Persimmons are in season between November and February. Mildly sweet and juicy with a slight crunch reminiscent of a cross between a peach and a pear. Since there is only a short window in which you can enjoy this exotic fruit, persimmons make up for it by working well in both sweet and savory recipes.
The two most commonly available varieties are Fuyu and Hachiyas. Some recipes prefer one over the other. Treat them like you would an apple and turn them into jams, puree, tarts and cakes. Paired with pork adds a nice fruity and caramelizing sweetness.
Fuyus are squat and round whereas Hachiyas are acorn shaped and have a pointed bottom. When buying persimmons, look for the unblemished skin with the green leaves and top still attached. The texture should be like a tomato-firm but a bit of give without being to soft. Persimmons are usually sold unripe, so leave them on the counter for a day or two until the skin deepens to a rich sunset orange.
Cardamom is a complex flavor that can be used in any of the usual autumn and winter recipes. There is nothing subtle about cardamom, so when used in all but sparing amounts, it will dominate whatever its paired with. Cardamom has been used in Christmas baking in Germany since the middle ages.
You can eat roasted persimmons hot or cold. For a quick breakfast, make a batch ahead of time, then just reheat in the microwave or eat cold.
Cardamom Roasted Persimmons
Preheat oven to 375 F. In a small bowl, combine hot water with 3 Tbsp honey; stir until honey is dissolved. With a sharp knife, split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise & scrape half of the seeds into the bowl. Reserve excess seeds for yogurt.
Peel the persimmons, cut them in half lengthwise & then slice into 1-inch thick wedges. Arrange the slices in a baking dish, drizzle with lime juice & sprinkle with the honey mixture, cardamom & butter.
Roast persimmons for about 45-60 minutes spooning the pan juices over top occasionally. When done they should be tender & easily pierced with a knife.
In a small bowl, combine 1 1/2 Tbsp honey & yogurt. Add the remainder of the vanilla bean seeds; whisk until yogurt is smooth & well blended.
To serve, divide yogurt between 4 serving dishes, top with a quarter of the persimmons, drizzle with any extra syrup & sprinkle the pistachios on top.
- When using extract in place of vanilla bean in a recipe, use 1 teaspoon for every one inch of vanilla bean. Be sure to replace vanilla bean with vanilla extract and not vanilla flavoring or imitation vanilla, which are both a far cry from real vanilla.
Today, November 28th, our American neighbors are celebrating their Thanksgiving Day. It encompasses both religious and secular aspects … being both a harvest festival and a festival of family.
Here in Canada, our Thanksgiving was celebrated on October 14th. When it comes to this occasion, some dishes are required eating. Turkey, gravy, cranberries and don’t forget the stuffing.
Stuffing can be whatever you want it to be. I love stuffing, dressing, filling or whatever you choose to call it. Something that has never left my food memories, was my mother’s turkey stuffing. Of course, I’ve tried to replicate it and I think I’m fairly close but then the ‘taste of a memory‘ equation comes in and ….
In the bottom of one of her cupboards she kept a brown paper bag. In it were dried herbs still on their stems. This seemed to be the magic ingredient whatever they were.
I can honestly say I love the stuffing almost more than the ‘bird’. Over the years, Brion and I have had stuffing that contained rice, cornbread, oysters, apples, mashed potatoes, bacon, various types of breads, etc., etc..
In acknowledgement to the USA Thanksgiving today, I am featuring a stuffed turkey breast. This particular stuffing is really what makes this recipe delicious. The white meat of the turkey has a tendency to be dry, so adding bratwurst sausage with its higher fat content, and not to mention great flavor, keeps the breast moist. The turkey, bratwurst and cranberry sauce are all wrapped in bacon to make a ‘all-in-one‘ main course.
Roast Turkey with Bratwurst, Cranberries & Sage
Heat a drizzle of oil in a skillet & saute onion gently for 10-15 minutes until caramelized. Place in a large bowl & set aside to cool. Line a 9 x 51/2 x 3-inch (23 x 13 x 7 cm) loaf tin with a double strip of foil, leaving plenty overhanging on either end to use as handles once meat is cooked.
Stretch each piece of bacon a little with the back of a knife. Arrange slices so the base of the tin is covered with overlapping bacon & the slices come neatly up the sides in a single layer, overhanging generously. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top of the bacon.
Add sausage meat & sage to cooled onion. Combine well, then pack half the mixture into the loaf pan. Spread over about a third of the cranberry sauce.
Cut each turkey breast in 3 strips. Layer roughly half the turkey on top of the stuffing mix, filling the gaps like a jigsaw, but keeping the turkey in one thick layer, then season. Spread over a little more cranberry sauce, then top with remaining stuffing, cranberry sauce & turkey in the same way, making sure there are no gaps between the layers. The parcel should be full to the top when you are finished. Fold over the overhanging bacon & wrap the tin in foil paper.
Preheat oven to 325 F. Place the tin on a baking tray & bake for 1 1/2 hours. Remove the tin from the oven & allow to cool for 10 minutes. Carefully lift the parcel out of the tin, using the foil handles. Roll the parcel over onto baking tray removing the foil.
Return to oven for about 15-20 minutes until the outside is crisp & browned. Test the internal temperature with a meat thermometer, it should read 170 F when its ready. Cover loosely with foil & leave to rest for at least 15 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh sage leaves if you wish.
Despite originating in the rain forests of Queensland and New South Wales in eastern Australia, macadamia trees were first commercially grown in Hawaii. These slow growing, tropical evergreen trees flower differently from most other fruit and nut trees. The macadamia tree grows racemes; a flower cluster with separate flowers along the stalk at equal distances on a central stem. A 10 cm stalk can carry hundreds of tiny flowers. Each raceme spray of 40-50 flowers produces from 4-15 nutlets which ripen into macadamia nuts. These nuts are coveted for their sweet buttery flavor and creamy texture. It takes machinery to crack the shell, which may explain why they rank as the world’s most expensive nut.
We are fast approaching the Christmas season when all things ‘decadent‘ are up front and center in our dessert plans. Some years ago, I made a chocolate macadamia nut flan for a Christmas company gathering. I baked it in a large tart pan, cut it into eight slices, then cut each slice into four ‘wedges‘. It was a good way to serve such an elegant (& expensive) dessert at a stand-up event.
I was thinking of desserts that could be made and frozen ahead of all the hustle and bustle. So nice to pull such decadence out of the freezer and serve on short notice.
Macadamia nuts pair particularly well with coconut, chocolate and fish. They can be substituted for other nuts measure for measure in most recipes and visa versa without compromising the integrity of the original recipe. Some acceptable choices would be Brazil nuts, hazelnuts and cashews.
While this recipe is a bit time consuming, it is well worth the effort.
Chocolate Macadamia Nut Wedges
In a food processor, combine flour, salt & butter. Using short pulses, process until the mixture resembles oatmeal. Add ice water & pulse quickly until the mixture begins to come together but don't let it actually form a ball. Transfer the mixture to a lightly floured surface & gather it into a ball with your hands. Gently flatten into a smooth disk about 1 1/2-inches thick & wrap it in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm enough to roll out, at least an hour.
Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 14-inch circle, about 1/8-inch thick. Fit into an 11-inch round tart/flan pan with a re-movable bottom; trim dough flush with rim. Chill 30 minutes or overnight.
Preheat oven to 400 F. In a large bowl, whisk together egg, sugar & liqueur until combined. Whisk in flour & salt then butter. Stir in chocolate until combined. Pour into chilled pastry shell. Arrange whole nuts on top.
Bake 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 F. & continue baking until crust & filling are golden, about 35 minutes more. If tart is browning to quickly, tent with foil. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool completely.
To serve, cut tart into 8 slices then cut each slice into 4 'wedges'.
- You'll notice the chocolate forms a layer on the bottom. If you want it to have a more decadent look, just drizzle a bit more chocolate on top after it's baked.
Yorkshire pudding was first known as ‘dripping puddings‘. Their origin goes back to the days of old English country inns where they would roast beef on a hook in a hearth over an open flame and have a pan below the roast with flour/milk mixture that caught the drippings. This would be served with the roasted beef.
Traditionally, beef drippings are used, although you can use oil, but not olive oil (or butter) due to the high heat involved in making the pudding. The best choice, if you use oil, would be peanut, canola or safflower oil.
The basic recipe is actually a simple formula based on how many eggs you use. You don’t need to measure anything, just use the same volumes of ingredients …. egg, milk, and flour.
My interest in making Yorkshire pudding came from Brion having memories of eating these at his British grandfather’s house. He recalls that you filled the little Yorkshire puddings with gravy and they tasted real good. It all makes sense, that this beloved British staple food would have been served on special occasions.
Instead of making them in traditional Yorkshire pudding tins, I went with the ‘giant‘ size. I understand there is also another way the pudding is being served. It’s called the ‘Yorkshire Pudding Wrap‘, which consists of a large flattened Yorkshire pudding, wrapped around a mound of sliced meat, stuffing, some token vegetable and smothered in thick gravy. You might say this is the fast food style roast beef dinner!
While there are other foods made from a similar batter such as popovers, gougere and Dutch baby pancakes, Yorkshire pudding are distinctive in their wonderfully crisp texture and fabulous flavor from meat drippings. If you like this kind of thing, the meal not only has a great taste but good eye appeal as well.
Giant Yorkshire Pudding
(1) The first thing you want to work out is the volume of egg. Take two identical cups or mugs & crack an egg into one. Into the other, pour flour until it fills the cup to the same level as the egg in the other one. Add a pinch of salt to the flour. (2) Put the egg into a mixing bowl & pour milk into the cup (the one the egg just came out of) up to the same level as the flour. Add a dash of vinegar to the milk. (3) Pour the flour & milk into the bowl with the egg & whisk all the ingredients into a smooth batter. Allow batter to sit for at least an hour or overnight. Letting the batter rest reduces the starch making a lighter pudding. (4) Preheat oven to 400 F. If you are roasting meat, put a little of the drippings (for flavor) or oil into the baking pans you are using to cook the pudding. Your pan choice is important. You need one with high enough sides so the batter can 'hold' the side & rise. If you are making 'Giant Yorkshires', as I did, use a 7 or 8-inch cast iron skillet (or a metal cake pan). Place the pan with the drippings (or oil) in the pre-heated oven for about 5 minutes until drippings are hot. (5) Pour the batter into the hot pan & bake for 10-15 minutes or until sides have puffed & are a nice golden brown. The center will fall almost immediately after being removed from the oven ... which is normal! (6) Serve immediately with your roast, gravy, potatoes & veggies of choice. The recipe equation below is basically what ONE of my giant puddings 'measured' out to be.
Follow same method as above.
- For a 2-egg batter, use a 7 or 8-inch skillet or pan
- For a 3-egg batter, use a 10-inch skillet or pan
- For a 4-egg batter, use a 12-inch skillet or pan
There are so many culinary uses for Medjool dates, in both sweet and savory dishes, whether served hot or cold. Often called the king of dates, not only because they are quite expensive but are highly treasured for their size and rich, intensely sweet flesh.
These special fruits are pricey because their cultivation is incredibly labor-intensive. In order to ensure quality and yield, Medjool date palms need to be hand pollinated, pruned, protected and hand picked. While growing, the date bunches are wrapped in bags to prevent the birds from snacking on them and to keep them from falling on the ground.
Dates are usually left to dry on the tree before being harvested, which accounts for their wrinkly appearance. This places them in a peculiar category of being both dried and fresh. Different types of dates have different textures that fall into three categories: soft (like Medjool); semi-soft, which are chewy and are pitted before packaging to dry a little more; and dry, which are often sun-dried after harvest and sold chopped.
Dates can be paired with lamb or chicken and spiced with Middle Eastern flavors or added to dried apricots, cranberries and toasted walnuts in rice or couscous accompaniments. Their caramel-like flavor adds a hint of the exotic to whatever you choose to use them in.
We had some extra apples I needed to do something with. The thought of pairing them with some Medjool dates and walnuts …. Yum!
Medjool Date & Apple Flans
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, & salt. Cut in white & yellow Crisco shortening. In a dish, whisk together water, egg & apple cider vinegar. Make a well in flour mixture & pour all wet ingredients in it. Combine just until pastry pulls away from the bowl.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out pastry; cut out eight 6-inch pastry circles. They should fit nicely into the mini flan pans that measure about 4 1/2-inches in diameter & are 3/4-inch in height. Once you have the pastry you need for the shells, form the remaining pastry in a 'tube' shape. Set the pastry shells in the fridge while you prepare the filling. FREEZE THE TUBE OF PASTRY. This you will use to GRATE on top of the flans for the top crust.
In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Add prepared apples & saute until they start to soften, about 10 minutes. Add spices & honey, combine & cook 1 minute. Take off heat & allow to cool to lukewarm.
Assembly & Baking
Preheat oven to 350 F. Remove mini flan shells from refrigerator & place on a baking sheet. Spoon some apple mixture in the bottom of each shell. Top each with a portion of the dates & walnuts, then evenly divide the remaining apple mixture between them. Remove the frozen 'tube' of pastry from freezer & grate (on a cheese grater). Sprinkle over mini flans.
Bake until nice & golden, about 35 minutes. Cool slightly. Whip cream with sugar, cinnamon & vanilla until stiff & serve on warm flans.
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.
Quince, Walnut & Cheese Palmiers
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.
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.
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.
Do you recall the Monte Cristo sandwiches of ‘yesteryear’? There was a time when you could find this sandwich on most restaurant lunch menus across North America. Basically, its ham and cheese sandwiched between two pieces of french toast, smothered in egg batter, deep fried, sprinkled with powdered sugar and dipped in a side of jelly. It’s where salty meets sweet and savory.
It’s believed that the Monte Cristo evolved from the French sandwich called ‘Croque Monsieur‘. The original grilled cheese sandwich consisted of Gruyere cheese and lean ham between two slices of crust-less bread, fried in clarified butter.
This sandwich, although delicious, is neither health or diet food but sometimes its fun to just enjoy these kind of things in moderation, of course.
This ‘lasagna‘ turned out to be real tasty. It kind of puts a new spin on an old classic. Instead of french toast, the ham and cheese are layered in between a baked cauliflower mixture that resembles slices of bread or lasagna noodles. Serve with cauliflower sauce or a sauce of your own choice.
Cauliflower Monte Cristo Lasagna
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the tablespoon of salt & lemon juice. Cut cauliflower into florets, add to boiling mixture & cook until they are soft. Drain cooked cauliflower & roughly crush them into 'mush'. Add breadcrumbs, Parmesan, egg, garlic, Italian herbs, salt & pepper; mix well.
Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Press cauliflower mixture on baking sheet into a 9 x 9-inch square. Bake for about 15 minutes or until crispy. Remove from oven, cut cauliflower into 3 strips. In a buttered baking dish place the first strip. Cover with half of each of the ham & cheese slices. Put another strip of cauliflower on it & top with the rest of the ham & cheese slices. Place the third strip of cauliflower on top & sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Adjust oven temperature to 350 F. & bake 'lasagna' for about 30 minutes.
Add butter to a blender or food processor. Cook cauliflower according to package instructions. Using a slotted spoon, drain off any excess water, transfer to blender. Add the vegetable broth, Parmesan, garlic, milk, salt & pepper. Process until a very smooth consistency is reached. Serve warm over Monte Cristo lasagna.
Bread Pudding ….. its just bread plus eggs plus a sweetened, spiced milk mixture. What makes it special is the blend of spices mixed into it and the sauce.
When done right, bread pudding should have the perfect balance of gooey goodness and chewy texture. That’s why stale bread is important. The bread needs a degree of crunch otherwise you will have ‘mush pudding‘.
For today’s recipe, I started by making a loaf of Challah bread. This is an ‘eggy’ bread that can soak up custard without collapsing. It will toast nicely on the outside and leave you with a creamy pudding inside.
Challah is a very straight forward bread to make. The dough is enriched with eggs and oil, while a few tablespoons of sugar add some sweetness and it doesn’t require any fussy techniques. Because challah is traditionally braided, proofing is key…. if the dough is not properly proofed, it will tear in the oven while baking.
Here’s where it becomes ‘comfort food‘ made with glorious challah, tropical mangos and spices inspired by the world’s love affair with Indian chai.
Chai, which is sometimes overlooked, adds a distinct warm flavor and depth. It can include a number of different spices. Cardamom is the most common ingredient, followed by some mixture of cinnamon, ginger, star anise and cloves. Pepper, coriander, nutmeg and fennel are also used but they are slightly less common.
For the finishing touch, I made a rum sauce. Who says bread pudding has to be boring!
Mango Bread Pudding with Chai Spices
In a small bowl, place lukewarm water & sprinkle with yeast & a pinch of sugar; stir to combine. Let stand about 5-10 minutes until frothy. In a large bowl, place 4 cups flour, sugar & salt; whisk to combine.
Make a well in the center of flour mixture & add eggs, egg yolk & oil; whisk to form a slurry. Pour the yeast mixture over the egg slurry. Combine with a wooden spoon until a shaggy dough that is difficult to mix forms.
On a floured work surface, turn out dough & knead for about 10 minutes. If dough is sticky, add flour a teaspoon at a time until it feels tacky. The dough should be soft, smooth & hold a ball shape. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise, in a draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.
Divide the dough into 3 or 6 equal pieces, depending on the type of braid you wish to make. Roll each piece of dough into a long rope about 16-inches long. If the ropes shrink as you try to roll them, let them rest 5 minutes to relax the gluten & then try again. For the 6 stranded braid as I made, the name of the game is 'over two, under one, over two'. Carry the right-most rope over the two ropes beside it, slip it under the middle rope, then carry it over the last two ropes. Lay the rope down parallel to the other ropes; it is now the furthest strand. Repeat this pattern until you reach the end of the loaf. Try to make your braid as tight as possible. Once you reach the end, squeeze the ends of the ropes together & tuck them under the loaf.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the braided loaf on top & sprinkle with a little flour. Cover with a tea towel & allow to rise about 1 hour. About 20 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 350 F. When ready to bake, whisk the reserved egg white with 1 Tbsp. of water & brush carefully over challah. Bake 30-35 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through. Remove from oven & cool before cutting up for bread pudding.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter an 8 x 8-inch baking dish; toss bread & mango cubes together in it. In a medium bowl, whisk the rest of the ingredients together & pour over the bread & mangoes; allow the mixture to soak for about 5 minutes. Bake about 1 1/4 hours, or until set.
In a small saucepan, over medium heat, melt butter. Mix together sugar & cornstarch; stir into the melted butter. Slowly pour in milk, stirring frequently until mixture begins to lightly boil. Continue cooking until thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat & stir in rum. Serve warm over bread pudding.
The name ‘patty pan’ comes from the French word patisson, for a cake made in a scalloped mold. This type of squash is as versatile as they come. It is very similar to summer squash, in fact, the two are interchangeable in recipes.
Summer squash originated from the region between Mexico and Guatemala. Like its relatives, it grows fast and abundant. It cooks like a fleshier zucchini or yellow squash and can be baked, grilled or stuffed.
Patty pan’s shape is well suited to stuffing. Simply cut off the stem end to make a ‘hat’, then cut a thin slice off the bottom of the squash, so that it sits evenly in the baking pan. Use a spoon to hollow out the body, saving the insides. These can be cooked and added to your stuffing.
This is a simple yet ‘showy’ meal, great for fall entertaining.
Stuffed Patty Pan Squash
Preheat oven to 375 F. With a small knife, cut a circle around the top of squash. As you cut, angle your knife diagonally from the outer edge of the squash towards the center. Remove the top of squash & set aside. Hollow out the insides with a small spoon, being careful not to pierce the squash. Discard membrane & seeds. Set aside remaining squash pulp. Drizzle the inside & bottom of lids with a little olive oil. Sprinkle with salt & pepper, set on a baking sheet & place in the oven. Bake 15-20 minutes, then set aside to cool.
In a small saucepan, bring chicken broth to a boil. Stir in couscous, cover & remove from heat. Let stand 5 minutes, until all water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork & drizzle with a little bit of olive oil.
Sausage & Veggies
Add a small amount of olive oil to a large skillet & heat on medium-high. Remove the sausage from its casing; add in small pieces to the heated skillet. Cook & crumble sausage until browned. Add garlic & onion to skillet & saute for 4-5 minutes or until onion is slightly translucent. Add herbs & salsa to taste, then add reserved squash pulp & cook for another 2-3 minutes. Salt & pepper to taste. Add couscous to skillet & stir to combine with other ingredients. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over all & stir to incorporate.
Stuff each squash with the couscous mixture, sprinkling a bit more Parmesan on tops. Place the stuffed squash back in the oven for 10-15 minutes more. Serve immediately.