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.
Fig & Pear Stuffed Pork Tenderloin
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.
Rhubarb was originally cultivated for its medicinal properties and was not used in European cooking until the late 18th century. The history of rhubarb is very complicated but simply put there are only two broad categories, medicinal and culinary.
Thought of by many as an old fashioned ‘vegetable’, it never has really fallen out of favor. In Germany, rhubarb season is from April until June. There are countless recipes using rhubarb as the German people are very passionate about eating produce they have grown themselves.
I have an inherited love of rhubarb — the way it tastes, its huge beautiful foliage, its hardiness, productiveness …….
RHUBARB SOUR CREAM PIE (German Rhabarber Sauerrahn Kuchen) has been in my pie ‘go to’ file forever. The combination of these two ingredients works magic. Just for something different, I decided to use the same recipe but make it into tarts today.
Rhubarb Sour Cream Pie / Tarts
In a small bowl, combine oatmeal, brown sugar, margarine, flour & citrus zest. Cut in margarine until mixture is crumbly. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 400 F. In a large bowl, combine sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon & nutmeg; beat in sour cream & egg. Gently fold in rhubarb. Pour into pastry shell. Sprinkle topping mixture over the filling.
Bake at 400 F. for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 F. & bake for 35-40 minutes or until topping is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack before slicing.
- In order to obtain nice slices, refrigerate pie until cold then slice & heat a bit in the microwave if preferred.
CELEBRATING FATHER’S DAY!
Father’s Day, that special day set aside to honor our fathers and the father figures who have influenced our lives. A father’s love is such a special gift beyond compare. You only know the meaning when he is no longer there.
My father passed away in 2005 and Brion’s in 2011. The passage of time will never dim those precious memories we have of them. They followed very different paths in their life’s journey; my father was a farmer and Brion’s an army soldier. Both of them gave so much of themselves to their life’s work as well as to their families.
There are not enough words to describe how important my father was to me and the powerful influence he continues to be in my life even though he’s gone.
As a tribute to our dad’s on Father’s day, I am featuring a CHEESE CRUSTED APPLE PIE. Both of them loved apple pie so it seems like a good choice for the blog recipe.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt & cheese. Cut in half the shortening to resemble coarse meal; then remaining shortening until it resembles small peas. Add water, a little at a time, mixing lightly with a fork. Shape dough into a firm ball; chill for 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 F. On a lightly floured surface, roll pastry out to fit a 9-inch flan pan; trim edges. Cover pastry with a piece of parchment paper; cover with dried beans & bake for 7 minutes. Carefully remove beans & bake another 7 minutes. Remove from oven & cool.
Chop apples coarsely, place in a saucepan with lemon juice; cover & cook about 10 minutes or until just tender. Stir in flour, sugar & cinnamon; cool to room temperature.
In a small bowl, combine sugar, flour & pecans. Rub in butter until mixture is coarse & crumbly.
Place filling into pastry shell, sprinkle with topping. Bake at 400 F. for 15 minutes; reduce heat to 375 F. & bake further for 15 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Decorate with whipped cream, extra chopped pecans & powdered sugar, if desired.
- Due to the fact that ovens sometimes vary in temperature, you may need to adjust the baking temperature a little higher or lower than recipe states.
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.
Bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven & slice.
A ‘galette’ (French) or ‘crostata’ (Italian) was an early way to form a pie crust in the absence of pie pans. The dough was rolled flat, the filling placed in the middle with the edges turned up to contain the filling.
The origin of the pie (pye) has been traced to Egypt where savory fillings were baked, using woven reeds as the baking vessel. The concept was brought to Greece and then to Rome. It is believed the ancient Greeks created pie pastry and the trade of ‘pastry chef’ was then distinguished from that of a baker. The use of lard and butter in northern Europe led to a dough that could be rolled out and molded into what has become our modern pie crust. Before the emergence of tin or ceramic pie pans, the ancient practice of using the bottom of the oven or fireplace was used to bake this rustic tart.
Galettes can be made in any size, as well as sweet or savory, using only a simple baking sheet. No technique to create an even, fluted crust is necessary. Rusticity is its charm! No worries about tearing the dough or if the final result is perfectly round or rectangular.
The crust of this galette is made with the addition of a small amount of cornmeal to give it a bit of crunch and is equally as good with a sweet or savory filling.
In a small bowl, combine sour cream & ice water; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar & salt. Using a pastry blender or finger tips, cut in butter until mixture resembles BOTH coarse crumbs & small peas. Sprinkle the cold sour cream mixture over the dough, 1 Tbsp at a time, tossing with a fork to evenly distribute it. After you have added all the sour cream, dough should be moist enough to stick together when pressed; if not, add additional cold water, 1 tsp at a time. Do not overwork dough.
Press dough into a disk shape & wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. The dough can be kept in the refrigerator for a day or two or it can be wrapped airtight & frozen for a month. Thaw, still wrapped in refrigerator.
In a bowl, toss together the fruit, all but 1 Tbsp of the sugar, salt, lemon juice & zest & cornstarch.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the chilled dough into a circle & set on baking sheet. Place the fruit filling in the middle, leaving a border of 1 1/2 to 2-inches. Gently fold pastry over the fruit, pleating to hold it in. Brush pastry with egg wash. Sprinkle the reserved 1 Tbsp sugar over the crust.
Bake 35-45 minutes until the filling bubbles up & crust is golden. Cool for at least 20 minutes on a wire rack before serving. Best served warm or at room temperature.
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.
Salmon Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms
Preheat oven to 400 F. In a bowl, combine all ingredients through salt & pepper, mix well. Coat both sides of mushrooms in Italian dressing & place them upside down in a baking dish.
Equally distribute the salmon mixture between mushroom caps; form a mound. Sprinkle with extra Parmesan cheese. Bake 25-35 minutes or until mushrooms are tender & the cheese is slightly browned.
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!
Pork Tenderloin with Raspberry-Nectarine Sauce
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.
The thought of rhubarb is a nostalgic thing for me. I have memories of my mother’s neat row of rhubarb plants growing along the edge of her garden. Magically each spring they would reappear from what had been frozen ground only a few short weeks before. While other plants still lay dormant, the large fan shaped rhubarb leaves quickly gathered enough sunlight to produce some juicy stalks.
Tucked in behind the water fountain, in Brion and my flower garden, are three rhubarb plants. Originally we had put them there to show off that huge foliage as well as being used in my cooking. Time has passed and with our trees becoming more mature, they are getting more shade than they like. Nevertheless, last year they were still producing in late September.
I’m going to start off this season with some RHUBARB CHEESECAKE SQUARES, a favorite recipe that comes from tasteofhome.com
Rhubarb Cheesecake Squares
In a small bowl, combine flour, oats & brown sugar. Cut in butter until crumbly. Set aside 1 cup crumb mixture; press remaining mixture onto bottom of a greased 9-inch square baking dish. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a small bowl, beat cream cheese & sugar until smooth. Beat in salt, vanilla, cinnamon & nutmeg. Add egg; beat on low speed just until combined. Stir in walnuts & rhubarb. Pour over crust. Sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture.
Bake for 35-40 minutes or until set. Cool on a wire rack for 1 hour. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before cutting into squares.
- If you are wanting to use frozen rhubarb, measure rhubarb while still frozen, then thaw completely. Drain in a sieve, but do not press liquid out.
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.
Mango - Orange Chicken Breast
Mix spices on a plate; add chicken, turn to coat both sides of each breast. In a large skillet, heat oil & add chicken; cook 6-7 minutes on each side or until no pink remains.
Meanwhile, prepare couscous as directed on package, omitting salt & oil. Place couscous on serving platter & lay chicken breast on top. Cover to keep warm.
Add red pepper & green onion to skillet; cook for 1-2 minutes. Add mango, orange segments, cilantro & dressing; cook another minute or until heated through, stirring occasionally. Spoon over chicken.
Strawberries — loved for their sweet taste and heart shape, have symbolized purity, perfection, love and passion throughout the ages. It is very common for us to give little thought to where our food comes from and the back breaking labor that it took to get it to our various parts of the country.
Travel can always be filed under the category ‘learning experience’. I find it so important to set oneself outside our ‘bubble’ to fully understand and not become complacent about the many things we take for granted.
Over the years, Brion and I have spent many holiday hours travelling along the Big Sur coast of California, USA. While there we would use Monterrey as our ‘home base’ and make little day trips to the surrounding area. Just inland from Monterrey is the agricultural jewel known as the Salinas Valley. This is one of the major valleys and most productive agricultural regions of California. Having a unique coastal environment with its western ocean exposure (less than 10 miles away) provides moderate temperatures year round. Warm sunny days and cool foggy nights are the perfect combination for growing strawberries.
I find myself going back to those years I was raised on the farm when we drive along looking at the fields of produce. I have often felt much appreciation and compassion for the farm workers standing, bent over in the heat of the blazing sun for hours tending these crops.
I have many memories of my own parents working long, hard hours to provide for us on our family farm. I am grateful to have learned to appreciate the efforts of others that make life good.
This STRAWBERRY ROSE with DARK CHOCOLATE PUDDING celebrates those wonderful Driscoll strawberries as well as satisfying the chocolate lover.
Strawberry Rose with Dark Chocolate Pudding
Melt chocolate. Whisk together 1/2 cup milk & cornstarch. In a small saucepan, bring remaining 1 1/2 cups milk, sugar, cocoa & salt just to a simmer over medium heat. Add cornstarch/milk mixture; bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Cook 1 minute. Remove from heat & stir in melted chocolate & vanilla. Spoon into serving glasses. Cover surface directly with plastic wrap to prevent skin from forming. Chill.
Before serving, hull 16 strawberries by removing the green stem. Take 4 strawberries & cut the top of the strawberries off. These will be used as the center for the roses. For remaining strawberries, slice into 1/8" slices to use for the rose petals.
Begin arranging the sliced strawberries around the pudding making sure the ends of the slices are facing out & extend slightly beyond the rim of the glass. After the first circle of strawberries is placed, begin making a second circle of strawberries but position slightly more forward toward the center of the glass. Continue with a third layer. Once finished, add the cut strawberry to the center & garnish with mint leaves.