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Happy Autumn Equinox ~ Let’s Eat Cake!

by Tracy MacMaster, photo by Paul Christensen

The sun is blazing, and the leaves are beginning to show their colours.  The market is packed with tree fruits – peaches and nectarines are making way for apples and pears.  Despite the passing of summer, fall is worth celebrating.  Nothing says celebration like cake, so try this simple Pear Upside-Down Cottage Cake for dessert tonight.    

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For the pan:

2 tablespoons of butter

½ cup of brown sugar, packed

1 pear, thinly sliced

 For the cake:

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 egg

3/4 cup milk

1 & 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, or cinnamon or ground coriander

Optional: freshly grated lemon or orange zest or 1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 C.  Place the 2 tablespoons of butter in an 8” square or round the pan and melt in the oven briefly – 3-4 minutes.  Remove from heat and evenly sprinkle the bottom of the pan with ½ cup brown sugar.  Arrange pear slices in a pleasing pattern over the sugar.

In a bowl, beat together oil, sugar, milk and eggs and vanilla if using.  Beat in flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg, stiring just until smooth.  Pour evenly over pear mixture, bake until sides of cake pull slightly away from the pan and top has started to brown, approximately 20-25 minutes. Let cool briefly in the pan.  To serve, loosen the sides with a knife, and invert onto a plate, pear side up.  Serve warm, with Greek yogurt or whipped cream if you have some. 

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(via Fresh From The Market - Saturday, September 20th, 2014)
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Late summer soup is on! Spicy Black Bean, Squash and Greens Soup

By Tracy MacMaster

Photo by Paul Christensen

September always feels like the real New Year.  Vacations are over and schedules are packed with new projects and activities.  September is also the time when the evenings cool, and we start to tire of salads and other summer staples.  Soup is the answer to busy lives – one pot wonders full of delicious market produce that can be made ahead, ready when you get home.  Try this soup to liven up your September nights.

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Spicy Black Bean, Squash and Greens Soup

1 medium cooking onion, sliced thin

3 cloves of local garlic, minced

1 jalapeno or other chilli of your choice, minced fine

2 tablespoons of butter or oil

2 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed, or 1 dry cup soaked and cooked black beans

1 small winter squash, peeled and cubed – butternut is easiest to peel , but kabocha is delicious

1 bunch of sturdy winter greens, in bite size pieces – collards are excellent, or try swiss chard, kale or even turnip greens

4 cups of stock, beer or water, or any combination of the three

 2-3 branches of fresh thyme

Salt and pepper to taste

Handful of fresh cilantro and lime wedges for serving

Method:

In a large dutch oven heat butter or oil over low-medium heat.  Sweat the onions until translucent, 4-5 minutes, then add the garlic and minced chilli for 1-2 minutes, stirring until soft.

 Add the squash, black beans, thyme and liquid to the pot.  If you are using collards or kale, put them in now, but for more delicate greens like swiss chard, leave the soup to simmer 10-15 minutes before adding greens.  Bring the contents to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer.  Cook for approximately 20-25 minutes until the squash is soft.  Add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.  Serve with a handful of cilantro, the lime wedges and good bread – cornbread is terrific with this dish. Serves 4.

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A Late Summer Crostini Feast

By Tracy MacMaster, photo by Paul Christensen

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Many of us spend the winter dreaming of garden bruschetta.  Ripe heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil, local garlic and toasted bread combine for the world’s greatest food.  Building a meal around good bread and late summer produce is a chief pleasure of the season.  Toast the bread, break out your fruitiest olive oil and dust off your prettiest platter.  Try this assortment of crostini toppings, or scope out what looks good at the market and create your own.

Basic crostini method:

Toast or grill slices of good crusty bread, white or whole wheat is fine.  Rub with the cut side of a garlic clove.  Lightly pile on the topping and drizzle with olive oil.  Count on 3-4 crostini per person as appetizers, or serve with salami or cold chicken for a light meal.

Classic Garden Bruschetta

3 – 4 ripe tomatoes, chopped – a mix of varieties and colours are great

A handful of basil, torn

1 clove of garlic, minced

Olive oil

Salt, pepper to taste

Gently mix the ingredients and let sit at room temperature for at least 10 minutes to allow the flavours to mingle.  Pile onto crostini and serve.

Swish Chard, Shallot & Pine Nuts

2 tablespoons pine nuts

1 shallot, sliced

1 clove of garlic, minced

2 tablespoons of fresh thyme

Olive oil

1  bunch of swiss chard, washed, stems removed, greens chopped

In a dry pan over low to medium heat roast the pine nuts until barely brown.  Remove the pine nuts, add a slug of olive oil to the pan and sauté shallots and garlic until soft.  Add the chard and thyme, and stir until chard is just wilted.  Remove from heat and mix in the pine nuts.  Pile onto the crostini and serve.

Roasted Pepper and Goat Cheese

2-3 sweet peppers– a mix of colours is great

Plain goat cheese

1 tablespoon fresh thyme or chopped chives

Salt and pepper to taste,

Olive oil

Grill the peppers over a grill or open gas flame until skin is charred.  Place in a bowl and invert a plate over them to steam the skins for a few minutes – peel as soon as they are cool enough to handle.  Cut the peppers into strips, and mix in fresh thyme and a splash of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.  Pile pepper mixture onto crostini and top with goat cheese.  Heat briefly under a broiler or in the oven until the goat cheese is warmed.

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Arugula, Peach and Basil Salad with Cajun Grilled Chicken

By Tracy MacMaster

Photo by Paul Christensen

August usually brings the dog days – heat, humidity and the urge to eat a dripping peach.  This summer we’re short on heat, but the peaches in the market are beautiful – plump, ripe and juicy.  To enjoy peaches with dinner, take a trip around the market to assemble a fine salad.  Greens, fresh basil and peaches with spicy chicken hit the spot.

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For the salad:

1-2 large bunches of arugula, washed, dried and torn

2 ripe peaches, sliced

1 small red onion, sliced into rings

1 handful of basil, rinsed and torn

Large drizzle of olive oil, sprinkle of red wine vinegar

Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

For the chicken:

2 boneless chicken breasts

Cajun spice mix to cover chicken completely (approximately 4 -5 Tablespoons)

Method:

Heat the grill to medium high, or preheat the oven to 375C.  Thoroughly coat the chicken breasts with Cajun spice mixture.  Cook until the juice in the thickest part of the chicken runs clear, approximately 25 minutes.   Let rest 5 minutes.

Place the arugula, onions, basil and peaches in a bowl.  Slice the cooked chicken on the diagonal, and place over the arugula.  Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle on red wine vinegar and season with salt and pepper. 

Serves  4.