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


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


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!

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

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


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.

Friday, June 10, 2005


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

Friday, June 03, 2005


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.