The Main Menu: Thank goodness for greenhouses

Kudos to Ontario farmers who use innovation to grow fresh produce in a less than hospitable climate. Greenhouse gardening minimizes the effects of our rigorous climate and allows us to have fresh picked tomatoes, cucumber, peppers and lettuces now. In the past farmers had to rely on outdoor planting and Mother Nature. As a result, these crops would be available much later making us rely upon imports. Now we can support our own farmers and be sure of first quality products grown under ideal conditions. Look for the ‘Product of Canada or Ontario’ sign in the supermarket and be sure to buy local. These recipes are compliments of Foodland Ontario.

Grilled Vegetable and Orzo Salad
This fresh tasting spring salad is easy to prepare. Grilling asparagus and peppers brings out their natural sweetness, making the flavours even more intense.
1 lb ( 500 g) asparagus, trimmed
2 sweet peppers, seeded and cut into quarters
1/ 4 cup (50 mL) extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp (1 mL) each, salt and pepper
1 1/3 cups (325 mL) orzo pasta
1/3 cup (75 mL) chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1 tsp (5 ml) grated lemon rind
4 tsp (20 mL) fresh lemon juice
2 tsp (10 mL) liquid honey
3/4 cup (175 mL) crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup (50 mL) chopped fresh chives and dill
1/4 cup (50 mL) toasted pine nuts
In mixing bowl, toss together asparagus, peppers, 1 tbsp (15 mL) of oil, salt and pepper. Place on greased grill over medium-high heat; close lid and grill, turning occasionally until tender crisp and lightly charred, five to eight minutes. Return to bowl, let cool, and cut into bite sized pieces. Meanwhile, in large pot of boiling salted water, cook orzo for seven minutes. Stir in sun-dried tomatoes; cook for one minute or until orzo is tender. Drain and rinse with cold water. Drain again and place in serving bowl. Stir in grilled vegetables. In mixing bowl or measuring cup, combine lemon rind, lemon juice and honey; whisk in remaining oil. Pour dressing over orzo mixture. Add cheese, chives and dill; toss to coat. Sprinkle with pine nuts, if using.
Make ahead: Prepare salad but do not add cheese, chives, dill and pine nuts. Cover and refrigerate for up to one day. Before serving, bring salad to room temperature. Adjust seasoning and stir in cheese, chives, dill and pine nuts (if using).

Beef and Asparagus Fajitas
Serve these vibrant beef fajitas with accompanying bowls of Boston lettuce, chopped tomato, shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese and sour cream or try the garlic sauce – and let the fiesta begin!
1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) each chili powder and ground cumin
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt and black pepper
1 lb (500 g) beef grilling steak (strip loin or sirloin)
1 lb (500 g) asparagus, trimmed and cut into quarters
2 1/2 cups (625 mL) white and / or cremini mushrooms
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 sweet peppers, seeded and sliced into strips
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
4 tsp (20 mL) vegetable oil
1/2 tsp (2 mL) dried oregano
6 whole wheat tortillas, large size
1/4 cup (50 mL) fresh cilantro sprigs (optional)
Garlic Sauce (optional): In small bowl, combine 1 cup (250 mL) plain Balkan-style yogurt, 1 tbsp (15 mL) lemon juice, 1 garlic clove, minced and salt to taste. Makes 1 cup (250 mL).
In small bowl, stir together chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper; rub into both sides of steak. In large bowl combine asparagus, mushrooms, garlic, peppers, onion, oil and oregano. Stack tortillas and double wrap in foil. Place steak on greased grill and vegetables in grilling basket over medium-high heat. Close lid and grill steak, turning once, until medium-rare, about eight minutes. Transfer to cutting board; tent with foil and let stand for five minutes. Grill vegetables, tossing occasionally until tender-crisp, eight to ten minutes. Meanwhile, place tortillas on grill and warm through, about three minutes. To serve, slice steak thinly across the grain. In bowl, combine steak, vegetables and cilantro (if using). Serve with warm tortilla and desired accompaniments.

Roasted Vegetables and Chicken Penne
Celebrate spring with this light, nutrient-rich meal. For ease, pick up a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store.
1 lb (500 g) asparagus, trimmed
2 sweets peppers, seeded
2 tbsp (25 mL) olive oil
1/4 tsp (1 mL) each, salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) grape tomatoes
12 oz (375 mL) penne or other short pasta
2 cups (500 mL) cubed cut chicken
2 tbsp (25 mL) red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup (125 mL)crumbled aged white cheddar cheese
1/4 cup (50 mL) slivered fresh basil
green onion, thinly sliced
Slice asparagus diagonally into quarters and chop peppers into bite size pieces; place in medium bowl. Add 1 tbsp (15 mL) of oil, salt and pepper and toss. Spread on rimmed baking sheet. Roast in 425 deg. F ( 220 deg. C) oven for 7 minutes. Add tomatoes and shake baking sheet; roast for 8 minutes or until asparagus is tender-crisp.
Meanwhile, in large pot of boiling lightly salted water, cook penne according to package directions until tender. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup (250mL) of the cooking water.
Return pot to medium heat. Add pasta, remaining oil, roasted vegetables, chicken, vinegar and garlic; toss to combine, adding enough of the pasta water to moisten to desired consistency. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until chicken is heated through. Remove from heat. Stir in cheese, basil and green onions. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Cheddar Cheese Pastry
1 cup (250 mL) shredded old cheddar cheese

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