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.