Spring Asparagus & Mushroom Risotto

Spring is in the air… and on the shelves at the Calgary Farmers’ Market! May is the month for greens, fiddleheads, peppers, rhubarb, zucchini, greenhouse crops… and of course – asparagus!

We thought we would highlight this spring favourite in a simple risotto dish. You can always leave the mushrooms out if they’re not your favourite, or substitute another seasonal veggie in their place.

Risotto1Market Sourced Ingredients:

3 tbsp good olive oil from Soffritto

1 cup arborio rice from La Cucina

4 small shallots, diced from Cherry Pit

1 clove garlic, minced from Cherry Pit

10 oz mushrooms, sliced (whatever kind you like!) from Blush Lane

1/2 lb asparagus spears, cut into 2 inch pieces from Innisfail Growers

Freshly grated parmesan from Fresh DELIcious

1 tsp lemon zest from Blush Lane

Other Ingredients:

1 ½ tbsp butter

4 cups vegetable or chicken stock

½ cup white wine

handful chopped chives

Salt & pepper to taste

Method:

This recipe requires a little bit of separate prep for the main ingredients, but then it all comes together in one pot for the grand finale!

Risotto2First, you’ll need to heat the stock up in a small pot. Once hot, turn the heat off and set the stock aside until needed. I used a nice homemade chicken stock from my freezer, but you can always pick up delicious stock from the Stock and Sauce Co. at the market!

While the stock is warming, heat a pan with half the olive oil and sauté the mushrooms. Get the mushrooms nice and brown and delicious, and then remove from the heat and set aside.

Heat the remainder of the olive oil in a large pot, add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the rice and allow to toast slightly. Now you can add your minced garlic and cook for 1 minutes. At this point, add the wine and give everything a good stir until the liquid is almost entirely evaporated.

The key to a good risotto is to add liquid gradually, and keep cooking it down before you add more. So start with about 1 cup of hot stock, add it to the mixture, reduce the heat and stir. Continue to stir every couple of minutes while it reduces. Add more stock as needed, about a cup at a time. The rice will absorb all the delicious stock as you go and develop that signature creamy texture that risotto is known for.

While you’re waiting and stirring, chop the asparagus into bite sized pieces, grate the parmesan, and zest the lemon. Set everything aside until needed.

Risotto4When you’ve added all the stock, and there is still some liquid in the pot, add the asparagus pieces so they have time to cook. Once the asparagus and the rice are cooked to your liking (add a bit of water if you run out of stock), add the cooked mushrooms, chives, lemon zest, butter and parmesan and fold in to the mixture. All that’s left to do now is to season the risotto with salt and pepper as required.

This asparagus mushroom risotto could be served as a side dish, but it’s perfect on its own as well. The asparagus season is short, so get your fill while you still can at the Calgary Farmers’ Market!

Leftover Turkey Soup

Many of you are probably winding down from a nice Thanksgiving weekend. You may or may not have had turkey at the center of your table, but if you did, this recipe is for you. One of the most wonderful parts of big turkey dinners, is (in my opinion), getting to make soup from the leftover turkey bones. I am usually fortunate enough to be the recipient of said leftovers when attending family dinners. Sometimes I will pop the bones into the freezer and save them for when I have more time, but this week I got right to work and have been enjoying turkey soup all week long. With the holiday season still looming ahead of us, this recipe may come in handy before you know it!

I have to say, I was inspired by a recipe over on DOTE magazine’s website for a simple turkey and wild rice soup. I also have to say that I am terrible at following recipes, especially for soup. I’ll often find inspiration in a recipe, and then make substitutions and additions as I see fit based on what I’m feeling like, or what’s left in the fridge! In this particular case, I happened to have barley on hand, and not wild rice; I also had some kale still growing in my garden which got thrown into the mix. So feel free to mix up the veggies a bit, or swap out the grain for your favourite (or use pasta!). In my house, making soup is basically an opportunity to clean out the fridge, with delicious results.

turkey soup

Back to the start; if you happened to be the one hosting the dinner, you would have three options for obtaining a turkey at the market (good to know for upcoming holidays). Blush Lane Organic Market has, you guessed it, organic turkeys available. Blu Seafood brings in free-range birds from Winter’s Turkeys. Last but not least, you can also pick up a turkey at Spragg’s Meat Shop. Who knew there were so many options?

Once you have purchased your turkey, invited people over for dinner, and have turkey leftovers, you are now ready to make Leftover Turkey Soup.

Making the stock

Ingredients

  • Turkey bones, bits and pieces
  • A few celery stalks
  • A few carrots
  • One or two onions
  • A bay leaf
  • Peppercorns
  • Salt

I like to make my stock in my slow cooker, but this can also be done in a big stock pot on the stove. Place the bones, veggies, bay leaf, salt and pepper into the slow cooker, and cover everything with cold water. (You can also add more veggies or other herbs as you like for flavour). Depending on how soon you want stock, you can use the high or low setting on the slow cooker. I usually place it on high for 2 – 3 hours, and then switch it to low for the remainder of the time. Making stock can take as long as you want it to. As soon as it’s good and tasty, you can use it, but bone broth tends to get better the longer you can hold out. This is why I like using the slow cooker. Plan for at least 3 or 4 hours (on high heat), but I left this batch on for about 24 hours and by the time I was ready to make soup, it was rich, flavourful and so good!

turkey 6Turkeys have a little more fat than chickens do, so I let the finished stock hang out in the fridge for a while until the fat solidified at the top; making it a bit easier to scrape off the excess. I do like to leave a little bit of the fat in because it has so much flavour (don’t be scared of keeping a little in there!).

Making the soup

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp olive oil from Soffritto Oil and Vinegar
  • 1 large onion from Innisfail Growers
  • 2 cups celery from Innisfail Growers
  • 2 cups carrots from Lund’s Organics
  • 2 handfuls kale (or other leafy green)
  • 8 cups turkey stock (see above)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tsp dried herbs of your choice (I used thyme and lovage saved from my garden)
  • 3 cups shredded turkey (also leftover from turkey dinner)
  • 1 cup barley

First, chop all of your onion, celery and carrots. Saute the onion for a couple of minutes in the oil, and then add your carrots and celery and cook for another 5 or so minutes.

turkey ingredients

Add your herbs, turkey and turkey stock now, bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer for up to an hour. In the last 5 minutes of cooking, throw in a couple handfuls of torn up kale.

ingredients

While your soup is simmering, cook the barley in a separate pot. Set aside until the soup is ready to be served. (Because I find that barley tends to soak up so much of the stock once it’s in the soup, I actually store my barley in a separate container, adding a scoop to my bowl as I eat the soup over the next few days – because the broth is the best part!).

Put a scoop of barley in each bowl, add the hot soup, and enjoy!

No matter how you like to enjoy your leftover turkey, you can get the ingredients you need at the Calgary Farmers’ Market, Thursday – Sunday, 9:00am – 5:00pm, year round. We hope to see you soon!

Small Batch Sauerkraut

I love sauerkraut, but I was always intimidated of making my own because I was under the impression that some sort of giant, magical crock was required. Making small batches of sauerkraut never occurred to me until someone told me you could simply make it in a mason jar (which I have a ton of). Perfect! And it really is SO easy. It takes a little bit of time to slice the cabbage and get it into the jar, but the process is dead simple.

Sauerkraut is made through the process of fermentation*. Common sense is the most important ingredient when fermenting, but three basic rules to follow (from “The Pickled Pantry” by Andrea Chesman) are: be careful about cleanliness (be sure to start with clean utensils, jars and veggies!), keep veggies submerged in brine and taste frequently to decide when your ferment it done and ready for the fridge.

Because fermenting can sometimes go wrong, it is best to stick to small batches to start. This way you can gain experience, experiment and learn from your mistakes without a ton of waste.

Market Ingredients:

1 large cabbage, about 5 pounds (green or red – I used green) from Innisfail Growers

Other Ingredients:

3 Tbsp sea salt

1 to 3 Tbsp dill seeds
(or caraway seeds, or chopped garlic, or juniper berries – your preference!)

ingredient collage

First thing’s first – thinly slice the whole cabbage (minus the core) using a mandolin or sharp knife. Find your biggest bowl, and mix the cabbage with the salt. (If you don’t quite have 5 pounds of cabbage, just reduce the salt a bit to keep the same ratio).

Let the cabbage and salt sit for a while, 30 minutes to 2 hours. This will allow the cabbage to start getting soft and releasing liquid. Once you can’t wait any longer, get out your potato masher, or other pounding tool and start pounding the cabbage until it releases enough liquid to cover itself when pressed.

Now, put the cabbage into one 2L mason jar, or two 1L mason jars, squishing it down with a wooden spoon as you go. There should be enough liquid to submerge the cabbage in its own brine.

method collage

Put a lid or other covering on the jar and set aside. The jar will overflow once the fermenting magic starts, so be sure to set it on something, like a plate, to catch the liquid. Keep it at room temperature – I find that my kitchen counter is the ideal place, so that I don’t forget about it.

The sauerkraut should start bubbling in about 24 hours. Check on it every day or couple days and remove any scum that forms on the surface, pressing down any floating cabbage with a wooden spoon. It will take about 2 weeks to finish fermenting, though it could take longer depending on your conditions. When it takes delicious and pickled – it’s ready!

Keep the finished sauerkraut in the fridge for several months and enjoy with… well, anything!

finished collage
Sauerkraut ready to ferment (left), Sauerkraut bubbling – indicating fermentation is taking place (right)

Cabbage is in season right now, so stop by the Calgary Farmers’ Market and get yours today!

*If you’d like to read more about fermentation, and the health benefits that go along with eating fermented foods, check out this article.

Canned Tomatoes, Two Ways

‘Tis the season for preserving the harvest! Calgary has such a short growing season, with such an amazing bounty of local produce that we must do our best to make it last. One of my favourite ways to preserve the harvest is to can it!

If you haven’t canned before, it may seem like a daunting task to start. Don’t be scared, it can really be quite an enjoyable process. Newer canning books also focus on smaller batch, artisanal recipes that are definitely a manageable place to start.

When canning, it is important to follow a recipe specific for canning to ensure the safety of your final product. That’s why I went to the experts on these recipes, and used two of my favourite canning books: Canning for a New Generation by Liana Krissoff, and Food in Jars by Marisa McClellan.

All Purpose Tomato Sauce (makes about 4 pint jars)

From: Canning for a New Generation

Market Sourced Ingredientstomato blog 7

About 12 pounds of tomatoes (preferably Roma) – from Gull Valley Greenhouses

1 tbsp olive oil

12 ounces onion (about 2 small) – from Innisfail Growers

2 large cloves garlic

2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste

2 tsp citric acid*

First you need to peel your tomatoes. This isn’t as hard as it sounds, trust me! First, using a sharp knife, score a small ‘x’ on the bottom of each tomato. Now, simply bring a large pot of water to a boil and fill another large bowl with ice water. Drop a few tomatoes at a time into the boiling water for 30 seconds – 1 minute. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and transfer to the ice water. The skins will just slip off easily at this point.

tomatoes times 3

Now for the fun (and messy!) part; you’ll want two bowls on hand, one for the seeds, and one for the tomatoes. Break the tomatoes apart and scrape out the seeds and core with your fingers. In batches, put the tomato flesh in food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Keep going until you have 12 cups of puree – that is all you need!

tomato guts

In a wide preserving pan or stockpot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent – about 5 minutes. Add garlic, stirring constantly about 1 minute. Pour in all 12 cups of tomato puree and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the sauce darkens and is reduced by one third. I find it takes a bit longer that 45 minutes to get the consistency I like, but it will depend on your preference, and your pan! Season with salt to taste.

In the meantime you can prepare for water bath canning. For full details on the proper method for canning, you should use a canning book or check out a website like the National Centre for Home Food Preservation.

Put ½ tsp of citric acid in each jar. Fill jars with hot sauce with ½ inch headspace. Wipe the rims, put your lids on and place the jars in the canning pot full of water. Once the water has reached a rolling boil, start your timer for 35 minutes (plus adjustments for elevation*).

tomato blog 17

 

Remove the jars from the canner when complete and set aside for 12 hours. If you notice any that didn’t seal, put them in the fridge immediately. Label and store!

And now for the second recipe…

Whole Peeled Tomatoes (makes 4 quart jars)
From: Food in Jars

Market Sourced Ingredientstomato blog 18

10 pounds Roma tomatoes – from Gull Valley Greenhouses
(I used a few yellow and orange tomatoes as well, for variety!)

½ cup bottled lemon juice*

Prepare your boiling water bath and 4 quart jars according to the proper canning process.

Core your tomatoes using a sharp knife, and score the bottoms with a small ‘x’. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and fill another large bowl with ice water. Drop a few tomatoes at a time into the boiling water for 30 seconds – 1 minute. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and transfer to the ice water. The skins will just slip off easily at this point.

Bring a fresh full kettle or pot of water to a boil. This will be the liquid you add to your tomatoes to fill any voids.

Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to each prepared jar. Gently pack the peeled tomatoes into the jars. Squish them in as tightly as you can without mangling them too badley, and pour the boiling water over the tomatoes with ½ inch headspace. Use a wooden chopstick or similar utensil to remove any air bubbles.

I ended up cutting a few tomatoes in half to make them fit well into pint jars. In our household, we don’t often need a full quart of tomatoes at once, so smaller jars seemed like a better option. Of course, I adjusted the quantity of lemon juice to 1 tablespoon per jar.

Wipe the rims, put your lids on and place the jars in the canning pot full of water. Once the water has reached a rolling boil, start your timer for 45 minutes (plus adjustments for elevation*).

Remove the jars from the canner when complete and set aside for 12 hours. If you notice any that didn’t seal, put them in the fridge immediately. Label and store!tomato blog 21

*Because tomatoes are lower acid than some fruits, it is important to add an acid like citric acid or lemon juice to your jars, just follow the directions of whatever recipe you are using.

*Most canning books will recommend adding 10 minutes to the water bath canner time for Calgary’s elevation of about 3500 feet.

There you have it – two ways to can tomatoes. Hopefully these two all-purpose recipes will be welcome additions to your pantry come winter! This is my second season canning with tomatoes from Gull Valley Greenhouses, and I have to say – they are wonderful to work with and perfect for canning. Large, firm, uniform Roma tomatoes are a breeze to peel and taste delicious too!

Whole tomatoes can be used in any recipe that calls for them, like soups, stews or thicker sauces. Tomato sauce can be poured over pasta, used on pizza, as a base for more complex sauces – the possibilities are endless, really!

For example, I couldn’t resist using the leftover sauce that didn’t fit in my jars on some Veal Ravioli from Soffritto’s! Yum!

pasta collage

If you’re looking for more ways to preserve tomatoes, check out the Food in Jars blog – it comes chalk full of ideas! For even more canning recipes, check out our blog post from last year: Canning Extravaganza! If you’re anything like me, once you start canning – it can get a little addicting! It’s a good thing there are plenty of canning resources and books out there. I’ve shared two of my favourite books in this blog – which are your favourites? Leave them in the comments section below.

There’s no better place to start preserving the harvest than the Calgary Farmers’ Market!

Asparagus Goat Cheese Tart

It’s always an exciting day when the asparagus spears start gracing the shelves at the market. As if they come with fireworks and streamers, it’s an announcement of sorts that Spring is here and Summer is just around the corner. It’s the start of a beautiful, colorful, and delicious growing season and we are delighted to showcase the local asparagus from Innisfail Growers. It is our hope that when you read through our market blog, you find something that catches your eye and calls to your stomach. And it’s easy enough to whip together after a long day at work. This Asparagus Goat Cheese Tart, we are proud to say, is simple and sophisticated; your dinner guests will never expect you threw it together in a few simple steps.

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Market-Sourced Ingredients

Serves 6-8

1 bunch of beautiful Edgar Farms Asparagus from Innisfail Growers Co-Op

1 package of Puff Pastry and 1 200g tub of Chèvre Fresh Goat Cheese from Blush Lane Organics

100g Bison Bresaola from Olson’s High Country Bison

1 Lemon from Souto Farms

Fresh Herb selection from Terra Farms (we’re partial to parsley, basil, and chives but choose the herb you love)

Salt & Pepper

Olive Oil

Puff Pastry Collage

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Set out the puff pastry and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. We chose to sprinkle fresh herbs all over the pastry, fold it over, and roll it thin with a rolling pin. Prick it all over with a fork and bake it for 10 minutes (called ‘proofing’), or until lightly golden brown.

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While the puff pastry is proofing, mix in the fresh herbs and zest of one lemon into the goat cheese. Remove puff pastry from the oven after 10 minutes, place twoonie-sized chunks of herbed goat cheese on the puff pastry and place back in the oven for 20 minutes.

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Wrap one piece of bison bresaola around each asparagus spear. Drizzle a little olive oil over prepped asparagus and season with freshly ground pepper and sea salt. Grill asparagus for two minutes and then flip, continue grilling for two minutes on second side.

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Place bresaola-wrapped asparagus spears on top of the goat cheese puff pastry. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon on the top, and serve in strips. This is really quite perfect on its own but would pair nicely with a simple green salad or a selection of fresh tomatoes. And a glass of wine, of course.

Edgar Farms is only 5 minutes west of the QE2, so it’s not much more than a hop, skip, and a jump to pay them a visit for their Annual Asparagus Festival next weekend (June 1st and 2nd)!