Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Corn, Pumpkins & Blueberries: A Market Celebration of Local Abundance

From Shield to Field Dinner with Chef Jenni, Saskatoon Farmers’ Market, September 20, 2014

As Saskatoon Farmers’ Market Chef in Residence, Jenni Willems has an opportunity to share her enjoyment of local food with fellow enthusiasts. In addition to Cook and Learn sessions at the Night Markets, Jenni will be preparing four seasonal meals to coincide with the solstice.

“There’s something special about having a meal in the place the food was sourced,” Jenni says. “It’s a different vibe to be right in the Market and to celebrate that space. You can feel the camaraderie as diners enjoy the fruits of a lot of people’s labours.”

Jenni’s appreciation for local and foraged food dates back to her childhood. “When I was six months old, my parents set me in a clearing in the woods and let me pick the blueberries all around me,” she says. “We left my baby bottle behind and were never able to recover it, so my family likes to believe that a mama bear took it to feed her baby.”

The solstice is a timely opportunity to reflect on the season that has past as well as the season ahead. Although Jenni has prepared a tentative menu, it’s still a work in progress and diners can expect a few wild cards.

But you can be guaranteed that there will be pumpkin on the menu. “Pumpkin is one of my favorite vegetables. I love the colour, the smell, and the sound when you cut into it,” Jenni says. She will also be taking advantage of the last of the fresh herbs, so you can expect touches of dill, thyme and nasturtium flowers.

“I like to under-promise and over-deliver,” Jenni says. One of the highlights of any meal she prepares is her creative, quirky touches. You may be familiar with adding beets to chocolate cake, but there will be chunks of beet in the chocolate cookies. Jenni is also musing about a tarragon corn sweet at the close of the meal, and the appetizer will be served in a corn husk.

When asked what dishes will be the most challenging to prepare, Jenni has to pause and consider: “I never think about difficulty until I start making the food. The stuffed green tomato could be tricky. It should be al dente, not mushy, but you want to make sure it’s sweetened a bit. The corn dessert could be a little tricky as well.”

One of the highlights of the market dinners is watching the chef assemble the food and talk about it. Jenni says that she will also be sending the recipes home with the diners.

If you love good local food, enjoy surprises and support the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market, be sure to attend the From Shield to Field Dinner on September 20. Chef Jenni will accommodate special dietary needs as long as she has received advance notification.

My thanks to the Saskatoon Farmers' Market for inviting me to attend the Spring Solstice Supper as their guest.

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