In 2015, Brion & I spent sometime living in Cuenca, Ecuador. We had rented an apartment in the central part of the city. Over the three months we were there, I compiled a little diary of ‘recipes’ I developed, that would work for me. The criteria had to be: foods that were available, seasoning that tasted familiar and meals that could be cooked with the limited kitchen equipment and pots/pans.
Something we realized early on when shopping for various spices, was how important it was to know what the spice was called in Spanish. Such as Cumin- ‘Comino’, Marjoram- ‘Mejorana’, Ginger- ‘Jengibre’. It seems that they had most of the spices if you knew what to look for. Probably the only one that couldn’t be found was Chili Powder. When it came to Soy Sauce, even the familiar brands had a different taste. In the process of trying to replicate flavors we were used to, I decided to make my own versions.
Here’s where a little ‘recipe development’ came into play. Normally teriyaki sauce would have a little ‘mirin’ (sweet cooking rice wine) or sake in it. I was able to come up with a fairly good ‘stand in’ with a few simple ingredients. Fresh shrimp were always available at the seafood markets. You could buy half a kilo for $4.00 Canadian. Rice, as long as you were not looking for the ‘minute’ variety, was in huge supply. Anyway, to make a long story short, today’s recipe was one that became a favorite of ours during that time.
If you care to read a few more articles I have posted in my blogs about our time in Ecuador check out ‘Dutch Apple Pie’ in April 2016 & ‘Fresh Cherry Scones’ in July 2016.
The German New Years cake is a traditional round cake with three layers of different fillings: poppy seeds, nuts & apple. Going back to pre-Christian days, ring-shaped breads and cakes were always considered fortunate because they signified continuity by ‘coming full circle’ or ‘the circle of life’.
The start of the new year has a tenancy to turn even non-believers a bit superstitious. All around the world, New Years Day is filled with traditions and symbolic ritual with many of the traditions revolving around food. Certain foods symbolize wealth, prosperity, health and good luck for the coming year. In some cultures, cakes or bread have symbolic items baked inside.
Poppy Seed is believed to bring a year of abundance. Nuts are a symbol of new life and potential. Apples, along with healing properties should bring a ‘sweet new year’!
Keeping all that in mind, it seems like a good reason to invest some time into making this special layered GERMAN NEW YEARS CAKE.
In a large bowl, combine dough ingredients & knead until smooth. Wrap in plastic wrap & place in refrigerator for at least 1 hour or overnight.
Poppy Seed Filling
In a small saucepan, combine all poppy seed ingredients. Place over LOW heat for 1-2 minutes; remove from heat & cool.
In a small bowl, combine all nut filling ingredients; set aside.
In a small saucepan, saute peeled & chopped apples over low heat with butter & sugar. Do not add any water as they need to be semi-soft, NOT MUSHY.
Assembly of Cake
Divide chilled dough in HALF, then divide one of the halves into THIRDS. Roll out the largest piece into a circle big enough to cover the bottom & sides of a 12-inch spring form pan. Make sure to have a bit hanging over the top of the ring.
Add the poppy filling. Roll out one of the small pieces of dough to fit neatly on top of filling. Gently cover with nut filling. Roll second small piece of dough; fit over nut filling. Add apple filling layer. Fold extra dough edges onto apples & top with third piece of dough. Your dough base & dividers should all be rolled quite THIN.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Beat egg & add a tiny bit of water. Brush it over top surface. Bake for about 1 hour & 20 minutes until golden. Remove from oven & place on a wire rack to cool. This cake is best if left in a cool place for a day or two before serving so the flavors will marry. Dust with a layer of powdered sugar before serving.
With tomorrow being Thanksgiving Day, it seems like baking some special little dinner rolls for the occasion would be in order.
Bread making has always been a carefully protected symbol of civilization. The Greeks would let only priests make bread — they reasoned that dealing with the ‘staff of life’ was the business of those trained in religious matters. The Romans, a practical-minded people, turned bread baking over to the Civil Service and enforced rigid sanitary regulations. In any case, it has always been an integral part of history.
Pan or dinner rolls, a name given to small pieces of dough, shaped and baked in a pan with their sides touching. This prevents them from flattening out, instead springing upwards.
At our house we love pan buns. For some strange reason, both of us enjoy baked goods when they are very lightly baked rather than dark and crispy. Pan buns usually fit that description.
These PUMPKIN DINNER ROLLS check all the boxes. For Thanksgiving, they’re just a little bit more special as well as being a suitable accompaniment for soups and stews during the fall and winter months. If you like pumpkin, I think you will enjoy them.
In a microwave-safe bowl, heat milk & butter about 45 seconds. Whisk until butter has melted smoothly into the milk; add egg, pumpkin puree & whisk again to combine. Heat again about 15 seconds to warm total mixture. In a large mixing bowl, add remaining dough ingredients along with pumpkin/milk mixture.
Combine & knead dough on a lightly floured surface 5-8 minutes, until smooth & elastic. Grease bowl lightly, place dough in bowl & turn to grease all sides of dough ball. Cover with plastic wrap & allow to rise in a draft-free place until dough has doubled in bulk.
Spray work surface with baking spray, punch dough down & turn onto surface. Divide dough into 10 equal portions; roll each into a ball. Place dough balls into a sprayed, 9 x 9-inch square pan; cover with plastic wrap & place in a draft-free area until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 F. In a small bowl, melt butter & add honey; stir to combine. Before baking, generously brush the rolls with honey butter; reserving any extra to brush on after baking.
Bake 15-17 minutes or until puffed & golden. After removing from oven, brush with any remaining honey butter & allow to cool slightly before serving.
For some extra 'butter' to serve with rolls, whisk together equal parts softened butter & honey until fluffy.
MAKE AHEAD OPTION: Once you have the rolls in the baking pan, cover with foil & place in refrigerator overnight. When ready to bake, bring the rolls to room temperature & allow to rise about 45 minutes before baking.
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.
As May eases into June and the outdoor work increases, it seems like one area you can simplify in your life is in the kitchen. Making good use of your barbecue, along with the fresh produce that is now available, will help do just that.
Pork tenderloin has always been one of my favorite cuts of meat. One of the easiest ways to transform everyday pork into a special occasion main dish. Its the best part of a pork chop without bone or fat and has that melt-in-your-mouth tenderness.
A winner when it comes to versatility in that you can cook it whole, slice it into medallions, butterfly and stuff it, grill, roast, stir fry…..
My recipe today is a roast pork tenderloin served with a nice fruity, raspberry-nectarine sauce. Great little Sunday meal!
In a blender or food processor, place raspberries, nectarine slices, brandy & honey. Cover & process about 1 minute, until smooth.
In a large plastic bag, place flour, salt & pepper. Slice tenderloin into 1/4-1/2" medallions & place in bag. Shake to coat pieces evenly. In a large skillet, heat oil; saute pork medallions about 4 minutes or until no longer pink.
Heat sauce & spoon some on a serving plate. Place pork medallions on sauce; drizzle with additional sauce. Garnish with additional fresh raspberries if desired.
The aroma of Easter bread baking certainly brings back precious childhood memories. What I recall about my mother’s Easter bread, was that it was a dense, mildly sweet & a very egg rich bread. It was always baked in round ‘cans’ and the taste was unforgettable.
Nearly every country around the world has a traditional Easter bread. Each one is different in some way, a mix of symbolism and satisfying taste. They represent a continuity of traditions from centuries past, including much earlier pre-Christian times. Often these rich, yeasted breads are made in symbolic shapes and are elaborately decorated.
Germany and Austria make several shapes such as : Osterzopf – Easter braid, Osterkranz – Easter wreath or crown, Osternester – Easter nests, Eierimnest – Easter egg nest, Striezel – stacked braided bread.
That being said, I couldn’t resist doing a little ‘version’ of my own. I started with my favorite sweet yeast bread, added some anise flavor and a cream cheese filling. So now you have German osterkranz, Italian panettone and Romanian pasca all in one beautiful EUROPEAN EASTER BREAD.
In a large bowl, whisk yeast & sugar into lukewarm water; let stand about 10 minutes. With an electric mixer, beat together 3/4 cup sugar, eggs, oil, anise extract, lemon zest, lemon extract, salt & anise seed. Combine egg mixture, melted butter & milk with yeast mixture.
Add 4 CUPS flour, 1 cup at a time to wet mixture. Stir well after each addition. Turn dough out onto a floured surface & knead until smooth & elastic, about 5-6 minutes, adding remaining 1/2 cup flour if necessary.
Coat a large bowl with oil. Place dough in bowl & turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap & set in a warm place to rise until it doubles in bulk. Meanwhile, cut a piece of parchment paper big enough to cover the bottom & go up the sides of a 10" spring form pan. When dough has risen enough, cut into four pieces.
On the parchment paper, press one piece of the dough into a circle measuring about 10" in diameter. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the mixed peel, leaving a gap at the edge. Press out second piece of the dough on a lightly floured piece of wax paper, place it on top of the first layer & sprinkle with another 1/3 of mixed peel. Repeat with the third & fourth pieces of dough but do not sprinkle mixed peel on the final layer.
Place a glass tumbler on top of the center of the dough circles. Cut dough into 16 segments, starting a the edge of the glass. Lift & twist them away from each other through 180 degrees. Lift & twist through 90 degrees so that the ends are vertical. Press the edges together firmly. Repeat this process with all pairs of segments. Leave glass sitting on top at the center of the circle to form an indentation for the cheese filling. Cover with plastic wrap & set in a warm place to rise for about 1/2 an hour.
Preheat oven to to 325 F. In a bowl, place cream cheese, eggs, sugar & vanilla; mix well. When bread has risen, remove glass & fill indentation with cheese mixture. Bake for about 40-45 minutes. Allow to cool. Brush with honey/water glaze. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Eostre is an obscure Germanic and Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and dawn, and it is thought to be the namesake of the Christian holiday Easter. Because food has always had a close association with Easter, special dishes were cooked in her honor. Most important of these was a small spiced, sweet bun from which our ‘hot cross bun’ derives. These little spiced buns are a rather old English tradition, which are still traditionally eaten on Good Friday. They are marked on top with a cross which is of ancient origin connected with religious offerings of bread.
Hot Cross ‘Scones’ are an easy take on the seasonal classic bun. They are the best of both worlds; hot cross yeasted buns and a tender spicy scone. Scones work for me in the way that most of the time I have the ingredients on hand and they only take about twenty minutes or so to make.
As always, I enjoy the idea of variation in just about everything. I had three scone recipes in mind for today’s blog. One recipe is a hot cross scone made by changing out the regular flour for ‘Kamut’ flour. This flour is made from an ancient grain originally grown by the pharaohs of Egypt. It contains more protein, minerals and other nutrients than modern wheat.
The other two recipes are Spiced Orange & Fresh Apple Hot Cross Scones, bothmade with a sour cream batter. Hopefully they will become part of your Easter recipe collection.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda & salt. Add butter; using a pastry blender, blend until mixture forms fine crumbs. Stir in spices, dried fruit & orange zest.
In a small bowl, combine sour cream, eggs, & vanilla; whisk until well blended. Add to flour mixture; stir until a soft dough forms.
Scoop onto lined baking sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes until golden. Remove from oven, combine water & honey glaze. Warm very slightly in microwave; brush over tops of scones. When scones have cooled, decorate with icing crosses.
To make Kamut Scones use 1 3/4 cup kamut flour & 3/4 cup white flour instead of all white flour.
To make Apple Scones add 1/4 of a large apple, peeled & cut in 1/4" dice. to basic recipe.
It seems, we humans have a unique way of coming away from an experience or adventure, forgetting the things we want to and remembering others.
After visiting Morocco in 2014, I have many very interesting memories from our trip. One thing travel does well, is it teaches us so much more than can be learned any other way. On that trip we were travelling with theTrafalgar company so our experience was made exceptional.
Many cultures have influenced Moroccan cooking. For some reason, some of these flavors have resonated with me and I seem to find a way to use them no matter what kind of meat I’m cooking.
This dish celebrates the sweetly spiced seasonings of Morocco which pair so beautifully with fruit and couscous. I hope you will try the recipe and enjoy it as much as we did.
Heat oil in small saucepan. Add chopped green onion, cumin & ginger; saute until onion is tender. Stir in honey & add broth; bring to a boil. Remove from heat & add couscous, margarine, salt & pepper. Let stand 5 minutes then fluff with fork adding a little more margarine if necessary.
Chop dates & apricots. Shred apple. In a small bowl combine all filling ingredients adding 1/2 cup prepared couscous.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Trim pork tenderloin & remove 'silver skin', then butterfly. Place a piece of plastic wrap over meat & flatten to even thickness. Sprinkle meat generously with salt & pepper. Line the inside of the tenderloin with fresh spinach leaves. Spread filling mixture evenly on top of spinach leaves. Roll up in 'jelly roll' fashion; place on lightly oiled foil paper on top of oven broiler pan. Rub Fig Balsamic dressing on outside of tenderloin.
Place stuffed tenderloin in oven & bake for 20-25 minutes or until they have reached an internal temperature of 155 F. (68 C), then remove from oven. Allow to rest for 5 minutes. During this time the internal temperature will rise to 160 F (71 C).