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A September Harvest Cooking Class

The second cooking class of the Seasonal Series was aptly named “A September Harvest”. I was especially excited about this menu, as I am very fond of both squash and apples! Here’s what we enjoyed:

Menu:

  • Roasted corn chowder with cilantro and lime
  • Microgreens with fresh Gouda, candied almonds and blueberry vinaigrette
  • Marinated London broil accompanied by baked risotto and roasted fall squashes
  • Stuffed baked apples with maple creme

The squash was delivered by Shannon Vanlenthe, aka the Squash Queen, who I knew would come up with a huge variety of squash for me to roast and simmer. Since I wasn’t able to use up all the squash she brought over, the remainder make up my new fall centrepiece! The flank steaks came from Bruce and Valve Forrest Farms, and were huge! Each steak came to over 2.5 lbs, making it a very tender London Broil. Thunder Oaks supplied some fabulous cheese for the salad. I found some sweet peaches and cream corn from Belluz’s red barn, which were so fresh that they only needed a few minutes on the BBQ to get that roasted flavour and they were soup-ready! A lovely couple from the Market (I wish I remembered which ones!) supplied the most crisp, tart apples for the baked apple dessert. And Queen Street Market introduced me to their microgreens, which not only became the base of our salad, but made a beautiful garnish on the flank steak. Of course, my garden helped fill in the blanks with garlic, onions and herbs. In all, I was so pleased with the collection of fresh local ingredients I had to work with.

While all of the courses were delicious, I have to say I was happiest with the baked apples. Thanks to Food and Drink magazine for their fall inspiration and liquor infused recipes, I found a fantastic stuffed apple recipe with mascarpone cheese (worth the extra money!) and rum soaked raisins. Actually, the recipe called for Cointreau, a variety of the Triple Sec liqueur, but I had Rum on hand, and Rum and raisins form a pretty great combination. Of course, there are limits to the alcohol flexibility. Don’t use Kahlua or Irish Cream. That would be weird. As for apples, make sure you use a crisp and tart kind, no soft flesh allowed. And find the biggest ones possible. So, here’s a lovely use of your fall apples…

Stuffed baked apples

Makes 9

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups saltanas
  • 4 tbsp Rum or Cointreau
  • ¾ cup apple cider
  • ½ tsp cardamom
  • 1 or 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 9 large baking apples
  • ¾ cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup

Crumble topping:

  • ¾ cup large flake oats
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • ¼ cup roughly chopped pecans
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 3 tbsp butter, melted

Method:

To prepare earlier in the day: Combine raisins with rum, apple cider, cardamom and cinnamon stick. Cover and let stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours. Remove cinnamon stick.

Prepare apples by scooping out the insides from the top using a melon baller, leaving the bottoms intact. Peel in strips around the apple vertically. Arrange apples in a glass baking dish. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Strain raisins, reserving liquid and stir in mascarpone cheese and maple syrup. Divide among apples. Drizzle remaining liquid over apples and cover baking dish with buttered foil. Bake for 25 min, basting occasionally. Remove and uncover.

In a small bowl, use a fork to crumble oats, sugar, flour, pecans and cinnamon together. Drizzle with melted butter and toss to combine. Divide among the apples and bake 15 more minutes, until crisp and golden.

Serve with whipped cream or on its own.

 

Anywho, here are some finger licking pics of the last class, just to make you jealous!

dessert Cooking class Brent and Nadia Salad3 Soup2

Community Garden a Success!

I am pleased to announce that my first community gardening experience was a success!  Granted, some things we definitely over-planted (we cannot possibly use a 20 ft. row of collard greens, for example!)  And other veggies we could use more of next year, such as carrots and potatoes, with such a long shelf life compared to the others.  We were lucky to have picked our tomatoes just in time before those frosty evenings.  And I feel just a little more confident in my ability to keep a garden happy.

Here are some harvest pics:

CommunityGarden7 CommunityGarden6 CommunityGarden5 CommunityGarden4 CommunityGarden3 CommunityGarden2 CommunityGarden1

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.

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