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.)