How are you going to keep yourself down on the farm?
As luck would have it, an opportunity to visit a working farm comes this weekend. The second annual Open Farm Day on Sunday, Sept. 18 gives you a chance to visit one (or more) of over 40 farms across Manitoba as they open their gates for visitors for the day.
Lesley Gaudry, economic development officer for the Rural Municipality of De Salaberry, shares some ideas to share on how to go about getting about.
"Open Farm Day is for people who are just curious about what life on the farm is like, or if they are more specific and interested in a particular type of agriculture, they can go visit a dairy farm or a bison farm. It's wide open and there are different sectors of agriculture," she says. "And it gives farmers a chance to show how dedicated they are to their industry and gives them a chance to showcase their product."
Gaudry recommends reading the guide (see the sidebar for details) and picking a region to visit a "cluster" of farms so that you can get to as many as possible. Dress for the weather, and wear closed toe shoes.
You're bound to be feeling peckish after being on the farm, so you might want to check out one of two special dinners being offered (see box at left for details).
One of the dinners is being held at the Arborg Multicultural Village and the farm fresh meals are being prepared by chef Karen Nielson, proprietor of the Fat Cat Bistro, just north of Gimli.
Nielson is a proud prairie chef who believes in the power of community support. And that is the key to her food philosophy. She acquired the restaurant she calls the Fat Cat Bistro just over a year ago in the community where her mother grew up and her parents have since retired. She had an instant community of friends and relatives who have supported the FCB since day one.
She was just getting into exploring Manitoba regional cuisine. She wanted to prepare food that was close to home.
"Eating natural foods is better for you. You know where the food is coming from when you know the producers," she says. "It gives me more confidence when I can walk down a path through a garden and see the potatoes growing."
The same goes for locally produced meats.
"You know how the producers are raising the animals and it makes a difference in the quality of the food."
Nielson is committed to her local producers and she frequents the Arnes Farmers' Market.
"It helps with economic development if I patronize the stores like Polson's Meats and Tip Top Meats and give the people that are close to me the business. I get better service, I get fresher food and the result is on the plates," she says. "Everyone I meet in this area is passionate about what they do."
Warmth and friendliness are key at the Fat Cat Bistro, which contains some of the furnishings from the house that Nielson sold so she could buy the restaurant. The food is delicious and fresh and the service is friendly.
"My whole vision here is a natural setting with good homemade fresh food," says Nielson.
Her sense of community made her a natural choice to chef the Open Farm Day dinner at the Arborg Multicultural Heritage Village (see details in sidebar). And she is excited to be serving up natural pork, trout, Integrity Bread and Stonewood Elk. The vegetables will come from local farmers, and many other local producers will be supplying foods, as well.
If you'd like to visit the Fat Cat Bistro, go to www.fatcatbistro.ca where you'll find photos, hours, menu information and a map. Reservations are recommended, especially if you are driving out from the city, and you can call at 204-642-5515.
See two recipes from chef Karen Nielson of the Fat Cat Bistro below.
Harvest moon vegetable soup
250 ml (1 cup) peeled and diced carrots
250 ml (1 cup) peeled and diced parsnips
1/2 small butternut or acorn squash peeled, cored and diced
2 sticks of celery, diced
2 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic (whole)
60 ml (1/4 cup) canola oil
1.5 litres (6 cups) chicken stock
250 ml (1 cup) whipping cream
5 ml (1 tsp) freshly grated ginger or 2 ml (1/2 tsp) ground dry ginger
1 ml (1/4 tsp) ground sage or sprig of fresh sage from the garden
15 ml (1 tbsp) sugar
salt & pepper to taste
sour cream, if desired, for garnish
Preheat oven to 205C (400F).
In a large bowl, toss all of the diced vegetables, sugar and garlic in the canola oil, season lightly with salt and pepper.
Generously coat vegetables with oil and roast on a baking sheet until tender and lightly caramelized.
Remove vegetables from oven and place in a large stock pot or soup kettle. Add chicken stock or vegetable stock and bring to a boil.
Turn down heat, add sage leaves or ground sage and simmer for 1/2 hour on low. If using fresh sage, remove sage leaves at this point.
Add ginger and cream and puree with hand blender or in a food processor
Garnish soup with fresh sage leaves and a spoonful of sour cream.
Makes approximately 1.5 litres.
Oatmeal crusted rainbow trout with raspberry butter sauce
4 boneless fillets of rainbow trout (approx. 150 g/5-6 oz each )
60 ml (4 tbsp) oatmeal
15 ml (1 tbsp) fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
15 ml (1 tbsp) fresh tarragon stemmed removed
2 ml (1/2 tsp) lemon zest
30 ml (2 tbsp) canola oil
salt & pepper to taste
Place herbs, lemon zest and oatmeal in blender or food processor until herbs are well chopped and bright green crumbs are created. This might take a few pulses in the blender to create an evenly blended crumb mixture.
Egg-wash trout fillets on flesh side and press into the crumb mixture, coating the one side generously with crumbs.
Sear in medium pan with canola oil, crust side down. Cook until breading starts to brown and fish is half cooked.
Gently turn fillets over and continue to cook another 2 minutes or until fillets are cooked through. Place fillets on sautéed greens and drizzle with sauce.
Garnish the plate with fresh raspberries and herbs.
250 ml (1/2 pint) fresh raspberries
45 ml (3 tbsp) cold butter, cut in small cubes
5 ml (1 tsp) minced shallot
30 ml (2 tbsp) port wine
1 ml (1/4 tsp) lemon juice
1/2 tsp (2 ml) white pepper
On medium low temperature, simmer the raspberries and shallots in a small sauce pan with the wine and lemon juice until the liquid is reduced by 75% or until almost dry (au sec).
Remove pan from heat, and swirl in the butter cubes until a creamy pink sauce is formed. Season with salt and white pepper.
Strain sauce through a fine screen and drizzle over fish.
Serve trout on a bed of sautéed baby beet greens, spinach, or Swiss chard. Makes 4 servings.