I love my neighbourhood, where Lebreton Flats, Little Italy and Chinatown meet. It’s a densely-populated working-class neighbourhood on the fringe of downtown Ottawa. The housing is a healthy mix of subsidized rentals, market rentals, non-profit rentals, co-operatives, and privately owned homes. Next door to me is the community garden, where apartment-dwellers can lay claim to a little plot of earth and create their own vegetables, herbs and flowers. Across the road is the dog park, where all the dog people chat while their canine friends run around off-leash and do doggy things like wrestle, chase squirrels, and take turns peeing on the picnic table. The kids here tend to be fairly innovative, since their parents generally can’t afford to spoil them. They play the way we used to play – outside, using their imaginations and whatever else is handy.
Some other good things in my neighbourhood:
- The transitway
- The bike paths
- The river
- The Plant Bath – a first-class recreation centre which re-opened two years ago after years of lying dormant
- The great food shops in Chinatown and Little Italy
- A tiny art gallery at Preston and Primrose
- Richard Fitzpatrick’s used book shop just opened at Wellington and Spadina: all the books are half price until Easter Monday
But it’s not a perfect neighbourhood. The Loeb’s grocery store on Booth Street is pretty meagre. It’s better than nothing, I suppose, but the vegetables look like something you would throw out if you found them in your own fridge. And I love good, fresh bread – they never have good, fresh bread. We are also in need of a neighbourhood coffee shop.
I’m going to write to Loeb’s and ask them to improve that store. I wonder who I can lobby for a coffee shop?
Oh, by the way…yesterday I had to go to the grocery store at Bank and Somerset because the Loeb’s here didn’t have half the stuff I needed to make this incredible chili. It was delicious.
BLACK BEAN CHILI WITH BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND SWISS CHARD
Top with chopped fresh cilantro, red onions, and grated cheddar cheese, if you like.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 1/2 cups chopped onions
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 1/2 cups 1/2-inch pieces peeled butternut squash
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
3 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed, drained
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
3 cups (packed) coarsely chopped Swiss chard leaves (from 1 small bunch)
Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic; sauté until tender and golden, about 9 minutes. Add squash; stir 2 minutes. Stir in chili powder and cumin. Stir in beans, broth, and tomatoes with juices; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until squash is tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in chard; simmer until chard is tender but still bright green, about 4 minutes longer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle chili into bowls and serve.
Makes 4 main-course servings.