Classic Beef PLov

‘Plov’ originated from Uzbekistan (a landlocked country in Central Asia), centuries ago. It has become known and loved throughout Central Asia as well as being a staple dish in Russia.. This meal differs according to the occasion: a wedding plov is the most magnificent, a holiday plov a bit less exotic and there is even an everyday plov. These vary both in cooking technique and ingredients. Traditionally, plov is made with mutton, rice, carrots and spices and involves three main stages.

There are over sixty different plov recipes in Uzbek cuisine. In every area it is cooked in a special way. To an experienced gourmet, it would be easy to recognize its origin from what I’ve read.

Time has changed and refined plov recipes with more ingredients being added. Plov is usually served on big ceramic or porcelain plates.

This turned out to be a very nice meal. As usual I always enjoy food history as much as trying the recipe. I hope you found the blog interesting and the plov tasty if you had a chance to try it.

Classic Beef PLov
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Classic Beef PLov
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Season cubed meat with salt. In a large skillet, heat a splash of olive oil & add meat cubes; brown well. Remove meat from skillet. To the same pan add onion, carrot & garlic. Saute until golden brown. Return meat to pan & add broth, seasonings & stir together. Cover; reduce heat to low & simmer for 1 hour or until meat is tender.
  2. When plov has finished simmering, add garbanzo beans. Sprinkle uncooked rice evenly over the meat & broth. DO NOT stir the rice & meat together, simply arrange it so it submerged under broth. Season with fresh ground pepper, cover & continue to cook over a low heat. DO NOT stir the rice during cooking time to create light & airy rice that is not mashed together. When rice is cooked THEN stir together & serve.
Recipe Notes
  • Traditionally, plov is accompanied by salads made of fresh or marinated vegetables - tomatoes, cucumbers, radish & fruits & herbs such as pomegranate, dill or basil.
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Basil Chicken Stuffed Eggplant

It goes without saying, eggplant is beloved in many cuisines. It has been considered the ‘queen of the garden’ with it’s almost purple-black, glossy skin and cap-like crown.

Eggplants are bitter when raw but develop a savory and complex flavor when cooked. The texture of the flesh is meaty and easily absorbs sauces and cooking liquids.

Native to the Indian subcontinent and the Himalayan area, they have been cultivated in Southeast Asia since prehistoric times. Cultivars in the 18th century were white to pale yellow in color and resembled hen’s eggs which explains the reason this fruit is called ‘eggplant’. There are dozens of eggplant subspecies grown throughout the world in many shapes and sizes. 

The most popular one we see here in North America is the dark purple ‘globe’ eggplant which ranges in weight from 1-5 pounds. When buying them, look for ones with smooth, firm, unwrinkled skin and a fresh looking green stalk or cap. Eggplant is commonly used in ratatouille, pasta dishes, spreads, dips, moussaka or stuffed and roasted.

Today, I’m making a stuffed version with an interesting fresh basil-chicken filling.

Basil Chicken Stuffed Eggplant
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Servings
2
Servings
2
Basil Chicken Stuffed Eggplant
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Servings
2
Servings
2
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Cut eggplant in half lengthwise; carefully hollow out each half. Roughly chop the removed flesh.
  2. In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil & saute onion until tender, about 5-6 minutes. Add the chopped eggplant, mushrooms & garlic. Cook until eggplant is tender, about 7-8 minutes. Add ground chicken, oregano, salt & pepper. Cook until chicken is no longer pink, about 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in in roasted red peppers, cooked rice & fresh basil; remove skillet from the heat. Place eggplant halves in a baking dish & fill with chicken/rice mixture. Sprinkle with sunflower seeds; drizzle with remaining olive oil & bake 30-35 minutes until tender.
  4. Remove eggplant from oven & top with grated cheeses.
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Orange Tempura Chicken

Though called Chinese food in North America, ‘orange chicken’ is rarely found in Chinese restaurants in China. It seems its more an Americanized mutation of the sweet & sour dishes found in China.

Chef, Andy Kao is credited with inventing orange chicken in 1987. Inspired by flavors from the Hunan Province of China, he developed the dish while he was employed as Panda Express’ executive chef in Hawaii.

I, personally, have never enjoyed eating anything that is coated in a heavy batter. Tempura is different from other fried fare due to its distinctive batter. It uses no bread crumbs and less grease than other frying methods. The light batter is made of cold water (sometimes sparkling water is used to keep the batter light) and soft wheat flour. Eggs, baking powder, baking soda, cornstarch, oil and/or spices may also be added.

Tempura batter is traditionally mixed in small batches for only a few seconds. Leaving lumps in the mixture along with the cold batter temperature, result in a unique fluffy and crisp structure when cooked. Over mixing tempura batter will result in activation of the wheat gluten, which causes the flour mixture to become soft and dough-like when fried.

The orange chicken I’m making today uses a nice light tempura batter, is grilled instead of deep fried, then coated with a unique and quick orange sauce (from kraftcanada.com). Add some Jasmine rice and veggies — perfect!

Orange Tempura Chicken
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Servings
4-6
Servings
4-6
Orange Tempura Chicken
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Servings
4-6
Servings
4-6
Instructions
Vegetables
  1. Prepare vegetables & saute in 1/2 cup chicken broth ONLY until tender-crisp. Drain broth & reserve for sauce when vegtables are sauteed.
Orange Sauce
  1. In a small saucepan, combine dry jelly powder & cornstarch. Add broth, dressing, garlic & gingerroot; stir until jelly powder is dissolved. Add reserved broth from vegetables & cook until sauce is thickened, stirring frequently.
Tempura Batter & Chicken
  1. Slice chicken into strips. In a small bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, baking soda & salt. In another small bowl, whisk egg with veg oil, soy sauce & ice water. Add to dry mixture, mixing only for a few seconds. Batter should be somewhat 'lumpy'.
  2. Heat oil on an electric griddle to a medium heat. Dip slices of chicken in tempura batter with a fork, draining off excess. Place on griddle & fry about 7 minutes or until cooked through. Drain on paper towels.
  3. Prepare Jasmine rice & place on a serving platter. Top with sauteed vegetables & chicken. Ladle orange sauce over vegetables & chicken. If you prefer, serve rice, veg, chicken & sauce all separately so everyone can make up there own combination.
Recipe Notes
  • We always like quite a bit of sauce but if you don't, just make half a recipe of the orange sauce.
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Potato Pancakes w/ Pork Filling

Potato pancake variations are present in National cuisines all over the world and considered by many to be pure comfort food. The nice thing is, you can create this great meal by using leftover mashed potatoes. It can be kept simple or you can amp up the flavor with cheese, onion, bacon or a variety of spices. I recall my mother making them. I think she just added some eggs, onion, a bit of flour and some salt & pepper to the leftover, mashed potatoes. They were made into patties and pan fried as you would a pancake.

Depending on which part of Eastern Europe you come from, the name varies — Kolduny, Zrazy, Kartoffelpuffer are just a few. Regardless of the name you call them, they are just simply delicious. The Russian version takes it a bit further. The potato pancake is stuffed with a filling and then fried to a golden brown.

After reading through numerous recipes, I decided to ‘meld’ some of them into my own creation. These are what developed — nothing pretty but really good flavor. Yes, truly comfort food.

Potato Pancakes w/ Pork Filling
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Potato Pancakes w/ Pork Filling
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Ingredients
Potato Pancakes
Servings:
Instructions
Pork Filling
  1. In a bowl, combine pork filling ingredients; divide into 8 portions & form each into a patty shape. Refrigerate until potato pancake 'batter' is prepared .
Potato Pancakes
  1. In a skillet, fry bacon until crispy; drain on a paper towel until cool. In skillet with remaining bacon grease, saute onion & garlic until translucent.
  2. In a large bowl, crumble bacon into small bits. Add cold mashed potatoes, onion, garlic, beaten egg, cheddar (if using), flour, salt & pepper. Combine well. Using a large piece of waxed paper, form 16 patties. On top of each one, place one of the pork patties & then top each with the remaining potato patties. With a pair of scissors, cut waxed paper to separate filled potato pancakes so it will be easy for you to place them on a griddle for frying.
  3. Lightly oil a frying pan or griddle. Using the waxed paper remaining under each pancake, carefully flip each filled pancake onto the griddle. Flatten a bit & press edges to enclose filling better. Fry first side to a nice golden brown then carefully flip with a spatula & brown second side a few minutes. Cover with a lid (or foil) for remaining cooking time to ensure pork is cooked through.
  4. Once cooked, remove from griddle & serve with sour cream or Ranch dressing.
Recipe Notes
  • Don't hesitate to make the pancakes the size that works best for you.
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Pork Medallions w/ Apricot Brandy Sauce

This is a meal that has a lot of interesting flavors going on. First you are marinating dried apricots and figs in brandy, then rubbing the pork medallions with a cumin-ginger spice combo.

Some years ago I became interested in using the cumin spice. If you have not yet tried it, the flavor is very distinctive. It could be described as slightly bitter and warm with strong, earthy notes. Cumin is an essential ingredient not only in Mexican and Southwest-inspired dishes but in the more trendy foods of North Africa, India and the Middle East. This delicate looking annual plant has slender branched stems. It is fast growing, with tiny white flowers that yield the cumin seeds. Farmers have to manually harvest the seeds by pulling the whole plant out of the ground and thrashing the seeds off of the plant onto a sheet. They are then sun-dried and hand sifted over a screen to separate out stems and twigs.

Although you need very little cumin in most recipes, it gives a great flavor. Like most spices, you must develop a taste for it to really enjoy it.

Pork Medallions w/ Apricot Brandy Sauce
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Pork Medallions w/ Apricot Brandy Sauce
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, marinate figs & apricots in brandy. Slice pork tenderloin into medallions. Combine cardamom, cumin, ginger, salt & pepper in a plastic bag; add pork medallions & toss to evenly coat with spice rub.
  2. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add pork, brown nicely on each side & remove to a plate. Return skillet to medium-LOW heat & add butter & onions. Gently saute onions for 5 minutes; add figs & apricots but NOT brandy. Saute 1 more minute.
  3. Turn heat back to medium-high & pour in the brandy & allow to simmer 1 minute. Add chicken broth & return pork to skillet. Cover & cook until pork medallions still have a hint of pink. Best to not overcook.
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Wild Shrimp & Red Pepper Pizza

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!

Wild Shrimp & Red Pepper Pizza
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Wild Shrimp & Red Pepper Pizza
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Instructions
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
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Ham & Cauliflower Au Gratin

The word ‘gratin’ or ‘au gratin’  has been given numerous alternative and incorrect definitions. Many think that the term is French for ‘with cheese’, others say that it refers to a dish with a browned topping and some even claim that gratin means a baked casserole.

The word gratin actually derives from the French word grater or gratter, meaning ‘to grate’. Originally it meant something more like ‘scrapings’. This referred to the browned crusty material that forms on the bottom or the act of scraping loose these crusty bits and stirring them back into the dish during baking. However, it now tends to refer to the browned crust that forms on the top of the baked dish. Toppings generally consist of breadcrumbs, grated cheese, egg and/or butter.

The word gratin is also used to identify the types of cookware in which such a meal is cooked. Traditionally, they are oval, but can also be round and come in graduated sizes and are made of clay-based ceramic, metal or oven-proof glass.

This au gratin combines ham and cauliflower in a creamy, Parmesan sauce and is topped with cheddar cheese. We really enjoyed it.

Ham & Cauliflower Au Gratin
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Servings
4-6
Servings
4-6
Ham & Cauliflower Au Gratin
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Servings
4-6
Servings
4-6
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Fill a medium pot half full of water & add 1 tsp salt. Bring to a boil. Cut cauliflower into small flowerets & add to boiling water. Blanche for 3 minutes. DON"T OVERCOOK! Pour into a colander in the sink & let drain well- about 5 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 6 X 8-inch glass casserole dish with cooking spray. Cut ham into small cubes & slice green onions. In a small bowl, place softened cream cheese, Greek yogurt, Parmesan & sliced green onions.
  3. Return cauliflower to cooking pot; gently fold in sauce mixture & ham. Season to taste with black pepper. Pour cauliflower mixture into prepared baking dish, spreading out evenly. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese.
  4. Bake 30-35 minutes or until the cheese is melted & lightly browned. Mixture should be bubbling & hot through. Remove from oven & allow to stand 10 minutes for any liquid to be absorbed. Serve hot.
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Pumpkin Seed Crusted Pork Chops

The quintessential food of Autumn, the pumpkin, is actually a Mexican native as well as an ancient food staple.

Thinking about Autumn itself, gives us the opportunity to recognize beautiful ‘moments’ in an imperfect world. Fall is an especially ‘magical’ season that is often overlooked with its stunning foliage,mild weather and pumpkin ‘everything’ food fare. It’s when the green around us is replaced by vibrant orange, bright red and golden yellows. We need to discipline ourselves to linger even if its just for a moment on those things so they will be embedded in our memory like a snapshot in a tattered scrapbook. Soon the color disappears as the frosty white takes its place as time slips away.

These symbolic associations are powerful reminders that Mother Nature has an incredible influence on our lives. 

In keeping with ‘all things pumpkin’, I am making some pumpkin seed crusted pork chops today. Pumpkin seeds, also called pepitas by the Mexican-Spanish.  Pepita de Calabaza, meaning ‘little seed of squash’, were actually discovered by archaeologists in caves in Mexico. Aztec cultures used them as both a ritual offering and food.

We found these pork chops real good with the pumpkin seeds giving them a real earthy, nutty flavor.

Pumpkin Seed Crusted Pork Chops
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Servings
2
Servings
2
Pumpkin Seed Crusted Pork Chops
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Servings
2
Servings
2
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. In a food processor, combine pumpkin seeds (saving a few whole ones for garnish), panko breadcrumbs & salt. Pulse for a couple of seconds then add melted butter & parsley; pulse a second more.
  2. Arrange 3 bowls on work surface. Put flour in first bowl, whisked eggs in second bowl & pumpkin seed mixture in third bowl. Coat pork chops in flour, shaking off any excess then dip in eggs & last in the pumpkin seed mixture, pressing down on both sides.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a skillet, heat olive oil & brown pork chops lightly on both sides. Place pork chops on a roasting tray & bake for 12-15 minutes. Allow pork to rest 5 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with a few whole pumpkin seeds as a garnish.
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Stuffed Turkey Breast with Butternut Squash & Figs

HAPPY THANKSGIVING DAY!

In Canada, we celebrate Thanksgiving Day on the second Monday in October. Although, we seem to be more connected digitally than emotionally, it is a day meant to bring us together with our families and friends sharing in a thanksgiving meal.

Thanksgiving is about being grateful for having a roof over our heads, safety and security as we move about in our daily lives, clothes to keep us warm and for the family and friends we love and cherish.

Gratitude is not something that we talk about or think about but more about humanity. It is not just about what we do, but about who we are.

Most of us here in Canada, have far more things to be grateful for than not. I have fond memories of my wonderful parents, carefree childhood days with my siblings, having enjoyed a successful career, a loving husband, our home, the many wonderful world travels we have been able to enjoy together, but above all we are both in relatively good health. It is so important to just take the time and appreciate the blessings in our lives and make every day count.

 

Stuffed Turkey Breast with Butternut Squash & Figs
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Stuffed Turkey Breast with Butternut Squash & Figs
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Instructions
  1. In a large skillet, heat olive oil. Add onions & saute for 2 minutes, until golden. Add butternut squash & 2 Tbsp water to cover; cook on low heat for 10 minutes. Remove lid & add figs, garlic, zucchini, salt , sage & pepper; cook for another 3-4 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. Cut a pocket into the sides of the turkey breast tenderloins, do not cut all the way though. Season the inside of the turkey with salt. Stuff breasts with squash mixture. Wrap each breast with bacon slices.
  3. Preheat oven to 325 F. Place turkey in a roasting pan fitted with a wire rack in the bottom. Roast for about 1 hour until meat thermometer reads 170 F. Remove from oven & allow to sit for 20 minutes, covered loosely with foil. Slice & serve.
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Corned Beef & Cabbage Pizza

CELEBRATING OKTOBERFEST!

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 ?!

Corned Beef & Cabbage Pizza
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Servings
4-6
Servings
4-6
Corned Beef & Cabbage Pizza
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Servings
4-6
Servings
4-6
Instructions
Rye Pizza Crust
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
Fillings
  1. 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.
Assembly
  1. 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.
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