients that contain a lot of salt (e.g., olives, halloumi).

    Interestingly, it is probably the owner's reaction to our comment that makes me want to return to the restaurant in the future. The owner, who is also well-known for Beckta (his other restaurant,) came over to apologize for the oversalting and said that he would inform the kitchen. The waitress also informed us that we would not be charged for our last course and that the owner would like to offer each one of us a free dessert.

    We were already really full, but how can you pass up complimentary dessert?

    Overall, we enjoyed the food. I'm looking forward to going back, for the interesting food combinations, good vibe (industrial, modern and hip) and great service.

    Play on Urbanspoon StumbleUpon
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