Friday, May 30, 2008


Well, I am having fun in the kitchen! I just came into a heap of fresh-picked morels and fiddleheads from north-east Saskatchewan, and I wanted to cook them together in the same dish. This orzotto was delicious served with grilled porkshops and asparagus. (Orzotto is what I call a risotto-type dish made with pearl barley instead of rice - a very Saskatchewan substitution.)

Morel and Fiddlehead Orzotto
1 cup fiddleheads
3 tbsp butter
1 cup chopped fresh morels
3 green onions
4-5 cups vegetable stock
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp olive oil (or canola)
1 cup pearl barley
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 tsp fresh chopped rosemary
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Soak the fiddleheads in well salted water for 30 min. Drain. Rinse the fiddleheads several times to remove little flecks of brown husk. Melt 1 tbsp of butter and cook fiddleheads until wilted. Season with salt and pepper.

Finely chop the green onions, white part only. Melt 1 tbsp butter. Cook morels and green onions until softened. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat the stock to a simmer. In a heavy-bottomed pot, melt 1 tbsp butter with 1 tbsp olive oil. Sauté the diced onion and garlic until soft. Add the pearl barley, stirring, until all liquid is absorbed. Add the wine and cook until it has evaporated. Add one cup of vegetable stock, stir well, and cook until the liquid is almost absorbed. Add the remaining stock, one cup at a time, cooking and stirring until the barley is creamy and tender to the bite.

Stir in the fiddleheads, mushrooms, rosemary and cheese. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve with an extra sprinkling of cheese.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Newspaper Column - TOMATO MINT SALAD

Published in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, 20 May 2008.

Curiosity got the best of me. I have often seen the mayor and his wife strolling the aisles of the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market and wondered, What do they buy? What does the mayor think as he wanders the market that he envisioned for the untapped potential of south downtown? How does it fit with his vision for Riversdale revitalization? And why is he always wearing a suit? Isn’t Saturday morning a bit early for a suit? Apparently not when you’re the mayor.

When I recently made arrangements to meet Mayor Don Atchison and his wife Mardele at the farmers’ market, he came dressed in a colourful pinstripe shirt and casual pants. He only wears a suit, he says, when he’s dashing to official functions and Mardele insists they stop at the market on the way. As it turns out, they are big fans of the farmers’ market.

“We always try to buy local,” says the mayor. “Mardele is a wonderful cook, as you can tell by looking at me.” It could also be his favourite sugar cookies, to which he makes a beeline the minute we walk in the market door. Mardele’s first purchase is a bunch of fresh-cut pussy willows. She is on the hunt for mint, and for that we head outside.

Since early May, many of the market vendors have moved their stalls outside onto the new paving stone patio. The big overhead doors of the market (it used to be a garage) are open to the fresh air and sunshine. People drink coffee on park benches and the lineup at Grandora Gardens is a block long. A typical summery day at the market.

“I have Middle Eastern blood in me, so I cook with lentils a lot,” says Mardele. “Lentils and brown rice and plain yogurt and a ton of mint. Mint goes in everything.” She tells a wonderful story about her grandmother’ dolmades, a Middle Eastern finger food wrapped in grape leaves. She remembers picking grape leaves with her grandmother at the Forestry Farm in Saskatoon.
“They had incredible grape vines and we would take bags and pick leaves. I was such a little girl but that memory comes racing back.”

The mayor grew up on a traditional prairie diet of meat and potatoes, fresh vegetables and oatmeal cookies. He remembers family outings to the Simpkins farm to buy vegetables in season. All these years later, he still shops from the Simpkins at the farmers’ market.

As we stroll the market, the mayor is stopped by friendly faces to shake his hand and say hello. He takes a lot of pride in the farmers’ market which, in 2007, was the first project to establish itself in the new River Landing development (followed recently by Persephone Theatre). They mayor was supportive of the new farmers’ market, not just because he’s crazy for local vegetables, but because it serves as a magnet to draw people from all over the city to River Landing, a bridge that connects the more affluent parts of Saskatoon with its poorer neighbourhoods on the west side.

He points out that the price of homes near the market has tripled. Patronage at the farmers’ market has also boomed since it moved to Riversdale. “It shows that people believe this is a healthy community again. It’s vibrant and it’s going to be even better,” he says. “The important thing is that Riversdale and downtown are joined together just as it was 102 year ago.”

The market is still surrounded by construction and traffic is congested by roadwork, but sitting on the park bench in the sunshine with the mayor and his wife, it’s easy to believe that vegetables (and cookies and mint) are vital to the future of downtown Saskatoon.

In keeping with Mardele's heritage, here's a salad with Middle Eastern overtones. For more Middle Eastern recipes with Saskatchewan ingredients, click on the label "Middle Eastern" below.

Tomato Mint Salad
2 tomatoes, quartered
1 pita bread
1/4 white or red onion
2 tbsp fresh mint
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Slice tomatoes and pita into bite-sized wedges. Slice onion into paper-thin wedges. Toss onions with tomatoes and bread. Chop mint and stir into tomato mixture. Whisk together olive oil and lemon juice. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Toss dressing with salad. Marinate 5 minutes and serve.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

News Talk Radio - Favourite fish recipes

Thanks, Michelle, for having me on your radio show today. Since we talked about Saskatchewan fish, I thought I'd highlight a few of my favourite fish recipes:

Fish and potato cakes
Fish baked in salt
Fish on a bed of carrots and celery
Nice salad

Another great way with fish: Slather fish fillets with Droolin' Devil Mean Ass Mustard Gourmet Habanero Hot Sauce (produced right here in Saskatoon). Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Press fresh bread crumbs onto the fish. Turn fillets and repeat on the other side. Generously butter the bottom of a baking dish. Place fillets in the baking dish. Dab the top of the fillets with butter. Bake at 325F for 15 minutes. Flip the fish and bake another 10 minutes. Using a fork, check if the fish is flakey and cooked. If not, bake a few more minutes. (Baking time varies depending on the thickness of the fish.)

Friday, May 02, 2008

Docs in the Kitchen - MOROCCAN CHICKEN STEW

Great event last night! U of S med students staged a fantastic dinner to raise money for CHEP (which provides food and nutrition for kids in Saskatoon). The initial tally puts the funds raised at more than $4000. I had a little hand in the dinner--providing the recipe for the delicious stew. Staff at the Western Development Museum did a great job transforming a stew for 8 into a meal for 300! Here's the original recipe. It's chock full of Saskatchewan ingredients (okay, not the apricots and prunes...)

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

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
preserved lemon rind (opt.)
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. Remove lemon rind before serving. Serve with olives on couscous or rice.