Figs, another symbol of Autumn, begin to ripen in late summer. Native to European and Middle Eastern regions but today are widely available around the world. This tear-drop shaped fruit is singular in appearance and flavor. From their characteristic perfumed fragrance to their fragile skin, that is often slit from ripeness, revealing drops of honeyed nectar.
I love the sweet earthiness of figs with all their little seeds, whether they are fresh or dried. Any recipe that calls for peaches, pears, prunes or dates can be substituted successfully with figs. Pairing them with the aromatic anise flavor of fennel is a great compliment to salmon as well as other entrees or baking.
Fennel has been a favorite of Italians for many years due to its mild sweet anise flavor. All parts of the fennel plant, including the bulb, stalk, leaves and seeds are edible.
This recipe is simple but has a wonderful flavor. We enjoyed it served over Jasmine rice.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Cut outer leaves of fennel off & discard. Remove stalks, reserving a few fronds for garnish if you wish. Cut the fennel into quarters leaving root in tact. Place a large oven-proof pan over medium-high heat. Add olive oil & allow to heat. Place fennel into the pan ; cook & sear to a golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. Season with salt & pepper & add the chicken broth. Place in preheated oven & roast for about 10 minutes or until slightly soft but still holding quite a bit of firmness in center.
In a small saucepan, combine honey, vinegar & chili powder. Heat & simmer for 3 minutes. Quarter figs & place them on a baking sheet. Drizzle figs with the honey mixture. Place in the oven & roast for 4 minutes or until warm, bubbly & caramelized but still holding their shape.
Season salmon fillets with salt & pepper. In a large non-stick skillet, add vegetable oil & heat. Place salmon in skillet & fry on each side until flesh is opaque & translucent in the center. Do not overcook. Serve immediately with the roasted caramelized figs.
Over centuries the unique cooking technique combing rice with other ingredients was developed resulting in the classic Italian dish known as ‘risotto’. The key ingredient for authentic risotto is Arborio rice.
Arborio rice is named after a town in Italy called Arborio, located in the Po Valley where the rice is grown. Its characteristics and cooking properties allow it to absorb the flavors and retain a certain firmness through the unique risotto cooking procedure.
In this recipe, I used a chicken sausage made with Asiago cheese and roasted red peppers. One of the grocery stores in our area makes the sausage in store so you can purchase them fresh in the quantity you need. The flavor of this meal is amazing. The tomatoes totally disintegrated and the rice took on a great smoky flavor from the bacon. The mushrooms added earthiness and the sausage gave the risotto a tiny kick of heat.
In a skillet, brown sausage & set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, slice crosswise & set aside. In skillet, saute onion & sliced mushrooms; stir in rice & toast for 20 seconds. Add the diced tomato & start ladling in the broth 1 ladle at a time. Once that broth is absorbed, continue adding another ladle of broth & so on. The rice should take about 30 minutes to cook over a medium low heat. About half the way through, add bacon. When there is about 10 minutes left add sausage & shrimp so the sausage warms & the shrimp cooks ONLY until done. Do Not overcook shrimp. Garnish with parsley or basil if you wish.
That great little cherry tree of ours just keeps on giving. Since we have a water fountain in our yard, the birds are definitely around but there seems to be well enough cherries for them and us. As I’ve mentioned in earlier blogs, this fruit is not the sweetness of the well-known Bing cherry but more a semi-sweet flavor. It is just perfect for baking, jams, jellies or in a cherry liqueur.
Over the years, I have come to really enjoy the flavor of chutneys. I realize it gets a little murky when you bring up the subject of salsa, relish or chutneys. Here’s a mini clarification just for interest.
Salsa is usually mixtures of raw vegetables and/or fruits. Sometimes they contain onions, herbs and chili peppers or with just fruit and various seasonings.
Relish has the ingredients usually cut finer and are cooked with a good quantity of sweetness.
Chutney is almost always cooked and can contain fruit and vegetables. They most often are made with aromatics like ginger root, cinnamon, cloves, chilies and herbs.
All are served cold or at room temperature. Their uses are endless such as an accompaniment to grilled foods, fillings in burritos, toppings for salads or served with cheese, corn chips, pitas or crisp breads.
The flavor and gorgeous color of the cherries made a real nice chutney for these grilled chicken breasts.
We thought it might be nice to share some of the seasonal beauty we enjoyed in our yard this season. I hope you will enjoy looking at our pics. You can also view them in a larger size by going to our Facebook site: Good Food And Treasured Memories.
In a saucepan, combine cherries, red onion, basil, balsamic vinegar, honey & salt. Bring to a gentle simmer & cook for about 3-5 minutes. Stir in cornstarch/juice mixture & simmer until slightly thickened. Remove from heat & set aside.
Between 2 sheets of plastic wrap, gently pound chicken breasts to uniform thickness. Brush both sides of breasts with olive oil; season with salt & pepper. Grill on BBQ or in a saucepan on the stove until nicely browned on each side & cooked through. Serve with Cherry Chutney.
Nectarines & peaches are both members of the stone fruit family and are so close, only one gene is responsible for their difference. This unique gene makes the peach fuzzy and the nectarine smooth. For most part, nectarines are sweeter and juicer — in essence more nectar.
Nectarines originated in China and spread across the continents until they landed in America. They thrive in warmer climates, as a result, many of the nectarines we see in the grocery stores here are unripe, hard and tough. They are often harvested too early and therefore do not develop the aroma they should have. Baking will concentrate their flavor, while lemon, almond and vanilla draw out their more elusive variations.
This dessert idea originated from Sweden. Quite similar to some of the other roasted fruit recipes I have posted except this dessert uses wine in the baking of it. If you don’t care for raspberries, blueberries or blackberries will work just as well.
Baked Nectarines & Raspberries with Almond & Honey
In a small dish, combine wine & honey; stir to dissolve. Halve & stone nectarines, place them flesh-side up in a glass baking dish. Crush amaretti biscuits, add cardamom & mix well; add beaten egg yolk, 2 Tbsp of wine mixture & toasted almonds. Combine & divide mixture between nectarines, spooning into 'pit' holes.
Sprinkle nectarines with brown sugar then top each with a bit of the butter. Pour remaining wine & honey AROUND but NOT over the fruit, add 1 Tbsp water & tuck in the vanilla pod.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake the nectarines for 30 minutes or until fruit is soft & the biscuit filling is crisp & golden. Remove vanilla pod. Carefully stir the raspberries through the pan juices. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving. Meanwhile, whip cream; when ready to serve dessert, top each with a dollop.
At the heart of our Autumn cuisine is the squash. The signs of fall are all around us — cool, crisp mornings, the leaves have started to wear their autumn colors and winter squash is appearing in the farmer’s markets.
Winter squash are harvested late summer through fall, then ‘hardened off’ or ‘cured’ in the open air to toughen their exterior. Spaghetti squash is known for its unique flesh that separates into pasta-like strands after it is cooked. These squash are not particularly sweet but have a mild flavor that takes to a wide variety of preparations.
Native people considered corn, beans and squash three inseparable ‘sisters’. They planted the three crops together to create a more nutritious, sustainable soil with the exchange of nutrients between them.
Spaghetti squash has also been called ‘vegetable spaghetti’. In this recipe I’m serving it with tomato-beef meat sauce. Some fresh, homemade, Parmesan bread sticks should make a nice compliment to this meal.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Microwave squash for a few minutes to soften shell. Cut lengthwise & remove membrane & seeds. In a baking dish, place cut side down & bake for 45 minutes until tender. Remove from oven & cool until it can be handled. Using a fork, run it inside the squash to create spaghetti 'noodles'.
In a large saucepan, brown ground beef, onions, garlic & mushrooms. Cook until meat is no longer pink. Stir in tomatoes, green pepper & spices. Reduce heat & simmer for 10 minutes.
Divide spaghetti noodles between 4 serving plates & top each with a quarter of the meat sauce. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan & serve with fresh bread sticks.
Once again, the last long week-end of summer has arrived. Here in Canada, families with school age children, take it as the last chance to travel before the end of summer. Others enjoy the company of family and friends at barbecues, picnics, fairs, festivals and fireworks displays. Canadian football fans may spend a large portion of their week-end watching the Labour Day Classic matches live on television. Whatever your choice of relaxation is, you know good food will be a part of the holiday.
For some reason, the classic Reuben sandwich came into my thoughts for a tasty choice. If you’re barbecuing, it can be wrapped in foil and heated on the grill. If a picnic is your preference, add a nice potato salad and of course, a beer. Perfect, easy and delicious!
I can’t quite remember when my love for sandwiches began. I have memories of my brother and I having cold, leftover mashed potato sandwiches with my mother’s homemade bread after school.
The Reuben sandwich turns 104 this year. Its origin has definitely be contested, but it is universally acknowledged as an American invention. It brings together Irish corned beef, Jewish rye bread, German sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing to create the perfect balance of interesting flavors and textures.
In a colander, rinse & drain sauerkraut. In a large skillet, melt butter; stir in caraway seeds, salt & pepper. Add diced onion & saute for 3 minutes; add sauerkraut & combine well. Continue to saute, stirring frequently for 6 minutes; remove from heat & set aside.
Butter one side each of 8 slices of bread. Divide shredded cheese, corned beef & sauerkraut between 4 of the slices (on the unbuttered side) Top with remaining 4 slices. Heat an electric griddle to 350 F. Transfer sandwiches to griddle & grill until cheese is melted. Remove from griddle on to serving plates; lift top slice of bread from each sandwich & drizzle with Russian dressing. Close Reuben & slice. Serve with pickles & potato fries or chips.
Thousand Island & Russian dressings are similar. If you want to make your own Russian dressing just add 1/2 cup chili sauce to 3/4 cup Thousand Island dressing for a simple fix.
Rosti (roosh-tee)originated as a farmer’s breakfast item in the canton of Bern in Switzerland. In Germanic Switzerland, rosti literally means ‘crisp and golden’ andrefers to a dish of shredded potatoes, sauteed on both sides in butter with salt and pepper. Regional variations include extra ingredients such as bacon, ham, onion, cheese, apples or herbs and fresh vegetables.
This Swiss potato dish can be described as a cross between hash browns and a potato pancake. Poached eggs are particularly good with rosti at breakfast, but when served at any other meal, toppings might include smoked salmon, bacon, avocado, sour cream and red onions.
Writing this blog makes me mentally return to the brief bit of time Brion and I spent in Lugano, Switzerland. This city lies at the edge of Lake Lugano, south of the Swiss Alps. Lugano has a traffic-free historic town center where we enjoyed not only a great meal but some of that fabulous Swiss chocolate. The city’s waterfront forms a crescent around the bay. The climate of Lugano is humid subtropical that closely borders on being oceanic. I’ve included a few of Brion’s photos of the beautiful villas along the shores of Lake Como and in the city of Lugano. Hopefully, some day we will be able to explore Switzerland a little more extensively.
Mental journey aside, today I not only am making a potato rosti but something that mirrors that idea using zucchini instead of potatoes. It should make for a tasty combo.
Line a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 F. Whisk together eggs, salt, pepper & Parmesan cheese. Grate potatoes, rinse & squeeze moisture out. Combine with egg mixture; pour into prepared baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven; sprinkle with Swiss cheese & shingle with ham slices. Using parchment paper, gently roll up rosti & bake for another 10 minutes or until cheese melts. Serve hot.
Filled Zucchini Rolls
Line a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 F. Whisk together eggs, salt, pepper & Parmesan cheese. Grate zucchini & squeeze moisture out. Combine with egg mixture; pour into prepared baking pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven; sprinkle with smoked Gouda cheese & shingle with ham slices. Using parchment paper, gently roll up zucchini roll & bake for another 10 minutes or until cheese melts. Serve hot or cold.
It is very important that you absolutely MUST squeeze out all the moisture from potatoes & zucchini before you add the eggs.
Italian prune plums or sometimes called Empress plums, are different from the traditional round red and black skinned plums we see in the grocery stores. Sporting a dusky purple skin and a tart, lemony green flesh, these European fruits are ripe for harvest by the end of August to the beginning of September. This particular plum is prized throughout Germany and plays a big role in the German kitchen. Although it has a bit of a sour taste, it is very versatile in making juice, jam, cakes, dumplings as well as Slivovitz — a famous Schnapps.
I remember my mother making these plums as a stewed fruit to be served with yeast dumplings ( see my blog on German Hefekloesse from Nov. 6/2016).
Now that the Italian plums have come into season, I’m taking this opportunity to bake some for our dessert today. Top them with a nice simple crumble mixture, bake and serve hot. Of course, what would they be without ice cream!
Place plum halves, cut-side up, in a baking dish & drizzle with lemon juice. In a small bowl, combine topping ingredients, working with fingers until crumbly. Pile topping mixture into 'pit' holes. Bake about 20-30 minutes until topping is golden brown & bubbling. Serve hot with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Its already late August so BBQ’s and salads are in full swing. There’s just something about cooking food outdoors on the grill that we Canadians absolutely love. If your a true BBQ lover, it doesn’t matter if its a block away, you will still catch that glorious smell.
BBQ season is not only for meat eaters. Just about any vegetable as well as numerous desserts can be cooked on the grill. For me, I love seafood, fish & chicken, for Brion, I guess I would have to add a bit of pork and beef.
This meal is a nice combination of shrimp, Parmesan zucchini and pasta salad. I kept the pasta salad real simple since we already had a vegetable. To give it some extra pizzaz, I made a roasted red pepper sauce which the little orecchietti pasta cups nicely. Nothing fancy, just plain good!
In a food processor, blend red roasted peppers along with 2 Tbsp of liquid from the jar. Puree the peppers until smooth, adding a Tbsp or two of water if needed to help it blend ( avoid adding too much liquid from the jar as it can be very acidic). Mince the garlic & add it to a skillet with the butter. Saute for 1-2 minutes or just until garlic has softened but not brown. Pour in the pureed peppers; add basil & pepper & stir to combine.
Allow sauce to come to a simmer; turn heat to low & simmer about 10 minutes, stirring often, until mixture thickens. Add cream, stirring until smooth. Meanwhile, cook pasta in salted boiling water until al dente about 12-13 minutes. Drain & add to sauce. Serve warm or cold.
In a bowl, whisk together all shrimp marinade ingredients; add shrimp & marinate at least 30 minutes.
Prepare zucchini. In a bowl, combine Parmesan & garlic powder. Melt butter; toss zucchini slices in butter then coat with Parmesan mixture. On wooden skewers, alternate marinated shrimp with cubes of Parmesan zucchini. Roast in oven or on BBQ until shrimp is pink & cooked being careful not to overcook. Serve with orecchiette pasta salad.
This tomato-free sauce could also be used as an alternative to a traditional pizza sauce.
You guessed it —- more roasted fruit! It seems to be my addiction this summer. This time its not that I had fruit on hand but instead some mascarpone cheese. Who would dream of letting that go to waste?? Sometimes called Italian Cream Cheese, mascarpone is believed to have originated in the Lombardy region of Italy. Mascarpone is used in both sweet and savory dishes to enhance the flavor without overwhelming the original taste. Lombardy has a rich agricultural and dairy heritage. Farms that produce the cheese provide their cows with special grasses that include fresh herbs and flowers. This in turn gives a unique taste to the milk and a creamy texture to the cheese.
Some years ago, Brion and I visited the Lombardy region of Italy. We have great memories of the wonderful food but probably even more so the beauty of the architecture and history. We spent a bit of time in Milan. While there we visited the world renowned ‘La Scala’ opera house and museum as well as the glass roofed shopping arcade and giant cathedral, the ‘Gothic Duomo’. I’ve included some of our photos from Milan for you to enjoy.
In a skillet, toast almonds until golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.
Preheat oven to 400 F. In a small roasting pan, toss together all prepared fruit, half of the sugar, the brandy & butter. Roast, stirring occasionally, until for tender, about 15-20 minutes.
While fruit is roasting, beat together mascarpone, remaining sugar, vanilla, ginger & cardamom until smooth. In a separate bowl, whip cream; fold into mascarpone mixture along with half of the almonds.
Divide mascarpone mixture into dessert dishes forming a mound in each. Spoon fruit & pan juices over top. Sprinkle with remaining almonds.
You can prepare the fruit & cream ahead. Just keep them in separate dishes; cover & refrigerate for up to 4 hours.