The Ishii Stone Bowl. This meal explores the legend of the stone soup, where everyone contributes a small amount to make a shared meal. At Juniper Farm, everyone works together to plant seeds, tend crops, and harvest produce to make this bowl. Photo credit: Juniper Farm.
WAKEFIELD, Que. — Growing up in Toronto, my parents would often take day trips outside the city on the weekends. I loved seeing the increasing stretches of nature, farmland, and animals as we left the city. We often visited a farm stand specializing in Japanese vegetables like daikon radish and kabocha squash. I didn’t realize what an impact these visits would have on me later. I love nature and the outdoors, but I consider myself primarily an urban girl.
In my early 20s, when I first arrived in Chelsea, Que. from Toronto, I fell in love with the Gatineau Hills. The vast areas of natural beauty and small-scale farms were breathtaking. I miss the region when I am away from it.
This June, I arrived at Juniper Farm in Wakefield, Que., about 30 minutes outside of Ottawa. At the farm, the staff harvested organic produce by hand in the fields with the beautiful landscape of the rolling hills behind them. I was greeted warmly by the owners, Alex and Juniper. I felt at home immediately. Thus, it was an automatic yes to the job as chef for the farm. It felt like a perfect fit to create farm-to-table food with their beautiful organic produce.
One of the philosophies I share with Juniper Farm is sustainability. We maximize the use of the incredible organic harvest and reduce waste. The Japanese expression mottainai (waste nothing) emphasizes that the earth’s resources are limited and to always be mindful not to waste anything.
Mottonai was ingrained into me from childhood and further emphasized when I trained in an organic macrobiotic restaurant in Tokyo. There is a Japanese philosophy that every object has a spirit and energy running through it. Therefore, many consider it rude to leave even a single grain of rice in the bowl.
The chef at the restaurant I trained at in Tokyo would be teary-eyed when foreigners would leave rice in their bowls, telling me how hard the farmer worked to pick every grain of rice by hand. This background serves me well at Juniper Farm.
I combine what I have leftover after cooking from our beautiful organic produce for pesto. It changes as the harvest changes. I often use the fresh tops of vegetables, such as turnips, carrots, and onions, greens like arugula or kale, and lighter tasting herbs du jour like parsley and basil. Parmigiano cheese is substituted with nutritional yeast, and pepitas (pumpkin seeds) replace nuts to make our pesto vegan and nut-free.
1/2 cup pepitas or pine nuts
4 cups packed fresh organic tops/greens/herbs
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
1/2 cup or more extra virgin olive oil
1. Combine the greens, pepitas/nuts, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, chopped garlic, and salt in a food processor.
2. With the machine running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Continue processing until the mixture is well blended but still has some texture, pausing to scrape down the sides as necessary. If you want the pesto smoother and thinner, blend further and add more oil or water.
3. The taste and texture of the pesto will change depending on what you put into it. If you find the pesto too bitter or sharp after combining all the ingredients, add a splash of maple syrup. If you want more zing, add another splash of apple cider vinegar and a pinch of salt.
4. Store leftover pesto in the refrigerator, covered, for up to one week. You can also freeze pesto in an ice cube tray. Once frozen, transfer to a freezer bag, then you can thaw as much as you need later.
Learn more about Juniper Farm at www.juniperfarm.ca.