Planting, growing and harvesting is a series of cycles. We mark the last harvest before winter with feasts and festivals that help us fortify against the cold. Both native plants and transplants thrive on Niagara’s farms and, as a result, the local cornucopia overflows with goodness. Cooking with the freshest ingredients doesn’t require a lot of work.
These five soups and stews need some cutting and chopping, but are ultimately simple and can be doubled or tripled to yield several meals for the freezer. #EatLocal
Three Sisters Stew
Canadian Thanksgiving has its origins in the First Nations’ Feast of the Three Sisters. The Oneida Nations inter-planted corn, beans and squash in a trinity that supported soil chemistry, kept weeds down and was the source of spiritual as well as physical sustenance. Modern Three Sisters Stew combines corn, beans and squash in a satisfying dish that is similar in eating experience to a bowl of chili.
Ratatouille, a traditional French dish, had a resurgence among children when Disney released a movie of the same name. In our post-Food Network era, when children are as familiar with Gordon Ramsay as they are with Elmo, this is a great dish to cook with your little chef. Zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes marry with onions and garlic to create this simple one-pot meal.
Leek and Potato Soup
Leeks have a long shelf life and well-stored potatoes sustain us all year long. Combined in a creamy, blended soup, leeks and potatoes are a simple but genius pair. Cleaning leeks of the sandy soil they grow in is not an ordeal. Simply slice off the root bottom, and slice through the white part of the leek. Feather the
Root Vegetable Soup
Roasted alongside the Sunday chicken or beef, root vegetables were long considered a simple side dish. All that is changing as a new focus on plant-based diets emerges. Celery root, heirloom carrots, turnips, parsnips and even beets can be mashed like potatoes and served like a rainbow on a plate. Root vegetable casseroles and soups can easily be adapted to include the ingredients on hand as all the members of this class of food require the same treatment in the pot or oven.
Homemade Tomato Soup
Homemade tomato soup is often considered to be a higher level task than most amateur cooks can manage. That might be true, if you don’t have a blender. In the past, the prospect of removing the tomato skins, which required blanching, held back a lot of cooks from making their own tomato soup. Tomato skins, though, are edible and contain dietary fiber and essential nutrients such as lycopene. Modern home blenders completely integrate the nutritious skins into the recipes and make the dish healthier while cutting down on the preparation time.
These five soups and stews cross a variety of cultures and use a full complement of local produce. Not only will you be able to celebrate the harvest, but these hearty meals will keep you and your family going all winter long.