DIARY: Travelling around Niagara looking for farm-to-table food.
RECIPE: Arctic char.
We’ve been showing our lovely American friend Cassandra around on her first ever visit to Canada. We spend the day in Niagara, viewing the Falls, avoiding the honky-tonk and take her to lunch in Niagara-on-the-Lake. She’s amazed by the Falls, and the power of the millions of gallons of water flowing over the lip, just feet from where we are standing. But I think she likes NOTL better. Our friend Scott is a bigwig at historic Fort George and he gives us a private tour around the restored buildings and site. It’s been voted the prettiest town in Canada and on this sunny late summer day, it certainly lives up to its name. We lunch again at our new favourite restaurant, Treadwell, where we get a warm welcome.
Treadwell’s farm-to-table slogan and the whole food-sourced-within-100k movement gets me thinking. Many farm-to-table chefs emphasize local food, freshness and what’s growing in season. Then there’s the slow food movement (the antithesis of fast food) where local food and culinary traditions are celebrated. Finally, there’s the ethical food group which abhors cruelty to the animals we eat and includes those who champion sustainable foods.
So as the third day of Cassandra’s visit is a Saturday, we take her off to the St. Lawrence Market, in Toronto, and the north building farmers’ market to buy our own market to table supplies (*SEE NOTE BELOW).
We stop by the Webb family stall where they have every imaginable locally grown fresh vegetables and herbs I am looking for from their farm in Sutton near Lake Simcoe (85k away and within our 100k boundary). Doug Webb has farming in his blood and his grandfather had a stall in the market, driving his horse and cart through the pre-dawn hours to catch the early trade. Doug says he’ll retire soon and leave his farm for his son to carry on, but for the moment his pretty young granddaughter Emily is helping out just fine. We buy perfect potatoes, tightly budded Brussels sprouts, rosemary and flat leaf parsley for our farm-to-the table meal.
Farm-to-table has become a brand, FTT, to describe the concept, not to be confused with FTP or FTTH (OK, look them up!)
It’s hard to do a whole meal with FTT, especially here in Ontario with fish, since we’re well over 1,000 k from the ocean and the fish in our own lake may well be polluted, so the next best thing is to choose a sustainable species. Salmon has been overfished for years but may be recovering. Chilean sea bass was nearly wiped out in its native Chile, but is acceptable if fished in the Southern Ocean. Arctic char, yes, from the Arctic, is a good sustainable alternative. The fish reproduces quickly and has not been overfished. It hits the spot and we pick out a couple of bright pink fillets, with the gleaming silver skin still on, from the Seafront Fish Market, our favourite fishmonger in the south market. The rest of my shopping list is quickly dispatched and after a quick lunch at our favourite Hot House Restaurant, it’s time to head home to cook.
by Nigel Napier-Andrews
- 2 skin-on fillets per person (as the fish is much thinner than a salmon, I cut them narrower and serve two each)
- Olive oil and butter for pan frying
- ½ cup pitted Kalamata olives
- 3 sprigs fresh Rosemary
- 3 branches of fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Wash the fish and pat dry. Keep covered and chilled until ready to use.
- To make the dressing, chop the Kalamata olives roughly, making sure there are no residual pits, put in a small microwaveable bowl. Wash the fresh herbs. Strip the leaves off the Rosemary and chop finely. Strip the leaves off the parsley and chop roughly. Mix in olive oil and balsamic vinegar and cook on high for 1 minute in the microwave. Set aside.
- Heat enough olive oil only to cover the bottom of a large frying pan. Add a dab of butter for flavour. The olive oil will prevent the butter from burning. Place the fish fillets skin side down in the hot oil and cook without turning over for no more than 3 min. Turn them over and cook for no more than another 2 min. They should be flaky and done all the way through, but as this is an oily fish it will tolerate another minute or two in the pan. Now add the olive and herb dressing and spread all over the fish. Turn the heat right down and cook for another 2 min.
This article was originally published on September 19, 2013.
NOTE: This article was the first time I used the phrase Market to Table, shortly to become the name of a new television series on Bell Fibe TV1. Market to Table, the tv series, will launch in April 2016.
Categories: Market to Table