The humble meatball is one of the most versatile foods. They seem to exist in just about every culture and can be used in any number of ways, not only with pasta and rice but as a tasty little hors d’ oeuvres.
I find apricots to be a good compliment to meatball hors d’ oeuvres. Using Mediterranean (also known as Turkish) apricots is a good choice as their flesh is thicker and plumper as well as having great flavor.
Many people prefer to fry meatballs but it seems to me that usually ends up with a charred outside and they are still raw inside. Baking them in the oven will result in a much more even cooking. Personal choice I guess.
This recipe for APRICOT-SPICE MEATBALLSis one I’ve used many times over the years. They work well at Christmas events when hot hors d’ oeuvres are in demand. Make the meatballs up, bake and freeze ahead of time — thaw when needed! At serving time, make the spicy apricot nectar sauce and your ready to go.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 15 x 10 x 1-inch baking pan with foil; lightly grease. Set aside.
In a bowl, combine bread crumbs & milk. Let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in egg white, onion, apricots, salt, garlic & chili powder. Add ground pork & turkey; mix well. Shape meat mixture into 30 meatballs. Place on prepared baking pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until meatballs are cooked. Remove meatballs from pan to paper towels.
Spiced Apricot Sauce
In a small saucepan, combine sauce ingredients. Cook & stir over medium heat until thickened & bubbly.
Place meatballs in a slow cooker. Add sauce, stirring gently to coat. Turn heat setting to low. This should keep meatballs warm, while being used by guests for about 2 hours.
If you find your sauce gets to thick or you prefer it thinner to begin with, just use a little more apricot nectar.
This meat combination makes a real flavorful meatball.
One of my all time favorite pasta dishes to make are jumbo stuffed pasta shells. They are easy to prepare and are perfectly portioned for individuals and groups alike.The best part is the multitude of different fillings you can make them with.
Some years ago, Brion and I had the pleasure of eating lunch at Gayles Bakery & Rosticceria in the little seaside town of Capitola, California (see my blog article from July 2016 for Fig & Gorgonzola Chicken Breast). It was there I tasted Spinach-Gorgonzola Pasta. Until then I had never even tasted this kind of cheese. With a strong dislike for Blue Cheese, it looked suspiciously similar. Long story short, it seemed everyone was ordering this pasta so I decided to try it. It was just incredible! The combination of Gorgonzola, ricotta and parmesan make this dish especially decadent and delicious.
Info I found on Gorgonzola Dolce reads like this — Imported from Italy, this sweet or ‘dolce’ Gorgonzola has the characteristically creamy texture and nutty aroma Gorgonzola is known for, yet is milder due to a shorter aging period. A great option for those who normally shy away from blue cheese.
The fact that Brion and I are both seafood lovers, I decided to incorporate this kind of pasta with a little seafood medley. The end result did not disappoint, bringing back that ‘taste of a memory’ once again.
In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, heat milk until hot but not boiling. Meanwhile, combine flour & butter in another heavy saucepan. Stir over medium heat with a wooden spoon or whisk until the mixture has gently bubbled for 2 minutes, being careful not to brown flour.
Begin to add the hot milk to the flour mixture a little at a time while whisking vigorously. Continue to add the milk until it is fully incorporated. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat to low; simmer, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 6-8 minutes. It should resemble heavy cream. Crumble the cheese & add to hot bechamel sauce, whisking continuously until smooth. Add nutmeg & pepper & stir. Remove from heat to cool.
Pasta & Filling
Cook the pasta shells in salted boiling water to which a small amount of oil has been added for 8-10 minutes. Drain & set aside.
In a large skillet, melt butter. Saute spinach & mushrooms until spinach is wilted. Remove to paper towels. Add shrimp & scallops to skillet; saute for 3-4 minutes until opaque & just barley cooked; set aside. Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a large bowl, combine spinach, shrimp, scallops, crab meat, ricotta cheese, garlic & salt & pepper. Fill pasta shells. Spread some sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Lay filled shells single file in pan. Pour remaining sauce over all & top with a sprinkling of parmesan. Bake 20-30 minutes, until the cheese becomes a little brown.
Over the years, our travels have taken Brion and I to many interesting places in the world. Each has left us with amazing memories.
In November of 2009, before Egypt was in such disarray, we explored this ancient country. You could safely say that time has not lessened the mystique of the world’s oldest tourist attraction. No matter how many pictures you look at, or how much you read on the internet, there is just nothing as powerful as seeing the real thing. Brion’s ability to speak fluent Arabic was a huge bonus for us while in Egypt.
The flight from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada to Cairo, Egypt was a bit grueling at 16 hours long but we ‘recovered’ fairly fast. To make the most of our vacation, we divided it into four segments; – five days in Cairo, six days in Alexandria, eight days on a Nile River cruise and the last week at Sharm El Shiekh on the Red Sea.
The Nile River cruise was definitely the highlight of the vacation. We boarded the ‘Helio’ cruise ship in Luxor which took us to Aswan and back. Each day the ship would dock at various sites along the way and our personal guide would take us to explore temples, tombs, the high dam and the beautiful botanical gardens at Kitchener Island. It was such an incredible experience viewing the sights and sounds as you slowly sailed along. Travel is a good reality check to make us appreciate what we have in our own lives and so often take for granted.
Every evening, the supper buffet on the ship was created with a different theme. One of the items Brion really enjoyed was ‘EGYPTIAN KOFTA’. Egypt’s local and rich resources of fresh foods coming from the Nile Valley, has given the world some of the most coveted cuisines. Egyptian food is a mixture of all the different civilizations that came to Egypt in the history of its existence.
The word kofta (or kefta) has its origins in Persia. Although you can make meat, seafood or vegetarian kofta, the most popular in Egypt is a mixture of ground beef and lamb combined with onions, garlic, parsley and a ‘BAHARAT’ spice blend.
Along with my recipe today, I thought you may enjoy to look at some of the photos from our Nile River cruise.
The humble pot pie was once the height of culinary style. During the Elizabethan era, these savory pastries — decorated with flowers, fancy designs, etc. were elaborate assertions of the chef’s skill in the royal households of France and England. Among the lower classes, pot pie were popular because the addition of a crust helped feed another mouth or two, while individual pastries, empanadas and perogies were well suited for sale by street vendors as portable meals.
Fortunately, the resurgence in so called ‘retro’ foods has brought pot pies back to the table. There is no reason why they shouldn’t do just as well in the 21st century. To some, chicken pot pie is a staple comfort food. The recipes mix of meat and vegetables in a chicken broth seasoned with herbs, produces a spectrum of flavors that’s like no other.
The trick is getting all the ingredients to the right degree of doneness at the same time. It may be these timing issues that led to the abandonment of the homemade pot pie in favor of the frozen variety. One thing for sure, is that they are definitely worth the time and effort. It makes good sense to make a big recipe, freeze them unbaked (if you choose) and there ready when you need them.
In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbsp oil. Add chicken, season with 1 tsp salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is no longer pink on the outside but not dry, 4-6 minutes. Remove from skillet & set aside.
Decrease heat & add remaining oil. When oil is hot, add onions, mushrooms, carrots, celery, garlic, remaining 1 1/2 tsp salt, pepper, dried thyme & savory; stir to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions have softened, about 5 minutes. Add margarine & melt.
Stir in the flour & cook for 1-2 minutes; gradually stirring in chicken broth & milk. Bring to a simmer, continue stirring until sauce thickens, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat & stir in peas, thyme, mustard & reserved chicken. Cover & set aside while preparing pastry.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder & salt. With a pastry blender, cut in white & yellow Crisco. In a measuring cup, place the egg & vinegar; add enough cold water to make 1 cup & whisk together. Make a well in flour; pour in all of the liquid & combine.
Roll out pastry. For 6 individual pies, prepared in mini foil pot pie pans, cut 6 - 8" (20 cm) circles for the bottom shells & 6 - 5 1/2" (14 cm) circles for the tops. Preheat oven to 350 F.
Place pastry lined pans on a baking sheet & divide chicken filling among them. Moisten edges with milk or water; place pastry circles on top, crimping edges with a fork. Whisk together 1 egg & 1 Tbsp water; brush tops of pot pies with egg wash. Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden.
This amount of pastry will actually make enough for a double recipe of filling or just some extra for another time. If wrapped tightly it will freezes well.
Stews have been an important food for most of the world’s people for thousands of years. They are wonderful concoctions, savored for their flavorful combinations as well as their reminders of home and family.
Geographical location plays a big role in how beef stews are made from different regions. In areas where the cold season is longer, the stew will usually be thicker in sauce, cooked longer and have heavier or more flavorful ingredients. In areas that have a warm climate, stews will be a lot spicier in flavor for inducing perspiration to cool the body.
In the Western world, meat stews are categorized as ‘brown’ or ‘white’. This means that the meat is browned in fat before liquid is added for brown stew; meat for the white stew is not cooked in fat before liquid is added.
The culinary history of both Canada and the United States includes numerous examples of stews brought by European settlers. Beef stews have been the most popular recipes among this legacy. In addition to being versatile in their ingredients, stews can also be used as filling for pastry shells, over mashed potatoes, rice or biscuits.
Brion and I have always enjoyed the combination of beef and barley. To my knowledge, the idea originated from the ‘Scotch Broth’ soup. In today’s particular stew the vegetables are roasted, using their natural sugars to caramelize, helping to create additional flavor in the stew.
In a large bowl, combine flour, 1/4 tsp salt & 1/4 tsp pepper. Add meat; toss to coat. In a Dutch oven heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add half of the meat; cook until browned, stirring occasionally. Remove meat from Dutch oven; set aside. Repeat with another 1 Tbsp oil & remaining meat.
Add onion, garlic & thyme to Dutch oven. Cook & stir for 3 minutes. Add 1 3/4 cups broth, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from bottom of the Dutch oven. Add remaining beef broth & water. Bring to boiling; reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 375 F. In a shallow roasting pan combine potatoes & carrots and/or parsnips. Drizzle with the remaining 2 Tbsp oil; sprinkle with 1/4 tsp each salt & pepper. Toss to coat. Roast, uncovered, for 35 - 45 minutes or until vegetables are tender & lightly browned, stirring once or twice.
Stir barley into beef mixture. Cook about 35 minutes more or until barley is tender.Stir in roasted vegetables. If desired, sprinkle with fresh parsley.
Stew can be placed in an airtight container, covered & refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.
Nothing says fall better than Oktoberfest, a tradition dating back to 1810 in Munich, Germany. Originally a celebration of the marriage of the King of Bavaria and Princess Therese. 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..
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.
I came across this recipe for CORNED BEEF AND CABBAGE QUICHE. From the reviews I read it sounded pretty good so I thought it was worth a try. It seems to fit the occasion I think.
In a large skillet, melt butter; add onion, cabbage & garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add water, cover & cook for 5 minutes. Remove cover & cook until liquid evaporates & cabbage begins to brown, about 8-10 minutes longer. It is important to get the liquid out of the cabbage or it will cause quiche to become watery.
Stir in corned beef; remove pan from heat & allow to cool for 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 F. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, flour, caraway seeds, salt & pepper until blended.
Spread half of cabbage mixture in pie crust. Top with half of the Swiss cheese; repeat layers. Slowly pour egg mixture over ingredients in pie shell. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until quiche is puffed & golden. Let cool 5 minutes before slicing to serve.
This quiche is nice baked 'galette' style or using a springform pan instead of a regular pie pan.
In 2014, before returning home to Canada from a European holiday, Brion and I spent 12 days in the Dominican Republic. We stayed at a resort called Sanctuary Cap Cana. The beauty of the area was just incredible. This was a little ‘wind down’ to just enjoy a bit of sea, sun and sand. When we went to supper one evening, a chef was preparing a HUGE pan of Fideau`.
Anyone familiar with Spanish cuisine knows about paella, the saffron-flavored rice dish made with varying combinations of vegetables , meat, chicken and seafood. It belongs to the list of the most popular Spanish icons like bullfighting and flamenco dancing.
Fideau`, on the other hand is the lesser known dish but is very similar. Instead of using rice, it is made with short pasta and embodies a different texture. Both are cooked in a shallow, wide flat metal pan (paellera) which lets the starch cook evenly and the water evaporate uniformly. Good soup stock or seasoning sauce is a key ingredient to achieve the traditional deep flavor. Another important thing is to add hot water slowly at intervals while cooking to make sure the rice or pasta do not become too dry or too moist.
That was the first time either of us had heard about fideau`. It was a little spicy for me but Brion just loved it. This is my own version I made when we came home!?
In a 14-inch skillet or paella pan, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil on medium -high heat ; add fideo pasta. Sprinkle with salt & pepper; cook, stirring almost constantly until they darken slightly.
Add broth, clam juice, garlic, salt & pepper, saffron threads (turmeric), Italian herbs, hot pepper sauce; simmer for 5 minutes. Add onion, tomato & peas; simmer about 10 minutes until onion & pasta are tender.
Add shrimp & scallops; cook about 5 minutes, stirring gently. Adjust seasoning if necessary & serve with lemon wedges if desired.
I’m sure you use or are probably aware of the technique of cooking in parchment paper. The French call it ‘en papillote, the Italians ‘al cartoccio but we Canadians just call it cooking in parchment. This simple, yet elegant culinary tradition infuses the meats, vegetables and herbs together to create unbelievable flavor. Not only does this enclosed packet keep delicate foods like fish moist and intact but cuts down on your clean-up time. It is a super easy way to cook for one and not have lots of leftovers.
Since fall is upon us and we are back to more of those oven meals, HONEYTERIYAKI SALMON is the perfect, no-fuss Sunday meal.
In a small saucepan, whisk together soy sauce, 3 Tbsp water, honey, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger & sesame oil. Bring to a boil over medium heat. In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch with remaining 2 Tbsp water until well combined. Pour into sauce mixture; boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat & allow to cool slightly about 5-10 minutes.
Salmon & Veggies
Toss broccoli & carrots in olive oil; season with salt & pepper. Cut 4 sheets of 14-inch lengths of parchment paper. Divide broccoli & carrot mixture among sheets layering in center in an even layer. Set aside 1/4 cup of the sauce mixture then brush bottom sides of salmon fillets with a scant tablespoon of the sauce then rotate the salmon over veggies.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Brush tops of salmon with another scant tablespoon of the sauce mixture. Pull sides of parchment inward & seal then roll edges up, leaving a little room for heat to circulate, not wrapping to tightly. Place packets on a baking sheet. Bake until salmon is cooked through, about 25 minutes. Serve with white or brown rice if desired & remaining sauce. Sprinkle with green onions.
Main course salads, properly thought through are a thing of beauty and ingenuity. Unless you have a dislike for ‘salad’ these are such a great meal option. I guess you could call it ‘all food groups in one meal’.
Having had a food service career, I recall in the 1970’s when the ‘Chef’s Salad’ was all the rage. Of course a decade before that was the self serve salad bars. This idea had started out as a way to keep customers busy until the ‘real’ food came. It was so well liked, people were making it their entire meal. The sideshow had now become the main event so a price had to be set for a ‘salad only’ meal.
Today, the main course salad is only limited by ones imagination. It can be based on ingredients that are already on hand, making the most of your pantry and leftovers in the fridge. Pick up a few fresh ingredients and you got a simple, yet sophisticated salad.
My main course salad choice is a HONEY MUSTARD CHICKEN SALADwith BACON & AVOCADO. Super good meal for the last day of August!
Whisk together dressing/marinade ingredients. Pour half the marinade into a shallow dish to marinade chicken fillets for 2 hours at least. Refrigerate other half of marinade to use as dressing.
In a non-stick skillet, heat a teaspoon of oil & grill chicken fillets on each side until golden, crispy & cooked through. Once chicken is grilled, set aside & allow to rest.
Wipe pan with a paper towel; drizzle with another teaspoon of oil & fry bacon until crisp. Bloat on paper towel after frying; crumble in to pieces.
Slice chicken into strips & prepare other vegetables. Place torn Romaine on 4 serving plates; arrange the other ingredients on top. Whisk 2 Tbsp of water into remaining reserved dressing/marinade & drizzle over salads. Sprinkle crisp bacon crumbles over each salad & season with a little salt & cracked pepper if desired.
Nothing says summer like barbecued ribs — big, bold flavor, finger licking goodness and that fall-off-the-bone texture.
Outdoor cooking is a very popular pastime uniting us with friends, family and of course great food. It seems there is no end to ideas on how to make the best barbecued ribs. I’ve definitely tried my fair share of recipes. One that I found quite unique is for the Korean-style Kalbi ribs.
As in every culture, I’m sure there are many recipes that have been handed down through generations of family members. Korean beef short ribs are cut across the bone (instead of between bones) with 3 bones per slice. The result is a thin strip of meat, about 8-10 inches in length, lined on one side with 1/4 inch thick rib bones. This cut is also known as beef ‘flanken’ ribs.
While in North America, we often braise short ribs for hours in a slow oven, Koreans have a very different approach to cooking this cut of beef. Kalbi is marinated for hours in an Asian inspired marinade and then barbecued for a short amount of time. Kiwi, Asian pears, bottled soda and sugar are all common tenderizing agents used in the marinade for making Kalbi. They are definitely worth a try if you haven’t already.
Using your hands, massage the short ribs with the kiwi puree. Sprinkle each piece evenly with sugar & let sit while you make the marinade.
In a bowl, mix together soy sauce, garlic, ginger, sesame seeds, sesame oil, honey, red pepper powder, pepper & soda. Place the ribs in a single layer in a wide shallow pan & pour the marinade over, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap & marinate in the refrigerator, turning occasionally, for at least 1 hour, or preferably 12 hours.
Preheat barbecue to medium heat with a rack 4-6-inches from heat. Drain ribs from marinade. Reserve marinade for basting, if desired.
Brush the grill rack with oil & grill ribs until they turn caramel brown, 6-8 minutes on each side. Baste with reserved marinade during the first 10 minutes of grilling if you wish.
If you prefer, omit the soda & add more sugar or honey for a little extra sweetness.