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:

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

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