September 10 2019
The life of a farmer is challenging. Every year presents unpredictable weather conditions that invariably impact their crop in either positive or negative ways. This spring came late, and it was extremely wet. Some crops were effected by fungus and rot, others were late to start. This means that apples and pumpkins are not ready for us yet, and it will be tight getting them in before Thanksgiving. September has started off cool, and if it doesn’t warm up soon, then our farmers could lose product in their fields that may not have a chance to ripen fully.
Knowing this, we wonder why anyone would willingly take on such challenges when there are so many factors that are completely outside of their control. This is why we have such deep respect and appreciation for those who choose growing and raising food as their life’s work. It is truly a noble profession.
My own experiences with growing food are pathetic to say the least. My berries have been consumed by the birds and the squirrels. My three heirloom tomato plants produced one tiny, little ripe tomato, pictured here. Don’t laugh! That’s why I am a chef and not a farmer.
Each September and October to celebrate our farmers and their harvest by creating 5 weeks of 100 mile menus – where each Thursday meal of our Fresh Meal Service is created using only local ingredients sourced from within 100 miles of our shop.
The 100 mile diet was conceived by writers Alisa Smith and JB MacKinnon who wrote a book about their year of eating only foods grown within 100 miles of their home. They did live on Canada’s West Coast so they had a bit of an advantage with a longer growing season. But the book inspired a food revolution, and encouraged readers to support local growers and producers, to preserve the harvest, and to eat seasonally.
I was fortunate to be able to visit Italy last month, and while there ate my share of pasta and pizza. Fresh pasta is something I have enjoyed making at home and find it surprisingly easy. While in Italy we had a chance to teach a pasta class to a group of 10 people. Armed with only wine bottles, and a stove that could barely boil water, we managed to execute 4 lovely pasta dishes with different sauces and stuffings. I thought I would share one of those recipes with you this week.
The flour I used for my pasta this weekend is a 00 Duram wheat flour purchased at the Ottawa Farmer’s Market from Almanac Grains. It made a delicate pasta with a nutty flavour and a beautiful colour. We use some of their flours in our baked goods and breads. Later this month Almanac is hosting a Farm Day on Sunday September 29th from 11am – 4pm on their farm located at 446 Lower Oakleaf Road in Delta – about a 90 minute drive from Ottawa. There will be a farmer’s market, sourdough workshop, beer garden and much more!
When I make fresh pasta I follow a few simple rules. First, I always make it on the counter (granite or marble). I pour 4-5 cups of flour on the counter, make a well in the middle. I drizzle in a tablespoon of good olive oil, a few pinches of salt, and I start cracking eggs into the middle – usually 3-4 to start. Using a fork stir in the eggs, gradually incorporating more and more of the flour. A dough scraper comes in handy at this point for combining the rest of the flour and egg. Too wet – add more flour. Too dry – add another egg or a few teaspoons of water. Form a ball and kneed and kneed until it is smooth. You should feel the texture change from grainy to silky. Wrap in plastic and let it rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes but preferably an hour or two.
If you have a pasta a machine then you know what to do next. If not, I am sharing this wonderful link from Bon Appetite where their Chef makes 29 different shapes of pasta using 4 different doughs. It’s amazing and a really fun way for the whole family to get involved in preparing dinner.
2 Onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely diced, cut into small pieces
2 tbsp butter or oil
1 lb (454 g) medium lean ground beef
1 lb (454 g) ground pork
1⁄2 cup (125 ml) red wine
2 cans (796 ml each) crushed tomatoes
2 bay leaves
2 tsp chopped fresh herbs (rosemary, oregano and/or thyme) 1 pinch red pepper flakes
In a large saucepan over high heat, soften the vegetables in butter or oil for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the ground meats and cook, breaking them up with a wooden spoon. Stir occasionally until cooking juices have evaporated.
Deglaze with the wine and reduce until almost dry. Stir in the canned tomatoes, herbs and pepper flakes. Cover and let simmer on low heat for 2 hour, stirring occasionally. Adjust seasoning. Serve over fresh pasta with parmesan cheese.