Tips on Eating Local – an interview with Chef Sara Harrel

by katerina on September 9, 2009

It is time for something a little different, my first interview! When I was in Toronto, I got the chance to meet Chef Sara Harrel and asked if she would be interested in giving us some tips on eating more locally and seasonally. Chef Sara Harrel is the founder of the Veg Company based in Toronto. She also developed several courses towards the Vegetarian Cuisine Certificate at George Brown College. I was lucky enough to meet her when I was in Toronto as she is currently working with Hellmann’s® Eat Real Eat Local Campaign. She has kindly agreed to do an interview on some tips for eating local.

Why do you think it is important to eat more local and real foods?
Many people today have lost touch with where their food comes from, how it gets to them and what’s in it. One of the essentials of living is that we must eat.

Can you give a few tips to my readers on easy ways to incorporate more local foods into their diet?
Become a culinary tourist in your own hometown! Now I may be biased because I’m a total foodie, but when I travel one of the things I do is check out the local restaurants, farmer’s markets and grocery stores – and indulge in the local fare. So next time you’re shopping for groceries, pick one or two items that you may automatically purchase (perhaps its cheese, bread or fruit) and make a point to seek out something made locally. The taste and texture of a food can vary considerably depending on how and where something was grown or manufactured. Chances are you’ll find some new favourites!

The perception is that eating local can be more expensive, how can you manage a food budget and still incorporate in local foods?
Some foods that are available year round can be very reasonably priced ie eggs, milk, grains, beans, flour and oils. For those items that are not available year round, shop seasonally, cook up a storm and can/freeze (the website has a great section on what products are in season by region in Canada). Wouldn’t you enjoy a heat and serve homemade frozen meal on a cold winter’s day?

What are your favourite local foods of the summer? How do you like to use them?
Tomatoes, peaches, strawberries, potatoes, spinach and corn. I personally love tomatoes, sun ripened and fresh off the vine!
For tomatoes, I use the best of summer’s tomato harvest as a simple salad with fresh herbs, fresh cheeses and simple vinaigrette. I’ll also oven-dry tomatoes and include them in salads and sandwiches (and freeze leftovers). I also love roasting tomatoes and making soup with them.
I love using mini potatoes in many colors in potato salads, and corn fresh off the cob roasted, steamed or bbq’d. I use leftover as a side dish or in salads.

How did you get involved with Hellmann’s®?
I was invited to participate. It was an easy yes as I believe in what they’re doing and have used Hellmann’s® Real Mayonnaise for many years.

What is your purpose in doing so?
Inspire others to enjoy more real local food

She also sent along a recipe which includes goat cheese for us all to try, clearly she knows the way to my heart.

[print_this]Strawberry, Blueberry, Spinach and Goats Cheese Salad in a Honey Raspberry Vinaigrette
( serves 8 )
Recipe courtesy of Chef Sara Harrel, The Veg Company Inc

1 1/2 lbs fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 cup blueberries
2 peaches, very thinly sliced
10 oz baby spinach
1 recipe Honey Raspberry Vinaigrette
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese

Honey Raspberry Vinaigrette
1/3 cup canola oil
2 1/2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp raspberry red wine vinegar

1. Salad: Just before serving, toss strawberries, blueberries, peaches and spinach together.
2. Honey Raspberry Vinaigrette: Whisk all ingredients together; toss with salad.
3. Garnish with crumbled goat cheese.[/print_this]

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