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):

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.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Spice of Life - CHICKEN TAGINE


This recipe is named for the type of ceramic dish in which it is traditionally cooked. Any covered pot will do, preferably one that can go from the stove to the oven.

The following ingredients are produced in Saskatchewan: chicken, canola oil, coriander, cumin, fenugreek, onion, tomatoes, garlic, carrots and chickpeas. If you cannot find the spice seeds, substitute curry powder such as Chatty’s Calcutta Curry (made in Saskatoon).

1 chicken cut into pieces
1/4 cup olive or canola oil
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. fenugreek seeds
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 onion chopped
6-8 canned tomatoes, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 carrots, sliced
1 can chickpeas
12 prunes and/or dried apricots
salt and pepper
2 tbsp. almond slivers, toasted (opt.)
preserved lemon rind (opt.) (see below)
black or green olives (opt.)

Grind the spices (coriander, cumin, fenugreek) in a spice grinder.

Heat the oil in an oven-proof pot. Lightly salt the chicken and sauté in the oil. Sprinkle with a bit of the spice blend. When the chicken is nicely browned, add the rest of the ingredients, except the optional items. Add four cups of water and bring to a boil.

Cover the pot and bake in a 325F oven for 2 hours. Check occasionally and add more liquid if necessary. During the last half an hour, stir in the preserved lemon rind and continue baking uncovered. You can also add black or green olives at this point.

Before serving remove the lemon peel. Serve alone or with couscous or rice, sprinkled with the toasted almonds.

6 small lemons, preferably organic
1/4 cup rock salt (un-iodized)
1 cinnamon stick
3 cloves
6-8 coriander seeds
3-4 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf

You’ll need a glass container with a tight-fitting lid.

Cut the lemons in half. Then, cut them ALMOST into quarters, in other words don’t slice all the way through.

Press one section of lemon into the bottom of the jar, releasing the juice. Sprinkle with salt. Press a few more slices on top, sprinkling with salt as you go along. Put the cinnamon, coriander, peppercorns and bay leaf into the jar. Continue pressing in lemon sections, releasing the juice and sprinkling with salt, until all the lemons are in the jar. The lemons should be completely covered with lemon juice. If they are not covered, add some more juice or water. Secure the jar and refrigerate, shaking now and then.

Leave in the jar to marinate one month before using. To use, remove the flesh and wash the peel of salt. Use the peel only.

Friday, January 05, 2007

TV Cooking Show

I have watched plenty of TV cooking shows, but I had never been in one until now. And you know what -- it's not easy! Everything has to be preplanned and precut and even premade -- and then you have to cook in full makeup and nice clothes with a buddy and make it look easy.

Here's the scoop: CBC TV is starting a new afternoon talk show called Living Saskatchewan and, as a pilot project, they are having a weeklong cooking class, each day preparing a different course in an all-Saskatchewan meal. I was asked to give the recipes fun Saskatchewan names. So, here's the menu: Monday - Jumping Mustard Chutney; Tuesday - Temperance Street Pear Soup; Wednesday - Wild West Salad; Thursday - Salt of the Earth Trout; Friday - Prairie Berry Pie. (I'll post the recipes that week.)

The show runs weekdays from 1-2 (starting next week). The cooking segment will run the week of Jan. 29. If you have a chance to see any of it, let me know what you think. At this point, the CBC isn't planning any more cooking shows, but you never know...