Friday, September 30, 2005

Week 24 - CORN CHOWDER

Saskatchewan Menu of the Week -- 29 September 2005

Breakfast – Yogurt with pears.
Lunch – Spinach salad.
Dinner – Corn chowder. Baguette

CORN CHOWDER
This is perfect for those last few over-ripened cobs of corn from the garden. I froze quite a bit of corn this fall, so we should be eating this chowder all winter.

2t butter
1/8 cup prosciutto or Canadian bacon
1 diced onion
2 sticks each celery and carrot, diced
1t flour
1 cup milk
1 large potato peeled and diced (my husband likes lots of potato)
salt and pepper to taste
1t dried oregano (or marjoram)
1 cup corn kernels
water
a few sprigs of parsley

In a soup pot, melt the butter and sauté the meat, onion, celery and carrots. When the onion is translucent, sprinkle on the flour and cook one minute, stirring constantly. While stirring, add the milk. Boil. Add the potatoes, oregano, salt and pepper to taste. Pour in enough water to cover the potatoes and return to a boil. Reduce heat, cover the pot and simmer until the potatoes are cooked. Stir in the corn and cook until it is heated through. To serve, sprinkle each bowl with a pinch of freshly chopped parsley.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

CANCELLED end of summer dinner

Sometimes, the best menus are all in our heads. This one was supposed to be our final outdoor dinner party of the summer, but we had to cancel when the city turned off the water and dug up the street. (It was the fifth or sixth water main break of the year – zzzhhheeesh!) So, here is my fantasy end-of-summer dinner:

Cherry tomatoes stuffed with pesto
Roasted beet and walnut salad
Pasta Primavera
Black Forest cake

CHERRY TOMATOES STUFFED WITH PESTO – Cut the top of each cherry tomato. Using a small spoon, scoop out the flesh. Fill the cavity with pesto. You can make pesto by mixing in a blender:

1cup fresh basil leaves
5T freshly grated parmesan cheese
3T pine nuts
2 cloves of garlic
1/2cup olive oil
salt to taste

ROASTED BEET AND WALNUT SALAD
2 medium beets (or 4 small)
1/3cup 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
salt

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.

PASTA PRIMAVERA
This recipe is adapted from Lorenza’s Pasta, by Lorenza de’Medici. You can easily substitute other vegetables, and use more or less of each as they are available in season. According to Lorenza, this pasta dish is not served with cheese.

2T butter
1/2 cup canola or olive oil
1/2 chopped onion
1 chopped clove garlic
1 medium zucchini, sliced (or two small)
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 cup chopped snap peas (or shelled peas)
2 large ripe tomatoes
1T each parsley and/or basil
salt and pepper
Cooked pasta for four people (I prefer this with shaped pasta such as bowties or rigatoni, as opposed to long noodles like spaghetti.)

Melt the butter and half the olive oil on medium heat. Add the onions and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently so it doesn’t brown. Add the zucchini, carrots and peas. Cook until the carrots are no longer hard to the bite. Season with salt and pepper. Add the cooked pasta along with the tomatoes, herbs and the rest of the oil. Toss it together and cook briefly until the tomatoes are softened. Serve hot.

BLACK FOREST CAKE
This recipe is adapted from an old Time-Life series on the cooking of Germany (published in 1969). Since my dinner was cancelled, I didn’t get a chance to make it. But this is what I was going to do:

Make a tall chocolate cake. Cool the cake and cut in half horizontally, setting the top half aside. While still warm, prick both layers of the cake with a fork and sprinkle with cherry syrup:

CHERRY SYRUP
Thaw and drain 1 cup of frozen sour cherries. (Pit the cherries if they aren’t pitted yet.) Pour the drained cherry juice into a measuring cup and fill to 1 cup with water. Combine this liquid with 3/4cup sugar in a saucepan over moderate heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Boil uncovered for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and when it is lukewarm stir in 1/3cup of kirsch.

WHIPPED TOPPING
Beat 2cups of cream until it starts to thicken. Sift 1/4cup confectioner’s sugar over the whipped cream and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Pour in 1/8cup kirsch and beat just until it is blended.

ASSEMBLY
Place the bottom layer of the cake on a serving platter. Spread half the whipped cream on the cake, spilling over the edge. Sprinkle with 3/4 of the cherries. Place the top layer of cake and spread with the remaining whipped cream. Garnish with the remaining cherries.

Take a very good piece of chocolate and "peel" off curls of chocolate with a sharp knife or a vegetable peeler. Sprinkle the cake with chocolate. Be generous – this is not a dieter’s dessert!

Monday, September 26, 2005

Newspaper - September - FRENCH ZUCCHINI LOAF WITH TOMATO BASIL SAUCE

This column appeared in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix on 26 September 2005

When my husband agreed to marry me, he insisted on a prenuptial agreement with just one demand – that I would never plant more than six zucchini at a time. That was a tough contract to sign. Zucchini is my favourite summer vegetable. It grows abundantly with little fuss, the flowers are beautiful and it’s very versatile in the kitchen.

I had just passed the first summer in my own house, and I must admit I went overboard with the zucchini. I had no fewer than a dozen zucchini plants in my little garden. Even if I ate zucchini three meals a day, I could not keep up with that level of production. I offered zucchini to all my friends. We would be at a party or a café and the conversation would go something like this:

"Would you like a zucchini?"
"Sure."
"Great, I’ll just go get a few from the trunk of my car."

My husband-to-be suggested I just leave the trunk open and with any luck, someone would steal them. One day, I found a newspaper headline stuck it to the fridge. It read: "That’s not a dead body, that’s a zucchini."

I signed on the dotted line. Since then, I have focused on quality not quantity by finding new and wonderful ways to make the most of my limited zucchini crop. A trip to France was a great eye-opener. In France, they eat the zucchini flowers. What better way to limit production than by lopping off the source of the fruit before it gets a head start? The French batter the flowers and fry them in hot oil. Sometimes, they stuff the flowers first with a mixture of breadcrumbs, herbs and cheese. I like to pick the young zucchini when they are as thin as a finger and the flower is still attached, and deep-fry them together. The flowers are so bright and sunny, I feel happier just to have swallowed them.

The end of summer is bittersweet for me. My garden is abundant with good things to eat, but there is so little time to enjoy it. Everything needs to be picked at once, before it over-ripens or freezes. Or, in the case of zucchini, grows to the size of Shaquille O’Neal’s shoes.

This year, I am preserving as much as possible by freezing or canning. I am doing this because I have pledged to eat nothing but Saskatchewan foods in my own home for one full year. I began in April, and it has been amazingly easy so far. There has been abundant fresh produce (from my garden and the Farmers’ Market) and local fruit (apples, cherries, saskatoons and other berries), but what about February? If I want to eat this winter, I better be prepared.

My freezer is now full, and I’ve billeted out some food to the freezer of a friend. Just last week, I canned a peck of pears from a tree on Temperance Street. Now, if only I could find a way to save zucchini flowers for a blustery winter day... If ever I discover a zucchini the size of a small boat, I know what to do with it. This recipe comes from a French tourist brochure. It’s good on its own or with a sauce like the one that follows. (For more zucchini recipes go to: homefordinner.blogspot.com.)

FRENCH ZUCCHINI LOAF
one big zucchini
4T flour
3 eggs slightly beaten
1 clove garlic chopped
1 handful parsley chopped
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 and pat into a buttered bread loaf pan. Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes. (I like to brown the crust under the broiler.) Serve in thick slices.

Tomato Basil Sauce: 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 the tomatoes break down into a sauce. Add 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh (or 1/2 tbsp. dried) basil. Season with salt and pepper.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Week 23 - JUMPING MUSTARD TOMATO CHUTNEY

Saskatchewan Menu of the Week from 22 September.

Breakfast – Toad in the Hole (recipe) with Jumping Mustard Tomato Chutney.
Lunch – Bread and tomato, fresh pears.
Dinner – Pasta with tomatoes, basil and dry-cured pork, ice cream with cherry sauce.

Jumping Mustard Tomato Chutney
Okay, so the apricots and ginger are not from Saskatchewan. But the other ingredients are. I made this chutney last fall with my abundant garden tomatoes and have just one jar left. It’s delicious.

2 tbsp canola oil
1/2 tsp whole mustard seeds
2 dry red chilies, crushed
6 cloves garlic, mashed
1 inch cube of ginger, peeled and slivered
1 lb tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
4-5 dried apricots, quartered

Heat the canola oil on medium-high. Pour in the mustard seeds and put on the lid. The seeds will sizzle and pop. When the popping stops, remove the lid, add the chilies and stir. Add the garlic, ginger, tomatoes, sugar and salt. Stir. Simmer until the chutney starts to thicken, 15 minutes.

Add the apricots. Simmer another 10 minutes until the chutney is thick and shiny. Cool. Serve at room temperature.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Week 22 - PASTA NORMA

Menu of the Week -- 14 September, 2005

B’fast – Bread with gooseberry jelly.
Lunch – Leftover chicken drumstick.
Dinner – Pasta Norma.

PASTA NORMA
Rumor has it that this Sicilian dish was named for the opera Norma, first performed in 1831, which tells the story of a tragic love affair between a Roman official and a Druid priestess. So, what's the connection with eggplant? A lot of recipes tell you to salt the eggplant to remove its bitterness, but that is not necessary when the eggplant is small and fresh.

olive oil
3 small eggplants
2 cloves garlic
6-8 plum tomatoes
12 basil leaves, plus extra for garnish
salt and pepper
ricotta cheese (SEE HOMEMADE METHOD 16 April 2005)
long pasta (traditionally it’s made with fettucini)

Slice the eggplant in rounds and fry in hot oil until soft and brown. Drain on paper towel. (Or, brush rounds with oil and broil both sides in oven.)

Sauté garlic in 1/4 cup olive oil. Stir in chopped tomatoes, chopped basil, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. In the meantime, cook the pasta. To serve, toss the cooked pasta with the tomato sauce, top with slices of eggplant and sprinkle with ricotta cheese (parmesan will do fine, too).

Friday, September 09, 2005

Week 21 - RATATOUILLE

Menu of the Week -- 9 September 2005

Breakfast – Baguette with tomato.
Dinner – Corn-on-the-cob.
Dinner – Baked trout. Ratatouille.

RATATOUILLE
This dish is a taste of southern France. (Pronounced rat-a-TOO-yee.) It’s good hot or cold. It can be served as a side dish or as a salad with crusty bread. And best of all, it has zucchini! (Did I mention that zucchini is my favourite summer vegetable?) Try ratatouille next to a grilled pork chop or serve with Ricotta Pie (recipe at Week 9). In some versions of this recipe, the vegetables are each cooked separately and mixed together just before serving.

1/2 cup olive oil
a few cloves of garlic
2 pounds of vegetables including: onion, eggplant, red pepper, tomatoes and zucchini (about equal amounts of each).
1T fresh thyme and basil (or lesser amount of dried)
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a skillet. Cook the sliced onion slowly until soft. Slice and/or chop the other vegetables and add to the skillet (except zucchini). Cook until the vegetables release their liquid. Turn up the heat and boil off most of the liquid. Add zucchini and herbs. Simmer until the zucchini is cooked. Season with salt and pepper to taste. To serve, drizzle with olive oil and garnish with basil leaves.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Special - Saskatchewan Centennial Dinner

The province of Saskatchewan is 100 years old in 2005. To celebrate the centennial, I decided to recreate the banquet served to dignitaries at the inauguration ceremonies on Sept. 4, 1905.

Fortunately, the menu has been preserved by the Saskatchewan Archives Board. The meal was held at lunchtime in the Regina City Hall auditorium and only the men were invited! It’s quite a lavish menu for the time and place, so I narrowed it down to something manageable in my own kitchen.

The menu is not very descriptive and gives few clues as to how some dishes were prepared. Therefore, I searched for recipes from that era in the Boston Cooking School Cook Book by Fanny Farmer, first published in 1896. (It’s available on the web.)

Here is the menu from 1905, followed by the recipes from my own dinner. Have fun creating your own version of Saskatchewan’s first state banquet!


1905 Menu

Olives, Salted Nuts
------
Truffled Sardines
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Cream Soup
Salmon, Sauce Tartare
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Cucumber Salad
Sweetbread Cream with Mushrooms
Kidney Saute with Curled Bacon
------
Spring Chicken, Roast Turkey, Spring Lamb
Potatoes, Spinach, Asparagus
Tomato Salad, Green Salad
------
Lemon Sponge with Champagne Sauce
Peach Cream, Macaroon Cream
Wine Jelly
------
Cheese, Biscuits, Celery
Ice Pudding
Macaroons, Wafers
Fruit, Coffee



My Saskatchewan Dinner Menu

Olives, Salted nuts
------
Imperial Cream Soup
------
Chicken and Spring Onions, Lamb in parchment paper
Tomato Salad with Horseradish Sauce
Asparagus, Potato Bells
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Lemon Sponge with Champagne Sauce
-----
Fresh Strawberries, Coffee


IMPERIAL SOUP

1 T butter
2 stalks celery cut in chunks
2 carrots cut in chunks
1 small onion roughly chopped
spring parsley
2 cloves
1/4 t peppercorns
small bay leaf
pinch of mace
piece of cheesecloth
2 cups stale bread crumbs
1/2 breast of chicken
1/3 cup blanched almonds
1 cup cream
2 T flour
2 T flour

Sauté the celery, carrots and onion in the butter for five minutes. Wrap the vegetables in a piece of cheesecloth with the parsley, cloves, peppercorns, bay leaf and mace. Tie it up and place it in a pot with 4 cups of water. Add the breadcrumbs, chicken breast and a bit of salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer for one hour (chicken must be cooked through).

Remove the chicken and the cheesecloth from the broth. Roughly chop the chicken. Remove the vegetables from the cheesecloth, separating and discarding the spices. In a blender, puree the chicken, vegetables and almonds with the stock.

Place the soup back into the pot. Heat and add cream. Adjust the salt and pepper to your taste. In a small pan, melt butter. Add flour to melted butter and stir constantly to form a thick paste. Drop the paste into the hot soup and stir to thicken. Serve with a sprig of fresh parsley on each bowl.

CHICKEN WITH SPRING ONIONS

1 chicken cut into small pieces
18-20 spring onions
3 T butter
4 T flour
1/2 cup cream
salt and pepper
Juice of one lemon

Put the chicken and onions in a stockpot, just cover with water, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the chicken is cooked tender. Remove the chicken and onions and keep warm. Boil the stock until it is reduced to 1.5 cups.

Make a sauce by melting the butter is a skillet. Add the flour and stir vigorously to form a stiff paste. Pour in the 1.5 cups of stock and the cream. Cook on a slow bubble, stirring constantly, until the sauce is smooth and thickened. Season with salt and pepper. Add lemon juice to your taste.

Arrange the warm chicken and onions on a plate and pour on the sauce.


LAMB IN PARCHMENT PAPER

4 lamb chops
the whites from 3 hard-boiled eggs
3 crackers
2 T melted butter
salt and pepper
1-2 T cream

Finely crush together the egg whites and crackers. Mix in the melted butter, salt and pepper. Add enough cream to make a spreadable consistency. Cover each lamp chop with the egg mixture. Wrap each chop in a piece of parchment paper brushed with melted butter. Bake for about 25 minutes at 400F. To serve, remove the chops from the paper and serve on a platter garnished with parsley.

POTATO BELLS
Choose one large potato per person. Peel the potatoes. Using a melon baller, scoop out dome-shaped "bells" of raw potato. Cook the potato bells in boiling water just until tender. Drain. Smother the warm potatoes in melted butter. Fry in a hot skillet until the potatoes are golden and crisp.

TOMATOES WITH HORSERADISH SAUCE
Cut tomatoes in wedges and dress with horseradish sauce: Mix 3 T horseradish, 1 T vinegar, 1/4 t salt and a pinch of cayenne. Add 4 T heavy cream that has been whipped until stiff.

HOT WATER SPONGE CAKE
2 egg, separated
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup hot water or milk
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
1 cup flour
1.5 t baking powder
1/4 t salt

Beat egg yolks until thick and lemon coloured. Add half the sugar gradually, beating constantly. Add the water or milk. Continue to beat in the rest of the sugar and the lemon extract.

Beat egg whites separately until they are stiff and dry. Add to the yolk mixture, stirring briefly.

Mix the flour, baking powder and salt, and sift onto the egg mixture. Gently fold the flour into the eggs just until mixed.

Pour batter into a round cake pan that has been buttered and sprinkled with flour. Bake for 25 minutes at 325F.

CHAMPAGNE SAUCE

Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup champagne
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs separated

Mix the lemon juice, champagne and sugar in a saucepan. Stir vigorously over medium heat. Add the egg yolks and cook, stirring, until it thickens. Remove from heat.

Beat egg yolks until stiff. Whisk into the hot yolk mixture. Serve on Lemon Sponge.

(NOTE: It might be fun to use sparkling saskatoon berry beverage in place of the champagne, substituting almond extract for the lemon juice.)

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Week 20 - PASTA PRIMAVERA

Menu of the Week -- 29 August 2005

Breakfast – Yogurt with cherries.
Lunch – Corn on the cob.
Dinner – Pasta Primavera. Deep fried zucchini flowers

PASTA PRIMAVERA
This recipe is adapted from Lorenza’s Pasta, by Lorenza de’Medici. You can easily substitute other vegetables, and use more or less of each as they are available. According to Lorenza, this pasta dish is not served with cheese.

2T butter
1/2 cup canola or olive oil
1/2 chopped onion
1 chopped clove of garlic
1 medium zucchini, sliced (or two small)
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 cup chopped snap peas (or shelled peas)
2-3 large ripe tomatoes
1T each parsley and/or basil
salt and pepper
Cooked pasta for four people (I prefer this with shaped pasta such as bowties or rigatoni, as opposed to long noodles like spaghetti.)

Melt the butter and half the olive oil on medium heat. Add the onions and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently so it doesn’t brown. Add the zucchini, carrots and peas. Cook until the carrots are no longer hard to the bite. Season with salt and pepper. Add the cooked pasta along with the tomatoes, herbs and the rest of the oil. Toss it together and cook briefly until the tomatoes are softened. Serve hot.