Eating Local – “Roadside” Squash, Sage and Pancetta Rissoto

September raced by in a blur of back to school, back to sports and dirty harvest hands!  September is by far our favourite month in Nova Scotia; the sun shines bright and warm during the day and the welcome cool evenings allow for comfortable sleeps and a break from the humidity of the summer.  It also brings an abundance of beautiful harvest – squash, pumpkin, herbs, potatoes and of course the best pile of fresh tomatoes! Roadside farmer’s stands wait with piles of fresh treasure and little jars to drop in coins.  The simple trust placed in the “would be” consumers is such a heart warming sight – in a world where it is often scary to turn on the evening news there is a peace to be found in an afternoon drive through the country side seeking out the perfect squash, the clink of a toonie in the bottom of a jar when the prize is scored and the satisfaction of knowing it can’t get much more local than the end of the farmer’s driveway! We picked our own squash from the garden but we couldn’t help ourselves when we found the motherload of Butternut squash on a back road in Sheffield Mills last weekend – I couldn’t let it pass by and of course my tummy growled for my favourite squash recipe – Sage, Pancetta and Squash risotto. It can easily be made with bacon or without any meat at all as a vegetarian option – my “Meat-a-tarian” husband wouldn’t hear of that option! So as a final recipe in our 50% September Local Eating challenge, here is our recipe-ish…

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Our roadside bounty! $2 each and a rogue melon for $1- best price in town!

Local Ingredients

2-3 cups Butternut squash, cut into small cubes

8-10 sage leaves

3 Tbsp olive oil – From Liquid Gold!

4 cups homemade chicken stock (I had some frozen)

4 tablespoons Tatamagouche butter

1 medium onion, cut fine

8-10 sage leaves, chopped

2 1/2 cups of white wine – I used Jost Kabinett because I like a lighter taste, but a dry wine would work very well too (I would use less wine and more stock though…)

From the Store

1/4 pound pancetta, in small pieces

2 1/2 cups of Arborio Rice

1/2 freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper

How we did it…

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In a skillet, we cooked the pancetta to almost crispy. Once cooked I drained it (leaving a few drippings in the pan) and set it aside.  To the skillet I added 1 tbsp of olive oil and the squash over medium high heat until almost soft.  The sage, salt and pepper were added for about 1 minute at the end. The smell is amazing!

In the meantime…

In a large pot, we melted 3 tbsps of butter with 2 tbsps of olive oil and sauteed the onion until clear over medium heat. Then we added the rice and stirred constantly for 2 minutes.  (My minions helped, this is key to multi-task recipes!)

To the rice we added the wine, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each addition was absorbed.  Then we added the hot stock 1/2 cup at a time (while I sipped a glass of wine of course) until it was all absorbed – roughly 25 minutes.

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Once the risotto was soft and oh-so-creamy, we added the last tbsp of butter, the squash, sage and the pancetta to the pot with most of the parmesan, gently folding it all together.

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Obviously, it was served with the matching wine and sprinkled with the parmesan cheese on top.

Who knew bargain roadside produce could be so rich?!

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Picked and Planted – June 9th -15th

This week we picked:

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This week the garden did not produce any new items from last week, but it was very productive!!  We had a lot of sun which led to some of the cool, early greens to start to bolt a bit.  We had planted slower veggies with the early greens (carrots and broccoli) so as we cleaned out some of the bolters, the other veggies will now have more space to grow.  The added bonus of planting quick greens with slower veggies is that it helps me space out the broccoli properly instead of planting way too many seeds at once and really boosts our “bang for our buck”!

This week’s list included:

Market Express Turnip and greens ( I could not find these at any local markets, the price per pound is compared to white turnip)

Radish (5.2 pounds!!) – We froze 1 litre of radish leaf pesto for the winter

Spinach, Arugula, Spicy Mesclun, Buttercrunch lettuce, Kale and Romaine lettuce (the money crop this week!!) Needless to say we have had to eat a lot of salad and smoothies!)

Chives, Green Onion, Cilantro

Bok Choy

Rhubarb

Approx savings compared to local market: $82.39!!

Total weight picked this week: 15.31 pounds

This week we planted :

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In the weird and wonderful row…

Tomatillos (you need two..), Asian eggplant, Berlotto Firetongue and Tanya’s Pink Pod beans

In the new raised beds along the back:

Medicinal bed: Comfrey, echinacea, Chamomile, Monarch Milkweed (for our butterfly friends)

In the Herb bed: Italian and Curly Parsley, Curry Plant, Fern and Bouquet Dill, Purple Sage, Summer Savoury, Russian Tarragon, Cilantro

Organic Sugar Small Pumpkin (and some seedlings that we picked up the market without a tag – they were calling to us!), Spaghetti squash, pole beans and Sunflowers

White onion sets, Luscious Bi-colour Corn

In the main beds:

Purple and Green Runner beans

EZ Gold, Burgundy and Labrador Bush beans

Repeat greens

Basil and cilantro underplanted around the tomatoes

Flowers:

Strawflowers, Calendulas, Zinnia, Marigolds, Nasturtiums (all started indoors from seed)

Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul.” ~Dorothy Day

Picked and Planted (and poking up!) -June 2nd to June 8th

This week we picked:

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Pak Choi and Market Express Turnips and greens -planted 26 April

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Easter Egg radish (aren’t they pretty?) The Cherry Belles are getting really big…

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Mesclun, Buttercrunch lettuce, Red Oak lettuce, Arugula and Spinach

Peppermint Swiss chard – We ate it before we took a picture…ooops…

Ragged Jack and Dinosaur Kale

Rhubarb, Rhubarb and more Rhubarb!

Cilantro, Chives, Green Onion and Sweet Basil

Approx savings compared to local market: $50.12

Total weight picked this week: 12.64 pounds

This week we planted :

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These are the “Salsa bed” and the “Italian bed” – I love the flowering Kale that overwintered under the tunnels.

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Big Beef, Lemon Boy, Black Plum, Menonnite and Sungold Indeterminant tomatoes

Alaska, Subarctic Plenty, Gold Dust and Scotia determinant tomatoes

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The tomatoes were getting “leggy” from the cold weather while they patiently waited on he deck to harden off – we plucked the lower leaves off and buried them deeply in the raised beds and sideways in the rows.  We are trying planters, black film, red film and straw mulch this year, it will be interesting to see which way works best…

Elsewhere in the raised beds and rows…

Jalapeno, King Arthur, Big Bell and a few mystery peppers (my wee one ate a pepper from the market, saved seeds, planted them and stuffed them in the garden!)

Sweet and Opal Basil

Cilantro

Utah celery

Packman and Munchkin broccoli seedlings

Flowers: Galdiolis, Nasturtuim, Calendulas and Sunflowers

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Boyne Raspberries and Galdiolis together in a newly redone bed

Poking up:

My wee girl’s garden is popping up all over the place! The squash have also poked out from the black plastic but no signs of the cucumbers yet….

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“If you are what you eat don’t be fast, cheap and easy” ~ No idea who said this, but it made me bust out laughing when I saw it on a mug! 

Nova Scotia Treasures

IMG_3107Buried treasure, shipwrecks, legends of smuggling and piracy fascinate my family, young and old. Growing up in Atlantic Canada provided so many opportunities to become engrossed in tales of lore.  On the South Shore is Oak Island, a small, mysterious isle where treasure hunters have been trying since 1795 to unearth what could be one of the biggest troves, ever!  6 people have died trying, millions have been supposedly spent on excavating and countless hours have been spent dreaming about what could be buried hundreds of feet underground in booby trapped vaults! My big girl’s voracious appetite for theories and speculations cannot get enough of Templar intrigue and Capt. Kidd rumblings.

Cape Breton’s natural beauty is booty enough for me, but for treasure hunters the call of hundreds of shipwrecks cannot be quelled.  In 1965, wreck hunter Alex Storm and his crew brought up gold and silver from the treasure ship, Le Chameau. It was rumoured to be worth almost a million dollars, but given a political scandal and settlement, no one knows for sure!  Another Cape Breton legend holds that the Louisbourg treasure, mysteriously missing following the siege of 1758, contained the annual gold and silver payroll of the French colonies, priceless relics and religious artifacts.  It has never been recovered, nor its resting site located…some think it is hidden on a small island in a lake off Mira Bay that was once an estuary, safe from the invading British forces and blockade.

As a kid, my Papa would take us on boat rides looking for the island and the booty. If the motor was out of commission, he would resort to rowing us, dory style, on our epic hunts. Now that my Dad is the Papa, the legend of the Louisbourg treasure and the traditional excursions to “Treasure Island” continues to have deep roots in our family. Annual trips still elicit squeals of delight from my little buccaneers, curious cousins and any little scallywags who visit!  Of course I can’t share the name of the lake, that would break the treasure hunter’s solemn code.

Maritimers are blessed with other treasures as well! Though my girls don’t find my adimageventures seeking out new garden markets to visit, farms to explore on Open Farm Day, or digging for buried treasure in our potato plot nearly as mystical, they indulge (read: put up with) me!  We hide our treasures throughout the house for the winter. In the garage we store root veggies, pumpkins, squash for a mid-winter homegrown pot of soup, rich as any king. In the windows, we hang herbs as decorations to dry and enjoy warm, aromatic teas all winter.  My little one loves delivering her prized mint next door on a regular basis!  The pantry is full of jars of pickles, beets and salsa. We freeze and puree and jelly. We even keep a few greens growing under the lights! There is no greater gold to me than that of sparkling crab apple jelly on a hot biscuit after a great day of skiing!

Lastimage fall, I tried to “overwinter” some cold hardy root veggies and kale in a secret spot in the garden.  Sadly, the strong North east winds and sly deer who share our inclination for treasure hunting had other plans.  They found them. My PVC hoop tunnels and frost blankets were no match for them; somewhere a very content deer is gloating over his victory in securing my garden’s plunders. Next year I will have to reinforce my tunnels with better support, stronger plastic, bigger rocks and more insulation. Lesson learned!  The only thing they left alone were my leeks and a few rogue kale, both of which are quite a treat to dig out from under the protection of the snow in the middle of January.

My big girl (staff photographer) thought it would be fun to share a bit of our winter treasures by taking pictures of a yummy winter soup we made on a blustery day and providing a “treasure map” of how we made it.  It is not exactly a recipe because I tend to measure by tasting! image First she roasted pie pumpkin, acorn squash and butternut squash with garlic hidden under the cored out centres. Next the last of our stash of potatoes were chopped and sautéed with fresh picked leeks, dried sage, thyme, chilis and chives. By accident I added nutmeg instead of pepper – I told you I was easily distracted!  I get that from my Grandma. image Chicken stock was added to the potatoes and leeks to simmer while the squash cooled and sweat under foil, making them easier to peel.  Once cooled and peeled, the were blendered with the roasted garlic and added to the soup. image We added some fresh cilantro, easily grown in windowsill pots, for a little something extra!image Though we may never actually uncover the Louisbourg treasure, I hope my girls will never lose their innocent sense of wonder and adventure. In time, they may even come to treasure all the spoils this beautiful province has to offer, especially those from our own back yard. Who knows, maybe one day they will take their own kids hunting for buried treasure, even if it is only potatoes.

When planning our garden for the year, we try to think about what we will grow to store for the winter, here are our thoughts..

Things we grow to store: Pie Pumpkin, Acorn squash, Butternut squash, Cheiftan and Norland potatoes, carrots, onions

To freeze: Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, Haskap berries, beans, shell peas, beets and greens, Swiss chard, basil, dill

To can: Salsa, berries for jam, jalapeños for pepper jellies, beets and pickling cucumbers

To dry: Mint, oregano, sage, thyme, chives, tarragon, savoury, rosemary, I would like to try chamomile this year!

To tunnel: Beets, carrots, leeks, kale, chard, spinach, bok choy, mustard, parsley, mizuna

Under the lights:  Mesclun, romaine, cilantro, basil, arugula

Riches do not consist in the possession of treasures, but in the use made of them.” – Napoleon Bonaparte