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.