Baked Nectarines & Raspberry Dessert

Nectarines & peaches are both members of the stone fruit family and are so close, only one gene is responsible for their difference. This unique gene makes the peach fuzzy and the nectarine smooth. For most part, nectarines are sweeter and juicer — in essence more nectar. 

Nectarines originated in China and spread across the continents until they landed in America. They thrive in warmer climates, as a result, many of the nectarines we see in the grocery stores here are unripe, hard and tough.  They are often harvested too early and therefore do not develop the aroma they should have. Baking will concentrate their flavor, while lemon, almond and vanilla draw out their more elusive variations.

This dessert idea originated from Sweden. Quite similar to some of the other roasted fruit recipes I have posted except this dessert uses wine in the baking of it. If you don’t care for raspberries, blueberries or blackberries will work just as well.

Baked Nectarines & Raspberries with Almond & Honey
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Baked Nectarines & Raspberries with Almond & Honey
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Instructions
  1. In a small dish, combine wine & honey; stir to dissolve. Halve & stone nectarines, place them flesh-side up in a glass baking dish. Crush amaretti biscuits, add cardamom & mix well; add beaten egg yolk, 2 Tbsp of wine mixture & toasted almonds. Combine & divide mixture between nectarines, spooning into 'pit' holes.
  2. Sprinkle nectarines with brown sugar then top each with a bit of the butter. Pour remaining wine & honey AROUND but NOT over the fruit, add 1 Tbsp water & tuck in the vanilla pod.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake the nectarines for 30 minutes or until fruit is soft & the biscuit filling is crisp & golden. Remove vanilla pod. Carefully stir the raspberries through the pan juices. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving. Meanwhile, whip cream; when ready to serve dessert, top each with a dollop.
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Classic Reuben Sandwich on Swirl Bread

HAPPY LABOUR DAY!

Once again, the last long week-end of summer has arrived. Here in Canada, families with school age children, take it as the last chance to travel before the end of summer. Others enjoy the company of family and friends at barbecues, picnics, fairs, festivals and fireworks displays. Canadian football fans may spend a large portion of their week-end watching the Labour Day Classic matches live on television. Whatever your choice of relaxation is, you know good food will be a part of the holiday.

For some reason, the classic Reuben sandwich came into my thoughts for a tasty choice. If you’re barbecuing, it can be wrapped in foil and heated on the grill. If a picnic is your preference, add a nice potato salad and of course, a beer. Perfect, easy and delicious!

I can’t quite remember when my love for sandwiches began. I have memories of my brother and I having cold, leftover mashed potato sandwiches with my mother’s homemade bread after school.

The Reuben sandwich turns 104 this year. Its origin has definitely be contested, but it is universally acknowledged as an American invention. It brings together Irish corned beef, Jewish rye bread, German sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing to create the perfect balance of interesting flavors and textures.

Classic Reuben Sandwich on Swirl Bread
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Servings
4 sandwiches
Servings
4 sandwiches
Classic Reuben Sandwich on Swirl Bread
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Servings
4 sandwiches
Servings
4 sandwiches
Ingredients
Ingredients for 4 Reuben sandwiches
Sauerkraut
Servings:
Instructions
Sauerkraut
  1. In a colander, rinse & drain sauerkraut. In a large skillet, melt butter; stir in caraway seeds, salt & pepper. Add diced onion & saute for 3 minutes; add sauerkraut & combine well. Continue to saute, stirring frequently for 6 minutes; remove from heat & set aside.
Assembly
  1. Butter one side each of 8 slices of bread. Divide shredded cheese, corned beef & sauerkraut between 4 of the slices (on the unbuttered side) Top with remaining 4 slices. Heat an electric griddle to 350 F. Transfer sandwiches to griddle & grill until cheese is melted. Remove from griddle on to serving plates; lift top slice of bread from each sandwich & drizzle with Russian dressing. Close Reuben & slice. Serve with pickles & potato fries or chips.
Recipe Notes
  • Thousand Island & Russian dressings are similar. If you want to make your own Russian dressing just add 1/2 cup chili sauce to 3/4 cup Thousand Island dressing for a simple fix.
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Potato Rosti & Zucchini Rolls

Rosti  (roosh-tee) originated as a farmer’s breakfast item in the canton of Bern in Switzerland. In Germanic Switzerland, rosti literally means ‘crisp and golden’ and refers to a dish of shredded potatoes, sauteed on both sides in butter with salt and pepper. Regional variations include extra ingredients such as bacon, ham, onion, cheese, apples or herbs and fresh vegetables.

This Swiss potato dish can be described as a cross between hash browns and a potato pancake. Poached eggs are particularly good with rosti at breakfast, but when served at any other meal, toppings might include smoked salmon, bacon, avocado, sour cream and red onions.

Writing this blog makes me mentally return to the brief bit of time Brion and I spent in Lugano, Switzerland. This city lies at the edge of Lake Lugano, south of the Swiss Alps. Lugano has a traffic-free historic town center where we enjoyed not only a great meal but some of that fabulous Swiss chocolate. The city’s waterfront forms a crescent around the bay. The climate of Lugano is humid subtropical that closely borders on being oceanic. I’ve included a few of Brion’s photos of the beautiful villas along the shores of Lake Como and in the city of Lugano. Hopefully, some day we will be able to explore Switzerland a little more extensively.

Mental journey aside, today I not only am making a potato rosti but something that mirrors that idea using zucchini instead of potatoes. It should make for a tasty combo.

Potato Rosti & Zucchini Rolls
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Potato Rosti & Zucchini Rolls
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Instructions
Potato Rosti Roll
  1. Line a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 F. Whisk together eggs, salt, pepper & Parmesan cheese. Grate potatoes, rinse & squeeze moisture out. Combine with egg mixture; pour into prepared baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven; sprinkle with Swiss cheese & shingle with ham slices. Using parchment paper, gently roll up rosti & bake for another 10 minutes or until cheese melts. Serve hot.
Filled Zucchini Rolls
  1. Line a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 F. Whisk together eggs, salt, pepper & Parmesan cheese. Grate zucchini & squeeze moisture out. Combine with egg mixture; pour into prepared baking pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven; sprinkle with smoked Gouda cheese & shingle with ham slices. Using parchment paper, gently roll up zucchini roll & bake for another 10 minutes or until cheese melts. Serve hot or cold.
Recipe Notes
  • It is very important that you absolutely MUST squeeze out all the moisture from potatoes & zucchini before you add the eggs. 
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Italian Plum Crisp

Italian prune plums or sometimes called Empress plums, are different from the traditional round red and black skinned plums we see in the grocery stores. Sporting a dusky purple skin and a tart, lemony green flesh, these European fruits are ripe for harvest by the end of August to the beginning of September. This particular plum is prized throughout Germany and plays a big role in the German kitchen. Although it has a bit of a sour taste, it is very versatile in making juice, jam, cakes, dumplings as well as Slivovitz — a famous Schnapps.

I remember my mother making these plums as a stewed fruit to be served with yeast dumplings ( see my blog on German Hefekloesse from Nov. 6/2016).

Now that the Italian plums have come into season, I’m taking this opportunity to bake some for our dessert today. Top them with a nice simple crumble mixture, bake and serve hot. Of course, what would they be without ice cream!

Italian Plum Crisp
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Servings
4-6
Servings
4-6
Italian Plum Crisp
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Servings
4-6
Servings
4-6
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Place plum halves, cut-side up, in a baking dish & drizzle with lemon juice. In a small bowl, combine topping ingredients, working with fingers until crumbly. Pile topping mixture into 'pit' holes. Bake about 20-30 minutes until topping is golden brown & bubbling. Serve hot with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Recipe Notes
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Baked Avocado Fries with Strawberry-Rhubarb Salsa

Taking vegetables and turning them into ‘fries’ isn’t a new concept. Through the years we have definitely  become more knowledgeable about nutrition and healthier eating. It seems we are always looking for a way to have that deep fried flavor without consuming so much of the grease.

Trends come and go, but you have to admit, avocados are still high on most of our priority lists. There seems to be endless ways beyond guacamole to unleash their true potential. Baked avocado fries are amazing. Crisp and crunchy on the outside while being smooth and creamy on the inside.

Nothing says ‘summer’ like strawberries and rhubarb. Usually the combo appears in pies, crumbles and the like. But, I think the avocado fries are beckoning me to make a savory salsa out of them. This salsa is a great balance of sweet, tart and spicy — summer eating at its best!

Baked Avocado Fries with Strawberry-Rhubarb Salsa
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Servings
5-6
Servings
5-6
Baked Avocado Fries with Strawberry-Rhubarb Salsa
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Servings
5-6
Servings
5-6
Instructions
Salsa
  1. In a small saucepan with boiling water, cook sliced rhubarb for about 1 minute or until tender crisp but not mushy. Drain. In a bowl, combine rhubarb, onion & strawberries. In a blender, pulse oil, apple cider vinegar & honey; combine dressing with chopped cilantro & rhubarb mixture. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Set aside until ready to use.
Avocado Fries
  1. Prepare avocado slices. Preheat oven to 450 F. Line a baking sheet with foil & place a wire rack on the sheet. Set aside.
  2. In a small dish, measure seasoning & combine. In 3 separate dishes place beaten eggs, flour & panko crumbs. Divide seasoning between them. Coat each avocado slice in the flour, then the eggs & finally the panko. Place on the wire rack & spray lightly with cooking spray.
  3. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until panko is lightly browned Cool about 10 minutes & serve with strawberry-rhubarb salsa.
Recipe Notes
  • Salsa also tastes great on a fresh summer salad or fish tacos.
  • Avocado fries can be served in warm tortillas topped with strawberry-rhubarb salsa or just as is with your favorite dip or sprinkled with Parmesan.
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Roasted Summer Fruit with Spiced Mascarpone Cream

You guessed it —- more roasted fruit! It seems to be my addiction this summer. This time its not that I had fruit on hand but instead some mascarpone cheese. Who would dream of letting that go to waste?? Sometimes called  Italian Cream Cheese, mascarpone is believed to have originated in the Lombardy region of Italy. Mascarpone is used in both sweet and savory dishes to enhance the flavor without overwhelming the original taste. Lombardy has a rich agricultural and dairy heritage. Farms that produce the cheese provide their cows with special grasses that include fresh herbs and flowers. This in turn gives a unique taste to the milk and a creamy texture to the cheese.

Some years ago, Brion and I visited the Lombardy region of Italy. We have great memories of the wonderful food but probably even more so the beauty of the architecture and history. We spent a bit of time in Milan. While there we visited the world renowned ‘La Scala’ opera house and museum as well as the glass roofed shopping arcade and giant cathedral, the ‘Gothic Duomo’. I’ve included some of our photos from Milan for you to enjoy.

Roasted Summer Fruit with Spiced Mascarpone Cream
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Roasted Summer Fruit with Spiced Mascarpone Cream
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Instructions
  1. In a skillet, toast almonds until golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 F. In a small roasting pan, toss together all prepared fruit, half of the sugar, the brandy & butter. Roast, stirring occasionally, until for tender, about 15-20 minutes.
  3. While fruit is roasting, beat together mascarpone, remaining sugar, vanilla, ginger & cardamom until smooth. In a separate bowl, whip cream; fold into mascarpone mixture along with half of the almonds.
  4. Divide mascarpone mixture into dessert dishes forming a mound in each. Spoon fruit & pan juices over top. Sprinkle with remaining almonds.
Recipe Notes
  • You can prepare the fruit & cream ahead. Just keep them in separate dishes; cover & refrigerate for up to 4 hours.
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Cauliflower Crust Pizza with Ground Beef & Olives

Ricing vegetables has been around for as long as I remember. Maybe not to the degree that is happening today. I recall a utensil my mother had that resembled a large garlic press. It was called a potato ricer and to my knowledge was only used for potatoes to change the texture.

As time has passed, this idea has evolved into so much more. Cauliflower ‘rice’ came on the scene as a popular grain-free alternative to rice. As with many food trends, the ‘riced’ craze has continued using other veggies like sweet potatoes, broccoli, carrots, onions and peas.

The grocery stores have jumped on the bandwagon with fresh and frozen products and in a variety of plain and flavored versions.

Making your own riced vegetables is even easier than in days gone by. Just trim, chop and pulse your veggies in a food processor. Cook with a quick steam or saute and flavor with some fresh herbs and spices. Of course, you can always change it up with other chopped veggies, nuts or a sprinkle of cheese.

Riced cauliflower can be used on its own, fried, in baked casseroles or as I’m using it today, in a pizza crust. A different texture than traditional pizza crust but loaded with flavor. Its sort of firm, chewy and soft all at the same time. I wasn’t sure how well we would like this pizza but it tasted just great with the addition of some homemade bread sticks.

Cauliflower Crust Pizza with Ground Beef & Olives
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Servings
8-12 slices
Servings
8-12 slices
Cauliflower Crust Pizza with Ground Beef & Olives
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Servings
8-12 slices
Servings
8-12 slices
Instructions
Cauliflower Crust
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a 14-inch pizza with parchment paper. Process cauliflower. In a bowl, combine all crust ingredients. Pat mixture onto pizza pan & press to form pizza crust. Bake 15-20 minutes; remove from oven.
Pizza Toppings
  1. In a skillet, crumble fry beef & mushrooms with spices until cooked. Drain & cool slightly. Carefully 'spread' cauliflower crust with tomato sauce. Top with mozzarella cheese, meat mixture, red peppers & sliced olives. Sprinkle with grated parmigano-reggiano & bake an additional 7-10 minutes, until cheese melted. Remove from oven & allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.
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Blueberry Chia Pudding Parfait

Chia seeds have been around long before the famous ‘Chia Pet’ craze of the 1980’s. Chia is a flowering plant from the mint family domesticated in ancient Mexico. The seeds are believed to have been a staple in ancient Aztec and Mayan diets. In seed form, they are small, oval shaped and slightly flat, a bit bigger than a poppy seed.

Versatile and mildly flavored, chia seeds are a popular addition to yogurt, cereal, salads, smoothies and baked goods. As a good reference, mix 3 tablespoons of chia seeds to 1 cup of liquid such as almond milk, water, soy milk or regular milk. The chia seeds will form a gelatinous substance after which you can add whatever toppings you want.

I found this recipe on the blueberrycouncil.org   website. It looked so cool and refreshing with an added bonus of being ‘healthy’. Great dessert for a hot summer evening.

Blueberry Chia Pudding Parfait
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Blueberry Chia Pudding Parfait
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Instructions
  1. In a blender, combine almond milk, yogurt, 1 cup blueberries, chia seeds. 3 Tbsp maple syrup & vanilla; puree until blended. Refrigerate until mixture thickens, at least 30 minutes.
  2. In a bowl, combine remaining 1 cup blueberries, kiwi, mango & remaining 1 Tbsp maple syrup.
  3. In 4 glasses, layer chia pudding & fruit mixture, ending with chia pudding.
  4. Top with additional Greek yogurt & garnish with fresh mint leaves, additional blueberries & orange zest, if desired.
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Roasted Strawberry & Hazelnut Pastries

Definitely, roasted fruit is one of my favorite summer desserts. It becomes so intense when its been sizzling and caramelizing at a high temperature. Roasted strawberries are one fruit that can take any dish to the next level. Along with the fact that it will stain even the palest berries to a ruby red, the subtle use of aromatic ingredients like lemon, vanilla or rose water can breathe new life into your bland unripe berries. Another added bonus is that the seeds add a little crunch to the tender, supple structure of a roasted strawberry.

I wanted to make something quick and easy for dessert today. I just happened to have some strawberries on hand why not roast them. A while back I saw an idea on youtube.com with strawberries and of all things, the famous chocolate hazelnut spread, ‘Nutella’. I have to be honest, I have maybe only tasted it once or twice but what the heck! Of course, you guessed it, I would first want to read up on its history. You maybe know all this but—–   It seems it all started with the same Italian family that gave us the glorious ‘Ferrero Rocher’ chocolates. Nutella was invented during WWII when the war had created a chocolate shortage.

In 1925, Italian chocolatier, Pietro Ferrero, perfected the so-called ‘pastone’ (pastry mesh) of chocolate and hazelnuts. The Piedmont region of Italy, which his family called home, is famed for its delicious and abundant hazelnuts. In 1946, he created pasta giandja (or giandujot) which was made in a small hard loaf or bar, wrapped in aluminum foil and could be sold at a cheaper price. This chocolate could be cut into slices to eat on bread which formed a big part of the diet at the time. In 1949, a spreadable version called supercrema gianduja was intoduced, which was later renamed ‘Nutella’ in 1964. The name gave the product international appeal. It said ‘nuts’ and it also said Italy — ‘ella’ being a common affectionate ending in Italian such as in mozzarella cheese, tagliatella (a form of pasta) or caramella (a sweet).

Fifty years on, the company is the number one user of hazelnuts worldwide. Interesting!    OK, now on with the pastries. 

Roasted Strawberry & Hazelnut Pastries
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Roasted Strawberry & Hazelnut Pastries
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Instructions
Roasted Strawberries
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Slice off blossoms; leave small & medium berries whole, cutting largest ones in half. In a glass baking dish, toss with sugar, salt & lemon juice.
  2. Roast, stirring once or twice, for about 30-40 minutes, long enough for the berry juices to thicken but not burn. Remove from oven; add vanilla & rose water. Set aside until ready to use.
Pastries
  1. On parchment paper, lay out sheet of puff pastry. At one end of the pastry, spread hazelnut cream& top with cooled roasted strawberry 'jam'. Below the chocolate/strawberry mixture make 5 slices so you end up with six strips. Starting at top where the filling is, roll up pastry & join the two ends together to make a wreath.
  2. Adjust oven to 400 F. Brush with egg wash , sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts. Lift wreath ON the parchment paper to baking sheet & bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.
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Roasted Apricots with Mascarpone & Apricot Brandy

Roasting intensifies the flavor of fruit and creates an appealing texture especially in unripe fruit. To often, many of our store bought fruits picked before they are ripe are quite tasteless. The fact that stone fruits like peaches, plums, nectarines and apricots are seasonal, makes them seem almost more valuable. 

Whether you prefer to bake, roast or grill your fruit, the options for its flavor are only limited by your imagination. When it comes to the herbs and spices you can use, think beyond traditional choices. Consider star anise, ginger, cardamom or mint, sage and lemon verbena to name a few. 

A summer favorite for me are those little sweet-tart fresh apricots. In comparison to other stone fruits they seem to be undeservedly, under appreciated. Even if baking is not a summertime pursuit, you can always make good use of your barbecue.

Apricots stuffed with crushed almond-flavored amaretti cookies and mascarpone, then drizzled with apricot brandy are absolutely ‘divine’. You can prepare the apricots before you sit down to eat then bake them in the oven or on the barbecue. They will be ready to top with a dollop of ice cream for dessert.

Roasted Apricots with Mascarpone & Apricot Brandy
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Servings
3-4
Servings
3-4
Roasted Apricots with Mascarpone & Apricot Brandy
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Servings
3-4
Servings
3-4
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven or barbecue to 375 F.
  2. Arrange the halved apricots to fit snugly, cut side up, in a shallow oven or barbecue dish. Mix crushed biscuits with the mascarpone. Spoon into the cavity of the apricots & sprinkle with the brandy or orange juice.
  3. Bake for about 15-20 minutes until tender & serve warm or cold with ice cream.
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