From April 2012

Black Honey Café/Catering/Desserts AND a Recipe for Wild Leek Pesto

Some of the daily desserts for sale at Black Honey.

I had a lovely interview with Lisa Dixon of Black Honey today.

If you haven’t heard of Black Honey before, I suggest a few things: get on down to the café district in downtown Peterborough and check out this wonderful dessert haven/coffee house/bakery; and also, keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming print edition of Peterborough This Week in order to read all about this unique establishment.

While most people recognize Black Honey as a cozy café, there is a lot more going on behind the scenes – such as a catering kitchen that specializes in truly spectacular, local-based foods, as well as a bakery that produces everything from specialty breads to fine desserts to some of the best wedding cakes in Peterborough.

While the café is easy enough to find – it is plunked right in the middle of a stretch of restaurants on Hunter Street West – the bakery itself is hidden behind, in an area that is becoming home to some of the best patios in the city.

I’ve been a fan of both Dixon and Black Honey for years.  I’ve eaten there more times than I can count, pick up hand-made chocolate-chili truffles on a regular basis, and make it one of my regular haunts for a good cup of tea.

Dixon’s attention to detail, artistic approach to foods, and insistence on local and seasonal ingredients, make Black Honey a place that I often recommend – both to locals and to visitors to Peterborough.

It’s going to be a pleasure to write about her and her business.

Now, one of the pleasures of writing about local food, is the fact that I get to try more than my fair share of local food products.  Today, I left Black Honey with a loaf of Potato-Cumin bread under my arm – the perfect accompaniment to the leftover wild leek/bacon frittata I was having for lunch.

While I’m not going to offer a recipe for the frittata – you can find a mini frittata recipe in an earlier blog entry from last summer – I will offer up a wild leek pesto recipe that I enjoyed earlier this week.  This wild leek season is only going to last another few weeks, so I may as well take advantage of sharing as many recipes as I can for it.  Check out my intro to wild leeks – and a recipe for Fiddlehead/Wild Leek Quiche – from an earlier blog.

When adapting the frittata recipe, you can replace the new potatoes with potatoes from last year (available at market), replace the kale with a spring green, replace the onion with wild leeks, and omit the very unseasonable tomatoes.  You may want to increase the number of eggs used.

And now…

Wild Leek Pesto

Ingredients:

1 bunch ramps, about a dozen stocks, washed well.
1/4 cup slivered almonds
Zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup of fresh, soft goat cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Procedure:

  • Lightly toast almonds
  • Place in food processor and pulse until roughly crumbled
  • Add wild leeks and lemon zest; pulse until pureed
  • Move to a bowl and mix in goat cheese and olive oil
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.

When using the pesto with pasta, I tend to reserve some of the water the pasta was cooked in.  It helps lubricate the dish.

I love throwing some fried and roughly chopped double smoked bacon in with this dish.  The smoky saltiness offers a great contrast to the delicate and fresh wild leek/lemon combo.

Wednesday Farmers’ Market

A media release from my friends at the Wednesday Market

PETERBOROUGHS DOWNTOWN FARMERS’ MARKET

Opening Day Celebrations – May 2nd  2012 – 8:30am-2pm
Louis St. Parking Lot

Beginning May 2nd, the Peterborough Downtown Farmers’ Market will be open every Wednesday between 8:30am and 2:00pm in the Louis St. Parking Lot

Right downtown Peterborough, just east of the corner of Charlotte & Aylmer streets, market-goers can find a festive and bustling market full of their favourite vendors selling seasonal produce, meats, cheese, fresh flowers, baked goods, crafts, plants to grow, coffee and lunches to go. All market products are Kawarthas’ Own and Locally Grown!

Join us for our opening day celebrations on Wednesday May 2nd and every Wednesday throughout the season. Each week, market-goers can learn about and purchase diverse local produce as it comes into season. The Downtown Farmers’ Market will also host special monthly events that feature local Chefs, samples, on-site cooking demonstrations, and innovative ideas on using the foods you purchase at the market.

-30-

To find out more about our vendors, and to keep updated by looking up http://ptbodowntownmarket.blogspot.com , following us on Twitter – @PtboWedMarket or like us on facebook https://www.facebook.com/PeterboroughDowntownFarmersMarket

Trent’s Plants in Society Wrap-Up: Local Food at Canada’s Outstanding Small University

Trent Biology student, Namrata Arif, enjoys some pot-luck lunch.

Students at Gzowski College were tempted by the aromas of fresh, handcrafted foods as the Biology 2290: Plants in Society course held a series of potlucks celebrating local/seasonal vegan cooking.

“It’s a great way to wrap up the year,” said course instructor, Sara Pieper of the tasty gatherings.  “We’ve been covering the role of plants on nutrition, the advantages of local agriculture on our food systems, and the origins of much of the food that we eat.  How better to conclude it than by sharing a meal made up of local produce?”

While early spring doesn’t yield many options for local produce, students were creative when coming up with recipes.

“You probably don’t have to guess who suggested making borsht,” laughed Dimitri Sivak, proudly displaying his Ukrainian heritage. His beet-based soup featured plenty of local root vegetables.

“This entire course has been very hands on and practical,” said fellow student, Paola Hernandez, “and with this potluck, you can’t help but be hands on. It just makes sense to show a commitment to local foods by enjoying some of it as part of the course.”

While many of the students emphasized the environmental health associated with local, seasonal, and vegetarian diets, Namrata Arif was excited about what she learned about plants and human health. “Before this course, I didn’t necessarily eat all that healthily,” she admitted.  “This course opened my eyes to a lot of nutritional information.”

Ms. Arif found the potluck to be a fun challenge. “Everything here is vegetarian, and much of it is vegan. This was the first time I had ever tried to make something like a cake without using eggs or milk.  You definitely have to be creative.”

For Ms. Arif, information about food sources was transformative. “The course also introduced me to some of the environmental science surrounding agriculture and food choices. It’s challenged some of my buying and eating habits.  Really, this kind of information definitely affects how you think about the food supplies and sources in our society.  Everyone should be required to take it.”

Biology 2290 provides an in-depth examination of the role of plants in human society, both past and present. Topics include the development of agricultural practices through the ages, current uses of plants by humans, sustainability, and plant-based ecosystem services. The role of biotechnology on food production and uses of plants for medicinal purposes are also considered.

For more information on the course, please visit: www.trentu.ca/biology

Food Science: The Electric Orange

Juliette Polito gets to the bottom of the long-debated issue: which fruit is a source of more power: the apple or the orange?

I was recently covering the Peterborough Regional Science Fair for a local media source.  While doing interviews, I came upon an ultra-enthusiastic grade schooler with a most interesting project.

A little snippet from the article:

Juliette Polito, a Grade 7 student from Lakefield College School shared some of this same enthusiasm.

“I think a lot of the students here are passionate about science,” she explained.  “And people need to show what they are passionate about.  I think that is when their talent really shows.  And it is really cool when you can bring together so many people with those same interests, passions and goals.”

Polito’s project measured the voltage produced by common fruits.

“I was really surprised at my results and by the energy that these fruits contain,” she exclaimed.  “Nature is amazing, and we don’t know half of what there is to know about it.”

For Polito, the day was a great educational experience.

“I’m definitely learning things I’ve never seen before.  If I didn’t already believe it, I’d sure be convinced now: science is cool!”

For the record, our local apples produced more currant than American oranges and tomatoes.

Wild Leeks: Carefully Foraged Delights

A patch of wild leeks.

Two days ago, I had a lovely interview Marcy Adzich, a local food forager and owner of Fox Hollow Wild Edibles.  We were discussing some of the early spring bounty that exists for people interested in foraging their own foods.  While there is not a huge amount of variety this early in the season, there are a few major finds for local foodies – notably: wild leeks (ramps), fiddleheads, and morel mushrooms.  What early spring lacks in diversity, it more than makes up for in incredible taste.

During the interview, I was lamenting the fact that I didn’t have my “own” patch of ramps.  Sure, Krista and I have found a few minor clumps of these delicacies in the past, but nothing, really, that we could harvest.

A day later, our luck changed.

During a lovely afternoon hike, Krista and I rounded a corner of trail overlooking a forested valley and, much to our amazement, came across a patch of wild leeks that was easily 10 feet wide.

Looking down the hill, we saw another.

Then another.

And then many, many more.

We had hit the foraging jackpot.

And I immediately started planning some delicious menus.

Now, before I get ahead of myself and start offering recipes for these wild leeks, I should explain what they are and offer some important notes on harvesting them.

Wild leeks are an early spring vegetable in the same family (Allium) as cultivated leeks, onions, and garlic.  The have a huge range – growing throughout the eastern half of North America, from as far south as Georgia up to Northern Ontario and Quebec.

They are identifiable by their broad, smooth, light green leaves, often with deep purple markings on the lower stems, and a green onion-like stalk and bulb. Both the white lower leaf stalks and the broad green leaves are edible.  Ramps grow in groups strongly rooted just beneath the surface of the soil.

They are also, it should be noted, absolutely delicious.

Unfortunately, they are also becoming endangered.

The problem is that they have become quite popular.  And they take a long time to grow.

“They can take up to 5 years to reach maturity,” explains Adzich.  “Which means that even selective harvesting can take its toll.  In fact, there are bans on picking them in Quebec.  And major conservation issues here in Ontario.”

Much of the problem comes from professional pickers who pick indiscriminately and sell in bulk.  But even hobbyists are starting to have an impact.

Adzich understands that if she wants to continue to be able to both sell and enjoy foraged foods such as ramps and fiddleheads, it is important to both preach and practice sustainable harvesting.

“If you find a clump of ramps, take one or two,” she advises.  “Leave the rest.  And never, ever pick a patch bare.”

Similarly, when picking fiddleheads, it is important to pick sparingly.

“If you don’t leave at least 3 per plant, it will die.  Again, pick a few.  Use them as a treat.”

I’ll be touching base with Adzich throughout the spring and summer to find out what else is in season in the wild.

In the meantime, however, I should point out that she is currently selling selectively harvested ramps.  You can reach her at foxhollow.edible@gmail.com

Now, a true forager never shares picking locations.  I didn’t ask where her patches are, and I sure as heck am not going to tell you where I found mine.  Foragers do, on the other hand, share ideas on how to prepare foraged foods.  Adzich gave me a lovely recipe that I will share at the bottom of this post.

I have plenty of plans for my harvested ramps.  One menu that I came up with last night looks a little like this:

Arugula with a wild leek/goat cheese dressing
Spring lamb with a wild leek and morel gravy
Roasted winter heritage potatoes with new chives
Storage apple and new rhubarb crumble with Kawartha Dairy ice cream and this year’s new maple syrup.

Arugula is available from Tall Tree Farms at Market.
Lands End Farm should have some spring lamb.
Fox Hollow Edibles will have ramps and perhaps morels.
There are no shortage of sellers of apples and potatoes from last year.
And Staples Maple Syrup have begun selling this year’s batch.

We’ll also be doing a wild leek/potato soup, some pasta with wild leeks and goat cheese, and a frittata.

Plenty of ideas.

Top of the list, though, is this Quiche recipe from Fox Hollow.  I’ll be making it tonight.

 

Fiddlehead Quiche with Ramps

4 ramps, chopped ( bulbs and greens)
1 C fiddlehead ferns,well  rinsed and trimmed
1 C milk
2 egg whites plus 1 whole egg (or two eggs)
3/4 C goat cheese, crumbled
3 T Gruyere cheese, finely grated
2 tsp grated lemon zest, optional
1/2 tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper, sprinkle of thyme to taste

Preheat oven to 350F. Using a refrigerated pie crust or your favorite crust recipe, tuck a rolled-out round of crust into a 9″ tart pan with a removable bottom, pressing it back against the sides. Cover with foil and weight with pie chains or beans, and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the weights and foil, and use a pastry brush to brush with a bit of egg white; return to the oven for 5 minutes more, until just set. While hot, sprinkle the Gruyere evenly over the bottom of the crust and set aside.

While the crust bakes, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Clean and trim the fiddleheads if necessary, then boil them until just tender, about 8-10 minutes. Drain, shock in cold water, and set aside. Meanwhile, melt some bacon fat in a skillet; add the chopped ramps and saute, first the bulbs, then the greens, until tender and wilted, adding the blanched fiddleheads in the last minute.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the milk (I actually used part milk and part cream), eggs, goat cheese, lemon zest if using (I intended to, but forgot, and we didn’t miss it), salt and pepper. Stir in the sautéed vegetables. Pour the filling carefully into the prepared crust, and bake until golden brown, approx. 20 minutes. Let the quiche stand for 10 minutes before serving.