Earlier this week Jo-Ann and I went foraging for ramps in the forest belonging to my mother, just outside of the town of Osgoode. The property has been in my family for over 40 years and the 60 acres of mixed hardwood forest was lovingly cared for by my father up until he passed away 4 years ago.
Ramps are a bulb-forming perennial with light green leaves. Ramps (also known as wild garlic, or wild leeks) grow the forest in strongly rooted groups, just beneath the surface of the soil. They are a rare seasonal delicacy and are a protected species in many places, including Quebec. I am fortunate in that our ramps grow in abundance on private property where we are able to strictly manage the amount and frequency of harvesting.
Throughout Ontario, Quebec and the Eastern United States, ramps are celebrated with festivals.
We returned to the shop at the end of a muddy, wet day, and proceeded to prepare the ramps to be pickled for for sale in our retail store. We will use the bulb and stem in the pickles, and we will sauté the greens for inclusion in our Thursday fresh meal.
Sautéed in butter, ramps are sweet, mild and extremely delicious. If you are lucky, you may be able to get fresh ramps at the local Farmer’s Markets for the next 3 or 4 weeks.
I brought home a handful to enjoy for dinner in a twist on:
Spaghetti alla Carbonara with Wild Ramps
Serves 4 to 6, unless you have a 16 year old boy in which case it serves 2 – 3.
1 package dry spaghetti
(I used gluten free pasta)
4 large eggs,
1 large bunch of ramps
250 grams bacon (I used Seed to Sausage’s garlic & Juniper) sliced thinly
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino (Canreg Station makes a nice one)
Freshly cracked black pepper, sea salt
Clean and trim the ramps. Separate the white bulbs from the green leaves. Slice the bulbs thinly and slice the greens into 1 inch pieces.
Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook per instructions on the box, or until al dente.
Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and sauté for about 3 minutes, or until the meat is crispy and golden and has rendered its fat. Remove the bacon and add the white parts of the ramps and some butter or olive oil if necessary. When softened and brown, turn off the heat.
In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and half the cheese until well-combined.
Return the pan to medium heat and add the ramp greens and the bacon. Add ½ cup of the hot pasta water and toss in the drained spaghetti while it is still hot. Remove the pan from the heat and add the egg mixture, stirring quickly until the eggs thicken. The residual heat will cook the eggs but work quickly to prevent the eggs from scrambling. If the sauce seems too thick, thin it out with a little bit more of the pasta water.
Season liberally with freshly cracked black pepper and remaining cheese. Taste for seasoning; depending on the kind of pork used, it may not need any salt. Serve immediately.
We kick off the month with the annual Hike for Hospice at Maycourt at 114 Cameron Avenue in Old Ottawa South. This year the Red Apron will be serving up a Brown Bag Brunch to all registered hikers. If you are reading this article before Sunday May 3, it’s not too late to register. Visit our website for details.
May is also the time when our thoughts turn to gardening. Many people in our community are renewing their interest in growing their own vegetables. To facilitate this, one of our favourite organic farmers has come up with a truly brilliant offering to make growing vegetables for ‘newbies’ accessible. For the first time this year, Juniper Farm is offering Organic Garden Packages. The plan provides a combination of seeds, seedlings, plans and instructions to allow you to provide fresh organic vegetables for your family even if you have only a small amount of space.
Operating out of a pick-up location at the Lansdowne Farmers’ Market on Sundays, you will have access to their seedlings and know-how. For more information on this innovative offering, visit juniperfarm.ca
Here are this month’s recipes, utilizing ingredients that should be available at the Ottawa Farmers’ Market this month!
Organic Greens with Goat Cheese, Grilled Asparagus & Spring Ramp Dressing– Serves 4
This salad makes four lunch portions, or can be served with a seared breast of chicken or salmon as a dinner.
6 cups organic local greens ***
1 bunch young asparagus
½ cup olive oil or good quality canola oil
¼ cup white wine vinegar
2-3 ramps (wild garlic)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup Chèvre or Feta ***
*** A number of vendors at the Ottawa Farmers’ Market sell both organic greenhouse greens and lovely goat and sheep milk cheeses, including Canreg Station, Glengarry Cheesemakers & Folies Bergères
Toss the asparagus in a small amount of oil and season with salt & pepper. Grill on the BBQ (or sear in a sauté pan). Slice the ramps thinly using the whites and light green parts only. Whisk oil and vinegar together, season with salt and pepper, and whisk in the ramps. Toss greens with vinaigrette and separate onto four plates. Top each plate with ¼ of the asparagus. Serve immediately.
Maple Rhubarb Sour Cream Coffee Cake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated maple sugar
1 ½ cup sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups organic all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 ½ cups chopped rhubarb
½ cup regular large flake rolled oats ***
¼ cup brown sugar or maple sugar
¼ cup chopped walnuts
2 tbsp all purpose flour
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ cup cold butter
***Hopefully you will be able to find local rhubarb at the market. Castor River Farm sells rolled oats. There should be a number of maple syrup producers on hand as well.
Topping: in a bowl, combine oats, sugar, walnuts, flour, maple syrup & cinnamon. Cut in cold butter until crumbly. Evenly press onto the bottom of a well greased 9-inch bundt pan.
Cake: In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar, add eggs and mix well. Add sour cream and vanilla, mix to combine. Fold in chopped rhubarb.
In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients. Stir this into the creamed mixture until blended.
Spoon the batter evenly over the topping.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Let cool, and run a knife around the outside edge of the cake to invert onto cake platter.
The following recipes were posted in the April issue of the OSCAR and one of our ambitions readers took it upon herself to cook two of the three recipes this past weekend and has shared a photo. Way to go Sue!!
Red Pepper, Spinach & Goat Cheese Quiche
1 10 inch pie shell
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
1 large red pepper, seeded and sliced thinly
2 handfulls of baby spinach leaves, wilted
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 large eggs
150 to 200 grams of goat chèvre or goat feta, crumbled *
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add shallots, and cook, stirring, until translucent. Add red pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the red pepper is just cooked. Pre-heat oven to 375°F. Place tart pan on a baking sheet to catch any overflow. Spread red pepper, shallots and wilted spinach on the bottom of the crust. Crumble the cheese evenly over the vegetables. In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, cream, and eggs. Season with salt and fresh ground pepper. Pour over cheese. Transfer to oven, and bake until just set in the center, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes before slicing.
* we like to use Glengarry Chèvre or Fromagerie les Folies Bergeres Feta
Maple Chocolate Cherry Scones
4 cups all purpose flour
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
¾ pounds butter, chilled & cubed
¾ cup cream (35%)
½ cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 cup chopped good quality 70% chocolate
1 cup chopped seedless sour cherries (preferably frozen)
Whisk together all of the dry ingredients until combined. Cut the butter into small pieces and work into the flour by hand until the mixture resembles small peas.
Tip: we often do this step in a food processor on the pulse setting but be careful not to over mix.
Whisk the eggs with the cream and maple syrup & vinegar. Make a well in the flour mixture and pour in the liquid. Add the chocolate & cherries. Fold gently until combined. Do not over-mix.
Scoop out the dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper using a ½ cup scoop.
Bake at 325 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown. Test centre for doneness using a toothpick.
While scones are still warm, you can drizzle with a little bit of maple syrup or sprinkle with maple sugar.
*Maple Syrup & Red Fife Wheat
At the Red Apron, we incorporate locally grown Red Fife Wheat and Organic Spelt into most of our baking. We get these organic flours from Patricia Hastings at CIPM in Madoc. Her products are available at Ottawa Organics, and the Natural Food Pantry Stores. Red Fife is a Canadian bred, heirloom variety of wheat that has a nutty flavour and is dense with nutrients.
Canada is the maple capital of the world and most of Canada’s syrup comes from Ontario & Quebec. We carry the Alska Farm brand in our retail store, but our region is full of great maple producers.
RED APRON’s Famous Nut Free CARROT CAKE
This is a cake we make and sale in our retail store. It is extremely moist and nut free.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2 cups organic all purpose flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground allspice
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves
2 tsp baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1½ cups granulated organic cane sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup canola oil
½ cup soured milk (whole milk with 1 tsp lemon juice or vinegar)
2 cups grated carrots
1½ cups crushed pineapple, well drained
3 cups icing sugar
8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Lightly brush some oil in a 9×13 cake pan, sprinkle with flour. In a bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, oil, brown sugar and soured milk. With a rubber spatula, stir in carrots and pineapple. Mix in dry ingredients until well combined.
Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting the cake.
Frosting: in a bowl of an electric stand mixer combine ingredients and beat until smooth and thick enough to spread on the cake.
Tip: We often bake this recipe into cupcakes and garnish the top of the cupcake with a little sugared carrot
As the year draws to a close, I like to review my food photos and reflect on the amazing things that I tasted throughout the year. I am blessed to work in a field that I am deeply passionate about, and I enjoy exploring the world around me through food. Food gives you a view into the people and culture of a place, as well as the terroir. Everything tastes better when enjoyed in the context of where it was grown, and the history of the people who influenced the food.
I kicked off 2014 with a trip to San Francisco, where we enjoyed many great flavours. To pick one item from that trip was a challenge, but our visit to the famed Chez Pannise Restaurant, the creation of the even more famous Alice Waters stands out. Her philosophies on food start with the ingredient, and the chefs in the restaurant treat the ingredient with the utmost respect and care, using everything, and allowing the flavours to shine. This simple duck broth & noodle soup was perfect in it’s simplicity, garnished with fresh herbs and snap peas.
On that same trip we visited Craftsman and Wolves, a truly innovative bakery that pushes the boundaries with creative baked goods, and sophisticated twists on traditional items. It was there that we sampled the ‘Rebel Within’ – a savoury muffin baked around a soft cooked egg. We were so inspired by this creation that we came back to Ottawa and Jo-Ann spent a few weeks creating a similar ‘Red Apron’ version which we lovingly dubbed the ‘M’oeuf-in’.
Sometime last spring I made a discovery in Ottawa that I found difficult to believe I had not known about sooner. In the old Mello’s Diner on Dalhousie, new owners recently took over operations of this 45 year old Ottawa landmark. Traditional diner by day, a new chef has introduced a dinner menu offering truly excellent food including what I believe is the best hamburger available in this city.
I have watched many other patrons express concern when presented with a burger cooked this carefully and served this pink, but I believe that when you source your ingredients carefully, as this chef is doing, you can trust your food and the person cooking it for you. It’s a brave move on the part of this establishment, and I applaud their courage. But this is no fast food burger. It takes a full 20 minutes to cook this baby properly and it is well worth the wait. If you’re super hungry, start your meal with a plate of deep fried Brussel sprouts. You will never turn your nose up at a Brussel sprout again!
On an early summer trip through Rome, I had 3 days to eat as much famed Roman far as one could consume. An organized walking food tour took us into the Jewish Ghetto for some historical treasures. Most memorable was my first bite of this Torta Ricotta – a rich chocolate cheese cake made with few simple ingredients and baked in a wood fired oven until dark and crusty on top. Not too sweet, creamy and decadent, I was blown away.
There were many great taste memories of that trip, including a bowl of el dente pasta, treated simply with olive oil and shaved truffles. It’s often the simplest dishes that leave the lasting impressions.
The coffees were spectacular, and the baked goods were scrumptious, but the block of pecorino style cheese laced with truffles was beyond my ability to resist. This, I did manage to pack and transport back to Canada, and I savoured slices of it for weeks after my return home, each bite reminding me of the great times we had on our trip.
Summer is always a wonderful time in Ottawa to enjoy local produce for our short season. Tomatoes, local cheeses, fresh vegetables picked off the vine – my cooking efforts are pared down to the basics. It seemed like a good time to learn something new.
Eggs, although one of the simplest things to cook, are also the simplest thing to cook badly. I was reading an article and decided to try a new approach to scrambled eggs. Juniper Farm fresh organic eggs, low heat, a pinch of salt, constant stirring and lots of butter result in creamy, custard like eggs that are unlike anything you have ever tasted. The colour is bright, the consistency is spreadable, the taste is almost cheesy. Served with Purebread rye pumperknickel (another 2014 discovery), fresh chèvre, vine ripened tomatoes & capers, this was a memorable breakfast!
As in previous years, I have enjoyed many a great meal at the Fraser Cafe & Table 40 in 2014. These brothers continue to put great value on every plate, and you never leave their establishment feeling underfed or overcharged – an accomplishment in the restaurant industry these days. The meal that really stood out this year was a sharing platter of perfectly roast chicken, pork belly, polenta fries, mashed potatoes, gravy, and numerous side dishes. Although we were two hungry eaters we could not finish this platter, and got to take the leftovers home for lunch the next day. The service is always excellent and the food is beautifully prepared and presented.
Each year I visit the Atwater & Jean Talon markets in Montreal and a highlight is always the small stands and cafes serving up ‘ready to eat’ and inexpensive dishes. This year the Atwater market expanded their space for food booths, reminiscent of a food truck ’round-up’. We spent one happy afternoon sampling many of the delicious offerings which included gourmet grilled cheese, cured fish, curries and this amazing bowl of Thai soup from the Satay Brothers.
It was full of flavour, warm and comforting, and another perfect example of how simple food can be the most satisfying.
Finally, I had the great pleasure recently to visit a new addition to the Ottawa food scene. Macarons et Madeleines has long been a favourite of those ‘in the know’ for viennoiserie, but stepping into their new shop located at 1323 Wellington will leave you feeling that you have left Ottawa and arrived in Paris. The smell of butter fills the air. Their bright, beautiful shop is well stocked with delicious treats including, of course, macarons and madeleines. Everything looked beautiful and the few things I sampled were ‘out of this world’ delicious.
Just a sampling of the many great food experiences I enjoyed in 2014. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year. Here’s to great flavour experiences in 2015!
November 5, 2014
Last night we held a Client Appreciation night. All of our customers were invited to come out and enjoy a sampling of wines from our new Wine Club, and some tasty samples of items from our kitchen.
The menu went something like this:
Almost 100 people turned out, and if you were one of them, we thank you for spending the evening with us.
It’s a privilege to be able to do what we love and we appreciate the fact that there are people in our community who place value on good food, made with care, using ingredients that are sourced from our local farmer and producer community.
One of the highlights of the evening was when our client John Lowe arrived with a miniature of the Red Apron store, which he created, complete with people and cars. For more information on John, visit his Blog!
We are Mothers, residents of our community, entrepreneurs as well as active participants in our local economy. We individually have a history of owning and operating successful local businesses.
Our commitment to getting people “back to the table” starts at home and extends to our community through a number of philanthropic endeavours.