Pairing pork with figs and pears may seem a little odd but believe me it tastes great. Pears are one of those fruits that are extremely versatile. Their subtle sweetness and juiciness makes them perfect for recipes from entrees to desserts. Figs could be considered the perfect fruit — low on calories, full of fiber, vitamins and minerals.
Figs have always appealed to me since the first time I tasted a ‘Fig Newton’ cookie. Now that seems like eons ago! Figs also bring me back to a place that holds some wonderful memories for Brion & I. In 2014 we visited the eastern side of the Algarve region in Portugal. This coastline is a spectacular site, very similar to the Big Sur coastline of California, USA.
Portugal has an excellent climate for cultivating figs. In the Mediterranean region as well as the Algarve, you can see fig trees almost everywhere. From August until about the end of September, there are plenty of fresh figs ripening on the trees. The only thing, is they have a short harvest time and will go bad quickly once picked. After the season ends you can buy dried figs. Fig jam is a product of fresh figs whereas dried are used for cooking, baking and even in fig liquor.
Portugal possesses great charm in its medieval villages, walled towns and glorious monuments while at the same time embracing progress and modernity with a style all of its own. It was such a memorable experience that will not be forgotten for sure.
There’s very little fuss to preparing today’s recipe and the meat turns out extremely tender.
In a bowl, combine first 8 ingredients; set aside.
Make a lengthwise cut 3/4 of the way through the tenderloin; open and flatten to 1/4-inch thickness. Brush meat with Fig Balsamic dressing & sprinkle with salt & pepper. Spread pear mixture over tenderloin. Roll up from long side; tuck in ends. Secure with toothpicks.
Preheat oven to 425 F. Place tenderloin on a large piece of foil on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Nestle remaining filling around tenderloin, pulling up foil to make sides to keep it close to meat. Brush with Fig Balsamic dressing. Bake, uncovered for 40-45 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into pork reads 160-170 F. Remove from oven & brush with apricot preserves. Let stand for 5 minutes before slicing. Serve with the additional roasted filling.
I guess because of my German heritage I forever gravitate to German cuisine and food history. Although my mother’s cooking was a mix of German and Canadian, I can definitely see how she correlated the two quite well.
When most people think of pizza, Italy comes to mind. That’s why I’d like to talk about Flammkuchen, a crisp, smoky bacon German pizza. The name translates to ‘flame cake’ and comes from south Germany and the Alsace region of France. Originally it was used by bakers to test the temperature of their ovens. A bit of dough was rolled flat, topped with ‘sour cream’ and baked in their wood fired bread ovens for a few minutes. The oven’s temperature was told in the nearly blistered crispiness of the flammkuchen. When it came out just right the oven was ready to bake bread.
The classic version of German pizza is characterized by its thin, crisp, blistered crust. The dough is spread with soured cream (creme fraiche) then topped with partially cooked bacon, caramelized onions and spices.
Other savory variations include Gruyere or Munster cheese and mushrooms while sweet versions may include apples, cinnamon and a sweet liqueur.
For those of you who enjoy a thin, crispy crust pizza, this one’s for you!
In a large bowl, mix together flour, salt, water & oil. Mix until dough begins to form; turn dough out onto lightly floured surface & knead until soft & smooth about 3-5 minutes. Place dough back in bowl; cover & set aside. In a small bowl, mix together yogurt & nutmeg; set aside.
In a large skillet, heat oil. Add onion & sprinkle with salt. Cook & stir about 15 minutes or until moisture is evaporated & onion is soft. Reduce heat; sprinkle with vinegar. Cook & stir until golden. Stir in brown sugar; cook & stir until caramel brown in color. Remove from skillet & set aside.
In skillet, saute bacon until it is half way to crisp, 2-4 minutes. Remove bacon to drain on paper towel. Break or cut bacon into small pieces.
Preheat oven to 400 F. On lightly floured surface, roll out dough to about a 11 x 16-inch rectangle. Generously sprinkle a large baking sheet with cornmeal & place dough on it. Spread yogurt mixture over crust, leaving a small border. Distribute onions & bacon evenly over yogurt. Top all with a dusting of black pepper.
How is it spelled? Portobello or Portabella – from what I understand there is no ‘right’ spelling. Both versions are accepted, but the Mushroom Council decided to go with Portabella to provide some consistency across the market.
The scientific name ‘agaricus bisporus’, for these giant mushrooms comes from the Greek word ‘agrarius’ meaning ‘growing in fields’. A portabella mushroom can measure up to six inches across the top. On the underside of the cap are black ‘gills’. The stems and gills are both edible, though some people remove the gills to make more room for stuffing or simply to avoid blackening a dish. Did you know that most of the table mushrooms we eat are all the same variety? The difference is just age– white are the youngest, cremini the middle and portabella the most mature. I really wasn’t aware of that for many years myself.
In May and June of 2016, I posted some recipes on my blog for a variety of stuffed burgers including a mushroom burger. They became very popular on the Pinterest site so I thought you might like to try some of them.
This recipe is for a roasted stuffed portabella mushroom. If you don’t care for salmon you can always change it up for ground beef or turkey using your favorite herbs and spices.
As May eases into June and the outdoor work increases, it seems like one area you can simplify in your life is in the kitchen. Making good use of your barbecue, along with the fresh produce that is now available, will help do just that.
Pork tenderloin has always been one of my favorite cuts of meat. One of the easiest ways to transform everyday pork into a special occasion main dish. Its the best part of a pork chop without bone or fat and has that melt-in-your-mouth tenderness.
A winner when it comes to versatility in that you can cook it whole, slice it into medallions, butterfly and stuff it, grill, roast, stir fry…..
My recipe today is a roast pork tenderloin served with a nice fruity, raspberry-nectarine sauce. Great little Sunday meal!
In a blender or food processor, place raspberries, nectarine slices, brandy & honey. Cover & process about 1 minute, until smooth.
In a large plastic bag, place flour, salt & pepper. Slice tenderloin into 1/4-1/2" medallions & place in bag. Shake to coat pieces evenly. In a large skillet, heat oil; saute pork medallions about 4 minutes or until no longer pink.
Heat sauce & spoon some on a serving plate. Place pork medallions on sauce; drizzle with additional sauce. Garnish with additional fresh raspberries if desired.
Mango anything always sounds good to me. What isn’t to like about a ripe mango? Of course, its versatility as a fresh fruit, in salsa, baking, paired with meat etc. makes it pretty appealing. A few years ago, Brion & I spent 3 months in Cuenca, Ecuador. It was quite an ‘adventure’ but a valuable experience for us. If you follow my blog, you may recall the article I posted in July 2016 entitled ‘Dutch Apple Pie’.
Today, I wanted to tell you about the ‘markets’. Ecuador is famous for its colorful indigenous markets. Because the city of Cuenca sits high in the southern Andes mountains, it experiences spring-like weather year round. Small farms that surround this Colonial city grow a variety of lush produce in the rich, volcanic soil. These farmers bring their produce to these markets to sell to the vendors.
Cuenca has at least six major markets that usually entail a mix of indoor and open-air vendors. It is mind boggling when you see it for the first time. They sell a myriad of fruits and vegetables along with seafood, pork, beef and chicken, not to mention clothing, shoes, cook wear, sunglasses, etc, etc, etc. Of course, then there’s the fresh flower markets. All quite an amazing sight to see!!
As a rule, when it comes to chicken breast, I like to stuff them. I decided today,for something different, I would grill them as is and top them with some of those gorgeous mangoes.
Victoria Day is the distinctly Canadian holiday that officially wraps up winter. Even if the date marks the informal start of summer, you could be planning for a backyard barbecue or an impromptu indoor shut-in due to an array of snow, sleet, rain or hail.
Although we are well into the 21st century, in Canada we still celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday over 100 years after her passing. The only other country in the Commonwealth to observe this celebration is Scotland. This is our oldest statuary holiday in Canada and is celebrated annually on the Monday preceding May 25th. In the maritime provinces it is a non-statuary ‘general’ holiday and in Quebec, ‘National Patriots Day’ is observed instead.
While we might hang onto the British queen’s name for old times sake, the tradition of Victoria Day is truly Canadian and has everything to do with the end of the cold weather and short days, and a lot to do with some great food.
My choice of food for today’s blog should work well with your own ‘barbecue’ meal. It is APPLE-TURKEY SAUSAGE ROLLS and STUFFED POTATO SKINS.
In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, saute apple, onion, sage, thyme & allspice in olive oil for 5 minutes. Apples & onions should be soft but not browned. Remove from heat & set aside to cool for 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine cooled apple mixture with ground turkey, salt & pepper. Using your hands, gently mix until everything is evenly combined, making sure not to overwork the mixture.
Unroll the puff pastry sheet onto a lightly floured work surface, cut crosswise to make three long, strips ((about 10 x 3.5" each) Brush a line of mustard down the middle of each strip. Divide filling into 3 equal portions. Roll into sausage shapes & place down the middle of each pastry rectangle. Brush edges firmly to seal.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Arrange the rolls, seam side down, on prepared baking sheet. Brush with remaining beaten egg, & sprinkle with poppy seeds. Cover with plastic wrap & place in the freezer to firm up, about 15 minutes.
Using a very sharp knife, cut each roll into 8 bite-sized pieces & arrange 1" apart on baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown & sausage is cooked through.
Stuffed Potato Skins
Microwave potatoes, uncovered, on high for 14-17 minutes or until tender but firm, turning once. Let stand for 5 minutes. Cut each potato in half lengthwise. Scoop out pulp, leaving a 1/4" shell ( pulp can be used elsewhere).
Combine oil & hot pepper sauce; brush over potato shells. Cut each potato shell in half lengthwise again. Place on baking sheets coated with baking spray. Sprinkle with the tomato, bacon, onion & cheese. Bake at 450 F. for 12-14 minutes or until heated through & cheese is melted. Serve with sour cream.
Lemon chicken is the name of several dishes found in cuisines around the world which include chicken and lemon.
In Canada, we usually either use breading or batter to coat the chicken before cooking it and serving it in a sweet lemon flavored sauce. A completely unrelated dish from Italy, also called lemon chicken is where a whole chicken is roasted with white wine, fresh lemon juice, fresh thyme and vegetables. In France, lemon chicken generally includes Dijon mustard in the sauce and is accompanied by roasted potatoes. I would presume the German version would be a chicken schnitzel with fresh lemon.
Having an inherited love of ‘sweet things’, lemon chicken has always appealed to me. I prefer to make a tempura batter to dip the chicken strips in and then fry them on a griddle. I’m not big on anything deep fried so this is as close as it gets for me. Some years ago I came across a recipe on a kraftfoods.com site for a very unique and easy ‘lemon sauce’ for chicken. It might not appeal to everyone but we enjoy it every so often.
Prepare vegetables & saute in 1/2 cup chicken broth until tender-crisp. Drain broth & reserve for later.
In a bowl, whisk together all batter ingredients. Slice chicken breast into thin strips & place in batter; mix well. Heat griddle to 325 F. Add a small amount of oil; remove chicken strips from batter & place on griddle. Fry on each side until cooked & golden. Lay on paper towel to blot off oil.
In a small saucepan, combine jelly powder & cornstarch. Add 1 cup chicken broth, dressing, garlic & ginger; stir until jelly powder is dissolved. Simmer over medium heat until sauce is thickened, stirring frequently. Add reserved broth from vegetables.
Combine vegetables chicken & lemon sauce. Serve over hot cooked rice, if desired.
Lasagna has a rich history as a comfort food. Originally it resembled layered macaroni and cheese rather than its present form. The origin is a little unclear but none involve Italy. However, Italians have been credited with its name of ‘lasagna’.
Present day lasagna has become very versatile with recipes such as vegetarian and seafood which use either red or white sauce. Although, lasagna has been a favorite meal of many people, it also comes with a high fat and calorie count. That being said, there are numerous ways to change that. In traditional lasagna, substitute ground turkey or use extra lean ground beef. In the case of a white sauce, substitute fat free plain yogurt for sour cream and use skim or 1% milk to reduce the fat content. Using low fat or non fat ricotta cheese, fat free cottage cheese or part skim mozzarella cheese helps to boost the calcium and protein contents without adding a lot of fat.
In any case, lasagna is just too good to not enjoy it. These SEAFOOD LASAGNA ROLL-UPS can be made with a light version of either homemade or purchased Alfredo sauce. We absolutely loved this meal!
Prepare lasagna noodles according to package directions. Rinse under cool water; reserve. In a large skillet melt butter. Saute spinach until wilted. Remove to paper towels. Add shrimp & scallops to skillet; saute for 3-4 minutes until opaque & just barely cooked; reserve. Grate mozzarella cheese.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a small casserole dish. On a large piece of wax paper, line up lasagna noodles in a row. Spoon about 1/4 cup of Alfredo sauce onto each noodle & spread.
Alternately top with shrimp & scallops, cooked spinach, shrimp/scallops, spinach & crab meat. Sprinkle noodles with grated cheese. Roll each noodle & stand or lay in casserole dish. Spoon remaining Alfredo sauce over rolls.
Place a pan with a small amount of water in it, under the casserole dish & place in the oven. This will help the noodles from becoming dry during baking time. Very loosely, cover with foil, just to keep the noodles from drying on top. Bake for 30 minutes or until slightly bubbly. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese; allow to sit 5-10 minutes before serving.
If you prefer to make your own sauce, I had noticed the tasteofhome.com website has a very similar recipe making the sauce from scratch. It looks real good if you have the time.
A popular and versatile dish, risotto is served extensively in the kitchens and restaurants of the world. The history of risotto is naturally tied to the history of rice in Italy. Rice was first introduced to Italy and Spain by the Arabs during the middle ages. The humidity of the Mediterranean was perfect for growing shorter-grained rices.
A hearty rice dish, risotto is rich with the flavors of the stock used in its making, as well as saffron, and any of the hundreds of ingredients that pair so perfectly with it.
The key components of this simple but elegant dish are: rice, stock (usually chicken), onions, butter, wine, parmesan and saffron. It can be served by itself or as an accompaniment to other dishes. The starchy component of the dry grain mixed with the stock creates a thick, creamy sauce.
Brion is a ‘wing’ man. He LOVES chicken wings and rice so it seems quite fitting to make a CHICKEN WING RISOTTO.
In a large skillet, heat butter & oil; add wings, cook until golden brown on both sides; Remove from skillet to paper towels & drain skillet.
In skillet, melt extra butter; add onion & garlic; cook until tender. Add pepper, shallots, zucchini, celery & saffron, cook another minute. Add wine, rice, water, chicken bouillon cube & chicken wings, bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat & simmer for 20-25 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, stir in parsley.
Saffron is extremely expensive to buy in our part of the country. A good trade off would be turmeric or just use the spices that appeal to you.
Savored for centuries, crepes are popular not only throughout France but worldwide. Crepe making has evolved from being cooked on large cast- iron hot plates heated over a wood fire in a fireplace to pans or griddles that are gas or electrically heated.
Around the 12th century, buckwheat was introduced to Brittany, France from the east. Buckwheat could thrive on the desolate, rocky Breton moors and was high in fiber, protein and essential amino acids. At that point, all crepes were being made from buckwheat flour. White flour crepes appeared only at the turn of the 20th century when white flour became affordable.
Almost every country in the world has its own name and adaptation of crepes including Italian crespelle, Hungarian palacsintas, Jewish blintzes, Scandinavian plattars, Russian blini and Greek kreps.
Although crepes are simple in concept, by creating fillings that are complex in flavors, takes this entree to a whole new level.
On July 25/2016, I posted a blog featuring both sweet and savory crepes you might enjoy to read. For something different today, I made ‘crepe stacks’ which have a savory filling of my own ‘design’. Hope you find time to make some.
In a large container with a cover, beat eggs well on medium speed. Gradually add dry ingredients alternately with milk & oil. Beat until smooth. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before cooking.
In a saucepan, melt margarine; add flour while stirring for a couple of minutes. Gradually whisk in milk, chicken broth & spices. Add cheese; cook, stirring until cheese is melted. Set aside to cool slightly then place in food processor. Process until smooth & fluffy.
In a bowl, combine water & seasonings. Add ground pork & mix well. In a skillet, saute mushroom slices in margarine; remove from skillet & set aside. Scramble fry pork until no longer pink. Spoon onto paper towels to drain. Add to Gouda sauce.
Place one crepe on each dinner plate. Top with slices of sauteed mushrooms & some pork/Gouda sauce. Repeat 3 more times on each plate. Garnish if you prefer. It may be necessary to reheat for a couple of minutes in the microwave before serving.