Stuffed Cod Rolls with Fresh Zucchini Sauce

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.

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Stuffed Cod Rolls with Fresh Zucchini Sauce
Course Main Dish
Servings
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Bake stuffed cod for about 25 minutes. Remove from oven & serve with warm fresh zucchini sauce.
Fresh Zucchini Sauce
  1. 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.

Ravioli di Portobello Casserole

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.

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Ravioli di Portobello Casserole
Course Main Dish
Servings
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
Ravioli Filling
  1. 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.
Ravioli Dough
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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
  1. 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.
Assemble Casserole
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Chicken Parmigiana with Basil Sauce

From what I understand, the global dish called chicken parmigiana is a variation on the Italian entree known as eggplant parmigiana. Simply put, you deep fry eggplant, add cheese and tomato sauce and bake it. At some point in time, various regions in the world with large Italian immigrant populations, realized chicken would be an excellent alternative to the eggplant and chicken parmigiana evolved.

In America, the dish became popular around 1958. Often the name has been simplified to just ‘chicken parm‘. Usually composed of fried or breaded chicken fillets, smothered in mozzarella (or provolone), parmesan and tomato sauce all of which is then baked. Another version is using veal instead of chicken. Parmigiana is traditionally served over hot pasta as the main entree but it has also become a sandwich filling favored in subs, hoagies, etc.

In today’s recipe, I’m using parmesan cheese but omitting the mozzarella-tomato sauce. I wanted to accent the flavor with fresh basil in the sauce instead. We quite enjoyed it.

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Chicken Parmigiana with Basil Sauce
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
Chicken
  1. In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs, cheese & parsley. Chop bacon finely & fry until crisp; drain. Add bacon to breadcrumb mixture.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a saucepan, melt butter, add minced garlic, Worcestershire sauce & dry mustard. Mix well. Dip chicken fillets in butter mixture & place in a shallow ovenproof dish. Press crumb mixture on top of each fillet.
  3. Bake, uncovered for 20 - 25 minutes.
Basil Sauce
  1. In a saucepan, combine oil, vinegar, minced garlic, finely chopped basil leaves & cream; stir until heated through. Add egg yolk & stir until sauce thickens. Do not boil. Season with salt & pepper. Serve over chicken parmigiana.

Anise-Lemon Cheesecake Cookies

Spring gives good reason to celebrate the taste of fresh lemon. Next try pairing it with cream cheese and anise in some tender little cookies. Amazing!

Cheesecake itself, has been a dessert many of us have loved for years. Using cream cheese has become so common, it is used in just about any application you can think of sweet or savory. Cheesecake cookies are the perfect back drop to showcase the unique taste of anise.

Slightly sweet, anise has an appealing licorice-like flavor and aroma. It has been a popular herb in holiday and special occasion treats for centuries, around the world. Since it requires at least 120 frost free days to ripen the seeds, anise is difficult to grow in cooler regions. The fact that it has a long tap root also makes it hard to grow in a container indoors. Seeds, extract and oil are all used in cooking, but the leaves can also be tossed in salads or dropped into the water when boiling shellfish.

To complete this cookie creation today, I made an eggless lemon curd to sandwich them with. I found this recipe was best made over two days. Use the first day to prepare the dough, bake the cookies and make the lemon curd. Waiting a day to assemble the cookie sandwiches gives both cookies and curd ample time to cool. This is definitely a cookie designed with flavor in mind.


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Anise-Lemon Cheesecake Cookies


Instructions
Lemon Curd
  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine lemon juice, sugar, lemon zest & salt, stirring well to dissolve sugar. Add the cornstarch mixture & the milk, stirring well to combine. Cook until mixture begins to thicken, about 5-6 minutes, stirring constantly until the first few bubbles appear on the surface. Add butter & food color; continue to cook until resembles thick pudding. Transfer to a dish; cover with plastic wrap & allow to cool completely before placing in refrigerator. Chill at least 2 hours in the refrigerator or preferably overnight.

Cookies
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

  2. Beat cream cheese & butter together at high speed until fluffy & smooth; 1-2 minutes. Add sugar & beat until fully incorporated & fluffy; 1-2 minutes. Beat in eggs, lemon zest, anise extract & seeds.

  3. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder & salt. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture. Mix ONLY until blended, DO NOT OVER MIX. Batter will be sticky. Using a small scoop, drop cookies onto prepared baking sheet.

  4. Bake for 10-11 minutes. Cookies should be light in color, not browned & just starting to brown on the bottom. Cool cookies on baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Assembly
  1. The following day, lay out half of the cookies; spoon 1 heaping teaspoon of lemon curd onto the center of each cookie. Top each with the remaining cookies & gently press together until the filling reaches the edges of the cookies.

Turkey & Hickory Bacon Stuffed Pasta Shells

Pasta shells, filled with a range of flavors and baked in a creamy sauce — what’s not to like? I think my love affair with stuffed pasta shells started somewhere in the 90’s. The versatility of this meal makes it king of the comfort food dinners served family style. Easy to prepare, makes everyone happy and are perfectly portioned for individuals and groups alike.

Another bonus, is that this meal can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated. The concern with reheating pasta is always that the pasta will absorb any additional sauce or liquids as it is sitting in the fridge. In order to make this meal ahead of time, cook pasta and stuff shells but keep the sauce in a separate container. When ready to serve, microwave sauce just until its liquified, pour over pasta shells and bake until hot and bubbly.

Unbaked shells can be frozen for up to one month. To bake from the freezer, first thaw in the refrigerator, then let them stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Cover and bake for 30 minutes, uncover; bake 10-15 minutes longer until bubbly.

The hickory smoked bacon in these pasta shells adds such a unique flavor to the turkey filling.

Print Recipe
Turkey & Hickory Bacon Stuffed Pasta Shells
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
Sauce
  1. In a small saucepan, melt butter; stir in flour & cook until lightly browned. Slowly whisk in chicken broth. Add mustard & cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Set aside.
Pasta & Filling
  1. Cook pasta shells in boiling, salted water with a few drops of oil added for 10-12 minutes. Drain, rinse in cold water, drain again. Grate Gouda cheese. In a saucepan, fry bacon to a soft crisp stage, blot on paper towel & chop.
  2. In a large bowl, combine ground turkey, onion, garlic, Parmesan, soy sauce, basil, thyme, 1/2 of chopped bacon, salt & pepper. Add a small amount of prepared sauce (to help to hold filling together).
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F. Using a 9-inch baking dish, spread some sauce over the bottom. Divide turkey filling between shells. Place filled shells, single file in pan. Pour remaining sauce over all & top with remaining bacon. Sprinkle smoked Gouda cheese evenly over top. Cover & bake for 30-40 minutes or until filling is cooked.

Cherry Marzipan Cookies

The origins of marzipan, much like many other pastries that contain almonds, cannot be pinpointed to any one place. Some believe it came from Persia, others speak of Germany and Italy, yet others name Toledo, a medieval city southwest of Madrid, Spain. Whatever its history, today marzipan is a fixture of Spain’s Christmas time celebrations.

Toledo’s first recorded marzipan recipe dates back to 1525, and in the hundreds of years since then, it has been traditionally made by the nuns in Toledo’s countless convents. Marzipan is a paste made by grinding and kneading, almonds together with sugar. As well as using it in pastries, it can be shaped into various figures that can be glazed and decorated.

Along with marzipan, Toledo is famous for Swords and Damascene. Brion and I had the opportunity of visiting this quaint, little medieval city one year. It was such an incredible and interesting experience.

The metal-working industry has historically been Toledo’s economic base, with a great tradition of manufacturing swords & knives.

Damascene is the art of inlaying different metals into one another. Typically gold and silver are placed into a darkly oxidized steel background to produce intricate patterns. Traditionally, damascene designs focus on two distinct patterns. Either Renaissance motifs with birds and flowers or Arabesque and geometric designs.

In the spirit of Christmas and Toledo’s marzipan, I wanted to make some nice little cherry marzipan cookies. The vanilla and dried cherries are a trade off for the usual rose water used.

I am adding a few pictures from our time spent in Toledo. It was around Christmas time that year so we saw a lot of marzipan goodies. Take note of the miniature marzipan figurines of the nuns in the bakery scene. This was in a store window display. Wonderful memories!

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Cherry Marzipan Cookies
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a bowl, combine almond flour, powdered sugar, extracts & egg whites; stir well. Stir in dried cherries. Scoop mixture into balls then roll in sliced almonds to coat. Place on baking sheet.
  3. Bake for 20 minutes or until JUST done. Let cool & sprinkle with additional powdered sugar.

Hazelnut Liqueur Shortbread Cookies

It’s hard to think of Christmas without having shortbread. When I was growing up, fruitcake (or Christmas cake) and shortbread cookies were some of the staples associated with Christmas baking.  Fruitcake has definitely become lost in the shuffle  but it seems shortbread still remains. While the traditional shortbread consisted of three main ingredients — flour, sugar and butter, today it is flavored with any number of ingredients.

The first shortbread recipe appeared in a Scottish cookbook dated 1736. Early formulas called for yeast, but by 1850, most were utilizing only flour,  sugar and butter combined in a ratio bakers still use today. Originally it started out as a twice-baked medieval bread roll that was dusted in sugar and allowed to harden. For a number of years, Scottish shortbread (biscuits) were classified as a bread by bakers so that they could avoid the tax placed on biscuits.

There are infinite variations on the classic version such as additions of nuts, alcohol, citrus zest, dried fruit, anise spice, floral water, chocolate, lemon curd, caramel or ganache.

Some years ago, I started using a hazelnut liqueur in some of my Christmas baking. It adds a wonderful richness we really enjoy. My favorite is the Frangelico brand. It is distilled in the Piedmont region of northern Italy from an alcohol and water infusion of the nuts. Natural flavoring extracts such as cocoa and vanilla are added before blending with alcohol, sugar and water to meet the bottle strength. It’s origins go back over 300 years to the Christian monks who inhabited that area of Italy. The name Frangelico is derived from one of the monks, Fra. Angelico. The bottle itself, reflects this heritage, which looks like a glass monk complete with a rope belt. A bit pricey but if you are using it only for baking, the bottle lasts a long time. 

This recipe was featured in a ‘Canadian Living’ magazine in December 2002. The perfect shortbread for the upcoming season.

 

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Hazelnut Liqueur Shortbread Cookies
Servings
Ingredients
Hazelnut Glaze
Servings
Ingredients
Hazelnut Glaze
Instructions
Shortbread
  1. In a bowl, beat butter with sugar until light & fluffy followed by the liqueur & vanilla. Stir in cornstarch & salt. Next add flour, 1/3 at a time combining to make a smooth dough. Add nuts, then divide dough in half & chill until firm but not hard, about 30-60 minutes.
  2. Roll out each disk of dough to a 1/4-inch thickness & chill again at least 30 minutes. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut into desired shapes, re-rolling scrapes. Place 1-inch apart on baking sheet; chill until firm, about 2 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 325 F. bake shortbread cookies for 15-20 minutes or until LIGHT golden. Remove from oven & place on cooking rack. Spread with glaze if desired.
Hazelnut Glaze
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, liqueur & 2 Tbsp water (adding more water if needed to make spreadable). Spread over shortbread cookies.

Parmesan-Shrimp Bread Sticks with Broccoli Cheddar Soup

It seems we never get enough of taking just about anything we do to the next level. Case in point would be pizza dough. It started as a very thin, crispy crust and evolved into whatever thickness you wanted to make it. Enter the ‘stuffed’ crust with a ring of cheese encased in the outer edges of your pizza! Then, of course, the actual pizza fillings can be virtually anything that you choose or have available.

Bread sticks, on the other hand, aren’t something that have remained unscathed either. Probably the original simple design was ‘grissini’ (as they are known in Italy). Today’s bread sticks come in many forms from super crispy, thin ones to the larger ones often served with spaghetti and used to mop up excess sauce. Now, here’s where it gets one step better. Enter ‘homemade stuffed’ bread sticks. For inspiration all you have to do is think about all of your pizza toppings. Use them as options for either mixing into your dough or actually stuffing into a bread stick.

Being shrimp and Parmesan lovers, the natural thing for me to do was  incorporate both into some bread sticks. The next step was to pair them with a nice light broccoli-cheddar soup. A match made in heaven even if I do say so myself.

Print Recipe
Parmesan-Shrimp Bread Sticks with Broccoli Cheddar Soup
Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings
Ingredients
Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
Parmesan Shrimp Bread Sticks
  1. Combine all ingredients, in the order listed, in a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix on medium-low until the dough comes together. Continue to mix on medium-low for 5 minutes to knead. Dough is ready when it is stretchy & smooth. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap & allow to rise for about an hour or until doubled in bulk.
Bread Stick Filling
  1. Peel, devein & slightly chop raw shrimp; place in a bowl. Grate & slightly chop fresh Parmesan cheese. Combine oil, minced garlic, spices & Parmesan cheese with chopped shrimp.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Punch dough down; on a lightly floured work surface, press dough into roughly an 8 X 12-inch rectangle. Top with shrimp filling & sprinkle with dill weed. Slice lengthwise into 8 strips; fold each strip in half enclosing filling. Twist each strip slightly & lay on baking sheet. Top each bread stick with some grated mozzarella cheese (or you could put it on as soon as they come out of the oven). Bake for 7-10 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with soup.
Broccoli-Cheddar Soup
  1. In a large saucepan, saute onion & garlic in olive oil until tender. Stir in flour; cook for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in broth. Bring to a boil; cook & stir for 1-2 minutes or until slightly thickened.
  2. Add the broccoli, tarragon, thyme & pepper; return to a boil. Reduce heat; cover & simmer for 10 minutes or until broccoli is tender. Add milk; cook, uncovered 5 minutes longer. Remove from heat; cool to room temperature.
  3. In a blender, process about half of the soup until smooth. Return to saucepan; heat through. Reduce heat. Add 100 grams of cheese; stir just until melted. Serve immediately, garnishing with remaining cheese.
Recipe Notes
  • When time is of the essence and you need to speed up the process, use a tube of purchased refrigerated pizza or bread stick dough instead of making your own. 

Corned Beef & Cabbage Pizza

CELEBRATING OKTOBERFEST!

Even if it is a little hard to admit summer has ended and fall is officially here, Oktoberfest seems like a great little celebration to ease into the coming winter months.

Oktoberfest began as a wedding celebration more than 200 years ago in Munich, Germany, when Bavaria’s, Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on October 12,1810. The wedding was celebrated with multiple days of drinking, feasting and horse races. Everybody had so much fun that it was resolved to repeat the celebration, which has been done, every year since.

Beer enthusiasts from all over the world flock to Munich for Oktoberfest, where they feast on everything from steins of beer to plates of sauerkraut, bratwurst, cabbage rolls, sausage and wiener schnitzel. Bavarian music fills the air to promote the fun atmosphere of Oktoberfest.

While the true celebration has to be experienced in Munich, there are actually some great Canadian events that try to duplicate the festivities without having to travel abroad. In different parts of the country this is a fun and social sampling event featuring many local craft and authentic Bavarian breweries as well as authentic food, Oktoberfest music, dancers, games, etc..

To acknowledge this holiday we are having a corned beef, cabbage & potato pizza with a rye bread crust. It seems a good mix of German-Canadian food to me ?!

Print Recipe
Corned Beef & Cabbage Pizza
Instructions
Rye Pizza Crust
  1. In a bowl, combine flours & salt. Pour 1/2 cup water into a microwave-safe bowl; heat for 30 seconds. Stir brown sugar into water until dissolved; add yeast & stir. Let mixture stand about 10 minutes, until bubbly. Pour yeast mixture into flour mixture. Pour remaining 1 cup of water into microwave-safe bowl; heat for 30 seconds.
  2. Stir olive oil into warm water; pour over flour mixture. Knead flour mixture, adding more all-purpose flour if dough is sticky, until dough is smooth & holds together. Form dough into a ball & place in a buttered bowl. Cover with a tea towel & let rise in a warm place about an hour or until doubled in size.
Fillings
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Toss thinly sliced potato with 2 Tbsp olive oil in a plastic bag. Combine paprika, rosemary, garlic powder, salt & pepper; add to potato slices & toss again. Roast in a single layer on a baking sheet about 10-15 minutes. In a skillet, add sauerkraut with juice & diced onion. Simmer for a few minutes until onion is tender. Drain well; set aside to cool slightly.
Assembly
  1. Punch down dough. Sprinkle a 14-inch pizza pan with cornmeal & press dough out to fit pan. Top crust with monterey jack cheese, corned beef & onion/sauerkraut mixture. Lay roasted potato slices to cover pizza then sprinkle with mozzarella & Parmesan cheeses. Bake pizza for 12-15 minutes or until golden & crispy. Once pizza is done baking, drizzle with Russian dressing & slice.

Italian Plum Crisp

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!

Print Recipe
Italian Plum Crisp
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. 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.
Recipe Notes