Savory Summer Salad

After a long winter of imported vegetables we are starting to see local produce arrive in our supermarkets.  My daily go-to is an independent grocer called Battaglia’s.  It’s one of those rare grocers that still sits in the middle of a neighbourhood, this one Lorne Park in South Mississauga.   I also shop at Loblaw’s and Metro as well as Organic Planet, Elmwood Butchers, Just Steak and Auld Doug & Son Butchers on Clarkson Road.  Each have their forte and work hard for my business.

Battaglia’s has everything you need from fresh organic to ready-made, but the two reasons I go are the staff [where everybody know your name] and their sense of adventure which is as large as mine.  It’s guaranteed that every time I go in there will be some new, a BBQ sauce or a homemade frozen pasta entree that is just begging to be tried.

This week tasting adventure was offered in-store by Dolores of The Olivar Corp. who is passionate about health, whole food and it’s taste.  I left purchasing their San Carlos Transparent Balsamic Vinegar and the Oro San Carlos Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Spain.

Except for the olives in my martini’s, I must say that I know little about them, their production, harvesting and varietals.  Most of the olive oils I use are for cooking with as the health benefits are well documented.

With some fresh hot house tomatoes and basil, I wanted the dressing to be cleaner – to have the flavours compliment, not mask each other in taste and colour.

The delicate flavour of the oil and the transparency of the vinegar were a perfect match for this salad.  I sliced the tomatoes, which should always be at room temperature, and ripped the basil over top.  The oil and vinegar can be mixed in proporations to suit your taste.  The amount you add to the salad is also subjective.  Rick, my husband, for example likes more dressing on his salad than I do.

I had a hankering for something salty and savoury on the side, this time adding goat cheese.  My favourite currently is the award winning Le Cendrillo from Québec’s Alexis de Portneuf.  It’s a vegetable ash-covered cheese with a fairly strong taste.

This salad turned out amazing and I can’t wait to make it again.

Beretta Bison Chili

My local Metro has stepped up in all areas from produce and vinegars to adding new meat products like from our local Beretta Farms.  I  also get to swipe my AirMiles card at Metro for points.

With all these winter storms, I was feeling chili.  I mean I was craving the heat and smoky comfort of chili .  Last week, at Metro, I picked up Beretta Farms Ground Bison for a change of pace and I was not disappointed.

I was delighted to speak with Beretta directly about the husbandry of their Bison and to get an inside track on how to prepare it.  What appeals to me about Beretta is their focus on raising animals that are grass fed, and mature slowly without stress and without the use of antibiotics or hormones, ever.

While Ontario is the largest market for beef, the majority of producers ranch out West.  Beretta Bison are also raised on the grasslands of Alberta, my home province and where I spent many a happy day on my Uncle’s ranch.

Beretta Farms Bison Chili with Master and Commander

A grass fed animal tastes very different than corn or grain fed.   You eat a steak in Calgary and compare it to a steak in Ontario and, regardless of the cut, the grass makes a difference.   Beretta bison are mostly grass fed with a finish of grain.

Plains bison co-evolved with the grassland biome and survive as a wild species.  Bison have a lower metabolic rate and well-muscled head for clearing snow, so they are less stressed during winter.  Even in the summer cattle gravitate towards wooded shade, making bison better at year round foraging.

Bison are also naturally low in fat and cholesterol, but high in protein, vitamin and minerals.   The lower fat content means watching for overcooking, but I didn’t notice any difference when cooking the ground Bison.

I also asked my Tweeps about wine pairings for bison.  Thanks to Shelley Nelson of Waterloo and the Wine Ladies, Georgia and Susanne, I opened a Henry of Pelham Baco Noir and an Argentinian Malbec, and both were perfect recommendations for my spicy version of bison chili.

Bison Chili Ingredients

Sweet Yellow Onions – one medium to large chopped

Sunflower  Oil

Minced Garlic – two cloves

Cumin – a titch

Hot Spanish Paprika – 1/2 teaspoon

Chili Flakes – in our house liberal (I used Pequin Chili  this time because it has a nice smoky heat]

Salt – sprinkling

*optional oregano

Bison Ground Beretta Farms – around 1 pound * I also threw in small piece left over beef tenderloin

tomato sauce – one plus one-half jars of preferably organic sauce

tomatoes – diced – 1 can

red wine – anything, a splash

maple syrup – a touch, I’m loving Maddington’s Maple Syrup

corn kiblets – 1 cup thawed from frozen Green Organic*

*ideally fresh, but hey we live in Canada so this product is grown in China, I look for organic, gluten free processing that is handpicked and flash frozen

white kidney beans – one can organic


Saute the onions in oil.

Add and cook Bison.

Add seasonings.

Add tomato sauce and diced tomatoes.

Simmer and re-check seasoning.

Add veggies.

Simmer and re-check seasoning.

Serve with corn chips or dark bread.  For me, I buy “Pumpernickel” bread from Voilá Gluten Free Bakeree in Oakville **the best ever!

Great Plains Research: A Journal of Natural and Social Sciences, 10-1-1999-Comparative Ecology of Bison and Cattle on Mixed Grass Prairie, Steuter and Hidinger