An August harvest and sunflower shoots

Part of the beauty of eating locally is getting to know the producers that put all the effort into growing our food.  In efforts to put together a class packed with harvest goodness, I had the pleasure of perusing the market and reconnecting with some farmers that I’ve gotten to know.  I learned that if I brought some mint from my garden, (which has gone ballistic and practically taken over) I can trade it in for other greens and herbs.  A week later, in order to have enough beef for a couple of back-to-back weddings, I paid a visit to my beef producer and had a cup of tea while we chatted about our respective labour stories (ah, labour stories.  Put moms together and it WILL eventually come up in conversation).  I walked away not only with my beef, but with some delicious frozen raspberries from her bumper crop.  Of course, my own community garden came into play for both the cooking class and the following events, with fresh cucumbers, beans, tomatoes, rhubarb, dill, rosemary and mint.  A friendly neighbour allowed me the apples for my chutney from a tree by the park my boys love.  And finally, I found myself foraging in the woods by my home for fresh wild raspberries, as they were required for the French raspberry tart and the season was sadly short this year.  This may sound very hippy, but connecting with the earth and with people to produce delicious food was unbelievably fulfilling!

The first of my series of harvest classes was really quite fun.   The guests were wonderful – especially our gracious token male, who was brave enough to show up anyway!  Here’s what was served, just in case you missed the post:

  • Cucumber gazpacho with fresh mint and melon
  • Fresh mixed greens with sunflower shoots and seeds, fresh dill vinaigrette
  • Maple glazed roast pork tenderloin with rhubarb apple chutney, roasted new potatoes and green and yellow bean sautée with toasted cashews
  • French raspberry tart with raspberry coulis

The cucumber gazpacho is really a play on the traditional Mexican cold tomato soup, blended with a bit of spices and herbs and olive oil.  The cucumber variation, with some unusual combinations such as mint, garlic, ginger and hot pepper sauce was surprisingly good.

My favourite surprise, however, was the salad – the sunflower shoots really made it sing.  From Queen Street market, who can be found at the farmers market every Saturday and Wednesday by the way, these little shoots have that familiar nutty taste.  By combining the shoots, seeds, some salty cheese and a light vinaigrette, the flavours are MMMmmm.  Queen Street threw in some fresh edible flowers in their mixed greens, so visually it was also quite beautiful.

My husband and I enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Bistro One for our anniversary a little while before the cooking class, and I ordered a salad that was the highlight of my meal.  I simply embellished that salad with some flowers and shoots.  So, in that fashion, you can recreate the recipe below with your own embellishments to create your own perfect salad!

Fresh mixed greens with raspberries and gouda curds

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • Mixed market greens- ½ lb
  • Fresh sunflower shoots – ¼ lb
  • Mild gouda curds or feta cheese
  • Sunflower or pumpkin seeds, toasted

Dressing:

  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup light oil such as grapeseed or canola
  • ¼ cup fresh dill, chopped
  • Pinch salt, coarsely ground pepper

Method:

  1. Arrange greens, gouda and sunflower seeds on individual plates.
  2. Whisk dressing ingredients together
  3. Drizzle dressing over salads and serve.

May you enjoy the coming fall season by enjoying all the wonderful edible things that fall has to offer.