About six years ago, I tasted this popular French cake au jambon et aux olives for the first time. The word ‘cake’ in France refers to a baked savory cake made with ham, olives and cheese. They are exclusively rectangular in shape and made in a bread pan. The texture is between a bread and a cake, making it it good for picnics, cubed as an appetizer with drinks or served with a soup or salad.
This savory cake/bread has endless possibilities when it comes to ingredients. Apart from the original ham, olives and cheese, you can use cooked chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, sweet corn kernels, spinach or really any personal choice you have. Well wrapped, it will keep for a few days in the fridge, reheating it or just enjoying it cold.
In this recipe I used a mix of black and green olives, ham, bacon and a Gruyere/mozzarella cheese combo. I decided to pair it with a Spanish omelette which complimented the savory bread well. The ‘cake’ I had the opportunity of trying the first time was made by a ‘very’ French lady. It set the bar high for my own to turn out as good. We loved it so I guess this recipe is a ‘keeper’.
In a skillet, saute finely chopped onion with bacon until slightly cooked. Drain on paper towels to avoid soggy dough. Slice olives & chop parsley & ham.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 9 X 5-inch loaf pan. In a large bowl, whisk together wine, oil, eggs & salt. In another bowl, sift flour & baking powder. Stir into liquid mixture along with rest of the ingredients. Pour into prepared loaf pan & bake about 1 hour or until bread tests done.
Omelette Topping Sauce
In a saucepan, heat olive oil & saute onion for 3-4 minutes. Add green pepper & garlic; continue to cook another 3-4 minutes. Add tomato sauce, salt & pepper; reduce heat & simmer about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover & set aside to keep warm.
Omelettes for Two
Grate cheese; set aside. Slice onions, zucchini & mushrooms, On a medium-hot griddle, saute vegetables just until tender crisp in 1 tsp of butter. Remove to a dish until ready to use. In a small bowl, whisk eggs with salt & pepper. Make 2 circles of beaten eggs on griddle. Top each with 1/2 of refried beans, veggies & grated cheese. Carefully fold each omelette in half enclosing filling; add a tiny bit of water to the griddle (in between the omelettes) & cover with a large lid. When omelettes are cooked remove to serving plates & top with the tomato sauce. Serve with warm olive bread.
It seems we never get enough of taking just about anything we do to the next level. Case in point would be pizza dough. It started as a very thin, crispy crust and evolved into whatever thickness you wanted to make it. Enter the ‘stuffed’ crust with a ring of cheese encased in the outer edges of your pizza! Then, of course, the actual pizza fillings can be virtually anything that you choose or have available.
Bread sticks, on the other hand, aren’t something that have remained unscathed either. Probably the original simple design was ‘grissini’ (as they are known in Italy). Today’s bread sticks come in many forms from super crispy, thin ones to the larger ones often served with spaghetti and used to mop up excess sauce. Now, here’s where it gets one step better. Enter ‘homemade stuffed’ bread sticks. For inspiration all you have to do is think about all of your pizza toppings. Use them as options for either mixing into your dough or actually stuffing into a bread stick.
Being shrimp and Parmesan lovers, the natural thing for me to do was incorporate both into some bread sticks. The next step was to pair them with a nice light broccoli-cheddar soup. A match made in heaven even if I do say so myself.
Parmesan-Shrimp Bread Sticks with Broccoli Cheddar Soup
Combine all ingredients, in the order listed, in a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix on medium-low until the dough comes together. Continue to mix on medium-low for 5 minutes to knead. Dough is ready when it is stretchy & smooth. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap & allow to rise for about an hour or until doubled in bulk.
Bread Stick Filling
Peel, devein & slightly chop raw shrimp; place in a bowl. Grate & slightly chop fresh Parmesan cheese. Combine oil, minced garlic, spices & Parmesan cheese with chopped shrimp.
Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Punch dough down; on a lightly floured work surface, press dough into roughly an 8 X 12-inch rectangle. Top with shrimp filling & sprinkle with dill weed. Slice lengthwise into 8 strips; fold each strip in half enclosing filling. Twist each strip slightly & lay on baking sheet. Top each bread stick with some grated mozzarella cheese (or you could put it on as soon as they come out of the oven). Bake for 7-10 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with soup.
In a large saucepan, saute onion & garlic in olive oil until tender. Stir in flour; cook for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in broth. Bring to a boil; cook & stir for 1-2 minutes or until slightly thickened.
Add the broccoli, tarragon, thyme & pepper; return to a boil. Reduce heat; cover & simmer for 10 minutes or until broccoli is tender. Add milk; cook, uncovered 5 minutes longer. Remove from heat; cool to room temperature.
In a blender, process about half of the soup until smooth. Return to saucepan; heat through. Reduce heat. Add 100 grams of cheese; stir just until melted. Serve immediately, garnishing with remaining cheese.
When time is of the essence and you need to speed up the process, use a tube of purchased refrigerated pizza or bread stick dough instead of making your own.
The season of squash and soup have arrived. As the days and nights get cooler, few dishes satisfy like a bowl of soup.
Roasting the chicken and squash before turning them into soup gives a deeper flavor that wouldn’t normally be there if you just simply simmered the ingredients together. You can go a number of ways with the preparation. If you have the time, roast a chicken (for a previous meal). That will give you both some chicken meat and broth needed for your soup. Second, you can roast some chicken thighs with the celery, onion, garlic and squash. Third, purchase a deli roasted chicken, roast the veggies and squash in the oven to caramelize them for flavor needed. In the case of the second and third options you will need to make some good, rich vegetable or chicken stock (from scratch or bouillon cubes). The pasta cooks in the soup to help bulk things out.
Whatever route you chose to go in making this soup, the results will be incredibly flavorful I’m sure. Imagine the aroma coming from your kitchen — pure comfort food!
Preheat oven to 350 F. On a foil lined sheet pan, arrange vegetable pieces & chicken thighs. Drizzle with olive oil & sprinkle with salt & pepper. Bake until chicken is cooked & veggies are tender-crisp. Remove from oven. Chop or shred chicken into soup size pieces.
In a Dutch oven, Place chicken broth, seasonings & pasta. Heat to boiling, add pasta & cook until pasta is almost done. Add roasted chicken & veggies & continue cooking to finish cooking pasta. Serve.
If you care to make some chicken stock from 'scratch', this ingredient list might be helpful--
1 chicken carcass with any bits of meat & skin left on it
2 whole stalks of celery
2 whole carrots
1 onion, halved (skin on or off)
1 head of garlic (left intact, skins on)
1 Tbsp salt
2 bay leaves
a dash of dried thyme, rosemary or any sprigs of herbs you care for
One thing for sure — pizza worldwide, never gets ‘old’. The fact that pizza can be topped with almost anything, creates some of the most unique flavors.
But, first we must think about the cheese used as it has been a part of pizza forever. Food experts seem to agree that mozzarella is the best choice. There are four different kinds of mozzarella used for pizza: fior di latte (made of cow’s milk), mozzarella di bufala (made from the milk of water buffalo), burrata (a fresh Italian cheese with a creamy filling), and the type most commonly used in North America, pizza cheese (whole milk or part skim mozzarella). Of course you can always opt for a kind that you favor more personally.
Around the world, regional ingredients and local foods create some interesting combinations such as: Australia: bacon, ham, egg, shrimp & pineapple Brazil: green peas, corn, raisins, boiled eggs & hearts of palm China: mini hot dogs Costa Rica: shrimp & coconut France: bacon, onion & fresh cream Germany: canned tuna Greece: feta cheese, olives, oregano, onion, tomato, green pepper & pepperoni India: tikka chicken, minced mutton, pickled ginger, paneer cheese & tofu Japan: squid, eel, teriyaki chicken, bacon & potatoes Netherlands: lamb, as well as the so-called ‘double Dutch’ – double meat, onion & cheese Pakistan: tikka chicken, achari chicken & curry Portugal: local garlic sausage or chorizo Russia: a combination of several types of sea food with onions called ‘mocaba’ Sweden: chicken, peanut, curry powder as well as pineapple & banana
This wild shrimp pizza uses a light garlic-lemon sauce with a mozza-parmesan cheese combo. We love shrimp (or seafood), so what’s not to like!
In a large skillet, melt butter & add oil over medium heat. Add garlic & lemon zest, cook for 1 minute. Add broth (or wine) & lemon juice, simmer for 2 minutes. Add shrimp & red pepper. Saute ONLY until shrimp is pink. Remove from heat; place shrimp & red pepper in a dish & set aside. Add Parmesan cheese & Italian seasoning to broth remaining in pan; combine well. Cool slightly.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a large pizza pan with parchment or sprinkle with cornmeal. Press out pizza dough evenly in pan & brush with slightly cooled 'sauce'. Top with shrimp, peppers, mozzarella cheese. Bake 8-10 minutes, until cheese is bubbly.
Until Brion and I had spent time living in Ecuador, I had never paid any attention to plantains. Really more of a vegetable than a fruit, plantains are larger and firmer than their banana relative but not sweet. They must be cooked to become palatable. With their bland, starchy, somewhat potato-like flavor, plantains take well to many cooking methods.
On one of the first meals we ate in a restaurant in Ecuador, I experienced the flavor of ‘patacones’. I had ordered an Ecuadorian ceviche and they were served as a side dish. The taste was like a potato chip but had almost a corn flavor. At the time I didn’t know what they were but the taste was definitely one that stayed with me.
In regions that compete for its origin, this specialty appears under two distinct names depending on the country. They are called patacones in Ecuador, Columbia, Costa Rica and Peru. In Cuba, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico and Haiti they are called tostones and in West Africa, just simply plantain chips.
The unripe plantain is traditionally prepared with a deep-frying method. The frying is done twice to ensure a crispy chip. You first peel the green plantains and slice them. Then the chips are fried on both sides, removed from the oil and blotted on paper towel. The tostones or patacones are now flattened somewhat and re-fried to provide extra crispiness. Salt may be used to add flavor to the chips. The thicker version (patacones) should be served hot or warm and are nice eaten with guacamole, garlic sauce, grated cheese or as a side dish.
As always, in my quest to bake rather than deep fry, I decided to make some patacones in the oven today. To add some guacamole = yum!!
Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Slice plantain into 1-inch thick slices. Place on baking sheet & drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt.
Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven & with the end of a glass, 'squash' each piece down flat. Thinner = crispier. Place back in the oven for another 10 minutes or until crispy to your liking. Serve with guacamole.
In a small bowl, mash avocados. Add minced red onion, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, garlic powder, lemon juice, salt & pepper. Combine thoroughly & serve.
Just for interest, the special or tradional tool used to flatten plantain slices is called a 'tostonera'.
Even if it is a little hard to admit summer has ended and fall is officially here, Oktoberfest seems like a great little celebration to ease into the coming winter months.
Oktoberfest began as a wedding celebration more than 200 years ago in Munich, Germany, when Bavaria’s, Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on October 12,1810. The wedding was celebrated with multiple days of drinking, feasting and horse races. Everybody had so much fun that it was resolved to repeat the celebration, which has been done, every year since.
Beer enthusiasts from all over the world flock to Munich for Oktoberfest, where they feast on everything from steins of beer to plates of sauerkraut, bratwurst, cabbage rolls, sausage and wiener schnitzel. Bavarian music fills the air to promote the fun atmosphere of Oktoberfest.
While the true celebration has to be experienced in Munich, there are actually some great Canadian events that try to duplicate the festivities without having to travel abroad. In different parts of the country this is a fun and social sampling event featuring many local craft and authentic Bavarian breweries as well as authentic food, Oktoberfest music, dancers, games, etc..
To acknowledge this holiday we are having a corned beef, cabbage & potato pizza with a rye bread crust. It seems a good mix of German-Canadian food to me ?!
In a bowl, combine flours & salt. Pour 1/2 cup water into a microwave-safe bowl; heat for 30 seconds. Stir brown sugar into water until dissolved; add yeast & stir. Let mixture stand about 10 minutes, until bubbly. Pour yeast mixture into flour mixture. Pour remaining 1 cup of water into microwave-safe bowl; heat for 30 seconds.
Stir olive oil into warm water; pour over flour mixture. Knead flour mixture, adding more all-purpose flour if dough is sticky, until dough is smooth & holds together. Form dough into a ball & place in a buttered bowl. Cover with a tea towel & let rise in a warm place about an hour or until doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 425 F. Toss thinly sliced potato with 2 Tbsp olive oil in a plastic bag. Combine paprika, rosemary, garlic powder, salt & pepper; add to potato slices & toss again. Roast in a single layer on a baking sheet about 10-15 minutes. In a skillet, add sauerkraut with juice & diced onion. Simmer for a few minutes until onion is tender. Drain well; set aside to cool slightly.
Punch down dough. Sprinkle a 14-inch pizza pan with cornmeal & press dough out to fit pan. Top crust with monterey jack cheese, corned beef & onion/sauerkraut mixture. Lay roasted potato slices to cover pizza then sprinkle with mozzarella & Parmesan cheeses. Bake pizza for 12-15 minutes or until golden & crispy. Once pizza is done baking, drizzle with Russian dressing & slice.
When I think of stuffed peppers, quiche never ever came to mind. I have always enjoyed quiche anytime of day, with or without crust. The idea of using a pepper as your ‘crust’ certainly puts a new twist on the traditional quiche.
I wanted to make these pepper cups for a supper meal and since there was no pastry involved here, bread sticks seemed like a good accompaniment.
Quiche is like making pizza– there are no limits to what the filling can consist of. For our meal today, I just put together a variety of items I had on hand for both the quiche and bread stick twists. It turned out to be real enjoyable and so easy.
In a skillet, saute mushrooms & onion in butter until tender. Add thyme & salt; cook 1 minute longer or until blended. Remove from heat & cool slightly. Roll pizza dough into a 16 X 8-inch rectangle. Sprinkle cheese on half of the dough, then top cheese with HALF of the mushroom/onion mixture. Fold un-topped half of dough over topped side; slice into 8 strips to form twists.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Carefully lift & twist each strip before placing on baking sheet. Sprinkle with garlic powder & salt to taste. Bake 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.
Pepper Quiche Cups
In a skillet, place ground pork, water, salt, rubbed sage, black pepper, red pepper flakes & ground ginger. Stir-fry until no longer pink. Remove from heat & drain on paper towel. Chop sun-dried tomato pieces & shred cheese.
In a large measuring cup with a spout, place 1/2 & 1/2 milk, salt & pepper. Add eggs & beat well. Remove stems, seeds & membrane from peppers & stand in a roasting dish that will hold them upright & level. Divide cooked pork, remaining mushroom/onion mixture & sun-dried tomatoes.
Top each pepper with some grated cheddar, then carefully pour in the milk/egg mixture. Bake until eggs are set. If you prefer, 'float' a piece of foil over peppers for the first part of the baking time. It will help the cheese not to over bake.
Over centuries the unique cooking technique combing rice with other ingredients was developed resulting in the classic Italian dish known as ‘risotto’. The key ingredient for authentic risotto is Arborio rice.
Arborio rice is named after a town in Italy called Arborio, located in the Po Valley where the rice is grown. Its characteristics and cooking properties allow it to absorb the flavors and retain a certain firmness through the unique risotto cooking procedure.
In this recipe, I used a chicken sausage made with Asiago cheese and roasted red peppers. One of the grocery stores in our area makes the sausage in store so you can purchase them fresh in the quantity you need. The flavor of this meal is amazing. The tomatoes totally disintegrated and the rice took on a great smoky flavor from the bacon. The mushrooms added earthiness and the sausage gave the risotto a tiny kick of heat.
In a skillet, brown sausage & set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, slice crosswise & set aside. In skillet, saute onion & sliced mushrooms; stir in rice & toast for 20 seconds. Add the diced tomato & start ladling in the broth 1 ladle at a time. Once that broth is absorbed, continue adding another ladle of broth & so on. The rice should take about 30 minutes to cook over a medium low heat. About half the way through, add bacon. When there is about 10 minutes left add sausage & shrimp so the sausage warms & the shrimp cooks ONLY until done. Do Not overcook shrimp. Garnish with parsley or basil if you wish.
At the heart of our Autumn cuisine is the squash. The signs of fall are all around us — cool, crisp mornings, the leaves have started to wear their autumn colors and winter squash is appearing in the farmer’s markets.
Winter squash are harvested late summer through fall, then ‘hardened off’ or ‘cured’ in the open air to toughen their exterior. Spaghetti squash is known for its unique flesh that separates into pasta-like strands after it is cooked. These squash are not particularly sweet but have a mild flavor that takes to a wide variety of preparations.
Native people considered corn, beans and squash three inseparable ‘sisters’. They planted the three crops together to create a more nutritious, sustainable soil with the exchange of nutrients between them.
Spaghetti squash has also been called ‘vegetable spaghetti’. In this recipe I’m serving it with tomato-beef meat sauce. Some fresh, homemade, Parmesan bread sticks should make a nice compliment to this meal.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Microwave squash for a few minutes to soften shell. Cut lengthwise & remove membrane & seeds. In a baking dish, place cut side down & bake for 45 minutes until tender. Remove from oven & cool until it can be handled. Using a fork, run it inside the squash to create spaghetti 'noodles'.
In a large saucepan, brown ground beef, onions, garlic & mushrooms. Cook until meat is no longer pink. Stir in tomatoes, green pepper & spices. Reduce heat & simmer for 10 minutes.
Divide spaghetti noodles between 4 serving plates & top each with a quarter of the meat sauce. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan & serve with fresh bread sticks.
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.
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.
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.
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.