Stuffed Patty Pan Squash

The name ‘patty pan’ comes from the French word patisson, for a cake made in a scalloped mold. This type of squash is as versatile as they come. It is very similar to summer squash, in fact, the two are interchangeable in recipes.

Summer squash originated from the region between Mexico and Guatemala. Like its relatives, it grows fast and abundant. It cooks like a fleshier zucchini or yellow squash and can be baked, grilled or stuffed.

Patty pan’s shape is well suited to stuffing. Simply cut off the stem end to make a ‘hat’, then cut a thin slice off the bottom of the squash, so that it sits evenly in the baking pan. Use a spoon to hollow out the body, saving the insides. These can be cooked and added to your stuffing.

This is a simple yet ‘showy’ meal, great for fall entertaining.

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Stuffed Patty Pan Squash
Instructions
Preparing Squash
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. With a small knife, cut a circle around the top of squash. As you cut, angle your knife diagonally from the outer edge of the squash towards the center. Remove the top of squash & set aside. Hollow out the insides with a small spoon, being careful not to pierce the squash. Discard membrane & seeds. Set aside remaining squash pulp. Drizzle the inside & bottom of lids with a little olive oil. Sprinkle with salt & pepper, set on a baking sheet & place in the oven. Bake 15-20 minutes, then set aside to cool.
Couscous
  1. In a small saucepan, bring chicken broth to a boil. Stir in couscous, cover & remove from heat. Let stand 5 minutes, until all water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork & drizzle with a little bit of olive oil.
Sausage & Veggies
  1. Add a small amount of olive oil to a large skillet & heat on medium-high. Remove the sausage from its casing; add in small pieces to the heated skillet. Cook & crumble sausage until browned. Add garlic & onion to skillet & saute for 4-5 minutes or until onion is slightly translucent. Add herbs & salsa to taste, then add reserved squash pulp & cook for another 2-3 minutes. Salt & pepper to taste. Add couscous to skillet & stir to combine with other ingredients. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over all & stir to incorporate.
Assembly
  1. Stuff each squash with the couscous mixture, sprinkling a bit more Parmesan on tops. Place the stuffed squash back in the oven for 10-15 minutes more. Serve immediately.

Zucchini Lasagna Roll-Ups with Asiago Sausage

Even though we are almost at the end of fall, there is still time to embrace those summer zucchini. I realize using zucchini instead of lasagna noodles is not a new idea but definitely a natural substitution. Lasagna, in any form, has to be up there on our list of comfort foods. Their saucy, cheesy and you have endless possibilities with fillings.

Thinly sliced zucchini stands in for the noodles and the three cheeses give this vegetarian lasagna plenty of richness, but for an even more substantial dish, I added some cooked and crumbled Asiago sausage.

It certainly has wonderful eye appeal but even more important, the flavor was amazing. Asiago/Red Pepper sausage is made in-store by Save-On Foods in our city. It has become my ultimate favorite in fresh sausage to use.

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Zucchini Lasagna Roll-Ups with Asiago Sausage
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Course Main Dish
Servings
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease a sheet pan with 1 Tbsp oil; set aside. Slice zucchini into 1/8-inch thick slices. Lay zucchini slices on prepared baking sheet & roast for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven & cool for 5 minutes before handling. Leave oven on for baking casserole.
  2. In a saucepan, crumble-fry sausage; remove & drain on paper towel. In a bowl, beat egg & combine with ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, salt & pepper.
  3. In a 9 X 13-inch baking dish, spread some marinara sauce on the bottom. Assemble zucchini roll-ups by laying the zucchini strips on a flat work surface. Divide filling between strips & spread. Sprinkle each strip with a bit of mozzarella cheese. Roll up & place in casserole dish. Drizzle remaining sauce on rolls & sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese.
  4. Bake, uncovered for 20-25 minutes or until cheese is melted & bubbly.

Russian Salmon & Cabbage Pie

The ‘stuffing’ principle seems very predominate in Russian cooking, from pelmeni (little meat dumplings) and vareniki (dumplings with potato & cheese) golubzi (stuffed cabbage), meat or cheese blintzes and of course, blini wrapped around lox.

Then there’s kulebiaka, the ‘grand’ oblong pie, that features several fillings. Its main distinction from any other Russian pie is that the quantity of the filling should be two or three times the quantity of pastry.

The word was derived from the verb ‘kulebyachit’ meaning to make with hands, to shape, to bend and to knead. This pie contained a flavorful mixture of salmon, rice, cabbage, mushrooms, shallots, hard-boiled eggs, dill and/or visiga — a spinal marrow of the sturgeon.

The crust was classically made with a yeast dough or puff pastry, although modern adaptations often include French crepes. In the 19th century, French chefs, who had worked in Russia, brought the recipe to France and adapted it to modern cookery.

This kulebiaka has a wonderful flavor with its many layers. I wanted to make it in the authentic oblong style but it can easily be baked in a 9-inch deep dish pie pan.

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Russian Salmon & Cabbage Pie
Instructions
  1. In a skillet, melt butter & saute onion about 7 minutes over medium-low heat. Stir in mushrooms, cabbage & vinegar; increase heat to medium. Cover skillet & cook 4 minutes; uncover, toss & cook 2 more minutes. Remove vegetables from skillet, season with salt & pepper to taste; set aside.
  2. Wipe out skillet, add oil & set over medium-high heat. Add salmon & season lightly with salt & pepper. Cook salmon 5 minutes per side; remove to a plate & let cool. Flake salmon into large chunks & set aside.
  3. Spread brown rice over bottom pastry. Peel & chop the hard-boiled egg, then add to pie, followed by flaked salmon. Sprinkle with cheese, then bread crumbs. Mound vegetable mixture on top. Sprinkle with fresh dill.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 F. Roll out remaining sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface until it is large enough to cover pie. Brush edge of bottom pastry with egg wash & place second sheet of pastry directly on top. Use a fork to crimp down edges so sheets of pastry will adhere. Cut a few small slits in the top of pie to allow steam to escape. Brush pastry with remaining egg wash. Bake 35-40 minutes until pastry is puffed & golden.

Stuffed Plantain Cups

When it comes to cooking, plantains are really more of a vegetable than a fruit. Grown extensively in Ecuador, plantains are usually cooked before eating, both when green and at various stages of ripening. When they are ripe they turn yellow than black. Plantains are larger and firmer than their banana relative and not sweet. With their bland, starchy, somewhat potato-like flavor, plantains take well to many cooking methods.

In October of 2018, I had posted a blog on Baked Patacones w/ Guacamole. Patacones or fried plantains had been my initial introduction to this vegetable in Ecuador. After enjoying them there, I have since made them a few different ways. I understand you can add them to stews, boil and puree them like mashed potatoes or bake with sugar and cinnamon for dessert.

Today, I wanted to make stuffed plantains but decided to do it in individual servings as opposed to leaving them in their skins. Of course, you can’t eat plantains without some avocado mayo, right!

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Stuffed Plantain Cups
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Ecuador
Servings
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Ecuador
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Plantains
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with foil & lightly butter. IF YOU PREFER, PREPARE AVOCADO MAYO AT THIS TIME.
  2. Using a sharp knife, cut both ends off the plantain. Slit a shallow line down the long seam of the plantain, peel only as deep as the peel. Remove plantain peel by pulling back. Place plantains on baking sheet & lightly spray with cooking spray. Bake for about 15 minutes, turn & bake for another 15 minutes or until golden & tender.
  3. While the plantains are baking, add 2 Tbsp of oil to saucepan, followed by onions, garlic & tomato sauce. Allow to simmer about 10 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burning, add about 1/2 cup water if necessary. Add ground meat & seasonings. Continue cooking for about 10 minutes more then add the small pepper.
Assembly
  1. Adjust oven to 375 F. Butter 4 custard baking cups. Lightly mash plantains. Scoop 4 equal parts into custard cups. Press against sides to form 'cups'. Sprinkle a small amount of grated cheese in bottom of each cup then divide meat filling between them. Bake for 10 minutes; remove from oven & top with remaining cheese. If you like, place back in oven for another 5 minutes. Serve warm with Avocado Mayo.
Avocado Mayo
  1. Remove peel & pits from avocados. In a food processor, combine all ingredients & puree. Remove from processor, cover & set aside.

Honey Mustard Chicken Legs

Honey mustard is one of those condiments you either really like or you hate it. I recall when one of my nephews was just about ‘knee high to a grasshopper’, he just LOVED it.

When he would dip that little KFC chicken nugget in some honey mustard, I think his eyes actually glazed over as he inhaled that flavor. It was just so incredibly cute to watch.

Combining honey with mustard brings out flavors not readily apparent in a straight honey. These two ingredients, when combined, flavor a variety of otherwise bland dishes such as chicken and pork. It’s often used in salad dressings, sandwich spreads, meat or veggie dips, ham glaze etc.

There seem to be many versions due to the fact that there are multiple types of honey and mustard. Although it is very often combined with mayo, I prefer it without. If you like this flavor, these ‘legs’ are for you!

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Honey Mustard Chicken Legs
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together mustard, honey & olive oil. Add a pinch of salt & pepper to taste. In a baking dish, place the chicken pieces, skin side up. Pour mustard/honey mixture over all & place sprigs of rosemary between them.
  3. Bake about 45 minutes or until cooked. Remove from oven & serve.

Chicken Salad in Braided Bread Bowls

Salad season is upon us! Salads very often are misunderstood … an afterthought. A salad can be an amazing meal of various flavors and textures.

Funny how trends always have a way of coming back. You probably remember those unique bread bowl salads from the 90’s. They were huge, filled with all kinds of ‘goodies’ and loads of salad dressing. They looked so pretty, like having a dinner table decoration you could eat.

When you think about it, bread bowls can be and have been, used in a variety of ways. During the colder months for hearty soups and stews and in the spring or summer for salads, dips etc. A bread bowl moves the meal from humdrum to unique. Of course, whether you use a solid or a weaved bowl will dictate your filling.

I’ve always thought main course salads, especially during the summer months, were great. No turning on the oven (unless you make a bread bowl), easy to prepare, gorgeous to look at and a fabulous taste. Main course salad can have anything in it you like, there is no wrong way to make one.

To keep it simple today, I’m making my bread bowls from refrigerated pizza dough. The salad turned out to be a bit more time consuming but well worth it.

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Chicken Salad in Braided Bread Bowls
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
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Instructions
Braided Bread Bowl
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside Spray the outside of a medium-sized metal bowl generously with cooking spray or wrap with foil. Unroll pizza dough & slice lengthwise into 1/2-inch strips.
  2. On a work surface covered with parchment paper, lay out pizza dough strips so they sit about 3/4-inch apart. Beginning in the center of the strips, weave the second half of the pizza strips in and out to create a basket base. Make sure to reserve a few strips for the braid at the top of your bread bowl.
  3. Using the parchment paper, gently flip the weaved bread dough over the inverted prepared metal bowl on the lined baking sheet. Take the remaining dough strips, braid them together, then drape along the bottom to give a nice design on the top of your basket. Repeat with 2 pizza crust dough for the second basket. Brush the entire surface of the baskets with melted butter.
  4. Bake for 18-23 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven & cool completely before gently removing bread bowls from the metal bowls.
Salad
  1. 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.
  2. 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 to cool. Wipe pan with a paper towel; drizzle with another teaspoon of oil & fry bacon until crisp. Blot on paper towel after frying & crumble.
  3. Slice chicken into strips & prepare other vegetables. Make a 'nest' of torn Romaine in bread bowl. Arrange other ingredients on top. Whisk 2 Tbsp of water into remaining reserved dressing/marinade & drizzle over salad. Top with crumbled bacon & season with salt & cracked pepper to taste.

Savory Chicken Picnic Scones

CELEBRATING HERITAGE DAY!

In 1974, the first Monday of August was made an official provincial holiday to recognize and celebrate the varied cultural heritage of Albertans. Businesses can choose whether or not to recognize the day as a general holiday, which most do.

In our city of Edmonton, a three-day outdoor festival is held to sample food, see performances and celebrate Canada’s multiculturalism. It features 60 pavilions that represent more than 85 cultures from all over the world.

Even though many people will take in the days events and cultural food at the festival, some choose to pack a picnic lunch and take a drive somewhere to just relax.

I am posting some savory chicken scones that should work real well with that idea.

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Savory Chicken Picnic Scones
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Course Brunch, Lunch
Cuisine American, French
Servings
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Instructions
Savory Scones
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a small bowl, combine yogurt & sage leaves; allow to stand for 10 minutes. In a saucepan, heat olive oil & saute onion for 5 minutes until soft, then set aside to cool.
  3. In a bowl, sift together flour, baking powder & salt; rub in butter to form fine breadcrumbs. Stir in yogurt/sage mixture as well as sauteed onion. Turn out onto a floured surface & knead very lightly. Divide dough into 4 or 6 equal pieces. Form into balls & lay on prepared baking sheet. Flatten to 3/4" thickness; brush tops with beaten egg. Bake about 10 minutes or until risen & golden.
Assembly
  1. When scones are cool, slice in half & spread lightly with butter. Top each of 4 (or 6) halves with chicken & bacon slices. Drizzle with Ranch dressing & place some cut pickled asparagus spears on top. Cover with remaining 4 scone halves. Serve with tomato wedges on the side.

Spiced Pulled Pork Tortillas w/ Orange Guava Sauce

This pairing of pork, corn tortillas and guava brings me back to some of the flavors we tasted on our adventures in both Cuba and Mexico.

Pulled pork sounds like a lot of work but it simply comes down to a gentle, slow cooking process so it can be literally ‘pulled apart’ when finished. Pork shoulder is the most commonly used joint. The long cooking could dry out some cuts but shoulder is quite a fatty joint, therefore providing a natural baste. During the cooking period, most of the fat will dissolve but most importantly its this long cooking process that breaks down the tough fibrous connective tissue called collagen that tenderizes the meat making it so easy to pull apart. Although smokers are very often used, slow cookers or even traditional ovens will do the job nicely.

When the pork is finally done, it needs to rest for 10 minutes and then it should be ready for pulling apart. Use two forks to shred the meat and you’ve got it! This meal not only has great eye appeal, but the taste is wonderful!

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Spiced Pulled Pork Tortillas w/ Orange Guava Sauce
Instructions
Dry Rub for Pork Shoulder
  1. Drizzle pork with 2 Tbsp of oil; sprinkle with spices & orange zest & rub into meat. Season with salt & pepper. Place in a plastic bag & refrigerate overnight (about 24 hours).
  2. Bring meat to room temperature. Preheat oven to 275 F. Place meat in a roasting pan & bake until thickest part registers 170 F. on a meat thermometer. Basically, roast until it's falling apart. Remove roast from oven & transfer to a large platter. Allow the meat to rest for about 10 minutes. While still warm, take 2 forks & 'pull' the meat to form shreds. Keep warm until ready to assemble tortillas.
Orange Guava Sauce
  1. In a saucepan, saute onion in 1 Tbsp olive oil until tender. Add water (or wine), frozen orange juice concentrate, soy sauce, spices & cubed guava paste. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat slightly & continue to boil gently until mixture reduces slightly. In a cup, combine cornstarch & water & add to sauce continuing to cook about 2-3 minutes more. Taste to see if any spice adjustments are needed.
To Assemble
  1. During the roasting time of the meat, prepare avocados, red onion, cilantro leaves, lime wedges. Drain canned black beans (if using) so they are ready to warm at serving time.
  2. When everything is ready, lay out warm tortillas, top with pulled pork, avocado slices, black beans, red onion, cilantro & drizzle with warm orange guava sauce. Fold or roll tortilla & enjoy!
Recipe Notes
  • If you would rather not have the corn tortillas, cook some rice to serve with pulled pork. Spoon sauce over the meat & serve it with the sliced avocados, red onion & black beans.

Balsamic Glazed Fig & Pork Kabobs

Thirty or more years ago, balsamic vinegar was relatively unknown outside of Italy. Due to our exposure to gourmet food magazines, television cooking shows and celebrity chefs, there is hardly a household without a bottle in its pantry these days.

Balsamic vinegar actually derives its name from the word ‘balm’, which refers to an aromatic resin or odor, as well as a substance that soothes, relieves and heals.

For hundreds of years, wealthy Italian families have made balsamic vinegar for their own consumption, nurturing their supplies over the years. Passed on from generation to generation, gifting small amounts to treasured friends and honored guests and perhaps even bequeathing some to a daughter as part of her ‘dowry’. Balsamic vinegar came to be considered a symbol of peace.

In about 1980, the popularity of balsamic vinegar soared due to Italian chefs discovering how intense flavors complemented modern Mediterranean cuisine. Local families couldn’t gear up production to meet the new demand. New producers developed imitation versions, consequently many of us have yet to taste truly authentic balsamic vinegar or ‘Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale’, as its known in Italian.

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Balsamic Glazed Fig & Pork Kabobs
Instructions
  1. Cut pork into 1-inch cubes. Combine next seven ingredients; place pork cubes in a plastic bag. Toss to coat well; refrigerate until ready to grill. In a small dish, make a glaze by whisking together vinegar, honey, mustard & oil. Set aside.
  2. On water-soaked wooden skewers, thread pork cubes & figs. Grill, covered, on a greased rack over medium-high direct heat, turning occasionally, about 8-10 minutes. During last half of grilling, brush cooked surfaces frequently with glaze.
  3. Let skewers stand 5 minutes; add a tomato to each. Transfer to serving platter & sprinkle lightly with Gorgonzola & basil. Serve some of your Blueberry & Blackberry Rustic Tart for dessert.

Couscous Shrimp Paella

When it comes to the traditional flavor of paella, it all comes down to location. If you live by the sea, its common to use shellfish. For people living inland, other proteins are used that are readily available.

Confirmed as Spain’s best loved contribution to world cuisine, paella is typically prepared with rice, saffron, seafood, chicken and Spanish chorizo sausage.

In regards to the rice used, bomba rice absorbs the flavors of the oil, stock and other ingredients. Arborio will get a bit creamy, whereas jasmine and basmati add flavor instead of soaking others up. Long grain just doesn’t have the right texture for paella.

To put a little different spin on my paella today, I’m preparing it with Israeli couscous. Israeli or pearl couscous is a small, round pasta-like granule made from semolina and wheat flour. It should not be confused with the tiny, yellow North African couscous. Israeli couscous is twice as large and is toasted rather than dried, which gives it a nutty flavor and a hearty texture.It easily absorbs flavors, making it very versatile as a base for chicken and fish or in soups, salads, pilafs, etc.

I’ve made couscous with rice as well as the short vermicelli noodles. Today is the first time with couscous and we really enjoyed it.

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Couscous Shrimp Paella
Instructions
  1. In a large heavy saucepan, heat oil. Add onion, garlic & sweet peppers; cook until tender-crisp, about 8 minutes. Add all of the spices; cook 1 minute more, remove to a dish & set aside.
  2. In the saucepan, scramble-fry sausage meat. Add broth, water & couscous; simmer, covered 10 minutes. Stir in peas & shrimp; simmer another 5 minutes or only until shrimp is cooked. Add seasoned vegetables, gently stir to combine. Serve, garnished with olives.