Roasted Beet, Bacon and Apple Salad from the Evergreen Brick Works Market

brickworks-graffiti

I love spending a leisurely Saturday morning wandering around a local farmers’ market. Nothing tastes as wonderful as fresh fruit and vegetables from a local farm.

One of my favourite markets is the Farmer’s Market at Toronto’s Evergreen Brick Works. This wonderful project has turned an abandoned brick factory in the heart of the city into a green space filled with nature walks, ponds, cafes, craft stores and educational space.

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Some of the space has been dedicated to natural art installations that compliment the environment.

Brickworks-art

There are nature walks and protected areas that house the local wildlife. You can even rent bikes to explore the trails along the Don Valley for the day.

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It is a wonderful place to visit early in the morning if you are looking for a tranquil space filled with birds, turtles and nature. I like to grab a coffee and sit, quietly, in the midst of the natural surroundings and just listen.

brickworks-pond

Every weekend the Brick Works hosts a large famer’s market that houses dozens of growers selling organic produce, meat, flowers and preserves. The casual atmosphere creates a relaxed feeling for the visitors as they wander the rows of stalls listening to live music from a local artist, while sampling wonderful delicacies.

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brickworks-apples

brickwork-carrotsBeets-2014

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When I was there I picked up some lovely organic golden and red beets to create this salad.

This recipe has been cobbled together from a couple of recipes from Foodland Ontario and Fine Cooking Magazine. I love the combination of the roasted beets and bacon with goat cheese and apples. It is a great Autumn salad for a lunch of even as a side for a holiday meal.

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Roasted Beet, Bacon and Apple Salad

Ingredients

2 medium red beets, unpeeled and scrubbed
2 medium golden beets, unpeeled and scrubbed
2 slices of bacon
3 tbsp. (45 mL) olive oil
2 tbsp. (25 mL) red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. (15 mL) maple syrup
2 tsp. (10 mL) horseradish
1/4 tsp. (1 mL) each salt and pepper
4 cups (1 L) mixed greens
4 cups (1 L) arugula
1 medium unpeeled apple, cored and diced
1 pkg. (113 g) creamy goat cheese, crumbled
2 tbsp. toasted pumpkin seeds

Directions

Wrap beets in double layer of foil and sprinkle with a little olive oil. Roast on baking sheet in 425°F (220°C) oven until tender, about 1 hour. Let cool enough to handle; peel and cut into 1/2-inch (1 cm) thick wedges.

Meanwhile, cook bacon in skillet over medium heat until crisp. Let cool on paper towel; crumble. Toast the pumpkin seeds in the same skillet where you have cooked the bacon until they become golden brown.

Whisk together oil, vinegar, maple syrup, horseradish, salt and pepper.

Place mixed greens and arugula in large bowl; toss with bacon, beets and apple. Toss with dressing. Serve sprinkled with crumbled goat cheese and pumpkin seeds.

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Apple and Provolone Risotto Fresh From the Farm

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In support of eating locally, my daughters and I decided to go apple picking this fall. I consulted our local pick your own website and found dozens of farms offering apples. Since we also needed to buy some bake goods we decided to go to Chudleigh’s Apple Farm in Milton, Ontario. It is only an hour from downtown Toronto, where we live.

Chudleigh’s offers a number of activities for families including a petting zoo, hay stacks for climbing, and hay rides to the picking site. Most importantly, they offered a very large selection of apple varieties. We decided to pick Honey Crisps for eating, Galas for cooking as well as a bag of Northern Spy for baking pies.

When we arrived we were already hungry so we ordered an apple bumble and some coffee at the snack bar before heading out to the fields. Once we were ready we were driven out to the fields on a tractor pulled hay wagon. It was very well organized. Every section of the orchard was segmented for a specific apple variety. Depending on the time of year that the apples are ready for picking, you are able to pick the varieties offered during that week.

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We had so much fun riding around the orchard and seeing the families wander up and down the rows. Children were so excited to be able to pick an apple and taste it right away. We spent the day enjoying the crisp fall weather and the charming surroundings.

it had been years since the last time we went apple picking. I enjoyed the day so much I think I will make it an annual event. Next year I will try a different orchard.

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The thing I liked the best was bringing home 3 large bags of apples. First, I baked some apple pie for our Thanksgiving dinner. Then, I made some pork chops with grilled apples and finally, I made this delicious Apple and Provolone Risotto. I modified the recipe to use apple cider as part of the liquids which gave the risotto a sweet and salty taste with the cheese. I would serve it on its own or as a side dish with lamb or chicken.

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Apple and Provolone Risotto

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

1/3 cup finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Fine sea salt
2 firm, sweet apples (such as Gala or Braeburn), peeled, cored, cut into ¼-inch dice
1 3/4 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup apple cider or apple juice
1 cup aged provolone cheese, coarsely grated
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

In a large saucepan, combine onion, 1 tablespoon butter, oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 7 minutes.

Add apples; cook, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes more.

Add rice; cook, stirring frequently, until rice is translucent, about 4-6 minutes.

Add white wine, reduce heat to medium-low and cook until liquid is mostly evaporated, then add 1/2 cup apple cider. Cook, stirring constantly, until broth is mostly absorbed.

Continue adding the rest of the apple cider and then the broth in 1/2 cupfuls, stirring constantly, and allowing each addition to mostly absorb before adding the next, until rice is tender yet firm to the bite (you may have broth left over).

Remove pan from heat. Stir in remaining tablespoon butter, cheese, 1/4 teaspoon salt and generous pinch pepper, then cover and let stand 2 minutes. Adjust seasoning to taste. Serve immediately.

Recipe modified from La Cucina Italiana-November 2013

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A Little Taste of Paris and Warm Apple Quinoa Crepes

Elora Mill

Elora reflections

A few weeks ago we were in an area north of Toronto for a family wedding. On the way home that Sunday we decided that since we were already in the area, why not go exploring some of the places that we never get to see. One place that came to mind was Elora, Ontario.

Elora is a historic village  1 1/2 hours north-west of Toronto that is nestled along the Grand River. It is well-known for the Elora Gorge Park and Quarrie, The Elora Festival and The Elora Mill Country Inn and Restaurant.  The village has become home to numerous artisans and performers and is a favourite spot for a weekend getaway.

The Elora Mill, at the head of the Elora Gorge, was constructed in 1833. It is considered one of Ontario’s finest historic mills and was made famous in the 1930s by a painting by Canadian Group of Seven artist A.J. Casson. When the mill ceased operating in 1974 it was turned into a lovely country inn and fine dining establishment.

Our original intent was to have lunch at the Inn while looking out over the river, but unfortunately it was closed for renovations. Still hungry, we started to wander along the shops that back onto the Grand River on Mills St. and came upon a quaint little spot called Cafe Creperie.

After choosing a cozy window seat we were greeted by a charming French gentleman who inquired as to whether we had tried their crepes before. We said that we had not and he just smiled and told us we were in for treat. As we waited I glanced around the room at the warm, rustic decor and small intimate tables. There was a collection of photographic portraits on the walls that showcased Elora’s talented artistic community.

The menu offered a variety of sweet and savoury crepes with wonderful fillings like goat cheese, feta, sun-dried tomatoes, chicken, etc. I ended up choosing the Provencal and my friend ordered the Tuscan crepe. Minutes later we were served the most delightful lunch. Let me start by saying I am a crepe lover from way back and I have tasted crepes in Canada and France many times. The crepes that we had this day were the best I have ever had!

The batter was exactly the right consistency and each crepe was topped with a sprinkle of fleur de sel and freshly ground black pepper. It was light and flavourful and so very French. It was a little taste of Paris in Elora, Ontario.

As it turns out; our charming server was actually the chef, Jacques Dion. His warm demeanor, delightful smile and culinary prowess are a treasure to find in this little village. The restaurant often hosts artists works and musical events and contributes regularly to other village events. It is worth the drive next time you are in the area.

Crepe chef Elora

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Although I was not able to get the recipe from Jacques for his wonderful crepes, I was able to find this one from one of my favourite cookbooks. These Quinoa Crepes with Warm Apples are a healthy option served with a dollop of vanilla yogurt and are vegetarian and gluten-free.

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Warm Apple Quinoa Crepes

Apple Topping

Makes 6 crepes

Ingredients:

2 tbsp. (30 ml) non hydrogenated margarine

4 apples, peeled and thinly sliced

½ cup (125 ml) brown sugar, packed

½ tsp. (2 ml) ground cinnamon

¼ tsp. (1 ml) ground nutmeg

1 ½ cups (125 ml) low-fat vanilla yogurt

Fresh mint leaves for garnish

Directions:

Prepare Quinoa Crepes (see recipe below).

Add the margarine to a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the apples and sauté for 2-3 minutes until they are translucent.

Add the brown sugar, stirring to coat the fruit, and cook for 2 to 4 minutes, until the mixture starts to bubble.

Add the spices and continue to simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the apple slices are tender but not mushy. (Recipe can be made in advance to this point. Cool, refrigerate and then reheat before serving.)

To serve, fold the crepes in quarters and place on a plate. Add a few tablespoons of the apple mixture and a dollop of yogurt on each. Sprinkle with cinnamon and add a sprig of mint to each plate.

Serve.

Basic Quinoa Crepes

Makes 6 crepes

Ingredients:

¾ cup (185 ml) quinoa flour

3 large eggs

¼ cup (60 ml) canola oil

1 cup (250 ml) organic vanilla soy beverage

Directions:

In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, process the flour, eggs, oil and soy beverage for 10-15 seconds, until smooth and lump free. Refrigerate batter for at least 30 minutes before cooking.

Lightly grease a small 7-8 inch crepe pan with canola oil. Spoon 3 tbsp. of the batter into the pan and rotate the pan around so that there is an even coating on the bottom of the pan.

Turn the crepe after 30 seconds. Crepe will be lightly browned and will be flexible for folding.

Place cooled crepes on a plate lined with parchment pepper to cool. They can either be used in crepe recipes or frozen for later use. Freeze in small amounts, placing a small piece of parchment paper between the crepes and wrapping them in clear plastic wrap. Freeze for up to 1 month.

 

Recipe from The Vegetarian’s Complete Quinoa Cookbook edited by Marilyn Smith, PHEc from the Ontario Home Economics Association.

 

 

Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake

SUNDAY SWEETS

I am in love with Dorie Greenspan’s “Around My French Table”. Every time I open this cookbook I remember my trips to France and the wonderful food that can be found in that glorious country. From the patisseries in Paris, to the fields of Provence and the seaside villages of the southern coast; France is filled with culinary delights and extraordinary experiences. There is a reason that France has been a world leader in fine cuisine for centuries. The art of cooking and enjoying great food is in the hearts and souls of her people.

For my next baking adventure I really wanted to make Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake from Dorie’s book. This is a recipe that Dorie wrote after watching her friend bake this amazing cake without a recipe. I think it will soon be called Dorie’s Apple Cake since it has turned into a modern day classic.

This cake is so delicious and easy to bake. The abundance of apples and hint of rum add a burst of flavour to its coffee cake like texture. I did not have an 8 inch springform pan so I used my 9.5 inch springform pan. Mine turned out a little shorter and wider than Dorie’s but nonetheless, it was delicious.

I will definitely add this one to my favourite recipe collection and bake it often.

Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake

Ingredients

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
4 large apples (if you can, choose 4 different kinds)
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp. dark rum
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Directions
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter an 8-inch springform pan and put it on a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper and put the springform on it.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in small bowl.

Peel the apples, cut them in half and remove the cores. Cut the apples into 1 to 2 inch chunks.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk until they’re foamy. Pour in the sugar and whisk for a minute or so to blend. Whisk in the rum and vanilla. Whisk in half the flour and when it is incorporated, add half the melted butter, followed by the rest of the flour and the remaining butter, mixing gently after each addition so that you have a smooth, rather thick batter. Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in the apples, turning the fruit so that it’s coated with batter. Scrape the mix into the pan and spread evenly.

Slide the pan into the oven and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean; the cake may pull away from the sides of the pan. Transfer to a cooling rack and let rest for 5 minutes.

Carefully run a blunt knife around the edges of the cake and remove the sides of the springform pan. (Open the springform slowly, and before it’s fully opened, make sure there aren’t any apples stuck to it.) Allow the cake to cool until it is just slightly warm or at room temperature. If you want to remove the cake from the bottom of the springform pan, wait until the cake is almost cooled, then run a long spatula between the cake and the pan, cover the top of the cake with a piece of parchment or wax paper, and invert it onto a rack. Carefully remove the bottom of the pan and turn the cake over onto a serving dish.

The cake can be served warm or at room temperature, with or without a little softly whipped, barely sweetened heavy cream or a spoonful of ice cream. Marie-Hélène’s served her cake with cinnamon ice cream and it was a terrific combination.

Recipe from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan