Monday, January 28, 2008

Saskatchewan is full of beans

A CBC listener called in to tell us about a great source of Saskatchewan grown beans: Northern Quinoa Corporation, of Kamsack. Its primary product, quinoa, is an edible grass seed native to the Andes in South American. According to the company website, quinoa is high in protein and other essential nutrients. The on-line store also sells lentils, chickpeas, barley, spelt, flax, spices and a whole lot of beans. Check it out.

Friday, January 25, 2008

CBC Radio Calling - BAKED BEANS

Soak 2 cups of beans and 2 tbsp plain yogurt in water overnight.

Drain the water. Put the beans in a stock pot, add 2 ham hocks (or a meaty ham bone), 2 bay leaves, salt and a few peppercorns. Cover with fresh water and simmer until the beans are soft.

Divide the beans and their liquid between two oven-proof pots with lids. Remove the meat from the ham hocks and divide evenly between the two pots. Into each, stir in a few chopped tomatoes (fresh, canned or frozen), a couple spoonfuls of tomato paste, 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup of molasses.

Cover and bake for two hours or more at 300F. Add water if the beans soak up the liquid. Remove the lids and broil until the top of the beans is nice and brown.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Not so much hot air - TUSCAN BEANS

From the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, 21 Jan 2008.

It’s half past January and New Year’s resolutions are breaking all over the city, but not mine. Many of those broken New Year’s resolutions probably pertain to food—no doubt on a principle of less, not more. Eat less fat. Cut junk food. Lower calories. One not two desserts. Fewer drives through the drive-thru and late-night raids on the fridge. Not me. My New Year’s resolution is all about more. Because, when it comes to food, more is so much easier to stomach. My resolution for 2008 is to eat more beans.

Beans are really healthy and I don’t believe we eat enough of them. They’re high in protein, fibre, calcium, minerals and vitamin B. A diet of beans has been linked to lower cholesterol, better blood pressure, diabetic control and reduction in some cancers. But I’m no health fanatic. I want to eat more beans because Saskatchewan is producing more beans. Agricultural pundits have predicted that more and more farmers will grow beans in the years to come. If they’re growing them, I’m eating them. In my quest for a local diet—consuming more foods produced close to home rather than far away—beans are a welcome addition.

The newest bright light on the bean radar is a pinto bean called White Mountain. It was produced by plant breeders at the University of Saskatchewan and was grown by farmers last year. As the name implies, this pinto bean is mostly shiny white and retains its colour longer than normal pinto beans, which grow dark with time. In cultures where beans are popular, such as Mexico and the American southwest, lighter pinto beans are considered to be of higher quality because they are fresher and cook more quickly. So, hopes are high for White Mountain in the export market. Unfortunately, consumers such as you and I can’t go out and buy a bag of it yet, as it’s not for sale locally. If we all clamour for more beans, perhaps that will change.

I picked up a 10-pound bag of the common dark pinto bean last spring at the Super Duper Flea Market at the Saskatoon exhibition grounds. Yes, there among the antiques and collectibles and junk, a local farmer was selling her pinto beans, chickpeas and other grains. Like all those other flea marketers, I’d found my “treasure” that day!

If we broaden the definition of beans, as Ken Albala did in his fascinating new book, “Beans: A History,” Saskatchewan has even more to offer. Albala defines beans as “edible seeds from plants that produce pods” which includes lentils, chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) and split peas, which are now considered staple field crops in many parts of Saskatchewan.
Fortunately, these “beans” are easier to find in the grocery store. Buy any lentils or chickpeas that are packaged in Canada and chances are good they were grown in Saskatchewan.
And finally, as if we need another reason to eat beans, here it is: the more beans you eat the less you’ll suffer from the after effects of eating beans. (Here’s a tip: Soak or boil beans in water, tossing out the water, to neutralize the gassy effect before cooking.)

Tuscan Beans
I read that in Tuscany, this dish is called uccelletto which means “little birds” because it is made with the same ingredients that were traditionally used to cook small game birds.

1 cup dry beans
1 small carrot, quartered
1 small onion, quartered
1/4 cup olive (or canola) oil
1 chopped garlic clove
2-3 chopped sage leaves
6-8 canned or frozen tomatoes
salt and pepper

Soak the beans overnight. Cover with fresh water, add the carrot and onion, and bring to a boil. Simmer gently until the beans are tender, perhaps 2 hours. Drain, discarding the vegetables. Heat the oil until it shimmers. Sauté the garlic and sage. Add the beans and stir to coat. Add the tomatoes and their juice. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer over low heat 15-20 minutes until the tomatoes thicken into a nice sauce.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

And on and on and on and...

We finally gobbled down the last of the Christmas turkey! My husband was heard to declare: "The original dinner was good, but I like what came after it even better." This included:

- turkey pie (2)
- turkey curry soup
- turkey and gravy on biscuits
- turkey salad sandwiches
- cold drumsticks

Here's a tip: before cooking the turkey, I gave it a soak in salt brine. Later, when I boiled the bones to make soup, all the lovely flavours of the brine seeped into the broth. It was so flavourful. I had stuffed the turkey with carrots and onions, which also went into the stock pot. (Bones and veggies were strained out before making soup with the broth.) I used the brine recipe supplied online by Martha Stewart, minus the bottle of wine.

If you'd like a lovely Saskatchewan free-range turkey for your next Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, contact Pine View Farms near Osler. They sell turkeys just twice a year and they always sell out. Reservations recommended!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The story of a cherry pie

I picked the cherries myself.* I pitted them myself. I made the pie myself. But I didn't eat it myself. Thank you Maureen, Tony, Jim and John for eating my pie, and thanks for leaving a little piece leftover for my breakfast!

(*At the Yoanna U-Pick Orchard at Radisson, Saskatchewan)

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The story of a Christmas turkey

Our Christmas turkey was raised near Osler, Saskatchewan. We picked her up freshly plucked from Pine View Farms on the morning of Christmas Eve. She spent the next 24 hours at the spa (ie: a fragrant salt brine) and then a few hours bronzing in the oven. When she arrived at the dinner table she was brown, crispy, moist and so delicieux!

However, that is not the end of the story. The next day, we warmed the leftover turkey in gravy and served it over hot biscuits. The day after that, I simmered the turkey bones with carrots, onions and herbs in plenty of water which became a wonderful curry turkey soup with beans and wild rice. The following day, it was turkey salad sandwiches for lunch. For New Year's Eve, I served up a fabulous turkey pie.

And that's the story of the turkey who came for dinner and stayed for a week.