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
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.