Farm to Chef: Cooking Through the Seasons

Written by Tracy Turlin

I’ve been watching Chef Lynn Crawford on television for years, as she has helped struggling restaurants, judged competitions and battled Iron Chefs. I’ve always felt that we see her at her best when she is travelling the country meeting and showcasing the best food producers Canada has to offer. From fishing boats to pie contests to orchards and farms, Chef Lynn reminds us all that the best of the best can be found here in our own country. In true Canadian fashion, she has managed this with good humour and sometimes a wink at her own dignity.

Her third cookbook, Farm to Chef: Cooking Through the Seasons (Penguin Canada; 2017) is a National Winner for Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2017 — Women Chef. In it, she continues her message of enjoying the simple goodness of local food. Her recipes never feel contrived, they just bring together the best ingredients in ways that make perfect sense. Every recipe feels like it should start with a drive to the market, and end at the cottage.

She shares 140 recipes and any of them would be equally at home on a restaurant menu or on the table at grandma’s house. The dishes are organized by the peak season of the ingredients, and photographed beautifully by Virginia Macdonald. There are nearly enough pictures in this book, even for me. The seasonal emphasis does focus on fresh vegetables but there are enough hearty, meaty dishes and light, delicious desserts to satisfy any appetite. Cocktails and condiments are an added bonus.

Though it’s easy to get asparagus all year round now, it’s best to enjoy it the way I did as a kid: way too much of it, for far too short a time, when it’s in season. Raw Asparagus Salad with Pine Nuts, Parmesan and Lemon Herb Yogurt is a beautiful way to enjoy this fleeting spring vegetable. Crisp stalks are topped with crunchy, rich pine nuts and Parmesan cheese, then dressed with tangy yogurt complimented by fresh herbs. It’s topped with the bittersweet knowledge that you will eat it until you are full to the gills and will miss it again soon.

I remember when I was little hearing my aunts talk about the odd foods they would eat as kids. Radish sandwiches was one, and it kind of horrified me at the time. But as I grew up I discovered that they were right about some of those “weird” foods. Crawford’s recipe for Radish Sandwiches with Ramp Butter is a slightly fancier version. Maybe I’ll make some for my mom this spring and watch her reaction.

I try to showcase seasonal recipes in my reviews because no one comes here looking for Christmas cake in March, but some books make that difficult. Tempura Broccoli with Coconut Peanut Sauce isn’t technically a spring recipe but I thought it was delicious enough to include. Tempura is a wonderful dish that can be revised to suit almost any vegetable in any season. I picture making this with asparagus or young beans in the spring, zucchini in the summer and sweet potatoes and broccoli in the fall. The sweet, spicy Coconut Peanut Sauce would work with fresh spring rolls at any time.

Reading Farm to Chef is like taking a road trip with a bunch of friends. You’re not sure what adventures lie ahead but you know you’ll enjoy every step.

Recipes are excerpted from Farm to Chef: Cooking Through the Seasons. Copyright © 2017 by Lynn Crawford. Published by Penguin, an imprint of Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Raw Asparagus Salad
With Pine Nuts, Parmesan and Lemon Herb Yogurt

This is one of my favourite ways to enjoy asparagus when it’s at the peak of its season — raw and simply dressed in this fresh and easy salad.

Serves 4

Lemon Herb Yogurt

½ cup (125 mL) plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons (30 mL) lemon juice
1 teaspoon (5 mL) grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon (5 mL) thyme leaves
2 tablespoons (30 mL) flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 tablespoons (30 mL) chopped chives
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper

Raw Asparagus Salad

1 pound (450 g) asparagus, trimmed
4 cups (1 L) frisée leaves
2 tablespoons (30 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of ½ lemon
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper

To Serve

¼ cup (60 mL) shaved Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons (30 mL) toasted pine nuts
1 tablespoon (15 mL) finely chopped chives

Make the Lemon Herb Yogurt

1. Place yogurt, lemon juice, lemon zest, thyme, parsley and chives in a blender and process until blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Prepare the Raw Asparagus Salad

2. Using a vegetable peeler, slice asparagus spears lengthwise into thin ribbons. Place in a large bowl and add frisée, olive oil and lemon juice. Toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Spoon Lemon Herb Yogurt onto a chilled serving dish. Top with asparagus- frisée mixture, then with Parmesan, pine nuts and chives.

Radish Sandwiches with Ramp Butter

This is a classic French way of serving radishes, simple and yet so good. The watery, crisp bite of the radishes contrasted with the creamy richness of the ramp butter and the crackly dry crunch of the salt is a match made in heaven. 

Serves 6 to 8

Ramp Butter

Makes about 2 cups (500 mL)

½ pound (225 g) ramps, bulbs removed (about 20 ramps)
1 pound (450 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons (10 mL) honey
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper

Radish Sandwiches

1 baguette, cut in half horizontally
2 cloves garlic, cut in half
2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil
12 radishes, very thinly sliced
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
Basil seedlings or leaves, for garnish
Maldon sea salt and cracked black pepper

Make the Ramp Butter

1. Blanch ramps in boiling salted water for 1 minute. Transfer to a bowl of ice water. Drain and squeeze out excess water. Spread ramps on paper towel and pat dry.

2. Coarsely chop ramps and place in a food processor along with the butter, honey and lemon zest and juice. Process until butter is smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 2 months.

Assemble the Radish Sandwiches

3. Set oven to broil or preheat a grill to medium-high heat.

4. Rub cut sides of baguette with garlic cloves and brush lightly with olive oil. Lightly toast under a hot broiler or on a hot grill.

5. Toss radishes with salt and pepper to taste in a medium bowl. Spread Ramp Butter on each half of baguette. Top bottom half of baguette with radish slices and basil; season with sea salt and pepper. Top with other half of baguette, cut on the diagonal into small sandwiches and serve.

Tempura Broccoli with Coconut Peanut Sauce

I like to think that eating fried vegetables is a healthy sin, and I love that you can tempura-fry any kind of vegetable. This is an excellent recipe to pull out when friends are over. Packed with the bold flavours of ginger, lemongrass and chilies, it’s a real crowd-pleaser!

Serves 4

Coconut Peanut Sauce

1 tablespoon (15) canola oil
2 tablespoons (30 mL) minced peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon (15 mL) minced shallot
1 tablespoon (15 mL) minced lemongrass
1 tablespoon (15 mL) minced Fresno chili
1 can (14 ounces/400 mL) coconut milk
½ cup (125 mL) peanut butter
2 tablespoons (30 mL) soy sauce
1 tablespoon (15 mL) sambal oelek
Zest and juice of 1 lime

Tempura Broccoli

½ cup (125 mL) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (30 mL) cornstarch
1 to 1⅓ cups (250 to 325 mL) sparkling water
Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
1 head broccoli, florets cut into spears
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper

To Serve

1 tablespoon (15 mL) chopped roasted peanuts
1 tablespoon (15 mL) finely chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon (5 mL) minced Fresno chili

Make the Coconut Peanut Sauce

1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat oil. Add ginger, shallot, lemongrass and chili and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add coconut milk, peanut butter, soy sauce, sambal oelek and lime zest and juice; whisk to combine. Cook sauce until thoroughly heated, then transfer to a bowl and cool to room temperature.

Prepare the Tempura Broccoli

2. In a deep, narrow bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch and enough sparkling water to achieve a consistency like crêpe batter.

3. In a deep medium saucepan, heat 4 inches (10 cm) of oil to 375°F (190°C).

4. Working in batches, dip broccoli spears one at a time into batter, then carefully place in hot oil and fry until crisp and golden, about 3 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer broccoli to paper towel to drain and season lightly with salt and pepper. Repeat with remaining broccoli spears.

5. Garnish tempura broccoli with peanuts, cilantro and chili, and serve immediately with Coconut Peanut Sauce.

About the author

Tracy Turlin

Tracy Turlin is a freelance writer and dog groomer in London.
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