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.).