Saturday, December 26, 2009

Yummy brownies for Christmas

This was fabulous, and all the better because I made it with raspberries I picked and froze myself. A little bit of Saskatchewan summer in the depths of winter...

The recipe is by Australian chef Donna Hay and found on the Epicurious website. Click here.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Newspaper column - ROSTI

This column appeared in today's Star Phoenix.

This morning my husband gave me a choice for breakfast: oatmeal or potatoes. If I chose oatmeal, it would be oatmeal porridge with wild blueberries. If I chose potatoes, it would be rösti, a traditional Swiss breakfast of grated leftover potatoes fried up with chopped green onion and a bit of melted cheese. As I took a moment to make my decision, he gave me a little prompt, “Remember your New Year’s resolution.”

Ah, yes. One year ago, I made a New Year’s resolution to eat more potatoes.

This may seem an odd resolution at a time when most people are making more serious pledges for self improvement such as weight loss, debt reduction and stress management. But I ask you, how long do those resolutions last? By pledging to eat more potatoes, I felt confident this was one New Year’s resolution that would stick—at least to my ribs.

Why the potato, you ask?

What better vegetable to celebrate on a cold winter’s day than the hardy, tenacious, stoic potato, which hunkers down for winter and patiently waits for spring. The potato positively thrives in our northern climate. Perhaps if I ate more potatoes, I reasoned, some of that northern vigour would rub off on me.

The potato is also the only vegetable for which Saskatchewan (and my own family) is pretty much self-sufficient, which is reason enough to eat more. To kick off my year of the potato, I devised a menu for New Year’s Eve with potatoes in every course. The appetizer included blue potato pakoras, a delicious deep-fried snack from India.

With the main course of roast chicken, I served both tartiflette (a lovely Alpine concoction of potatoes, bacon and cheese) and a Spanish omelette made with potatoes and red peppers. Dessert included mashed potato and chocolate chip cookies, followed by a hardy New Year’s toast with a shot of potato vodka.

I’m a big proponent of eating Saskatchewan-produced food to support the local farm economy and reduce the mileage on the things we eat. And for many special meals, that includes potatoes. Take Thanksgiving, for instance. This year’s menu included roast chicken with bacon and sage stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce, roast potatoes and gravy, wild rice and dried cherry salad, scalloped corn and, for dessert, both apple and cherry pies.

More recently, we had a special dinner with friends after attending the Christmas concert of the Saskatoon Children’s Choir. The menu included a curried pear and squash soup garnished with wild rice, artisanal bread from the farmers’ market and cold cuts made by a local butcher. Last year for Christmas, the menu included roast turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, coleslaw, pickled asparagus and baked meringue with berry sauce.

Every ingredient mentioned above was locally procured.

This year for Christmas dinner, I’m planning a menu of baked ham with honey mustard glaze, scalloped potatoes, roast carrots and parsnips, perogies with silky onions and, for dessert, perhaps blueberry tarts.

Special meals are steeped in tradition, and many families have special traditions of their own. But in our house, every meal is extra special when it’s made with the bounty of this land. As for this New Year’s resolution, I haven’t made up my mind yet. As for breakfast? I chose potatoes.

John’s Rösti
Leftover cooked potatoes
A few green onions, chopped
Salt and pepper
Canola or olive oil
A small bit of grated cheese

Peel and grate the potatoes. Mix with the green onions and season with salt and pepper. Pour a thin sheen of oil into a heavy frying pan and bring to medium-high heat. Scoop the potatoes into the pan, pressing them into a flat circle. Fry until the bottom is brown and crisp, then flip it over and fry the other side. When it’s cooked, sprinkle with grated cheese, cover and turn off the heat. Serve when the cheese is melted.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Terra Madre day in Saskatchewan

The first Terra Madre Day is Dec. 10 ~ a new local food festival organized by Slow Food International.
Here in Saskatchewan, the Hollyhock Market in Mortlach is holding a local food event on Dec. 9 at the Mortlach Community Hall. For $12, participants can sample items cooked by local chefs with locally-grown ingredients. Some of the farmers and gardeners will be on hand, too. The movie Food, Inc. will be screened, followed by discussion about the movie and about the Veggie Garden Club for people who've never grown their food before. For information, contact the hosts, Lois and Clayton at 306-355-2201 or

Friday, November 27, 2009

Two Thanksgivings

The great thing about being married to a fellow from Wisconsin is that we celebrate two Thanksgivings. So, while Canadian Thanksgiving is at my mom and dad's (and not particularly Saskatchewan based) I cook American Thanksgiving dinner Saskatchewan-style. This year's menu:

Roast chicken with bacon-sage stuffing
(Chicken from Susan's CSA acreage, bacon from the farmers'
market, sage from my garden & bread from Christie's bakery)
Cranberry sauce - recipe below
(low-bush cranberries from the farmers' market)
Roast potatoes and gravy
(fingerling potatoes grown by my dad & homemade gravy)
Scalloped corn
(corn from a Hutterite colony, red pepper & egg from the farmers' market)
Wild rice and dried cherry salad
(wild rice from up north, sour cherries I picked and dried myself)
Cherry pie & apple pie
(cherries from Prairie Sun Orchard u-pick,
apples from my family farm)
Cranberry Sauce
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 cups frozen low-bush cranberries (a.k.a. lingonberries)
2 tbsp fresh-squeezed orange juice
Heat sugar and water in a saucepan to a bubbling simmer, stirring occasionally. When the sugar is dissolved, add the berries and orange juice. Simmer, stirring now and then, crushing the berries with a potato masher to release their juice. Cook until the mixture is thick and jammy. Pour into a bowl and cool. Cover and refrigerate.
It's hard to describe exactly when the sauce has cooked enough to form a jell. If, when the sauce is cool, it's too runny, scoop it back in the pot and boil a bit longer.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Newspaper Column - 50% local produce by 2020?

(This column appeared in today's Star Phoenix.)

Would you buy more Saskatchewan fruits and vegetables if they were available? More than 90 percent of the fresh produce sold in the province comes from elsewhere. The only vegetable grown locally in sufficient quantities is the potato. Would it be possible to bring that split closer to 50-50?
That was the question posed at a recent forum called Hort 2020, which was organized by Karen Tanino, associate professor of horticulture at the University of Saskatchewan.

She wanted to know: Is a goal of 50 percent local produce desirable and realistic? What are the barriers that stand in the way? What are the models of success elsewhere that we can learn from?

The first speaker at the forum was Mike Furi, a manager with The Grocery People, a food wholesale distribution company owned by Federated Co-op. He was not too optimistic. He pointed out that the top-selling fruits and vegetables (things like oranges, bananas and nectarines) don’t grow in Saskatchewan. There are no local alternatives and consumers are unlikely to give them up. While other popular items are grown here, such as hothouse cucumbers and tomatoes, the global market is so competitive that local producers find it hard to compete with the price.

Very few grocery stores accept small amounts of produce directly from the growers. They order from wholesalers, who like to buy in huge quantities from as few sources as possible. Add to that, the quality, labelling and storage standards required by the grocery chains are so strict and onerous that small producers simply can’t afford to meet them. The few independent grocery stores that can choose to buy “through the backdoor” represent just 5 percent of the market, according to Furi.

However, he pointed out some individual food items that, in his estimation, offer a great opportunity for local growers. These include broccoli, cauliflower and corn-on-the-cob (currently imported from Alberta and Manitoba); squash such as butternut, spaghetti and pumpkin; and delicate items such as fresh herbs and cantaloupe. The challenge for growers is to provide an ample supply, at the store’s schedule, for a competitive price while meeting all the food safety requirements.

“It is my mandate to buy local whenever possible and I’m prepared to discuss the opportunities,” he said. “I don’t think that will ever get to 50 percent.”

A more optimistic perspective was offered by Brent Warner, the agri-tourism specialist in British Columbia and executive director of Farmers’ Market Canada. He said consumer demand is compelling the grocery chains to rethink their resistance to local produce.

“The local food movement is bigger than I would have envisioned five years ago,” he said. “It will change things.” In the face of multiple industrial food recalls, consumers believe locally grown food is healthier, tastier and safer, and they’re willing to pay extra for it. They want to meet the farmers. This explains the growing popularity of farmers’ markets: in Calgary, the farmers’ market is now the largest food retailer in the city, according to Warner, and grocery chains are redesigning their produce sections to look more homey and rustic, like a farmers’ market.

One chain, Whole Foods, has set up farmers’ markets in grocery store parking lots. “Retailers might not be able to sell your products, and you can’t meet their volumes, but you can partner is other ways,” he said.

He’s also a great proponent of agri-tourism that brings city consumers into the countryside for an authentic encounter with the source of their food. In British Columbia, he said agri-tourism profits jumped 20 percent year over year. Elsewhere, Calgary has a goal of 30 percent fresh local food by 2020 and in Manitoba, the 50 percent mark for vegetables has been surpassed.

For a broader look at the proceedings, please see the power point presentations posted online.

So here’s the challenge: to serve 50 percent Saskatchewan vegetables in your home, at least now and then.

Red Cabbage with Apples
(Adapted from TimeLife Foods of the World: The Cooking of Germany. 1969)

Small red cabbage (about 2 lbs)
1/2 cup cider vinegar
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp bacon fat (or lard)
3 small tart apples, peeled and diced
1/2 cup diced onion
1 bay leaf
1 large piece of onion stuck with 3 cloves
4 cups boiling water
2 tbsp cranberry jelly

Slice the cabbage into thin shreds. Toss with the vinegar, sugar and salt. Melt the bacon fat in a large skillet. Cook the apples and chopped onion until the apples start to brown. Add the cabbage mixture, bay leaf and onion with cloves. Stir thoroughly. Add the boiling water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is tender, about 45 min. Add more liquid if needed. Before serving, remove the bay leaf and onion with cloves. Stir in the jelly until melted.

Monday, November 09, 2009

And the winner is... Ron Bousquet, Sous Chef, Saskatoon Club. Ron surpassed two other chefs at a recent Canadian Culinary Federation food challenge with the following menu showcasing local ingredients.

Last year, the challenge was won by Anthony McCarthy, Executive Chef at the Saskatoon Club, so they must have something good in the water over there!

Menu for Ron Bousquet- The Saskatoon Club

Course 1
Baked Savoury Trout and Mascarpone Cheesecake
On a fennel and orange salad
Crispy seared trout on a shitake, leek and tomato sauté
Citrus and dill trout ceviche with crispy tempura pea shoots

Course 2
Roast chicken roulade with apple cherry and pine nut stuffing
roasted shallot and port demi-glace
Mustard seed and fresh thyme marinated flat iron steak
Goat cheese potato croquette with flax seed crust
Asparagus bundle and turned carrots

Course 3
Lemon mousse japonaise with grand marnier marinated strawberries and tuille garnish

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Vegetable forum - 50% by 2020

Hort 2020 is a proposal to supply 50% of our produce locally by 2020. The general public is invited to a forum on the feasibility of this plan:

Who: Joint meeting of the Saskatchewan Greenhouse and Vegetable Growers
When: Saturday, November 14, 2-4 pm
Where: Travelodge Hotel, Saskatoon

Agenda & Speakers:
1. Introduction, background, overview (Dr. Karen Tanino, University of Saskatchewan)
2. The Elephant in the Room (Mike Furi, Federated Co-operatives Ltd., Branch Manager Manitoba/Saskatchewan Wholesale Division TGP, Saskatchewan Director Canadian Produce Marketing Association)
3. Co-op Start-ups: Requirements & Challenges (Warren Crossman, former Executive Director of Saskatchewan Co-operative Association, Chair of Food Secure Yorkton)
4. Local Food – Changing Opportunities (Brent Warner, coordinator of the Canadian Agritourism Working Group; former Industry Agritourism and Marketing Specialist, BC Ministry of Agriculture and Lands (27 years); and the longest serving board member of the North American Farmers Direct Marketing Association, NAFDMA).
See you there!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Thanks Leon - VENISON STEW

Fabulous venison stew tonight. This recipe is from Ducks Unlimited Adventure in Cooking, which I picked up at a used book store in Regina on the weekend. Everything was local from Saskatchewan except the chocolate and cinnamon. (I didn't use kidney beans, but put in extra local pinto beans instead.)

It's a beautiful cookbook and I think I'll use it often.

So thanks, Leon, for the gift of venison, and I hope you're having a good hunting season. (A very self-serving sentiment!)

Friday, October 23, 2009

CBC Radio calling - Pumpkins

As discussed on the radio today, here are the links to the winning pie recipes at the Pilger Pumpkin Festival. Take note, however, the winning pie makers added their own special "tweeks" to these recipes:

Winning pumpkin pie
Second place pumpkin pie

Here are links to my favourite pumpkin recipes on this blog:

Pumpkin Gnocci
Pumpkin Muffins

Pumpkin Ravioli
My husband and I ordered pumpkin-filled pasta in a rustic restaurant in Italy. It was quite heavy on the cinnamon, which I have toned down for this version.

Cut the flesh off a pumpkin, wrap in tinfoil and bake until soft. Mash the soft pumpkin and measure 2 cups. Place in a sieve to drain excess liquid. Mix the pumpkin with 1 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, a few grinds of pepper and salt to taste. Whip an egg with a fork and blend into the pumpkin mixture. Use this mixture in ravioli or other stuffed pasta.

To serve, I made a sauce of melted butter sautéed with plenty of fresh chopped sage, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. I recently had pumpkin tortellini with mushroom cream sauce in a restaurant which was also a very good flavour combination.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thank You Rosthern Elementary

Thank you to Grade 3-5 students at Rosthern Elementary School for inviting me to talk to their class about Saskatchewan foods. They presented me with this gift basket and a beautiful handmade card. You can bet these vegetables are going to be turned into something special, so stay tuned for the results!

Frist things first, I roasted the pumpkin and made savoury pumpkin gnocchi. Then the carrots and potatoes went into a venison stew. I'm still mulling over what to do with the acron squash. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

New Farmers' Market in Saskatoon

This just landed in my inbox:

St. James with The Refinery, at 609 Dufferin, would like to welcome you to the Broadway Community Farmer's Market every Wednesday from 11am - 6pm. The market will feature local Saskatchewan products, a variety of organic meats and vegetables, a lunch counter with samples, and much much more!

The Community Market invites you to contact them at 384.2957 with any questions or concerns.Thanks kindly, Charlene Roberts.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Giving thanks, all the same

We had a family Thanksgiving dinner yesterday at my parents' house in Craik, so it wasn't particularly local. Tonight John and I had a simple but very local Thanksgiving dinner at home: coleslaw (farmers' market cabbage and carrots), fried potatoes (grown by my dad), beef sausages (West Bridgeford Meats) and for dessert, my canned pears (picked over on Temperance Street). We are giving thanks for the bounty of Saskatchewan!

(PS I rescued the ham bone and will make soup today.)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The first carrot Big Crunch

Imagine 5000 school children crunching into a carrot at the same moment. We just might hear that crunch clear across the city! Keep your ears tuned at 10:30 am on Thursday for the first carrot Big Crunch. All carrots grown locally. Sponsored by CHEP Good Food Inc. to teach children where their food comes from and the value of healthy snacking.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Great garlic sausage!

My brother-in-law Tony is a connoisseur of garlic sausage so I bought him a package from West Bridgeford Meats in Tugaske. I visited West Bridgeford last week in order to write an article for Prairies North magazine. It's a very neat operation...

Doris and Shane Oram run a butcher shop in the former grocery store and a certified abbatoir on their farm west of Tugaske. In order to finance the operation, they sold shares to local livestock farmers, who supply the meat. The company website includes bios, pictures and farming practices for many of those farmers, and each one is assigned a number that appears on the package. Customers can browse the website and choose the meat that fits their personal preferences.

Tony says the sausages were fabulous and he'd definately buy them again.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Three models of local farm sales

This past weekend, I attended the conference of Food Secure Saskatchewan in Moose Jaw. One session on driect marketing and CSAs (which stands for Community Supported Agriculture) featured three interesting local food enterprises:

Farmgate Food - Mark and Lynn Lane sell organic chickens, lamb and pork rasied in the great outdoors without hormones, antibiotics and additives. Also wool quilt batts, sheep skins and knitting yarn. Place orders by email. Mark delivers into Regina.

"Most consumers choose our product for the taste, not because it's good for the environment." - Mark

Hi-Low Angus - Dan and Erin Howell direct market Angus beef raised on their farm at Lumsden. Their 12-year-old daughter Cassidy is raising katahdin lamb. They sell at the Regina Farmers' Market. For every ten customers, they give a pound of beef to charity.

"As a farmer, it's been extremely gratifying." - Dan

The Green Ranch - Tim and Carla Schultz are growing all manner of vegetables on their farm at Osage, as well as livestock. They sell at the Regina Farmers Market and make regular deliveries into Regina. Customers pay up front, then place weekly orders via the website, where Tim posts each week's offerings.

"Marketing is my passion, and I want to help other farmers sell their products who aren't into marketing themselves." - Tim

They say the biggest obstacles to the growth of their businesses include the small-producer limit of 999 chickens and the lack of certified inspected abbatoirs in their area.

Monday, September 21, 2009

To beet or not to beet - BEETNIKS

This column appeared this date in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.
To “beet” or not to “beet,” that is the question. This is not a mere corruption of Shakespeare’s famous philosophical monologue on the merits of life or death. It is a serious philosophical question on the merits of beets.

There are those who dislike beets, and there are those for whom beets are a cultural touchstone, a symbol of gardens past and present, a connection with babas and great-babas reaching back to the Old Country. Beets are a warm bowl of borscht on a fall day, they are stuffed beet leaves in a sauce of cream and dill, they are pickled and relish, salads and side dishes. They are family dinners and fall suppers. In other words, for some folks in Saskatchewan, beets are more than just food. They are part of the family.

Growing up, beets weren’t part of my family tradition, but there were other foods that evoked a philosophical and emotional response. These include: saskatoon berries, apple pie, my mom’s homemade buns, grandma’s (and now my sister’s) kliesel and kartoffel, which is potatoes and dumplings fried up in butter, jam jams and garden peas. Since I’ve had a garden of my own, beets have come to symbolize the end of another growing season, good food in the larder and a pot of nourishing beet soup on the stove.

“Eating is one of the most fundamental ways in which we are at home in the world,” says Eric Dayton, a professor of philosophy at the University of Saskatchewan, who gave a talk recently in Saskatoon reflecting on philosophy and food. In other words, the familiarity of certain foods, and the ways in which we enjoy them, create an atmosphere of belonging and connect us to the place we call home.

It also connects us to the human family through time, since most foods we eat today have evolved through generations and generations of farming and preparation. It is amazing to reflect how the same food—be it beef, beans or beets—can evoke so many different places and cultures simply by the different methods of preparation and ways of serving it in a meal.

“Food is just as important as a cultural product as literature, art, music—it’s a gift by way of our cultural past,” says professor Dayton.

Sadly, he points out, this wonderful familiarity of food can also lead us to take it for granted, or worse, dismiss it as inconsequential. We simply stop thinking about it. We eat, but we are no longer aware of it as a gift and a good thing. We fail to respect the cook and the farmer. We consume, but not for physical or emotional nourishment. We become disconnected from the source and symbolism of the food we eat and, in the process, lose that sense of place and belonging that food can provide.

To “beet” or not to “beet”? It’s a matter of personal preference. But it doesn’t hurt to stop and philosophize about food now and then, and to remember what we love to eat, and why.
Here’s a recipe for my version of the delicacy called beetniks.

Beet Leaf Holopchi or Beetniks
A couple dozen larger beet leaves, wiped clean
Bread dough (a pound or so)
2 tbsp butter
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 cup cream
Handful of fresh dill

Pinch off a small nub of dough and roll it in your hands into an elongated shape. Place the dough on a beet leaf and roll the leaf around it (leaving the ends unwrapped). Place each roll into a buttered baking dish. Cover the dish with a clean kitchen towel and let the bread rise for an hour or so.

Heat the oven to 350°F. Bake the Beetniks for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, make the cream sauce: melt the butter in a saucepan, sauté the onion and garlic until soft, stir in the cream and fresh chopped dill. Bring to a bubbling simmer.

Remove the beetniks from the oven. Pour the cream sauce evenly over top. Return to the oven for ten minutes. Cool slightly and enjoy!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Nirvana in a Jar - Raspberry Jam

This is the best thing I have ever put on toast: Raspberry Freezer Jam. I've never made freezer jam before, and why not, I ask myself? It's quick, easy, has much less sugar and way more flavour than boiled jam. The berries were the last picking from my friends Sue and Vance, who planted a vast berry orchard for their new wine venture, Living Sky Winery. If the jam is this good, I can't wait to taste the wine!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

CBC Radio Calling

Beets have an affinty for goat's cheese. Perhaps feta cheese would taste great, too.

Beet and Walnut Salad
2 beets, cooked
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
1/2 tbsp fruit syrup (chokecerry, raspberry, etc.)
3 tbsp olive oil
salad greens for two (may include beet greens)
2 tbsp crumbled goat cheese

Cut the beets into a bite-sized dice. Heat 1 tbsp of water in a non-stick skillet. Add the brown sugar and stir until dissolved. Add the walnuts, cooking and stirring until the water has evaporated and the sugar has caramelized on the nuts. Make the dressing by whisking together the vinegar, fruit syrup, oil and salt to taste. Toss half the dressing with the salad greens and the other half with the beets. To serve, divide the salad greens onto two plates. Scoop the beets into the middle of the greens, scatter each with half the walnuts and sprinkle on the cheese.

Tonight, I'm going to try this recipe: beet leaf holopchi

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I'm on my way to Pilger

I'm following my tasebuds to the Pilger Pumpkin Festival on Sept. 26. I'm not drawn so much by the giant pumpkins (although they are fascinating) but for the pumpkin pie. Okay, I am also drawn by the pumpkin shot put contest. The fun gets underway at 3 pm. Here's a great slide show of festivals past: slide show.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Local Bounty at the Market

Nothing beats a chef cooking local delicacies at the source -- the Saskatoon Farmers' Market. Chef Everett Nelson, of the Hilton Garden Inn, did a stellar job today with his tasting menu:

Salad Nicoise with Saskatchewan whitefish
Grilled Pork Chops with beet and carrot relish and minted tzatziki
Chocolate lentil cake

These vendors supplied the goods:
Living Soil farms: Potatoes and Lentils
Sollosy's Honey
Orchard del Sol: Pepper and Cocoa
Wally’s Urban Garden: Beets and Carrots
Grandora Gardens: Tomatoes and Cucumbers
World Away Farm: Beans
Fran's House of Herbs: Dill, Mint and Basil
Fonos Fish: Whitefish
Bedard Creek Acres: Red Clover Blossom Syrup
Country Lane Market: Pork Chops

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mint Juleps -- Finally

Can you believe -- last winter killed my mint! I didn't think anything could kill mint. Finally, I found a stand of mint growing in my garden (where I didn't want it) and put it to good use. We had a nice afternoon of mint juleps on the patio with wine and spirits columnist James Romanow.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Picking berries for a good cause

I love to pick berries. So it was a pleasant task to spend a couple of evenings picking raspberries and black currents at the farm of Living Sky Winery, a new venture near Perdue. Owners Sue Echlin and Vance Lester hope to market their first bottles of fruit wine later this year. They're working with award-winning winemaker, Dominic Rivard, so the prospects are excellent.

Here's a bit of a bio of Dominic found online:

Dominic has won hundreds of awards and medals in national and international wine competitions.This has included the best desert wine in Canada in 2007 and various best of show awards in fruit wine and desert wine categories.Over the last decade, Dominic has been busy running numerous wine production and exportation projects for wineries in Canada, USA, Italy, Spain, Chile, Taiwan, Korea, Japan as well as China.

Follow the progress of Living Sky Winery on Twitter.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Gourmet cuisine at the Bessborough

So, what do the spouses do while their partners are at a national conference of physicians? The Canadian Medical Association is meeting in Saskatoon. Yesterday, some of the spouses cooked their own Saskatchewan lunch at the Bessborough under the watchful eye of Chef Ryan Marquis.

I was lucky enough to take part. We cooked Lake Diefenbaker steelheald trout, lentil pilaf and saskatoon berry crisp. Here are the yummy results.

Chef Ryan has created a new dining concept at the Bessborough's Garden Court called GCC - Gourmet Community Cuisine. The menu features many local ingredients in season. Check out the menu here. Chef Ryan was named 2009 Chef of the Year by the Canadian Federation of Chefs, Western Conference. Congratulations!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Newspaper Column - Community Shared Farms

This article appeared today in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.

Keith Neu has a funny way of putting it: “If you want food security, either marry a farmer or pay one to farm for you.” Well, 100 people have opted for the latter. They pay Neu a monthly fee to become “members” of his farm at Hudson Bay.

On a regular basis, Neu delivers the produce of the farm to his 100 customers in Saskatoon and Regina. Depending on the client and the time of year, his food boxes might include eggs, chicken, beef, grains and various vegetables, fresh or frozen.

His operation is called a CSA, which stands for Community Supported Agriculture or Community Shared Agriculture. It’s a nifty scheme whereby his clients pay up front for their food, taking a stake both financially and emotionally in the success of the farm. For the farmer, it means a steadier income when he needs it for buying seed and hiring summer help, plus the benefit of a supportive and dedicated clientele which Neu refers to as his “farm family.”

CSAs are quite popular in urban areas across North America, but they’re just gaining ground around Saskatoon. They’re a great option for those who want to eat locally, but don’t garden themselves and can’t make it to a farmers’ market often enough. The food comes to you. CSAs can take many forms and financial models, but the underlying goal is to create sense of community around a garden or a farm.

“I really like that connection with people who don’t have a lot of agricultural experience,” says Carmen Dyck who, with her husband Keith, runs an orchard CSA at Aberdeen. “Every time I make a delivery it takes twice as long as it should because I spend time talking with everybody. It’s really nice to have people who are interested and supportive of what we do.”

They started their CSA this spring with 21 members who pay $20 up front, then choose a delivery package that suites their needs. The orchard supplies saskatoons, sour cherries, gooseberries, currents and honeyberries, and they’ve planted apples, plums, pears and raspberries for future harvests.

To build a sense of community, they plan to hold special events in a renovated church moved to the orchard, and they include their members in any important decisions for the operation of the CSA.

The other day, I paid a visit to a vegetable CSA on an acreage at Furdale, just outside the city, where we sat on a bench near the garden while the tomatoes ripened and a big bluish rooster pecked in the grass. Susan Chalmers established her CSA this spring with 20 shareholders at $400 each. “The majority are young families who want their children to eat well and to know where their food is coming from,” she says. “They come out to visit the garden and play with the chickens. The demand for that type of experience is only going to grow.”

Her capacity is 20 shares, but she sells excess produce and eggs on the side. Here’s how to contact these CSAs:
* Just Susan’s Garden, Susan Chalmers: (306) 343-7990.
* Etomami Community Organic Farm, Keith Neu: (306) 865-2103;
* Fruition Orchard, Carmen Dyck: (306) 933-9630:

I have not joined a CSA for a few reasons: I love gardening and going to the farmers’ market, so I’ve got a steady supply of produce, plus I have established sources for a number of other local foods. However, I’m happy to reap the bounty of a CSA, as when Chalmers sends me home with a basket of her tomatillos and a recipe for Salsa Verde. For the recipe, click here. If you know of other local CSAs, please send me a message on by clicking "comments."

Friday, August 14, 2009

Tomatillo season - SALSA VERDE

I paid a visit to Susan Chalmer's garden the other day and she sent me home with a basket of tomatillos and a recipe for Salsa Verde. I took the Salsa Verde to my community garden potluck last night and it was a big hit. (You can read more about Susan's CSA garden in Monday's Star Phoenix).

Salsa Verde
1 lb tomatillos, husked, rinsed and chopped (about 15)
3 chillies
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup onion, copped
1 cup cilantro
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp salt

Purée everything in a blender or food processor. Refrigerate. Serve with tortillas or as a condiment for enchiladas and other Mexican cuisine.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Penny's Mustard is Back!

Penny Koehn makes my favourite mustard in the whole world. She won't give me the recipe, but at least she gives me a jar now and then!! Here's a litle excerpt from my upcoming book, Prairie Feast:

"After my first jar of Penny’s mustard, I could love no other. All other mustards were mere dalliances, a little heat on the side, pale in comparison to my main squeeze. As I scraped the bottom of that first jar, I felt as melancholy as if I were saying goodbye to a summer love. Will you ever touch my lips again? Shall I close my eyes and smell you near me, and long for you with every tomato sandwich and sausage on a bun?
Faced with that prospect, I decided that the best course of action was to ask Penny for the recipe for her homemade mustard so I could keep myself in the condiment to which I was accustomed.
.“It’s easy,” she said. “You just…”
.“Ahem,” interrupted her husband Rick. “That mustard is a secret family recipe, and you’re not family.”
I suppose if I’d had a son I could have betrothed him to one of Rick and Penny’s daughters — marriages have been arranged over lesser treasures. But alas, a mustard alliance between our two families was not to be. Blackmail was out of the question. A ransom note was impractical. I could hold them at knife point — but all I really wanted on my knife was Penny’s mustard.
“Okay,” I said, “but if you’re planning to go into business with that secret family recipe then do it quickly, because I have a habit to feed.”
As soon as I said that, I realized how spoiled I’d become. Grocery stores are better than drug dealers when it comes to instant gratification. Supermarkets have wiped out all semblance of the seasons and eliminated the act of longing from our food vocabulary. When we want it, we buy it. We think nothing of eating asparagus in winter and raspberries in spring. In fact, we’re upset if we can’t have them whenever the fancy strikes. Just imagine how much better those raspberries would taste if we awaited their natural season with the same giddy anticipation as a child awaiting Christmas or a special birthday gift. Would Penny’s mustard seem less special if I never ran out?
I decided to take the Zen approach, free my heart of longing and let desire melt away like Coleman’s mustard in a Welsh rarebit. I would treat all mustards with respect, appreciating their unique qualities, like Dijon in a homemade mayonnaise, or honey mustard on a baked ham, or warm potato salad with a grainy mustard vinaigrette. In this unjudgmental state, I might even revisit the bologna-and-yellow-mustard sandwich of my youth. At some enlightened moment, when I was least expecting it, Penny’s mustard to come to me. That was mustard karma."

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

It's Mushroom Heaven

We may be complaining about the cold, damp summer, but the mushrooms love it. To quote my mushroom man, Lorne Terry, of Whitefox: "We've had real miserable weather, so it's good."

The morels were good this year -- better then BC with its heat and fires -- attracting pickers and buyers from across the West.

Then the chanterelles came on strong. As long as the weather stays warm, not hot, with a mix of sunny and rainy days, Lorne says the mushrooms will continue to produce. Which means I'm in mushroom heaven, too!

Saturday, August 08, 2009

A summer favourite - PASTA NORMA

Rumor has it this Sicilian dish was named for Bellini's opera Norma, first performed in 1831, which tells the story of a tragic love affair between a Roman official and a Druid high priestess. It is to die for!

I only make it when I find eggplant at the farmers' market, thanks to Diane and Rick at the Goodlife Greenhouse.

1-2 eggplants
olive oil
2 cloves garlic
4-5 plum tomatoes
6 basil leaves, plus extra for garnish
salt and pepper
ricotta or parmesan cheese
pasta of your choice

Slice the eggplant in rounds. Coat each side with olive oil, place on a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and broil on the second level of the oven until soft and brown, turning to cook both sides.

Sauté garlic in 2 tbsp olive oil. Stir in chopped tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until tomatoes are softened, then stir in chopped basil. Simmer for 15 min. In the meantime, cook the pasta.

Cut each slice of eggplant into quareters. Add to the tomatoes. To serve, top a bowl of pasta with the tomato-eggplant mixture and sprinkle with cheese. Garnish with extra fresh basil, if you like.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Angel hair pasta for two or three
Dipping sauce (see below)
1/2 cup carrots, shaved with a vegetable peeler
1/2 cup English cucumber, cut in thin matchsticks
1/2 cup cabbage, thinly sliced
1 pound ground pork
1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced and chopped
2 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp fish sauce
Fresh cilantro for garnish, chopped

Dipping Sauce – Mix together:
1 large garlic, minced
1 hot pepper, chopped
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup fish sauce
1/2 cup red-wine vinegar
Cook pasta in salted water. Drain, rinse and cool. Make dipping sauce.

Boil two cups of water with a dash of salt. Drop in the cabbage and cook one minute. Add carrots and cucumber and cook another minute. Drain and cool in cold water. Add vegetables to the dipping sauce.

Mix together the ground meat, red onion, cilantro, sugar and fish sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Mix very well, until the meat begins to break down and get sticky. Form into ten patties. Cook patties until browned on both sides and cooked through. Add the warm patties to the dipping sauce and vegetables. Cool.

To serve, place the noodles on a platter. Scoop vegetables on top. Place meat patties around the sides. Pour on dipping sauce. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Newspaper column - Breakfast

Published in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix on 20 July 2009

You’ve all heard the advice: a healthy diet starts with a good breakfast. However, I contend that a healthy diet begins with a good Saskatchewan breakfast. So often when we talk about eating locally, we focus on the big meals—dinner with meat, veggies, salad and dessert. But it’s just as easy and just as fun to start each day with a taste of Saskatchewan.

A few years ago, my husband John and I decided to eat locally for a whole year. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. That year is up, but good habits are hard to break. We still stock our larder with locally-produced foods and breakfast is my favourite meal of the day.

This time of year, you may find me out early in the strawberry patch picking berries for a bowl of yogurt and homemade muesli. When the berries are this fresh and so delicious, breakfast is worth celebrating, so I often serve it in a martini glass. It looks as good as it tastes!

In the winter, I eat my muesli in a bowl with dried apples and cherries (that I dried myself) or with berries such as saskatoons and raspberries that I canned with a light honey syrup. Sometimes in winter, we get a warm start to the day with oatmeal porridge sweetened with honey or maple syrup.
Whether for porridge or muesli, I always try to buy a bag of oats that specifically states it is a product of Saskatchewan. My homemade muesli includes nuts and seeds (which aren’t necessarily from here), plus locally-grown flax and hemp seeds, mixed with canola oil and honey, then toasted in the oven. (I buy the flax at the Saskatoon Farmer’s Market; the hemp seeds come from The Good Seed farm at Birch Hills.)
Berry smoothies are also a great breakfast idea. We start with local Dairyland yogurt, add a banana, which isn’t local of course, and top it up with frozen blueberries, cranberries, saskatoons and/or strawberries, all locally picked, plus a dash of ground flax.
When we have a little extra time, or when company is coming, John heats up the griddle and makes wild blueberry pancakes. If I’m cooking, we might have clafoutis, a terrifically easy breakfast custard from France, where it’s traditionally made with cherries. I use a mix of Saskatchewan berries, including the local sour cherry.

Speaking of traditional, bacon and eggs in our house are always local. We get them at the farmers market, or, if we’re at a local meat shop, we pick up good Saskatchewan-made bacon and breakfast sausages. (Currently, our freezer is stocked with breakfast sausage from the Smokehaus in Martensville.)
As for toast and jam, it’s easy to be local. I make my own bread or buy it at a bakery such as Christie’s. My mom supplies the jam. While it might be hard to turn every breakfast into a local meal, here are some tips to get started:

1) Buy locally-made bacon and breakfast sausage. We have such good butchers in Saskatchewan, it’s easy to find quality products.
2) Pick extra strawberries, saskatoons and sour cherries this summer (available at u-picks) and freeze enough for a smoothie or clafoutis now and then. Wild blueberries may be found at the farmers market when they’re in season.
3) Reach labels and try to buy basic ingredients, such as eggs, oats, honey and flax, that are products of Saskatchewan.
Here's the recipe for my homemade muesli. And here's the clafoutis (pronounced cla-foo-tee), which will impress everyone at breakfast time, especially the cook!

Prairie Berry Clafoutis
2 tbsp butter
3 eggs
3 tbsp sugar
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups mixed Saskatchewan berries
(fresh or frozen)
1 tbsp flour

Heat the oven to 350F. In the oven, melt the butter in a cast iron skillet or large pie plate, making sure the butter doesn’t brown.
Put the eggs, sugar, milk, vanilla and salt into a blender and blend until smooth. With the blades running, gradually add 1 cup of flour and mix well. Remove the buttered pan from the oven and pour in the batter.
Toss the berries with the remaining tbsp of flour. Scatter the fruit over the top of the batter. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the centre of the custard is set. Serve warm, perhaps with a sprinkling of icing sugar.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Brad Wall likes chickpeas

Brad Wall has publically divulged his passion for chickpeas. And so he should, seeing as he hails from prime chickpea growing country. In the latest issue of PulsePoint magazine, the premier of Saskatchewan divulges his family's favourite chickpea recipe: Mediterranean Chickpea Salad. I made it and it's delicious (although, given the season, I substituted fresh herbs for dried). Read all about it here.

"Saskatchewan chickpeas are Number 1," declared the Premier (at least, that's what I think he was saying at the moment this image was shot).
The same issue of PulsePoint included an article about my love affair with pulses, including sample menues. You can read it here.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Chicken x 4 and counting

Here we are, the fourth meal from one big farm chicken. (Well, more than four if you count leftovers!) Today, I boiled the carcass with herbs and vegetables to make a nice chicken stock, which I used to make Mushroom Orzotto. Recipe here. There's more stock, so tune in for Meal #5.

Check out the other meals here:

Meal 1, Meal 2, Meal 3

The chicken is from a CSA operation (community supported agriculture) near Saskatoon: Susan 343-7990.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Strawberry martini for breakfast

In winter, I eat my breakfast muesli in an ordinary bowl with preserved local fruit (saskatoons, raspberries, rhubarb, etc.). But in summer, when the strawberries are just-picked and soooo delicious, breakfast is worth celebrating martini style!

Muesli recipe here.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Chicken x 4 and counting

Meal #3 with my lovely free-range 10 pound farm chicken: Blackened Chicken Breasts on Caesar Salad. Blackened chicken recipe here. Caesar salad recipe here.

Other meals here:
Meal 1
Meal 2
Meal 4

Friday, July 03, 2009

Hanson Buck Potato Head

Funny what you find while sprouting potatoes!

(For more on the the Hanson Buck, and a picture for compar- ison, see here.)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Chicken x 4 and counting

Here we are, night #2 with a 10 pound chicken. First night was Chicken Cacciatore. Tonight, I sauteed the liver with onions. See the other meals:

Sunday, June 28, 2009


This summer, I have good intentions of trying rhubarb in savoury dishes, but I still seem to be stuck on desserts, like this one. It's a matrimonal date cake without the dates -- rhubarb instead. The recipe is from "Mrs. Marr's Rhubarb Recipes," the cookbook of the historic Marr Residence in Saskatoon. Rhubarb is apropos for a pioneer house since it was one of the easiest, quickest, most versatile vegetables in the prairie garden. Be sure to check out the annual Rhubarb Festival at the Marr Residence on the August long weekend.

Nat's Rhubarb Dessert
8 cups rhubarb
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup tapioca (I used flour)
pinch salt

Crumb mixture:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups rolled oats (I used 2 cups)
1 1/2 cups brown sugar (I used 1 cup only)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup butter, melted

Mix the first four ingredients and let set for 1 hour. Mix remaining ingredients together until crumbly. Place half the crumbs in 9"x13" pan. Cover with rhubarb. Top with remaining crumbs. Bake at 350F for about 40 min., until the crumb is lightly browned.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Chicken x 4 and counting

I bought a lovely free-range chicken from Susan Chalmers' CSA at Furdale, outisde Saskatoon. A CSA is a farm/garden where consumers pay up-front for their food, which is delivered to them through the season as it becomes ready to eat. (CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.)

I'm totally hooked on old-fashioned run-around-the-farm chickens. They've got so much more flavour and good chicken fat than factory-farm birds, which makes them, in my opinion, much better for stews and soups. The chicken breasts were thick and juicy without the addition of water, which is often pressed into grocery store chicken meat.

Here's what Susan says about her chickens: "I'm so glad you liked them. They were a huge undertaking, but I am so glad I did them. It was good for my kids to see the process of raising them to table (as well as for me), and I feel good in the fact that they were able to lead a "normal" chicken life (albeit not a long one)." If you're interested in Susan's CSA, you can call her at 343-7990.

It's a big chicken -- more than two people could eat at one sitting -- so I've stretched it into several meals, the first of which was Chicken Cacciatore. I cut the meat off the bones, saving the breast, liver and carcass for another day.

Friday, June 26, 2009

It was a shock to learn of the sudden death of Paul Beingessner in a farm accident this week. I met Paul last summer in Regina when we sat side-by-side on a panel discussion of sustainable local food production. He was a passionate and innovative activist for the rural way of life. His death at 55 reminds us the end may come at any moment, and if we are to leave our mark on the planet, we must start now. Paul's work was not done, but I do hope others will fill the void and speak as loudly and passionately as he has done. Read the newspaper acticle here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Souleio opens its doors

Souleio, Saskatoon's newest bistro, opened this week at 265 3rd Ave. S. It's a funky cafe, take-away, grocery, deli and bakery, all within a restored heritage building. With its high ceiling and bistro tables, it's remniscent of the early 19th century cafes of Paris and Vienna.

Co-owners, Janis and Remi Cousyn (of Calories Restaurant) have a passion for local, regional and artisinal food, and they've stocked plenty of items you won't find in other stores or cafes in the city.

Hours are 7 am to 7 pm, with groups renting space for private functions in the evening. Click here for the Souleio website.

Monday, June 22, 2009

It's morel season - MOREL & TOMATO PASTA

Aren't they lovely! They were picked up at Jan Lake, Saskatchewan, and shipped to me on the STC bus. I kept what I needed and resold the rest to my friends (at $10 a pound).

Morel and Tomato Pasta
First, I made a rue: Melt 1 tbsp butter in a pot on low. When melted, quickly stir in 1/4 cup flour. Stir until all the liquid is absorbed by the butter. Add 1 cup milk and whisk vigorously until the flour/butter mixture dissolves in the liquid, with no lumps. (You really do need a whisk; a spoon won't do it.)

Keep warm on a low burner, stirring now and then to prevent sticking. It will thicken. Add more milk, whisking well to incorporate. If the sauce becomes too thick, add more milk until you have a desired consistency. Season with salt.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain the pasta.

Melt 1 tbsp butted in the pasta pot. Add a handful of chopped morels. Saute until soft. Add two tomatoes, chopped. Cook until they get soft and juicy. Stir in 1/2 tsp dried thyme. When the mushrooms and tomatoes are gently cooked, stir the mixture into the rou. Heat through. Taste and add more salt if needed.

Place the cooked pasta back into the pot and heat, stirring now and then, until the pasta is hot again. Scoop noodles into a bowl and top with morel sauce. Like many pasta sauces, this one is even better the next day!

Monday, June 15, 2009


Published in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix on 15 June, 2009

I love “free” food. By free, I don’t mean no money down. I am referring to food that grows locally, year after year, with no help from human hands. Last month, I wrote about rhubarb, that favourite perennial vegetable that grows so prolifically on the prairies. Rhubarb is a “free” food because it comes back every year with no fuss and bother. Once it’s in the ground, it’s unstoppable.
This month, I’d like to pay homage to two other “free” vegetables that come up from one year to the next with no human intervention—asparagus and fiddleheads. In my garden, rhubarb really is free, but asparagus and fiddleheads are two “free” foods for which I am willing to pay, not having a source of my own.

Fiddleheads are the small tight curls of wild baby ferns before they unfurl in the spring. The name, I am told, refers to the decorative scroll at the end of a fiddle, which it resembles. Two weeks ago, I received a shipment of fiddleheads on the bus at $8 a pound. Not exactly free to me, but free for the picking to anyone inclined to go out in nature and get them. In this case, it was the folks at White Fox Gold, from an area north of Nipawin.
Given the distance, it is considerably cheaper for me to buy these “free” fiddleheads than to go out and pick them myself.
When I arrived at the bus station to pick up my fiddleheads, I discovered a dozen boxes on their way to various restaurants in Saskatoon, so it’s apparent that many local folks have been able to enjoy this “free” spring vegetable, too. Another favourite “free” spring food is asparagus. Once you plant asparagus, and get the bed going, there’s not much left to do but reap the harvest year after year. I don’t have my own asparagus patch, so I buy it at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market. I saw fiddleheads for sale at the market, too.

One of my favourite “free” foods is the wild saskatoon berry. In fact, I love just about any “free” fruit. Last year, my friend Marlene knocked on a stranger’s door and asked if she could pick his plums, which she could see hanging thick in his back yard. He graciously invited her, and therefore me, to help ourselves. Later in the summer, I may go out and pick wild morel and chanterelle mushrooms. Or, I may opt to buy them. Whether I decide to pay for the gas, or pay for the mushrooms, I am excited about the prospect of procuring these “free” summer foods. I’m a big proponent of eating locally, which for me, includes the “free” food that Mother Nature so generously offers. All the better when it really is free.

Incidentally, the historic Marr Residence in Saskatoon holds a Rhubarb Festival on the long weekend of August (Sun. & Mon.), so we can all pay homage to this hardy “free” food planted by the pioneers. You’ll find more Saskatchewan summer food festivals listed here.

This pasta recipe is made with fresh vegetables as they become available in season (primavera is Italian for first green), also made with asparagus, peas, zucchini, red pepper, eggplant, broccoli, etc. In this version, I precooked the fiddleheads because it is recommended to neutralize the bitterness and mild toxins in raw fiddleheads.

Pasta Primavera
12 fiddleheads
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 chopped onion
2 chopped garlic cloves
12 asparagus, chopped
2 medium carrots, shaved with a vegetable peeler
2 large ripe tomatoes
1 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
1 tbsp fresh chopped basil
salt and pepper to taste
500g bowtie pasta

Bring a pot of lightly salted water to boil. Add the fiddleheads and cook five minutes. Drain.
Melt butter with 1/4 cup olive oil on medium heat. Add onions and garlic. Sauté, stirring, until soft. Add the fiddleheads, asparagus and carrots (or other vegetables of the season). Cook until vegetables are tender.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta cooking water.
Season vegetables with salt and pepper to taste. Add cooked pasta along with the tomatoes, herbs, pasta water and 1/4 cup olive oil. Toss and heat until tomatoes are soft. Serve hot straight from the pot.