Monday, December 31, 2007

Trivia answers

Canada, Nepal, Russia. Canada supplies about 40% of the world's mustard seeds. Within Canada, 82% of mustard seed is grown in Saskatchewan. More about mustard.

Saskatchewan bees produce on average 195 pounds of honey per hive. In comparison, the average honey production in the United States is about 65 pounds per hive. More about honey.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Eat your oats - MUESLI

This column first appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.

On special occasions, my mother let us choose the breakfast cereal. This choice was made in the grocery store because the kinds of cereals we would choose were not found in our house on a regular basis. In the winter, we ate oatmeal porridge and cream of wheat. In the summer, it was wheat puffs and Corn Flakes. The cupboard was bare of anything coco-frosted-lucky-special or sporting a cartoon character on the box.

Of course, I longed for what I could not have. Special occasions, such as birthdays, were preceded by weeks of decision making. Would it be Cap’n Crunch (my all-time favourite) or Fruit Loops (my second favourite) or Frosted Flakes (a close third)? Would I eat it slowly and make it last? Or gobble it down in a few breakfasts of uncharacteristic abandon? These were weighty decisions for a 6 year old. By the time I was old enough to buy groceries, sugar cereals had lost their appeal and wheat puffs were passé. Toast became my grownup breakfast of choice.

Until that summer when I ventured to Europe under the weight of a backpack. No toaster in there. I needed a breakfast that was cold, quick, inexpensive, delicious, portable and well, European. I discovered it all in muesli. Full of oats, seeds, nuts and plump dried fruit, with no added sugar, delicious with yogurt for breakfast or by the handful as a snack. In the stores, there were many varieties and combinations of muesli to choose from; clearly, it was the breakfast of choice for many hungry Europeans. Before I flew home to Canada, I stuffed a full bag of muesli into my pack.

There was nothing quite like it in the grocery stores in Saskatoon. At some point, there began appearing processed cereals that use the word “muesli” in order to appear healthy but they were big on over-sweetened oats and stingy on the fruit. I went back to toast. Then I got the bright idea to make my own muesli. There’s nothing hard about it, just a mixture of oats, seeds, nuts and/or dried fruit. I use organic Saskatchewan ingredients as much as possible like rolled oats, flax and hemp seeds, and local apples and cherries I dried myself.

When Monika and Werner Roewekamp moved to Canada 30 years ago, they started making muesli, too. “It was something that we grew up with in Germany, but when we came to Canada we couldn’t find a muesli that we liked,” says Monika. After her friends raved about her homemade muesli, she and Werner decided to go into business. After a year of sourcing organic ingredients, many of them from Saskatchewan, and a few months of test marketing at the farmers’ market, their muesli is now for sale under the Organic2U label at health food stores and as BioStar at the local Zellers. In the New Year, they’ll bring out a muesli especially for children.
“It’s a miracle food,” says Monika, “just the way nature provided.” She can tell you all about the nutritional properties of muesli including fibre, selenium, Omega-3, amino acids and anti-cancer agents. She also says raw oats are best because cooking reduces the healthy enzymes, but I like my muesli either way.

This year, my family has decided to make Christmas presents and you can bet there’ll be some homemade muesli under the tree.

No-Nuts Muesli
3 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup hemp seeds
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup flax seeds
3 tbsp honey
3 tbsp canola oil

Mix together the oats and seeds. Stir together the honey and oil. If they are too stiff to stir, heat them in the microwave. Pour the honey/oil into the oats and mix thoroughly with your hands. Spread the mixture onto a big cookie sheet and bake at 200F for two hours, stirring now and then for even cooking. Cool on the cookie sheet. Add dried fruit of your choice. Store in an airtight container.

Friday, December 07, 2007

CBC Radio Calling

It was terrific fun to take part in the CBC Christmas Open House on Dec. 7 in Regina. We talked about many wonderful holiday foods, and here are two of the recipes we mentioned.

Snow Drift
3/4 cups soft butter
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 cup corn starch
1 tsp grated lemon rind
Homemade jam or jelly
3 eggs whites
1/3 cup icing sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Cream the butter and 1/2 cup icing sugar until light and fluffy. Sift together the flour and cornstarch. Blend into the butter mixture with the vanilla. Form the dough into a circle on a piece of wax paper, wrap tightly and refrigerate for one hour or more.

Flour the work surface. Place the dough on the flour, cover with the wax paper and roll with a rolling pin to a thickness of 1/4 inch (about 1/2 cm). Cut the dough with a 3-inch round cookie cutter (about 8 cm) and place each cookie on a baking sheet. Bake at 300F for 15-20 min., until the dough is cooked but not browned. Remove from oven and cool slightly. Cover each cookie with a layer of homemade jam or jelly.

Whip the egg whites until frothy. And the vanilla. Whip until stiff peaks form. Scoop some meringue onto each cookie, swirling with a spoon to make peaks. Bake at 300F for about 10-15 minutes, until meringue starts to brown.

Muesli
3 cups rolled oats
½ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup hemp seeds
¼ cup pumpkin seeds
¼ cup flax seeds
3 tbsp honey
3 tbsp canola oil

Mix together the oats and seeds. Stir together the honey and oil. If they are too stiff to stir, heat them in the microwave. Pour the honey/oil into the oats and mix thoroughly with your hands. Spread the mixture onto a big cookie sheet and bake at 200F for about two hours, stirring now and then to prevent burning at the edges. Remove from oven and cool on cookie sheet. Add dried fruit of your choice. Store in an airtight container.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Take the local food challenge - HOT CAKES

This article first appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix on Nov 19, 2007.

It’s getting more and more complicated to invite friends for dinner. That’s because no dinner invitation can be made these days without asking the question: Are there any food restrictions I need to know about?

Awhile back, we invited two friends for dinner – he was vegetarian; she was lactose and gluten intolerant. So, that ruled out anything with meat, dairy or flour. That’s almost my entire repertoire. If I recall correctly, I served a lentil and vegetable stew with cold cuts and bread on the side, and for dessert, meringue with berries. Fortunately, the vegetarian wasn’t vegan or the eggs (for meringue) would have been verboten, too.

We have a good friend who is allergic to nuts. Another can’t eat zucchini and a couple must avoid seafood. These restrictions are easier to accommodate and, when it’s a matter of life and death, no means no.

When I’m asked that question, I assure my host that I can and will eat anything, blessed as I am to be free of allergies and intolerances. Although… now that you’re asking, I don’t like eggs over easy or mashed potatoes. I once had tripe accidentally in a restaurant in Poland and didn’t like it. And I’m not crazy about pickles. But that leaves a lot to work with.

Next time, I might just venture to mention that, while it’s not a matter of life and death, I do prefer local food. My husband and I eat almost 90% Saskatchewan-produced food at home, so if I could be said to have a “special” diet, that would be it. I suspect there are a whole lot of folks in Saskatoon serving local meals these days based on the popularity of the recent Good Food Fair, when dozens of people took a pledge to eat local food for two weeks. (Including Lori Coolican and Jason Warwick, two celebrity challengers from the Star Phoenix.)

The local food challenge was issued jointly by Oxfam, Beyond Factory Farming and the Saskatoon Food Coalition (of which I’m a member), in order to shed light on the issues surrounding the production and distribution of food. For instance, Saskatchewan produces less than 10% of our fresh vegetables (excluding potatoes) while Alberta and Manitoba produce 33% and 57% respectively. Saskatchewan is one of the world’s major producers of lentils, mustard and durum wheat for pasta, and yet those products are almost entirely processed somewhere else and shipped back to us. Where can we buy locally-made butter? Why are there no Saskatchewan apples in the grocery stores? Why is it easier to buy Alberta beef or New Zealand lamb than beef and lamb raised right here?

The transportation of food, particularly refrigerated food, is a major cause of greenhouse gas emissions: in the absence of Canadian data, food accounts for about 20% of goods transported around the United States and 30% in the European Union. What’s more, food from “away” is more likely to be picked unripe, stored a long time and treated with preservatives or other agents that give it the appearance of freshness.

At the Good Food Fair, Robert Fox of Oxfam Canada related how, in Nicaragua, butter from Denmark was less expensive than the butter produced right there. That’s because dairy farmers in Denmark are paid subsidies, which encourages over production, and the surplus is shipped in refrigerated cargo to Nicaragua. Is that insane, or what?

Personally, I would never impose my Saskatchewan diet on my friends; the important thing is not so much to eat locally every day, but to become informed consumers in the global marketplace.
For more on the local food challenge, go to SaskatchewanFoodChallenge.blogspot.com. You’ll find recipes like this one from Michelle Beveridge of the local Oxfam.

Michelle's Feather-Light Hot Cakes
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
2 tbsp canola oil
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp baking powder
2 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup frozen Sask. fruit such as raspberries, strawberries, saskatoons or apples.

Combine all ingredients except fruit and beat just until smooth. Stir in the fruit. Bake like pancakes on a hot greased griddle or frying pan. Serve with saskatoon berry syrup and more fruit. Yield: 6-8 hot cakes.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

My garden is no longer green

Today, I pulled the beets. It was the last of the garden produce to bring into the house, but the garden is not quite officially "closed" for the winter. This week, I'll plant a short row of lettuce seeds, which will be the first to come up in the spring. My goal this year was to eat something every day that I picked with my own hands. Tonight, it was a spinach salad made with the last late planting of spinach (see photo of spinach below). And those blueberries with yogurt for breakfast. And those frozen tomatoes with pasta we had for lunch. I hate to say goodbye to the garden for another year, but I think we'll make it to spring!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Saskatchewan Food Challenge

The challlenge is on! This evening, at the Good Food Fair in Saskatoon, the Saskatchewan Food Challenge was launched to an enthusiastic crowd. They pledged to eat local food for the next two weeks. To take the pledge or to follow the progress, go to: http://saskatchewanfoodchallenge.blogspot.com/

Thursday, November 01, 2007

How green is your garden?

It may be November, but this is the scene in my garden in Saskatoon. It's easy to eat local when fresh salad greens are this close at hand. But I'm watching the forecast and I'll be out there picking spinach before the first hard frost!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Newspaper column - NICE SALAD

Publsihed in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, Oct. 22, 2007.

Occasionally, there is a fine line between tenacity and hard-headedness. I admire tenacity in garden vegetables, like the rhubarb that refuses to be cut back and the squash that grows out of the compost.This past spring, my garden was full of renegade spinach in places that had never been planted to spinach. I admired that spunk so much I carefully transplanted it into a proper row.

But when a full-grown tomato plant is still in the garden in mid-October, with its yellowing leaves and spindly stem, and pinkish tomatoes struggling to soak up enough sun to turn red – well, that is sheer hard-headedness. And the hard head is all mine. Perhaps a psychiatrist would diagnose me as suffering from winter denial syndrome, but I can think of no better way to stave off the commencement of winter than to prolong the advancement of the summer garden.

So, every night I go out and cover my tomatoes with an old sheet and every morning I roll back the frosty sheet so the tomatoes can bask in the sun. Somewhere in between the sheets – preferably at dinnertime – I pluck off the ripest of the red tomatoes and eat them – preferably with the salad greens I planted in August which are now at their tender peak. (Lettuce and spinach can take a bit more frost than tomatoes, but I’m not taking any chances; I cover them at night, too.)

A few years ago, my husband and I spent the winter in a medieval mountain town in Italy where, right up to Christmas, gardeners were nurturing their tomatoes on the vine. These tomatoes were usually planted in front of a rock wall and staked to a tall pole, which maximized the warmth and exposure to the sun. It didn’t matter that the stems were spindly and the leaves were almost gone, those last few delicious tomatoes kept on ripening to the bitter end – which came with the first snow on New Year’s Eve.

I decided to try this principle in my own garden here in Saskatoon. I planted a few tomatoes up against the house (grey stucco, sort of like rocks) and attached them to tall stakes. And here it is, the latter half of October, and I am still enjoying fresh tomatoes from the garden. This may be hard-headed obstinacy, but there is method to my madness. Like an Italian grandmother, I prefer my vegetables to be fresh and in season. I want to eat what local gardens have to offer, rather than defy the seasons by buying imported vegetables from other parts of the planet. So, tomatoes and salad greens only when they’re fresh here in Saskatchewan (and, I hasten to add, you can still get both at the Saskatoon farmers’ market).

Here’s a great salad based on the French original called Salade Nicoise (nee-swaz), named for the city of Nice. I made it last week with tomatoes, salad greens and baby fingerling potatoes fresh out of my garden. The French version calls for tuna, but I use leftover Saskatchewan fish when I have it. It turned out so pretty and delicious, I called my version the Nice Salad. This recipe is a meal for two or a first course salad for four.

Nice Salad
3-4 cups of salad greens
Several thin slices of onion
(or 2 sliced green onions)
Two handfuls of baby potatoes, boiled
(or larger potatoes, cooked and quartered)
2-3 small ripe tomatoes, in wedges
3 hardboiled eggs, in wedges
1/2 green pepper, thinly sliced
(or steamed green beans/asparagus in season)
1/2 cup cooked fish

Dressing:
Juice of one-half lemon
2-3 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
Dash of salt and pepper

Whisk together the dressing ingredients. Toss half of the dressing with the salad greens and onion. Arrange the potatoes, tomatoes, eggs and other vegetables around a platter. Drizzle with the remainder of the dressing. Mound the salad greens in the centre. Top the greens with the cooked fish. Serve with a big spoon and two salad bowls.

Monday, October 01, 2007

A Saskatchewan Turkey

Here's a funny story from our friend Art: A few years ago, he raised some turkeys on his farm near Regina. As Thanksgiving approached, he loaded his gobblers under the cap of his pickup truck for the drive to the butcher. Wouldn't you know it, his truck got a flat tire. He got a ride with a passerby who looked at the turkeys peering through the window of the truck and commented, "Isn't that nice, you're taking your turkeys for a drive!"

People ask me - Where can I get a Saskatchewan turkey for Thanksgiving? Saskatchewan farmers produce just under one million turkeys that are packaged under the brand names of Lilydale and Granny's. These companies sell turkeys from across the western provinces, so there's no way of knowing exactly which bird is from Saskatchewan. However, you're assured of getting a bird that might be from here.

If you want to be absolutely sure it's a local turkey, get your bird from Pine View Farms at Osler which raises and slaughters its turkeys right on the farm. These turkeys all come from a provincially inspected facility, so there is an assurance of safety and quality. (Provincial inspection is required to sell in grocery stores.)

Aside from these "big guys" in the turkey business, you could also buy a turkey from a local farmer who is raising and selling his own gobblers. I suggest you ask at a local farmers market to track down a turkey farmer near you. Make this a Saskatchewan Thanksgiving!

Monday, September 24, 2007

A Saskatchewan Thanksgiving - Chili Piffs

This article first appeared in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix on 24 Sept. 2007.

There has been much buzz lately about the 100-mile diet but this time of year, you can do much better than that. With all the garden produce, just-picked berries and fruit, farm fresh chickens and turkeys, and hunting season underway, it’s easy enough to plan a meal that doesn’t stray even 100 miles from home.

For instance, we had a meal at home in Saskatoon recently that went from 0–20 kilometres in no time flat. At zero were little red and yellow cherry tomatoes, served in a salad with basil, all from my garden. At 2 km were pears from a backyard on Temperance Street served as an upside down tart sweetened with local honey. From 20 km we had pan-fried tenderloin venison steaks from a deer taken that morning by bow and arrow. It doesn’t get more local than that.

Some people have pointed out the contradiction of promoting a local diet in a place like Saskatchewan, where our agricultural sector relies heavily on distant markets. Saskatchewan supplies Canada and the world with wheat (for flour and pasta), lentils, mustard, canola and pork, among other things. Our local economy would be devastated if those distant markets dried up because they (italics) decided to eat local. It has also been pointed out that many Saskatchewan farmers produce food in such huge quantities that they couldn’t sell it all locally even if they wanted to. We simply don’t have the population to eat it.

However, there is no contradiction in making an effort to eat locally when it’s staring us in the face. Saskatchewan produces food for the world, so why not eat more of it closer to home? As well, there are many foods imported into Saskatchewan that could be produced here in greater abundance. Less than 5% of the vegetables in our grocery stores (excluding potatoes) are grown in Saskatchewan even though many of them could be produced here on a commercial scale. The University of Saskatchewan has developed some excellent varieties of fresh-eating apples, and its sour cherry cultivars make delicious pies. But, as far as I know, they’re not yet available in the grocery stores. We can buy lamb from New Zealand, which is just fine, as long as our excellent local lamb is sold along side.

For me, the local food movement isn’t what happens out there in the global marketplace but what happens right here in our own kitchens. It’s not about shunning imported foods but, when given a choice, choosing the fresh local option instead. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I would like to challenge all home cooks to serve a Saskatchewan meal for Thanksgiving this year. You can take inspiration from Merle Martin of Saskatoon who made last year’s Thanksgiving dinner from her own garden. Her menu included cream of carrot soup, green and yellow bean casserole, beet and lettuce salad, red and yellow tomato basil pasta, rhubarb squares with raspberries and these delicious chili puffs. Thanks, Merle, for sharing them with us.


If your Thanksgiving dinner is rooted in Saskatchewan, post your menus on my food blog: HomeForDinner.blogspot.com.

Broiled Chili Puffs

1 small zucchini
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 tbsp grated onion
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp green chilies (chopped or processed in a blender)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
Parsley, chopped
French rolls or whole wheat buns
Paprika

Grate unpeeled zucchini into a sieve and sprinkle with salt. With the back of a spoon (or wrapped in cheese cloth) squeeze out as much juice as possible. Mix mayonnaise and onion in a bowl, add zucchini, parsley to your taste and the chopped chilies. (Drained if using canned chilies.)

Cut the rolls into 1/2 inch (1 cm) slices and spread with zucchini mixture. Mix cheeses together and sprinkle on top, then sprinkle with paprika. Place on cookie sheet and broil puffs until golden (3-5 min). Makes 20. Serve hot.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Kashmir Valley in Saskatchewan

Masoor dal, desi masoor and kabuli channa don’t sound like Saskatchewan foods. Unless you know them by their western names – red ‘football’ lentils, whole red lentils and chickpeas – of which Saskatchewan is one of world’s leading producers.

There’s a new product line under the label Kashmir Valley, produced and packaged near the town of Elbow, on Lake Diefenbaker. The company is owned by Melody and Lionel Ector, who have been selling their product in bulk for ten years. They have just launched this new consumer-friendly packaging for grocery stores.

“A lot of our customers were buying in bulk and repackaging for their stores, and we got many requests to package it ourselves. So, we finally took the plunge and bought the packaging equipment,” says Melody.

She says the name, Kashmir Valley, was tested among consumers, many of whom come from cultures were these foods are eaten on a daily basis. There’s a picture of the fabled Kashmir Valley, which lies in northern India and Pakistan, on the package.

For now, eastern grocery stores are their target market, but Melody says they’d like to get this new product into mainstream groceries closer to home. I bought my supply at the grocery in Elbow. Learn more at their website at www.dspdirect.ca.

Friday, August 31, 2007

CBC Calling - 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 high priestess.
canola or olive oil
3 small eggplants
2 cloves garlic
6-8 plum tomatoes
12 basil leaves, plus extra for garnish
salt and pepper
ricotta cheese (make your own - see the entry on 16 April 2005)
pasta (traditonally made with fettucini)

Slice the eggplant, sprinkle with salt and let sit for 30 minutes. Rinse and pat dry. This removes moisture so it won't spit so much in the hot oil. Meanwhile, sauté the garlic in 1/4 cup oil. Stir in chopped tomatoes, chopped basil, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer 15 minutes.
Heat oil in skillet and brown the eggplant on both sides. Drain on paper towel. (Or, brush rounds with oil and broil both sides in oven.) If large, cut eggplant into bite-sized pieces. Cook the pasta. Toss the cooked pasta with the tomato sauce. To serve, put pasta on plate, top with fried eggplant and sprinkle with ricotta cheese.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Stop and smell - er- eat the flowers STUFFED ZUCCHINI FLOWERS


This article first appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix on 27 August 2007.

Summer is not over yet, so there’s still time to stop and eat the flowers. That’s right – some flowers are just as lovely on the palate as on the nose. Just imagine, if they look pretty in the garden, how charming flowers can be in a salad, sprinkled on strawberry shortcake or stirred into a sauce.

Take, for instance, those little carnations called pinks. Recently, I made devilled eggs for a backyard party and topped each one with a pretty pink. It turned an ordinary appetizer into a conversation piece. I also throw pinks into green salads, along with tiny tangerine marigolds, peppery nasturtiums and beautiful blue borage flowers. Perhaps the radishes and arugula in your garden are past their prime? You can get a second harvest from them – a harvest of flowers. In fact, the flowers of many herbs and vegetables are edible, such as the flowers of basil, scarlet runner beans and summer squash.

A couple of summers ago, I ventured into the Nesbit Forest south of Prince Albert to pick wild rose petals with Marie Symes-Grehan, who turns them into lovely pink jellies and syrups. We picked the rose petals in the morning, after the dew had lifted, dropping them into soft cotton bags and later, we sorted out the leaves and broken petals on Marie’s big kitchen table. That evening, she made a batch of jelly full of suspended pink petals. Marie sells her syrups and conserves under the label Lily Plain Summer, which are particularly popular at the Granville Island Market in Vancouver. (http://www.lilyplain.com/).

Rose petals have a long tradition in Middle Eastern cuisine for flavouring syrups and pastries. Edible flowers were also popular in Victorian times but fell out of favour until now, when they’re making a comeback on swank dinner tables from London to L.A. The list of edible flowers includes some popular garden varieties such as pansies, day lilies, roses and tulips, this latter described on one website as tasting of “sweet lettuce, fresh baby peas.” A word of caution: Not all flowers taste good and some are not good for you. Please do your own research before experimenting with edible flowers, and never eat a flower from a flower shop or one that may have been sprayed with a chemical.

My favourite culinary flower is the zucchini. In Mediterranean cuisine, they may be stuffed and deep-fried, laid decoratively on top of a quiche or stirred into risotto. Pick them in the morning when they’re open so it’s easier to remove the stamen or pistil inside the flower. Sometimes, I pick baby zucchini when the flower is still attached and cook them together. This also cuts down on the number of giant zucchini to contend with later. As always, I try as much as possible, to set my table with the foods of Saskatchewan and that includes flowers – both in a vase and on my plate.

DEEP FRIED ZUCCHINI FLOWERS
1 slice good dry bread
1 cup milk
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
Fat 1/2 cup water
Scant 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
6 zucchini flowers
Canola oil

Cut the crusts off the bread and tear it into small pieces. Cover the bread with milk and soak 30 minutes. Drain and discard the milk, squeeze out the bread and mix it with the basil and cheese.
Meanwhile, stir together the water, flour, baking powder and salt. Add more water if needed to reach the consistency of a thin pancake batter. Let sit 30 minutes.
Carefully spoon a bit of the bread mixture into each flower. Twist the tips of the flower to close.
Heat the oil on medium high. Use enough oil so the flowers will float and not stick to the bottom of the pan. When the oil is shimmering, roll the flowers in the batter, drain excess and drop into the oil. Do this in batches so the flowers don’t stick together. Brown on both sides and remove to a paper towel. Sprinkle with salt and enjoy.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Off to a good start - BREAKFAST MUESLI

Who needs a cereal bowl? A martini glass really shows off a beautiful mix of muesli, fresh raspberries and yogurt. I got the idea from the spa in Moose Jaw and I've been making it at home ever since. At first, I was buying the muesli, but now I'm making my own with Saskatchewan ingredients (except the pumpkin and sunflower seeds).

Golden Flax - Tomtene Seed Farm, Birch Hills, 306-749-3230
Honey - Triple R Honey Ranch, Val Marie, 306-298-2204
Hemp seeds - The Good Seed, Birch Hills, organichempseed@gmail.com
Oats - Daybreak Scheresky mill, Estevan, http://www.daybreakschereskymill.com/

Muesli
3 cups rolled oats
½ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup hemp seeds
¼ cup pumpkin seeds
¼ cup golden flax seeds
3 tbsp honey
3 tbsp canola oil

Mix together the oats and seeds. Stir together the honey and oil. If they are too stiff to stir, heat them in the microwave. Pour the honey/oil into the oats and mix thoroughly with your hands. Spread the mixture onto a big cookie sheet and bake at 200F for about two hours, stirring now and then to prevent burning at the edges. Remove from oven and cool on cookie sheet. Store in an airtight container. I prefer to add fruit just before I eat it - fresh in summer and dried or preseved in winter. You can add your favourite dried fruit when the muesli comes out of the oven.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Take time to eat the flowers - DEVILED EGGS

Someone said my deviled eggs are 'retro'. Well, I know my mom never made them with flowers on top! Top your favourite deviled eggs with bachelor buttons or try this recipe (adapted from Saveur June/July 2004).

HEAVENLY DEVILED EGGS
6 hardboiled eggs
1/4 cup mashed potatoes
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp homemade relish
2 tbsp mayonaise
1 tbsp mustard

Peel the eggs, cut in half lengthwise and scoop out the yolks. Mash the yolks with the rest of the ingredients. Spoon the filling onto the hardboiled eggs, covering the cut side of the eggs and pressing down with the tines of a fork. Garnish with bachelor buttons. (Blue borage flowers or tangerine marigolds would be nice, too.).

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Take time to eat the flowers - ZUCCHINI EGG PIE

My husband and I had only one prenuptual agreement - that I would never grow more than six zucchinis at a time. Here's a great way to use up that prolific zucchini and prevent even more by eating the flowers! Europeans have a long tradition of eating zucchini flowers - stuffed, deep fried, baked - this is a good way to introduce zucchini flowers to your Saskatchewan dinner table because it's more decorative than culinary. It's best to pick the zucchini when young and tender and the flowers when wide open first thing in the morning.

ZUCCHINI PIE
2 tbsp canola oil
½ onion, finely chopped
½ cup mixed herbs (parsley, thyme, oregano, etc.)
1 cup zucchini, grated
10 eggs
3 tbsp cream
½ tsp salt and a few grinds of pepper
1 cup grated cheese (such as cheddar, mozzarella, Swiss, etc.)
2 open zucchini flowers
1 pie crust

Heat the oil in a skillet. Sauté the onion until soft. Add the herbs and zucchini; cook until the zucchini is just warm and wilted. Remove from heat.

Whip the eggs with the cream until frothy. Season with salt and pepper. Cut the zucchini flowers into two halves and remove the stamen/pistil.

Spread the zucchini and herb mixture in the pie crust. Top with the grated cheese. Pour the whipped eggs on top to cover. Arrange the zucchini flowers on top, pressing lightly into the egg. Bake for 30 minutes at 375F. The pie is done when a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Newspaper Column - Sausage Fest

Published in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, 16 July 2007.

Pictured: Annie grills sausage purchased from a butcher in Yorkton.

A few years ago, my husband was feeling homesick for Wisconsin – the land of good sausage and better beer – so he invited some friends over and cooked up some bratwurst in the Wisconsin tradition: Heat a pot of water, pour in a bottle of beer, add a whole bunch of sliced onion and boil the brats. When cooked, grill the brats on the BBQ and serve in a bun with the onions and ketchup. His sausage ‘fix’ has became Sausage Fest, a summer sausage feast in our back yard. Sausage Fest has two rules: you bring the sausage and he provides the beer. And it better be a Saskatchewan-made sausage.


If I had to name a food that is quintessential Saskatchewan, a food that represents different geographies and ethnic traditions, a food with a long history and, I hope, an even longer future, I would have to name the sausage. I could design a bumper sticker that says “I brake for sausage” for all those people like myself who can’t resist pulling over at a farm or butcher sign advertising handmade sausage for sale.


I’d give one of those bumper stickers to Tim Ouellette, a bone fide sausage addict.
Tim works for Tourism Saskatchewan, a job which takes him around the province. I imagine he visits many museums, bed and breakfasts, tourist sites and the like, but the souvenir he always brings home is sausage. Tim is working on a project to advance farm and food tourism in Saskatchewan, and I hope his itinerary includes a few rural butchers.


Like many families, mine has a sausage tradition. Dad’s homemade sausage is always on the table at special family dinners, along with the turkey at Christmas and the ham at Easter.
But I had never made sausage myself until this spring when my husband and I got together with our friends Ralph and Lisa Bock. Ralph’s dad was a butcher so he knows sausage from a very early age. I hauled my Kitchen Aid mixer over to their house. It has a special attachment for grinding meat and another for stuffing it into the sausage skins, which had never been used. The dough hook got a good workout mixing the meat. We made bratwurst, breakfast sausage and koubasa, which Ralph smoked in his back yard.

For Sausage Fest, Ralph and Lisa brought their homemade Italian chorizo; Tim brought a farmers’ sausage from the butcher in Lumsden. In fact, our BBQ looked like a mini sausage United Nations, from fat bison sausage to skinny pepperoni, from the Lebanese Aleppo kebob to French merguez, from curry sausage to koubasa, from venison to lamb. My husband put some Oom-Pa-Pa music on the stereo, donned his Green Bay Packer socks and felt right at home.

For dessert, Meringue Nests with Fresh Berries (recipe)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A cookie for the birds


I made cookies yesterday. I burned the bottoms so I ate the tops off the cookies and left the bottoms for the birds. Later, my husband noticed that a bird had pecked one cookie into a perfect heart. I think it was showing appreciation for the treat!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The rewards of babysitting - VENISON GOULASH

This recipe is adapted from Saveur magazine, October 2006. The venison came from our friend Rick, who hunts near Saskatoon, as payment for babysitting his kids. Even though this recipe comes from Hungary, almost every ingredient is produced locally (except the vinegar and allspice).

1½ – 2 pounds venison, cubed
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
Four slices of good bacon, diced
1 big onion, finely chopped
1½ tsp paprika
½ tsp fresh thyme
¼ tsp mustard powder
4 allspice berries
1½ tbsp tomato paste
½ green pepper, finely chopped
1 cup chicken stock or water

Put the meat in a bowl, toss in the vinegar and cover with boiling water. In a heavy pot with a lid, fry the bacon until cooked. Add the onion and cook until soft. Drain the venison and add to the pot to brown on all sides. Add 1 cup of water plus the paprika, thyme, mustard powder, allspice, tomato paste and green pepper. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for 2 hours.

Add the chicken broth or water. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer on low heat without the lid for another two hours, or until the sauce is thickened and the venison is fall-apart tender. Serve with boiled potatoes that have been tossed with melted butter and chopped parsley.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Hanley Bread Series #5 - LAND-LOCKED CAESAR SALAD

My garden romaine is ready for eating so what else but a Caesar salad. A true Caesar salad has anchovies in it, which I don’t normally have in my fridge, so you might call this version a Land-Locked Caesar. It’s part of the “Hanley Bread Series” – what to do with the free loaf of bread you get for filling up at the gas station in Hanley, Saskatchewan, especially if that loaf of bread sits in your car for a day or two before you get home to use it. For more recipes in the Hanley Bread Series, click the label at the bottom of this post.

LAND-LOCKED CAESAR SALAD
1 egg yolk, room temp.
1½ tbsp lemon juice
1 large clove of garlic, chopped
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
½ tbsp Dijon mustard
¼ tsp salt
A few grinds of black pepper
½ cup canola oil
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Romaine lettuce

CROUTONS
Three or four slices of day-old bread
1 big sprig of fresh oregano or parsley
1 big clove of garlic
A few tbsp olive or canola oil

In a blender, mix together the egg yolk, lemon juice, garlic clove, Worcestershire, mustard, salt and pepper until smooth. With the blades running on low, drizzle in the olive oil. When it is thoroughly mixed, pour the dressing into a bowl and stir in half the cheese. Do this ahead of time so the flavours can mingle.

Cut the crusts off the bread and cut the bread into small cubes. In a mortar and pestle (or with a fork) crush together the garlic and oregano until mashed. Stir in enough vegetable oil that it will coat the bread but not make it soggy. Toast the bread cubes in a skillet until browned.

Tear up the romaine and toss with the dressing. If the dressing has become thick, you can thin it with a few drops of milk. A few minutes before serving, toss in the bread cubes and sprinkle on the remaining parmesan cheese.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

New farmers market in Saskatoon

There's a new farmers' market in Saskatoon. It was started to fill the gap created when the Saskatoon Farmers' Market moved into its new permanent location and stopped holding satellite markets around the city. The new group can be found:

Saturday 8 am-2 pm Lawson Heights Mall parking lot
Tuesday 8 am - 2 pm outside London Drugs on 8th Street
Wednesday 8 am - 2 pm Market Mall parking lot
Thursday 8 am - 2 pm in front of Peavey Mart on 51 Street

I attended the Saturday market, which was a bit thin (only four vendors). But one of those vendors was a Hutterite Colony from down south near Cabri with beautiful cabbages and broccoli (which have not yet made an appearance at the Saskatoon Farmers' Market). I hope they can sell enough veggies to pay for the drive up from Cabri four times a week!

I was told that some vendors from the Saskatoon Farmers' Market will be attending the satellite markets on weekdays, so there should be a few more vendors to choose from. I'm sure the seniors who live in the highrises around Market Mall are quite pleased, and I'm glad that I can continue to shop the market at Peavey Mart on Thursday. The more local veggie opportunities the better!


Saturday, July 07, 2007

MERINGUE NESTS WITH FRESH BERRIES

This is a great dessert to serve after a patio barbeque.










4 large egg whites at room temperature
1 cup icing sugar
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla
Fresh raspberries

Heat oven to 325F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon mat.

Beat the egg whites on medium speed until soft peaks form. Turn the mixer on high and add the icing sugar one spoonful at a time, beating for ten seconds between each addition. When the whites are stiff, sprinkle in the cornstarch and vanilla, mixing well.

Scoop the meringue into 12 small mounds on the cookie sheet, using the back of a spoon to create a depression in the centre of each meringue circle. Bake 5 min. Turn down the heat to 200F. Bake for one hour. Turn off the heat and leave the meringues in the oven for another hour or two, until very dry. (The amount of time needed to fully dry the meringue will vary depending on the humidity that day.)

Whip the cream with vanilla. Just before serving, spread whipped cream onto each meringue and top with fresh berries.

Sausage Fest Success


There was a great selection of sausage at the 3rd annual Sausage Fest in our back yard last night. We told everyone to bring a) sausage made in Saskatchewan or b) a dish for the buffet table. We provided the beer.

There was no shortage of sausage, food or beer. Local sausages included: Ralph and Lisa’s homemade chorizo; Art and Veronica’s homemade curry sausage; Ramesh and Karen’s homemade Lebanese sausage; Remi’s homemade ‘merguez’ (a spicy sausage from southern France); Rick and Sue’s venison pepperoni; a thick bison sausage; and many more sausages from local stores and butchers. All were graced with Penny’s homemade mustard, the best mustard in the world.

Adrien brought the most gorgeous fruit pavlova for dessert. Three-year-old Jonah, entranced with his first taste of pavolva, declared it to be “as good as jello.” Yea for kids who tell it like it is!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Delivery service - LENTIL AND CUCUMBER SALAD

There was a bit of a bottleneck at our house this week. Marc Loiselle dropped by with a bag of Red Fife Wheat, just as Al Bennett arrived with 20 dozen eggs and a whole bunch of ground beef. I had to do some tricky rearranging in the freezer, because the next day Karen Dale delivered six chickens. Well, I could only get five into the freezer, which meant we had chicken for supper. I just love it when the grocery store comes to me!

LENTIL AND CUCUMBER SALAD
2 cups cooked lentils
¼ cup green onions, thinly sliced
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped (or parsley)
1 cup diced cucumber
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese

Dressing
½ tsp each cumin, coriander, mustard seeds and peppercorns
2 tbsp vegetable oil
½ tbsp balsamic vinegar
½ tsp salt

Mix together the lentils and other salad ingredients. Dressing: toast the whole seeds in a dry frying pan. Grind in a spice grinder or mortar. Mix with the other dressing ingredients and stir into lentils.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

A ton of tomatoes - MARGHERITA PIZZA

Nothing is prettier than a mix of tomatoes – red, yellow and orange. It turns a delicious salad into a pretty delicious salad. We bought big bags of red, yellow and orange tomatoes at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market – just picked, vine ripe and tasting as good as they look.

This pizza recipe is a bit different because there is no sauce. It is simply heaped with fresh chopped tomatoes. It comes from the Silver Spoon cookbook, which has 1,200 pages of authentic Italian recipes. It’s perfect for that glorious moment in a Saskatchewan summer when you have more ripe tomatoes than you know what to do with!

MARGHERITA PIZZA
5-6 ripe tomatoes, chopped
(the recipe says to peel the tomatoes, but I didn't)
Olive oil for drizzling
6 fresh basil leaves, torn
1 ½ cups grated mozzarella cheese
Salt and pepper
1 homemade or purchased pizza dough

Roll out the pizza dough. Top with the chopped tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake 15 min. at 425F. Take the pizza from the oven. Quickly sprinkle on the basil, season with salt and pepper, and top with the cheese. Bake another 7-8 minutes, until the cheese is melted.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Meet the market vendors - Grandora Gardens

Pat and Fred Gittings worked at Cameco – he was an exploration geologist and she worked in corporate affairs – but they wanted away from the ups and downs of the mining industry. Fred took an MBA where, for the final project, his group investigated the feasibility of a greenhouse cucumber operation.

Says Pat: “Research showed that people in Saskatoon ate the most cucumbers in Canada. I have no idea why but with the number of cucumbers we sell, I think that’s still valid!”

They started Grandora Gardens in 1990 with one greenhouse but quickly expanded to meet the demand for their cucumbers, adding tomatoes, bell peppers, lettuce, herbs and a variety of chilies. Every year, they bring the first fresh vegetables to the farmers’ market with cucumbers in February. They also sell produce at Co-op grocery stores.

On a busy summer Saturday, the lineup at the Gittings’ vegetable stand wends its way through the market. “Sometimes I feel bad because we’re so busy that we don’t have much time to talk with people,” says Pat. “I rather enjoy the late season in fall when it’s slower, we’re less busy and it gives us time to visit.”

Friday, June 15, 2007

Hanley Bread Series #4 - RHUBARB & LINGONBERRY BREAD PUDDING

Those in the know always stop for gas when they drive by Hanley, Saskatchewan, because you get a free loaf of homemade bread just for filling up. This is the fourth in a series of recipes to make with day-old Hanley bread.

1½ cups rhubarb cut in small pieces
½ cup lingonberries (low bush cranberries)
½ cup sugar
3 eggs
1 cup half-and-half cream
1 tbsp orange juice or orange liquor
½ tsp cinnamon
4 cups bread cut in ½–1 in. pieces

Toss together the rhubarb, lingonberries (fresh or frozen) and sugar. In another bowl, whip together the eggs, half-and-half cream, orange juice and cinnamon. Stir the fruit into the egg mixture, then stir in the bread to coat well. Pour the bread mixture into a baking dish. Bake at 375F for 40 minutes.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

The first 'fruit' of summer - RHUBARB CRISP

Imagine you’re a Saskatchewan pioneer and you’ve just come through a long winter with very little fruit. The canned apples are all gone and you’re down to the last of the dried saskatoon berries. Now imagine just how happy you are to see the first of the rhubarb. Sure, rhubarb is not technically a fruit, but it sure tastes like it in rhubarb crisp, as my mom makes it.

RHUBARB CRISP
An hour or two before baking, mix together:

4 cups chopped rhubarb
1 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
A dash of salt (optional)

Place the rhubarb in a baking dish. I use a deep round ceramic dish because I like a thick layer of rhubarb; however, my mom uses a flatter rectangular cake pan. Sprinkle on the topping:

½ cup butter, cold
¾ cup flour
A big pinch of cinnamon
½ cup brown sugar
¾ cup rolled oats (not the quick variety)

Cut the butter into small pieces. Mix with the flour and cinnamon. Using your fingers, quickly squish the butter into the flour until there are no chunks of butter remaining. Stir in the brown sugar and oats. Place the topping loosely on top of the rhubarb. Bake at 325F for about 45 minutes. If the top is not as crisp as you would like, place it under the broiler for a minute or two. Serve on its own or with vanilla ice cream.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Lebanese feast - KIBBI NAYEH

My girlfriend Paula came to visit from Calgary and we cooked a feast together. Paula is of Lebanese heritage and she cooks instinctively, without recipes. The great thing is, a Lebanese feast can be prepared with foods produced in Saskatchewan. We needed very few ‘imported’ foods like lemons, olives and cheese. The most amazing dish was Kibbi Nayeh, raw ground lamb with crushed wheat.

Here’s the full menu:

Mezze (appetizers) each on individual plates: sliced tomatoes, sliced cucumber, warm fava beans, black olives, hummus, halloum cheese, plain Mediterranean yogurt and Kibbi Nayeh, with fresh homemade pita bread.

Main: grilled lamb kabobs, chicken baked with ta'ratoul (olive oil, garlic, salt and lemon juice), cooked Kibbi and a tomato salad.

Dessert: pears in honey and mint.

KIBBI NAYEH
Start with the freshest (or fresh frozen) lamb. In Paula’s family, Kibbi Nayeh is made on the same day the lamb is slaughtered. We made it with organic Saskatchewan lamb (raised by the Richardson sisters) which was frozen shortly after slaughter.

1 shoulder of lamb, freshly ground (about 2 pounds)
4 green onions
Handful of fresh mint
Handful of fresh basil
2 tsp each salt and pepper
1 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp mace, cinnamon and cumin
1 cup cracked wheat (called ‘burghul’ in Lebanon)

Put the onions, mint and basil through the meat grinder, and mix into the ground lamb along with the spices. Cover the cracked wheat with water and let stand 10 minutes, until softened. Drain well. Mix the cracked wheat and the meat mixture, and knead as you would bread dough, adding a drop of water from time to time, until the mixture is smooth. Taste the mixture and add more spice to suite your taste. Paula says salt and pepper are the most important spices; the others should be evident but more subdued.

To serve, place the lamb mixture into a flat serving bowl. Using a finger, run three furrows the length of the lamb. Drizzle olive oil into the furrows. Garnish the dish with thin green onions and fresh mint. To eat, spoon the Kibbi Nayeh onto pita bread and top it with a green onion and a mint leaf.

For the cooked version of Kibbi – after kneading the mixture, press it into a square cake pan. Slice it into diamond shapes. Make a hole in the centre and pour on olive oil to cover the meat. Bake at 450F for 20-30 minutes. To serve, slice along the diamond-shaped marks and arrange on a warm plate, garnished with springs of mint.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Isn't that nice - NICE SALAD

The French make a salad called Salade Nicoise (nees-waz), named for the city of Nice. It’s usually made with tuna, but since that is not a Saskatchewan ingredient, I made it with trout. It turned out very nice, and that is why I’ve called it the Nice Salad. This recipe is for two. You can double and triple it if you like.

2 small boiled potatoes, peeled and cubed
½ green pepper, sliced
10 thinly sliced rounds of onion, or more to taste
Small handful of fresh basil, thinly sliced
2 red tomatoes, cut in wedges
2 hardboiled eggs, cut in wedges
½ cup cooked trout, flaked

Dressing:
Juice of one-half juicy lemon
An equal amount of olive oil
½ tsp Dijon mustard
Dash of salt and pepper

In a bowl, mix together the potatoes, green pepper and onion. Make the dressing by mixing the lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper. Drizzle in the olive oil, all the while beating with a whisk to form a creamy dressing. Toss the dressing into the potatoes. Let marinate a few minutes or longer. Before serving, mix in the basil. To serve, divide the potato mixture onto two plates. Place the wedges of tomato and hardboiled egg around the edge of the salad. Mound the fish in the centre. Eat! (A Salade Nicoise often includes green beans, but since they are not in season yet, I’ll leave them out my Nice Salad until later in the summer.)

Friday, May 25, 2007

Gourmet shoots of spring - ASPARAGUS ORZOTTO

Italians make a rice dish called rizotto (riz is Italian for rice). I make the same type of dish with pearl barley so I call it orzotto (orzo is Italian for barley). This time of year, fresh young asparagus is abundant in the farmers' market, so don't be buying imported asparagus from the grocery store. This recipe serves two people as a main dish or 4-6 people as a side dish.

2 tbsp butter
2 fat green onions, sliced (about ¼ cup)
1 bunch asparagus, in 1-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
½ cup cooked ham, small dice
(I like to use the smoked pork from Emco Meats in Saskatoon)
1 ¼ cup pearl barley
¼ cup Madeira wine (optional - see note below)
1 tsp salt
fresh ground pepper to taste
5 cups hot chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
¼ cup parmesan cheese

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Sauté the onions and asparagus until softened. Remove the vegetables with a spoon, leaving the remaining butter in the pot.

Turn up the heat to medium. Add the ham and pearl barley. Stir to coat with the butter. Add the Madeira wine. Cook until all the moisture is gone, stirring frequently to prevent sticking or burning. While doing this, stir in the salt and pepper.

When the barley is good and dry, add one cup of hot stock. Cook, bubbling and stirring, until the liquid is absorbed. Continue in this manner, adding one cup of stock and stirring until absorbed. With the last cup of stock, return the asparagus and onions to the pot. Bubble the mixture, stirring frequently, until the liquid has formed a creamy sauce. Take off the heat and stir in the cheese. Serve hot.

Note: Madeira is a sweet dessert wine. It’s very good served over an ice cube with a slice of lemon.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Newspaper Column - HANLEY BREAD SALAD

Published in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, 23 May 2007.

Shopping reward programs are a complete nuisance, as far as I am concerned, unless the reward is instant and edible. Take, for example, a loaf of bread. In Hanley, 60 km south of Saskatoon, the reward for filling up at the Prairie View Gas Station is a free loaf of bread, white or whole wheat. I take this opportunity every time I visit my family just down the highway at Craik.

The bread is not always fresh, since it may have been baked the day before, but it’s big and solid like grandma used to make, and is therefore just as useful a few days later for French toast, grilled cheese sandwiches and bread pudding. But lately I have been using it to make bread salads. Bread salads are a tasty and convenient way to use up day-old bread, which was important in times past before most bread was made in a factory and treated with preservatives to keep it fresh. In Italy, bread salad is called panzanella. In Greece it’s dakos. In Lebanon and Syria, it’s called fattoush. The most common bread salad in Saskatoon is undoubtedly the Caesar Salad, but those hard little croutons that come out of a box hardly qualify as bread in my books.

A few years ago, I produced a documentary on homemade bread for the CBC radio program Ideas, for which the research involved making and eating a lot of bread. I spent time with several home bakers of different cultures discovering the traditions, folklore and spirituality of bread, and learned that in many parts of the world, for many many centuries, bread has nourished not only the body but the soul. Nowadays, we take bread for granted. It is no longer the primary food that fills our tummies, yet we still speak of the bread-winner rather than the fish-winner or the salad-winner or the apple-a-day-winner. Bread still commands that respect.

When I haven’t the time to make my own bread, I often buy it from the Good Spirit Bakery at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market. Peyton Leavitt and Jonathon Lee bake the bread in a wood-burning brick oven on their farm near Naicam, a process that takes all night. Then they bring it to the market first thing Saturday morning. It’s very rustic and made with local ingredients such as fresh-ground flour, flax and honey. It’s worth a trip to the new farmers’ market venue at River Landing, but go early because the Good Spirit bread often sells out well before noon.

While you’re there, pick up the other ingredients for a good bread salad. Don’t even think of buying these vegetables in a grocery store when you have access to the freshest, most beautiful local produce at the farmers’ market.

This time of year, I make salads with the tiny little greens popping up in my garden. This includes tender dandelion leaves, the cilantro that reseeded itself, mint that grows like a weed and the baby radishes and lettuce that I pulled to thin the rows. If you don’t have access to these fresh micro-greens, you can substitute lettuce (also available at the farmers’ market) or you can omit that ingredient altogether.

Hanley Bread Salad
1 slice of bread per person
2 small tomatoes per person
(a mix of red and yellow tomatoes)
8 slices of English cucumber per person
1 green onion per person
1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup baby greens per person

Dressing for two:
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil
¼ tsp Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Trim the bread of crusts and toast until nice and brown. Cool. Cut into chunky cubes. Chop the tomatoes. Put them into a bowl, crushing them with your hands to release their juices. Chop the cucumber, green onion, mint and parsley; toss into the bowl. Whip together the dressing ingredients and mix into the vegetables. (You can do this ahead, giving it time to mingle flavours.) Five minutes before serving, toss in the baby greens and the bread cubes.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Hanley Bread Series #2 - BLT IN A BOWL

This the second in a series of recipes that make the most of the free bread from the gast station in Hanley, Saskatchewan. It’s a BLT (bacon-lettuce-tomato sandwich) served up as a salad. Everyone of these main ingredients is locally produced.

For two:
2 medium red tomatoes
5 slices bacon
3 slices day-old bread
2 cups salad greens
(I used baby greens from the garden – radish, lettuce, arugula, cilantro, sage, mint, chives, dandelion and something with purple leaves that I can’t quite identify.)

Dressing
2 tbsp mayonnaise
½ tsp Dijon mustard
2 ½ tsp milk
Salt and pepper

Chop the tomatoes. Put them into a bowl, squeezing with your hands to release some juices.
Fry the bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towel. Crumble when cool. Add to tomatoes.
Trim the bread of crusts. Toast until brown. Cut into bite-sized cubes.
Mix the dressing ingredients. Pour onto tomatoes and blend.
Arrange the salad greens on two plates or pasta bowls.
Five minutes before serving, add the bread to the tomatoes and toss. Spoon the tomato-bread mixture onto the salad greens. Enjoy your BLT with a fork!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

A hare in the kitchen - HASENPFEFFER

Sue and I met in a parking lot to exchange the goods. She gave me a wild hare and homemade Thai sausage. I gave her some frozen wild blueberries, homemade pasta sauce and fresh koubassa. Then I went home and cooked. Sue's husband Vance makes an old German recipe called Hasenpfeffer - peppered hare. It compares closely to a similar recipe in Time-Life Foods of the World: The Cooking of Germany. Here's my version, a combination of both recipes.

Hasenpfeffer
½ pound bacon, finely chopped
1 rabbit (3-5 pounds)
salt and pepper
¼ cup flour
½ cup onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 cup wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 tsp homemade jelly
1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped (or ¼ tsp dried)
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped (or ¼ tsp dried)
2 tsp lemon juice


In a stovetop casserole, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.

Cut the rabbit into serving pieces. Sprinkle with salt and a generous amount of fresh ground pepper. Coat the meat lightly in flour. Add the meat to the hot bacon fat and brown on both sides. (You may have to do this in batches.) As the rabbit is done, transfer it to a plate.

Remove all but 2 tbsp of bacon fat from the pot. (If there is less than 2 tbsp of fat, add butter.) Sauté onion and garlic until soft. Pour in the wine and chicken stock. Bring to a boil on high heat, scraping up the bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the jelly, bay leaf, rosemary and thyme. Return the bacon, rabbit and its juices to the casserole. (I also added the blood which had pooled in the bowl while the rabbit was thawing.) Cover the casserole tightly and simmer 1 hour. Check the meat for doneness, and cook another ½ hour if necessary.

When the rabbit is done, remove to a serving plate and keep warm. Taste the sauce. It should be good and peppery; add more pepper if needed. Remove the bay leaf. Simmer until the sauce is reduced and thickened. Add the lemon juice. Serve the rabbit and sauce over egg noodles or boiled potatoes.







Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Hanley Bread Series #3 - FATTOUSH

This is the third installment in a series of receipes using the free bread "reward" for filling up at the gas station in Hanley, Saskatchewan.

Fattoush is a bread and vegetable salad. In the Middle East, it would be made with pita bread, but this is Saskatchewan, so I made it with the free loaf I got for filling up at the gas station in Hanley. The cucumber, lettuce, bell pepper and tomatoes came from the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market, and the mint was from my garden.

Cut four slices of hearty day-old bread. Remove crusts. Toast and cut into cubes. Chop the vegetables: cucumber, bell pepper (red, green or both), lettuce, parsley, green onions and mint. Include as much as you like of each one. Make a dressing of ¼ cup olive oil, ¼ cup lemon juice, salt and pepper. Toss all the vegetables with the dressing. A few minutes before serving, toss in the bread. I served this salad with a ground lamb 'pizza' called Sfeeha (see 30 April 2007).

Monday, April 30, 2007

Middle Eastern Flavours - SFEEHA

Sfeeha doesn't sound very Saskatchewan, does it? But all the main ingredients in the Middle Eastern meat pie are available locally. Lamb from a local farmer. (You can substitute beef.) Vegetables from the Saskatoon Farmers' Market. Dried red pepper from my garden. This dish satisfies my two daily objectives: to eat locally and to eat something picked by my own hand. I served it with Fattoush, a fabulous Middle Eastern salad. (See recipe at 2 May 07)

I adapted this recipe for Sfeeha from Time Life Foods of the World, which I picked up last week at the giant Symphony second-hand book sale. I'm sure I'll be trying more authentic Middle Eastern recipes from this little book.

2 tbsp olive oil
¼ cup pine nuts
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 pound ground lamb
1 large tomato
¼ cup finely chopped green pepper
¼ cup finely chopped parsley
¼ cup lemon juice
½ tsp allspice
½ tsp dried red pepper, crushed
Dash cinnamon
1 tsp salt and pepper to taste
Pizza dough

In a skillet, heat the oil on medium high. When the surface of the oil shimmers, add the pine nuts and stir until they brown. Remove from heat. Put the pine nuts into a mixing bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients (except the dough) and stir together. Work this mixture with your hands to a smooth and fluffy consistency. (I used the Kitchen Aid with paddle attachment – much quicker and cleaner.)

Form the dough into 8 balls about the size of a large egg. Using your fingers, press each ball into a flat round. Divide the lamb mixture onto the 8 rounds of dough and spread evenly with your fingers. Drizzle with more olive oil, if you like. Bake in 400 F oven for about 25 minutes, until the dough is toasty brown. Serve warm.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

If you can't beat 'em eat 'em

Yesterday, I dug up all the tender young dandelions in the garden and mixed them into a lettuce salad. It was the best. Now, if you can believe it, I'm actually waiting for the chickweed to come up. As obnoxious as it is a weed, it is delicious when young. What weeds do you eat?

If you need some incentive to eat your weeds, consider that dandelions are better for you than many salad greens we plant in our gardens. Chickweed is also good for you. Both are high in vitamin C and some trace minerals. Some grocery stores are now selling dandelions as gourmet salad greens. (Although I bet no grocery stores in Saskatoon!) But why pay for something you grow for free? (PS: don't eat weeds from a lawn that has been sprayed.)

By the way, the Saskatoon Farmers' Market is now selling local greenhouse lettuce, cucumbers, green peppers and tomatoes. (Get there early if you want tomatoes.) So, cut the miles on your salad and buy locally.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Hot tips - SASKATCHEWAN STEAK SPICE

Saskatchewan Steak Spice
Coriander, mustard and cumin seeds are grown in Saskatchewan, Sifto salt is mined in Saskatchewan, and the dried chilies came from my garden.

1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp freshly cracked pepper
2 tbsp coarse salt
1 tbsp dried red chilies
1 tbsp dried onion flakes
1 tbsp garlic powder

Heat a skillet on medium heat. Add the coriander, mustard and cumin seeds. Toast the seeds, shaking the pan frequently, until the mustard seeds begin to pop. Cool. Put all the ingredients into a blender and grind until powderized. Store in an air-tight container.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Newspaper Column - FLAX CRACKERS

Published in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, 23 April 2007.

This month, the University of Saskatchewan is celebrating its 100th birthday and that should make your mouth water. Since its inception, the U of S has been working to improve agriculture in this province. The very first building housed the College of Agriculture and today, a large part of the campus is devoted in some way to the production of food.

Take, for instance, the sour cherry. This marvelous fruit tree would not exist here if not for the university, where plant scientists crossed various breeds of cherry from around the world to create one that would survive our winters. Saskatchewan is now one of the world’s biggest exporters of chickpeas and lentils, a success due largely to experimentation at the university. Research is underway to determine the benefits of eating lentils and chickpeas before physical activity which, I’m told, involves a number of Husky athletes running on a treadmill in the name of science.

I don’t suppose there are too many places in North America with a herd of cattle smack in the middle of a major city. But in Saskatoon, commuters on College Drive and Preston Avenue get a little glimpse of agriculture every day.

A few years ago, I visited the U of S test bakery where endless loaves of bread were baked to determine which new varieties of wheat are best for different types of bread. I also toured the Food Centre, a state-of-the-art facility that helps small processers turn their favourite recipes into products for the store shelves. A few months ago, I visited the test kitchen at the College of Agriculture and Bioresources where chef Gerald Henriksen turned local ingredients into delicious foods. And that brings me to Rice Krispie Cake.

Henriksen thought, why not put ground Saskatchewan flax into a batch of Rice Krispie Cake? What a great way to get more fibre into the diet and believe me, you can’t even taste it.
“We know that if we could get North Americans to consume two tablespoons of ground flax a day, we would greatly reduce their chances of getting breast cancer, colon cancer and heart disease,” said Henriksen. “All from a crop we grow here in abundance.”

Among his food creations I sampled were: chocolate pudding made with yellow split peas, a cheesecake made with lentils, a paté of beans, an Eatmore candy bar made with ground flaxseed, white bread full of pea fibre and a creamy Bailey’s and lentil cocktail. Imagine how we might revolutionize the health of our nation if every fast food hamburger bun was made with Saskatchewan pea flour and every candy bar was full of Saskatchewan flax.

Henriksen’s research program has been cancelled and he has gone on to other pursuits, but his words still echo in my ear: “Saskatchewan has got to start patting itself on the back. We have not done a good job of telling a positive story about what we produce here.”
This recipe is adapted from the booklet “World Class Recipes” produced by SaskFlax. If you’d like to make your own Saskatchewan steak spice, there’s a recipe on my food blog at HomeForDinner.blogspot.com.

Flax Crackers
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
2/3 cups ground golden flaxseed
1/3 cup brown flaxseeds
2 tbsp steak spice
1 ½ cups warm water
Course salt for sprinkling

In a bowl, combine the flour, salt, ground flaxseed, whole flaxseed and steak spice. Pour in the warm water and stir with a fork to mix. Using your hands, form the dough into a ball. Turn it onto the counter and knead for a minute or so. If it’s sticky, work in a bit more flour. Wrap in plastic and let rest 30 minutes or more.
Cut the ball of dough into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a 9-inch circle and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spritz with water and sprinkle on the course salt. Bake at 400 F for 10-15 minutes, until blistered and lightly browned. Cool and break the crackers into pieces. Store in an air-tight container.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Anniversary food - BRATWURST

According to my friend Ralph, the symbolic gift for the 12th wedding anniversary is not a precious gem or rich material but something much more ephemeral – sausage. In keeping with this pronouncement, hubby and I spent our anniversary weekend in Ralph and Lisa’s kitchen producing some 45 pounds of sausage in four varieties (bratwurst, breakfast, Italian and koubasa).

We really put my Kitchen Aid mixer to good use, including the sausage stuffing attachment which had, until now, gone unused. I will be sure to share some koubasa with my hunting friends Sue and Vance who provided the wild Saskatchewan goose and venison that we added to the mix.

Now that I think of it, every wedding anniversary should have its symbolic food. Any suggestions?

BRATWURST
This recipe comes from Stocking Up: How to preserve the foods you grow, naturally, ed. Carol Stoner, 1977. (Ralph, if I got anything wrong, send a correction.)

2 ½ lb medium ground veal
2 ½ lb medium ground pork butt
2 tsp ground mace
2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tbsp salt
3 tsp white pepper
1 ½ cups water
1 cup bread crumbs soaked in milk

Put everything in a big bowl. Mix endlessly until the mixture becomes very smooth, dense and well incorporated. (This is where the Kitchen Aid dough hook comes in handy.) The proteins in the meat begin to bind as does the gluten in well-kneaded bread. Ralph’s wisdom: “Unlike bread, you cannot knead sausage meat too much.” Press the meat through the sausage maker into pork casing, twisting it off every 6 inches or so.

To cook the brats Wisconsin style (hubby’s contribution): Boil the brats in a pot with several sliced onions, two bottle’s-worth of beer and water to cover. After 10-15 minutes, remove the brats and brown on the BBQ. Serve on a bun with the onions.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Leftover Easter dinner - SHEPHERD'S PIE

Last week, I was on CBC radio talking about lamb. I promised to post any new lamb recipe that I tried over the Easter holiday, so here it is below.

But first, a few good things to know about Saskatchewan lamb: There are about 1000 farmers raising lamb in Saskatchewan. Most of it is sold as Canadian lamb. (About 12% of Canadian lamb is from Saskatchewan.) If you want to be sure of getting Saskatchewan lamb, you should shop at a local butcher who buys direct from a farmer, or buy from the farmer yourself. For names of farmers who sell directly to customers, contact the Sheep Development Board at 306-933-5200.

For Easter dinner, we invited our friends Ramesh and Karen for roast lamb. You’ll find that recipe posted on 15 Feb. 2007. (The lamb came from the organic Lily and Rose farm at Lemberg, thanks to my buddie Annette Stebner, the farmer’s sister.) The roast was delicious however, the Shepherd’s Pie I made the next day with the leftovers was even better.

SHEPHERD'S PIE
Drippings from the roast
1 small onion, chopped
4-5 small carrots, chopped
2 tbsp flour
2 cups of cooked meat, cut in small pieces
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper
1½ cups beef or chicken stock
1 ½ cups frozen peas
2 lbs. cooked potatoes
½ cup half-and-half cream
A few dabs of butter

Heat the drippings from the roast, adding one cup of water. Cook the onions and carrots in the liquid until soft and the liquid is reduced by half. Add the flour, stirring it in well. Add the meat, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, rosemary, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Stir well. Turn up the heat and add the stock. Bring to a boil then turn down and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the frozen peas. Cook for another 15 minutes, until the sauce is dark and thick. Meanwhile, mash the cooked potatoes with the half-and-half and a bit of butter. Pour the lamb mixture into a casserole dish. Top with the mashed potatoes and dot with butter. Bake 375F for about 30 minutes, until the top is golden and bubbling.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Signs of spring - RICOTTA CHIVE PIE

Yes, the chives are up! So I did what any fanatic kitchen gardener would do – I snipped them off and ate them. Not right then and there in the garden, but later that day, baked into a Ricotta Pie. I also included a few little thyme leaves from the garden, some rosemary from a plant on my kitchen table and some store-bought parsley.

RICOTTA CHIVE PIE
3 tbsp. breadcrumbs
butter for greasing pie plate
4 eggs, room temp.
1/4 cup flour
1 tbsp. fresh chives and other herbs
1/2 tsp. salt and a dashe of pepper
2 cups ricotta cheese
3 slices of crispy-cooked bacon

Oven 400 F. Grease a deep pie plate with butter and sprinkle with breadcrumbs to coat the surface. Shake out excess crumbs. Separate the eggs, beating the yolks lightly with the flour, salt, pepper and herbs. Stir in the ricotta cheese and the bacon. Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold into the ricotta mixture until it is loosely mixed. If it’s too stiff to mix, add a bit of cream or milk. Spread into the pie plate, smoothing the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a brown crust has formed and a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Newspaper Column - MILANESE TOURTE

Publsihed in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, 20 March 2007.

By recent misfortune I discovered a new take on the saying "don’t put all your eggs in one basket." Don’t bake a three-course meal in one oven. Should that oven suddenly conk out, as mine did, you will be stuck with a kitchen full of wonderful uncooked food just as guests are arriving for dinner.

My oven was very sneaky in this matter. While the top element was functioning well, the lower element had taken a hiatus. As a result, the oven got hot, but it only cooked from the top down.
I discovered this while baking baguettes, that long French bread that was to form the appetizer of our meal. That was to be followed by a sumptuous layered dish called a Milanese Tourte and, for dessert, a confection of cake, jam and meringue. All of it cooked in the oven.

I suppose I could have cancelled dinner, but that would be admitting defeat. So, after bawling on my husband’s shoulder, we decided to rise to the challenge of planning and prepping a completely new menu in little more than an hour. This was complicated by the fact that it had to be a Saskatchewan meal – just about all of it, with a few exceptions, had to be local food. Why? I am a big fan of the wonderful foods produced in Saskatchewan, so that is what I like to serve for dinner at my house.

Our guests that evening, Lisa and Ralph, are just as interested in local food. To serve anything else would feel worse than defeat; it would be a betrayal of that local food ethic. As our guests walked in the door, my husband was in the kitchen calmly rolling ravioli. I made the pasta dough with farm eggs and he made the filling of ground pork and lamb (from the freezer) and dried herbs. A tomato sauce was simmering on the stove (made last summer with our garden tomatoes). Instead of fresh bread, I revived a two-day-old loaf by toasting it with olive oil and turning it into Italian bruschetta. For dessert, I opened a jar of local pears I picked and canned last fall.

As for the Milanese Tourte, it is now tucked into the freezer for another meal. As for the oven, it has worked perfectly ever since. The Milanese Tourte is a good dish for company because it can be made ahead of time and baked before they arrive (if the oven co-operates). I adapted this recipe from the cookbook Baking with Julia, where the instructions take no less than three pages!

Milanese Tourte
Eggs:
10 big farm eggs
2 tbsp mixed fresh herbs such as chives, parsley, oregano, tarragon
(or 1 tbsp dried herbs)

Scramble the eggs slowly with the herbs until they begin to set but are still quite runny. Salt and pepper to taste. Scoop into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and cool.

Spinach:
1 tbsp each butter and olive oil
1.5 lbs fresh spinach or 1.5 pkgs frozen
2 cloves garlic, minced
dash of nutmeg

Blanch fresh spinach or thaw frozen spinach. Squeeze out excess moisture. Heat oil and butter in skillet. Sauté garlic. Add spinach, season with nutmeg, salt and pepper, and cook 5 minutes. Cool.
Other layers:
3-4 roasted red peppers, in strips
8 large thin slices of ham
8 large thin slices of Italian cheese, such as Asiago
1 pkg puff pastry

Butter a deep pie plate. Roll out half the pastry and place it in the dish. Spread the pastry with half the eggs. Cover with half the spinach, then half the ham, half the cheese and the roasted peppers. In reverse order, add the rest of the cheese, ham, spinach and finally the eggs. Roll the rest of the pastry and place on top. Crimp and seal the edges, and cut an air vent. Refrigerate for 30 min. Bake at 350F for about one hour, until the crust is nicely brown. Best served warm (not hot) or at room temperature.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Young spring lamb - MOUSSAKA

We bought half a lamb from a local farmer, which I picked up yesterday, and made this moussaka for supper tonight. Moussaka is a Greek tradition and I imagine there are as many recipes as there are cooks. This recipe is adapted from the Foods of the World: Middle Eastern Cooking (published by Time Life in 1969).

3 medium-sized eggplants (about 3 pounds in total) peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices. (If the eggplant is young and fresh, you don’t need to peel it.)
Salt
1 cup flour
1-2 cups olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onions
2 lb lean ground lamb
1 small can of tomatoes (or 1 cup fresh tomatoes, chopped)
1 small can tomato paste
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt and some fresh pepper
6 tbsp Parmesan cheese
Besamel Sauce (see below)

Sprinkle the eggplant with salt and lay the slices side by side on paper towels. Weigh them down with a platter or casserole. After 20-30 minutes, wipe the moisture off the eggplant with a paper towel.

In a wide skillet, heat 1/2 cup of olive oil on fairly high heat until it shimmers. Dip the eggplant slices into the flour, shake off the excess and, a few slices at a time, cook in the hot oil, a minute or two on each side. Transfer to paper towels. Add more oil to the skillet as needed.

When the eggplant is cooked, add another 1/2 cup olive oil to the skillet and fry the onions until they are soft and coloured. Stir in the lamb, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, and cook until the meat is no longer pink. Add everything else except the cheese, cooking briskly until the moisture is gone and the mixture is thick. Taste it for seasoning and adjust to your taste.

Saltsa Besamel
2 cups milk
1 tbsp butter
3 eggs
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
dash of nutmeg

In a saucepan, heat 1 1/2 cups milk with the butter until little bubbles form. Remove from heat. In another saucepan, beat the eggs with 1/2 cup milk, flour, salt and nutmeg until smooth. Place this saucepan over medium heat and, stirring constantly, slowly pour in the warm milk. Cook, stirring, until the sauce come to a boil and thickens. Remove from heat.

Set oven to 325F. In a broad casserole dish, layer half the eggplant. Sprinkle with 2 tbsp of cheese. Spoon in all the lamb. Arrange the rest of the eggplant on top. Sprinkle on 2 tbsp of cheese. Pour on the besamel, smooth the top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes. Raise the heat to 400 F and bake 15 minutes, until the besamel is toasty brown. Let the moussaka rest at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving it.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Post vacation blues - MUSHROOM AND LENTIL SOUP

Everyone from Saskatchewan who goes on a warm vacation in March is hoping to return home to spring. Ha! On the last day of our vacation, we awoke to soft breezes and palm trees and landed home in a complete whiteout. How depressing.

We had very little food in the fridge, but darned if I was venturing back out in that cold. However, I had picked up a stray copy of the Ottawa Citizen in the Vancouver airport and found this recipe for a curried soup. It was the perfect antidote to a wintery day in March. It’s chock full of Saskatchewan ingredients and, with slight modifications, I had everything on hand.

CURRIED MUSHROOM LENTIL SOUP
While the recipe calls for fresh mushrooms, I used chanterelles from La Ronge that I sautéed in butter and froze last summer.

1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 onion chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. ginger root, minced
1 lb. mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp. curry powder
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 cup lentils
1 cup pearl barley
8 cups chicken broth

Heat the oil in a large pot. Sauté the onions, garlic and ginger until soft. Add the mushrooms, curry powder and thyme. When the mushrooms are wilted, stir in the lentils and barley, coating them well with the onions and spices, and cook until all the moisture is gone. Add the chicken stock (or water). Simmer until the grains are cooked, about an hour, adding more liquid if the soup gets too thick. Season with salt and pepper to your taste. Serving option: sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The cup is not half full - ONION TARTE

I bought a shiney new set of silver measuring cups from the restaurant store on 2nd Ave. in Saskatoon. I didn't really need them, but I was bored with my old plastic measuring cups and I liked the way the metal cups clanged together. I used them every time I cooked for two months. Until yesterday. I discovered that the 1/2 cup is, in fact, almost 3/4 of a cup. The 1/4 cup and 1/3 cup aren't quite right either. Only the one-cup was accurate. There's a lesson in this: 1) cook by feel, not precision, 2) never take your measuring cups for granted.

ONION TART
3 big onions
1 cup chicken broth
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
1/4 cup (more or less) diced ham or cooked bacon
puff pastry or pizza dough

Cut the onions into a dice. Heat the chicken broth in a skillet, add the onions, and simmer until the onions are quite soft. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and the ham and continue cooking until the liquid is just about gone. Roll out the dough. Spread the onions to cover the dough and bake, 350 F., about 25 minutes, until the dough is cooked.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Newspaper Column - LINGONBERRY PINWHEELS

Published in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, 20 February 2007.

I have been reading about the health benefits of Saskatchewan berries. And there are many. Berries are full of antioxidants which are credited with preventing cancer, reducing heart disease and even slowing the affects of aging. According to many studies, berries are better for you than most other fruits. Even strawberries have more vitamin C than oranges. So, if berries are such a wonder food, it’s a wonder that we don’t eat more of them.

My husband and I got hooked on berries during our all-Saskatchewan diet, during which we tried to eat only foods that were grown or produced in Saskatchewan. Berries were an important part of that. With few other fruits grown in Saskatchewan, we stocked up on raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, saskatoons and sour cherries. We picked most of the berries ourselves, either in the wild, in backyards (with permission, of course) or at U-Pick farms.

One day last August, I took a drive up to La Ronge to hunt for wild mushrooms but instead found an abundance of blueberries on the forest floor. I sat and picked for hours. I also made a trip to St. Walburg for the annual Wild Blueberry Festival. It was amazing to see so many people having so much fun in one little town. The lineup at the blueberry tables began well before 9:00 a.m., when the town clock signaled the start of sales. In some years, the blueberries are sold out quickly, but this was a good year for blueberries and there were plenty to go around.

One summer a few years ago, while canoeing north of La Ronge with friends Tom and Magda, we camped on an island that was blanketed in low bush cranberries. So, while the guys pitched the tents, the gals picked as many cranberries as we could by the fading light. Back in Saskatoon, we turned the berries over to Tom’s wife Eva, who made a delicious preserve she calls by the Polish word, borowki. In Europe, they are also known as lingonberries, the national fruit of Sweden.

Thankfully, residents of Saskatoon no longer have to drive north for wild blueberries and lingonberries. Tony Kustiak of Shellbrook is now selling them at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market and the Steep Hill Co-op. He says the berries are picked around Turner Lake and La Loche beginning in mid-September. He sells them fresh in summer and frozen in winter.

"An older gentleman from Germany who came to Canada many years ago said he hadn’t seen lingonberries since he was a little boy. He bought a big bag of them," says Tony. My husband puts Tony’s blueberries on his cereal every morning and on Valentine’s Day, he made blueberry pancakes for breakfast. I usually cook a "red" dinner on Valentine’s Day. Last year, we had a beet salad with rare steaks and a Saskatchewan sour cherry pie. This year, it was a berry red dinner: leg of lamb with Eva’s borowki preserves, wild rice salad with dried sour cherries, and for dessert, lingonberry pastry pinwheels.

Lingonberry Pastry Pinwheels
1 half package puff pastry
1/2 cup frozen lingonberries
1/2 cup walnut pieces
3 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. honey
pinch of grated orange rind

In a spice grinder or food processor, grind the berries and walnuts until they are roughly chopped. Mix them with the sugar, honey and a small pinch of orange rind. You can taste it and add more orange rind if you like. Roll the pastry in to a rectangle. Spread the berry mixture over the pastry. Roll the long sides of the pastry toward the middle, so that the two rolls meet in the middle. Using a sharp knife, cut the roll into 1/2-inch (1 cm) slices. Place the slices flat on a cookie sheet. Since it was Valentine’s Day, I shaped the bottom of each roll into a point, so that they looked like hearts. Bake at 400F. for about 12 minutes.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

You little tart - LINGONBERRY MUFFINS

Lingonberries (a.k.a. low bush cranberries) are so fresh -- even when they're frozen. They keep perfectly. They're small, tart, bright red and you don't have to thaw and pit them before cooking. I've been experimenting with Saskatchewan lingonberries now that I can buy them at the Saskatoon farmers' market.

LINGONBERRY MUFFINS
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 scant tsp. grated orange rind
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/8 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1 + 1/4 cups milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup frozen lingonberries (low bush cranberries)

Sift together the flours, baking powder and salt. Stir together the orange rind and sugar; add to flour. Whisk the egg with the orange juice, milk and vegetable oil. Pour the liquid ingredients into the flour mixture, add the lingonberries, and stir just to mix. Spoon the batter into a 12-cup muffin tin. Bake at 350F. for about 20 minutes.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Valentine's Day Dinner - LEG OF LAMB

I like to cook a 'red' dinner for Valentine's Day. This year, it was a berry red dinner. We had roast leg of lamb with lingonberry sauce, wild rice and dried cherry salad, and for dessert, lingonberry pastry pinwheels. For the wild rice salad, see 20 November 2006. For the lingonberry pastry pinwheels, see 19 February 2007. For the lamb, I used the only fresh herb I had on hand - a pot of rosemary on my windowsill. Fortunately, it goes very well with lamb.

ROSEMARY LEG OF LAMB
Using a mortar and pestle, smash together 1 clove of garlic, 1 tsp salt and a handful of fresh rosemary. Add some olive oil to make a smooth paste. Using a sharp knife, cut down along the bone on both ends of the roast. Push some of the rosemary mixture into the gap, and spread the remainder over the roast. Squeeze half a lemon over top. Finally, throw on some more fresh rosemary if you've got it. Heat the oven to 400F and warm your roasting pot in the oven. When hot, coat the bottom with olive oil and set in the roast. Roast until done, turning once. (My 5-lb roast took about 1 hour 15 minutes to cook.)

Monday, January 29, 2007

I am not a TV chef

To be or not to be a chef? My TV cooking debut was today on CBC TV. The host referred to me as a chef. This is quite embarassing. I have never trained as a chef or worked as a chef, and the only kitchen I manage (and badly at that) is my own. However, I am passionate about Saskatchewan food and if I can make great homecooked meals with local foods, then anyone can. The producer of the show says, in her books, that makes me a chef. But I know too many wonderful chefs to put such a respected label on myself. I'm not even a wanna-be chef. It's too much work!

You can view it at the following link (episodes 11-15): http://www.cbc.ca/livingsaskatchewan/index.php?page=archive

The program ran for five days and each day we cook a different course of an all-Saskatchewan meal. I was asked to give the recipes silly Saskatchewan names, but you'll find them under their original names at the following posts on this blog:

Monday - Jumping Mustard Chutney - 23 Sept 2005
Tuesday - Temperance Street Pear Soup - 21 October 2005
Wednesday - Wild West Salad - 20 November 2006
Thursday - Salt of the Earth Trout - 1 October 2006
Friday - Prairie Berry Pie - 9 August 2006

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Book Report: The End of Food

Remember when potatoes and broccoli were a good source of vitamin C? Since 1963, store-bought broccoli has lost 45% of its vitamin C and potatoes have lost a whopping 57%. Tomatoes have lost 31% of their vitamin A and cottage cheese has lost 53% of its iron (while increasing sodium by 77%). The author examines US Agriculture "food tables" and asks why this is so?

- Food companies have bred specific varieties based on characteristics such as uniformity of size and maturation, and not taste and nutrition.
- Food picked unripe (as much is) never fully develops its nutrients.
- Food grown with inorganic fertilizers has fewer nutrients than food grown with natural fertilizers (such as compost and manure).
- Food that is heavily irrigated has fewer nutrients.
- Food that sits in storage a long time loses its nutrients.

The author states that grass-fed beef has 2-4 times more Omega-3 fatty acid than grain-fed beef (as most cattle are). Omega-3 is not produced by the body; we must eat it.

The author compares the de-population of rural farmland to the collectivization of Soviet farms under Stalin. Nowadays, he says, it’s not forced by a dictator but by agribusiness and government policy. Just as the ‘kulaks’ (the traditional farmers) were sent to Siberia, today’s farmers have been banished to the cities. The author believes the current situation will fail us just as collectivization ultimately failed to feed the USSR. His solution: plant a garden, farm organically, buy local food.

The End of Food: How the food industry is destroying our food supply – and what you can do about it. Thomas Pawlick.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Newspaper Column - SNOW DRIFT

Published in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, 22 January 2007.

It was mighty cozy at my house during the blizzard last week. The wood stove was crackling, keeping warm a big pot of soup. If the power had gone out, we would have pulled open the sofa bed and slept near the fire. Food and fuel – we’ve got plenty of that on hand at our house. I’ve been stockpiling food staples for a couple of years. Not because I’m worried about survival, but because I discover such wonderful Saskatchewan foods that I want to make sure I have a good supply.

For instance, we have enough lentils and split peas to serve a small village for a week. Jars and jars of canned fruit. Half a pig and half a lamb. A sack of rolled oats. A ton of frozen tomatoes. A bucket of wild rice. But it makes you wonder… What if a blizzard or an ice storm closed the grocery stores for a few days? Or, prevented the food trucks from arriving in the city? Almost everything we buy in the grocery store comes from far away. A study in Chicago a few years ago found that most fresh produce travelled more than 2,000 km from the field to the store, and we are quite a bit further north of Chicago.

One day this past fall, while driving to Delisle, I counted all the trucks on the highway that were transporting food. The trucks were either refrigerated, labeled with a food company logo or involved in agriculture. Close to 75% of the transport trucks had something to do with food.

The evening of the blizzard, I was scheduled to give a talk for the Environmental Society on the environmental benefits of eating local food. Shipping food by truck is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, so it stands to reason that eating locally-produced food is better for the environment. It’s also good for the environment in that local food often requires less refrigeration, less packaging, fewer sprays and fewer non-food additives. There is less wear-and-tear on the roads and less going to waste. Many environmentalists are now concluding that eating local food is better for the environment than eating organic produce that is shipped in from distant farms in California, New Zealand and Mexico.

Perhaps we could all make a New Year’s resolution to eat more food produced right here in Saskatchewan. A local food potluck would be a great way to start. Here is the local food menu of my day-after-Christmas dinner: potato casserole, wild rice salad, stuffed goose breast and a funny-looking dessert that I call Snow Drift. I thought I might try to bag my own goose, but in the end it was provided by my hunting friends Sue and Vance (and their bird dog Belle). It was complimented by some Dolgo crabapple jelly from Boris and Anne.

I found the goose recipe on the internet attributed to celebrity chef Mario Batali. The recipe for the wild rice salad is here. Here’s that crazy-looking dessert, adapted from Food and Wine Magazine.