Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Soups of Summer

It's a warm and breezy summer day, bees buzzing in the garden and zucchini growing before my very eyes. I'm inspired to go into the kitchen and make… soup.

Who says soup is cold weather food? There's no better time to make soup than when the ingredients are at their prime.

One of my favourite summer soups is minestrone. The Italian recipe Bible The Silver Spoon lists ten versions of minestrone, including Minestrone alla Russa made with beets. (Read more in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix)

My version includes vegetables now in season in and around Saskatoon, either from my own garden or from the farmers' market. Have fun making it your own!

Minestrone alla Saskatchewan in July
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3-4 small zucchini
Bunch of baby carrots
Handful of green beans
Handful of edible pod peas
Bunch of baby spinach and chard
1/4 cup herbs: parsley, rosemary, oregano, thyme, basil
6 Roma-style tomatoes
2 cups cooked white beans
Salt and pepper
6 cups chicken broth (or water)
2 cups short pasta, cooked

Heat oil in a soup pot. Sauté onions and garlic until soft. Meanwhile, cut zucchini and carrots into rounds or half rounds, depending on their size. Chop green beans, peas, spinach and chard into bite-sized chunks. Add these vegetables to the pot.
Finely chop a mix of herbs, tasting it to ensure a pleasing balance. (Don't let the parsley overwhelm!) Stir the herbs into pot. Chop the tomatoes and add them with the beans. Season with 1 tsp salt and many grinds of pepper.
Cook until the vegetables and herbs are warm and fragrant. Add the broth and simmer for 20 minutes. Taste and add more seasoning as needed.
To serve, place cooked noodles (I used little bowties) in each soup bowl and pour on the hot soup. It's quite Italian to sprinkle on a bit of Parmesan cheese.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

More zucchini flowers to eat!

As you may know, zucchini flowers are one of the culinary highlights of my summer. My friend Darlene, who summers in the Bordeaux region of France, inspired me to try them this way:

Make a stuffing of ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, chopped basil, bread crumbs and a dash of salt. Scoop a bit into each flower and twist the petals to seal. Froth one egg with a fork. Roll the flowers in the egg wash then coat lightly with flour seasoned with a bit more salt. Fry in hot vegetable oil. Eat warm, like a summer day.

I like this method better than battering the flowers, which is how I've done it in the past. Also, the addition of ricotta cheese made a creamier filling. I'm ready to try this again - thank goodness there's no shortage of zucchini flowers!

Additional note: I made these for a friend who cannot eat gluten -- left out the bread crumbs and rolled them in chickpea flour before frying.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Surprise - Our Ethnic Heritage

If you asked me which ethnic origin is most prominent in Saskatchewan, I would have said English followed by Ukrainian. Wrong on both accounts! While researching recipes associated with immigrants to Saskatchewan, I was surprised to learn that German is the most common self-identified ethnic heritage. I suppose I should have known that, since I fall into this group!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Basil Cubes

Garden processing has begun! Today's task: make ice cubes with basil and olive oil. Next: dry oregano.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Deep Fried Zucchini Flowers

I love eating flowers. Just the idea of it makes me smile. I especially love eating flowers that have a tiny baby zucchini attached!

Zucchini flowers are just the right size for a filling of: fresh bread crumbs, parmesan cheese and chopped basil. Twist the flower ends to hold in the filling. Roll the flowers through a batter of: chickpea flour, baking soda, water and salt. Fry in hot vegetable oil until brown on both sides. Remove to paper towel and sprinkle with a bit of salt. Eat warm and smile. :)

The great thing about zucchini is they're always making more flowers!

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Canadian Food Project - A Regional Food

Saskatchewan is known as the breadbasket of Canada. It is not known as the lentil basket of Canada – but it should be!
Saskatchewan is now the world’s largest producer of lentils. One reason for this advance is the agronomics of pulse crops (a category including lentils, chickpeas and split peas).

These plants add nitrogen to the soil, which is an essential plant nutrient. Farmers who plant pulse crops one year will use less synthetic fertilizer the following year. This is a big cost saving and good for the soil. (Also essential in crop rotation for organic farmers.) Add to that, there is a growing world market for these foods – every day, in countries from India to Spain to Columbia – families sit down to a meal of lentils grown in Saskatchewan.
The sad fact is, people in Saskatchewan don’t eat them! Well, not nearly enough. Sure they might throw a handful into a pot of soup, but very little of the lentils grown in Saskatchewan are eaten close to home. That is changing as home cooks begin to experiment with new recipes and their families come to love them.
One of my favourite ways with lentils is to sprout them. Especially in winter, sprouted lentils provide a nutritious “green” for salads and sandwiches at a time when fresh local greens are in short supply. (As local as your window sill!) You’ll find easy sprouting instructions on my food blog Home For Dinner.
Lentil Sprout Wrap
2 tsp minced onion
2 tbs mayonnaise
1 tbs plain yogurt
1/4 tsp each ground cumin and coriander
dash of salt and a few grinds of pepper
3 hard cooked eggs, chopped
1 cup lentil sprouts
Chopped lettuce (optional)
4 whole wheat wraps

Mix everything together except the lentil sprouts and lettuce. Gently stir in the sprouts. Roll in whole wheat wraps with lettuce, if using.

This is my second post in the Canadian Food Experience Project in which participants across the country share stories of our unique food experiences. 

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Garden Potluck - Herb Biscuits

Potlucks are my favourite meals. Tonight's potluck is a prime illustration why. We had a wonderful meal at the City Park Community Garden. Many folks brought dishes that included some garden produce, like these biscuits contributed by yours truly.

Herb Biscuits
Word of advice: go light on the dill or it will overtake these biscuits.

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup finely chopped herbs (dill, parsley, cilantro, basil, tarragon)
5 tbs cold butter
3/4 cup buttermilk

Stir together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and herbs. Add the butter in small chunks. Work the butter into the flour with a pastry cutter then switch to your fingers. Work the butter quickly between your fingers to break up the "pebbles" and work it evenly into the flour.
Pour in the buttermilk and quickly stir, then switch to your fingers to work the dough into a rough ball. Knead on a floured counter into a smooth ball. Work quickly so as not to warm the butter or overwork the dough. Let the dough rest one minute.

Roll the dough with a rolling pin to about 1/2 inch thick. Cut biscuits with a cooker cutter. I used a 2 inch cookie cutter for bite-sized biscuits. Bake at 375F until lightly browned, about 12-15 minutes.
The spread!
A railway embankment and a colourful mural are the backdrop of the City Park Community Garden in Saskatoon.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Quinoa Tabouleh Salad

Mint and parsley are growing in my garden in copious amounts, which is just what you need for tabouleh. It's traditionally made with bulghur (cracked wheat) but is also good with quinoa. This is a great option for those avoiding wheat gluten and also makes this an almost totally Saskatchewan salad.

Quinoa is a seed high in protein, iron, magnesium, B vitamins and fibre. Originally grown by the Incas in the Andes of South America, it grows quite well in Saskatchewan, too.

Quinoa Tabouleh
Don't worry about exact amounts. This salad is what you make it!
1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
1 tbsp finely chopped red onion
(spring green onions are good, too)
1 cup chopped parsley
1 cup chopped mint
2 large chopped tomatoes
Juice of one lemon, two if you like it tart
A few glugs of camelina oil
(olive oil is traditional but camelina is local)
Salt to your liking

Mix it all. Make ahead to give the flavours time to mix and mingle.

Sources: my own mint and parsley. Farmers' market tomatoes. NorQuin quinoa. Three Farmers camelina oil.

Buttered Eggs

The herbs in my garden are perfectly abundant. This recipe won't make much of a dent in the herb proliferation, but the herbs do make the dish!

Buttered Eggs
4 large eggs
salt and pepper
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp cream or half-and-half
1 tbsp mix of parsley, tarragon and thyme, finely chopped

Scramble the eggs lightly and season with salt and pepper. Melt the butter in a frying pan on medium low heat. Pour in the eggs. Cook the eggs slowly, lifting and stirring with a spatula, until they are just cooked. (The liquid will be set but the eggs will still be quite moist.) Remove from the heat. Stir in the cream and herbs. Tip the eggs into a serving dish and set aside to cool. Spread the buttered eggs on rye bread or toasted baguette.

Sources: herbs from my garden; eggs from the farmers' market, Dairyland creamer (made with Saskatchewan milk); Red Fife flour (for the homemade baguettes) from the Loiselle farm.