Saskatchewan is a long way from the Mediterranean Sea, but amazingly, it is not so far on the culinary map. Many aspects of the Mediterranean diet can be created with foods grown in Saskatchewan.
Take, for instance, basil. A few years ago, I asked my mom to grow some basil for me on the farm. I gave her a packet of seeds. I had no idea if basil would grow here, especially in a big farm garden that is never watered. Could the darling of Mediterranean herbs fend for itself in Saskatchewan?
Mom called one day in July to say my basil was ready to pick. I drove out to the farm to discover she had not planted a few seeds – but the whole package. There before me was a 40-foot row of basil as tall as my knees and as lush as any basil kissed by the Mediterranean sun. I picked it into garbage bags, gave much away to friends and made a big batch of pesto for myself.
There is, however, one major Mediterranean ingredient I can't get here and I can't live without: olive oil. But as long as the other ingredients are from Saskatchewan, I won't worry about a bit of olive oil on my pasta, in pesto or a salad dressing. No matter how much I may wish it, the olive tree is one Mediterranean treasure that won’t show up in my mother’s garden.
Basil Ice Cubes
In a blender, mix together fresh basil and olive oil to form a paste. It should not be too thick nor too thin, so that you can scoop it with a spoon. Fill the cups of an ice cube tray and freeze. When the basil ice cubes are frozen, pop them into a zip lock bag. Use the basil ice cubes in the middle of winter in pasta sauces, soups and salad dressings – whenever you want a burst of summertime Mediterranean flavour.
Sources: garlic from Saskatoon Farmers' Market; basil from my garden.