Posts Tagged ‘St Lawrence Market’

And I Killed Some Prawns, Just To Watch Them Die

See The Whites Of Their Eyes

As someone who developed a fairly serious allergy to most varieties of shellfish during the past few years (severe enough that I now carry an epi-pen) I don’t often consume much in the way of shellfish.

But last year, after eating smoked prawns at The Black Hoof, I fell head over heels in love with one of the few crustaceans I’m still capable of eating.  BC spot prawns are generally sold fresh (read: alive) and are only available for a few brief months each year, starting in May and usually stretching through to July or August.  I can’t quite explain it, but there is something so much more creamy, sweet and delicately briny about spot prawns than any other shellfish I’ve ever sampled before.  Being that they also don’t induce anaphylaxis in me doesn’t hurt either.

I’ve tried in vain to find them frozen on several occasions, only to come up empty handed.  A few weeks ago when I searched for them at the St Lawrence Market, 2 out of 3 fishmongers had no idea what I was even asking for and the third outright said they didn’t carry them.  Faced with being at a loss for a second season in a row, I half-heartedly reached out to the obsessives on Chowhound who were surprisingly adept at pinpointing several places in the GTA that could help a sister out (I’ve had mixed success with reaching out for help on Chowhound, so I honestly wasn’t expecting much).  Most of the suggestions were out of the way for this non-driver, in the burbs of Scarborough and such, but one happened to be right downtown.  The T&T Supermarket on Cherry St even had spot prawns advertised in their circular, so I emphatically coerced the Everyman into letting me take my practice drive for the day over to said grocery store.

Once we got there, we found a large tank at the back of the store teeming with the vibrant pink beauties.  The tank was overcrowded though, so the spot prawns didn’t seem as lively as I had expected them to be, though they were certainly still alive.  Asking for 2 pounds, the fishmonger deftly scooped them out of the tank with a net, which set the previously docile prawns to wildly thrashing about.  Once bagged and tagged, I didn’t waste much time before exiting the store and returning home.  Live stuff generally doesn’t stay alive for long when trapped in a small plastic bag.  As a last ditch effort at giving me the finger, the spikiness of the prawns managed to pierce a hole in their bag unbeknownst to me and leak seawater all over the floor mat of my car.  Note to future intrepid purchasers of live prawns – always place them into a cooler or some other hard bottomed storing device when travelling, so as not to suffer the same fate, unless you enjoy washing floor mats for fun.

At home, I had no concept of how to prepare live prawns, and after turning to the internet I was faced with the realization that I had to rip off their heads.  The picture above is what was left of the prawn heads once I accomplished that task; an experience I found more than a little chilling since they were still moving about.

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Do Me A Fava, Will Ya?

The Raw Shit

When I was at the market this past weekend, 2 of the other luxuries of spring that I came across were fresh fava beans and fiddleheads.

To the best of my knowledge I’ve never eaten a fresh fava bean before; I’m actually trying to grow purple favas on the roof, but in the meantime these seemed like an acceptable substitute to test drive.  And we all know how much I love fiddleheads, so of course I had to buy some of those too.  Is there anything that signifies spring more than these dainty and curly ferns?

But soon after I paid for the goods, the question became what to do with such delicate beauties?

The asparagus bounty was easy enough to tackle, and in a move I’m not necessarily proud of (yet wouldn’t do any differently if I had to do it over) the Everyman and I consumed 4 pounds of the stuff in less than 72 hours.  In case you’re wondering, that’s a heck of a lot of asparagus salad.  It was only a pound that went into this dish, courtesy of our most recent Meatless Monday.

Over a gentle simmer I combined milk, veggie stock and water in a pot.  Then I added a cup and a half of polenta and began the furious stir.  As it approached a bubblingly critical mass, I briefly stopped churning and grated a few ounces of mixed cheeses (pecorino pepato, 1608, manchego and mozzarella) into a pile that was then incorporated into the polenta.  Allowing it to cool and firm up slightly, I sautéed a pound of asparagus with some fiddleheads, fava beans and a few sliced mini red peppers for colour.

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First Meals Of Spring

Figgy Deliciousness

Every year for Mother’s Day, the Everyman and I go to a brunch buffet with all of his extended family at his grandfather’s golf club in the K-W.

And every year, we come home from these smörgåsbords of deliciousness full of so much good food to the point of illness, as does most everyone else in the family.

Of course, this year was no different, and even I gorged myself on buttery soft rare roast beef, oodles of chilled shrimp and mounds of pea and asparagus salad.  Generally, after these events if we end up eating dinner, it’s bound to be something light.

Several hours after the feasting, the only thing I felt up to was the gentle taste of spring.  Luckily for me I’d made a stop at the St. Lawrence Market on Saturday, and picked up 4 pounds of asparagus and a few pints of figs, among other things.  Sautéing a few pounds of stalks in a beurre noisette until they bloomed a vibrant green, they were then tossed with salt, pepper, halved figs, parmagiano shavings and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.  If you wanted to add some more protein to it, you could always wend a few slivers of prosciutto around the spears, but personally, I love it just the way it is.

Vive le printemps!

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The Cost Of Locality

News media is a funny thing.

On the one hand, it’s been all over the press lately that Toronto’s own curly-mopped locavore (Jamie Kennedy) is having a hard time making ends meet in his faltering, gastronomic kingdom.  And while it’s not all doom and gloom, there is definitely an undercurrent of blame being leveled (in a tsk tsk sort of way) at his decision to make his locations so staunchly local, organic and sustainable.  Sweeping changes have been made to try and keep the ship afloat, from re-branding the Gardiner Museum spot, to splitting off part of his flagship Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar into Hank’s cafe, plus potentially putting the wine bar on the market.  Recent reports state that Kennedy still intends to uphold his local food mantra (good on him for having stick-to-it-ive-ness), but only time will tell if he can pull that off and turn a profit.

On the flipside, Wayne Roberts (manager of the Toronto Food Policy Council, author and friend of Local Food Plus) is telling us that the cost of switching to local food is marginal.  I have somewhat of a soft spot for the good old LFP.  About this time last year I applied to go work for them (unfortunately it was not meant to be, as the funding for the position was cut).  As someone who tries to buy the majority of her food locally, I can see what he means, to a point.  If you are willing to put in the time and effort and are a savvy shopper, then yes, it is possible to pull this off with a minimal cost impact.  However, if you’re not in a major metro area, or close to a farmer’s market, this goal is not so easy to attain.  Local food is “cheap” (such a dirty word, but not meant in a negative connotation here) but only if it’s in season, and even then it’s really just economical.  Case in point; ever tried to buy strawberries in January?  They’ll cost you a mint.  Come June or July though, local farmer’s markets are practically giving them away.  Last year I bought a flat of 12 (or more) quarts for jam making, and it didn’t even crack $40.  Even produce that is not local to you follows this rule, but buying in bulk also helps.  Like fresh figs?  I do.  But I have a hard time stomaching the $2 per fruit habit, so I buy them by the flat at the St Lawrence market  and use the remnants to make a glorious fig compote instead.  This year I’ve opted to try growing a couple of figs trees myself, instead.

I find it ironic that at the same time TFPC is trying to convince consumers that an extra $10 is all it costs to go SOLE (sustainable, organic, local, ethical) the king of SOLE is on the brink of bankruptcy.  It’s a sign of the times and an indicator that something seriously needs to change in the way we manage our global food system.  Because really, it’s a catch 22.  JK can’t make a profit because food costs are too high, or indirectly cost more because of the extra time associated with sourcing from numerous small producers.  Conversely, local foods will continue to command a premium until more people sign up and turn it into the new economy of scale.  And how do you do that?  Well, you try to convince people to change their habits by showing them it’s relatively painless and easy… perhaps by writing an article on the subject.

I knew there was a reason I loved the TFPC/LFP.  They’re smart cookies.

Until next time…

Abstinence Is An Anti-Social Virtue…

I am bitter.  In the general direction of the City of Toronto, actually.

My dissatisfaction stems from the fact that for years I’ve yearned for the city to allow more than just vapid, pre-cooked hotdogs to be sold by street carts.  For the last 10 years I worked downtown, impatiently waiting for this day, but also satiated by a close proximity to the St Lawrence Market and its bounty of edibles.  Now that the city has finally gotten their collective shit together and the varied food carts are almost upon us, I’m stuck in the ‘burbs, in what I quaintly refer to my ‘burb dwelling friends as Miserysauga.

I’ll admit, at my previous job I was spoiled for choice.  From 2002 to 2008 I was a hop, skip and a jump from the St Lawrence Market and took advantage of it almost every day.  There was never a need to brown-bag it with such amazingly fresh and delicious chow at my fingertips.  Then my office relocated slightly west, squarely in the middle of the theatre district.  Again, there was a dizzying array of culinary options, but most required you to have a sit down lunch.  I mourned the loss of the market, but sniffed out a few gems, Ravi Soups, Le Gourmand and Craft Burger among them.  Then in November of 2008 I accepted a new job, right in the heart of Mississauga.  Not to sound like a snob, but there is a dearth of quality food around my new office.  It’s spitting distance from Square One, but one cannot exist on shopping alone, thus I’ve been saving my pennies by brown-bagging it every day.  The worst thing about brown-bagging it is that it robs me of the opportunity to socialize with my peers, because everyone just gets sucked into eating food at their desks, alone.

This article from NOW Magazine delves into the chief problem with food courts.  It’s written with Toronto in mind, but I’d say the article is just as fitting for Mississauga, if not more so.  In Toronto I found that most of the food courts in the downtown core had at least one or two original, notable places to nosh.  A few that specifically spring to mind are Fast Fresh Foods in Commerce Court or across the hall from that, Petit Four Bakery by the people who brought us Far Niente.  At Spadina and Adelaide (as well as several other locations) there’s a Lettuce Eatery, which while on it’s way to becoming a small chain empire, still provides the opportunity to eat well and healthfully.  These vendors taught us that food need not be greasy, pre-made or bad for you, and provided a somewhat healthier alternative to all of the processed, preservative injected crap that’s normally found in food courts everywhere.  Some days it feels like penance to be so isolated that the only access to good food I have is my own.  The Everyman works in Brampton now and has it no better, so most days he gets a Foodie bagged lunch too.  It becomes exhausting at times to constantly prepare enough food to bring for well-balanced meals, and there are days that I wish I had access to somewhere that I could go and have a tasty meal in the area.  Am I just spoiled, or is there really not enough good food in Mississauga?  I welcome your thoughts, comments and recommendations and would love for someone to prove me wrong.

Until next time…