Monday, December 15, 2008

Newspaper Column - SUGAR SPARKLERS

Published in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, 15 Dec. 2008

I have way too many cookbooks but that doesn’t mean I don’t want a cookbook for Christmas. Cookbooks make great gifts for anyone who loves to cook. And if, like me, you love to cook with Saskatchewan flavours, there are a few special cookbooks that would be right at home in your kitchen.

One of my favourites is Arab Cooking on a Saskatchewan Homestead by Habeeb Salloum, who emigrated with his parents from Syria to a homestead near Swift Current in the 1920s. It’s brimming with Middle Eastern recipes that can be made with Saskatchewan ingredients such as lentils, chickpeas, yogurt, lamb and mint, along with stories about his childhood on the prairies.

I can also recommend Fonos Fish Favourites by Jonathon Fonos, a fisherman from Dore Lake who sells his catch at the Saskatoon Farmer’s Market, with recipes for pickerel, northern pike, burbot and whitefish. If you’re trying to get more fish in your diet, as Canada’s Food Guide recommends, his fish and his cookbook will help out.

A couple of cute little cookbooks make good use of two abundant prairie ingredients— Zucchini: You Can Never Get Enough and Rhubarb: More than Just Pies. They’re published by Lois Hole and the University of Alberta Press.

I also like the cookbooks of Sam Hofer, who grew up on a Hutterite colony. They’re full of recipes for hardy German cooking adapted to the Saskatchewan experience. Lately, I’ve been dipping into his A Passion for Sauerkraut.

I also find inspiration in Vancouver chef John Bishop’s cookbook Fresh: Seasonal Recipes made with Local Foods. Even though he’s on the West Coast, many of his recipes are right at home in Saskatchewan, such as Dry Rub Pork Ribs with coriander and mustard seeds and Sweet Onion Soup with herbed biscuits.

My Saskatchewan cookbook collection also contains a few vintage examples. The Seasonal Gourmet was written by Barbara Logsdail, the food columnist in the Star Phoenix in the 1980s and early 1990s. She made the best of seasonal vegetables, wild game, honey and berries, but some foods produced in Saskatchewan today weren’t grown here yet, such as lentils and sour cherries. “Canola was just becoming popular at the time and I helped develop some recipes,” says Barbara, who retired to Kingston, Ont., with her husband Doug. “It was a very interesting province to be in as far as we were concerned coming from the east. It was all new—the foods, the tastes and the recipes—and the influence of the different ethnic backgrounds, Ukrainian, German and Italian. I thought it was more interesting than Ontario.”

Another of my favourites is The Prairie Cook’s Book published 25 years ago by Betty Ternier Daniels, then a young mother on the farm at Cochin. Apart from some flavourings and baking ingredients, the recipes are exclusively Saskatchewan. Betty was ahead of her time in the local food movement when she wrote this introduction:
“Self-sufficiency in food production would not mean deprivation. Rather, it would mean reduced fuel consumption (since food would no longer be hauled in from distant places). It would mean more local employment in agriculture and small food industries. It would mean freedom from the vagaries of the international food market. And it would mean that the food-rich prairies would no longer import food from third world countries whose inhabitants haven’t enough food for themselves.”

Here’s wishing you a delicious holiday season with a recipe from Betty’s cookbook.

Sugar Sparklers
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Cream butter and sugar. Separate one egg. Add yolk and second egg to the creamed mixture. Stir in vanilla. Add the flour, baking powder and salt, blending thoroughly. Chill 1 hour. Roll out dough and cut into shapes. Place on baking sheet. Using a fork, whisk the remaining egg white. Brush cookies with egg white and sprinkle with sugar. (To make coloured sugar, shake in a container with one drop of food colouring.) Bake 10 min. at 350F.

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