The Canadian Food Experience Project (May, 2014)
The Canadian Food Experience Project began June 7, 2013. As we, the participants, share our collective stories across the vastness of our Canadian landscape through our regional food experiences, we hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity through the cadence of our concerted Canadian voice. Please join us. This month’s topic is: The Canadian Garden
Gardening in Zone 3, Northern Alberta
You have to be an optimist to garden in northern Alberta.
This is what our yard looked like this weekend:
Nice, huh? It’s only the beginning of May, though, so why should I be expecting more? Sunshine, green grass, unfurling buds, cheerful blossoms? That’s all for those lucky souls gardening south of us, or in coastal Canadian climes.
. . . and we intrepid gardeners on the Canadian prairies? We buy our seeds, wash out our gardening gloves, haul the box of garden tools out from under the sleds and toboggans in the garage, clean the wet leaves out of the wheelbarrow, pour over the weather forecasts, and sit and impatiently twiddle our green thumbs.
We fervently hope that this might really be the last snowfall of the season, and that the nights will warm up enough to start melting that frozen winter soil. We can’t concentrate on things we should be doing indoors, since all we can do is walk from window to window, waiting to get out to the garden again. (I speak for myself here – since that’s the excuse I use for my lack of interest in housework at this time of year.)
This is where being an optimist comes in. I know spring will eventually have to happen. It always does.
And when it does, it comes in a glorious wave. Here in the Edmonton area, spring and fall are spectacular – compressing all the thrills of a full season into a two-week period. No kidding – we can go from freezing winter, snow, and mud to fully-opened leaves on the trees, birds singing, flowers blooming and green growth busting out everywhere in such a short time.
Which is why we gardeners have to be ready. The snow may still be swirling about, but I could be planting my garden next week.
The lovage could be knee-high and the sorrel ready to jump into the soup pot. I’m flexing my (green) thumb muscles in preparation.
Things start to happen pretty quickly in the garden after that . . .
Strawberries will be ripe soon.
We mulch our garden with grass clippings. It works wonders to keep the weeds down and means we don’t have to water.
Zucchini, flowers, herbs – the garden produces a bounty we can hardly keep up with.
The busy gardening summer flies by.
. . . and then it’s already time to harvest. Apples,
There are wheelbarrows of weeds to bring to the compost pile . . . .
And then it’s time to put the garden to bed for the winter again!
But I don’t want to think of that yet – my mind is on spring, and those wonderful fresh spring tastes – like the first green peas, and the fragrant mint that pops up everywhere.
The beauty of this light, flavourful minted green pea hummus is that it makes a lot, but that is a delicious and time-saving bonus. This is one recipe that can be served three handy, dandy ways:
1. Enjoy it as a fresh and tasty dip with corn chips, pita triangles or fresh vegetables. Wonderful as an appetizer before a spring barbecue meal. Your guests will rave about it.
2. Slather the leftover hummus onto lightly toasted bread and top it with a wide variety of yummy ingredients to make lovely and elegant luncheon tartines (a fancy French word for open-faced sandwiches). Let your inner artist shine and make colourful still-lifes that are almost too pretty to eat.
3. Thin the leftover green pea hummus with a bit of stock, add some plump shrimp or ham, and toss it with pasta for a quick and absolutely divine dinner.
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Minted Green Pea Hummus
- 3 cups (450gms) fresh or frozen sweet young peas (sweetlets or petits pois)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3 tablespoons (40gms) tahini paste
- grated zest of one lemon
- ¼ cup (60ml) fresh lemon juice
- ¼ cup (20gms) tightly packed mint leaves
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
If using fresh peas, blanch them in boiling water for 1 minute, then drain them and put them quickly into ice water to keep their colour. If using frozen peas, place them in a strainer under cold running water until they are thawed, about 1 minute. Drain well.
Place the drained peas and all the other ingredients in a food processor and whiz until almost smooth, but with a bit of texture remaining.
Garnish with a few peas and a mint sprig. Serve with tortilla chips, toasted pita triangles, or fresh vegetable sticks for dipping.
Makes about 2½ cups.
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Use the leftovers to make:
Green Pea Tartines
leftover green pea hummus
rustic bread slices, gluten-free if necessary, lightly toasted
toppings such as: sliced boiled eggs, smoked salmon, ham, cucumber slices, thinly sliced radishes
garnishes such as: chopped or thinly sliced red onion, crumbled feta cheese, mint leaves, dill sprigs, cooked peas, freshly ground pepper, sliced pickled peppers, strips of red or yellow peppers,
Let your imagination go wild! Anything tastes great on top of that delectable green pea hummus.
* * * * *
Kitchen Frau Notes: About 2 cups of diced ham would make a nice substitute for the shrimp. Just don’t salt the water for the pasta then.
A sprinkle of crumbled feta cheese makes a tasty garnish if using the shrimp (would be too salty on top of the ham.)
Green Pea Pasta and Shrimp
- 1 lb (454gms) spiral shaped pasta – gluten free if necessary
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion
- 1 lb (450gms) fresh or frozen shrimp, raw or precooked
- ½ cup fresh or frozen small sweet peas
- 1 cup (240ml) chicken stock
- 1 to 1½ cups (240-360ml) leftover green pea hummus
Cook the pasta in lightly salted water, according to package directions, until al dente.
Meanwhile, chop the onion and saute it in the olive oil until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the shrimp. Cook until it is just pink (about 5 minutes) if raw, or until heated through, if it is pre-cooked. If the peas are fresh, add them with the shrimp, if they are frozen, add them with the chicken stock.
Add the chicken stock and green pea hummus, bring just to a boil, and toss quickly with the drained cooked pasta.
Garnish with chopped fresh mint, if desired.