Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Week 37 - BAKED BEANS

Saskatchewan Menu of the Week -- 25 December 2005

Brunch -- Pancakes with fruit compote.
Dinner -- Pear and Butternut Soup. Baked ham. Baked beans. Baked potatoes. Coleslaw. Cherry Tarte.

My husband installed a wood-burning stove in our front room. It’s a cute little black model made by a Norwegian company called Jotul. We love it. We had some friends over for dinner and without any prompting from us, they pulled their chairs around the fire. The door is glass so we can see the flame, and there is a burner on top for boiling tea water or simmering a pot of beans. Yes, we are eating beans this week. First, I soaked the beans overnight with some yogurt in the water (that’s supposed to diffuse the bean effect). Then I simmered the beans on the wood stove with water, a ham hock and a couple of bay leaves. Once softened, I baked the beans in the oven with some molasses, brown sugar, tomato paste and worcester sauce. We had beans for supper tonight, and tomorrow we’ll warm the leftovers on the wood stove. Maybe we’ll add some wieners. It’s just like camping, only better...

BAKED BEANS
I bought a HUGE bag of pinto beans at a flea market which were grown on a farm near Radisson.

Soak 2 cups of beans and 2 tbsp. plain yogurt in water overnight. Drain the water. Put the beans in a stock pot, add two ham hocks, 2 bay leaves, salt and a few peppercorns. Cover with fresh water and simmer until the beans are soft.

Divide the beans and their liquid between two oven-proof casseroles with lids. Remove the meat from the ham hocks and divide evenly between the two pots. Into each, stir in a few chopped tomatoes, a couple spoonfuls of tomato paste, 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup of molasses. Bake, covered, for two hours or more at 300 degrees. Add water if the beans soak up their liquid. Before serving, remove the lids and bake until the top of the beans is nice and brown.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Week 36 - APPLE TARTE

Saskatchewan Menu of the Week -- 22 December 2005

Brunch – Ricotta pie with rhubarb salsa
Dinner – Pork and Fruit Stew with biscuits. Apple Tarte.

APPLE TARTE
This is skinnier and therefore less filling than an apple pie, but no less tasty. I make it in a tarte pan, which has short fluted sides (as opposed to a deep pie dish). Serve it with whipped cream, if you like. In late summer, when apples are abundant, I make this with Saskatchewan apples instead of Granny Smiths.

1.5 cups applesauce (made with Saskatchewan apples)
2 big granny smith apples
a single pie crust
cinnamon, sugar to taste
3T jelly (I used local gooseberry jelly)

Heat the applesauce in a saucepan. Spice it up with cinnamon to your taste and add a few tablespoons of sugar to make it less tart. Roll the pastry and place it in the tarte pan, crimping the edges around the rim. Spoon in the applesauce in a smooth layer.

Peel and core the granny smith apples, and slice them thinly. Lay the apple slices on top of the applesauce, forming a circle of closely overlapping apple slices. Repeat with an inner circle of apple to cover the pie. Melt the jelly until it is liquefied and brush it onto the sliced apples. (Sometimes I add a thimble of liquor such as brandy to the jelly, but I did not this time because there was a child coming for dinner.) As a final touch, I brushed the crust with milk and sprinked it with sugar.

Bake the tarte in 375 degrees until the crust is brown and the apples are soft, about 30-35 minutes.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Newspaper - PEAR AND BUTTERNUT SOUP

(Thic column was first published in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix on 19 December 2005.)

I have a confession to make. I bought a box of Christmas oranges. This may seem innocent enough to you, but it is a brazen violation of my Saskatchewan-only diet. For one full year, I am attempting to eat only Saskatchewan foods in my own home. No orange, banana, mango or tasteless strawberry has graced my door since April.

Until now. What came over me? There I was in the Co-op grocery store picking up Saskatchewan cheese and sausage, drifting right past the produce section, when my cart bumped into a stack of orange boxes direct from China. I had a flash of childhood Christmases, discovering an orange in the bottom of my stocking and studiously removing the peel in one whole piece. I remembered the pioneer stories about jubilant children who got their only orange of the entire year at Christmas time. If it was a luxury of the pioneer diet, then surely I could justify a few zipper oranges in my own shopping cart at Christmas.

Not that my diet really resembles that of the pioneers. Eating locally is much different today. We grow so many more foods in Saskatchewan than the pioneers ever thought possible and we have freezers to keep them in.

As I write, I am awaiting delivery of half a pig – cut, wrapped and cured – from a local organic farm. Yesterday, I made ricotta cheese with local milk. And Canada Post has just delivered a box of Saskatchewan sprouting seeds for my cheese sandwiches this winter.

Why am I doing this? It seemed an appropriate challenge for Saskatchewan’s centennial year. But that is not my prime motivation. I want to support local farmers and processors, eat healthier tastier food, and cut the fossil fuels expended getting dinner to my plate. When you consider that most of our fruits and vegetables travel upwards of 1,500 kilometres, it’s a major contribution to pollution and greenhouse gas. I like to travel, but I like my vegetables to stay close to home.

To be truthful, I do purchase "foreign" food items if I need them for a mostly Saskatchewan recipe when there is no local equivalent. The other day I made a Russian salad with beets, carrots, potatoes, egg and pickled herring. That was followed by a pork and apricot stew and for dessert, cookies sprinkled with icing sugar. Astute readers will know that herring, apricots and icing sugar are not from here. But they do wonderful things for the foods that are.

This Christmas dinner, I will be serving a ham with a honey-mustard glaze, the herring salad and a coleslaw. My sister is bringing homemade perogies. Perhaps we’ll start with a curried soup of pear and butternut squash and finish with a saskatoon pie. Happy Holidays! (For the other recipes, go to homefordinner.blogspot.com.)

CURRIED PEAR AND BUTTERNUT SOUP
I use Calcutta Curry produced in Saskatoon by Chatty’s Indian Foods. You can use a generic curry powder but it won’t be as good! You can buy it (and the vegetables) at the Saturday Farmers’ Market. As for the pears, I canned them last fall from a tree on Temperance Street.

1 large butternut squash
2T butter
1 large onion in thin slices
3T curry powder
Salt & white pepper
4C water
1 cup chopped canned pears and their juice
1/2 cup cream

Peel, seed and chop the butternut squash into small chunks. You should have 4-5 cups of squash. Melt the butter in a soup pot and sauté the onions. When the onions are softened, stir in the curry powder, salt and pepper to taste. Continue cooking until the onions are quite soft.
Add the water and the squash. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer, covered, until the squash can be pierced with a fork (about 30 minutes). Add the pears and juice. Cook another 15 minutes.
Remove from the heat and cool. Purée the soup in a blender. Return to a clean pot and add the cream. If it looks too thick, add more water to reach your desired consistency. Reheat and serve.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Week 35 - PORK AND FRUIT STEW

Saskatchewan Menu of the Week -- 11 December 2005

Breakfast – Scrambled eggs and cornbread.
Lunch – Yogurt. Christmas orange.
Dinner – Pork and Fruit Stew.

PORK STEW WITH APRICOTS AND PRUNES
This recipe from Russia is plucked from the pages of the latest Saveur magazine, so credit is given where credit is due. Like most stews, this one is better the day after it's made, so if you're serving it to company make it a day ahead.

3 pounds pork roast, trimmed of fat, cut into bite-sized cubes
6T vegetable oil
6 carrots peeled and sliced into rounds
4T tomato paste
1 cup dried apricots
5 cups water
1 pound onions peeled and cut into wedges
1 cup pitted prunes
salt and pepper

Season the pork with salt and pepper. Heat half the oil in a heavy bottom pot. When the oil is hot, cook the pork until it is no longer pink. (If pork fat has accumulated in pan, pour it off before proceeding.) Add the carrots, tomato paste, apricots and water. Boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook gently, uncovered for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the rest of the oil in a skillet and sauté the onions until golden brown. When the stew has simmered for 45 minutes, add the onions and prunes. Continue to simmer until the stew has thickened, about 30 minutes. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Serve with boiled potatoes.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Week 34 - RED PEPPER PESTO

Saskatchewan Menu of the Week -- 5 December 2005

Breakfast – Toast with honey.
Lunch – Cheese and sprout sandwich.
Dinner – Pasta with Red Pepper Pesto.

RED PEPPER PESTO
Traditionally, we think of pesto made with basil and pine nuts. But technically, a pesto is any smooth blend usually made with garlic, olive oil and cheese. This is delicious and freezes well. I buy local hothouse red peppers in summer and freeze a few batches for the winter months.

several cloves of roasted garlic (see note below)
2 red peppers, roasted and peeled (see note below)
3-4T oil
3/4 cup parmesan cheese
1T blue cheese
fresh thyme
salt and pepper

Mix everything in a blender until smooth. Taste and adjust the flavour ingredients to your taste.

Note: To roast garlic, cut a slice off the top of a whole bulb of garlic, smother the cut surface with olive oil, wrap in tinfoil and bake in hot oven until soft, about 30 minutes. Roasted garlic is nuttier and smoother than raw garlic. It keeps well wrapped in tinfoil and goes nicely in a pasta sauce, omelet or wherever you would put garlic. To prepare the red peppers, broil in the oven, turning to blacken every surface. (Be careful to char just the skin and not the flesh.) Put hot peppers in a paper bag until cool enough to handle. Peel the charred skin off the flesh and discard along with the seeds.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Weeks 32 & 33 - POORI (Indian bread)

Menu of the Week -- 27 November 2005

Brunch – Scrambled eggs with cheese and tomatoes.
Dinner – Bookclub potluck -- I took Indian breads chapati and poori.

POORI
This is a quick and simple Indian-style bread used to scoop up curries and other dishes.

Measure 2.5 cups of all purpose flour into a small bowl. Make a well in the centre. Pour in 1 cup of warm water. Using your fingers, gradually mix the flour into the water until you have incorporated the flour and made a soft dough. Cover the dough in plastic and let it rest on the counter for an hour.

In a saucepan, heat two inches of canola oil until it is hot and a drop of water sizzles on the surface. Cut the dough into 10-12 small pieces about the size of a walnut and shape them into a smooth balls. Roll each ball with a rolling pin until it is quite thin. Drop the flat dough into the hot oil. As it cooks, it will puff in the middle. Flip it once so it browns on both sides.

Remove and drain on a paper towel, then wrap in a tea towel to keep warm. Repeat the process until all the bread is cooked. It is best to make poori just before the meal so it is still warm when you eat it!