About six years ago, I tasted this popular French cake au jambon et aux olives for the first time. The word ‘cake’ in France refers to a baked savory cake made with ham, olives and cheese. They are exclusively rectangular in shape and made in a bread pan. The texture is between a bread and a cake, making it it good for picnics, cubed as an appetizer with drinks or served with a soup or salad.
This savory cake/bread has endless possibilities when it comes to ingredients. Apart from the original ham, olives and cheese, you can use cooked chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, sweet corn kernels, spinach or really any personal choice you have. Well wrapped, it will keep for a few days in the fridge, reheating it or just enjoying it cold.
In this recipe I used a mix of black and green olives, ham, bacon and a Gruyere/mozzarella cheese combo. I decided to pair it with a Spanish omelette which complimented the savory bread well. The ‘cake’ I had the opportunity of trying the first time was made by a ‘very’ French lady. It set the bar high for my own to turn out as good. We loved it so I guess this recipe is a ‘keeper’.
In a skillet, saute finely chopped onion with bacon until slightly cooked. Drain on paper towels to avoid soggy dough. Slice olives & chop parsley & ham.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 9 X 5-inch loaf pan. In a large bowl, whisk together wine, oil, eggs & salt. In another bowl, sift flour & baking powder. Stir into liquid mixture along with rest of the ingredients. Pour into prepared loaf pan & bake about 1 hour or until bread tests done.
Omelette Topping Sauce
In a saucepan, heat olive oil & saute onion for 3-4 minutes. Add green pepper & garlic; continue to cook another 3-4 minutes. Add tomato sauce, salt & pepper; reduce heat & simmer about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover & set aside to keep warm.
Omelettes for Two
Grate cheese; set aside. Slice onions, zucchini & mushrooms, On a medium-hot griddle, saute vegetables just until tender crisp in 1 tsp of butter. Remove to a dish until ready to use. In a small bowl, whisk eggs with salt & pepper. Make 2 circles of beaten eggs on griddle. Top each with 1/2 of refried beans, veggies & grated cheese. Carefully fold each omelette in half enclosing filling; add a tiny bit of water to the griddle (in between the omelettes) & cover with a large lid. When omelettes are cooked remove to serving plates & top with the tomato sauce. Serve with warm olive bread.
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.
Parmesan-Shrimp Bread Sticks with Broccoli Cheddar Soup
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Unlike some meats that are best served only as the main entree or at certain times of the year, pork tenderloin is perfect at anytime or occasion. You can grill, roast or bake it, making pork one of the most widely eaten meats across the globe.
Sometimes there is a bit of confusion in regards to pork loin and pork tenderloin. The truth is, they are cut from two different regions of the pig. Pork loins are thicker and are also referred to as ‘white’ meat. True to that name, they do turn white when cooked. Pork tenderloin is usually smaller in size, about 2″ thick. This is the softest part of the whole pig coming from the side under the back bone.
Pork is never served by itself, always being accompanied by various side dishes. I never fail to enjoy cooking pork tenderloin. It’s one of those reliable meats that is always tender, pairs with unlimited ingredients and can be ‘dressed’ up or down.
This particular meal uses a cornbread stuffing with red peppers and pears. Sort of unusual but has good flavor and is easy to prepare.
Make a lengthwise cut 3/4 of the way through the tenderloin; open & flatten to 1/4-inch thickness. Sprinkle with salt & pepper, minced garlic & 1/2 of the sliced green onion.
Spread cornbread stuffing over meat. Roll up from long side; tuck in ends. Secure with toothpicks. Slice red pepper & pears. Place in a plastic bag with a small amount of fig balsamic dressing & CAREFULLY turn slices to coat well.
Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a 13 X 9-inch baking pan with lightly greased foil wrap. Place stuffed tenderloin on it & drizzle with fig balsamic dressing. Surround with pear wedges & top with red pepper slices. Roast for 25 minutes or until meat reaches 160 F. on meat thermometer.
It goes without saying, eggplant is beloved in many cuisines. It has been considered the ‘queen of the garden’ with it’s almost purple-black, glossy skin and cap-like crown.
Eggplants are bitter when raw but develop a savory and complex flavor when cooked. The texture of the flesh is meaty and easily absorbs sauces and cooking liquids.
Native to the Indian subcontinent and the Himalayan area, they have been cultivated in Southeast Asia since prehistoric times. Cultivars in the 18th century were white to pale yellow in color and resembled hen’s eggs which explains the reason this fruit is called ‘eggplant’. There are dozens of eggplant subspecies grown throughout the world in many shapes and sizes.
The most popular one we see here in North America is the dark purple ‘globe’ eggplant which ranges in weight from 1-5 pounds. When buying them, look for ones with smooth, firm, unwrinkled skin and a fresh looking green stalk or cap. Eggplant is commonly used in ratatouille, pasta dishes, spreads, dips, moussaka or stuffed and roasted.
Today, I’m making a stuffed version with an interesting fresh basil-chicken filling.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Cut eggplant in half lengthwise; carefully hollow out each half. Roughly chop the removed flesh.
In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil & saute onion until tender, about 5-6 minutes. Add the chopped eggplant, mushrooms & garlic. Cook until eggplant is tender, about 7-8 minutes. Add ground chicken, oregano, salt & pepper. Cook until chicken is no longer pink, about 10 minutes.
Stir in in roasted red peppers, cooked rice & fresh basil; remove skillet from the heat. Place eggplant halves in a baking dish & fill with chicken/rice mixture. Sprinkle with sunflower seeds; drizzle with remaining olive oil & bake 30-35 minutes until tender.
Remove eggplant from oven & top with grated cheeses.
Though called Chinese food in North America, ‘orange chicken’ is rarely found in Chinese restaurants in China. It seems its more an Americanized mutation of the sweet & sour dishes found in China.
Chef, Andy Kao is credited with inventing orange chicken in 1987. Inspired by flavors from the Hunan Province of China, he developed the dish while he was employed as Panda Express’ executive chef in Hawaii.
I, personally, have never enjoyed eating anything that is coated in a heavy batter. Tempura is different from other fried fare due to its distinctive batter. It uses no bread crumbs and less grease than other frying methods. The light batter is made of cold water (sometimes sparkling water is used to keep the batter light) and soft wheat flour. Eggs, baking powder, baking soda, cornstarch, oil and/or spices may also be added.
Tempura batter is traditionally mixed in small batches for only a few seconds. Leaving lumps in the mixture along with the cold batter temperature, result in a unique fluffy and crisp structure when cooked. Over mixing tempura batter will result in activation of the wheat gluten, which causes the flour mixture to become soft and dough-like when fried.
The orange chicken I’m making today uses a nice light tempura batter, is grilled instead of deep fried, then coated with a unique and quick orange sauce (from kraftcanada.com). Add some Jasmine rice and veggies — perfect!
Prepare vegetables & saute in 1/2 cup chicken broth ONLY until tender-crisp. Drain broth & reserve for sauce when vegtables are sauteed.
In a small saucepan, combine dry jelly powder & cornstarch. Add broth, dressing, garlic & gingerroot; stir until jelly powder is dissolved. Add reserved broth from vegetables & cook until sauce is thickened, stirring frequently.
Tempura Batter & Chicken
Slice chicken into strips. In a small bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, baking soda & salt. In another small bowl, whisk egg with veg oil, soy sauce & ice water. Add to dry mixture, mixing only for a few seconds. Batter should be somewhat 'lumpy'.
Heat oil on an electric griddle to a medium heat. Dip slices of chicken in tempura batter with a fork, draining off excess. Place on griddle & fry about 7 minutes or until cooked through. Drain on paper towels.
Prepare Jasmine rice & place on a serving platter. Top with sauteed vegetables & chicken. Ladle orange sauce over vegetables & chicken. If you prefer, serve rice, veg, chicken & sauce all separately so everyone can make up there own combination.
We always like quite a bit of sauce but if you don't, just make half a recipe of the orange sauce.
Potato pancake variations are present in National cuisines all over the world and considered by many to be pure comfort food. The nice thing is, you can create this great meal by using leftover mashed potatoes. It can be kept simple or you can amp up the flavor with cheese, onion, bacon or a variety of spices. I recall my mother making them. I think she just added some eggs, onion, a bit of flour and some salt & pepper to the leftover, mashed potatoes. They were made into patties and pan fried as you would a pancake.
Depending on which part of Eastern Europe you come from, the name varies — Kolduny, Zrazy, Kartoffelpuffer are just a few. Regardless of the name you call them, they are just simply delicious. The Russian version takes it a bit further. The potato pancake is stuffed with a filling and then fried to a golden brown.
After reading through numerous recipes, I decided to ‘meld’ some of them into my own creation. These are what developed — nothing pretty but really good flavor. Yes, truly comfort food.
In a bowl, combine pork filling ingredients; divide into 8 portions & form each into a patty shape. Refrigerate until potato pancake 'batter' is prepared .
In a skillet, fry bacon until crispy; drain on a paper towel until cool. In skillet with remaining bacon grease, saute onion & garlic until translucent.
In a large bowl, crumble bacon into small bits. Add cold mashed potatoes, onion, garlic, beaten egg, cheddar (if using), flour, salt & pepper. Combine well. Using a large piece of waxed paper, form 16 patties. On top of each one, place one of the pork patties & then top each with the remaining potato patties. With a pair of scissors, cut waxed paper to separate filled potato pancakes so it will be easy for you to place them on a griddle for frying.
Lightly oil a frying pan or griddle. Using the waxed paper remaining under each pancake, carefully flip each filled pancake onto the griddle. Flatten a bit & press edges to enclose filling better. Fry first side to a nice golden brown then carefully flip with a spatula & brown second side a few minutes. Cover with a lid (or foil) for remaining cooking time to ensure pork is cooked through.
Once cooked, remove from griddle & serve with sour cream or Ranch dressing.
Don't hesitate to make the pancakes the size that works best for you.
One thing for sure — pizza worldwide, never gets ‘old’. The fact that pizza can be topped with almost anything, creates some of the most unique flavors.
But, first we must think about the cheese used as it has been a part of pizza forever. Food experts seem to agree that mozzarella is the best choice. There are four different kinds of mozzarella used for pizza: fior di latte (made of cow’s milk), mozzarella di bufala (made from the milk of water buffalo), burrata (a fresh Italian cheese with a creamy filling), and the type most commonly used in North America, pizza cheese (whole milk or part skim mozzarella). Of course you can always opt for a kind that you favor more personally.
Around the world, regional ingredients and local foods create some interesting combinations such as: Australia: bacon, ham, egg, shrimp & pineapple Brazil: green peas, corn, raisins, boiled eggs & hearts of palm China: mini hot dogs Costa Rica: shrimp & coconut France: bacon, onion & fresh cream Germany: canned tuna Greece: feta cheese, olives, oregano, onion, tomato, green pepper & pepperoni India: tikka chicken, minced mutton, pickled ginger, paneer cheese & tofu Japan: squid, eel, teriyaki chicken, bacon & potatoes Netherlands: lamb, as well as the so-called ‘double Dutch’ – double meat, onion & cheese Pakistan: tikka chicken, achari chicken & curry Portugal: local garlic sausage or chorizo Russia: a combination of several types of sea food with onions called ‘mocaba’ Sweden: chicken, peanut, curry powder as well as pineapple & banana
This wild shrimp pizza uses a light garlic-lemon sauce with a mozza-parmesan cheese combo. We love shrimp (or seafood), so what’s not to like!
In a large skillet, melt butter & add oil over medium heat. Add garlic & lemon zest, cook for 1 minute. Add broth (or wine) & lemon juice, simmer for 2 minutes. Add shrimp & red pepper. Saute ONLY until shrimp is pink. Remove from heat; place shrimp & red pepper in a dish & set aside. Add Parmesan cheese & Italian seasoning to broth remaining in pan; combine well. Cool slightly.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a large pizza pan with parchment or sprinkle with cornmeal. Press out pizza dough evenly in pan & brush with slightly cooled 'sauce'. Top with shrimp, peppers, mozzarella cheese. Bake 8-10 minutes, until cheese is bubbly.
In Canada, we celebrate Thanksgiving Day on the second Monday in October. Although, we seem to be more connected digitally than emotionally, it is a day meant to bring us together with our families and friends sharing in a thanksgiving meal.
Thanksgiving is about being grateful for having a roof over our heads, safety and security as we move about in our daily lives, clothes to keep us warm and for the family and friends we love and cherish.
Gratitude is not something that we talk about or think about but more about humanity. It is not just about what we do, but about who we are.
Most of us here in Canada, have far more things to be grateful for than not. I have fond memories of my wonderful parents, carefree childhood days with my siblings, having enjoyed a successful career, a loving husband, our home, the many wonderful world travels we have been able to enjoy together, but above all we are both in relatively good health. It is so important to just take the time and appreciate the blessings in our lives and make every day count.
Stuffed Turkey Breast with Butternut Squash & Figs
In a large skillet, heat olive oil. Add onions & saute for 2 minutes, until golden. Add butternut squash & 2 Tbsp water to cover; cook on low heat for 10 minutes. Remove lid & add figs, garlic, zucchini, salt , sage & pepper; cook for another 3-4 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Cut a pocket into the sides of the turkey breast tenderloins, do not cut all the way though. Season the inside of the turkey with salt. Stuff breasts with squash mixture. Wrap each breast with bacon slices.
Preheat oven to 325 F. Place turkey in a roasting pan fitted with a wire rack in the bottom. Roast for about 1 hour until meat thermometer reads 170 F. Remove from oven & allow to sit for 20 minutes, covered loosely with foil. Slice & serve.
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.
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.