Thirty or more years ago, balsamic vinegar was relatively unknown outside of Italy. Due to our exposure to gourmet food magazines, television cooking shows and celebrity chefs, there is hardly a household without a bottle in its pantry these days.
Balsamic vinegar actually derives its name from the word ‘balm’, which refers to an aromatic resin or odor, as well as a substance that soothes, relieves and heals.
For hundreds of years, wealthy Italian families have made balsamic vinegar for their own consumption, nurturing their supplies over the years. Passed on from generation to generation, gifting small amounts to treasured friends and honored guests and perhaps even bequeathing some to a daughter as part of her ‘dowry’. Balsamic vinegar came to be considered a symbol of peace.
In about 1980, the popularity of balsamic vinegar soared due to Italian chefs discovering how intense flavors complemented modern Mediterranean cuisine. Local families couldn’t gear up production to meet the new demand. New producers developed imitation versions, consequently many of us have yet to taste truly authentic balsamic vinegar or ‘Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale’, as its known in Italian.
Balsamic Glazed Fig & Pork Kabobs
Cut pork into 1-inch cubes. Combine next seven ingredients; place pork cubes in a plastic bag. Toss to coat well; refrigerate until ready to grill. In a small dish, make a glaze by whisking together vinegar, honey, mustard & oil. Set aside.
On water-soaked wooden skewers, thread pork cubes & figs. Grill, covered, on a greased rack over medium-high direct heat, turning occasionally, about 8-10 minutes. During last half of grilling, brush cooked surfaces frequently with glaze.
Let skewers stand 5 minutes; add a tomato to each. Transfer to serving platter & sprinkle lightly with Gorgonzola & basil. Serve some of your Blueberry & Blackberry Rustic Tart for dessert.
The versatility of chicken, as well as the ease and speed with which it can be cooked make it one of the most popular meats around.
Chicken leg quarters, also referred to as whole chicken legs, consist of both the thigh and drumstick. This cut is sold bone-in/skin-on and for most part, quite economical. Because they are dark meat and many people prefer white meat, chicken legs are often over looked by the consumer.
I like to purchase these with six fresh leg quarters to the package. Usually you will find a bit of extra fat on them which needs to be trimmed as well as the backbone rinsed out. Freezing them in a meal size portions makes it so handy when ready to use.
Roasting them in a real slow oven temperature with just a little oil, salt & pepper always produces tasty results. After they have baked for an hour you can always turn up the temperature for a few minutes to crisp the skin if you wish.
Today, I thought it would be nice to do something a bit more special. Stuffing them with a veggie-cheese mixture not only tastes great but they had a nice visual effect on our plates.
Stuffed Chicken Leg Quarters
In a saucepan, melt butter, add onion & peppers; saute until tender crisp. Add grated zucchini, continue to cook for 2 minutes.
Remove from heat & place in a bowl. Add breadcrumbs, egg, salt, pepper & cheese. Refrigerate until cold.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Using fingers, loosen skin on chicken legs. Spoon some filling into each chicken leg working the stuffing down the drumstick. Combine the 2 Tbsp melted butter, dry mustard & Dijon mustard together & brush over chicken. Place the chicken in a shallow baking dish & bake for about 45 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from oven & serve.
If you are not accustomed to using chutneys it is well worth revisiting the idea. Chutney is similar to salsa or a sweet ‘relish’. The perfect balance of sweet, sour and spicy are critical elements for most chutneys. The sweetness coming from fresh or dried fruits, the sour element from vinegar, lemon or lime and the spiciness from a variety of whole spices.
There is no right or wrong recipe, just a preferred flavor or two. They can be cooked or fresh and are made from a wide variety of ingredient combinations of fruits and/ or vegetables and spices. Ground spices tend to make chutney cloudy so it is best to use whole ones.
In the majority of chutney recipes one ingredient tends to dominate the flavor. The sweet and sour ones work well with beef, pork and chicken, whereas sweeter versions are great on cheese and crackers, bagels and toast.
I have made numerous chutneys over the years. Some were served with warm Brie cheese but very often I’ve used mango chutney when cooking pork. This particular recipe can be made with either purchased chutney or just make a recipe of your own. It creates a unique flavor along with nice tender ribs.
Mango Chutney Country Style Ribs
In a saucepan, combine honey & vinegar, Bring to a boil & simmer until honey dissolves. Add remaining ingredients & simmer, uncovered until mixture becomes slightly thickened. Pour into a glass dish & set aside until needed. Refrigerate any remaining chutney that you don't use in making ribs.
Ribs / Sauce
In a saucepan, Brown ribs & set aside on a paper towel-lined plate. Add all 'sauce' ingredients to saucepan except for the 1 fresh mango. Bring to a boil, cooking for about 15 minutes, gently mashing tomatoes with a fork, until sauce is reduced to about 1 1/4 cups.
Preheat oven to 300 F. Place ribs in a baking dish; pour sauce over ribs, cover & bake for about 1-1 1/2 hours until ribs are very tender. Serve with sauce & top with remaining diced fresh mango.
Christmas gatherings would not be complete without pate’. For many people, pate’ brings to mind a fancy goose liver-based hors d’ oeuvre spread — but not all pate’ is made from liver!
While traditionally served baked in a crust, today pate’ simply describes a wide variety of smooth blends of meats, poultry, seafood, vegetables, dairy products, liquors like sherry or cognac with herbs and spices.
Pates’ can be smooth and creamy (mousse) or firm and chunkier (country style). Mousses spread effortlessly on crackers or bread while country style varieties can be sliced or cubed for appetizers or sandwiches. Equally flavorful hot or cold, pates’ are best served at room temperature.
Recipes are not always extravagant and widely vary from the humble appetizer prepared at home to one of the most expensive dishes served in world renowned restaurants.
There are no rigid rules for cooking or serving pate’. Nearly any flavor profile that appeals to you can be made into one. Today I wanted to feature a couple of very simple but tasty pates’ you might enjoy to try somewhere throughout the Christmas season.
Pistachio & Turkey Pate' / Walnut & Wild Mushroom Pate'
Walnut & Wild Mushroom Pate'
Walnut & Wild Mushroom Pate'
Pistachio & Turkey Pate'
Line a small bowl with plastic wrap.
In a food processor, combine turkey, onions, sour cream & mustard; process until mixture is well blended & smooth. Add relish; process about 30 seconds or until JUST combined. Spoon into lined bowl; cover with plastic wrap & press gently. Refrigerate 1-2 hours to blend flavors.
Unmold onto serving; remove plastic wrap. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios; gently press onto plate. Serve with a variety of crackers. Yield: 2 1/2 cups.
Walnut & Wild Mushroom Pate'
Preheat oven to 350 F. Spread walnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toast for 10 minutes, or until fragrant & lightly browned.
In a large skillet, saute shallots in butter over medium heat until translucent.; add chopped mushrooms, garlic, parsley, thyme, salt & pepper. Cook, stirring often, until most of the liquid has evaporated.
Process toasted walnuts & olive oil in food processor until mixture forms a thick paste. Spoon in the cooked mushroom mixture; process to desired texture. Pack mixture into a well oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap & refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. Serve on baguette slices or crackers of your choice. Yield: 20 servings
Today, July 25th, is my sister Loretta’s birthday. As I think of her with fondness on her day, I wanted to feature a special meal that I’m sure she would enjoy. I would much rather be making it for her but distance makes that impossible.
The entree I am preparing is WILD SALMON ROULADE stuffed with SHRIMP & SCALLOPS and served with DILL SAUCE.
Roulades have been around since the 18th century. The things that have made them so popular are that they are simple — once prepared they need little attention while cooking. They are versatile — any meat or fish that can be thinly sliced lengthwise will work. There are many options when it comes to the filling — anything that cooks faster than the outside is suitable. Elegant for entertaining — on the outside a delicate fillet of fish or meat; on the inside a hidden second flavor.
In this recipe, the salmon roulade is stuffed with shrimp and scallops and served with a delicate sauce.
Loretta is a few years older than I am so she has always been in my life. I have lots of wonderful memories from our ‘adventures’ while growing up on the farm together. Thank you, Loretta, for those beautiful moments in life that can never be brought back but I will treasure them in memories forever.
OUR FAMILY CELEBRATES YOU WITH LOVE ON YOUR SPECIAL DAY!
Seafood Salmon Roulade
In a bowl, whisk egg white until frothy; set aside. Finely chop shrimp; cut scallops into 1/2-inch cubes. Add seafood to egg white. Add bread crumbs, chives, parsley, lemon rind, tarragon, salt & pepper; toss to combine. Refrigerate.
Butterfly (skinned) salmon fillet; sprinkle with salt & pepper. Spread stuffing over salmon leaving a border at edges. Starting at long side , roll salmon, tying with kitchen string at 1-inch intervals. Place on a parchment-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt & pepper.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Roast about 50 minutes or when thermometer inserted into the thickest part reaches 160 F. Transfer to cutting board; tent with foil & let rest for 10 minutes.
In a small bowl, mix dill sauce ingredients together. Adjust consistency with milk & tartness with lemon juice. Set aside for 10-20 minutes You could use Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. It is slightly more tangy & low fat tends to be less creamy but does reduce the calories.
- You can prepare the salmon roulade up to 2 hours ahead, just cover & refrigerate.
The meat traditionally associated with Easter in America is ham, while in many other parts of the world, the arrival of spring is celebrated with lamb. Eating ham at Easter dates back to at least the 6th century in Germany. Pigs thrived in northern Europe, being forest-adapted animals. They were let to roam the abundant woodlands to forage for acorns and roots. Slaughtered and hung in the autumn of the year, pigs were one of the few meats available to eat in early spring. As Christianity spread northward, it merged with the Pagan spring celebration of ‘Eostre’. A convenient uniting of traditions was born, with ham at the center of the Easter feast.
Even though, adding ‘glaze’ while baking a ham seems like a ‘modern’ idea, raw honey was being used in much earlier times.
A glaze that is both sweet and savory has been one of my favorites for many years. Brion & I are looking forward to enjoying some glazed ham for our Easter meal.
HAPPY EASTER TO EVERYONE THANKS FOR YOUR INTEREST IN FOLLOWING MY BLOGS!
Baked Glazed Ham
Preheat oven to 325 F. Place ham, cut side down, on rack in a roasting pan. Bake about 30 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 90 F.
In a small saucepan, simmer jelly, preserves, vinegar, mustard, brown sugar & sage stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
Remove ham from oven. With a sharp knife, lightly score outside of ham, making parallel 1/4" deep cuts in crosshatch pattern. Brush ham with some of the glaze & return ham to oven. Bake until internal temperature reaches 130 F., brushing ham with glaze during baking.
Carefully place ham on a serving platter. Cover loosely with foil & let stand 10 minutes before serving. Internal temperature will rise to 140 F. upon standing.
Today, November 24, our neighbors to the south are celebrating Thanksgiving. Over the years, Brion and I have been in the USA numerous times on this occasion and enjoyed the food and holiday atmosphere very much. Today’s blog post acknowledges the American holiday with some special meal choices.
At the heart of a memorable dinner is the main entree, so why not make it just a bit more special by serving it ‘En Croute’. In the culinary arts, the term en croute (pronounced ‘on Kroot’) indicates a food that has been wrapped in a pastry dough and then baked in the oven. Traditionally the type of pastry used was a simple dough called pate pastry. Today, puff pastry is frequently used for most en croute recipes.
The key to preparing items en croute is that however long it takes to cook the pastry until it is golden brown is how long the item will spend in the oven. Some of the best choices are beef tenderloin, salmon or a brie cheese, due to the fact they require less time to cook.
In the 1950’s and 60’s, Beef Wellington or as the French called it, ‘Boeuf en Croute’, became very popular. It was an elegant meal, using a beef tenderloin covered with liver pate and wrapped in pastry. My first introduction to this meal was a much more low key version. It was simply achieved by making a nicely seasoned meatloaf, wrapping it a basic pastry and baking it. My mother would serve it with a tomato soup sauce. Definitely good but not quite the elegance of the true en croute entrees.
Two favorites of mine are variations of the classic ‘boeuf en croute’. One uses boneless turkey breast topped with a cranberry, hazelnut stuffing and baked in a tender puff pastry then served with a citrus-fig cranberry sauce. The other one is a seafood en croute using fresh salmon. The salmon is topped with shrimp or scallops in a seasoned egg/cream mixture and baked in puff pastry. A dill cream sauce is served to compliment this entree. Having a few alternatives to change out your traditional holiday meals always keeps it interesting.
Turkey / Seafood 'en Croute'
Alternative ideas for those special occasions.
Citrus - Fig Cranberry Sauce
Citrus - Fig Cranberry Sauce
Turkey en Croute
Saute garlic & onions in olive oil & butter 1-2 minutes. Add bread crumbs; toss until they begin to brown slightly. Add hazelnuts, thyme, cranberries, salt & pepper. Add only enough turkey stock to make stuffing hold together.
Place the first pastry sheet on a parchment lined baking sheet. Place turkey breast along the center line of the pastry sheet. Brush the edges of the pastry with egg wash. Place stuffing on top of the turkey. Place the second pastry sheet over the turkey & stuffing. Trim the edges to form an oval shape. Save the trimmings in the fridge.
Bring the edges of the dough together & seal by pinching them. Roll the dough from the bottom layer over the top layer & press down all the way around the perimeter of the pastry. This creates a tighter seal. Brush egg wash over the entire surface of the pastry. Decorate, cutting leaf shapes from trimmed pastry & score leaf veining into them with the tip of a sharp knife. Cut four 1/2" slots in the top of the pastry to let steam escape. Chill for 20 minutes or longer in the fridge before baking. This helps the pastry to puff.
Bake at 400 F. for about 15-20 minutes then reduce the heat to 350 F. Use a meat thermometer to make sure that the center has reached at least 170 F. to be sure the turkey is completely cooked, about 35-45 minutes longer. Let rest for 10 minutes before cutting into servings.
Citrus - Fig Cranberry Sauce
Simmer all ingredients together slowly for 30-40 minutes or until the cranberries are fully cooked & the mixture reduces & thickens to a jam-like consistency. Stir the sauce often as it simmers. Remove the star anise (if using). Store in a plastic container in refrigerator until serving time.
Seafood en Croute
On a lightly floured surface, roll each pastry sheet into a 12 x 10-inch rectangle. Cut each sheet into four 6 x 5-inch rectangles. Place a salmon fillet in center of four rectangles.
In a small bowl, combine the shrimp (or scallops), cream, onions, parsley, dill, garlic, pesto, salt & pepper. In another small bowl, beat egg white on medium speed until soft peaks form; fold into shrimp mixture. Spoon about 1/4 cup over each fillet.
Top each with a pastry rectangle & crimp to seal. With a sharp knife, cut several slits in the top to let steam escape. Place on a 15 x 10 x 1-inch parchment lined baking sheet; brush with egg wash. Bake at 400 F. for 20-25 minutes or until a thermometer reads 160 F.
Dill Cream Sauce
Mix all ingredients & refrigerate until serving time.
- The original recipe source for the Cranberry Hazelnut Turkey & Citrus Fig Cranberry Sauce can be found at rockrecipes.com
- The cranberry sauce uses star anise or extract but feel free to omit it if you do not care for that flavor.
- The Seafood en Croute recipe is one that is featured on tasteofhome.com which has always been my favorite 'go-to' recipe company forever.
In the quest for a real good fish burger I turned my thoughts to using ground ‘fresh’ salmon. Living in the ‘prairie’ Province of Alberta, here in Canada, the most economical way to buy fish is either canned, frozen or smoked. The fresh fish we buy in our grocery stores here has to travel somewhat before it gets to us. Definitely, it goes without saying that the flavor is not going to be what people living on the coast experience. Nevertheless, with a little ingenuity we make it work. Brion and I both enjoy to have fish or seafood at least a couple of times a week.
To complete my ‘stuffed burger series’, I’ve made a a serious attempt to come up with a Mushroom-Cheese Stuffed Salmon Burger. I like the idea of putting a filling in between the salmon meat patties. So often fish burgers are deep-fried and overcooked, resembling the taste of what I imagine cardboard would taste like. Using fresh mushrooms and cheese certainly makes for a nice moist burger. Then just to make it a little more ‘gourmet’, top it off with a dollop of Fresh Cucumber-Dill Sauce.
Hopefully, out of the seven options, you were able to find at least one that will become a favorite at your house. By using some of these strategies to save you time, effort and money you will be able to get the most out of those wonderful days of summer ahead.
Stuffed Salmon Burgers with Fresh Cucumber-Dill Sauce
A flavorful moist stuffing compliments the fresh salmon in this burger which is equally as good served with rice instead of a bun.
The cucumber-dill sauce works as a good condiment in either case.
In a small bowl, combine all sauce ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
In a saucepan, melt butter & saute mushrooms with onions until golden. Add the garlic & saute for one more minute. Season with thyme, salt & pepper. Remove from heat, drain any excess liquids from sauteed mushrooms; chop the cooked mushrooms into small pieces. Add bread & cheese to mixture. Set aside.
In a bowl, combine all salmon patty ingredients; mix well. Shape into 12 patties. Divide filling among half of the patties. Top with remaining 6 patties & press gently to seal edges enclosing all the filling.
Preheat barbecue grill to a medium heat. Place salmon burgers on a sheet of greased aluminum foil or in a foil baking dish. Set pan on barbecue & cook for 6-8 minutes on each side or until burger is cooked through. Serve on lightly grilled Ciabatta buns with Cucumber-Dill sauce.
- Like in the case of some of the other burger choices, I made up a double recipe of the salmon patties ahead of time. Scoop them into an air-tight plastic container; cover them well with plastic wrap & freeze. When you want to serve, make the stuffing & sauce for however many your cooking, thaw some salmon 'scoops' & flatten into patties. Fill & cook as directed. Fast & easy, works for me!