Welcome to Da Local

4 kids. 3 dogs. 1 amazing wife. 1 great job. And a huge passion for food. Cooking it, tasting it, growing it. An abiding love and respect for the farmers, artisans and other individuals committed to bringing the best to your table and mine.

Come along for the ride. You can never be quite sure of where we're going, but it will almost always be delicious.

Friday, September 26, 2014

It's Almost Over!!!!!

I was given some sobering news yesterday at the East Gwillimbury Farmer's Market. There are only 2 market days left until it closes down for the winter!!!! So needless to say, we made the most of this week's trip.

If for no other reason, you have to go to this market to try the breads and pastries coming out of Marjo Niemi's rolling bakery. There are so many to choose from, and we have yet to be disappointed. (Our personal faves are the Coconut & Cardamom and the Finnish Rye.) This week we went with the Fennel Seed & Buttermilk and the Cheddar Bread. But the sweet smells caught us. We ended up getting cinnamon doughnuts, sticky buns and a truly spectacular blueberry cake square. Sitting down on the curb, we devoured every last bit. Wonderful!

I have come across markets in the past that seem like outdoor food courts; filled with snacks and treats, but lacking much in the way of...well...farmers. That's what I love so much about the East Gwillimbury market. Everywhere you turn, there are farmers, proudly presenting the "fruits" of their labours. Not only does the market help reinforce our connection to our food, but also to the men and women that work so hard to produce it. And produce they have! What a beautiful array of autumn fruits and vegetables. The market has never looked more beautiful. Every stand:
Willow Tree, Back To Basics , Forsythe Farms, Summerside and Cooper's CSA; each more inspiring than the next. By the time we had finished our shopping, I couldn't wait to get home and start cooking.

This week's haul was pretty spectacular. In addition to Marjo's wonderful breads, there were lovely purple beets complete with beautiful leafy tops, French icicle radishes, delicata squashes(also known as sweet potato squash), two-foot-long European leeks, some of my favourite meaty cremini mushrooms and a giant green zucchini. (Grabbed the zuc for just $1!!) Oh, and of course, the last few ears of the summer corn.

As soon as I got in the kitchen, I decided that I actually had a couple of different meals planned out. First I started on lunch for the next day. I put a small pot of rice on the stove and started sauteing chopped leeks, thyme and mushrooms, while the corn steamed. Once the vegetables were tender, I stirred in the corn and the rice. A few handfuls of grated cheese and a large egg finished my stuffing. I split the zucchini and scooped out the seeds. After seasoning it well, I packed both halves full of the stuffing and transferred it to the oven. An hour or so later and we had a beautiful vegetarian meal, ready for the next day, needing only a salad to finish it off.

Time to turn my attention to tonight's supper. I decided to focus on the beets as the centerpiece of the meal. It always seems like such a shame when I see people throw away the tops of beets. Those leafy greens are just as delicious as any kale or swiss chard you will find. And if you're buying beets, the greens are basically "free". So both the tops and bottoms were going to take center stage.

First a beet risotto. I pureed the peeled beetroots with some vegetable stock and strained them to remove any large pieces. The mixture had such an incredible colour.

Before I started to cook the rice, I sliced up the delicata squashes and scooped out the seeds. Seasoned with salt and freshly cracked pepper, they headed into the oven to roast. Now to begin the risotto. I sauteed off minced onion and garlic in butter, taking care to not let them brown.

 In went arborio rice, stirred quickly to ensure that every grain became coated with butter. I kept cooking the rice until I could smell the nutty, toasty aroma that lets you know it's ready.

Now, normally, you would add white wine to the rice. Instead, I added a cup of Niagara red wine. As soon as the wine evaporated, I stirred in the beet puree.

Stirring constantly, I continued to add more stock, until the rice was almost fully cooked. Meanwhile, I browned a few Italian sausages in an oven-proof pan, and then transferred the pan to the oven to finish cooking. Now the challenge became getting all the parts of the dish cooked, all at the same time. I took the sausages from the pan and covered them to keep them hot. I took the beet greens, which I had washed and chopped and threw them into the pan with the fat and crispy bits from the sausages. Before long, they were tender and delicious.

The squash rounds came out of the oven, caramelized and tender. I stirred a very generous portion of butter into the risotto and spooned it into the squash rounds. A bit of Woolwich goat cheese crumbled over top made for a great counter-point. The beet greens made a lovely bed on which I rested the sausages.

So many lovely flavours, and a fitting tribute to the farmers who inspired the meal.

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