Monday, February 27, 2006

Week 46 - PIE CRUST

Saskatchewan Menu of the Week – 27 February 2006

Breakfast – Toast and lingonberry jam
Lunch – Corn chowder
Dinner – Pike fillets. Wild rice. Coleslaw. Cherry pie.

PIE CRUST
I learned to make pie crust from my mother-in-law, Alma Bertolini. She learned it from her mother, who made pies for a diner. As the story goes, a young man came to the diner because he loved the pies and ended up marrying the daughter. After Alma passed away, I taught her son, Jim, how to make her pie crust. (This is not the son I married but his younger brother.) As she taught me, technique is very important in making a successful pie crust. The ingredients must be at fridge temperature and worked swiftly so they don’t warm up. Always refrigerate the dough at least an hour before rolling – it keeps in the fridge for several days and freezes well.

3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup lard
1 tbsp. white vinegar
1/2 cup ice water

Fill a cup with water and drop in a couple of ice cubes.
Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Cut in the cold butter and lard with a pastry blender. Using your fingers, continue to work the butter and lard into the flour until it is no larger than squished peas. Work quickly.
Measure 1/2 cup of ice water. Briskly stir in the egg and vinegar.
Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the liquid. Stir briskly with a fork, incorporating the flour and water as best you can. Using your hands, press the dough into a ball, pressing in the flour in the bottom of the bowl (if you don’t get all the flour incorporated, that’s okay). Do not knead like bread.
Cut the ball into quarters. Press each quarter into a round shape, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until you are ready to use it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Week 45 - FOCACCIA

Saskatchewan Menu of the Week – 22 February 2006

Breakfast – Scrambled eggs with pan-fried potatoes.
Lunch – Yogurt with applesauce.
Supper – Spaghetti with Red Pepper Pesto. Focaccia.

FOCACCIA
Focaccia is an Italian-style bread. I make my own dough, but you can make this with frozen white dough from the grocery store. Spread the dough with your hands onto a greased cookie sheet. Leave it to rise 2-3 times in thickness. Using your finger or the end of a wooden spoon, poke holes into the dough about 2-inches apart. Pour on olive oil so that it fills the holes and completely covers the surface of the dough. Sprinkle on rock salt or chopped black olives (or both, if you like). Bake about 25 minutes in a 350-degree oven.

You’ll find the recipe for Red Pepper Pesto in the archives for December 2005.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Newspaper CHICKEN CACCIATORE

This column first appeared in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix on 19 February 2006

One of the crazy food words that keeps popping into my head is Catch-a-Tory. Perhaps this is because we just had a federal election. When I was a kid, somebody’s mother made Chicken Catch-A-Tory and I thought it had something to do with the federal election of 1974. Funny what kids think! In 1974, the Liberal party under Pierre Trudeau won a majority government, catching a few seats from the Tories. So, it made obvious sense to me that this dish was named in anticipation of Tory defeat.

In the U.S., a Tory was someone who sided with the British in the American War of Independence, and youngsters there learn that Catch-a-Tory had something to do with catching the enemy. This is just a joke, of course, because it’s not really Chicken Catch-a-Tory. It’s Chicken Cacciatore, which I discovered years later means "hunter" in Italian. So, correctly translated, the dish is called Chicken Hunter-Style.

In Italy, a dish that is "hunter" style includes tomatoes, mushrooms and herbs. While it is most popular nowadays with chicken, it is also a great way to prepare rabbit, lamb and wild fowl. I can just imagine the burly Italian "cacciatore" out for a day of pheasant hunting, filling his pockets with lusty oregano and thyme from underfoot, and picking a handful of wild mushrooms on the walk home. Since hunting takes place in autumn, tomatoes would be ripening on the vine. Add a few cloves of garlic, and there you have the makings of a delicious supper. Best of all, this dish can be made entirely from foods grown in Saskatchewan.

Since last April, I have been focussing all my kitchen energy on local Saskatchewan foods. I am always looking for new and wonderful ways to prepare the great bounty this province has to offer. I spend endless pleasant hours poring over cookbooks from France, Italy, Germany, Mexico, the Middle East and even Japan, searching for new ways of preparing local ingredients. It’s proof that a Saskatchewan meal doesn’t have to be meat and potatoes. After all, if our farmers are growing food to feed the world, we might as well see what the world is doing with it.

Pasta is a great example. Canada is the biggest producer of durum wheat for pasta in the world, and 80 percent of that is grown in Saskatchewan. A good portion is exported to pasta makers in places like Italy and the United States. To ensure that I am eating Saskatchewan durum wheat, I buy only pasta that is made in Canada. My personal favourite is Primo pasta because it states clearly on the label that it is made with Canadian amber durum wheat. (Many packaged foods don’t say where it’s made or where the ingredients come from, in part because the manufacturers don’t want you to know. They don’t want you basing your food purchases on local preferences – unless, of course, they are local and proud of it.)

Chicken cacciatore is an old recipe with many variations. Here’s mine...

Chicken Cacciatore
Cut a chicken into serving pieces. If you’re buying chicken pieces, choose those still on the bone. In a big cast iron frying pan, heat 2 tbsp. of vegetable oil. Sprinkle the meat with salt and pepper. Brown the meat on all sides in hot oil. Remove chicken from pan.

To the oil add 1 onion, 1 green pepper and 2 cloves of garlic, all chopped. Sauté until soft. Pour on 1/2 cup of dry red wine and simmer until it is almost evaporated, scraping up any brown bits in the pan. Add a mix of herbs to your taste: basil, oregano, thyme and/or rosemary. Return chicken to pan.

Add 10 chopped tomatoes from the garden, fresh or thawed. (Or 1 can of tomatoes and their juice.) Lastly, toss in a handful of chopped mushrooms. (I use chanterelles picked last summer near La Ronge.) Cover and simmer on low for 2 hours. If it gets dry, add some water. Adjust salt and pepper as needed. Meanwhile, cook spaghetti or other long pasta. Serve the cacciatore sauce on the pasta with a piece of chicken on the side.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Week 43 & 44 - SWISS CHARD RAVIOLI

Saskatchewan Menu of the Week – 17 February 2006

Breakfast – Pancakes with preserved fruit.
Lunch – Grilled cheese sandwich.
Dinner – Swiss chard ravioli. Tomato basil sauce. Sponge cake with cherry sauce.

SWISS CHARD RAVIOLI
I make this stuffing in the summer when Swiss chard is abundant and freeze it for winter pasta making. We usually make a large batch of ravioli and freeze what we don’t eat right away. I make the dough and my husband rolls it. (We have a Pasta Queen pasta roller and a ravioli press, which make the task quite easy.) To make the dough, I blend 2 cups of flour with 3 beaten farm eggs and a spot of water. After mixing with a fork, I work it into a ball with my hands, wrap it in a plastic bag, and leave it in the fridge at least an hour before rolling it.

If you don’t have a pasta maker or a ravioli press, you can use this stuffing inside purchased cannelloni. It can also be made with spinach. For the tomato-basil sauce, see the recipe in the August 2005 archives. To make your own ricotta cheese, see the technique in the April 2005 archives.

1 pound Swiss chard, parboiled and squeezed dry. (or thawed and squeezed)
1cup ricotta cheese
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
1 large egg
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp each fresh thyme and fresh rosemary (or half as much dried herbs)
salt and pepper to taste

Mix everything together well and stuff something!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Week 43 - JAPANESE COLESLAW

Saskatchewan Menu of the Week – 9 February 2006

Breakfast – Yogurt with cherries.
Lunch – Leftover pizza.
Dinner – Pork chops with coriander marinade. Japanese Coleslaw. Canne pears.

JAPANESE COLESLAW
This version of coleslaw is a nice change from the usual coleslaw made with mayonnaise. To make the pork chops with coriander marinade, see the recipe in the June archives.

1/4 cabbage shredded
5 carrots grated
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. sesame oil
1Tbsp. canola oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds

Mix the cabbage and carrots. Vigorously stir together the other ingredients (except sesame seeds). Toss in the sesame seeds and blend well. If you are making this coleslaw ahead of time, reserve the sesame seeds and add them just before serving.