November 25, 2014

Roasted Squash Cornbread and Corn Harvest Day

Last month, while October was still in its full glory, something kind of magical and marvellous happened. We hosted our first corn harvest day at the farm, in part because in previous years, it took us days on end to pick and husk our field corn (in other words, we desperately needed some helping hands) but also because it was a great excuse to host an outdoor feast and gathering with family and friends.

I like to think of it as an early Thanksgiving-picnic of sorts.

Photo by Cindy Beams

For the occasion, I prepared several large pots of hearty chili made with our homegrown beans, some chewy chocolate chip cookies made with our own whole wheat flour, and copious amounts of golden cornbread made with the very corn that we were harvesting. 

Surrounded by the sounds of kids laughing, some heartfelt conversations with new and old friends, and the birds chirping their pre-winter songs, corn picking suddenly became way more appealing than when it was just two of us face to face with a field of corn that seemed to stretch on forever.

As they say, many hands make light work and by the end of the day, we had picked almost a quarter of the field. 

Photo by Cindy Beams

Photo by Cindy Beams
And while the idea of purchasing a mechanical corn picker had seemed so appealing in previous years (and in some ways still does - let's just say, the corn picking that took place in the days to follow was not nearly as warm and fuzzy as that first communal harvest day) seeing how much enjoyment everyone got out of picking and husking corn together, it suddenly made me sad to think that with a few quick passes of a machine, we would miss out on such a festive communal effort.

In days gone by, before farming became as large-scale and mechanized as it is today, corn husking bees were a much-anticipated yearly social event. Neighbours would gather to help one another pick and husk their corn, usually followed by a feast and a barn dance. It feels really good to at least partially revive a custom that has long been forgotten in many farming communities.

Photo by Cindy Beams

It also feels really good to grow organic, open-pollinated corn in an era when most of the cornmeal sold is made from GMO corn. Each time I husked a perfect, majestic ear of corn, there was a triumphant voice inside me that said "take THAT, Monsanto". We don't need your GMO seeds, we don't need your toxic pesticides. Corn can grow beautifully and productively in a soil that is well-nurtured and looked after.

The cornbread recipe you see me making in the above video is one that was shared with me by my dear friend Rebecca Sornson. I'll never forget the first time she made it. She brought it to a potluck we were going to and after dinner, there was literally a line-up of people waiting to talk to her, pen and paper in hand, ready to write down her recipe. It's now one of my go-to recipes and I think of her whenever I make it. It yields a moist and bright yellow cornbread. I've shared the recipe on my blogpost at PBS Food. Let me know if you make it, and to all my American friends, happy Thanksgiving!

For the Roasted Squash Cornbread recipe, go to this post on PBS Food.

November 22, 2014

Back from Devour + a recipe for Celeriac Apple Slaw

I am still slowly coming back to reality after the whirlwind of tastes and sights that was this year's Devour Film Festival. Man. Lia Rinaldo and Michael Howell sure know how to put on a rocking food and film party, one that lasts 5 whole glorious days. 

Some of the highlights were: Anthony Bourdain (yes, just hanging out in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, no biggie), getting to finally meet the brilliant duo behind Perennial Plate (awesomest, nicest, most talented yet down-to-earth 2 people you will ever meet - have you seen the trailer to their new PBS series??), tasting various types of whiskeys and their corresponding cocktails (in my normal life, I don't even like whiskey) at the 'Fun With Mixology' workshop (I evidently had too much fun with the samples and spilled the most top-notch whiskey all over my pants, leading to a few raised eyebrows from my dining companions), the amazing Matt Armendariz and Adam Pearson's food styling workshop (check out Matt's blogpost, where he made me fall in love with my hometown all over again), and the honour of doing jury duty alongside the marvellous Lucy Waverman and Tommy Struck. What. A. Blast. 

Did I mention there were oodles of smoked mackerel? Joy.

Unfortunately for me, partying often leads to paying for it later. (And I was making some rather superhuman attempts to simultaneously attend this year's ACORN organic conference happening at the same time as Devour, an hour away in Halifax - moral of the story: don't try to be in two places at once). I'm now nursing a very unpleasant flu cold thing. Eating lots of chicken soup and salads is helping. As is mulling over the infinite possibilities of pies to potentially make for my first American Thanksgiving. More on that later. But for today, a humble salad made of two unlikely yet delightful companions: apples and celeriac.

I'm a huge fan of the rich earthy taste of celeriac (also known as celery root and tastes like a cross between celery and turnip). This slaw is a lighter twist on French celeriac remoulade which consists of grated celeriac and mayonnaise. I've added apples. parsley, and a light vinaigrette and the whole thing is very tasty and fall-like. If you've never had celeriac, this is a great way to get acquainted with it. You may also want to try my celeriac parsnip soup. Both the slaw and soup are great Thanksgiving dishes.

Get my Celeriac Apple Slaw recipe over here at PBS Food.

October 30, 2014

Homemade Pumpkin Sage Fettuccine

Call me naive but I did not understand the full extent of the pumpkin spice invasion. Until a recent trip to the city and Trader Joe's brought me face to face with an avalange of pumpkin flavoured items: pumpkin waffles, pumpkin corn chips, pumpkin beer, pumpkin iced tea, pumpkin cheese. I'm all about seasonal eating but the pumpkin thing does seem to get taken to a whole other level.

So I feel that this post needs to come with an apology for contributing to the pumpkin madness.

It seems you either jump on the pumpkin wagon or you curse it. I'm somewhere between the two, though after the mildly traumatic Trader Joe's experience and the above pumpkin horror spoof, I think I'll steer clear of pumpkin anything for a while. (Except for these healthy pumpkin caramels, which I am completely addicted to). Besides, pumpkin is wonderful, but isn't it somewhat overrated? I find most pumpkin recipes out there to be much tastier, moist, and flavourful when some variety of winter squash is used instead, be it buttercup, delicata, butternut, or any other kind of sweet fleshed winter squash. 

And so my dear friends, with that rather half-assed introduction, I give you Pumpkin Sage Fettuccine, which is actually a deliciously comforting cold weather meal. I promise. (Though I suspect it's probably even better with squash). Happy Halloween and bon app├ętit!

Find my recipe here on PBS Food.

Find my recipe here on PBS Food.