Saturday, February 4, 2012

Eat Well - Year-Round - at the Saskatoon Farmers' Market

Do you only visit the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market in the summer when the Market Square is overflowing with fresh vegetables? Maybe you think there isn’t much worth buying in the winter, but you’d be wrong.

Saskatoon’s chefs know better – they shop at the Market all year round.

Chef Anthony McCarthy
I was one of the lucky guests at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market’s first Executive Chef Dinner in January. Chef Anthony McCarthy, winner of the 2011 Saskatchewan Gold Medal Plates, prepared a delicious five-course meal with products he had purchased at the Market.

It was such a delight to see the variety of local products he used in his recipes and to realize that I could employ many of the same products and techniques at home.

Local Vegetables
This is the first year of operations for Floating Gardens’ year-round greenhouse, and it’s been such a treat to be able to buy fresh greens (sorrel, spinach, basil, Chinese chrysanthemum), tomatoes and other fresh produce even in the winter.

Chef Anthony served a roasted carrot soup that was garnished with thin strips of sorrel and a dollop of ginger yogurt. Sorrel has a light lemony flavour, adding a fresh, spring-like touch to the dish, and it would be so simple to replicate at home. And isn’t it great that we can buy locally-made yogurt from Hounjet Orchard?

The appetizer was served on a base of fresh pea shoots (Wally’s Urban Market Garden) tossed with citrus hemp dressing and hemp hearts (Hestia Organics). More fresh vegetables, even in the middle of winter.

Carrots, potatoes, and other root vegetables are available almost all year round from a variety of vendors (Geo. Simpkins Market Gardens, Living Soil Farms). There are so many different ways to prepare them – from soups to stews to cakes. Chef Anthony had roasted them, and they tasted really sweet, so I thought I’d try adding some Saskatchewan honey or maple syrup next time I roasted vegetables.

Local Grains and Pulses
The main course featured wild boar and beef, both of which are sold at the Market. But I was perfectly content with the lentil risotto and another diner told me that it was the best part of the entrée. I was inspired and immediately went home and prepared a gourmet lentil dish with cream and wild mushrooms soaked in red wine.

If you are more comfortable following a recipe, there are plenty available on the Hestia Organics website – Demeter’s Cilantro Lime Wheat Grain Salad, Honey Red Lentil Bake, Beluga Lentil Hummus, and Red Lentil Curry. Living Soil Farms has recipes for Spicy Dal and Carrot Soup as well as Cheesy Lentil Spread.

Gourmet Touches
There are plenty of Market products that will help you add a gourmet touch to your meal. Chef Anthony used Costa Rican lemon-infused pepper from Orchard del Sol and Red Clover Blossom syrup from Bedard Creek Acres (I think it’s available in the Little Market Store).

Chef Anthony added an intriguing touch of molecular gastronomy to the salad with powdered cold-pressed canola oil (“There’s no need for olive oil when you have excellent local oils,” Chef Anthony proclaimed). I found a recipe for olive oil powder online, so you can make this at home as well.

The dessert trio included sea buckthorn gelato; chocolate pâté; and wild blueberry, haskap and black currant compote. You could make the compote yourself from fruit you’ve bought at the Market – or you could keep it simple and purchase the sea buckthorn gelato ready-made from Northern Vigor Berries – that would definitely be my solution.

Upcoming Executive Chef Dinners
Dinner at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market is fun. The Agrium Kitchen is open so that you can keep an eye on the activity, and the chef introduces each dish. It would be really fun to come with a group of friends or co-workers and to spend a leisurely evening chatting as you sample the excellent local food.

The next Executive Chef Dinner is on Thursday, February 16 and will be prepared by Chef Brent Lloyd. The menu includes Goat Cheese Crostini with Honey Caviar, Roasted Apple and Parsnip Soup finished with Apple Cider Foam, Wild Boar Pot Stickers, Lingonberry Braised Beef Short Ribs on Truffled Polenta, and Warm Dark Chocolate Cake with Honey/Green Tea Ice Cream.

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