Peach Cookies or Pesche

It’s that wonderful time of year when there is an abundance of fresh fruit available so why not make the most of it?! Peaches are a favorite of mine, not only because of their great taste but they have such versatility in their uses. Just for something different today, I want to take the peach idea in a whole different direction. These beautiful, old fashioned pastries were very popular in the 1980’s. They are known for their unique look that resembles a fresh peach with a flavor that is delicately sweet and buttery. Traditionally served at Italian wedding showers, Pesche (or peach), are now served at any celebration and may be found throughout many countries in Europe.

Peach cookies are two cookie domes, carved on the inside and paired together to hold a dollop of custard. Once assembled, they are dipped in Alchermes, a crimson colored liqueur infused with a blend of anise flowers, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, jasmine, mace, nutmeg, orange peel, sugar and vanilla. These ingredients are stepped in alcohol, which is then flavored with rose water. Alchermes gives these pastries a vibrant pink hue and a unique, light alcohol flavor that combines custard and cookie beautifully. To further enhance the peach resemblance, they are rolled in a sanding sugar.

Alchermes is a very ancient liqueur of Arabic origin. It’s main feature is an unmistakable scarlet color, which was originally acquired by adding ‘kermes’, a scale insect that eat oak trees. Modern alchermes liqueurs no longer use the kermes insect. Alchermes was created in the Frati’ Convent at Santa Maria Novella in Florence, Italy.

These peach cookies are an impressive dessert, perfect for special summer occasions. You can use any filling you choose such as a pastry cream, lemon curd, limoncello or just plain nutella spread. Since it is almost impossible to find the alchermes liqueur in Canada, I’ve listed a few substitutes that can be used instead.

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Peach Cookies or Pesche
Servings
Ingredients
Coating
Servings
Ingredients
Coating
Instructions
Filling
  1. In a small bowl, combine filling ingredients; stir in reserved crumbs. Spoon into center holes of cookies & press together to form a peach.
Coating
  1. In a shallow bowl, combine lemon & peach gelatin powder. Place package of strawberry gelatin in another bowl. Place sugar in a third bowl.
Assembling
  1. Working with one cookie at a time, spritz cookie with a bit of water. Dip in lemon mixture, then in strawberry gelatin & then in sugar. Spritz with additional water & add more gelatin as needed to create desired 'peach blush' effect. Place on a wire rack to dry for an hour. Attach mint leaves to top of each cookie with additional preserves. Store in refrigerator.
Recipe Notes
  • Alchermes can be substituted for a peach liqueur or Chambord raspberry liqueur. For my peach cookies, I kept it simple & used a combination of jello powders to replicate the traditional idea.

Angel Cake Roll w/ Lemon Cream & Balsamic Strawberries

Angel Food cake is definitely a nostalgic dessert for many of us. I have always been intrigued by the experience of nostalgia, an emotion defined as, ‘a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one’s life, to one’s home or homeland, or to one’s family and friends; a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time’.

Growing up on a farm where chickens and eggs were part of the equation, angel food cake with fresh fruit was a special summertime treat.

The crown jewel of cakes when it comes to a light, and fluffy texture. Butter-less, oil-less and yolk-less, this cake is a fat-free marvel ( of course, don’t mention the sugar calories, if that matters ).

I recall my mother’s angel food cake, amazingly tall and light as a feather. It had its own special pan and was always cooled, precariously balanced upside down on the kitchen counter.

It seems that the earliest print evidence for commercial angel food cake MIX was around 1942. The brand was called EZY Angel Cake Mix produced by a company called Blair Inc. from Atchison, Kansas in the USA. In 1949 a full page ad promoting this product stated:

‘all you have to do is add water … For ease in preparation, the ingredients have been divided into two separate plastic bags. One contains the mix of egg whites, flavoring slice, salt and sugar; the other contains the special flour mixture. Contents of the first bag, with the addition of water, are beaten to the proper stiffness and the contents of the second bag are then folded into the mixture. The batter is poured into a tube pan and baked in a hot oven. It’s just that simple! Results have proven to be uniform in all cases, enabling anyone to make an angel food cake of such airy, snowy goodness that it delights the most particular tastes. The mix comes in two sizes — a large 14-egg package and a medium sized 8-egg package. Once you have tried it, you won’t want to be without it. Your family will love it…”.

Brion has always loved angel food. I was thinking since his birthday is getting close, it was a good time to make some in a cake roll style with lemon filling and balsamic strawberries. If you feel like trying this recipe, its your choice to either use a mix or do it from scratch. I’m sure it will be great either way.

Print Recipe
Angel Cake Roll w/ Lemon Cream & Balsamic Strawberries
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Angel Food Cake Roll
Lemon Cream Filling
Balsamic Strawberries
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Angel Food Cake Roll
Lemon Cream Filling
Balsamic Strawberries
Instructions
Angel Cake Roll
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 15 X 10-inch jelly roll pan with parchment paper, set aside. Crack the eggs & separate the whites into a mixing bowl. Set whites aside to warm to room temperature.
  2. Measure flour, cornstarch & 1 cup powdered sugar carefully into a large bowl. Whisk together; SIFT the flour mixture into another large bowl then SIFT mixture back into first bowl and then again into the second bowl ( you are sifting the mixture 3 times ). Set aside.
  3. Whip the egg whites with a mixer on medium speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar & salt; continue whipping on high speed until soft peaks form. While continuing to whip on medium-high speed, add the 1/2 cup powdered sugar slowly - about 2 Tbsp at a time - until fully incorporated. Increase the speed to high & whip until hard peaks form, adding the extracts as it whips.
  4. Using a wire whisk, fold the flour mixture into the whipped egg whites about 1/4 cup at a time, making sure to fold very gently & slowly, so as not to deflate the egg whites. This is a critical step, so take your time.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pan & smooth out top carefully. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until cake springs back when touched lightly in center. Cool cake for 5 minutes in pan; turn out onto a dish towel dusted with powdered sugar. Carefully peel off parchment paper, cool for 1 minute & cut off crisp edges of cake. Starting at narrow end, roll up cake & towel together. Place seam side down, on a wire rack & cool for 5 minutes.
Lemon Cream Filling
  1. WHILE CAKE IS BAKING, combine the pudding mix & milk together in a bowl. Chill to set up for 20 minutes. In another bowl, beat together cream cheese & lemon zest until smooth. Stir in the 'set' pudding & chill again until cake is ready to fill.
Balsamic Strawberries
  1. Slice the strawberries & place in a bowl. Add balsamic vinegar, extract (or Chambord liqueur), honey & salt. Combine & set aside.
Assembly & Serving
  1. Carefully unroll cake & spread the filling over entire cake. Again roll up as tight as you can; place on a piece of plastic wrap & roll up tightly. At this point you can either place your cake roll in the freezer overnight or chill it in the refrigerator for a few hours before cutting & serving. Top with some balsamic strawberries.
Recipe Notes
  • If time is short, prepare a one-step angel food cake mix instead of the 'scratch' cake.

Coquilles St. Jacques

Today, July 25th is my sister Loretta’s birthday. The sibling bond is thought to be one of the most important and longest relationships in our lives. No other peer relationship involves a shared upbringing, shared genes and shared secrets. In childhood, an older sister is an admirable guide to the adolescent world. As we grow older, it is so wonderful to be able to reminisce about events or times you both recall even though to everyone else they are boring. Life events often change the dynamics of many sibling relationships. Thank you, Loretta for being such an amazing sister who has enriched my life in too many ways to count.

I chose this meal for today’s blog not only because Loretta is a seafood lover but from what I have read, it is also ‘St James Day’.

It seems, when you look for any food history that surrounds this meal there isn’t a lot available. The most repeated story is that a knight was saved from drowning by St. James. The knight emerged from the water covered with shells. Coquille St. Jacques translates as the shell of St. James with the origin dating back to the Middle ages.

Classically served in a scallop shell, this special dish consisted of scallops in a creamy wine sauce, topped with breadcrumbs or cheese and browned under a broiler. Scallops, because of their delicate, subtle nature, make a fine marriage with any number of foods and seasonings.

For our meal (in Loretta’s honor), I have used a seafood blend, mashed potatoes and a Gruyere/Parmesan topping. I wish you were here Loretta, to enjoy it with us.

OUR FAMILY CELEBRATES YOU WITH LOVE & AFFECTION ON YOUR DAY!

Print Recipe
Coquilles St. Jacques
Course Lunch, Main Dish
Servings
Ingredients
Course Lunch, Main Dish
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
Mashed Potatoes
  1. Cook potatoes in salted boiling water until fork tender. Drain & transfer to a bowl; add butter, milk, salt & pepper. Using a hand mixer, whip potatoes, cover & set aside.
Sauce
  1. Drizzle a tiny bit of oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, salt & pepper & cook until tender-crisp, about 3-4 minutes. Add flour & whisk until well combined with onions & garlic. Pour the milk slowly while whisking constantly, making short pauses from time to time to whisk until sauce becomes nice & smooth, then start pouring again. Once the milk has been added, whisk in the Dijon mustard, basil paste, dried dill & parsley. Stir in clams & set aside.
Seafood
  1. Drizzle a medium saucepan with a bit of olive oil. Saute mushrooms until liquid evaporates, set aside. Add a few more drops of olive oil to the saucepan, add the scallops & cook without moving for about 1 minute. Flip the scallops over & continue cooking until they form a nice crust on that side. Remove from pan & set aside.
  2. Add the shrimp to the pan & quickly saute them until they just turn pink & opaque, not much more than a minute. Remove from pan & set aside. Add the salmon to the pan & cook until it just turns opaque, about a minute or two. Add the salmon to the reserved sauce & stir in. Set aside.
Topping
  1. Grate cheese & place in a small dish. Add Panko breadcrumbs, parsley & melted butter. Combine well.
Assembly & Baking
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Place Place a scallop in the center of each individual oven safe shell; surround with four of the shrimp. Cover with sauce, dividing it equally between each shell. Give the potatoes a quick stir & place them in a large pastry bag equipped with a star tip. Pipe a border around the filling; sprinkle topping mix over filling. Place in oven for about 15-20 minutes until golden & bubbly. Serve immediately. Nice to serve with garlic bread.

German Pancake Bites

If you have never eaten a German pancake, think of it as a cross between a souffle and an omelette with undertones of French toast. Often called a Dutch baby pancake and not unlike a sweet Yorkshire pudding. ‘Eggier than your typical pancake, but sweeter and lighter than an omelette, with more pastry-like characteristics. The sides of the pancake rise high above the edges of the pan, creating a light, puffy crust with a tender, custard-like middle.

Story has it that the name ‘Dutch Baby’ was coined when a restaurant owner’s daughter (in the USA) could not pronounce ‘Deutsch’, the German word for German, and out of her mouth came ‘Dutch’. Originally served as three small German pancakes with powdered sugar and fresh squeezed lemon juice, the Dutch Baby, moniker was born.

These German pancake ‘bites’ are kind of a fun spin on the classic Dutch baby pancakes. The fresh apricot/raspberry sauce along with the Greek yogurt filling, bananas and chocolate makes them such a decadent addition to brunch.

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German Pancake Bites
Servings
Ingredients
Pancake Batter
Greek Yogurt Filling
Apricot/Raspberry Sauce
Servings
Ingredients
Pancake Batter
Greek Yogurt Filling
Apricot/Raspberry Sauce
Instructions
Apricot/Raspberry Sauce
  1. In a food processor, place pitted apricots, lemon juice & sugar; pulse several times until the apricots are COARSELY chopped. Transfer mixture to a saucepan. Lightly boil over medium heat, uncovered for 10 minutes; stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. Add more sugar to taste depending on how sweet your apricots were. Add raspberries & simmer 1-2 minutes or until raspberries are heated through & softened. Set aside until ready to use.
Greek Yogurt Filling
  1. In a bowl, cream together cream cheese & sugar with a hand mixer. Add Greek yogurt & beat on medium-high until smooth & creamy. Set aside until ready to use. Refrigerate if not using right away.
Pancake Bites
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. In a bowl, using a hand mixer, blend eggs, milk, vanilla, flour & salt until well mixed. Pour a small amount of the melted butter in 8 MINI loaf pans. Pour 1/3 cup of the mixture into each of the individual spaces.
  2. Bake for about 15 minutes. Remove from oven & invert on a cooling rack. Place 'bites' on a serving plate. Divide yogurt filling, placing some in the bottom of each individual pancake. Top each with some apricot/raspberry sauce & some banana slices. Drizzle with chocolate & sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve immediately.

Baked Avocado Bacon Omelette with Salmon/Dill Scones

What to call it — an omelette, frittata or quiche? While this trinity of brunch egg dishes all contain eggs, the preparation methods vary. All are delicious but here’s what defines them.

The traditional French omelette contains eggs, a splash of water and a pinch of salt and pepper. The briskly whipped eggs are cooked in clarified butter then turned out of the pan when still a little custardy and unset. These (colorless) omelettes are rolled up like a business letter and served with only a few herbs. In North America, we seem to want to ‘clean out the fridge’ so to speak, adding just about anything and everything. This version is cooked until mostly dry on top and golden on the bottom. As a rule, they are folded over once, then served.

Frittatas are generally thicker than omelettes. The ingredients are mixed in, instead of sprinkled on. While started on the stove, sometimes they are finished under the broiler then served in slices like a pie.

Quiche, on the other hand, is a savory custard baked in a pastry crust or a potato crust. Quiche gets its richness from the addition of whole milk, half & half or even heavy cream. Just to add another twist to the mix — enter the ‘crustless quiche-omelette’.

This particular meal at our house, was one of those ‘clean out the fridge’ ideas that turned out absolutely wonderful. I had posted the salmon/dill scones on a blog a number of years ago. They made an ideal compliment for this meal.

Print Recipe
Baked Avocado Bacon Omelette with Salmon/Dill Scones
Instructions
Baked Omelette
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a deep pie plate with cooking spray.
  2. In a skillet, saute bacon until cooked but not real crisp; dry on paper towel & crumble. Add onions, mushrooms & garlic to skillet, sauteing in bacon drippings until tender crisp. Chop tomato & 1 avocado. Grate cheese. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, salt & pepper. Add all prepared ingredients; gently stir.
  3. Pour mixture into pie plate distributing evenly. Bake 35-40 minutes, rotating once half way through. Let omelette cool for 5 minutes. Top with remaining sliced avocado & serve.
Salmon/Dill Scones
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 8 muffin cups with paper liners. In a bowl, mix together flour & baking powder. Add grated cheese, smoked salmon & dill. In a separate bowl, whisk egg, buttermilk & oil.
  2. Place half of the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients & stir well. Then add the rest of the wet ingredients & mix until completely combined. Spoon into paper liners until each is filled halfway, then place a heaping tsp of cream cheese in the middle of each scone. Divide the rest of the batter between the 8 cups.
  3. Bake for 10 minutes, rotate pan & continue to bake for another 10 minutes or until scones are just browning on top & test done.

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.

Print Recipe
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.

Peach Melba Ginger Cakes

For those unfamiliar with Peach Melba, it is a classic dessert that was invented around the late 1800’s in honor of an Australian soprano opera singer named Nellie Melba. The flavors are always raspberry and peach and was traditionally served with vanilla ice cream. Melba is actually the nickname for Melbourne, her Australian hometown. Her real name was Helene ‘Nellie” Porter Mitchell but everyone called her Melba. She was internationally famous for her remarkable ‘crystal’ voice.

French chef, Georges Auguste Escoffier, not only created this special dessert but also developed what is known as the ‘kitchen brigade’ system or ‘Brigade de Cuisine’.

The next time you enjoy an elaborate meal in a hotel dining room (on a special occasion) that is perfectly executed, don’t presume this was just by accident. The brigade system revolutionized the way diners eat, allowing people to have meals, whatever their order, arrive at the table at the same time. This system was instituted to streamline and simplify work in hotel kitchens. It served to eliminate the chaos and duplication of effort that could result when kitchen staff did not have clear-cut responsibilities.

Today, most restaurants use some simplified variation of Escoffier’s original system. It is this foundation of kitchen organization that made way for the ‘a la carte menu’ we know so well today.

I have added a chart at the end of the blog showing the basic hierarchy of authority in this kind of system. I realize I got a bit removed from my peach melba dessert but — . Having spent so many years in the commercial world of cooking, I have a great appreciation for this gifted chef’s contribution to the food industry.

I decided to use the classic peach and raspberry ingredients in some mini upside down bundt cakes. The ginger spice adds a bit of unexpected ‘zing’ to its flavor.

Print Recipe
Peach Melba Ginger Cakes
Course dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Ginger Cakes
Course dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Ginger Cakes
Instructions
Raspberry Coulis
  1. In a small saucepan, whisk together sugar & cornstarch. Add raspberries & water; cook over medium-high heat until thickened & clear. Remove from stove & press through a wire mesh to make a puree. Discard seeds. Add extract if using. Set aside.
Peach Sauce
  1. Drain peach juice into a measuring cup. Set peaches aside. In a saucepan, combine 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp peach juice, sugar & cornstarch. Cook, stirring, until thick & bubbly. Add the peaches & vanilla. Stir to blend, set aside until ready to use.
Ginger Cakes
  1. Preheat over to 375 F. Butter 4-5 mini bundt pans. In a bowl, combine all cake ingredients & beat only until smooth. Divide between bundt pans. Place pans on a baking sheet & bake for 15 minutes or until cakes have risen & test done with a toothpick is inserted. Remove from oven, cool for a few minutes then turn over on serving plates. Top with warm peach sauce & raspberry coulis. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream if you wish.

Coconut Rice Crepes with Seafood Filling

CELEBRATING MOTHER’S DAY!

Here in Canada, we set aside the second Sunday in May to honor our Mother’s with expressions of love and gratitude.

As I grow older, I realize how many ways I unconsciously emulate my mother. I loved everything about her and as a kid I could never imagine life without her. But in the natural sequence of events, that’s not how it works. I guess along with many other things, I’m grateful for the fact that she was there through my childhood. She passed away at the age of sixty and although she is no longer on this earth, her wonderful memory will live on in our hearts forever.

It is also with love, Brion and I celebrate his mother Dolores, for all of her kind and loving ways.

In honor of these two precious women who prepared so many wonderful meals for us years ago, I like to post something special on this day. My choice this year are these unique looking crepes.

The crepe has its roots in Malaysia and is called ‘Roti Jala’ which literally translates to ‘Net Bread or Crepe’. The intricate lacy pattern is created with a special mold or ladle that has five nozzles.

Roti Jala is eaten with a chicken curry, generally a spicy one, which is the perfect accompaniment to these coconuty pancakes. Usually homemade, this crepe is served at events such as weddings or festivals in Malaysia, Sinapore and Indonesia. It has also become a popular tea time snack and street food.

There are a few methods for preparing the batter, some use coconut milk, others with regular milk. The use of rice flour in the batter produces a very light and tender crepe.

Since neither Brion or I enjoy the taste of curry, I gave these crepes a seafood/veggie filling and served them over a Gouda sauce. I think they make such a special, lacy little crepe for brunch.

Print Recipe
Coconut Rice Crepes with Seafood Filling
Cuisine American, Asia, Korean
Servings
Ingredients
Coconut-Rice Crepes
Gouda Sauce
Seafood Filling
Cuisine American, Asia, Korean
Servings
Ingredients
Coconut-Rice Crepes
Gouda Sauce
Seafood Filling
Instructions
Coconut-Rice Crepes
  1. In a bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch & salt. In another bowl or pitcher, lightly beat eggs, add coconut milk & oil; stir to combine. Pour this over flour mixture & stir until a smooth batter is achieved. Allow to stand for at least 20 minutes or as long as two hours. ( If leaving more than 30 minutes, cover & refrigerate until 10 before using.)
  2. Place an 8-inch non-stick skillet over high heat. When it is hot, lower heat to medium & rub a paper towel oiled with coconut oil over the cooking surface. Transfer the batter to a large squeeze bottle or a traditional Roti Jala maker. Squeeze the batter onto the hot pan, starting from the side of the pan, in sort of an up & down motion, then move to the top of the pan making a left to right motion to create that net look.
  3. Cook for about 45 seconds or until lightly browned on the first side, then turn the crepe over & cook for another 30 seconds. Turn out onto a rack & repeat with the remaining batter, wiping the skillet with an oiled paper towel between each one.
Gouda Sauce
  1. In a small dish, combine spices. Grate cheese & set aside. In a skillet, melt butter, stir in flour & cook until bubbly but not browned. Whisk in milk, chicken broth & spices, stirring until smooth & bubbly. Stir in grated Gouda. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap & set aside.
Seafood Filling
  1. In a skillet, heat oil & saute shrimp & scallops for a few minutes. Add zucchini, green onions, garlic, mushrooms & peppers & saute for another minute or two. Add ginger, soy sauce & water; cover & cook over low heat for several minutes until cooked. Do not overcook. Divide mixture between warm crepes, carefully roll. Ladle some Gouda sauce onto each serving plate & top with filled, rolled crepes.

Tortilla Crepe Stacks

To some of us, Mexican food terms get a little confusing. I mean there is the taco, burrito, quesadilla, enchilada and taquito just to name a few. Before anything, one needs to know what a tortilla is. Simply put, it is wheat or corn plain bread that is used as a wrapping material around different types of filling ingredients to make the various Mexican dishes. 

Masa Harina is a traditional flour used to make corn tortillas and tamales as well as other Mexican meals. To make masa harina, field corn (or maize) is dried and then treated in a solution of lime and water called slaked lime (or wood-ash lye). This loosens the hulls from the kernels and softens the corn. In addition, the lime reacts with the corn so that the nutrient niacin can be assimilated by the digestive tract.

The soaked maize is then washed, and the wet corn is ground into a dough called masa. It is this fresh masa, when dried and powdered, that becomes masa harina. Water is added again to make dough for the corn tortillas or tamales.

Cornmeal and masa harina are very different preparations of corn. Do not try to substitute cornmeal or regular wheat flour in recipes calling for masa harina as they will not produce the same results.

Today, I want to make some tortilla crepe stacks. Crepes as we all know, have always been a hallmark of French cuisine. So the question is, ‘how did they come to be in Mexican cuisine’? In the 1860’s, French forces invaded Mexico. They came, they conquered, they cooked and then they got kicked out. Cinco de Mayo commemorates that victory for Mexico from 1862. However, it took another five years before the French left Mexico for good. During their stay, the French left their mark on the country’s cuisine.

One of the reasons I have always loved crepes, is that they are so easy to make and taste so good. You can either roll the filling inside or just stack them with their fillings and make a ‘cake’.

These tortilla crepes are made with half masa harina and half white flour. Next, I made a mushroom rice & barley pilaf and some guacamole. You can pick and choose when it comes to the extra filling add-ons. I guess it did get a bit more involved but worth it —.


Print Recipe


Tortilla Crepe Stacks


Instructions
Tortilla Crepes
  1. In a blender, beat eggs with milk & oil. Gradually add masa harina, white flour & salt, beat until smooth. Allow to stand for 1 hour or longer. Heat an electric griddle to 350 F. Using a 1/4 cup measure, scoop batter onto griddle. With bottom of 1/4 cup, make circles in the batter, gradually enlarge to size of tortilla you wish to make. I made 3 for each crepe stack. Cook each crepe for a few minutes on each side then remove to a wire cooling rack.

Rice & Barley Pilaf
  1. In a saucepan, saute onion, garlic & mushrooms until tender crisp. Add chicken broth & bring to a boil. Add all remaining pilaf ingredients & reduce heat to simmer. Simmer until barley & rice are cooked & liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat; place in a dish & set aside to cool.

Guacamole
  1. Mince onion & sun-dried tomatoes & mash avocados. In a small bowl, combine avocados, onion, sun-dried tomatoes, & remaining guacamole ingredients. Blend well, cover & refrigerate.

Crepe Stack Fillings
  1. Cook chicken & shred, Grate cheese & prepare all filling ingredients.

Assembly
  1. Spread 4 tortillas with guacamole, reserving a bit for 'decorating' the top of each stack. Over the guacamole, put a layer of rice/barley pilaf. Top each of them with chicken, green peppers, olives, corn, red onion, fresh tomatoes, zucchini, black beans & a sprinkling of cheese. On 2 serving plates, place one filled tortilla topped by a second one. Complete each stack with another corn tortilla. 'Decorate' each with remaining guacamole, salsa, sour cream & remaining cheese. Heat each crepe stack for a few minutes in the microwave before serving.

Overnight Shrimp Newburg Strata

Brunch has been sometimes been thought to be distinctly North American but probably started in 16th century Vienna. At that time, the custom was to have five official meals a day. Early breakfast was mostly liquid like hot chocolate or other beverages. The mid morning meal was called ‘gabelfruhstuck’, meaning  fork breakfast. The custom of having fork food in the middle of the morning supposedly spread throughout Europe among the wealthy classes before coming to North America.

Whatever its specific origin, ‘brunch’, as it has become known as, is always the combination of breakfast and lunch foods. It seems to increase and wane in popularity but never really goes out of style. It is always open to new interpretations as well as just staying with the classics.

One such iconic brunch meal is Shrimp Newburg Strata. Evolving from the original, Lobster Newburg that was served at New York’s famed Delmonico restaurant in the United States. It became a standby of the after-theater suppers that were in vogue at the time. 

The limitless choices that can be made for brunch have always made it one of my favorite meals to prepare. Overnight strata is the perfect choice to serve for an Easter brunch. This Shrimp Newburg pairs well with a Waldorf salad and hot cross buns.

Print Recipe
Overnight Shrimp Newburg Strata
Instructions
  1. In a large skillet, heat oil & saute mushrooms & onion for 3 minutes or until tender. Set aside.
  2. In a buttered, shallow baking dish, arrange half of bread slices. Peel & devein raw shrimp & coarsely chop. Top bread with half of the mushroom mixture & half of the shrimp. Arrange remaining bread slices over shrimp; top with remaining mushroom mixture & shrimp. Sprinkle strata with grated Gruyere cheese.
  3. In a bowl, whisk together milk, eggs & spices; carefully pour over casserole. Cover & chill at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake, strata, uncovered for 55 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.