Nothing says summer like fresh fruit and if blackberries aren’t in the mix, you’re missing out. Blackberries have a sweet, tart flavor making them perfect for salads, smoothies, blended into savory sauces, eaten fresh or in desserts.
Blackberries are closely related to raspberries but should not be confused with the black raspberry. Although native to Europe, we can grow them here in Canada. They will thrive in a wide range of soils but good drainage and direct sunlight are a must. Blackberries are the largest of the wild berries, growing on thorny bushes called brambles.
Because blackberries and blueberries make such an amazing combo, using them in this tart seems very fitting. My favorite alternative cornmeal pastry makes a buttery yet slightly crunchy crust. Since it stays so soft, I found it easier to press this pastry into the tart pan as opposed to rolling it out. I added a border after I filled the shell to give it a more rustic look. What more could you want — eye appeal and a fabulous flavor!
I should mention, I’m going to post some balsamic glazed fig & pork kebabs next time. Save a couple of pieces of this tart as they are a perfect ending to that meal.
Blackberry & Blueberry Rustic Tart
In a bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar & salt. With fingertips, cut in butter until mixture resembles small peas. In a measuring up, combine ICE water & sour cream. Add to dry mixture. Mix only until combined, do not over mix. Press into your favorite choice of pan ( tart, quiche or pie pans are all good). Place in fridge or freezer until ready to fill.
Preheat oven to 375 F. In a large bowl, combine berries, sugar, flour & lemon juice; spoon into pastry shell. Brush edges with beaten egg & sprinkle with coarse sugar.
Bake 45-50 minutes or until crust is golden & filling is bubbly. If your pan has a removable bottom, it makes it a lot easier for serving. Cool slightly & serve with whip cream (or ice cream) if you choose.
Even if we are not quite at the peak of zucchini season, is no reason to forget about it. I love zucchini and because its such a mild flavored vegetable, you can find it in recipes from appetizers to dessert. Its versatility lets you steam, poach, saute and fry it but it also makes great cakes, bread, relish and sauce. In Canada, we use it extensively for just about anything you can imagine.
In Mexico, they prefer the flower to the zucchini bulb in soups and quesadillas.
In Italy, it is served in many ways, especially breaded and fried.
In France, it is the key ingredient in ratatouille or stuffed with meat, tomatoes and bell peppers.
In Turkey, zucchini is the main ingredient in pancakes or stuffed with ground meat, rice and herbs.
In Greece, there are numerous uses for zucchini such as fried, boiled, stuffed, hors d’oeuvers and main dishes. Sometimes the flowers are stuffed with white cheese or a mixture of rice, herbs and occasionally ground meat.
In Egypt, zucchini are cooked with tomato sauce, garlic and onions and the list goes on and on—
Today’s blog recipe uses a fresh zucchini sauce to compliment the cod fillets which have an herb and sunflower seed stuffing.
Stuffed Cod Rolls with Fresh Zucchini Sauce
Saute the garlic & onion in olive oil until softened but not browned. Remove from heat & toss together with the remaining stuffing ingredients. Prepare 6 fish portions in roughly 5 X 7-inch size rectangles. Overlap slightly if using two pieces of fish to prepare the portion.
Squeeze handfuls of the stuffing into sausage shaped portions the width of the fish fillet and place at one end, roll the fillet rectangle all the way around the stuffing.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Lay out bacon slices in 6 portions; place the prepared cod & stuffing at one end. Roll bacon tightly around the cod & place in a lightly oiled shallow baking dish. Do not crowd the portions; allow at least an inch or two between the portions for good air circulation in the oven.
Bake stuffed cod for about 25 minutes. Remove from oven & serve with warm fresh zucchini sauce.
Fresh Zucchini Sauce
In a skillet, saute zucchini, onion & mushrooms until tender crisp. Remove from heat; add flour & spices mixing well. Return to heat & slowly add milk & chicken broth. Cook until thickened & bubbly, stirring constantly. Remove from heat & serve over stuffed cod rolls.
I have always enjoyed making (and eating) tea breads. They can come in all sizes and even though they are called bread, for most part, I’d say they are cake.
Tea breads are part of the quick bread genre. They are considered quick because they don’t require kneading or rising time. Instead of yeast, usually baking powder or baking soda or a combination of both are used as a leavening agent.
Afternoon tea, the quintessential English custom, was introduced in England by a Duchess in the year 1840. The evening meal in her household was served fashionably late at 8 PM, thus leaving a long period of time between lunch and dinner (supper). The Duchess asked that a tray of tea, bread/butter and cake be brought to her room during the late afternoon. This pause for tea became a fashionable social event. Upper class and society women would change into long gowns, gloves and hats for their afternoon tea which was usually served in the drawing room between four and five PM.
This tea loaf, pairs sweet, ripe strawberries with the bright, clean flavor of lemon zest and is topped off with a tangy kiwi glaze. A match made in food heaven.
Strawberry Tea Loaf with Fresh Kiwi Glaze
Strawberry Tea Loaf
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9 X 5-inch loaf pan, line bottom with strip of parchment paper with 2-inch overhang on either end.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda & salt. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, buttermilk, applesauce, lemon zest & vanilla. Pour egg mixture into dry ingredients. Mix just until incorporated. Fold in prepared strawberries. Scrape batter into pan.
Bake 50-60 minutes, or until cake tested with a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Cool loaf in pan, set on wire rack, 20 minutes before using parchment overhang to lift out loaf. Cool completely on rack. Slice & serve with kiwi glaze.
In a small saucepan, sprinkle gelatin over the cold water & set aside to soften. Peel the kiwi and blend in a food processor or blender until pureed. Be careful not to over-process as the black seeds will break down & change the color of the puree.
Add the kiwi puree to gelatin mixture. Heat mixture to dissolve gelatin but do not over heat. Continue to stir until dissolved. Keep covered in refrigerator until needed.
I guess its my German heritage that gives that love for anything that resembles a dumpling. Whether sweet or savory doesn’t seem to matter, filling between two thin layers of pasta or dough is just plain good to me.
Around the world, Italian ravioli has many culinary ‘sisters’ in other cultures. Kreplach, in Jewish cuisine, is a pocket of meat filling covered with pasta. In India, the dish Gujiya, has a sweet filling, rather than savory. There are many similarities between Italian ravioli and certain Chinese dumplings as well.
Although ravioli can come in many shapes, including circular and semi-circular, the traditional form is a square. The word ‘ravioli’ comes from the Italian riavvolgere, which means ‘to wrap’.
Not being someone who enjoys to eat ‘out’, its a rare occasion (when we do), for me to be really happy with my meal. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I cooked a lot of ‘commercial’ meals in the food service industry years back. I guess I just got ‘burn out’ to that kind of cooking you might say.
Nevertheless, whenever we have chosen to go to the Olive Garden Restaurant, there is a meal I really do enjoy. It’s called ‘Ravioli di Portobello’. Today, I am re-creating those flavors in a casserole and adding some ground chicken to make it a little more interesting from Brion’s perspective.
Ravioli di Portobello Casserole
Portobello Mushroom Filling
Portobello Mushroom Filling
In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Saute onion until soft. Add mushrooms & saute for two minutes. Reduce heat & let simmer for 5 minutes or until liquid has evaporated & the mushrooms are fully cooked. Add seasonings. Set aside.
In a bowl, combine dry ingredients with eggs. Add water a little at a time, while stirring, until it forms a soft dough. Dough should be soft but not sticky. Roll out the dough, on a floured surface, into a rectangle that is 1/4-inch thickness. Place 1 teaspoon of filling about an inch apart in even columns & rows to cover half of your dough rectangle.
Before adding the top layer of pasta to the ravioli, moisten the dough around the filling dollops. Carefully fold the dough (without any filling on it) over the half with the filling dollops. Using the side of your hand, press the dough together between the dollops, accentuating the pockets of filling in each ravioli. This is very important step to ensure your ravioli will not leak while cooking.
Using a pastry cutter (or a pizza cutter), cut straight lines through the pressed down sections between the filling dollops. In a large kettle of boiling water, drop ravioli in a few at a time, being careful that they do do touch the kettle. When the raviolis float to the top, boil for one minute & then remove them with a slotted spoon. Keep warm in a covered dish, drizzling a tiny bit of butter or oil over them to prevent sticking until you are ready for them.
Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce
In a skillet, melt butter & saute garlic, seasonings, sun-dried tomatoes for a few minutes. Add chicken broth & half & half; bring to a boil & continue to stir until thickened & creamy about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat, set aside until ready to use in casserole.
In a skillet, brown ground chicken until no longer pink; drain & place in a bowl. Add salt, garlic powder & pepper. In the skillet, melt butter, add onion & zucchini; saute until tender crisp. Stir in sun-dried tomato sauce.
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a buttered 9 X 13-inch baking dish, spread 1/4 of sauce, layer 1/2 of the ravioli, another 1/4 of the sauce, half of the chicken & half of the cheese.
Repeat again except OMIT cheese. Cover & bake for 35 minutes. Uncover & sprinkle with remaining cheese. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. If you wish to garnish, chopped green onion & diced tomato are nice.
Quiche always sounds fancy or ‘gourmet-ish’ but the truth is, its one of the easiest meals to prepare. The same filling can be used in any size quiche recipe. Once you have a good basic format the possibilities are endless.
Start with the pan size — for a large quiche, use a 9-10-inch pie pan. For individuals, use muffin tins and for mini appetizers, use mini muffin tins.
EGGS: – A ratio of one large egg per half cup of dairy is a good rule to create a fluffy filling. DAIRY: – Heavy cream or a blend of half & half plus cream produces a rich but calorie laden filling. One or two percent milk works just as well but needs a bit longer to set. Using a mixer or a whisk to whip egg mixture until frothy results in a stable filling with a lighter texture. ADD-INS: – Vegetables, greens and meat need to be pre-cooked before adding to egg mixture to prevent the filling from becoming runny. Tomatoes and herbs are the exception. BLIND BAKING CRUST: – This is entirely personal preference. Pre-baking your crust a bit helps to prevent filling from leaking through. I have found that putting the cheese in the crust first, add-ins second and filling last will do the same thing. A blind baked crust will always be crispier if that’s what you want to achieve. OVEN POSITION: – For a large quiche use the bottom rack. For individual or mini quiche use middle rack.
In my quiche today, I started with my favorite, simple cornmeal crust. You can either roast your own potatoes and green beans or purchase a package of the Green Giant steamers version. Use your own sausage choice. As you have probably noticed, I love the red pepper/ Asiago sausage made in-store at Save-On foods. Quiche of whatever kind, is always in my regular meal rotation.
Roasted Potato with Red Pepper/Asiago Sausage Quiche
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 the butter until mixture resembles BOTH coarse crumbs & small peas. Sprinkle the cold sour cream mixture over dough, 1 Tbsp at a time, tossing with a fork to evenly distribute it. After you have added all the sour cream mixture, dough should be moist enough to stick together when pressed. If not add additional ice water, 1 tsp at a time. Do NOT over work the pastry.
I am using an 8-inch deep dish pan for my quiche. Cut out a circle of parchment about 12-inches in diameter. Roll or pat pastry evenly over paper leaving 1/2-inch border. Lift paper with pastry into pan carefully helping it to conform to the pan shape. Place in refrigerator until filling is prepared.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Rinse & pare baby potatoes & green beans (cut in to bite size pieces). Place in a plastic bag with some oil & shake well. On a foil lined baking pan, spread veggies out, season with dried rosemary, garlic powder, salt & pepper. Roast until tender. Remove from oven & cool slightly. If using frozen, cook as directed on bag for minimum time. Pour into a dish & cut up large pieces of potatoes. Adjust oven to 350 F. for quiche.
In a skillet, crumble sausage; add mushrooms. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until sausage is cooked; drain. Add sausage/mushroom mixture to roast veggies; stir to combine.
In a pitcher, whisk together eggs, cream & pepper until blended. Remove pastry from refrigerator; sprinkle cheese over bottom. Spoon filling mixture over cheese then carefully pour egg/cream combo over all.
Bake 35 minutes or until eggs are set in center. If necessary, cover edge of crust with strips of foil during the last 15 minutes of baking to prevent excessive browning. If you like, sprinkle with some fresh parsley.
- The extra border you left on the parchment when patting out the pastry will make it easy to lift the quiche out of the pan when cooled. I find you can make nice clean cuts that way.
For those unfamiliar with Peach Melba, it is a classic dessert that was invented around the late 1800’s in honor of an Australian soprano opera singer named Nellie Melba. The flavors are always raspberry and peach and was traditionally served with vanilla ice cream. Melba is actually the nickname for Melbourne, her Australian hometown. Her real name was Helene ‘Nellie” Porter Mitchell but everyone called her Melba. She was internationally famous for her remarkable ‘crystal’ voice.
French chef, Georges Auguste Escoffier, not only created this special dessert but also developed what is known as the ‘kitchen brigade’ system or ‘Brigade de Cuisine’.
The next time you enjoy an elaborate meal in a hotel dining room (on a special occasion) that is perfectly executed, don’t presume this was just by accident. The brigade system revolutionized the way diners eat, allowing people to have meals, whatever their order, arrive at the table at the same time. This system was instituted to streamline and simplify work in hotel kitchens. It served to eliminate the chaos and duplication of effort that could result when kitchen staff did not have clear-cut responsibilities.
Today, most restaurants use some simplified variation of Escoffier’s original system. It is this foundation of kitchen organization that made way for the ‘a la carte menu’ we know so well today.
I have added a chart at the end of the blog showing the basic hierarchy of authority in this kind of system. I realize I got a bit removed from my peach melba dessert but — . Having spent so many years in the commercial world of cooking, I have a great appreciation for this gifted chef’s contribution to the food industry.
I decided to use the classic peach and raspberry ingredients in some mini upside down bundt cakes. The ginger spice adds a bit of unexpected ‘zing’ to its flavor.
Peach Melba Ginger Cakes
In a small saucepan, whisk together sugar & cornstarch. Add raspberries & water; cook over medium-high heat until thickened & clear. Remove from stove & press through a wire mesh to make a puree. Discard seeds. Add extract if using. Set aside.
Drain peach juice into a measuring cup. Set peaches aside. In a saucepan, combine 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp peach juice, sugar & cornstarch. Cook, stirring, until thick & bubbly. Add the peaches & vanilla. Stir to blend, set aside until ready to use.
Preheat over to 375 F. Butter 4-5 mini bundt pans. In a bowl, combine all cake ingredients & beat only until smooth. Divide between bundt pans. Place pans on a baking sheet & bake for 15 minutes or until cakes have risen & test done with a toothpick is inserted. Remove from oven, cool for a few minutes then turn over on serving plates. Top with warm peach sauce & raspberry coulis. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream if you wish.
Perogies are of virtually untraceable Central or Eastern European origin although speculation has it the recipe could have been brought from the Far East.
Thinking beyond potatoes and cheddar — who knew that perogies could be filled with fruit?! Although the most traditional fruit filling is plum, many fruits will work. Summer perogies are often filled with apricots, sweet or sour cherries and apples. At Christmas, sweet poppy seed filling is a popular choice. This simple food turns into a wonderful dessert when served with orange sauce, lemon curd, a basic chocolate ganache or even a raspberry or strawberry coulis.
I realize we are not quite into summer yet but blueberries are great anytime. What makes berries so attractive as a filling is their size and texture. Perogies need only a short time to cook – a few minutes each in water than in the frying pan so the berries will break down sufficiently in this amount of time.
While savory perogies are often fried, baked or even deep fried after being boiled, most fruit perogies are served without frying, lending a delicate texture to the more delicate flavor of the fruit.
Since I wanted to serve these blueberry perogies as a compliment to our roasted bratwurst and veggies, we preferred them slightly fried and topped with a sweet/savory balsamic blueberry sauce. It made a great combo!
Balsamic Wild Blueberry Sauce
Blueberry Filling for Perogies
In a small saucepan over low heat, place blueberries, garlic & honey; stir until mixture begins to boil & thicken. Stir in balsamic vinegar. Bring sauce to a boil & allow to reduce slightly to become the consistency of honey. Set aside, keeping warm until ready to serve.
Wash & dry blueberries; set aside. In a small dish, combine cornstarch & sugar; set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour & salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg, sour cream & oil until well mixed. Add liquid ingredients to dry mixture & gently combine. Before the dough is completely mixed, transfer to a lightly floured work surface. Knead dough 7 or 8 times to form a soft ball. Do NOT over-work dough.
Roll out dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Using a 3 1/2-inch cutter, cut circles out of the dough or if you prefer to just cut same size pieces from dough ball. Stretch each to a 'perogy' size. Place about 1 tablespoon of berries on each round of dough. Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of the sugar/cornstarch mixture over berries. Moisten the edge of each dough circle with a little water & fold the dough over filling. Pinch the edges firmly to create a tight seal.
Place perogies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper while preparing them. Keep covered with a slightly moist towel until ready to cook.
Fill a large pot with about 8 cups of water. Add 1 teaspoon of salt (+ 1 tsp oil if you wish), cover & bring to a boil. Cook perogies in batches. Stir gently until perogies float, cook about 2-3 minutes. Do not over cook or dough will be tough.
Serve perogies with warm balsamic wild blueberry sauce.
Grinding pepper over our savory meals is very much the ‘norm’, but when you add it to sweet desserts it preforms a strange chemistry, especially against a mellow backdrop of vanilla.
Adding flavor to cuisines of all nations, black pepper is the most widely produced and popular spice in the world. Pound for pound, it is also the least expensive spice.
Contrary to popular belief, pepper is not intended to be used like salt. Although, it holds a special spot right beside the salt on our dinner tables, it is not a flavor enhancer but rather a spice.
There is a distinct and undeniable earthiness to the flavor of black pepper, one that is biting, hot, piney, pungent, woody and sharp all at the same time.
Using pepper in baked goods or sprinkling it on fresh fruit is not exactly a new idea. Gingerbread and pfeffernuse have long been spiced with pepper. No matter how you use black pepper, its a spice of grand proportions.
These ‘pepper’ cookies are real handy since you can freeze them and ‘slice & bake’ when needed. The flavor combo is exceptional.
Lemon Pepper Shortbread Cookies
In a bowl, cream butter, sugar & vanilla until light & creamy.
In another bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, lemon zest & spices.
Add the dry ingredients to creamed mixture alternately with the milk. Combine only until incorporated. Turn dough out onto a work surface & divide in half. Roll each portion into a log about 1 1/2-inch in diameter. Wrap each log tightly in plastic wrap & refrigerate until firm ... at least 2 hours or freeze until needed.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove the plastic wrap & slice into 1/4-inch thick rounds. Place on baking sheet & bake for 6 minutes, rotate pan & continue baking for an additional 6 minutes. The edges of the cookies will be firm, but the tops will be soft. Cool on a wire rack.
This fruited bread is unlike any other oatmeal bread. It has the sweet tartness of kumquats, healthy oatmeal and flax, dried fruit, nuts, honey and applesauce all in one loaf.
Oatmeal bread is very nostalgic for me. Although it wasn’t one of the breads in my mother’s weekly rotation, when she did make it, it was heavenly. I’m not sure if her recipe was one she had developed or if it came from another source.
Often when it comes to choosing a recipe, we find inspiration on the packaging of our basic pantry staples. One of the most iconic brands to feature recipes like this was Quaker Oats. Their first recipe for oatmeal bread appeared in 1886. It made two loaves of sandwich bread. Somewhere along the way, they kicked it up a notch, featuring a ‘fruited oatmeal bread’ recipe.
This kumquat oatmeal bread uses baking powder as opposed to yeast for anyone with a yeast intolerance. I think you will agree, it has an amazing flavor if you get a chance to make some.
Kumquat Oatmeal Bread
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9 X 5-inch loaf pan & set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, flax meal & oats. Add kumquat puree, honey, applesauce, eggs, vanilla, nuts & fruit. Pour into greased loaf pan.
Bake for 40 - 45 minutes; don't over bake. Cool in pan for 5 minutes on cooling rack. Loosen around edges; remove from pan & cool a bit more.