Friday, August 3, 2012

celebrate local

It's a no brainer that Nova Scotia has abundant produce, especially at this time of year. Markets are alive with greens and tomatoes and berries and so much more. So what a better way to celebrate than Farmers Market Week! Starting tomorrow, Farmers Markets of NS begins a week long celebration in honor of our 40 or so markets around the province.  "Experience fresh, Celebrate local, Taste summer in NS". I guess you know what you're doing tomorrow.

Visiting the Halifax Seaport Market each Saturday has become one of our favorite weekly rituals. We not only stock up on local produce, meat, and eggs, but also visit with friends, some even vendors like the Made With Local ladies and the amazing artists Shelagh Duffet and Daina Scarola.Sometimes we'll even find our friends playing some good ol' country tunes. Of course, there's also the great coffee and all the amazing food.

So to get you excited about your local market, here's a wee recipe inspired by some market finds.

Basil, Sun dried tomato, Kale, and Smoked Chicken Pasta

But why don't we first explore our ingredients and meet our farmers.

First in the spotlight, local, organic basil. I wish I knew the name of the farm but I don't believe it's posted. It's a stall of bright green containers with gorgeous organic produce tended by a lovely women and her tiny baby. The bags of basil weren't perfect so were ideal for pesto.Well, it wasn't really a pesto, more a puree of basil, olive oil, garlic, and a touch of asiago. Pesto is something you can play with. Jam some basil in the food pro, add some garlic, salt and pepper, a hard cheese like asiago or parm, toasted pinenuts or other nuts if you got 'em, and puree away. Once you get the hang of it, you'll figure out the proportions that work for your tastes. And don't stop at traditional pesto. Go crazy and try using arugula, spinach, dill or sun dried tomatoes. The possibilities-and uses-are endless. If she has these bags of basil again this week, you bet I'll be grabbing another.

Next up, the chicken. I have had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with Jason Pelley of Fiddle Hop Farms. This guy is something else. I mean just take a look at his TED talk. Nuff said, right?! Well, he is also in the process of forming Pelley Foods, locally sourcing anything and everything local restos may need. I luckily enough got in on some local, free range chickens and no surprise we decided to smoke one. In the homemade smoker of course. (They"ll be a post on that sometime soon!) So delicious and more than enough for another meal. And what a better use of leftover chicken than pasta. In a time where we are well aware of the ethical and health implications of eating factory farmed meat, I'm all for free range. It's how our grandparents ate; it's how we were meant to eat. So big thank you for Jason for keeping me in the loop and we are so very excited to work with him as we source for The Record Shop.

Finally, kale. I see a lot of twitter chat about folks not knowing what to do with kale. At first bite, it's bitterness can easily put you off of kale for good but saute that til tender in some olive and a good helping of garlic and you'll be a lifer. Better yet, cut it into pieces, rub it with some oil and s&p, and bake til crispy. If there's one thing that'll turn you on to kale for good, it's kale chips. This beautiful kale was purchased from Elmridge Farm, a mainstay at the Halifax Seaport Market. Elmridge is always one of our Saturday morning stops and we regularly buy carrots, kale, onions, potatoes, beets, and loads more seasonal goodies. Located in Centreville in the gorgeous and fertile Annapolis Valley, Elmridge is a small family owned farm, and exactly what this celebration is all about.

Now for the recipe. Once again, this was something I whipped up last night without ever measuring a thing so bare with me. But if there's one thing I've learned in all my years of cooking, it's that recipes are mere guidelines. It's all about your own taste. So go ahead and change it. Spice it. Add different herbs. But most importantly, have fun. You are your own celebrity chef!

basil pesto (see notes above)
pasta, we use brown rice pasta
1 T. olive oil
1 lg shallot, diced
2 lg handfuls sun dried tomatoes, sliced
2-3 stalks kale, sliced, with the hard stem removed
2 cloves garlic
smoked chicken (as much as you want!)
asiago cheese, grated
Liquid Gold Milanese Gremolata olive oil
balsamic reduction

First, get that pasta cooking (in salted water of course). Saute the shallots til tender. Add garlic and kale. I like a lil crunch to my kale so I don't blanch it first like you'll see in other recipes. I'd say give it about 3-5 min. Add sun dried tomatoes and chicken and cook til heated through. Add pasta and pesto and toss til it's all coated in basily goodness. Season with salt and pepper. I added a little splash of Liquid Gold Milanese Gremolata olive oil because, frankly, the stuff is awesome. To finish, sprinkle with asiago or parm and some balsamic reduction. Et viola, dinner. Now doesn't the market taste great?

I also failed to mention that tomorrow is Food Day Canada. According to their website, "Food Day Canada, Saturday August 4th, is a chance for all Canadians to join hands in one massive celebration in praise of our farmers and fishers; our chefs and researchers…and, above all, our home cooks."  And what a more perfect way to honor the day than heading to your local farmer's market and preparing your own locally sourced meal. Hell, why not snap a pic or write a post or share a recipe and we'll put together one big Food Day Canada/Farmer's Market Week post. You in?