Friday, August 26, 2005


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.

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.

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


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

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


Menu of the Week -- 18 August 2005

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

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


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.

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


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 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.