Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Week 37 - BAKED BEANS

Saskatchewan Menu of the Week -- 25 December 2005

Brunch -- Pancakes with fruit compote.
Dinner -- Pear and Butternut Soup. Baked ham. Baked beans. Baked potatoes. Coleslaw. Cherry Tarte.

My husband installed a wood-burning stove in our front room. It’s a cute little black model made by a Norwegian company called Jotul. We love it. We had some friends over for dinner and without any prompting from us, they pulled their chairs around the fire. The door is glass so we can see the flame, and there is a burner on top for boiling tea water or simmering a pot of beans. Yes, we are eating beans this week. First, I soaked the beans overnight with some yogurt in the water (that’s supposed to diffuse the bean effect). Then I simmered the beans on the wood stove with water, a ham hock and a couple of bay leaves. Once softened, I baked the beans in the oven with some molasses, brown sugar, tomato paste and worcester sauce. We had beans for supper tonight, and tomorrow we’ll warm the leftovers on the wood stove. Maybe we’ll add some wieners. It’s just like camping, only better...

BAKED BEANS
I bought a HUGE bag of pinto beans at a flea market which were grown on a farm near Radisson.

Soak 2 cups of beans and 2 tbsp. plain yogurt in water overnight. Drain the water. Put the beans in a stock pot, add two ham hocks, 2 bay leaves, salt and a few peppercorns. Cover with fresh water and simmer until the beans are soft.

Divide the beans and their liquid between two oven-proof casseroles with lids. Remove the meat from the ham hocks and divide evenly between the two pots. Into each, stir in a few chopped tomatoes, a couple spoonfuls of tomato paste, 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup of molasses. Bake, covered, for two hours or more at 300 degrees. Add water if the beans soak up their liquid. Before serving, remove the lids and bake until the top of the beans is nice and brown.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Week 36 - APPLE TARTE

Saskatchewan Menu of the Week -- 22 December 2005

Brunch – Ricotta pie with rhubarb salsa
Dinner – Pork and Fruit Stew with biscuits. Apple Tarte.

APPLE TARTE
This is skinnier and therefore less filling than an apple pie, but no less tasty. I make it in a tarte pan, which has short fluted sides (as opposed to a deep pie dish). Serve it with whipped cream, if you like. In late summer, when apples are abundant, I make this with Saskatchewan apples instead of Granny Smiths.

1.5 cups applesauce (made with Saskatchewan apples)
2 big granny smith apples
a single pie crust
cinnamon, sugar to taste
3T jelly (I used local gooseberry jelly)

Heat the applesauce in a saucepan. Spice it up with cinnamon to your taste and add a few tablespoons of sugar to make it less tart. Roll the pastry and place it in the tarte pan, crimping the edges around the rim. Spoon in the applesauce in a smooth layer.

Peel and core the granny smith apples, and slice them thinly. Lay the apple slices on top of the applesauce, forming a circle of closely overlapping apple slices. Repeat with an inner circle of apple to cover the pie. Melt the jelly until it is liquefied and brush it onto the sliced apples. (Sometimes I add a thimble of liquor such as brandy to the jelly, but I did not this time because there was a child coming for dinner.) As a final touch, I brushed the crust with milk and sprinked it with sugar.

Bake the tarte in 375 degrees until the crust is brown and the apples are soft, about 30-35 minutes.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Newspaper - PEAR AND BUTTERNUT SOUP

(Thic column was first published in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix on 19 December 2005.)

I have a confession to make. I bought a box of Christmas oranges. This may seem innocent enough to you, but it is a brazen violation of my Saskatchewan-only diet. For one full year, I am attempting to eat only Saskatchewan foods in my own home. No orange, banana, mango or tasteless strawberry has graced my door since April.

Until now. What came over me? There I was in the Co-op grocery store picking up Saskatchewan cheese and sausage, drifting right past the produce section, when my cart bumped into a stack of orange boxes direct from China. I had a flash of childhood Christmases, discovering an orange in the bottom of my stocking and studiously removing the peel in one whole piece. I remembered the pioneer stories about jubilant children who got their only orange of the entire year at Christmas time. If it was a luxury of the pioneer diet, then surely I could justify a few zipper oranges in my own shopping cart at Christmas.

Not that my diet really resembles that of the pioneers. Eating locally is much different today. We grow so many more foods in Saskatchewan than the pioneers ever thought possible and we have freezers to keep them in.

As I write, I am awaiting delivery of half a pig – cut, wrapped and cured – from a local organic farm. Yesterday, I made ricotta cheese with local milk. And Canada Post has just delivered a box of Saskatchewan sprouting seeds for my cheese sandwiches this winter.

Why am I doing this? It seemed an appropriate challenge for Saskatchewan’s centennial year. But that is not my prime motivation. I want to support local farmers and processors, eat healthier tastier food, and cut the fossil fuels expended getting dinner to my plate. When you consider that most of our fruits and vegetables travel upwards of 1,500 kilometres, it’s a major contribution to pollution and greenhouse gas. I like to travel, but I like my vegetables to stay close to home.

To be truthful, I do purchase "foreign" food items if I need them for a mostly Saskatchewan recipe when there is no local equivalent. The other day I made a Russian salad with beets, carrots, potatoes, egg and pickled herring. That was followed by a pork and apricot stew and for dessert, cookies sprinkled with icing sugar. Astute readers will know that herring, apricots and icing sugar are not from here. But they do wonderful things for the foods that are.

This Christmas dinner, I will be serving a ham with a honey-mustard glaze, the herring salad and a coleslaw. My sister is bringing homemade perogies. Perhaps we’ll start with a curried soup of pear and butternut squash and finish with a saskatoon pie. Happy Holidays! (For the other recipes, go to homefordinner.blogspot.com.)

CURRIED PEAR AND BUTTERNUT SOUP
I use Calcutta Curry produced in Saskatoon by Chatty’s Indian Foods. You can use a generic curry powder but it won’t be as good! You can buy it (and the vegetables) at the Saturday Farmers’ Market. As for the pears, I canned them last fall from a tree on Temperance Street.

1 large butternut squash
2T butter
1 large onion in thin slices
3T curry powder
Salt & white pepper
4C water
1 cup chopped canned pears and their juice
1/2 cup cream

Peel, seed and chop the butternut squash into small chunks. You should have 4-5 cups of squash. Melt the butter in a soup pot and sauté the onions. When the onions are softened, stir in the curry powder, salt and pepper to taste. Continue cooking until the onions are quite soft.
Add the water and the squash. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer, covered, until the squash can be pierced with a fork (about 30 minutes). Add the pears and juice. Cook another 15 minutes.
Remove from the heat and cool. Purée the soup in a blender. Return to a clean pot and add the cream. If it looks too thick, add more water to reach your desired consistency. Reheat and serve.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Week 35 - PORK AND FRUIT STEW

Saskatchewan Menu of the Week -- 11 December 2005

Breakfast – Scrambled eggs and cornbread.
Lunch – Yogurt. Christmas orange.
Dinner – Pork and Fruit Stew.

PORK STEW WITH APRICOTS AND PRUNES
This recipe from Russia is plucked from the pages of the latest Saveur magazine, so credit is given where credit is due. Like most stews, this one is better the day after it's made, so if you're serving it to company make it a day ahead.

3 pounds pork roast, trimmed of fat, cut into bite-sized cubes
6T vegetable oil
6 carrots peeled and sliced into rounds
4T tomato paste
1 cup dried apricots
5 cups water
1 pound onions peeled and cut into wedges
1 cup pitted prunes
salt and pepper

Season the pork with salt and pepper. Heat half the oil in a heavy bottom pot. When the oil is hot, cook the pork until it is no longer pink. (If pork fat has accumulated in pan, pour it off before proceeding.) Add the carrots, tomato paste, apricots and water. Boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook gently, uncovered for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the rest of the oil in a skillet and sauté the onions until golden brown. When the stew has simmered for 45 minutes, add the onions and prunes. Continue to simmer until the stew has thickened, about 30 minutes. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Serve with boiled potatoes.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Week 34 - RED PEPPER PESTO

Saskatchewan Menu of the Week -- 5 December 2005

Breakfast – Toast with honey.
Lunch – Cheese and sprout sandwich.
Dinner – Pasta with Red Pepper Pesto.

RED PEPPER PESTO
Traditionally, we think of pesto made with basil and pine nuts. But technically, a pesto is any smooth blend usually made with garlic, olive oil and cheese. This is delicious and freezes well. I buy local hothouse red peppers in summer and freeze a few batches for the winter months.

several cloves of roasted garlic (see note below)
2 red peppers, roasted and peeled (see note below)
3-4T oil
3/4 cup parmesan cheese
1T blue cheese
fresh thyme
salt and pepper

Mix everything in a blender until smooth. Taste and adjust the flavour ingredients to your taste.

Note: To roast garlic, cut a slice off the top of a whole bulb of garlic, smother the cut surface with olive oil, wrap in tinfoil and bake in hot oven until soft, about 30 minutes. Roasted garlic is nuttier and smoother than raw garlic. It keeps well wrapped in tinfoil and goes nicely in a pasta sauce, omelet or wherever you would put garlic. To prepare the red peppers, broil in the oven, turning to blacken every surface. (Be careful to char just the skin and not the flesh.) Put hot peppers in a paper bag until cool enough to handle. Peel the charred skin off the flesh and discard along with the seeds.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Weeks 32 & 33 - POORI (Indian bread)

Menu of the Week -- 27 November 2005

Brunch – Scrambled eggs with cheese and tomatoes.
Dinner – Bookclub potluck -- I took Indian breads chapati and poori.

POORI
This is a quick and simple Indian-style bread used to scoop up curries and other dishes.

Measure 2.5 cups of all purpose flour into a small bowl. Make a well in the centre. Pour in 1 cup of warm water. Using your fingers, gradually mix the flour into the water until you have incorporated the flour and made a soft dough. Cover the dough in plastic and let it rest on the counter for an hour.

In a saucepan, heat two inches of canola oil until it is hot and a drop of water sizzles on the surface. Cut the dough into 10-12 small pieces about the size of a walnut and shape them into a smooth balls. Roll each ball with a rolling pin until it is quite thin. Drop the flat dough into the hot oil. As it cooks, it will puff in the middle. Flip it once so it browns on both sides.

Remove and drain on a paper towel, then wrap in a tea towel to keep warm. Repeat the process until all the bread is cooked. It is best to make poori just before the meal so it is still warm when you eat it!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Newspaper - GROUSE AND BEAN STEW

Deep in my genetic makeup, I believe you’ll find the DNA of an ancient hunter-gatherer. Hunter-gatherers existed long ago before we learned to farm, when we had to hunt for meat and forage for plants in the wild. I love to forage, especially when it’s easy and convenient. There’s a certain sense of pride in accumulating good food for nothing but a few hours in nature.

Summer just wouldn’t be summer if I didn’t get out and forage for saskatoon berries. Last summer, I learned to forage for chanterelle mushrooms in the forest near La Ronge. So, I couldn’t pass up an invitation to forage for wild rose petals in the Nisbet Forest. Everyone knows that rose hips make a nutritious tea, but I didn’t know you could eat the flowers, too.

Marie Symes-Grehan lives in a log cabin where she has perfected the technique for making rose petal jam. The petals are suspended ever so delicately in pink that it looks almost too good to eat. We set out in the morning after the dew was gone, down a sandy road through the forest where the wild roses grow abundantly in the roadsides.

"The scent of roses is so intoxicating, I believe it really does affect your well being," says Marie. "It’s like prairie Zen."

After we collect the petals in cotton sacks, we sort them and sift out the stamens. Wearing a big hair net, Marie boils up some water and organic sugar, adding the petals at just the right moment. Then into the jars. She sells her wild jams and syrups under the label Lily Plain Summer, which are especially popular at the Granville Island Market in Vancouver. The jam is too pretty for ordinary toast, so I serve it on crackers with blue cheese. Very chi-chi and delicious.

While the gathering side of my genetic makeup is strong, I am not much of a hunter. But who needs to hunt when you have a friend like Jeff, a woodworking buddy of my husband’s.
One day there was a knock at the door, and there stood Jeff with a box of frozen moose and two grouse breasts, cut and wrapped.

Not sure how to cook them, I delved into my stack of Saveur magazines. I found a Cuban recipe for quail and beans, and a Portuguese dish of beef and Moroccan spices. Both were perfect, proving that even wild Saskatchewan foods are right at home in world cuisine.

The other night, we had Jeff and Susan for dinner with their three children and Jason, another woodworking friend. I served the moose, and for dessert, ice cream with Saskatchewan cherries.
Since April, I have been eating almost exclusively Saskatchewan foods in my own home and it’s going great – with a little help from Mother Nature and from my friends.
(The recipe for Portuguese moose "sopas" is at 4 Nov 2005)

GROUSE AND BEAN STEW
I think this stew might be nice with chicken, though I haven’t tried it yet.

Marinade
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp vegetable oil
juice of one lime

Stew
1/2 lb. dried Saskatchewan pinto (or other) beans
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/21 tsp. cumin
oil
2 grouse breasts
1 onion, chopped in half
handful of chives, chopped
4 ripe plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
handful cilantro, chopped
leaves from one sprig of oregano, chopped
pepper

The day before: Put the beans in a large bowl, cover with 6 cups of water, and leave it to soak overnight. Make marinade: crush the garlic cloves with the salt in a mortar and pestle until they form a smooth paste. Stir in the cumin, vegetable oil and lime juice. Mix this with the meat in a large bowl or a ziplock bag and marinate overnight.

The day of: Put the beans and soaking water into a large pot with a tight-fitting lid. Add half the onion, cover and boil. Lower heat and simmer until the beans are soft, about 1.5 hours. When they are cooked, remove and discard the onion.

Take one cup of beans and mash them with a fork until they are quite smooth. Put this back into the pot of beans.

In another pan: Take the meat out of the marinade. Heat some oil in a frying pan and brown the meat on both sides. Remove. In the same pan, lower the heat and add 2 cloves of chopped garlic, the other half of onion (chopped), and the chives. Cook until the onions are translucent. Add tomatoes, cilantro, oregano and cumin. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook this down until it forms a paste, 7-10 minutes.

Put everything, including the marinade, into the bean pot. Cover and bake at 350 degrees F until the meat is cooked through. (About an hour.)

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Week 30 & 31 - YELLOW PEA 'FAVA'

Saskatchewan Menu of the Week -- 7 November 2005

Breakfast – Yogurt and cherries
Lunch – Scrambled egg, a chunk of mozzarella cheese
Dinner – Bread with Yellow Pea 'Fava' Spread. Sausages. Cucumber.

YELLOW PEA ‘FAVA’
This is a fabulous Greek dish made with split yellow peas. It is served as a spread on bread. I found the recipe in Saveur magazine (Nov. 2004). I usually make half this recipe because it’s quite large, although it does freeze well. I purchased the organic split peas from the Cerridwen Farm at Medstead.

1 lb yellow split peas
2 large red onions, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
2-3 T fresh lemon juice or 3-4 T red wine vinegar
1.5 C olive oil
2T chopped fresh parsley

Put the split peas, three-quarters of the onion and 7 cups of water into a medium pot. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Skim the foam that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat and gently simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 1-1.5 hours. Stir during the last 15 minutes of cooking to prevent sticking to the pot. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove the pot from the heat. Vigorously stir in the lemon juice (or vinegar) and half the oil. Cover the pot with a clean towel and leave to cool completely. The purée will thicken as it cools. To serve, stir purée and scoop into a serving dish. Sprinkle with parsley and the remaining onion. Drizzle with remaining oil. Serve with fresh crusty bread.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Week 29 - MOOSE (OR BEEF) SOPAS

Saskatchewan Menu of the Week -- 29 October 2005

Breakfast – Pancakes.
Lunch – Chocolate bowtie croissant (from Christie's Bakery)
Dinner – Raw carrots. Yellow pea 'fava' on bread. Moose Sopas. Ice cream with cherry sauce.

MOOSE (OR BEEF) SOPAS
Sopas is a Portuguese beef stew. I found the original recipe in Saveur magazine. I tried it with beef and moose. I actually prefer the moose, but the beef is good, too. The coriander, tomatoes and mint were from my garden. The moose was a gift from our friend, Jeff, an avid hunter.

You’ll need a piece of cheesecloth or a tea ball.

1/2 tsp whole allspice berries
1/2 tsp whole coriander seeds
1/2 tsp whole cloves
3-4 pound moose roast
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 bay leaves
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 cup tomato sauce (I used 1/2 cup sauce and 1 cup tomatoes)
1 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 cup ketchup
1 tsp cinnamon
Salt to taste
3 cups water
Day-old French or Italian bread, sliced
Chopped mint for garnish

Secure the allspice, coriander and cloves in a piece of cheesecloth or tea ball.

Put this bag of spices in a large pot with the meat and everything else (but the bread and mint). Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5-6 hours, stirring occasionally, until the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender.

Scoop out the meat to a large bowl and shred it with two forks. Discard the spice bag.

To serve, place a piece of bread in the centre of a plate or bowl. Scatter on a handful of shredded meat. Pour on a ladle of broth. Sprinkle with mint and serve.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Weeks 27 & 28 - PEAR AND BUTTERNUT SOUP

Saskatchewan Menu of the Week -- 27 October 2005

Breakfast – Yogurt and rhubarb.
Lunch – Chicken salad sandwhich with lettuce.
Dinner – Curried pear and butternut soup.

CURRIED PEAR AND BUTTERNUT SOUP
I used Calcutta Curry Powder, produced in Saskatoon by Chatty’s Indian Foods. It’s available in many local stores and the farmers’ market. If you can’t get that, use any curry powder that you prefer. (But it won't be as good!) The butternut squash came from my garden. And, believe it or not, the pears were also grown in Saskatchewan. Our friends Verna and Dick have a big old pear tree in their back yard. I picked and canned several jars of pears.

1 medium butternut squash
2 tbsp butter
1 large onion in thin slices
1 tbsp curry powder
Salt & white pepper
4 cup water
1 cup chopped canned pears and their juice (about 1/2 cup juice)
1 cup cream

Peel, seed and chop the butternut squash into small chunks. You should have 4-5 cups of squash.
Melt the butter in a soup pot and sauté the onions. When the onions have softened, stir in the curry powder and a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Continue cooking until the onions are quite soft.

Add the water and the squash. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer, covered, until the squash can be pierced with a fork (about 30 minutes). Add the chopped pears and juice. Cook another 15 minutes. Taste and add more curry powder if you like it spicy.

Remove from heat and allow to cool. Purée the soup in a blender. Return to a clean pot and add the cream. If it looks too thick, add more water until reaching a desired consistency. Reheat (but don’t boil) and serve.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Newspaper - BEET&WALNUT SALAD

This column first appeared in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix on 17 October 2005.

I have turned into a food packrat. If someone says to me, would you like some garden carrots? I say yes without thinking. If someone offers me a handful of beets, I don’t say, No thank you, I have beets in my garden. I say emphatically yes. If friends offer me fruit of any kind from their own trees, I don’t care what it is. I just say okay.

I have become like an anxious squirrel who puts away enough food for three winters. Why? Because I am trying to eat nothing but Saskatchewan foods in my own home, and I’m a tad worried how I’ll manage through the winter months.

It has been easy up ‘til now. I began my Saskatchewan diet in April, just as the rhubarb and herbs were poking through the garden and greenhouse produce was arriving at the farmers’ market. Thanks to the market, my own garden and the generosity of friends and family, I have enjoyed plenty of fruits and vegetables up to now. But what about February? If I can’t go to the store for an apple or a carrot or a head of lettuce, how will I survive?

I take comfort in the fact that the pioneers managed to live through the winter without getting scurvy. They knew how to preserve the bounty of the harvest for the lean months. If they could do it, surely I could, too, with my freezer and canning pot and other modern kitchen conveniences.
My primary goal is not to emulate the pioneers, but to support local agriculture and the health of the environment by eating locally as much as possible for one full year – just to prove it can be done!

To that end, I have been canning and freezing just about everything I get my hands on. My preserves include pears, apples, cherries, saskatoons, strawberries, rhubarb, asparagus and even grapes grown in Saskatchewan. My freezer is full of meat and vegetables. I have buckets of beans, lentils, rolled oats and pearl barley. Should Saskatoon be cut off from the rest of the world by a freak glacier this winter, no one will starve at my house.

My last outdoor dinner party of the summer was, you might say, a real washout. There was a water main break on my street and the taps were turned off for more than a day. Since I was just starting to cook (and hadn’t even cleaned the house yet), I called my guests and we went out to eat instead. As a result, I do not have a wonderful harvest meal to write about here today.
But, had the meal proceeded, this is what we were going to have: cherry tomatoes stuffed with pesto, beet and walnut salad, pasta primavera and for dessert, Black Forest cake made with local cherries.

Just about everything in this meal is from Saskatchewan with a few exceptions, such as the walnuts in the beet salad and the chocolate in the Black Forest cake (and I’m not giving up chocolate!). For all the recipes in this fantasy dinner, go to homefordinner.blogspot.com.


Roasted Beet and Walnut Salad
2 medium beets (or 4 small)
1/3 cup walnut pieces
1T brown sugar
salad greens for two
a nob of goat’s cheese
1/2T sherry or balsamic vinegar
1/2T fruit syrup
3T canola oil
salt

Roast the beets in the oven or cook in the microwave until they can be pierced through with a paring knife. Cool and peel. Heat 1T of water and the brown sugar in a non-stick skillet. Stir in the walnuts. Cook stirring until the liquid evaporates and the nuts are glazed. Place the greens on two salad plates, top with sliced beets, sprinkle on the walnuts and dot with goat’s cheese. (You can use a different cheese such as ricotta or feta.) Combine the vinegar, the fruit syrup (I used a chokecherry syrup made by my friend Laureen) with the oil and a bit of salt. Drizzle over the salad and serve.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Week 26 - EGGPLANT PARMIGIANA

Saskatchcewan Menu of the Week -- 8 October 2005

Breakfast – Yogurt with fresh pear.
Lunch – Egg salad sandwich.
Dinner – Eggplant Parmigiana.

MELANZANA alla PARMIGIANA
(Eggplant Parmigiana adapted from Saveur magazine)

This Italian classic takes some time to make, but it’s well worth the effort. I usually grow eggplant in my garden, but this year they were a complete bust. I bought these at the Farmers' Market.

Take two medium eggplants (or lots of little ones of that’s what you find at the farmers’ market) and slice about 1/4 inch thick. Deep-fry the slices of eggplant in hot canola oil until they are browned on both sides. Drain on paper towels.

Meanwhile, make a tomato sauce: sauté 2 chopped cloves of garlic in 3T of olive oil. Add 10-or-so chopped Roma tomatoes (or one can of tomatoes with juice) and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a good boil over medium high heat, then turn down the heat and simmer until the sauce thickens, about 30 minutes. Add 1T dried basil near the end of cooking.

Assembly: In a 10-inch baking dish, spread half the tomato sauce. Cover with half the eggplant slices. Scatter in 1/2 cup of grated mozzarella cheese. Repeat with the rest of the tomato sauce, eggplant and another 1/2 cup of mozzarella. Top with some fresh basil leaves (if you have them) and 1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until the top is bubbly and golden.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Week 25 - DEVILED EGGS

Saskatchewan Menu of the Week -- 2 October 2005

Brunch – Sausages. Pancakes with pears.
Dinner – Toasted cheese and tomato sandwich. Devilled eggs.

DEVILLED EGGS
We usually make devilled eggs with mayonnaise, but this lighter version turned out just great.

Boil 6 eggs. Half lengthwise and scoop out the yolks. To the yolks add: 2 minced cloves of garlic, 3T finely chopped parsley, 2T French mustard, 2T Worcestershire sauce, 3T milk or cream, salt and pepper. Mix together, fill the egg halves and eat!

Friday, September 30, 2005

Week 24 - CORN CHOWDER

Saskatchewan Menu of the Week -- 29 September 2005

Breakfast – Yogurt with pears.
Lunch – Spinach salad.
Dinner – Corn chowder. Baguette

CORN CHOWDER
This is perfect for those last few over-ripened cobs of corn from the garden. I froze quite a bit of corn this fall, so we should be eating this chowder all winter.

2t butter
1/8 cup prosciutto or Canadian bacon
1 diced onion
2 sticks each celery and carrot, diced
1t flour
1 cup milk
1 large potato peeled and diced (my husband likes lots of potato)
salt and pepper to taste
1t dried oregano (or marjoram)
1 cup corn kernels
water
a few sprigs of parsley

In a soup pot, melt the butter and sauté the meat, onion, celery and carrots. When the onion is translucent, sprinkle on the flour and cook one minute, stirring constantly. While stirring, add the milk. Boil. Add the potatoes, oregano, salt and pepper to taste. Pour in enough water to cover the potatoes and return to a boil. Reduce heat, cover the pot and simmer until the potatoes are cooked. Stir in the corn and cook until it is heated through. To serve, sprinkle each bowl with a pinch of freshly chopped parsley.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

CANCELLED end of summer dinner

Sometimes, the best menus are all in our heads. This one was supposed to be our final outdoor dinner party of the summer, but we had to cancel when the city turned off the water and dug up the street. (It was the fifth or sixth water main break of the year – zzzhhheeesh!) So, here is my fantasy end-of-summer dinner:

Cherry tomatoes stuffed with pesto
Roasted beet and walnut salad
Pasta Primavera
Black Forest cake

CHERRY TOMATOES STUFFED WITH PESTO – Cut the top of each cherry tomato. Using a small spoon, scoop out the flesh. Fill the cavity with pesto. You can make pesto by mixing in a blender:

1cup fresh basil leaves
5T freshly grated parmesan cheese
3T pine nuts
2 cloves of garlic
1/2cup olive oil
salt to taste

ROASTED BEET AND WALNUT SALAD
2 medium beets (or 4 small)
1/3cup walnut pieces
1T brown sugar
salad greens for two
a nob of goat’s cheese
1/2T sherry or balsamic vinegar
1/2T fruit syrup
3T canola oil
salt

Roast the beets in the oven or cook in the microwave until they can be pierced through with a paring knife. Cool and peel. Heat 1T of water and the brown sugar in a non-stick skillet. Stir in the walnuts. Cook stirring until the liquid evaporates and the nuts are glazed. Place the greens on two salad plates, top with sliced beets, sprinkle on the walnuts and dot with goat’s cheese. (You can use a different cheese such as ricotta or feta.) Combine the vinegar, the fruit syrup (I used a chokecherry syrup made by my friend Laureen) with the oil and a bit of salt. Drizzle over the salad and serve.

PASTA PRIMAVERA
This recipe is adapted from Lorenza’s Pasta, by Lorenza de’Medici. You can easily substitute other vegetables, and use more or less of each as they are available in season. According to Lorenza, this pasta dish is not served with cheese.

2T butter
1/2 cup canola or olive oil
1/2 chopped onion
1 chopped clove garlic
1 medium zucchini, sliced (or two small)
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 cup chopped snap peas (or shelled peas)
2 large ripe tomatoes
1T each parsley and/or basil
salt and pepper
Cooked pasta for four people (I prefer this with shaped pasta such as bowties or rigatoni, as opposed to long noodles like spaghetti.)

Melt the butter and half the olive oil on medium heat. Add the onions and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently so it doesn’t brown. Add the zucchini, carrots and peas. Cook until the carrots are no longer hard to the bite. Season with salt and pepper. Add the cooked pasta along with the tomatoes, herbs and the rest of the oil. Toss it together and cook briefly until the tomatoes are softened. Serve hot.

BLACK FOREST CAKE
This recipe is adapted from an old Time-Life series on the cooking of Germany (published in 1969). Since my dinner was cancelled, I didn’t get a chance to make it. But this is what I was going to do:

Make a tall chocolate cake. Cool the cake and cut in half horizontally, setting the top half aside. While still warm, prick both layers of the cake with a fork and sprinkle with cherry syrup:

CHERRY SYRUP
Thaw and drain 1 cup of frozen sour cherries. (Pit the cherries if they aren’t pitted yet.) Pour the drained cherry juice into a measuring cup and fill to 1 cup with water. Combine this liquid with 3/4cup sugar in a saucepan over moderate heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Boil uncovered for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and when it is lukewarm stir in 1/3cup of kirsch.

WHIPPED TOPPING
Beat 2cups of cream until it starts to thicken. Sift 1/4cup confectioner’s sugar over the whipped cream and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Pour in 1/8cup kirsch and beat just until it is blended.

ASSEMBLY
Place the bottom layer of the cake on a serving platter. Spread half the whipped cream on the cake, spilling over the edge. Sprinkle with 3/4 of the cherries. Place the top layer of cake and spread with the remaining whipped cream. Garnish with the remaining cherries.

Take a very good piece of chocolate and "peel" off curls of chocolate with a sharp knife or a vegetable peeler. Sprinkle the cake with chocolate. Be generous – this is not a dieter’s dessert!

Monday, September 26, 2005

Newspaper - September - FRENCH ZUCCHINI LOAF WITH TOMATO BASIL SAUCE

This column appeared in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix on 26 September 2005

When my husband agreed to marry me, he insisted on a prenuptial agreement with just one demand – that I would never plant more than six zucchini at a time. That was a tough contract to sign. Zucchini is my favourite summer vegetable. It grows abundantly with little fuss, the flowers are beautiful and it’s very versatile in the kitchen.

I had just passed the first summer in my own house, and I must admit I went overboard with the zucchini. I had no fewer than a dozen zucchini plants in my little garden. Even if I ate zucchini three meals a day, I could not keep up with that level of production. I offered zucchini to all my friends. We would be at a party or a café and the conversation would go something like this:

"Would you like a zucchini?"
"Sure."
"Great, I’ll just go get a few from the trunk of my car."

My husband-to-be suggested I just leave the trunk open and with any luck, someone would steal them. One day, I found a newspaper headline stuck it to the fridge. It read: "That’s not a dead body, that’s a zucchini."

I signed on the dotted line. Since then, I have focused on quality not quantity by finding new and wonderful ways to make the most of my limited zucchini crop. A trip to France was a great eye-opener. In France, they eat the zucchini flowers. What better way to limit production than by lopping off the source of the fruit before it gets a head start? The French batter the flowers and fry them in hot oil. Sometimes, they stuff the flowers first with a mixture of breadcrumbs, herbs and cheese. I like to pick the young zucchini when they are as thin as a finger and the flower is still attached, and deep-fry them together. The flowers are so bright and sunny, I feel happier just to have swallowed them.

The end of summer is bittersweet for me. My garden is abundant with good things to eat, but there is so little time to enjoy it. Everything needs to be picked at once, before it over-ripens or freezes. Or, in the case of zucchini, grows to the size of Shaquille O’Neal’s shoes.

This year, I am preserving as much as possible by freezing or canning. I am doing this because I have pledged to eat nothing but Saskatchewan foods in my own home for one full year. I began in April, and it has been amazingly easy so far. There has been abundant fresh produce (from my garden and the Farmers’ Market) and local fruit (apples, cherries, saskatoons and other berries), but what about February? If I want to eat this winter, I better be prepared.

My freezer is now full, and I’ve billeted out some food to the freezer of a friend. Just last week, I canned a peck of pears from a tree on Temperance Street. Now, if only I could find a way to save zucchini flowers for a blustery winter day... If ever I discover a zucchini the size of a small boat, I know what to do with it. This recipe comes from a French tourist brochure. It’s good on its own or with a sauce like the one that follows. (For more zucchini recipes go to: homefordinner.blogspot.com.)

FRENCH ZUCCHINI LOAF
one big zucchini
4T flour
3 eggs slightly beaten
1 clove garlic chopped
1 handful parsley chopped
pinch of nutmeg
150g gruyere cheese

Peel the zucchini, scoop out the seed pith, and cut into chunks. Steam the zucchini until it begins to soften. Mix everything together and pat into a buttered bread loaf pan. Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes. (I like to brown the crust under the broiler.) Serve in thick slices.

Tomato Basil Sauce: Warm a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet. Add a chopped clove of garlic until fragrant. Add 2 or 3 well-chopped tomatoes. Cook slowly until the juices evaporate and the tomatoes break down into a sauce. Add 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh (or 1/2 tbsp. dried) basil. Season with salt and pepper.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Week 23 - JUMPING MUSTARD TOMATO CHUTNEY

Saskatchewan Menu of the Week from 22 September.

Breakfast – Toad in the Hole (recipe) with Jumping Mustard Tomato Chutney.
Lunch – Bread and tomato, fresh pears.
Dinner – Pasta with tomatoes, basil and dry-cured pork, ice cream with cherry sauce.

Jumping Mustard Tomato Chutney
Okay, so the apricots and ginger are not from Saskatchewan. But the other ingredients are. I made this chutney last fall with my abundant garden tomatoes and have just one jar left. It’s delicious.

2 tbsp canola oil
1/2 tsp whole mustard seeds
2 dry red chilies, crushed
6 cloves garlic, mashed
1 inch cube of ginger, peeled and slivered
1 lb tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
4-5 dried apricots, quartered

Heat the canola oil on medium-high. Pour in the mustard seeds and put on the lid. The seeds will sizzle and pop. When the popping stops, remove the lid, add the chilies and stir. Add the garlic, ginger, tomatoes, sugar and salt. Stir. Simmer until the chutney starts to thicken, 15 minutes.

Add the apricots. Simmer another 10 minutes until the chutney is thick and shiny. Cool. Serve at room temperature.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Week 22 - PASTA NORMA

Menu of the Week -- 14 September, 2005

B’fast – Bread with gooseberry jelly.
Lunch – Leftover chicken drumstick.
Dinner – Pasta Norma.

PASTA NORMA
Rumor has it that this Sicilian dish was named for the opera Norma, first performed in 1831, which tells the story of a tragic love affair between a Roman official and a Druid priestess. So, what's the connection with eggplant? A lot of recipes tell you to salt the eggplant to remove its bitterness, but that is not necessary when the eggplant is small and fresh.

olive oil
3 small eggplants
2 cloves garlic
6-8 plum tomatoes
12 basil leaves, plus extra for garnish
salt and pepper
ricotta cheese (SEE HOMEMADE METHOD 16 April 2005)
long pasta (traditionally it’s made with fettucini)

Slice the eggplant in rounds and fry in hot oil until soft and brown. Drain on paper towel. (Or, brush rounds with oil and broil both sides in oven.)

Sauté garlic in 1/4 cup olive oil. Stir in chopped tomatoes, chopped basil, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. In the meantime, cook the pasta. To serve, toss the cooked pasta with the tomato sauce, top with slices of eggplant and sprinkle with ricotta cheese (parmesan will do fine, too).

Friday, September 09, 2005

Week 21 - RATATOUILLE

Menu of the Week -- 9 September 2005

Breakfast – Baguette with tomato.
Dinner – Corn-on-the-cob.
Dinner – Baked trout. Ratatouille.

RATATOUILLE
This dish is a taste of southern France. (Pronounced rat-a-TOO-yee.) It’s good hot or cold. It can be served as a side dish or as a salad with crusty bread. And best of all, it has zucchini! (Did I mention that zucchini is my favourite summer vegetable?) Try ratatouille next to a grilled pork chop or serve with Ricotta Pie (recipe at Week 9). In some versions of this recipe, the vegetables are each cooked separately and mixed together just before serving.

1/2 cup olive oil
a few cloves of garlic
2 pounds of vegetables including: onion, eggplant, red pepper, tomatoes and zucchini (about equal amounts of each).
1T fresh thyme and basil (or lesser amount of dried)
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a skillet. Cook the sliced onion slowly until soft. Slice and/or chop the other vegetables and add to the skillet (except zucchini). Cook until the vegetables release their liquid. Turn up the heat and boil off most of the liquid. Add zucchini and herbs. Simmer until the zucchini is cooked. Season with salt and pepper to taste. To serve, drizzle with olive oil and garnish with basil leaves.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Special - Saskatchewan Centennial Dinner

The province of Saskatchewan is 100 years old in 2005. To celebrate the centennial, I decided to recreate the banquet served to dignitaries at the inauguration ceremonies on Sept. 4, 1905.

Fortunately, the menu has been preserved by the Saskatchewan Archives Board. The meal was held at lunchtime in the Regina City Hall auditorium and only the men were invited! It’s quite a lavish menu for the time and place, so I narrowed it down to something manageable in my own kitchen.

The menu is not very descriptive and gives few clues as to how some dishes were prepared. Therefore, I searched for recipes from that era in the Boston Cooking School Cook Book by Fanny Farmer, first published in 1896. (It’s available on the web.)

Here is the menu from 1905, followed by the recipes from my own dinner. Have fun creating your own version of Saskatchewan’s first state banquet!


1905 Menu

Olives, Salted Nuts
------
Truffled Sardines
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Cream Soup
Salmon, Sauce Tartare
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Cucumber Salad
Sweetbread Cream with Mushrooms
Kidney Saute with Curled Bacon
------
Spring Chicken, Roast Turkey, Spring Lamb
Potatoes, Spinach, Asparagus
Tomato Salad, Green Salad
------
Lemon Sponge with Champagne Sauce
Peach Cream, Macaroon Cream
Wine Jelly
------
Cheese, Biscuits, Celery
Ice Pudding
Macaroons, Wafers
Fruit, Coffee



My Saskatchewan Dinner Menu

Olives, Salted nuts
------
Imperial Cream Soup
------
Chicken and Spring Onions, Lamb in parchment paper
Tomato Salad with Horseradish Sauce
Asparagus, Potato Bells
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Lemon Sponge with Champagne Sauce
-----
Fresh Strawberries, Coffee


IMPERIAL SOUP

1 T butter
2 stalks celery cut in chunks
2 carrots cut in chunks
1 small onion roughly chopped
spring parsley
2 cloves
1/4 t peppercorns
small bay leaf
pinch of mace
piece of cheesecloth
2 cups stale bread crumbs
1/2 breast of chicken
1/3 cup blanched almonds
1 cup cream
2 T flour
2 T flour

Sauté the celery, carrots and onion in the butter for five minutes. Wrap the vegetables in a piece of cheesecloth with the parsley, cloves, peppercorns, bay leaf and mace. Tie it up and place it in a pot with 4 cups of water. Add the breadcrumbs, chicken breast and a bit of salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer for one hour (chicken must be cooked through).

Remove the chicken and the cheesecloth from the broth. Roughly chop the chicken. Remove the vegetables from the cheesecloth, separating and discarding the spices. In a blender, puree the chicken, vegetables and almonds with the stock.

Place the soup back into the pot. Heat and add cream. Adjust the salt and pepper to your taste. In a small pan, melt butter. Add flour to melted butter and stir constantly to form a thick paste. Drop the paste into the hot soup and stir to thicken. Serve with a sprig of fresh parsley on each bowl.

CHICKEN WITH SPRING ONIONS

1 chicken cut into small pieces
18-20 spring onions
3 T butter
4 T flour
1/2 cup cream
salt and pepper
Juice of one lemon

Put the chicken and onions in a stockpot, just cover with water, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the chicken is cooked tender. Remove the chicken and onions and keep warm. Boil the stock until it is reduced to 1.5 cups.

Make a sauce by melting the butter is a skillet. Add the flour and stir vigorously to form a stiff paste. Pour in the 1.5 cups of stock and the cream. Cook on a slow bubble, stirring constantly, until the sauce is smooth and thickened. Season with salt and pepper. Add lemon juice to your taste.

Arrange the warm chicken and onions on a plate and pour on the sauce.


LAMB IN PARCHMENT PAPER

4 lamb chops
the whites from 3 hard-boiled eggs
3 crackers
2 T melted butter
salt and pepper
1-2 T cream

Finely crush together the egg whites and crackers. Mix in the melted butter, salt and pepper. Add enough cream to make a spreadable consistency. Cover each lamp chop with the egg mixture. Wrap each chop in a piece of parchment paper brushed with melted butter. Bake for about 25 minutes at 400F. To serve, remove the chops from the paper and serve on a platter garnished with parsley.

POTATO BELLS
Choose one large potato per person. Peel the potatoes. Using a melon baller, scoop out dome-shaped "bells" of raw potato. Cook the potato bells in boiling water just until tender. Drain. Smother the warm potatoes in melted butter. Fry in a hot skillet until the potatoes are golden and crisp.

TOMATOES WITH HORSERADISH SAUCE
Cut tomatoes in wedges and dress with horseradish sauce: Mix 3 T horseradish, 1 T vinegar, 1/4 t salt and a pinch of cayenne. Add 4 T heavy cream that has been whipped until stiff.

HOT WATER SPONGE CAKE
2 egg, separated
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup hot water or milk
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
1 cup flour
1.5 t baking powder
1/4 t salt

Beat egg yolks until thick and lemon coloured. Add half the sugar gradually, beating constantly. Add the water or milk. Continue to beat in the rest of the sugar and the lemon extract.

Beat egg whites separately until they are stiff and dry. Add to the yolk mixture, stirring briefly.

Mix the flour, baking powder and salt, and sift onto the egg mixture. Gently fold the flour into the eggs just until mixed.

Pour batter into a round cake pan that has been buttered and sprinkled with flour. Bake for 25 minutes at 325F.

CHAMPAGNE SAUCE

Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup champagne
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs separated

Mix the lemon juice, champagne and sugar in a saucepan. Stir vigorously over medium heat. Add the egg yolks and cook, stirring, until it thickens. Remove from heat.

Beat egg yolks until stiff. Whisk into the hot yolk mixture. Serve on Lemon Sponge.

(NOTE: It might be fun to use sparkling saskatoon berry beverage in place of the champagne, substituting almond extract for the lemon juice.)

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Week 20 - PASTA PRIMAVERA

Menu of the Week -- 29 August 2005

Breakfast – Yogurt with cherries.
Lunch – Corn on the cob.
Dinner – Pasta Primavera. Deep fried zucchini flowers

PASTA PRIMAVERA
This recipe is adapted from Lorenza’s Pasta, by Lorenza de’Medici. You can easily substitute other vegetables, and use more or less of each as they are available. According to Lorenza, this pasta dish is not served with cheese.

2T butter
1/2 cup canola or olive oil
1/2 chopped onion
1 chopped clove of garlic
1 medium zucchini, sliced (or two small)
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 cup chopped snap peas (or shelled peas)
2-3 large ripe tomatoes
1T each parsley and/or basil
salt and pepper
Cooked pasta for four people (I prefer this with shaped pasta such as bowties or rigatoni, as opposed to long noodles like spaghetti.)

Melt the butter and half the olive oil on medium heat. Add the onions and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently so it doesn’t brown. Add the zucchini, carrots and peas. Cook until the carrots are no longer hard to the bite. Season with salt and pepper. Add the cooked pasta along with the tomatoes, herbs and the rest of the oil. Toss it together and cook briefly until the tomatoes are softened. Serve hot.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Week 19 - SAVOURY ZUCCHINI LOAF

Menu of the Week -- 22 August 2005

Breakfast – French toast with strawberries.
Lunch – Leftover cold chicken.
Dinner – Zucchini loaf with a quick tomato-basil sauce.

FRENCH ZUCCHINI LOAF WITH TOMATO BASIL SAUCE
I found this recipe in a tourist brochure in the south of France.

1.5 kg zucchini (this is one BIG zucchini)
4T flour
3 eggs slightly beaten
1 clove garlic chopped
1 handful parsley chopped
a pinch of nutmeg
150g gruyere cheese

Peel the zucchini, scoop out the seed pith, and cut into chunks. Steam the zucchini until it begins to soften. Mix everything together with the zucchini and pat into a bread loaf pan. Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes. The top will brown and an insterted knife will come out almost clean. Serve in thick slices with a tomato-basil sauce. It’s equally good warm from the oven or cold the next day.

TOMATO-BASIL SAUCE
Warm a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet. Add a chopped clove of garlic until fragrant. Add 2 or 3 well chopped tomatoes. Cook slowly until the juices evaporate and thicken, and the tomatoes break down into a sauce. Add 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh basil. Season with salt and pepper.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Newspaper - August - PASTA WITH CHANTERELLE MUSHROOMS

This was first published in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix on August 22, 2005.

One of the mysteries of my childhood was the mushroom. Primarily, mushrooms came in a can and I was not too fond of their rubbery gray texture. But every now and then, my dad would come into the kitchen with a handful of fresh brown mushrooms he had just picked in the farmyard. They smelled so wonderful cooked in butter, and he took great pleasure in eating them.

I did not enjoy them due to the simple fact that my mother forbade it. While she was reluctantly resigned to losing her husband to a poisonous mushroom, she was certainly not going to expose her children to a similar fate. I never learned where they grew or how to identify them. As far as I knew, every wild mushroom was a potential killer and best left underfoot.

As an adult, I had been quite happy to buy mushrooms in the grocery store – until now. Since April, I have been supplying my diet almost exclusively with foods produced in Saskatchewan. If I wanted to eat mushrooms, I would have to find a local source.

Fortunately, Saskatchewan’s forests are teaming with edible mushrooms. Some are among the most prized mushrooms in the world, where they sell for top dollar in foreign grocery stores. Unfortunately, they rarely make an appearance in our own groceries. Why? Perhaps because we are unaccustomed to cooking with a wrinkled morel or an orangey chanterelle. Perhaps there’s more money in selling a pine mushroom in Japan for $100 a pound.

Since I am a) thrifty, b) willing to try something new and c) a pretty good picker, I decided to go into the forest and collect the mushrooms myself. I needed a guide so I called Gerry Ivanochko, the mushroom specialist at Saskatchewan Agriculture in La Ronge. Gerry is studying the potential for selling wild Saskatchewan mushrooms to the world – Is it more profitable to cut the pine trees for things like fence posts, or leave the trees and harvest the mushrooms that grow underneath?

Armed with some buckets and a knife, Gerry led me and my friend David, also an avid picker, into the Jack Pine forest where the ground is covered with soft reindeer moss and dotted with mushrooms of various kinds.

"None of these mushrooms will kill you," Gerry assured us. "But some of them might make you sick."

Before long I was on my hands and knees cutting a young chanterelle out of the moss. The chanterelle mushroom is prized in European cooking for its lovely apricot colour and great taste. We also collected pine mushrooms, which are harder to spot on the forest floor. In Japan and Korea, they are considered a great delicacy imparting manly vigor, longevity and good health.

In spring, especially a year or two after a forest fire, morel mushrooms are picked in abundance. Gerry says the wild mushroom business brings about $1 million into Saskatchewan every year, but there’s potential for at least five times that.

Along a gravel road through the forest, a buyer has set up a tent to purchase the mushrooms directly from pickers. According to our guide, some of these mushrooms will be on dinner tables half way around the world in just a few days. It took a lot less time to reach my dinner table! This pasta recipe is good with any edible mushroom, but of course, I like it best with chanterelles I just picked myself.

You might check the stores for dried Saskatchewan morels, which are being packaged and sold by Northern Lights Foods of La Ronge. For more mushroom recipes, check my food website at homefordinner.blogspot.com.

PASTA WITH CHANTERLLE MUSHROOMS
Melt 1T of butter in a saucepan and sauté 2 chopped shallots until soft. Add 1 pound of sliced mushrooms and cook until the liquid evaporates. Add 1T lemon juice and 2T port (or other sweet wine). Bubble a few minutes and add 1 cup of cream. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer until the cream thickens, about 10 minutes. Serve warm over fettucini or other cooked pasta.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Week 18 - PIZZA ON THE BBQ

Menu of the Week -- 18 August 2005

Brunch - Pancakes with strawberries.
Dinner – BBQ pizza with grilled zucchini, tomatoes, ham, basil and cheese.

PIZZA ON THE BBQ
If you love pizza and you love BBQ, you’ll love the two together. Kids are impressed (and big people, too) especially if you make individual pizzas they top themselves. I make my own dough, but you can do this with frozen dough from the grocery store. Here are some tips to make a successful pizza on the BBQ.

1) Roll the dough thinly, no larger than a 1-person pizza. If the dough is too thick, it might not cook in the middle.
2) Drop the round of dough directly on the hot grill.
3) Grill until the bottom is crusty and remove to a plate.
4) With the grilled side up, press the crust a bit to make a depression.
5) Add the toppings. DO NOT overload the pizza. Simple, thin toppings are best. (Meat topping must be pre-cooked). After a thin layer of pizza sauce, I like to add thin-sliced tomatoes, chopped basil and grated mozzarella. Or, instead of tomatoes, sliced zucchini or red pepper that have already been grilled on the BBQ. Make sure the cheese is not going to drip over the edge.
6) Slide the pizza onto the grill uncooked side down. BBQ until the bottom is crusty and the dough is cooked through. The cheese should be well melted.
7) Remove from BBQ and eat!

Friday, August 12, 2005

Week 17 - PINE MUSHROOM AND BARLEY RISOTTO

Saskatchewan Menu of the Week -- 10 August 2005

Breakfast -- Scrambled eggs with chopped tomato.
Lunch – Open-face cheese, tomato and basil (toasted).
Dinner – Pine mushroom and barley risotto. Fried fish. Raw kohlrabi.

PINE MUSHROOM AND BARLEY RISOTTO
I picked these mushrooms myself near La Ronge. They are a great delicacy in Japan where they are eaten by men for verility. (A young mine mushroom has the same shape as a certain male body part.) The pearl barley came from the organic mill at Daybreak Farm of Estevan.

Melt 2T butter is a saucepan. Sauté 1C sliced mushrooms. (I used pine mushrooms I picked near La Ronge, but any mushroom will do.) Remove the mushrooms and set aside.

Add 1C pearl barley and stir until the barley is coated in butter and starting to stick to the bottom of the pan. Pour in 1C warm broth. (I used homemade chicken stock). Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is absorbed. Add 1/2 C white wine and cook until evaporated.

Continue adding broth, one cup at a time, until the liquid is absorbed and the barley is creamy and just tender to the bite. Season with salt and pepper. Return the mushrooms to the barley before serving.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Week 16 - FOUR REDS SALAD

Saskatchewan Menu of the Week -- 30 July 2005

Brunch – Scrambled eggs and tomatoes
Dinner – Lentil antipasto. Four Reds Salad. BBQ pork chops.Saskatoon berry pie

FOUR RED SALAD
Four red vegetables make this a very red salad! I can only make it when fresh beets, tomatoes and red peppers are available at the Farmers' Market.

3 small beets
3 medium tomatoes
1 red pepper
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1 clove of garlic
parsley or cilantro leaves
2T olive oil
juice of one lemon
salt and pepper

Bake the beets until soft (in the oven or microwave), peel and chop into a bite-sized dice. Chop tomatoes and red peppers to the same size. Par-boil red peppers in boiling water for about 5 minutes and drain. Mix the vegetables with the chopped parsley or cilantro. Make a vinaigrettes with the oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Pour onto the salad and leave to marinate a couple of hours before serving.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Week 15 - TOMATO & BASIL SALAD

Saskatchewan Menu of the Week -- 26 July 2005

Breakfast -- Scrambled eggs with chopped tomato.
Lunch -- Cold sliced beef on a bun
Dinner -- Tomato and basil salad. Crusty bread.

TOMATO AND BASIL SALAD
No salad screams "summer" like a tomato and basil salad. Made with ripe tomatoes and fresh basil, it is the simplest and yummiest salad in the world. Basil grows like crazy in our climate, so I use lots.

Basil grows abundantly in our climate, so I always have a pot of basil close to the back door. My mom grows more basil in her garden on the farm, so I have plenty to preserve for winter cooking. I just love the aroma of basil in the middle of February - it sparks the distant memory of summer's heat. (See the recipe for BASIL CUBES on 19 March 2005.)

For the salad, slice or chop the tomatoes according to your preference. Chop or tear a handful of basil and sprinkle it onto the tomatoes. Make a vinaigrette with oil and vinegar (I use balsamic vinegar). Pour onto the tomatoes. Sprinkle on salt and pepper to your taste. For added variation, add tiny cubes of mozzarella cheese. Use the bread so soak up any vinaigrette left on your plate. Good to the last drop!

Friday, July 22, 2005

Week 14 - STRAW & HAY FETTUCCINI

Saskatchewan Menu of the Week -- 20 July 2005

Breakfast – Yogurt and raspberries.
Lunch – Chicken salad sandwich.
Dinner – Straw and Hay fettucini. Green salad.

STRAW AND HAY FETTUCCINI
This Italian dish is made with two colours of fettuccini – regular and spinach – which resembles the contrasting colours of straw and hay. It is traditionally made with peas in a cream sauce. Since peas are now abundant in the garden, it’s a good time to make this dish for dinner. We make our own pasta with farm eggs ,which gives it a nice straw colour.

Heat a bit of butter and oil in a saucepan and sauté 1/4 cup of chopped onion and one chopped clove of garlic. Add 1/4 cup of cooked diced ham. Stir for a few minutes, until the onion is soft. Add 1 cup of cream and cook until the cream thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Add 1 cup of raw green peas. Season with salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg. Cook until the peas are soft. Meanwhile, cook the pasta. Toss it into the sauce, and serve with grated parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Week 13 - THREE PEPPER PASTA

Saskatchewan Menu of the Week -- 14 July 2005

Breakfast – Fresh raspberries.
Lunch – Leftover pizza.
Dinner – Salad greens with caramelized onion rings. Three-pepper pasta with ground moose and pork. Mint sorbet.

THREE PEPPER PASTA
I am fortunate to be able to buy Saskatchewan peppers at the farmers' market. They are grown in the greenhouse at Grandora Gardens just east of Saskatoon, owned by Pat and Fred Gittings. This recipe is adapted from Saveur magazine, Aug./Sept. 2004.

2 red peppers, 2 yellow pepper and 2 green peppers
1/4 cup vegetable oil
6 cloves of garlic peeled
4 ripe tomatoes roughly chopped
1 finely chopped onion
1/2 pound ground meat (I used moose and pork; the recipe calls for veal)
Butter, oil, salt, pepper
Pasta, preferably fettuccine

Cut peppers in half, remove the seeds and pith, and peel skin with a vegetable peeler. Cut in fat strips. Heat oil in pan. Sauté garlic until golden and discard. Add the peppers and a pinch of salt. Turn down heat and cook until soft, about 45 minutes, turning now and then.

Meanwhile, heat butter and oil (2T each) in another skillet. Cook the onion until golden. Add the meat, salt and pepper. Cook on medium heat, turning occasionally, until the meat is no longer pink. Add tomatoes and their juice. Simmer 20 minutes.

When peppers are done, mix them into the meat. Cook a few more minutes to incorporate the flavours. Pour over hot cooked pasta in a warm serving bowl. Toss and serve with parmesan cheese.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Newspaper - July - TABOULEH SALAD

Published in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, 18 July 2005

We may be far from the Mediterranean Sea, but we’re not that far from the Mediterranean diet. Many of the foods that form the diet in Mediterranean countries like France, Greece, Spain and Morocco are also grown right here in Saskatchewan.
Consider the tomato. It was cultivated in South America by the Aztecs and taken to Europe by Spanish explorers in the 1500s. Lentils are a staple food in Mediterranean countries like Egypt and France. In fact, they are now eating lentils from Saskatchewan, which has become one of the largest producers in the world.
I began exploring the Mediterranean connection more than a decade ago when I asked my mom to grow some basil in her garden on the farm. To me, basil is the essential summer herb. It goes perfectly with tomatoes and lentils and many other Mediterranean dishes. If I could have only one fresh herb, it would be basil.

I had grown it in pots on a sunny balcony, but I had no idea if it would survive on the dry windy prairie. Well, it thrived. That row of basil grew so tall I picked it into black garbage bags and gave some to all my friends. So here’s my point – eating Saskatchewan foods does not mean a meat-and-potatoes-and-coleslaw diet. Saskatchewan foods lend themselves to many culinary traditions from around the world.

This is good news, because for one full year I have pledged to serve Saskatchewan foods almost exclusively at my own dinner table. I began in mid-April, and I’m happy to report that I am eating better and healthier than ever. I am searching out new sources of food, reading labels in the grocery store and getting to know some farmers. I am even the happy recipient of gifts of food. Not long ago, my neighbor Andrea presented me with a container of frozen apple butter from her own tree. It went straight into a fruit cobbler.

Recently, I hosted my bookclub. We always have a potluck meal and since we had just read "Tender is the Night", a novel set in the south of France, I decreed that the dinner theme would be Mediterranean foods made with Saskatchewan ingredients. Before long, there was an email in my inbox: "Help! What on earth do you mean? Examples please." So I listed off some foods that we have in common – grains and lentils, tomatoes and herbs, cheese and chicken, pasta and bread, etc, etc.

My friends are real troopers. They came with excellent dishes that were – or could be – made with Saskatchewan ingredients. We had: arugula salad, lentils with fresh herbs, Lebanese tabouleh salad, French gratin of cauliflower, Greek spanikopita and Italian margarita pizza (tomatoes, basil and cheese).

Just the other night, we had our friend Ian and his mom for a nice dinner on the patio. I found a pasta recipe in a cookbook by the godmother of Italian cooking, Marcella Hazan. It called for red, yellow and green peppers, ground veal and fresh pasta. I bought greenhouse peppers from the farmers’ market, made pasta with fresh farm eggs, and substituted ground moose for the veal.

The moose came from Jeff, an avid hunter. When he heard that I was eating Saskatchewan foods, he showed up on our doorstep with 30 pounds of frozen moose. Gotta love friends like that!

Tabouleh Salad
This is the national salad of Lebanon, pronounced ta-BOO-lee. I made it with pearl barley from the Daybreak Farm at Estevan, farmers’ market tomatoes and fresh greens from my own garden.

1 cup pearl barley
1 bunch green onions
2 bunches parsley
2 bunches mint
4 tomatoes
1/4 cup canola or olive oil
Juice of 2-3 lemons
salt and pepper

Soak the barley in plenty of water until it is chewable but not too soft, a few hours. It should double in size to about 2 cups. Drain. Finely chop the herbs and onions. Cut the tomatoes in bite-sized pieces. Mix everything together and enjoy.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Week 12 - WISCONSIN BRATS

Saskatchewan Menu of the Week -- 4 July 2005

Breakfast – Yogurt.
Lunch – Open-face grilled cheese and tomato.
Dinner – Wisconsin-style bratwurst. Buns. Potato salad. Apple pie.

WISCONSIN BRATS
My husband grew up in Wisconsin where there is a strong German heritage and bratwurst is cooked in a particular style. Once, several years ago, a friend told him his brats were better than lobster! He’s been living on that compliment ever since. We buy the bratwurst at Emco Meats, where the German butcher makes them authenticly.

First, buy a good quality brat that doesn’t have too much fat. Boil the sausages in a pot of beer and sliced onions. Grill the boiled bratwurst on the BBQ. While they’re grilling, scoop out the onions and brown them in butter. Enjoy the bratwurst in a bun with onions and mustard.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Week 11 - SASKATOON BERRY COBBLER

Saskatchewan Menu of the Week - June 25

Brunch – BLT sandwich.
Dinner – Steamed trout with dill, grilled asparagus, saskatoon berry cobbler

Saskatoon Berry Cobbler
I was poking around in my mom’s freezer when I found a milk carton marked "Saskatoons ‘93". How is it possible, I asked her, to have saskatoon berries in the freezer for 12 years? She shrugged. Then she gave them to me. Not one to turn down a gift of food, I tried them in this cobbler and they were great. We're soon coming into saskatoon berry picking season, so bon apetit!

Cake:
1/4 cup butter at room temp.
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cups milk
3 cups fresh or frozen saskatoon berries
1/2 tsp almond extract (optional)

Crumble topping:
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup cold butter

For the cake, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg. Add the dry ingredients and milk, and mix well. Pour into a greased baking dish. (I use an 8-inch round ceramic dish.)

Stir together the berries and almond extract and layer onto the batter.

For the crumble topping, combine the dry ingredients and cut in the cold butter. Spread on top of the berries. Bake at 350F for 40 min., until the top is brown and the berries are bubbling. Serve with ice cream if you like.

Sources: saskatoon berries picked by my parents in the wild.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Salt and Pepper

Humans have been addicted to salt for a very long time. Fortunately, the earth is abundant in salt and salt mining goes back into prehistory. When we couldn’t mine it ourselves, we traded for it. The ancient Greek trade of salt for slaves spawned the saying "Not worth his salt."

Saskatchewan is blessed with salt, and some of it ends up on our dinner table. Sifto extracts salt at the town of Unity, where it is a major employer in a small farming community. It comes in fine, course and kosher grain. Try to buy Sifto salt to support Saskatchewan. You'll know it's from the Unity mine if there's a circle with the number 69 on the package.

Pepper, on the other hand, is not grown in our climate. But a resident of Saskatchewan, Carole Stratychuck, grows pepper on her property in Costa Rica, where she spends the winter. Carole sells her pepper (and her coffee) at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market in the summertime. Her pepper isn’t Saskatchewan grown, but it is grown with Saskatchewan hands. That’s close enough for me!

Friday, June 24, 2005

Week 10 - CROSTINI DE FEGATO

Saskatchewan Menu of the Week - June 21.

Breakfast – Yogurt and strawberries.
Lunch – Toasted tomato sandwich, rhubarb crisp.
Dinner – Crostini de Fegato and a big green salad.

Crostini di Fegato
Crostini is a popular Italian appetizer – it begins with a slice of toasted bread spread will any sort of topping. This version is made with chicken liver.

1 tbsp bacon drippings or lard
1 tbsp onion, finely chopped
1 chicken liver, chopped
4-6 sage leaves, slivered
a bit of white wine (optional)
1/4 cup chicken broth or water
a dab of butter
salt and pepper
1 clove of garlic
sliced baguette or crackers

Sauté the onion in the bacon drippings or lard. (You can substitute butter or oil.) When the onion is soft, add the liver and the slivered sage. Cook until the liver starts to lose its pink colour. Toss in a dash of white wine and cook until all the liquid evaporates. Add the broth and simmer slowly until the liver is no longer pink. (Add more broth if needed to keep the liver moist.) Season with salt and pepper, and melt a dab of butter over top.

Toast the bread lightly on one side. Rub toasted side with clove of garlic. Spread the chicken liver on the bread. Eat warm or cold at the start of a meal.

Source: chicken liver from the Dale farm.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Newspaper - CORIANDER MARINADE

From the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix - 20 June 2005.

What’s my beef? Well, let me tell you. My beef is grass-fed, pasture-raised and drug free. I buy beef from Al Bennett and his family farm at Meacham, where the cattle roam the land like the buffalo once did – munching the grass, lolling in the sun, and moving on to greener pastures. Al has divided his farm into small paddocks, and every day he moves his cattle to a new paddock where the grass is fresh. He does not feed them any grain at all.

"Cattle are like the buffalo. They’re made to eat grass," he says. "We didn’t see the Indians carrying slop pails out to the buffalo, did we?"

I like Al’s beef. It’s lean, delicious, additive-free and best of all, I actually know the farmer who produced the food that I put on my plate. This is important to my new food philosophy – for one full year, I will serve nothing but Saskatchewan foods at my own dinner table.

In my first column in April, I talked about the reasons why eating locally is good for human health, the environment and the economy. In the May column, I wrote about the "rules" I follow to put my food philosophy into practice. In this column, I’ll chew the fat (but very little) about my sources of good Saskatchewan meat.

Sure, I know there are vegetarians among today’s readers, and the subject will mean very little to you, but the philosophy applies no matter what your diet – local is best.

I rarely buy meat in a grocery store because, without a label of origin, I can’t be sure it’s from Saskatchewan. Also, I like to know how the meat was raised. In the case of Al Bennett, he was a regular grain and dairy farmer until ten years ago, when he sold his big machinery and started raising cattle by holistic and organic principles.

I buy pastured pork and chickens from his neighbours, John and Karen Dale, but they’ve decided not to sell pork this year, so I’ve placed an order with Natureworks Farm north of Saskatoon. It’s owned by the Bilanski family, which also sells naturally-raised lamb, poultry, eggs and berries. You’ll find them at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market.

Occasionally, I drive out to the farm of Kevin and Melanie Boldt near Osler, where they sell all-natural meat from their own store. When it comes to processed meats, I have three current favourites: The buffalo salami and summer sausage from the Sage Hill Buffalo Ranch, sold at the Farmers’ Market. European cured meats (such as Italian-style prosciutto) from Emco Finer Foods on Avenue C, also available at the Farmers’ Market. And the award-winning kovbasa from the Attridge Co-op grocery store.

But some things money can’t buy. Like the 30-pounds of cut and wrapped moose in my freezer, a gift from our friend Jeff who is an avid hunter. I remember a time driving back from Canora very early in the morning, when I spied a road sign for homemade shishliki, a marinated lamb kabob of Russian origin. Forgetting it was 6 a.m., I pulled into the yard. Sure enough, the farmer was up and made his first sale of the day.

So, as you can see, I’m quite opportunistic when it comes to Saskatchewan foods – you never know what road it might take me down!

CORIANDER CRUST MARINADE
Here is a great marinade for pork chops. Most of the ingredients are not from Saskatchewan, but the coriander seeds are from my garden. Coriander is the easiest thing in the world to grow, and you get two harvests – first there are the green leaves called cilantro, essential with Mexican food, and later come the dried seeds called coriander with a faint lemon smell, popular in dishes from the Mediterranean and Asia.

This marinade is adapted from a recipe from my friend Susan. I serve the pork chops with barley risotto. (For that recipe, go to my website at HomeforDinner.blogspot.com)

Crush or grind together: 1 tablespoon each of coriander, black peppercorns and brown sugar, 1 whole clove and 1 whole allspice. Stir in enough soy sauce to make a marinade, about 3 tablespoons. Spread a little bit on each side of four pork chops and marinate a few hours before grilling.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Week 9 - RICOTTA PIE

Saskatchewan Menu of the Week from 15 June.

Breakfast – Pancakes with stewed rhubarb
Lunch -- Bread with tomatoes and asparagus spread
Dinner – Ricotta pie, caramelized onions, green salad

Ricotta Pie














This is an Italian dish that can be served as an appetizer or a light meal. It's good warm or room temperature. Make your own ricotta cheese (see recipe here).

2-3 tbsp breadcrumbs
butter for greasing pie plate
4 eggs
1/4 cup flour
salt and pepper
2 cups ricotta cheese
3 slices of crispy-cooked bacon or equivalent ham
Butter a pie plate and sprinkle with breadcrumbs to coat the surface.

Separate the eggs. Beat the yolks lightly with the flour, salt and pepper. Stir in the ricotta cheese with the bacon or ham. (For a vegetarian version, add herbs instead.)

Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold into the cheese mixture until it is loosely mixed. Spread into the pie plate, smoothing the top. Bake at 400F for 25-20 minutes, until a nice brown crust has formed. I like to serve it with chutney or onion gravy.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Cerridwen Farm

In the last 20 eyars, Saskatchewan has become one of the world's leading producers of lentils, chickpeas and split peas. The problem is, most people in Saskatchewan don't eat lentils, chickpeas and spilt peas. In fact, many pulse farmers don't eat the food they produce! It's shipped right off to markets overseas.

This is the experience of Cerridwen Farms of Medstead. The bulk of their organic pulse crops are sold in British Columbia in areas populated by immigrants from the South East Asia sho eat pulses every day. I put in a big order through Canada Post, which was delivered right to my door

Pronounced CARE-i-den, the name is a Celtic word referring to the moon and the harvest. The farm is a collaboration of the Dank and Haubold families. They sell many other products, including stoneground flours and mixes for pancakes and muffins.
306-342-4945.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Week 8 - BARLEY RISOTTO

Saskatchewan Menu of the Week - June 10.

Breakfast – Yogurt and raspberries (thawed).
Lunch – Lentil salad.
Dinner – BBQ pork chops, barley and mushroom risotto, berry crisp.

Barley Risotto
Risotto is an Italian dish made with short-grained Arborio rice. Luckily, it can be made just as well with Saskatchewan pearl barley. The cooking method is important – hot liquid is added gradually so the grains absorb maximum liquid and become soft and creamy.

2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup dried Saskatchewan mushrooms, soaked in water
small ionion, chopped
2 tsp fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary and chives)
salt and pepper
1 cup pearl barley
4 cups chicken stock or water, simmering
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Melt butter in a pot on low heat. Drain the mushrooms, adding the liquid to the chicken stock. Sauté the mushrooms. Remove with a spoon and reserve. Sauté the onion and herbs, adding salt and pepper. When the onion is soft, turn up the heat. Add the barley and cook, stirring, until the butter is absorbed and the barley is starting to stick to the pot.

Add one cup of simmering chicken stock. Stir briefly. Cook until the liquid is absorbed. Add another cup of liquid. Continue this process until the barley is creamy and tender enough to eat, 30-40 minutes. You should not stray too far from the stove or risk burning the barley on the bottom of the pot. If you need more liquid, add water.

Stir in the mushrooms and parmesan cheese. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper. Serve warm.

Sources: barley from Daybreak Scheresky Mill, mushrooms from the Saskatchewan Made Marketplace; herbs from the farmers' market, homemade chicken stock.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Source - Daybreak-Scheresky Mill

Ray and Marianne Aspinall are doing something quite unique on their farm south of Estevan. They have an old stone mill where they grind all sorts of grains into wonderful organic flours.

The Aspinalls have been farming organically since the 1980s, but they wanted to get more value for their products. Even at premium organic rates, farmers get the short end of the stick (or the price tag) when they truck raw food off their farm to be processed somewhere else.

A few years ago, the Aspinalls made a deal with retired farmer Alvin Scheresky. For four decades, Scheresky ran a successful organic food business from his farm, shipping his grains to health food stores across the country. But he wanted to retire. The Aspinalls bought his mill and his customer list and revived the business. They also bought Alvin’s seed varieties, some of which date back to Europe and were brought to Canada with the settlers.

In respect to Alvin, and in recognition of his brand appeal, they added his name to that of their farm, to create the Daybreak-Scheresky Mill. Now, the Aspinalls are cleaning and milling organic grains for mail order and for sale in health food stores. They grow many of their own grains (including wheat, millet and buckwheat) and they also purchase from other local organic farmers.

I visited the Scheresky farm in May and left with 10kg bags of whole wheat flour, rolled oats and pearl barley. You can reach the Aspinalls at (306) 927-2695, or see their entire product list at www.daybreakschereskymill.com.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Week 7 - BUBBLE & SQUEAK

Saskatchewan Menu of the Week - June 1.

Breakfast – Yogurt and stewed rhubarb.
Lunch – Buffalo salami on a bun with sliced tomato.
Dinner – Bubble and Squeak, pork sausages.

Bubble and Squeek
I found this in a Britsh cookbook by The Two Fat Ladies.
3 cups chopped cooked cold potatoes
1/4 cup lard
1 onion minced
1 1/2 cups roughly chopped cabbage
salt and pepper

Melt half the lard in a frying pan. Cook onion lightly. Add potatoes and cabbage. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, pressing the mixture into the pan until the bottom browns, about 15 minutes. Add the other half of the lard. Flip the potatoes and cabbage and brown on the other side, another 15 minutes.

Sources: dad's potatoes, farmers' market cabbage.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Week 6 - PIPERADE

Saskatchewan Menu of the Week - May 21.

Breakfast – Yogurt with preseved apples.
Lunch – Bread with mustard and sliced tomato.
Dinner – Piperade.

Piperade
Here’s a great French egg dish called Pipérade. From May to December, I can find every ingredient produced locally.

1 small green or red pepper (or both), sliced thinly
1 small onion, sliced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
4 tbsp butter
1/3 cup cooked ham or smoked pork, small dice
fresh basil leaves (or dried)
1 tomato, chopped
6 eggs

Sauté the pepper, onion and garlic in 2 tbsp of the butter until soft. Stir in the ham, tomatoes and basil, and season with salt and pepper. Cook through, place in a small bowl and keep warm.

Melt the other 2 tbsp of butter in the skillet. Mix the eggs and pour into the pan. Cook, stirring now and then, until the eggs begin to set. Spread the pepper mixture on top and cook until the eggs are done to your liking. (I prefer them soft and moist.) Serve in wedges garnished with a bit of fresh basil.

Sources: Bennett eggs; vegetables from the farmers' market.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Christie's Mayfair Bakery

Since bread is the most ancient and noblest of foods, we are blessed in Saskatoon with a bakery that elevates bread to the place of honour it deserves. Christie’s Mayfair Bakery produces magnificent artisinal breads in the European tradition – Italian chibatta and focaccia, French baguette and batard, German volksbrot and old-fashioned peasant sourdough, to name a few.

The signature specialty of the baker is the chocolate bowtie – a croissant fashioned into the shape of a bowtie filled with Belgian chocolate. In France, it would be called a chocolatine and it would be a favourite among children, served with warm milk for breakfast. Here, it’s a favourite with adults, too!

The passion behind this artisinal bakery is Tracey Muzzolini, a young baker who is taking over the business from her parents, Janet and Ennio. (He emigrated from Italy in the 1950s.) Growing up, Tracey swore she would get as far from the bakery as possible – and she did. She moved to Australia and then Toronto. But baking was in her blood. She enrolled in culinary school in Minneapolis where she learned to be absolutely meticulous about bread, using the best Saskatchewan flours, strictly measuring the temperature of each ingredient, and baking in a European-style steam oven. Now she runs the bakery with her brother Blair.

Be warned, there is a lineup at the door every Saturday morning. But if you’re a regular, you’re sure to see a friend to chat with as you wait. There’s a coffee counter where you can sip café au lait, or come for a panini for lunch – each sandwich is named for a European soccer star.

Christie’s Mayfair Bakery: 420 33rd Street W. Saskatoon.
306-244-0506.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Week 5 - MINT JULEP

Saskatchewan Menu of the Week - May 14.

Breakfast -- Yogurt with frozen raspberries (thawed).
Lunch -- Bread with tomatoes, smoked pork and mustard.
Dinner -- Spinach salad. Mint juleps.

Mint Julep
The mint is just starting to poke up in the garden. This is a refreshing, not too boozy drink that makes the most of fresh mint.

sugar
cold water
sprigs of mint
bourbon
lots of crushed ice

Note: the ice should be very fine, like grainy snow.

Place a heaping tsp of sugar in a tall glass. Barely cover with cold water. Crush a generous sprig of mint in your hands and add to the glass. Top with crushed ice, filling the glass, sprinkling in more sugar as you go. Pour in bourbon to your taste. Top with another sprig of mint. Serve with a spoon so you can stir your drink in the hot sun, the ice melting to diffuse with the mint and bourbon. Don't even dream of serving this drink on a cool day.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Prairies North - LENTIL ANTIPASTO

Prairies North - Summer 2005.

I like to buy food in unlikely places. Recently, I bought pinto beans at a flea market. I bought wild rice in a gas station. I’ve purchased frozen fish fillets from the trunk of a car. Why? Because sometimes good Saskatchewan foods are not to be found in the grocery store. Sometimes, you have to get it from the source.

The other day, the postman knocked on my door with a package.

"It’s a heavy one," he warned me.

"I know," I said. "It’s lentils."

He gave me a curious look as I heaved the box into the house. I ordered the lentils through the mail from Cerridwen Farms at Medstead, which is north of the Battlefords. The Dunk and Haubold families are producing organic lentils, peas, wheat, barley, and flax, plus they sell mixes for pancakes and muffins using ingredients off their farm.

I am a big fan of their lentils and split peas, which I buy in bulk about once a year through the mail. Sure, it might be easier to buy them in a grocery store, but then I could not be assured they’re from Saskatchewan. My goal is to eat foods from Saskatchewan whenever possible – to buy locally, support the farmers directly, and spend my food dollar close to home.

It’s a struggle for Cerridwen Farms. (Pronounced CARE-i-den, a Celtic word referring to the moon and the harvest.) They sell their products locally in grocery stores in Medstead, Glaslyn, Spiritwood, and Rabbit Lake, and they ship to stores in Nelson and Cranbrook in British Columbia.

The problem is, there just aren’t enough people in Saskatchewan to form a solid customer base for organic foods, and for lentils in particular, which are not part of the traditional prairie cuisine. It’s too bad we don’t eat more lentils here. That fact is the whole world is eating lentils from Saskatchewan. Since it started as an experimental crop in 1980s, Saskatchewan has become one of the world’s largest producers of lentils. Most of the harvest is shipped to countries like Columbia, Egypt, India, Sri Lanka, France, and Spain.

"In the lower mainland of BC, there is the cultural mix of people who are more into peas and lentils," says Dave Dunk. "Lentils as a rule don’t sell well locally, and that’s basically because in our culture, lentils haven’t been a big dish in the past."

Well, it’s time to change that, one dish at a time. Here is a recipe from Italy for lentil antipasto. Antipasto means "before the meal" so this dish would be served as an appetizer with crusty bread and a platter of marinated vegetables, cold meats, and Italian cheese.

Lentil Antipasto
1 cup lentils
2 sprigs of fresh oregano
4 slices bacon
2 stalks celery, finely sliced
1 red onion chopped (about 3/4 cup)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
more fresh oregano, chopped

Cook the lentils in boiling water with the oregano sprigs until the lentils are just tender to the bite (15-20 minutes). If you don’t have fresh Saskatchewan oregano, used dried. Drain and rinse the lentils, discarding the oregano.

Cook the bacon until it starts to crisp. Drain on paper towels and crumble. Mix all the ingredients together. Season with salt and pepper and more oregano to taste. Serve at room temperature on a bed of lettuce leaves or spoon onto fresh bread.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Week 4 - HERB FRITATTA

Saskatchewan Menu of the Week - May 13.

Breakfast - Oatmeal porridge with maple syrup.
Lunch - Chicken soup with homemade bread.
Dinner - Herb fritatta and a baby lettuce salad.

Herb Fritatta
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp fresh chopped chives
1 tbsp other fresh herbs (thyme, parsley, rosemary, etc.)
6 eggs
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
water
salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a non-stick pan on medium low heat. Sauté the chives until soft. Add the other herbs and wilt.

Stir the eggs with the ricotta cheese, a dash of water, salt and pepper. Pour the eggs into the pan with the herbs. Do not stir. Cook, lifting the edges to allow the eggs to run underneath. Cook until the egg mixture in the middle of the pan is no longer runny.

Place a large plate over the pan and flip it, so the fritatta is on the plate. Then slide it back into the pan. Cook briefly until the bottom side is cooked and starting to brown.

Sources: Bennett eggs; herbs from the farmers' market.

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Week 3 - FOUR GRAIN SOUP

Saskatchewan Menu of the Week - April 30.

Breakfast - Two scrambled eggs and toast with honey.
Lunch - Yogurt, apple and cheddar cheese.
Dinner - Four Grain Soup with crusty buns.

Saskatchewan Four Grain Soup
This is a superb soup for a cool day. My recipe doesn't call for meat, but you can add cooked sausage or shredded beef to make a heartier soup. Conversely, if you want a vegetarian soup, replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock or water.

1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, diced
2 tbsp canola oil
1 spt dried thyme
1/3 cup wheat seeds
1/3 cup lentils
1/3 cup wild rice
1/3 cup pearl barley
1 can tomatoes (I used 12 roma tomatoes from my freezer, thawed)
6 cups chicken stock
Salt and pepper

Sauté the onions and carrots in canola oil until softened. Add the crumbled thyme. Stir in the wheat, lentils, wild rice and barley, coating the grains in oil. Turn up the heat to medium high and cook, stirring frequently, until the moisture is absorbed and the grains begin to stick to the pot.

Add the tomatoes and stir to incorporate. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the grains are soft, about 45 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Sources: Wheat from my family farm; wild rice from La Ronge; pearl barley from Daybreak Scheresky Mill; lentils from Cerredwin Farm; carrots from the Sakatoon Farmers' Market; my own garden thyme and tomatoes; homemade chicken stock.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Cooking Class - PITA BREAD

I'm a passionate and experimental bread maker, so when my community association put out a call for classes, I suggested we learn to make bread. So many of my friends have tried to make bread - and bombed - that they think bread making is difficult. Nothing could be further from the truth. Once you get the hang of it, bread is the simplest thing in the world.

After all, bread is the one food that has been consistently feeding a good part of the world for thousands of years. You can make it with the most basic ingredients - flour, water and yeast -and cook it on any surface including a hot rock. The difference between breads is not the ingredients, but how the dough is shaped and baked. You can use the same dough to make a French baguette, Italian pizza or Middle Eastern pita.

My friends’ problem is that they were overly ambitious. They decided that, if they’re going to make bread, it might as well be the healthiest, darkest, grainiest bread going. Imagine their disappointment when it turned out as hard as a rock. If they had been less virtuous and learned first to make a good white loaf, they might have stuck with bread making long enough to learn to handle a grainy dough.

My first bread class was tonight. I showed the group (12 adults and kids) how to make a basic white dough, then we cooked it as both baguettes and pitas. It was great to see everyone crouched in front of the oven door watching the pitas puff up and balloon to create the pocket. I’m sure that children have been watching that with fascination for the past 6,000 years.

Pita Bread
Here’s the technique for making pita bread from any plain white bread dough:

Place a baking sheet in the oven and heat it to 450F. Cut the dough into pieces just bigger than a golf ball. Roll each piece in your hands as if making buns, then let them sit on the counter for five minutes.

Roll each one into a flat circle with a rolling pin. Be careful not the crimp the dough because it won’t puff in that spot. Place a couple of pitas onto the hot baking sheet and pop it into the oven. Within minutes, the dough will balloon to create the pocket in the pita. Take them out of the oven as the bread starts to turn brown, about 5 minutes.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Newspaper - BAVARIAN POTATO SALAD

My first "Home for Dinner" column in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, April 25, 2005.

I have been watching for one – and only one – sign of spring. For me, spring officially begins the first day I see something green growing in my garden. This year, that day was March 31. The snow was barely melting off a sunny spot of earth when I spied the unmistakable thin line of tiny sprouts. I planted those seeds last October, just before the first snow, and there they were, insuppressible and bursting with life. I can’t remember what I planted. I think it was arugula, lettuce, spinach and radish, but that mystery is half the fun of watching them grow.

The next special day – a true harbinger of summer – is the first day I eat something green from my garden. This year, that day was April 16. I know we’re still in for one last blast of winter, but I don’t care, because my spirits have been elevated to summer by that first fresh bite. It was the chives. Chives come up year after year, so they get a head start on the seeds. I discovered the chives were sprouting as I raked the leaves off the garden. I immediately got some scissors and cut the sprouts for dinner.

This would be a revolutionary dinner for me. For several months of winter, I had been planning to embark on a culinary adventure of sorts, an adventure that would begin the first day I savoured something green from my garden. For one year, I pledge to eat almost exclusively the foods of Saskatchewan. I will grow my own, share with others, discover new sources of local foods, buy directly from the farmers who produce it and develop recipes that make the most of it.

I asked my husband, What should I call this culinary adventure? "Austerity," he offered. "Monotony. Privation."

Well, nothing could be further from the truth. Thanks to science, technology and ingenuity, Saskatchewan is producing a greater variety of foods than ever thought possible a century ago.
I call it "Home for Dinner" because it challenges me to put local food on my dinner table. Here are four good reasons to be "Home for Dinner":

Local produce is usually picked just before it’s sold so it’s fresher, tastes better and the nutrients are not depleted. Eating foods as they are available in season ensures you’re always eating the freshest food possible. Local food is less likely to have been picked unripe, stored, hauled, and treated with preservatives, pharmaceuticals and other agents. It’s better for the environment. Think of all the fuel used to truck lettuce from Mexico and bananas from Costa Rica. Farming is a tough business, especially if you’re small and trying to do something unique on your land. Support the farmers who are producing good healthy food and keep your food dollars in the local economy.

It just so happens that April 16 was a Saturday, the day of the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market, at which my husband picked up a package of fresh weisswurst. This is German for "white sausage", a fat pale mild sausage we ate in monastery beer gardens in Bavaria with warm potato salad. Next column, I’ll give my "Home for Dinner" rules – and when I can break them!

BAVARIAN POTATO SALAD

Boil 2lbs of medium-sized potatoes until they are soft enough to pierce with a sharp knife. Cool slightly, peel and thinly slice. While the potatoes are cooking, sauté a small finely chopped onion in a good dollop of butter. When the onions are soft, mix them with 1C of hot chicken stock, 2T of white wine vinegar, 4T of vegetable oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir the warm sliced potatoes into the dressing and toss well. Serve the salad warm sprinkled with fresh chives.