It’s that time of year when apples (& pumpkins) seem to be everywhere. I think sometimes we get caught up in the abundance of fresh fruit choices over summer that we overlook these precious little gems. I have heard it said that apples are only second to bananas as one of the most eaten fruits.
The fact that they are so versatile, relatively inexpensive, easy to find, available all year round and keep for a long time, what more could we want!
If you plan to bake with them, keep in mind, not all apples are designed for baking. The texture is uppermost important. A good baking apple needs to have a balance of intense sweet-tart flavor as well as not fall apart when baked. Even though some apples are better suited for certain kinds of recipes than others, don’t limit yourself to using just one kind of apple. Using a mixture of apples will result in more complex flavors and textures.
I wanted to make some upside-down cakes with poaching the apple slices in a cinnamon candy syrup. Hopefully it works the way I think it should.
Apple Cinnamon Candy Cakes
In a saucepan, combine water, sugar, cinnamon candies & heat until sugar & candy dissolve. Add apple slices & raisins to the pan & bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for about 5 minutes; drain & return the syrup to the pan. Bring syrup to a boil until it thickens slightly; remove from heat. Divide the apples & raisins between 4 mini bundt pans.
Preheat oven to 375 F. In a bowl, combine all cake ingredients & beat until smooth. Divide mixture over fruit in mini bundt pans. Place pans on a baking sheet & bake for 15-20 minutes or until cakes have risen & are firm to the touch in center.
Remove from oven & allow them to cool in pans for a few minutes. Carefully turn cakes out onto serving plates Top with a dollop of whipped topping & drizzle with cinnamon candy syrup.
Mostaccioli, known in Italy as ‘penne lisce’, are a specialty of the Campania Region in Southern Italy, which includes the cities of Naples, Capri and Sorrento. This pasta is smooth in texture, tube-shaped with angled ends cut to resemble a quill or pen point.
Without realizing it, the pasta shape we choose plays an important role in the outcome of the dish. Long or short, smooth or ridged, thick or thin, with or without curves and crevices, different shapes of pasta capture sauce differently.
Shaped pastas pair well with sauces that have some texture. The crevices and twists will give pieces of meat and veggies a place to nestle into.
Short tubular pastas are great for sauces that are thick and chunky.
Long, thin, dried pasta need lots of lubrication. Olive-oil based sauces will coat, but not drown the pasta. The thicker pasta, like fettuccine can stand up to cream sauces and ragus. If your adding vegetables or herbs, cut them string-like rather than in cubes for ease in blending them.
This is a quick, low-cost meal but has good flavor.
In a bowl, combine meat, milk, crumbs, garlic, onion & seasonings; shape into 4-5 oblong patties. In a skillet, brown patties in hot oil. Remove to drain on paper towel.
Drain any liquid from skillet & wipe with paper towel. In the skillet, combine soup with water & bring to a simmer. Add meat patties; gently simmer, covered for about 10 minutes then add drained & rinsed kidney beans. Simmer 5 more minutes until beans are hot.
Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Place on a large warm serving platter. Arrange patties over mostaccioli pasta. Pour sauce over meat & pasta; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese & serve.
Over the last few years, marinated artichokes have become one of the ‘go-to’ ingredients on my pantry shelf. Jarred marinated artichoke hearts add an instant burst of flavor and unlike fresh artichokes, they are available all year around. Might I add, they require zero preparation! Keep in mind, these are the ones in glass jars, not the canned ones that can be flavorless and soggy.
Some of the ways I have made use of them were: as a pizza topping, veggie dip, on crostini, with roasted potatoes, omelettes or in au gratin dishes.
As you have probably noticed if you follow my blog, I love savory pastries all year long. Spring through winter they showcase their ingredients so beautifully. If you’re someone who feels intimidated by pastry, galettes give you opportunity to make a free-form masterpiece. This recipe simplifies it even more by using frozen puff pastry. Yet another reason to keep a package on hand in your freezer.
Savory Artichoke, Chicken & Mushroom Galette
Slice breast & marinate in artichoke MARINADE (liquid only) for about 30 minutes. In a skillet, cook chopped bacon, onion, garlic & chopped mushrooms over medium heat until bacon is cooked & the mushrooms have released most of their liquids.
Add the chicken & marinade & continue to cook until the liquid is evaporated. Remove from heat. In a bowl, beat together cream cheese, milk, egg & grated Parmesan cheese & fold into chicken mixture as well as the reserved artichoke pieces.
Preheat oven to 425 F. On a large piece of parchment paper, roll out thawed, puff pastry 'SHEET' into a rough 12-inch 'CIRCLE'. Sprinkle half of the mozzarella cheese over pastry, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Spoon cooked mixture over cheese then fold edges of pastry in about an inch, 'pleating' to keep filling in. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella cheese on top of filling.
Brush pastry edge with egg wash & bake for 25 minutes or until puff pastry is golden & filling is slightly browning. Remove from oven; slice & serve.
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.
Peach Cookies or Pesche
In a small bowl, combine filling ingredients; stir in reserved crumbs. Spoon into center holes of cookies & press together to form a peach.
In a shallow bowl, combine lemon & peach gelatin powder. Place package of strawberry gelatin in another bowl. Place sugar in a third bowl.
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.
- 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.
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!
Coquilles St. Jacques
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.
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.
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.
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.
Grate cheese & place in a small dish. Add Panko breadcrumbs, parsley & melted butter. Combine well.
Assembly & Baking
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.
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.
German Pancake Bites
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
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.
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.
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.