A Spring in my Step

- By Claire Lukka

In the throes of a bitterly cold winter, February felt like all work and no play.    An early February 24/7 “on call” stint for work, which left me virtually housebound for two weeks, didn’t help sway my opinion on this matter.  Torontonians all seem to share in the general sentiment that stir crazy and desperation for Spring have set in. 

Though it seems only marginally warmer now that March has come along, it feels like it might be time for a little play and the sun is peaking out a little more every day.  The past few weekends, I’ve been dragging the husband and the dog for long walks along the Danforth to get out and enjoy every little ray of sunshine I can. 

Given the limited amount of time I’ve spent exploring the outdoors lately (hibernating is so much warmer!) I have been appreciating the opportunity to re-discover the variety of food purveyors that I have at my doorstep.   Getting locally obtained ingredients feels like a small step towards locally produced and summer.  Recently, during my Danforth wanderings, I enjoyed a “chaider”, a delicious combination of Chai tea and cider - who knew such an enchanting mixture even existed? 

Thinking back to being a kid, was it ever nice getting a whole week off from school and a respite from winter during March Break.   Fortunate are those anticipating jetting off to warmer climes in the next few weeks.  Though my March “break” this year doesn’t include going somewhere warm, it does include a trip to warmer Vancouver for my sister’s wedding.  She introduced me to Deb Perelman and the “Smitten Kitchen” blog and I have to admit, I am now hooked and constantly seek opportunities to test out recipes.

So, in honour of my little sister’s upcoming nuptials, I set out to wander the Danforth to enjoy some fresh air and obtain all of the ingredients to make her future husband’s favourite recipe from the Smitten cookbook, snap peas in a miso dressing.  My husband loves Asian food and I got the idea that I’d like some saucy spicy eggplant for a leisurely Saturday dinner.  

One of the local butchers also has some absolutely fabulous Korean flavoured short ribs and voilà - a great pairing for an Asian inspired barbecue meal.  At this time of year the craving for change from the slow cooked meals of winter is starting and we devour any chance to eat a different type of food.  By September, the appeal of barbecued of food is waning, but in March it seems positively exotic!


Sugar Snap Pea Salad with Miso Dressing

Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman


  • ½ pound sugar snap peas
  • ½ pound Napa cabbage, sliced in thin ribbons (about 3 cups)
  • 4 radishes, cut into thin matchsticks – I couldn’t find easily so I skipped
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced at an angle
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds (300F for 5-7 mins will do the trick)
  • Salt

Sesame Miso Dressing

  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons white miso (I couldn’t find and used darker soy miso instead)
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil


Fill a large pot with water, salt liberally, and bring to a boil. Prepare an ice-water bath. Boil the sugar snap peas for 2 minutes, or until just barely cooked. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and submerge them in the ice water. Drain and pat dry. Trim the ends off the peas and cut them on an angle into thin slices. Toss the peas in a large bowl with the cabbage, radishes, green onions, and sesame seeds.

Add all the dressing ingredients to a blender and and whiz until smooth and creamy.

Toss the salad with half the dressing.

In case you’re wondering (as I was) what the different types of miso paste are, below is a link, which explains.  I used soy miso paste which I think is stronger and less salty, but nonetheless the salad was delicious



Saucy Spicy Eggplant

Adapted from



  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon red chili flakes


  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sweet soya sauce
  • 1 medium eggplant, ends trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices, lengthwise
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro leaves


Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the ginger, garlic and red chili flakes and cook until soft, 3 to 4 minutes.  Add eggplant and cook on medium heat for 15 minutes or until eggplant is soft.  Add remaining sauce ingredients and heat on low for about 5 minutes.   Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve garnished with cilantro.

(Grilled eggplant would add more flavour, so alternatively, grill eggplant and add to sauce).



Meet Lisa Kates, Food Consultant & Gastronomic Explorer

Lisa Kates is a food consultant, caterer and a passionate supporter of local food-based businesses, whose moniker is “A Food Gypsy”. I sat down with Lisa to explore what it’s like to work hard and play hard, all when it comes to food. – Camille DePutter

  Q. When / why did you decide to make a career in food?

 A. It started with being a home cook. I had never really cooked before but when I was first married I started doing a lot of dinner parties. I was inspired by the original Moosewood cookbook – it opened me up to experimentation and fun in the kitchen.

I moved into professional kitchens and catering. For a while I worked as a personal chef for the President of Canada Post, which was interesting.

Ultimately my passion led me in a slightly different direction. I started working with a non-profit called Operation Come Home for street youth where I initiated a program called Food Matters, which engaged the youth in the cooking process. Whoever cooked with me could eat what we made, and we served the rest of the food at the drop-in. All the foods were healthy, with lots of fruits and vegetables. Many of the kids had never even seen these types of foods before.

Today I maintain a small artisan soup business, where I deliver my fresh, homemade product for select cafes and shops. It’s freeing because I make everything from scratch, and I make what I feel like making based on the seasonal ingredients available.

I offer consulting services to help food-based businesses and organizations grow, implement sustainable projects, and achieve their vision. These efforts often include edible agriculture, and urban gardening – it’s something I’m deeply passionate about.

Q. When is food ‘play’ and when it is ‘work’?

People glamorize what it is like to work in food. There is this glamorized vision of what it’s like to work in the food business. Yes it’s fun. But it’s still work.

Working in artisanal food (as I do with my soup) is fun and creative because it’s yours. It’s your recipes, your ideas…  And you can take time to really appreciate it. When I make a soup, I stop to admire the colour and the texture of each ingredient. The colour of a beet, for example – it’s so beautiful.

That’s why I take a lot of photos, when I am cooking but also when I’m shopping at the farmers’ market. Food is beautiful. Food is art.

Q.  What makes a positive food culture? 

A. Food depends on community – food is community. Collaboration is important. The industry can be competitive – that’s just the nature of business – but it’s important to remember that everybody is trying to put out a product, and work hard, and make something good. We need to respect each other.

Farmers’ markets are really important. They are a big source of inspiration for me: baskets full of radishes, wild leeks, what could be better? And it’s not just the food, it’s the stories behind it. I like to connect with the producers, with who is growing the product, and how they do it, and why.

Urban agriculture is playing an increasingly important role. Many restaurants (like Ursa in Toronto, for example) are growing their own vegetables and herbs, and are sharing that knowledge, that leadership.

Food is innate. Working in the food business is about love for food – about tapping into that innate appreciation for food and bringing it outwards. You learn what to do with the ingredients – technique can be learned – but you need to have the passion. That has to come from within.

You can find Lisa (AFoodGypsy) on Facebook and Twitter


… And We’re Back

- By Camille DePutter

Welcome back to the Withrow Farmers’ Market Blog. We took a winter hiatus but with spring around the corner (and market season coming with it) we are re-invigorating our blog. 

For the remainder of March we’ll be exploring the theme of work and play. For many, March is time to take a well-deserved break - quite possibly a warm escape somewhere away from the last dregs of winter. But March is also a time of hard work - we’re getting close to wrapping up the marathon of winter but we’re not at the finish line yet. 

When it comes to food, what is the interplay between work and fun? Growing up we may have been warned not to play with our food, but really, food can be a great source of joy, experimentation, and even silliness. Of course, if you work in the food business - as a grower, producer, cook, etc - food can be, well, work. And sometimes just getting a meal on the table for your family can seem like a heroic effort. 

Whether it feels like work, or play, or a bit of both, food is an intriguing, fulfilling, challenging subject. We hope you’ll follow along as we continue to explore the different roles food has in our lives, and how we can make it a positive experience with every bite.


Comfort Me with Schmaltz

— By Camille DePutter

It’s November. Cold, wet, and perfect for comfort food. 

For me, cooking itself is therapeutic - especially if I have lots of time to dig into a project, without pressure of impressing guests or filling growling bellies. The kind of cooking that is done for the joy of it. Or for the comfort. 

Cooking up a comfort-food classic, meanwhile, just adds a double whammy of the feel-good kitchen vibes. And I don’t know about you, but as we launch into November, I could use an extra dose of those vibes. So I decided it was time to try something new, something a little adventurous yet solidly traditional. Something that would deliver a good comfy feeling while I cooked in sweatpants and sipped red wine. 

It just so happens that I recently bought Michael Ruhlman’s fabulous new book Schmaltz. And very little conveys comfort food like the smell of onions gently frying in chicken fat. So on a chilly, rainy November evening my husband and I launched ourselves into the project of making kreplach - traditional dumplings made with egg pasta, stuffed with beef and onions, and fried in schmaltz. Ruhlman recommends serving it on a bed of braised cabbage, which is exactly what we did.

(above: Making the schmaltz)

The multi-step recipe took some time but it delivered layers of comfort: first, the pleasure of working side by side with my husband in the kitchen (even using my pasta roller for the very first time, at last - huzzah!); secondly, the comfort of making something traditional and cozy feeling; and thirdly, of course, the delight of eating the results - rich, flavourful, a bit fatty (of course), a little crisp, a little soft and yielding; an indulgence but not overdone. While it took time to make, it was simple, not fussy. Just like a good comfort food should be. 

(above: Once the dough is made and stuffed, they are gently boiled before getting a good schmaltzy fry-up.)

(Below: The end product - kreplach with braised cabbage)

Like I said - frying onions in chicken fat is hard to beat, if not for the smell alone. But comfort means something different to everyone. 

What are you comfort foods? They needn’t be as indulgent as this one; caring for yourself through healthy food can be an enriching form of comfort, too. Sometimes comfort food just so happens to pack its own nutritional punch - case in point: a good butternut squash soup.

Regardless, we all need a little comfort now and then. And sometimes, as the evenings get darker faster, and the crisp notes in the air get a little more blustery, it’s time to turn on the stove and heat up whatever feels good. 

So go ahead, cook, savour, take comfort and enjoy the many yummy posts that will keep on coming from our great mix of farmers’ market bloggers this month.



Thank You for Eating Local!

— by Roberta

So here we are, at the end of another delicious Withrow Market season, this, our seventh, and people have been asking me what I’ll be doing when the market is done.
I’ve often likened the market to a garden. Just like a garden, the market offerings change with the seasons, and to make it all happen it needs to be tended to with attention. For that the market needs a dedicated team lead by a dedicated individual. And like for a garden, most of the planning for the market happens over the winter.

Even before the season has ended I usually start projecting to January when it will be time to apply for our 2014 permit, to start planning events, review vendor applications, and take care of general season start admin. Granted that none of those tasks will take up a lot of time at that point, but they’re already on my mind, and I’ve started drafting my to-do list.

I will also be reflecting on the season that was, and apply learnings from this year’s experiences to future seasons. I will be working with our blogging team (lead by Camille) to keep the food and market conversation going over the winter and collaborate on next year’s editorial calendar. I’ll be chatting with a bunch of folks about what’s going on in and with the local food sector, and will spend more time on the development of our young nonprofit (the Centre for Local Food Initiatives).

I plan to meet with friends whom I’ve neglected over the market season, and do some totally non-food-related things like knitting. I will, however, be spending time in the kitchen making edible holiday gifts, catch up on some much missed baking, and try out some new recipes.

I’ll also be sleeping in on Saturdays, taking time browsing through the newspaper and savouring my morning tea, and I’ll be planning elaborate weekend breakfasts (I love breakfast!). I’ll also be enjoying some of the foods I put by this summer like blackcurrant jam I made from Feast of Field’s fruit, jam made from elderberries purchased from Cookstown Greens, salsa made from tomatoes grown by Fiddlehead Farm, and bread and butter pickles made with Haystrom Farm produce.

But before I can start spending time on personal projects, the market needs to be put to bed, so there’s a bunch of season-end tasks that have to be taken care of first. For example, my home office (my poor cluttered office) needs a good clean up and re-organizing. We’re also planning a party for the vendors and volunteers, and we’re re-building the market committee, so that work needs to start now.

So in effect, the market season never really ends, there’s just maybe less and certainly other type of work to be done in the off-market season than when the market is running.

We thank you for supporting your community market and our hard working farmers and prepared food vendors, and hope that you’ll keep in touch with us over the winter via the blog, facebook and twitter. In the meantime you can support some of the year-round markets in Toronto, and we look forward to seeing you at the market again in 2014.

If you are interested in joining our market committee, you can message me on facebook!