Saturday, January 28, 2006

Week 42 - YOGURT

Saskatchewan Menu of the Week – 28 January 2006

Breakfast – Yogurt with stewed rhubarb.
Lunch – Cheese and bean sprout sandwich.
Dinner – Roast pork, spinach orzotto, roast carrots and potatoes.

YOGURT
I prefer unflavoured yogurt because I like to add my own fruit. This time of year, I am mixing yogurt with stewed rhubarb (canned last summer) and sour cherries (frozen last summer). It’s quite easy to make yogurt at home. All you need is milk and a little bit of cultured yogurt from the grocery store. I make yogurt in a 4-cup thermos, but you can make it in any container with a tight lid.

Heat four cups of milk in a saucepan on medium heat until it boils. Let it boil 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Let the milk cool down until you can stick a finger in it and count to ten. Stir in 2 Tbsp. of cultured yogurt. Pour the milk into a thermos (or other container) and leave on the counter overnight. You should have yogurt in the morning. Refrigerate. Be sure to reserve the last 2 Tbsp. of this yogurt to make the next batch.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Week 41 - TONKATSU

Menu of the Week - 25 January 2006

Breakfast -- Yogurt and cherry sauce.
Lunch -- Chicken soup.
Dinner -- Tonkatsu. Cabbage salad.

When I was in Japan I could not afford to eat in restaurants. It’s not that I was so broke, but the restaurants were really expensive. I met a young woman who wanted to practice her English so she took me out for dinner. We went to a tonkatsu restaurant – a place that served a breaded pork cutlet with tonkatsu sauce. It’s a western-style dish, as far as Japanese food goes, and it’s quite easy to make at home. Recently, my bookclub read Memoires of a Geisha and the theme for dinner was, of course, Japanese. So, I looked up a recipe for tonkatsu. It is one the few Japanese dishes I’ve found that can be made with mostly Saskatchewan ingredients.

TONKATSU
4 pork loin cutlets, trimmed of bone and fat
(I bought cutlets that had been tenderized – ie: pounded – by the butcher. Each cutlet was then large enough to be cut in two.)
salt and pepper
2 T flour
1 egg, whisked
1 cup good white bread crumbs (by this I mean, no factory bread)
canola oil for deep frying
tonkatsu sauce (see below)
finely shredded cabbage for garnish

Place the breadcrumbs on a cookie sheet and toast under the broiler until they are crispy and brown, turning once or twice. Pound the meat to tenderize it. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Dust it in flour. Dip into whisked egg. Coat with dried breadcrumbs, pressing with your finger so the breadcrumbs firmly adhere to the meat. Let rest about 15 minutes. In the meantime, heat enough oil in a frying pan that it will just cover the pork. Fry the cutlets in the hot oil, about 5 minutes per side, until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. To serve, cut the cutlet into several bite-sized slices. Place some cabbage beside it, and spoon on the tonkatsu sauce.

TONKATSU SAUCE
You can buy the sauce, but it’s also easy to make by mixing 4T ketchup, 2T Worcester sauce and 2T soy sauce.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Newspaper - MUSHROOM ORZOTTO

This first appeared in the Saskatoon Star-Phoneix on 16 January 2006.

My husband gave me a cookbook for Christmas that’s heavy enough to be a door stop. It’s called The Silver Spoon, or in Italian, Il Cucchiaio d’Argento. It’s been the most popular cookbook in Italy for 50 years. With 2,000 recipes, it’s massive.My goal is to adapt it to Saskatchewan.

This is, for the most part, an easy task because so many traditional Italian recipes can be made with Saskatchewan ingredients. Pesto, for instance, is a popular pasta sauce. The primary ingredients are basil and garlic, which thrive in our hot dry summers. Opening the book at random, I come to Tomato and Mozzarella Packets. It calls for cherry tomatoes, basil and parsley (all grown here), mozzarella cheese (made by Saputo in Saskatoon), eggs, pancetta (bacon or ham will do) and pastry.

I should explain my motives: Since last spring, I have been eating almost nothing but Saskatchewan foods in my own home. It’s an experiment in local consumption that’s good for the economy, for the environment and for my health. My taste buds like it, too. In fact, I have adopted some habits of a traditional Italian cook. I shop at the farmers’ market, I buy foods that are fresh and in season, and I choose recipes that fit the ingredients on hand (rather than buying "imported" ingredients to fit the recipe).

The first thing I cooked out of The Silver Spoon was Mushroom Risotto, which I made for New Year’s Eve dinner with grilled steaks, coleslaw and, for dessert, cake with cherry sauce.
Risotto is a rice dish named for the Italian word for rice, riso. For risotto, the water is added one cup at a time, until the rice is plump and creamy, not dry and fluffy like boiled rice. The risotto section in The Silver Spoon is eleven pages long. Of course, white rice is not grown in Saskatchewan, but no matter, because I have discovered it is equally delicious made with pearl barley.

Which raises an important question: What do you call risotto made with barley instead of rice. Since the Italian word for barley is orzo, I’ve decided to call it orzotto. There you have it – the invention of a new Saskatchewan dish.

My pearl barley was purchased last summer from the Daybreak Farm near Estevan. As for the mushrooms, I used chanterelle I picked myself in the forest near La Ronge, which I sautéed lightly in butter and froze. (The Italian recipe calls for dried mushrooms; you might be able to get some at the Saskatchewan Made Store on 8th Street. Soak in water before cooking.) I also used my garden tomatoes (frozen), rosemary (dried), parsley (which is miraculously holding out in a vase of water in my fridge) and fresh sage (which is still green underneath the snow).

Mushroom Orzotto
1 cup sliced mushrooms, sautéed in butter
2 T butter
2 T olive or canola oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 sprig each rosemary, sage and parsley, chopped
4-5 tomatoes, chopped
salt and pepper
6-7 cups water or vegetable stock, boiling
2 cups pearl barley
1/2 cup red wine
1 cup Parmesan cheese


Melt the butter and oil in a stockpot. Sauté the garlic, onion and herbs until soft. Add the tomatoes and cook for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the barley, stirring until the grains are shiny and little liquid remains in the pan. Add the wine and cook until evaporated. Add a cup of boiling water (or stock), stirring until it is absorbed. Continue to add water, one cup at a time, stirring until each one is absorbed before adding the next. As you get closer to done, the barley will need more stirring to ensure it does not stick to the bottom of the pan. When the barley is almost done, add the mushrooms. Stir in the parmesan cheese. The orzotto is ready when the barley is just tender to the bite. Sprinkle each serving with some cheese and perhaps some fresh parsley.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Week 39 & 40 - SASKATOON BERRY PIE

Saskatchewan Menu of the Week -- 14 January 2006

Breakfast -- Leftover Saskatoon Berry Pie.
Lunch -- Leftover pasta.
Dinner -- Leftover roast chicken and coleslaw

My husband seems to think pie is an inappropriate food for breakfast. Cake, he's fine with, and I must admit leftover chocolate cake with my morning coffee is delightful. But this morning I walked groggily into the kitchen and there staring at me from the counter was a wedge of saskatoon berry pie, leftover from a family dinner last night. I waited until he was out the door and I very leisurely enjoyed that piece of pie.

If you are interested in making a saskatoon berry pie, you must first secure a source of saskatoon berries. These grow wild in Saskatchewan and I learned to pick them from a very young age. Nowadays, some orchards are growing saskatoons and you can even buy them frozen in the Co-op grocery store. Outside of Saskatchewan, it is called a June berry or a service berry, but I don’t hear about people using them for pies. (Correct me if I’m wrong.) Here, they become pies, jams, syrups, sparkling juice and even covered in chocolate.

To make a saskatoon berry pie, mix four cups of berries with 1/2 cup sugar, 2T of tapioca and a dash of salt. If the berries are frozen, let them thaw a bit to blend with the sugar. Sprinkle in 1 tsp of almond extract. Spread into a pie shell. Place a few dabs of butter on the berries and cover with the top crust. Brush the crust with milk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake the pie at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, then turn it down to 375 degrees for about half an hour.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Week 38 -- HONEY BISCOTTI

Saskatchewan Menu of the Week -- 3 January 2006

Brunch -- Honey Nut Biscotti and café au lait.
Dinner -- Baked beans. Scalloped potatoes.

Biscotti means twice cooked in Italian, as these cookies are.

Sift together and form a well in the center:
2.5 cups flour
1.5 cups sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Into the well, add:
4 big eggs
1 tbsp. honey
1 tsp. vanilla

Gradually stir the ingredients together. When it’s almost mixed, work in:

1cup whole toasted almonds

Divide the dough in two. The dough will be somewhat sticky so flour your hands. Grease a baking sheet. On the baking sheet, form each half of dough into a log about 2-2.5 inches wide. Bake at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes. Before removing from oven, make sure the dough is no longer raw by pressing a finger into the middle of the log. If it is still gooey, bake a few minutes longer.

Remove the logs from the oven and slide onto a cutting board. Cut each log into diagonal slices 1/2 inch thick. Place the slices on their side on the cookie sheet. Bake a second time at 325 degrees for about 10 minutes. Place on a cookie rack to cool. Keep biscotti in an airtight container so it doesn’t go soft.