Quince, Walnut & Cheese Palmiers

Years ago, a friend gave me a little jar of quince jam. We enjoyed the flavor but I never really gave it much thought. Recently, I came across quince paste in the grocery store. It looks quite similar to the guava paste I used in numerous recipes previously.

Of course, now its got my interest peaked to find out more about this fruit. It seems it’s a fall fruit that grows in a manner like apples and pears…… but the similarities end there. Quince are completely inedible when raw. Once cooked, they become soft and tender, usually with a nice syrup from the cooking process.

Quince fruit is native to Southwest Asia, Turkey and Iran. Historically, they were used to make marmalade. Quince cheese (also known as quince paste) is a sweet, thick jelly made from the pulp of the quince fruit. It is a common confection in several countries. Because this fruit is very high in pectin, it gels easily. Quince is sweetened with sugar and can be flavored with lemon juice, cinnamon and apple.

Quince paste is sold in squares or blocks, then cut into slices and spread over toasted bread or sandwiches, plain or with cheese. It is often used in filling for pastries or to glaze roasted meats.

I’m going to try it first in these pastries today and then maybe in a meat glaze another day.

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Quince, Walnut & Cheese Palmiers
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Instructions
  1. Open puff pastry sheet on parchment paper & roll it out into 10 x 10-inch square. Spread the quince paste over the surface then sprinkle with cheese & walnuts.
  2. With a knife, very lightly score a line width-wise across the middle of the pastry. Starting at one side, roll up jelly-roll style, stopping at the score mark in the middle. Starting at the other side, roll up pastry to score mark.
  3. Wrap the roll in the parchment paper & plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour. Preheat oven to 400 F. Remove roll & slice into 3/8-inch slices (or larger if you prefer). Place cut side up on a lined baking sheet. Bake 12-15 minutes or until golden. Remove to wire racks to cool completely. Store in air-tight container.

Rice Flour Crepes with Black Beans & Guacamole

Due to the fact that rice flour pairs perfectly with taco-worthy fillings such as avocado, beans, cheese etc. gave me inspiration for this meal. This flour is a staple of South east Asia, Japan & India. Rice flour or rice powder is very different from rice starch, which is produced by steeping rice in a strong alkaline solution.

The technique of frying with rice flour has become universal. Rice absorbs less oil than other flours while frying, resulting in fewer calories from fat and a less oily product. Even many fast food restaurants dust their french fries with rice flour to give them that characteristic, satisfying crunch. By blending traditional wheat or cornstarch batters with rice flour will lighten the batter up and reduces some of the ‘gumminess’.

Rice flour is well suited to crepes but it is important to make them in thin, crisp rounds. If they are too thick the most likely they will crack if you are wrapping filling inside.

The recipe I’m using for my crepe stacks is pretty much a basic crepe recipe with rice flour substituted for all purpose flour. For the classic Asian rice ‘crepe’, coconut milk and turmeric are generally used.

This combination of flavors was very interesting. The recipe seems kind of long but it comes together fairly quickly. It certainly will be a ‘keeper’ for us.

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Rice Flour Crepes with Black Beans & Guacamole
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Asia, Mexican
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Asia, Mexican
Servings
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Instructions
Rice Flour Crepes
  1. In a pitcher, whisk all ingredients together until smooth. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes while preparing the rest of the recipe.
Crepe Filling
  1. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add turkey; stir-fry until no longer pink. Stir in water chestnuts, carrot, cilantro, garlic, apricot preserve, soy sauce, ginger & red pepper flakes. Remove from heat & set aside.
Guacamole
  1. In a bowl, coarsely mash avocados, lime juice, salt, garlic, onion & cilantro with a fork. Cover & refrigerate until ready to use.
Black Beans
  1. In a bowl, combine all ingredients except chicken broth (or water). In a food processor, pulse 1/2 cup of the mixture with broth until smooth. Add to mixture in bowl & stir to combine well.
  2. Heat griddle to a medium-high temperature. Using a 1/4 measure, pour batter on griddle. With bottom of 1/4 cup measure, enlarge crepe by making circular motion in the batter. Cook each crepe for about 2 minutes until bottom is lightly browned. Lay on a plate until ready to use making sure not to let them dry out.
Assembly
  1. On each serving plate lay one crepe. Spread each with some of the guacamole, top each with some of the turkey filling, black beans, diced fresh tomato & a sprinkle of smoked Gouda cheese. Repeat with 2 more layers on each plate. End with a swirl of guacamole for some eye appeal. Serve extra beans on the side if you wish.

Coconut Rice Crepes with Seafood Filling

CELEBRATING MOTHER’S DAY!

Here in Canada, we set aside the second Sunday in May to honor our Mother’s with expressions of love and gratitude.

As I grow older, I realize how many ways I unconsciously emulate my mother. I loved everything about her and as a kid I could never imagine life without her. But in the natural sequence of events, that’s not how it works. I guess along with many other things, I’m grateful for the fact that she was there through my childhood. She passed away at the age of sixty and although she is no longer on this earth, her wonderful memory will live on in our hearts forever.

It is also with love, Brion and I celebrate his mother Dolores, for all of her kind and loving ways.

In honor of these two precious women who prepared so many wonderful meals for us years ago, I like to post something special on this day. My choice this year are these unique looking crepes.

The crepe has its roots in Malaysia and is called ‘Roti Jala’ which literally translates to ‘Net Bread or Crepe’. The intricate lacy pattern is created with a special mold or ladle that has five nozzles.

Roti Jala is eaten with a chicken curry, generally a spicy one, which is the perfect accompaniment to these coconuty pancakes. Usually homemade, this crepe is served at events such as weddings or festivals in Malaysia, Sinapore and Indonesia. It has also become a popular tea time snack and street food.

There are a few methods for preparing the batter, some use coconut milk, others with regular milk. The use of rice flour in the batter produces a very light and tender crepe.

Since neither Brion or I enjoy the taste of curry, I gave these crepes a seafood/veggie filling and served them over a Gouda sauce. I think they make such a special, lacy little crepe for brunch.

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Coconut Rice Crepes with Seafood Filling
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Cuisine American, Asia, Korean
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Ingredients
Coconut-Rice Crepes
Gouda Sauce
Seafood Filling
Cuisine American, Asia, Korean
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Ingredients
Coconut-Rice Crepes
Gouda Sauce
Seafood Filling
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Instructions
Coconut-Rice Crepes
  1. In a bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch & salt. In another bowl or pitcher, lightly beat eggs, add coconut milk & oil; stir to combine. Pour this over flour mixture & stir until a smooth batter is achieved. Allow to stand for at least 20 minutes or as long as two hours. ( If leaving more than 30 minutes, cover & refrigerate until 10 before using.)
  2. Place an 8-inch non-stick skillet over high heat. When it is hot, lower heat to medium & rub a paper towel oiled with coconut oil over the cooking surface. Transfer the batter to a large squeeze bottle or a traditional Roti Jala maker. Squeeze the batter onto the hot pan, starting from the side of the pan, in sort of an up & down motion, then move to the top of the pan making a left to right motion to create that net look.
  3. Cook for about 45 seconds or until lightly browned on the first side, then turn the crepe over & cook for another 30 seconds. Turn out onto a rack & repeat with the remaining batter, wiping the skillet with an oiled paper towel between each one.
Gouda Sauce
  1. In a small dish, combine spices. Grate cheese & set aside. In a skillet, melt butter, stir in flour & cook until bubbly but not browned. Whisk in milk, chicken broth & spices, stirring until smooth & bubbly. Stir in grated Gouda. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap & set aside.
Seafood Filling
  1. In a skillet, heat oil & saute shrimp & scallops for a few minutes. Add zucchini, green onions, garlic, mushrooms & peppers & saute for another minute or two. Add ginger, soy sauce & water; cover & cook over low heat for several minutes until cooked. Do not overcook. Divide mixture between warm crepes, carefully roll. Ladle some Gouda sauce onto each serving plate & top with filled, rolled crepes.

Easter ‘Ube’ Cheesecake Baskets

In my second blog for the month of November/2018, I had featured an article on ‘Ube’ Sweet Rolls. This was my first experience using this interesting Filipino purple yam. Since we had really enjoyed the flavor, why not take it further?!

First, I just wanted to talk a bit more about this tuber. Ube originated in the Philippines and refers to a bright purple sweet potato. Traditionally it is boiled and mashed with coconut milk and sweetened condensed milk to form essentially ‘dessert mashed potatoes’.  Unlike Matcha or Durian that have intense scents and flavors, ube doesn’t require a developed palate to enjoy.

It is easy to confuse ube with taro, but they are completely different foods. Taro is typically white on the inside and used in savory dishes, while ube is more commonly used in making sweets.

The violet purple color makes it highly photogenic, which gives it a natural marketing quality. The taste has been described as something similar to white chocolate with earthy nutty tones, gentle but not intense.

Fresh ube seems fairly difficult to find in North America but with a little persistence its possible. There are a few different forms it is sold in. Dehydrated powder, extract, ube halaya (or paste) or as a grated frozen product. Ube is not an exotic ingredient in the Philippines, but a common everyday staple that deserves a bit more respect and understanding.

When I saw a cheesecake recipe using ube, I couldn’t imagine a more perfect base for an Easter dessert. Creamy ube with the perfect note of tang and richness from the cream cheese.


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Easter 'Ube' Cheesecake Baskets

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Crumb Base

Ube Cheesecake Filling

Servings


Ingredients
Crumb Base

Ube Cheesecake Filling

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Instructions
Base
  1. Line 8-9 large muffin cups with large paper liners. In a bowl, combine melted butter & crumbs; stir until mixture looks like coarse meal & all of the crumbs are moistened with the butter. Divide crumbs between lined cups; set aside.

Filling
  1. Check for any hard particles in the thawed purple yam & discard them. Wrap purple yam (ube) in foil & steam for about 20-30 minutes or until very soft. Mash until creamy & let cool.

  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a bowl, beat cream cheese until soft & fluffy. Add sugar & salt beating until combined. Add the cooled 'ube' & beat until incorporated & smooth.

  3. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition then add vanilla. Pour into prepared 'cups'. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until they test done when the tip of a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Lay a piece of paper towel over a wire cooling rack. Remove cheesecake cups from oven; cool for a few minutes then lift out onto paper lined rack. Cool, then chill in the fridge for at least 6-8 hours.

Decorating
  1. Place coconut in a zip lock baggie. Dissolve a few drops of food coloring in a teaspoon of water. Pour over coconut, seal & shake until it is the color you want.

  2. Hollow out a small circle in the top of each cheesecake. Divide the yogurt between cheesecakes, filling each little divot with some. Next, divide the tinted coconut between the cheesecakes, covering the yogurt, to make a 'nest'. Top each nest with 3 'robin egg' Easter candies.

Gingered Braised Beef

Ginger Beef appears to have its origins in a Northern Chinese dish called Geung Ngao Yuk. It is traditionally drier and less sweet than the popular restaurant version that we are familiar with here in Canada. Ginger beef epitomizes the evolution of Chinese-Western cuisine and while its status as an iconic Canadian dish may be under the radar, its the perfect springboard to jump off into the murky waters of Canadian Chinese food and its origins.

In 1975, a newly arrived family in Canada, from Hong Kong, decided to open a Chinese restaurant outside of Calgary, Alberta’s Chinatown. Two sisters, Louise Tsang and Lily Wong found an old cafe with a sign that said ‘Silver Inn’. The building was worn out but the sign was still in excellent condition. They started serving both Canadian and Chinese dishes which was the norm for many restaurant owners of Chinese decent during this period. But they found in order to suit the tastes of the North American palate, they initially  had to serve a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches. With the help of Lily’s husband, George Wong (who was also the restaurants’ chef), they began to adapt certain recipes. Because George Wong had experience cooking in England, he was used to the typical Western palate. Ginger beef was born, also known on their menu as ‘No. 65 – deep fried shredded beef in chili sauce’. Ironically, the dish has very little ginger in it and its actually the sweet chilies that are mistaken for ginger.

Although ginger beef is indigenous to Alberta, I think its safe to say, it can be found on pretty much any Chinese take-out menu in Canada. You would be hard pressed though to find anything resembling it in China, I’m sure. It is neither Chinese nor Canadian and yet it is both.

Today’s blog recipe moves away from the traditional deep fried beef to a marinated version using (of all things) ginger ale. Not only is ginger ale a great meat tenderizer but you get a bold ginger flavor without grating fresh ginger. Just a little side note… the term marinade, originally came from the use of seawater to preserve meat. The roots of the word are derived from the Latin word for sea (mare). This marinade works well with pork as well as beef. 

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Gingered Braised Beef
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Asia
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Asia
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Instructions
  1. In a large resealable bag, combine all marinade ingredients with ribs. Marinate, refrigerated, for at least 2-3 hours.
  2. Preheat oven to 250 F. Line a baking dish with foil paper & place ribs in a single layer. Pour enough marinade over the ribs to come almost to the top of them but not covering the ribs. Place in oven & bake at this slow heat for about 2 hours. You end up with some real flavorful TENDER ribs & the marinade tastes so good over steamed rice.

Pecan Persimmon Sticky Buns

As I mentioned in a previous blog, persimmons areĀ definitely underrated. If you haven’t used them before, now is a good time to give them a try. Where we are, here in Canada, you start seeing them in the grocery stores around October. A bit pricey at first but they get better as the winter rolls along. There are unlimited ways to use them posted on the internet.

The persimmon is Japan’s national fruit. The most commonly found varieties are the ‘Hachiya’, round with a slightly elongated, pointed base and the ‘Fuyu’, smaller and more tomato shaped. When ripe, both have a red-orange skin and flesh, creamy texture and a tangy-sweet, vanilla like flavor.

Today, I’m using a Fuyu persimmon to make some nice little sticky buns. This recipe makes a small amount and tastes amazing.

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Pecan Persimmon Sticky Buns
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Course dessert
Cuisine American, Asia, European
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Course dessert
Cuisine American, Asia, European
Servings
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Instructions
  1. Butter 5 or 6 custard cups. In a small saucepan, melt 2 tbsp butter; add brown sugar. Stir until sugar is melted & begins to bubble. Divide sugar mixture between custard cups. Place a pecan half (upside down) in center of each cup. Place sliced persimmon quarters in a circular fashion on top of sugar & pecan. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a bowl, beat remaining 4 Tbsp butter & granulated sugar until fluffy. Whisk in vanilla, egg & milk until fully blended.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder & salt. Add to wet ingredients, mixing ONLY until blended. Carefully fold in chopped pecans.
  4. Divide batter between custard cups & bake for 20 minutes. Test with a toothpick. Allow to cool for 5 minutes in custard cups. Invert on serving platter & serve.