FTW Kitchen: Creamy Clam Chowder

By Catherine Winter

Another in our Souper Sunday series, this clam chowder recipe has been in my family for years. I recently made a batch of this with potatoes, carrots, and a bit of parsley from the garden, and it’s just gorgeous for a chilly autumn or winter evening.

You can alter some of the ingredients to suit your particular culinary preferences/possible food allergies, and play with the recipe to make it your own! I’ve made this a full seafood chowder by tossing in chunks of whitefish, some crab or lobster, and a few handfuls of shrimp, for example. I’ll often make a batch of this a day in advance so all the flavours have had a chance to meld beautifully, but it’s difficult to refrain from having a small bowl (or three) as soon as it’s done.

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Ingredients:

Part 1: Broth
4 cups water
2 cups firm white potatoes, peeled and diced
3/4 cup white onion, diced (or 1/2 cup onion, 1/4 cup thinly sliced leek whites)
3/4 cup carrots, peeled and diced
Bring the water to a rolling boil in a large soup pot, then add the potatoes, onions, and carrots. Bring the heat down to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are tender (usually 8-12 minutes).

Part 2: Sauce
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour (standard or gluten-free, your call)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
2 cups milk (or 1 cup milk, 1 cup half-and-half cream if you’d like this soup to be really rich and creamy)
2 cups extra old cheddar cheese, grated

Begin part 2 once you’ve set the vegetables to simmer. Melt the butter in a saucepan on medium heat, then whisk the flour in bit by bit to make a good, thick roux.
Slowly add the milk, whisking quickly the entire time. Add pepper and mustard, then add the grated cheddar in small quantities, using a spoon to stir the mixture in order to blend it evenly.
Once it’s completely mixed, pour this mixture into the vegetable broth.

Part 3: Clams
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (gluten-free if required)
3 cans (10 oz ea.) baby clams, including the juice
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
Combine these three ingredients in a bowl, and then add to the soup pot. Use a large spoon to stir everything thoroughly, then allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes longer.

Serve accompanied by really good, crusty bread and a crisp white wine.

CupOChowdah

FTW Kitchen: Good for What Ails ‘ya Ugly Carrot Soup

Market season, for me, really begins in Autumn. Autumn has been a bit finicky, of late: not showing up at all two years ago, and quite delayed last year. But this year, frost has already come to Ontario and I immediately lined myself up at the market this weekend for bags of ‘unwanted’ carrots.

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My favorite stall is run by Fiddle Foot Farm, about twenty minutes from here. They plant heirloom varieties of all vegetables, and have the sweetest beets I’ve ever eaten. They also sell their ‘unwanted’ produce by the bags full for just five bucks.

When that happens, I make a big batch of ugly carrot soup. Made with a few peasant ingredients from all around, this soup is yummy, reduces inflammation, is soothing on the throat and pleasing to the eye. If you’re into balancing chakras, the yellows and oranges are vibrant and well suited to a balancing diet.

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Now, if you don’t have access to ugly, unwanted carrots, I am so sorry. Regular straight n’ narrows will work too, but they won’t make you laugh, or taste as sweet. You can also substitute Yukon Gold or another starchy tuber for the purple sweet potato, if you can’t find those. If using regular sweet potatoes, though, keep in mind the flavors will be different, and the texture a little runny.

Ingredients
About 1.5 lbs ‘ugly’ carrots. This was ten for me.
2 large cloves garlic, diced
1 large yellow onion diced
2 stalks celery, diced, plus leaves
1 large purple sweet potato, peeled and diced
2 TBSP grass fed, or best butter you can get
1 TBSP coconut oil
1 – 2 tsp ground turmeric (or more, if you are like me and staving off the sicks)
1 tsp grated ginger
1 can coconut milk (plus 2 cans water)
Himalayan salt, or sea salt
a few grinds of pepper, or 1 tsp
10 sage leaves, or other herb, roughly chopped
Splash of runny honey, or maple syrup

Method
Warm butter and oil on medium low heat, in a large stock pot.
Add turmeric, and cook with the butter for about a minute.
Add onion, garlic and celery, and cook another two minutes.
Add carrot, and potato, along with salt, pepper and ginger, stir thoroughly, allow all veg to saute 5 minutes on medium, stirring here and there.

Add sage leaves or herbs, splash of sweetness and stir.
Add coconut milk, and water.
Bring mixture to the boil, then cover, reduce heat to low and let simmer at least 30 mins, but preferably an hour.

Blend soup in a blender, or use hand blender. Season again to taste.
Serve with some roasted root vegetables, garlicky greens, and whatever else you like. Enjoy the beauty of Autumn, and the delicious flavor of being different.

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Exploring Montreal’s McGill Farmers’ Market

By Elizabeth Ann Keenan

Local farmers markets have been enjoying resurgence as of late as we become more conscious of environmental, sustainability, and health matters. Montrealers are no exception to that trend, and have been turning to local markets to answers those needs. These markets have been a long-standing tradition in Montreal, from the large-scale Jean Talon and Atwater markets, to the many smaller markets all over town, including the “Solidarity” markets that can be found at the entrances to many of our city’s metro stations; some of which are even open 24 hours for all your 3 a.m. produce needs!

McGill Farmers Market, farmers market, market stall, farmers market stall, McGill, McGill University

Joining Montréal’s vibrant local market scene is the weekly McGill Farmers’ Market, which can be found every Thursday, smack dab downtown on McTavish Street in the heart of McGill University campus. I had the good fortune to stumble across it one beautiful afternoon this summer for its inaugural summer season. The market team consists of only four individuals bringing all this local goodness together.

I had the pleasure of chatting with both Claire Kingston (finance coordinator) and Kelvin Mansaray (market co-coordinator) in person while visiting the market. Zoe Garyfalakis (market co-coordinator) and Monica Allaby (promotions and outreach coordinator) round out this years team who have made their mark through expanding McGill’s market season by launching their first summer season market.

McGill Farmers Market, farmers market, market stall, farmers market stall

Related post: Victory is Sustainable! Local, Seasonal Food is the Way to Grow

The market was first conceptualized in 2008 at McGill’s annual Rethink conference, which focuses on local and campus environmental and sustainability issues. It was very quickly brought into reality the following year with their inaugural fall season. More than simply a collection of stalls offering fresh local produce and products, the market is the distribution point for “field to table” style weekly produce boxes, as well a hub of other grassroots & food security projects and partnerships loosely coordinated through McGill’s sustainability office.

McGill Farmers Market, farmers market, market stall, farmers market stall

But the stalls! Those are what really bring us to the market! Local growers are nestled in side by side with local producers of jams, baked goods, beverages and even tasty ready-to-eat snacks and meals, all of whom are focused on keeping the environment and sustainability at the heart.

McGill Farmers Market, farmers market, market stall, farmers market stall

Looking for more information? Check out the following:
The official McGill farmers market website includes a listing of their vendors, information about their weekly produce boxes, and opportunities to get involved and volunteer.
The McGill Rethink Conference website, where the McGill farmers market was born.
And finally, the link to the official Montreal Markets website to help you expand your exploration of Montreal’s vibrant local market scene.

 

Lead photo © Jardins Carya. All other photos by the author.

Close Enough

My hope is green, eternally, like my tomatoes.

The first year I grew tomatoes, it was a year of perfect weather. The last of its kind. A unicorn summer of bursting, fleshy sweetness and easy breezes. For the seven years hence, it’s been one Farmer’s Worst Case Scenario after another. Aphids. Surprise frosts. Early blight, late blight, middle blight and Elevensies blight. Locusts. Okay, not that last one, but instead, we’re having a summer with no sun.

And yet, despite no sun, too much wind and barely 20 degree days, I have somehow grown tomatoes. They are glossy, and green, and they come in many different sizes, though their shape is mostly the same: roundish and mottled with water filled veins. They are affixed to their waning stems, who are giving up on summer, like me. They spend the remainder of their energy on the fruit hanging below, sending what energy they can glean from an eternally cloudy sky to their product.

Like the tomatoes I’ve grown in impossible conditions, in spite of all the things that are ‘wrong’ with their spot in the yard, the dirt where their roots spread out, or the timing of their growth, my hope has grown too. So today, I am bringing them inside to ripen in our sunniest windowsill.  To reach their full potential, they must be removed from their crumbling foundation and brought in, where it’s warm.

I am counting these as one of my successes.

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pickled vegetables, pickle brine, pickled eggs, pickled beets, pickle brine, pickling brine

Let No Pickle Brine Go to Waste

By Catherine Winter

During the Great Depression and WWII, people lived as frugally as possible and let very little go to waste. Everyone struggled with the lack of resources, and so conscious efforts were made to use all they had to its greatest potential:

Buy it with thought
Cook it with care
Serve just enough
Save what will keep
Eat what will spoil
Homegrown is best

pickles, homemade pickles, home-canned pickles, pickle brine, garlic pickles, dill pickles

People were encouraged to grow vegetables in their own gardens, and to preserve as much as they can. One of the best ways to preserve vegetables like cucumbers, beets, and carrots is to pickle them… and you know what’s awesome? Once you’ve eaten the vegetables from the jar, you can re-use the brine! Our society has become startlingly wasteful, but it’s time to get back to a mindset where every morsel of food is appreciated, treated with reverence, and used to its fullest potential.

Let’s say you’ve made dill pickles, and you have most of the brine left over in the jar. You can make a fresh batch of “fridge pickles” by slicing cucumbers into rounds or wedges, and packing them into the jar. If there isn’t enough brine left over to cover them, add a bit of vinegar to top it up. Let them marinate for at least 24 hours before devouring. You can keep these in the fridge for a couple of weeks, but chances are they won’t last that long. You can also pickle carrots, asparagus, green beans, cauliflower, or any other veggie of choice.

Once this second batch of pickles has been eaten, use the leftover brine in dressings for potato or pasta salad, or even for regular green salads.

pickled eggs, pickled beets, pickled beet brine, making pickled eggs, pink pickled eggs

If you’ve made pickled beets, you can use that glorious pink leftover brine to make pickled eggs or onions. For the former, hard-boil some eggs, let them cool completely, peel them, and immerse them in the brine. If there isn’t enough to cover them, mix some vinegar with a tiny bit of water, some sugar, garlic, and onion powder, and top up the liquid with that. Let the eggs marinate for 2–3 days to really flavour and colour them before serving them. Just note that if you’d like to preserve pickled eggs, you need to make a fresh batch of brine, and process the eggs with a proper boiling water bath.

Yet another way to reuse these brines is to add them to soup. Pickled beet brine is pretty much ideal for adding some beautiful acidity to borscht or cabbage soup, while dill pickle brine is wonderful in potato or vegetable soups. Be creative!

canning, home canning, home preserving, depression era canning, full pantry, frugality

carrots, root vegetables, roots, rehydrate, rehydrate roots, rehydrate root vegetables

Rehydrate Your Roots!

By Catherine Winter

If you’ve ever bought a large bunch of root vegetables like carrots or beets (or grown them yourself and kept them in the fridge), you’ve undoubtedly seen how they can shrivel up and shrink a bit over time. Most people toss them into the compost heap at that point, but you don’t have to! They’re not bad: they’re just dehydrated. You can revive them very easily by immersing them in water in the fridge for a few days.

root vegetables, carrots, parsnips, turnips, rutabagas, onions, potatoes, lemons

Look for signs of rot or discolouration, and toss any that have black or moldy spots on them. Place the roots in a container and cover completely with water. Keep that in the fridge for 3-5 days, checking on the vegetable’s texture and density daily. Their skins are very porous, and by soaking them like this, you give them the opportunity to plump back up again. Remember that fruits and veggies are really just water and fibre, so if they dry out while in storage, they just need a good, long drink and they’ll be just fine.

Related post: Rainbow Carrot Salad Recipe from the Farm the World Kitchen

Once they’ve rehydrated, you can cook with them or eat them raw, as per your usual preparation. You can also use this technique for citrus fruits, celery, green beans, onions, and potatoes, though you have to peel your potatoes before placing them in water.

seeds, light-dependent seeds, poppy seeds, papaver somniferum, papaver somniferum seeds

Light-Dependent Germination

By Catherine Winter

Have you ever struggled with starting plants from seeds? Almost all of us have, and it’s absolutely normal. Some seeds fail because they’ve been rendered infertile through improper storage, others fail because they’re grown in the wrong type of soil… and still others fail because they just haven’t gotten enough light to trigger germination.

That might sound weird to those of us who were taught to plant seeds based on the 3x rule: that the seed should be planted at a depth 3 times its own size, and covered lightly with soil. The truth is that there is no true rule of thumb in that regard, and there are many seeds that require direct sunlight to shake them awake and tell them to get growing already. This is especially common for very fine seeds, like certain flowers and herbs, whether culinary or medicinal.

lovage, perennial vegetable, lovage perennial

Seeds that Love Light

The following are just a few plant species that require direct sunlight to germinate:

  • St. John’s Wort
  • Lettuce
  • Poppies
  • Columbine
  • Angelica
  • Geranium
  • Catnip
  • Mullein
  • Nicotiana
  • Lovage
  • Violets
  • Bee Balm
  • Savory (winter and summer)
  • Lobelia

Related Post: There’s No Such Thing as a “Black Thumb”

sowing seeds, how to sow seeds, light-dependent seeds, light-dependent germination, germinating small seeds

How to Cultivate These Plants

When it comes to sowing seeds for any of these, pre-water the soil in your growing bed, then scatter the seeds loosely overtop it. Then, using the palms of your hands, press those seeds lightly into the surrounding soil so they’re “hugged”, but not buried. If you live in a cooler climate, wait until the hottest, sunniest days of your growing season to plant these, or you may risk losing the majority of them to rot.

Water these regularly, but lightly, making sure you don’t drown them with overzealous flooding. If you’re growing these plants indoors, be sure to keep them in a very sunny spot, and try to keep pets away from your pots so they don’t disrupt the seeds while they establish their rather delicate root systems.

deer, garden deer, deer in the garden, forest deer, white-tailed deer, deer garden, Quebec deer

Snow White is Vexed

By Catherine Winter

I love nature. I do. I wouldn’t live in the forest if I didn’t, and I am immensely grateful for the rapport I have developed with various animal friends over the years. All I need to do is step out onto my porch and call out “babies!!” and chickadees will swoop down from the aspens to eat from my hands, and both squirrels and chipmunks will pop out of nowhere to twine around my ankles for seeds and cuddles. They know that my home is a place of safety: they find food here, and are protected from predators, as has been demonstrated when I’ve chased off feral cats and shrieked at kestrels to get away from my bird friends.

red squirrel, squirrel, Quebec squirrel, squirrel in the garden, squirrels
“Oh hai! Thanks for growing all that salad for me!”

The downside to having one’s home known as an Inn of Solace is that the little buggers also feel that my garden is their personal buffet. They devour my plants with impunity, secure in the knowledge that although I might yell a bit and chase them off, they’re not in any real danger. I mentioned the marmot that I found in my potager garden, stuffing sorrel into her face… well, little red squirrels have eaten almost all of my squash plants, deer have mowed my lettuces to the quick, and slugs have had a field day on my beans.

Related Post: When Goals Meet Opposition 

rabbit, wild rabbit, rabbit in the garden, rabbits, bunny, bunnies

An Ounce of Prevention

Since I have neither the space, nor the bank account, to cover my land in greenhouses, the best I can do is take some preventative measures to keep my plants from being totally obliterated:

  • To keep squirrels and other rodents out of my medicinal herb bed, I’ve constructed a mesh mini-fence around its perimeter. It’s only 2 feet high, but it has bird-proof mesh draped over it as well, so I’m hoping that helps to keep critters out.
  • The slugs are being battled with a 50/50 mixture of cayenne pepper and sea salt, which I have sprinkled in liberal lines around my bean bed.
  • I’ve sprayed several leafy greens with a diluted castile soap solution, which may render them less palatable to my hooved friends. We shall see.

garden fence, chicken wire, chicken wire fence, chicken wire garden fence, garden fencing

Creating a chicken wire fence or cover is often enough to keep most critters out of your garden beds, and a perimeter of cayenne pepper or chili powder can help as well. Planting calendula or alliums (like onions, leeks, garlic, or chives) around your garden will repel deer and rabbits, and if you’re feeling really innovative, you can go to your local wildlife centre and ask them for some wolf or coyote poop: scattering some of that around will make herbivores think that there are large predators around, and they’ll keep their distance.

…that last one is hypothetical. There are plenty of coyotes and foxes around here, and I still find marmots eating my lettuce. If you go this route, do let us know whether you’ve had any success.

What are your tried-and-true methods for natural animal control?

Mindfulness: “When You’re Eating, Eat”

By Catherine Winter

You know someone is worth keeping in your life when they hold a mirror up to your hypocrisy so you can learn from it. Recently, a friend (whom I shall refer to as “Sensei” henceforth) said to me: “If you want to encourage others to consider food as sacred and be mindful of what they’re eating, you should probably start by doing so yourself.” This was in reference to me cramming a sandwich into my mouth one-handed while typing feverishly on my laptop, paying absolutely no attention to what I was eating because, well, I was working. I had more important things to do, right?

As long as I didn’t get mustard onto my keys, I really didn’t care what lunch consisted of. In that moment, I could have been eating rat sphincters doused in Tabasco sauce and it wouldn’t have registered as weird: I was eating to end hunger, not to nourish myself. How many of us do this on a regular basis? Staring at our phones while shovelling some type of food product in our faces, or mindlessly moving hand to mouth as we gawp at the latest Netflix release?

eating while on the phone, smartphone, smartphone and food, phone and eating

Mindful, not Mind-Full

I asked Sensei what it is I should be doing to be more mindful while dining, and he just shook his head. “When you’re eating, eat.” That’s it. That when food is being eaten, that is literally the only thing that’s happening in my world; the only thing I’m honouring with my attention. No phone or iPad within reach, no TV or radio on in the background. Preferably not even speaking to others for a few minutes: just. eating.

He suggested that each bite be approached with reverence, with full appreciation of where the food came from, and the effort that went into preparing it. As I eat, attention should be paid to subtle flavours, textures, how each bite makes me feel, what subtle differences exist depending on which morsels came together in that particular forkful. Make each dish as appetizing for all the senses as possible, and then honour it by giving it my full, undivided attention. Chew thoroughly instead of gulping, and imagine the nutrients then flowing through my body, nourishing every cell.

That’s a beautiful way to approach nourishment, isn’t it?

chopping onion, food preparation, onion, chopping onions

Mindfulness Begins During Preparation

I’m taking steps to ensure that mindfulness doesn’t just begin when I sit down to eat a meal, but when I begin to prepare it. Since I often gather bits from my garden to incorporate into dishes, I try to step barefoot out into the yard so I can connect properly with the earth beneath my feet.
When I harvest vegetables or snip herbs for seasoning, I take a moment to give thanks to the plant: I attune myself to its energy, and appreciate its growth, and how its form will help to nourish my own body.

As I prepare the ingredients—chopping, grating, slicing, sautéeing—I don’t have music on, nor any shows blaring in the background. I feel the vibration in my knife as it thunks through a carrot or onion, or the “shusshhh” sound that happens when I slice through a head of lettuce. I can tell that my onions are caramelising properly based on the deep, gold-brown scent they release, and I know when to turn the heat down beneath my soup pot when I hear the liquid dance into a rolling boil.

I wipe down the table, set it with beautiful dish ware, maybe some flowers or herbs in a vase. Whether I’m eating alone or with others, I try to set the stage as for a special event, albeit a small, gentle one. The food is plated or ladled with care, and garnished in appreciation. After all, these beautiful ingredients deserve to be showcased.

goddess bowl, green goddess, hummus, vegetable bowl

Some people have a “no phones at the table” rule, others discuss the food with other diners so everyone has a chance to express what they’re tasting, what they appreciate about the meal, etc. Do you try to cultivate mindfulness with regard to the food you eat? What techniques do you use?

Let us know!

 

 

When Goals Meet Opposition…

By Catherine Winter

Friends and family members from the previous generation (or two) tend to be very attached to their idea of a pristine green lawn. That’s what’s considered “nice” and aesthetically pleasing: a patch of dandelion-free, lush greenery that would fit in perfectly in Stepford.

Anyone who’s read Food Not Lawns, or delved into the history of agriculture in North America and Europe, is aware that lawns have been cultivated for the sake of vanity. People cultivated swathes of empty property to prove their affluence: they had enough money that they didn’t need to lower themselves by growing their own food. They could pay other people to toil for them, and buy their food from them.

This is a very difficult mindset to shake.

Holding-herbs

“Weeds”

One of my family members is a rather wonderful person who is very, very fond of the aforementioned pristine lawns. When I decided to let my land go wild one year instead of diligently hacking the lawns and side areas down with a mower and weed whacker, I was reprimanded quite firmly for letting all those “weeds” grow. I picked five examples of what they were gazing upon with disdain, and asked them to identify said plants.

“They’re weeds”.

Okay, that’s how you’ve been taught to view them, but what species are they? Tell me their names.

“Weeds”.

…okay then.
Those “weeds” were lamb’s quarters, shepherd’s purse, yarrow, St. John’s wort, and evening primrose: five wonderful edible and medicinal plants that are valued the world over. In addition to those were many species of indigenous flowers all around the periphery, from asters and violets to red clover, which is invaluable for replenishing depleted soil with much-needed nitrogen.

Related post: 7 Healing Herbs for Your Garden

I burbled about all of these and talked about how beneficial they all were, but my enthusiasm was merely met with a blank stare, so I brought the cuttings indoors and hung them to dry for later. We just had to agree to disagree on the value of these plants, and cultivate our respective lawns in the ways that we felt were best for us as individuals. Even if we did have contempt for each other’s leanings, we kept that to ourselves, ye know?

This gets a bit tricker when the person who has contempt for your wish to transform your lawn into a lush food garden has equal say in its cultivation, or lack thereof. What happens if you’re living with aging parents who refuse to even consider it? Or if your partner is terrified of what the neighbours will think when yours is the only lawn covered in kale and zucchini instead of grass like everyone else’s? (Or even if your neighbours themselves want to put the kibosh on your gardening dreams?)

Books

Resources to Support Your Stance

A lot of people have difficulty accepting family members’ arguments as being valid, especially if there’s a parent/child dynamic going on. Many parents of adult children still view their offspring as “kids”, and as such don’t take them seriously. Honestly, I know some people with PhDs whose parents insist upon fact-checking whatever they say because well, they’re their kids, right? What do they know?

A similar dynamic can occur if you’re renting a home from someone of the previous generation: they might also see you in a similar light, and you’ll be hard-pressed to convince them of your reasoning to transform what they currently value as a pristine lawn space to a “messy” garden.

You can often encourage more openminded thinking on their part by presenting them with materials that support your goals, especially if they’ve been written or supported by people whom your parent/spouse/landlord respects. Citing examples by scientists like David Suzuki in support of converting lawns into gardens may help to open their minds a little, and if they’re open to reading about the subject, books like Gaia’s Garden and Food Not Lawns may also do a world of good.

Tomato-seedling

Compromise

If they still flat-out refuse to allow the lawn to be transformed, it might help to create a compromise of some sort. Find out what their reasons are for refusing, and then work together to find a solution that can bridge the gap.

For example, they’re afraid things will look unkempt if the lawn is ripped out in favour of edibles, ask if growing a few vegetables and herbs in pretty planters and hanging baskets would be an acceptable option. Do they find the idea of growing food at home to be “demeaning”? Call up statistics on the nutrient density of organic, homegrown food, and the many science-proven health benefits to growing your own. You can even sweeten the pot by showing them how much money they can save by growing even a few simple vegetables: just about everyone appreciates that aspect of homegrown food. If any of your neighbours already use their lawns for food gardens, chat with them, see how they overcame their own obstacles, and use them as examples of what’s possible. (Note: this is also a great opportunity to start a community seed-sharing network.)

Related post: Start a Community Seed Bank

Just about any situation can be negotiated in a way that can make all parties feel heard, respected, and empowered… and even if you just end up able to grow a single tomato plant in a container, it’s a small victory, and sets a precedent: you’ll be able to grow more next season.

Have you faced difficulty in establishing your own garden? How did you solve the issue? Please let us know!