Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Last Dance

What a week-end! While I was contemplating cutting short my stay-cation and joining the throngs in besieged Toronto, I almost missed out on a beautiful opportunity. You see, while I had my eyes riveted onto the telly looking at the chaos that was Toronto, the raspberries in my yard were ripening, as were the blackberries in the woods. Luckily, I decided to stick to my short vacation, and joined the weekly crowd on Île Ste-Hélène, where there is a most beautiful stand of blackberry brambles. If you live in Montreal, run, don't walk to Parc Jean Drapeau for an all-out forage for blackberries.

Wild blackberries are nothing like the oversized fruits sold in plastic clamshells: they are tiny, somewhat seedy, but very sweet and juicy, much like wild raspberries. They are sometimes found at farmers' markets in Canada, and northern US states, since those big berries (also known as loganberries, which look more like mulberries) are not as hardy in our climes. In any case, it is definitely bramble berry season: raspberries and blackberries, and cloudberries if you are lucky.

July is coming up, and even though I've been taking some time off, the season marches on, and I'm having a hard time keeping up with what is in! I've had an eye on all manners of currants, and they are just about ready to be picked; you might be even lucky enough to get your hands on some unripe gooseberries (looks like a currant, but three times bigger): they are not for the faint of heart, and certainly not for eating fresh. The whole interest of unripe gooseberries (or currants) is in making jams or jellies. Beneath the mouth puckering tartness of these pale-green berries belies a wealth of pectin so important for a perfectly gelled jam. If you are lucky enough to get truly unripe berries, you will be rewarded with a gorgeous, golden chartreuse jam or jelly replete with elderflower aromas and a nice bite (slightly less unripe berries will turn the jam a nice burgundy hue: and will have a more fruity than flowery nose): perfect for morning toasts, or with a roast pork or grilled lamb.

California cherries have been tempting my lips, but I am holding out for Niagara bings. Sweet cherries from British Colombia rarely make it to Montreal because of silly trade laws in Canada, but they should be reaching market shelves very soon, much to the delight of Granville Island patrons. There are still some sour cherries to be had, though you probably have to go pick them yourself, as I have rarely seen them at the market (I only know of one farmer who sells them at Jean-Talon Market). I know that some Quebec orchards have healthy stands of Montmorrency cherries, and they make the best cherry jam. 

The Montmorrency cherry that I planted in my mum's garden appears to be on its last legs. It hardly gave any fruits last year, and this year, it seems to be having the hardest time putting on its usually lush foliage. I did manage to make a few jars of jam, though I am afraid they might be the last ones this tree will ever provide.

Keep your eyes open for other stone fruits: peaches, nectarines and apricots from either Niagara or the Okanagan will be making an appearance later in July, but local plums should reach market stalls by mid-month. 

On the vegetable side, all manner of greens are in abundance: lettuce; baby spinach; bok choi; mizuna, and other Asian greens; roquette; chicory... with such a cornucopia one no longer has an excuse for not eating five portions of vegetables a day. 

Baby roots are a multi-coloured bunch, and they are all on display at the market: beet; turnips; radishes; and miniature carrots. All will add refreshing crunch to a salad, but will also make a pretty platter of roast vegetables. If you are wary of turning your oven on in the summer heat, throw these baby roots on the grill: they will be divine!

In warmer climes, artichokes should be tumbling over shelves, although the local crop will be a while yet in Quebec. The first field tomatoes might show themselves by the end of July, however, coldhouse (unheated greenhouses) and covered crops are already reaching market stalls.

While southern states will have seen their peas come and go, Northerners will be just about ready for their local harvest of peas. I must confess that I broke down and bought a basket of peas from North Carolina. While they were a nice treat, they were nowhere near as delicious as they should have been had they not travelled so far... Anyhoo,  let that be a lesson for me! Peas, snow peas, sugar snaps and beans will be showing their pretty faces really soon. As will new garlic and garlic scapes (garlic flowers); new onions and baby leeks; new potatoes, and... so much more!

Bon app'!


Saturday, June 19, 2010

As if you needed any convincing...

Although I am still mourning the loss of Gourmet Magazine, I picked up the most recent issue of Saveur. For obvious reasons. It was practically shouting out at me.



So if my all my blather still has not steered you towards your local market, perhaps the June/July issue of Saveur will. And even if you are a regular at the farm stand, you will want to pick up this issue, just for the plethora of recipes and inspirations.

Bon app'!


Friday, June 18, 2010

I'm a little teapot...

Today's subject is a little off the beaten path to local produce, but it is all about seasonal foods. Summer is just within sight, but I have to write about a very important spring crop: Tea.

Camelia sinensis, as it is known botanically, is a very pretty, little evergreen shrub, hardy to temperate climes. Like most plants, it goes into active growth in the spring, which is when it gets harvested. Indeed, the best tea leaves are plucked from the bush just as the new, pale green buds open up to take in the sun's warmth. The absolute cream of the tea crop are the  four topmost leaves: just like any other foodstuff, these baby leaves have delicate aromas and subtle flavours not found in older leaves. 

These subtleties are not only present in new crops of green teas, but can also be found in vintaged black teas. By 'vintage' I do not mean old, but stamped with the year of harvest. Very few black teas are actually dated, unless they come from smaller estates, but when you get a taste of them, you know

Tea is gaining in popularity, and if you really want to see what all the hype is about, you have to step into a specialized tea shop. There, you will find a knowledgeable staff who will guide you through the world's tea estates, explain the teas' differences and show you how to brew the perfect cuppa'. Many tea shops import their own wares, most will have fairly traded and organic teas for sale, and any self-respecting tea merchant will be heavily promoting the new crop right about now.

I cannot even begin to describe the wonderful aromas unique to new crop, all I can say is that you have to sniff it for yourself to believe it. Also, some of the more prized tea estates have tiny productions, so the only way to ever taste them is to prowl the shops during the new crop season. Otherwise, you'll have to wait until the next harvest.

Happy sipping!


Last vestiges

I've long believed that I was not keen on rice, a fact that I have previously mentioned here, but I am reminded daily that many of my go-to comfort foods are rice-based: rice pudding; rice omelet (oh! I'll have to write about that one...); and risotto.

As I grow older, my cravings increasingly stem from childhood memories -my mother's cooking was either make-do Japanese food made with whatever was available in Montreal during the '80s or Japane-fied Western food, often served on a bed of Calrose rice. Risotto, however, was not a childhood fare. Not really.  Although risotto kind of resembles Chinese congee or Japanese okayu (basically, rice porridge), risotto was brought into the familial kitchen by myself. Somewhat by accident.

I was 14, I had recently given up meat from my diet, and I was trying to stick to strictly 'natural' foods. So I attempted to make brown rice, which neither of my parents wanted to touch. I followed the instructions in Molly Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook, and failed miserably. I'm not sure what I did wrong, but I figured the only way to save the grain would be to turn into something else. Jeff Smith had mentioned risotto in an episode of The Frugal Gourmet, so I tweaked the brown rice and made my first 'risotto'. I don't remember if the dish was a success with my family, but I was hooked: it was a long time before I ate brown rice the regular way.

(By the way, I only just found out that Jeff Smith also died in 2004. Whereas the death of Julia Child made the news the world over, Smith's passing was a quiet one. For those of you who knew the Frugal Gourmet, you also probably remember the scandalous rumours that caused Smith's fall from grace and subsequent disappearance from Public Television. I loved the Frugal Gourmet. 
Both Smith and Child were my heroes. They, for me, represent everything that food television should be. Although they still have a subtle influence on some of today's cooking shows, most have become circus acts where food no longer is at their core. Both Smith and Child put a great deal of importance on ingredients, but what they valued most was technique: they catered to the average home cook, not to the foodie, nor to the food pornographers. They made beautiful , delicious food with what was readily available. 
They are both sorely missed.)

I have since learned to make a proper risotto with proper Italian rice. I can tell you the merits of each of the Italian rices, explain why Vialone nano is the best type of rice for risotto, why Carnaroli is a close second, and why Arborio is not so great. But arborio is what is readily available, and it is also the type of rice that most restaurants use, because it is the least expensive. So despite my Italian friends' protests, the following recipe calls for arborio.

There are risotti for every season, but I must admit that my favourite ones are those with spring vegetables: asparagus, morels, peas, and baby roots. There are still some asparagus to be had, and I would  never have forgived myself, if I did not have asparagus risotto at least once before they disappeared for another ten months. So I bought a bunch of asparagus and emptied out the crisper drawer, and proceeded to have risotto primavera for three days (I even made it for staff meal at work...)


Risotto's appeal lies in its simplicity. Some rice, a bit of butter, a few choice ingredients, and you've got a whole meal. Yet like many simple dishes, a perfect risotto can be elusive at first. First things first: risotto is a Northern Italian dish. Rice in Italy is grown in the same regions that produce beautiful cheeses such as Parmigiano and Peccorino, the very same regions that use butter as the main fat in cooking. Not olive oil.

Secondly, I personally find that my risotto turns out best when I have the time to let the rice rest before it is served. This might be heresy to Italian nonni (grandmothers), but it is how I was taught to make risotto for the restaurant. It also allows one to serve risotto at a dinner party without having to miss all the fun. This rest is not an imperative, in fact, it is quite unnecessary if you are using vialone or carnaroli rice. However, I find that arborio can easily get stodgy really fast, and a resting period gives it time to recuperate and gather its wits(!)

Before I get to the recipe, I'd like to specify that I rarely bother making a stock for my risotto -sacrilege! I know. Despite having learned all the bases of classical French cooking, I have to admit that I do not see the point of stock (most of the time). Unless you are making a dish which depends entirely on a flavourful stock -like a Risotto ala Milanese, a beautiful saffron risotto usually served with osso buco- the ingredients you add to the rice should bring enough flavour to your dish. I only make a 'stock' for my mushroom risotto, if I am using dried mushroom, in which case I will throw in the fungi's soaking water. The following risotto gets all of its flavour from the delicate spring veg, so there is no need for a stock to overpower their subtle aromas.


Spring Vegetable Risotto
For 1, multiply to suit your party

½ cup Arborio rice
1 Tbsp butter + 1 teaspoon
a splash of olive oil, just enough to get the butter nice and hot without burning
½ a small onion, or a shallot, finely chopped, optional
wine, cider or whatever flavourful liquid you happen to have at hand (or none at all)
1 cup, more or less, vegetables of your choice, cut to half a bite-size
2 cups, at least,  room-temperature water
salt and pepper


In a pan - if you are making risotto for one, the pan/pot should be about the same size as the plate you will be serving the risotto in. If you are feeding more, it should be slightly bigger, and definitely taller- heat the olive oil and butter, over medium heat, until they start to bubble.
Throw in the onion or shallot, if using. If your vegetable mix contains green onions, the chopped onions are unnecessary, unless you love onions. 
 Add mushrooms at this point, if you are using.

When the onions begin to turn translucent, add the rice.
Stir the rice so that each grain gets coated in fat and does not adhere to the pot.
When the rice becomes clear and starts crackling, add a splash of wine or water, and stir vigorously with a spatula or a wooden spoon, until the liquid has evaporated. 
Try to avoid colouring the rice, or you will have toasted brown spots in the risotto.

Start adding water to the rice, about ½ a cup at a time, stirring the rice to extract the starch from each grain.
Add a generous pinch of salt to the pot (two three-fingered pinch per person is usually enough).
Add more water as the rice absorbs it. 

Add your vegetables at this point, except for anything green: the white part of spring onions, radishes and baby turnips can take a bit of cooking, but green vegetables will turn muddy if heated for too long.

As you stir the rice, the liquid should become opaque and thick (a little like oatmeal).
After about 10 minutes of stirring (it need not be constant -you can walk away and do other things, just make sure the rice does not stick),  taste a few grains of rice: if it cracks, continue adding water and stirring; if it is both starchy and crumbly (like pasta just before it reaches the al dente stage), remove the pot from the heat.
Adjust seasoning if necessary.
Add a spoonful of water or so, stir it into the rice, and let it rest, uncovered until you are ready to serve.

(Set the table, finish preparing the rest of your meal... Whether you are eating alone or in great company, it is important to set a nice table: you made risotto! It should be eaten at a table, not in front of the telly.)
You can refrigerate the rice at this point, if you intend to serve the risotto much later -it will keep in the fridge, covered, for about four days.
When you are ready to serve the risotto, add just enough water to the rice to loosen it up, add the rest of your vegetable (asparagus, peas, spring onion greens...) and heat over medium-high heat until the rice is bubbly and the vegetables are cooked through (you might have to add a bit more water).
The risotto should be creamy-looking, slightly runnier than oatmeal, and the grains of rice should be cooked  (not crunchy, nor crumbly), yet still firm.
Add a teaspoon of butter, stir in until melted. Grind in fresh pepper.
Serve with grated or shaved Parmesan, if you want.


I do apologize for the dark pictures. Although I made risotto several days in a row, I'd been getting home rather too late to take pictures in daylight. And since summer is just around the corner, I had to get this post written up before it was too late for me to refer to 'spring vegetables'...
If you haven't already attempted to make risotto at home, do try this recipe. Should you feel it is too daunting a task, try making it with short-grain brown rice: it takes a little more time, and quite a bit more water, but the process is the same, and it will build up your confidence to move on to real risotto.

Bon app'!



Monday, June 14, 2010

And now for dinner...


Look at those lettuces! Aren't they beautiful? They're the very same ones I planted a month ago, and they certainly have shot up! The pansies are still growing amongst the lettuces, though they are being a little crowded out...

Anyway, I just wanted you to see my window boxes, just so you can see how great it is to grow one's own food. For a mere twelve dollars, I got way more than a month's worth of salads. I've even been handing out bags of lettuce to friends and family.

So go get your hands dirty! It'll fill your belly.


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Looks Who's Coming to Dinner


Sorry for the blurry photo... I was rushing to get the shot before Miss Molly ran away.

I do believe she is much bigger than she was last year. Though I suppose it's hard to say from such a distance.

Monday, June 7, 2010

It's a wonderful day in the neighbourhood


Here's proof that I was not crazy when I suggested we throw strawberries onto the barbe... Granted, the recipe calls for an oven grill (also known as the broiler in North America), but if the thought of turning on the oven to its highest setting has you breaking out into a sweat and itchy rash all over, I say try tweaking it for the outdoor grill. The recipe is from Jamie Oliver, but Tara writes so eloquently about it that I really think it will be worth your while to take the detour through her post.


Anyway, I still haven't figured out how to fit a barbecue on my tiny balcony, so I will not be manufacturing a strawberry baking dish out of aluminum foil for the grill. Instead, I am tweaking the dish to accommodate an abundant harvest of rhubarb.

Rhubarb is one of those vegetables that likes to confuse its fans: what to do with this atrociously tart stem that loves being transformed into dessert, besides compote and crumble? One can only consume so much stewed rhubarb before one writes it off for the rest of the year.  Yet rhubarb season in most of North America is so incredibly long, that one feels compelled to work it into the menu every now and then. You can try Lara Ferroni's rhubarb bars (or Rhubars, as she likes to call them!); you can make a couple jars of strawberry-rhubarb jam to savour over the winter months, or you can roast a pan-full of rhubarb for tonight's dessert, and worry about the rest of the season later.

To peel or not to peel rhubarb, that is the question. (Although my boyfriend would frown upon me if he knew I recommend NOT peeling rhubarb). Admittedly, the peel can be extremely stringy, especially later in the season, but it is also where all of rhubarb's pretty pink pigments are found. So it's all up to you. The peel contributes very little to the flavour of rhubarb, so the appeel (sorry, couldn't help the pun!) is strictly aesthetic.

Roasted Rhubarb
Makes a full 9"(22cm)  square pan

1 bunch (about 10 stems) rhubarb
sugar to taste
1 pod vanilla
around 2-3 tablespoon butter

Trim leaves and ends from rhubarb, and wash well. Peel the stems, if you want.
Chop roughly into 2cm (1") chunks.
In a large mixing bowl, combine rhubarb and enough sugar to coat each chunk generously with sugar crystals.
Split vanilla pod lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds with the back of your knife.
Mix seeds and pods with rhubarb.
Pour into baking dish, scraping out every last bit of sugar and juice from mixing bowl.
Leave to rest for about 15 minutes, so that the rhubarb has time to render some juice and the sugar to dissolve.
Meanwhile, heat oven to 190'C/ 375'F.
Place baking dish in the oven, and leave to roast for 15 minutes.
Give rhubarb a stir, and roast for another 5 minutes.

Roasted rhubarb will be pretty much like stewed, the only notable difference being that roasted rhubarb will keep its shape. Serve as is, on top of half a shortcake biscuit, with a dollop of whipped cream. Or save for the recipe that follows.


Strawberries and rhubarb seem like a match made in heaven, and it cannot be a coincidence that their seasons begin more or less at the same time. It also happens to be the season for edible spring flowers that go beautifully with either in a dessert.


Unfortunately, most edible flowers are rather difficult to find, unless you grow them yourself or are a forager. You might have some luck at the farmers' market: lavender and thyme are currently flowering, and you can most likely get your hands on some if you visit a fresh herb stand.

Another flower currently in full season, and very much a symbol of spring in most temperate regions of the northern hemisphere is the elderflower. You may have noticed this shrub along naturalized highways, in woodlands and in urban greenbelts.

Dried elderflowers are available at some natural food stores, in the bulk tea section. However, dried elder loses much of its white blossom notes, concentrating mostly aromas of vanilla and straw.

Unless you are aware of a stand of elderflowers you can poach, your best bet to enjoy this flower will be in a cordial. Bottlegreen is probably the UK's biggest producer of elderflower cordial: they are available online and through some fine foods stores throughout North America. However, if you live close to an IKEA, you can also find a Swedish version of the floral drink base. It isn't as thick as a cordial, nor as sweet, but it is a good stand-in.

There are multiple uses for cordial, but I will broach them at another time... Back to our strawberries. What follows is my version of Jamie Oliver's recipe. It's not the most original tweak, but it shows how easy it can be to modify a recipe to suit what one happens to have at hand.

Warm Strawberries and Rhubarb
Makes a 9" square pan-full, enough to feed 6 or more

1 recipe roasted rhubarb
1 small basket (about 3 punnets) strawberries
elderflower cordial (optional) or sugar
elderflowers, optional
6 shortbread cookies

Turn oven grill on to high.
Wash and hull strawberries.
Line up strawberries atop the roasted rhubarb, making sure that the cut ends lie flat on the rhubarb.
Sprinkle the strawberries with a generous quantity of elderflower cordial, if using, or some sugar.
Place in the oven, and leave to broil for about 5 minutes, until some of the strawberries start to bubble or caramelize.
Crush the shortbread cookies into medium to small crumbs. Divide amongst 6 serving bowls.
Spoon out the warm strawberries and rhubarb.
Sprinkle with elderflowers, if you have.

Although vanilla ice cream would be the most obvious garnish for this delectable dessert, plain Mediterranean yoghurt (sweetened with more cordial or a floral honey) also makes for a decadent garnish.

 



Bon app'!



The urban chicken debate rages on

No visuals from youtube for this one, just a podcast. Calgary is the next Canadian city in line for a chicken debate: a candidate in the next mayoral election, Paul Hughes, is standing on the urban chicken issue for his electoral platform.

Calgarians unite! Urban chickens need your support!


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Buying fish, made a litle easier...?


Phil's Fish Market
Originally uploaded by dwinning
Last week, Greenpeace Canada released their report rating all the major Canadian grocery chains and their seafood sustainability. The results are not stellar, but they show that there is a burgeoning effort on the part of supermarkets to clean up their act. Indeed, most supermarket chains indicated the intent to remove more red-listed fish from their shelves by the end of the year. The only lemon in the bunch is Costco who seems to prefer inaction above all else.

Earlier in the year, the CBC and Radio-Canada investigated big chains and fish mongers on their fish labelling practices. It's rather disheartening to think that despite all our best efforts to buy sustainable fish, we will still get tripped up by mislabelled seafood. 

On the whole, the moral of the tale seems to be that one needs to get to know the fish monger better,  whether at the grocery store or in a local shop. And always keep a copy of the sustainable fish guide from SeaChoice (if you have an iPhone, you can even download an app for it) or from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Both these guides are regularly updated, so you should check their websites once or twice a year.

Good luck, and bon app'!



Benny loves Joon

What's not to love about the month of June? The warm weather is definitely here to stay, summer will officially begin with the solstice, and it's a veritable cornucopia for the seasonal food lover! Lobsters, crabs, shrimps and other lovely creatures from the sea are arriving at the market. Also, many of you will be setting up your barbecues -if it isn't done already- and everything thrown on the grill is absolutely delightful!

What to look for in June:

Asparagus
The heat wave has let up, and most regions across Canada have gotten a little rain, so asparagus season might just about stretch out to its usual mid- to late June.
I cannot go on enough about all the wonderful ways to enjoy asparagus! Steamed with a light dressing or a dollop of mayonnaise; in a creamy soup, hot or cold; with pasta, a small knob of butter and generous shavings of Parmesan... There is nothing like the delicate nuttiness of asparagus to make one go cuckoo!
For those of you who are beginning to tire of asparagus, or are seeking new ways to indulge in them, try them on the grill (straight, no oil, covered for about 5 minutes over high heat, or until slightly charred), then drizzled with olive oil and some lemon juice or balsamic vinegar. It will win over even the most hardened asparagus hater!
If you, like me, depend on the kindness of others for access to a barbecue, try roasting them in the oven: 180'C/ 425'F, drizzle with oil, 10 minutes. DIVINE! Leftovers (rather unlikely) can go in a salad, on a pizza, or on an open-faced sandwich with a creamy goat cheese and arugula.

Radishes
While the heat in May made for some piquant radishes, the cooler weather and occasional rain in June has produced plump, juicy and mild roots. If you are still not convinced you want to risk the peppery vapours up your nose, try cooking the little devils: I have previously enjoyed radishes sautéed in butter, greens and all, so I recently tried them on the barbecue along with some asparagus. The result was surprisingly tasty, though next time I will try grilling the greens separately, or cutting the roots in half. In any case, cooking radishes rids them of their fire, leaving them juicy with flavour. Just make sure you wash them in a generous amount of water (throw out the wash water in the garden!), because any trace of grit is a major turn off.

Baby turnips, and other baby roots
Baby root vegetables are a great way to hone your palate: if you were never a fan of turnips or beets, you should try them as baby veg. They are much milder than their full-sized counterparts, and being smaller, they are less of a challenge to eat.  They tend to be more watery then adult roots (read: very juicy), tender under the tooth (more give than crunch), and are the ideal size for children.
Thoroughly washed, they can be eaten greens and all either sautéed in a pan with butter or oil, roasted in the oven, or grilled. They don't even need to be peeled like the bigger roots! Throw a bunch of radishes, beets and turnips in the oven to roast or on the barbecue to grill, and you have a sublime warm salad for dinner. 

Spring onions (green onions)
Onion greens are available year-round for a relatively ridiculous price (they usually go for about 1$ a bunch, and often are on sale at 2-3 bunches for 99¢), so you might be wondering "why bother with spring onions from the market?" If you're only thinking of value for your money, then you might want to pass over the farmer's green onions as they are a little pricier than the supermarket's wares. However, if you think about all those bunches of scallions that have rotted in your fridge, then you might reconsider and buy a couple of bunches from the farmer's stall: his onions were picked, washed and sent to market in under 2 days, which adds greatly to the onions' shelf-life. Whereas you will be lucky if your grocery's green onions last you the week, the local scallions will easily tough out two weeks in your refrigerator. And they come in red too!
As you might have noticed, the spring onions from the market are not quite the same as the one from the supermarket: the farmer's onions are actually immature alliums that haven't started to bulb out. They are in fact the thinnings from field onions. There are few growers in Canada who actually produce real scallions (aka bunching or Welsh onions), since the crop is a little less interesting economically (a field of scallions gives only scallions, whereas a field of onions will give spring onions, new onions and keeper onions). 
You probably already have a plethora of uses for spring onions, but don't forget that onions are a great vegetable in their own right: grilled or roasted, they make a lovely side vegetable on their own, or they can add zing to a grilled root salad...

Strawberries
I've already mentioned Quebec, Ontario and British Colombia's productions, but I think it is fair to say that local productions of strawberries are now available across most of the country.
Though North American sporting events are rarely associated with a particular food -and even less with a berry- the Brits are rather fond of their berries, and enjoy celebrating their short season while watching sports. So if you are a sports' fan, you might want to keep in mind that both the Royal Ascots (June 15-19) and Wimbledon (June 21-July 4) are closely linked to strawberries and cream. The NHL playoffs are a bit of a bore now that there are no Canadian teams in contention, but the Canadian Grand Prix is coming up (June 11-13), as is the Soccer World Cup, so you might want to start a little tradition of your own, and feast on a bowlful of sun-ripe strawberries while enjoying your favourite sport. (Maybe you can try bbq'd strawberries?)

New Zealand kiwis
Before you start thinking I've lost my mind, I am aware that New Zealand is not a close neighbour to Canada or the US. However, New Zealand, the world's largest producer of kiwifruits, passed a law in the early 1990s making it compulsory to phase out all pesticides from their kiwi productions by the end of the century. So there you have it: New Zealand's kiwi, currently in season, are organic, even though they are not individually labelled with a certification badge, and they are making every effort to reduce their carbon footprint.
Currently, there is very little North American productions of kiwis, despite their being hardy even in Canada, so you can feel a little less guilty the next time you buy a pack of NZ kiwis knowing their production is not a bane on the pristine land of New Zealand. (And they are yummy grilled in thick slices!)

Garlic scapes (or flowers)
Garlic, close cousin to the onion,is a delightful aromatic. Though Europeans are currently enjoying new garlic -a mild garlic, with thick moist skin, hard to find in Canada, as we plant different varieties of garlic- North Americans will soon have garlic scapes. These are the flowering stalks of the garlic; though they can be left to flower, they greatly slow down the formation of bulbs, so are usually removed since our growing season is rather short.
Garlic flowers packs a lot of garlicky flavour, but it is somewhat milder, so it can be used a little more liberally than the bulb.

Peas
Although peas in the pod from the American West Coast have been available for quite some time, the pea plants in Ontario and Quebec are only just setting flowers and pods.
Peas are a definite harbinger of spring the world over, unfortunately for most of Canada, spring is too short and too cold for peas. So while British Colombians might already be feasting on their local peas, East Coasters will have to wait for mid-June to see their first local pods... Just in time to take over after asparagus!

I can't wait!

Bon app'!



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