New Canadian Cookbooks: Eat Alberta First

To kick off a new series on modern Canadian cookbooks, I’m pleased to present Alberta writer Karen Anderson’s latest book, Eat Alberta First: A Year of Local Recipes from Where the Wilderness Meets the Mountains.

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Full disclosure: Karen is a longtime friend, locavore food buddy, slow food tip and all-time cool woman. She is the co-author of two award-winning books on food and cooking, A spicy touch: Family favorites from Noorbanu Nimji’s kitchen (Co-authored with the late Nurbanu Nimji) and Alberta’s Food Artisans: Your Guide to the Best Homemade Prices (Co-authored with Matilda Sanchez Torre).

Karen is a first class entrepreneur and entrepreneur. She blogs and writes about food, owns and operates a thriving culinary tourism business and leads foodie tours across Alberta and India. She worked as a nurse before being called into the culinary world.

Introducing her readers to those who grow our grub and cook is Karen’s way of showing her concern for the planet and the wellness of the inhabitants, in her own quietly humble way. She’s also an enthusiastic home cook and a tester of detail-oriented recipes, a skill developed while working with Noorbanu Nimji.

Eat Alberta first It is more than just a cookbook. Karen’s engaging voice connects the reader to Alberta people, places, and ingredients, as well as recipes. This makes up the bulk of the book, and is arranged in a year-long chronology of six sections reflecting the quirks of the county’s weather.

Karen has tapped some of the county’s best cooks and chefs for the recipes as well as including some of her own. I can attest to the yum factor in the sourdough recipes she’s made using “Hermione,” her sweet starter, all of which she cooked in my home kitchen when they first appeared on her blog during the pandemic.

The photography is handsome yet exquisitely overshadowed by images of ranchers in their natural environment and the scenic Alberta landscape.

For anyone who has a wedding or family celebration in the near future, the cost of the book can be easily recouped in the well-designed Celebrations section. Karen’s love of lists and her organizational acumen is evident in the “Top 10 Party Planning, Cooking, and Hosting Festive Party List” that begins this section.

Also impressive are its instructions on how to “build your own charcuterie board in 10 easy steps,” complete with a picture of a gorgeous board you can put together. This section also notes the large Ukrainian population in the province and the influx of pan-Asian expatriates, then moves on to the festive dishes for seasonal and religious occasions – Lunar New Year, Easter, Easter, Diwali and Eid.

The appendix, “Alberta’s Artisan Food,” is a treasure trove for the best the province has to offer. As an Alberta and Lucavor expat, I was thrilled to see so many new Alberta farmers, producers and artisans among the welcome familiar names.

This, folks, is how we feed the multitudes, with what Karen calls “good old fashioned home cooking” driven by a fundamental belief in the vital importance of sharing what grows close to home. So we eat first, starting with locally grown foods.

Morel mushroom cheese spread

This fungus spreads from Eat Alberta first Delicious on toasted naan wedges, sourdough bread slices, crackers and toast.

Or it can be used to up your game—spread between layers of sheet noodles in lasagna; thin with a little broth or cream and topped with pappardelle noodles and perhaps a few seasonal vegetables; toss in béchamel sauce and scrambled eggs for a delicious soufflé; Spread on a sheet of pizza dough, sprinkle with homemade goodness, and call it a flatbread. Eat Alberta first Author Karen Anderson suggests serving it over fries, steak, a burger, or a bar.

I didn’t have more, so I used sauteed Saskatchewan chanterelles from the freezer and rosemary from the pot on the sunroom window. Serves 8-12.

  • 1 cup dried morel, mixed wild mushrooms, or frozen chanterelles
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 2 tablespoons of butter or olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion or 4 green onions, chopped
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1/2 pound cream cheese, boursin cheese, goat cheese or vegan cheese spread
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Chopped fresh herbs to taste

Hydrate dried mushrooms in hot water until tender, bring to a simmer if necessary, then drain well, reserving the water. If you are using frozen mushrooms, thaw them.

Heat the butter or oil in a frying pan. Add onions and sauté over medium heat until softened, then add garlic and saute briefly. Add mushrooms and cook until dry and golden. Add the reserved soaking water and reduce to a glaze. Remove from heat and cool.

Stir together mushrooms and all remaining ingredients, reserving some chopped herbs for garnish if desired. Place it in a bowl lined with plastic. Refrigerate for at least four hours. Turn it over onto a plate and serve.

Morel mushroom cheese spread with toasted naan flakes.

Courtesy Dee Hobsbaun Smith

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