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.
CELEBRATING FATHER’S DAY!
Honoring your father on Father’s Day doesn’t require his physical presence. I feel what is more important, is just the act of doing it. I am very grateful to have had a father who was such a strong role model in my life. Everything he did was driven by his commitment to provide and care for the family he loved.
My father passed away in 2005 and Brion’s in 2011. Both our Dad’s loved to talk and tell stories from their lives. We often wish we could retrace that time and hear their voices again. It seems you never fully appreciate your parents until they are no longer on this earth. It is so important to appreciate every hour they are in your life.
My special meal to honor them on this Father’s Day, is a nice medley of pork, shrimp and mushrooms.
Seafood Stuffed Pork Medallions with Peppercorn Sauce
Shred zucchini, sprinkle with a little salt & set aside. In a bowl, combine the cheeses, crumbled bacon, egg & seasonings. Squeeze as much liquid from zucchini as possible. Add it to the filling & mix well. Divide the filling between mushrooms. Place a small amount of Zesty Italian dressing in a cup. Dip bottom of each mushroom in dressing & allow to dip off for a few seconds. Place stuffed mushroom caps on a small baking dish making sure they will stay upright. Place in fridge until ready to bake.
In a bowl, combine oil, garlic, oregano, basil, Parmesan, salt & pepper. Add shrimp & toss gently; thread onto skewers. Place on a plate & refrigerate until ready to cook.
Stuffing / Tenderloin
In a saucepan, saute garlic & shallots in 1 Tbsp olive oil for a few minutes. Add a few pinches of salt & pepper; stir in breadcrumbs. Add water; stir till all is combined & transfer to a bowl.
In a bowl, cream together butter & cream cheese. Add 1/2 of the capers, the parsley & stir thoroughly. Add the Gruyere & scallops, stirring gently. Set aside.
'Butterfly' tenderloin & pound making it all the same thickness. Spread stuffing evenly on flattened cut side. Starting with the long side, carefully ROLL the tenderloin as opposed to just FOLDING it over. On work surface, lay out bacon strips side by side. Lay stuffed tenderloin at one end & roll up in bacon strips, placing a toothpick at end of each strip.
Preheat the oven to 400 F. In a skillet, heat remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil, add the roast carefully & saute for about 3-4 minutes on each side to cook the bacon a bit. Place a rack in a shallow roasting pan & lay stuffed tenderloin on it; bake at 400 F. for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 F. & bake for another 20 minutes. Remove from oven, set the roast on a cutting board, cover loosely with foil, & let rest while the shrimp & stuffed mushrooms are cooking. When ready to serve, slice into 1 - 1 1/2" thick 'medallions'.
Increase oven temperature to 400 F. Remove stuffed mushrooms from refrigerator, bake for 20-30 minutes or until filling is golden & mushrooms have softened. Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with foil, place skewered shrimp in oven for the last 6-8 minutes of cooking the mushrooms.
This can be made earlier or while the last items are cooking in the oven. In a hot skillet, add butter, shallots & peppercorns; stir until shallots are golden, about 1 minute. Add broth & thyme sprigs; reduce heat & allow sauce to simmer for a few minutes. Remove thyme sprigs. Add cream & salt & pepper to taste. If you wish to thicken sauce, combine cornstarch & water in a small dish, stirring until smooth. Add a bit at a time to your hot mixture, stirring until desired thickness is achieved.
Due to the fact that rice flour pairs perfectly with taco-worthy fillings such as avocado, beans, cheese etc. gave me inspiration for this meal. This flour is a staple of South east Asia, Japan & India. Rice flour or rice powder is very different from rice starch, which is produced by steeping rice in a strong alkaline solution.
The technique of frying with rice flour has become universal. Rice absorbs less oil than other flours while frying, resulting in fewer calories from fat and a less oily product. Even many fast food restaurants dust their french fries with rice flour to give them that characteristic, satisfying crunch. By blending traditional wheat or cornstarch batters with rice flour will lighten the batter up and reduces some of the ‘gumminess’.
Rice flour is well suited to crepes but it is important to make them in thin, crisp rounds. If they are too thick the most likely they will crack if you are wrapping filling inside.
The recipe I’m using for my crepe stacks is pretty much a basic crepe recipe with rice flour substituted for all purpose flour. For the classic Asian rice ‘crepe’, coconut milk and turmeric are generally used.
This combination of flavors was very interesting. The recipe seems kind of long but it comes together fairly quickly. It certainly will be a ‘keeper’ for us.
Rice Flour Crepes with Black Beans & Guacamole
Rice Flour Crepes
In a pitcher, whisk all ingredients together until smooth. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes while preparing the rest of the recipe.
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add turkey; stir-fry until no longer pink. Stir in water chestnuts, carrot, cilantro, garlic, apricot preserve, soy sauce, ginger & red pepper flakes. Remove from heat & set aside.
In a bowl, coarsely mash avocados, lime juice, salt, garlic, onion & cilantro with a fork. Cover & refrigerate until ready to use.
In a bowl, combine all ingredients except chicken broth (or water). In a food processor, pulse 1/2 cup of the mixture with broth until smooth. Add to mixture in bowl & stir to combine well.
Heat griddle to a medium-high temperature. Using a 1/4 measure, pour batter on griddle. With bottom of 1/4 cup measure, enlarge crepe by making circular motion in the batter. Cook each crepe for about 2 minutes until bottom is lightly browned. Lay on a plate until ready to use making sure not to let them dry out.
On each serving plate lay one crepe. Spread each with some of the guacamole, top each with some of the turkey filling, black beans, diced fresh tomato & a sprinkle of smoked Gouda cheese. Repeat with 2 more layers on each plate. End with a swirl of guacamole for some eye appeal. Serve extra beans on the side if you wish.
CELEBRATING VICTORIA DAY!
Victoria Day is the distinctly Canadian holiday that is thought to officially wrap up the winter season. For us that like to ‘garden’, we used to think of it as the beginning of Spring. You could be fairly certain that frost would not return until Autumn but you notice I said, ‘used to’–
Canadians jokingly refer to Victoria day as May ‘two-four’ day. This is an inside joke which refers to a case of beer, containing 24 cans. For many, this is the first (warm-ish) long week-end since Easter, so they head to campsites armed with a 24 (can) case of beer to celebrate the beginning of Summer.
Even though we hang on to the British Queen’s name for old times sake, this tradition of Victoria day is truly Canadian and has everything to do with the end of the cold weather and short days and a lot to do with some great food.
Seeded chicken tenders seem to be a good menu choice for today. The versatility of buttermilk has made it a useful ingredient in many kitchens for both baking and cooking. Start with it’s signature acidic tang. Not only is it great in pancakes and waffles but these acidic ingredients make for wonderful marinades. Due to the fact that it’s only slightly acidic, buttermilk is capable of tenderizing poultry without toughening up the meat like some of the stronger marinating acids will do. The enzymes present help to break down the protein, resulting in a tender, flavorful fried chicken.
Of course, it all comes down to personal preference. Buttermilk belongs on the dinner table as much as at breakfast. Use it in place of regular milk in mashed potatoes or add a bit when making vinaigrette for some extra richness OR substitute buttermilk for a quarter to half of the liquid you use in your smoothy.
In this recipe, I used a buttermilk soak combined with the self-rising flour and seeds to create a crispy coating — juicy on the inside, crunchy on the outside!
Buttermilk Chicken Tenders with Seeded Crust
In a large bowl big enough to hold all of the chicken, whisk together seasonings & buttermilk. Add chicken tenders to marinade, stirring until coated. Cover & refrigerate for at least an hour or up to 4 hours.
In a food processor, pulse seeds with flour for a few seconds. Don't grind as you still want seeds to be visible. Remove from processor & stir in minced rosemary if using. Place flour on waxed paper. Remove chicken from marinade & dredge in flour mixture. Place on a cookie sheet & refrigerate 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Melt coconut oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Brown chicken on both sides. Do not over crowd, rather fry in small batches. When golden brown but not overcooked, place on a baking sheet & bake in oven for 5 minutes or so to finish cooking.
- If you don't have buttermilk on hand, substitute plain yogurt or milk to which a small amount of lemon juice or vinegar has been added. (1 teaspoon per cup of milk).
- Recipe can be made using thighs, breast or legs -- whatever you prefer.
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.
Coconut Rice Crepes with Seafood Filling
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mushroom Wellington is a vegetarian spin on the French classic ‘beef wellington’. The original is an elegant meal, using a beef tenderloin covered with liver pate’, wrapped in pastry and baked. The key to preparing items in this fashion, is that however long it takes to bake the pastry to a golden brown is how long it will be in the oven. In other words, the filling needs to require less time to cook.
A plant based filling makes that even easier to achieve than its meat filled cousin. The use of different types of mushrooms cut into varying sizes gives the dish texture and heartiness along with an earthy flavor. The secret to a deliciously juicy yet flaky mushroom wellington is to drain everything dry and make sure it is completely cold before wrapping it in the puff pastry. Skip this step and your pastry is not only going to be soggy, it will tear when you try to wrap up your wellington. Believe me — ‘bin there, done that’!
Although this would probably be the center piece of a vegan meal, it works beautifully as an accompaniment to meat and roast veggies as well.
In a skillet, fry diced bacon until crispy. Remove bacon to paper towels & blot dry, leaving drippings in skillet. Chop mushrooms, onion & garlic. Saute veggies with spices in bacon drippings until moisture has evaporated. Remove from heat, add bacon & drain or blot off any excess moisture. Cool mixture completely then add cold, cooked Basmati rice, stirring to blend. While the mixture cools prepare vegetable gravy if you are using it.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Line your choice of preferred baking pan mold with thawed puff pastry. You should have excess enough to fold over the 'top' of filling. This will form the bottom of your wellington when baked. In each wellington, place 1/4 of the filling, topping each with 50 gms of the cheese. Divide remaining filling between the two wellingtons & fold the excess pastry over it.
If you choose to make a decoration for your baked wellingtons, cut it from some of the excess before closing them. Bake the decorations on a separate pan. Place molds on a baking sheet & bake for about 35 minutes or until pastry is cooked. Remove from oven. I like to flip them onto paper towel at this point just to blot off any excess butter from pastry. Do what you prefer in this case.
In a saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add bouillon powder, garlic, carrot, celery & onion. Cover & simmer until veggies are very soft. Remove from heat & cool slightly. Puree in food processor or blender. Combine cornstarch & water in a small dish. Stir into puree; return to heat & stir until boiling & slightly thickened. Stir in sour cream IF USING. Serve over mushroom wellingtons.
- If you prefer, omit bacon & use butter to saute your veggies in making it a more vegetarian friendly entree.
Having a German heritage, cabbage rolls are no stranger to me. I have to admit, I quite enjoy them. If I’m remembering correctly, my mother made them with a ground beef/rice filling and a typically German, sweet/sour tomato sauce. Myself, I’ve made them with beef, pork, turkey or the sour cabbage and seasoned rice version.
This year, we were gifted with some tender, fresh Swiss chard from a neighbor’s garden. I made some of it into these Swiss chard rolls with a turkey and wild rice filling. Of course, we had this meal much earlier on in the season even though I’m just now getting around to blogging about it. Swiss chard is a biennial plant you can still buy in the grocery stores even if gardening is finished for this year in our part of the country. It was really a great tasting new spin on an old classic.
Swiss chard, also known as silverbeet, is actually a beet that was developed specifically for its edible stems and leaves. It originated in Sicily before being grown in America. ‘Swiss’ was added to the crop’s name to distinguish it from French spinach. Chard has a mild, sweet, earthy taste with some bitterness. When cooked, it takes on a more refined taste and will lose that bitterness. A very unique plant in that both the leaf and the colorful stalks can be eaten either cooked or raw.
This meal is nice served with a medley of sauteed red pepper, mushrooms, zucchini and snow peas with some sweet potato crisps.
Swiss Chard Rolls with Turkey & Wild Rice
Butter a 13 X 9-inch baking pan; set aside. In a bowl, whisk eggs & add garlic, salt & pepper, Italian herbs, rice pilaf, & cooked turkey. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350 F.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Trim leaves to relatively the same size, Trim any stalks to allow for even blanching & easier rolling. Immerse 4-6 leaves at a time into boiling water & blanch for 1 minute. Transfer to a paper towel-lined baking sheet as done & allow leaves to drain & cool slightly. Arrange leaves on a work surface, smooth side down. Divide filling between them. Roll up, starting with the large end of the leaf & folding it over the filling to roll up like a 'burrito'.
Place rolls, seam side down in prepared baking dish. Pour tomato basil sauce over rolls; cover with foil & bake until filling is cooked & bubbly, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven & serve.
Today, December 21st, a very special member of our family is having his 15th birthday. He is ‘our’ little mini German Dachshund with the cute name of ‘Amigo’. My sister Loretta, adopted Amigo when he was only two months old so needless to say, their hearts have been well secured together.
Brion & I have had the incredible pleasure of being able to share in his life as well. On different occasions he stayed with us while Loretta had to attend to other things. It would usually take a bit of time at first for him to accept the idea she was gone temporarily. Then we would become part of his ‘pack’.
When I was growing up on the farm we had a Collie. I loved that dog but being a farm dog living outdoors, your interactions were only when you were out of the house. Until we cared for Amigo, I just had no idea what a privilege it is to be loved by a dog. Dachshunds are such a special breed. Amigo has left an imprint on my heart that will remain forever with me. Whenever Amigo is present, he brings such happiness and the perspective to enjoy the moment along with a dogs’ uncanny ability to understand humans and give so much unconditional love. We humans really need to learn some of these virtues.
As we watch him growing older, I find it so unfair that animals give so much and yet they still have to suffer the aches and pains of old age the same as humans. It seems they should be spared this ordeal.
Amigo is definitely a great source of pleasure to Loretta and I am truly grateful their lives were connected so long ago.
Two of Amigos favorite foods have always been cheese and chicken. Although he isn’t going to be having any, I’m putting a chicken meal on my blog today in honor of his birthday.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, AMIGO!
Cranberry-Gruyere Stuffed Chicken Breasts
Chicken breasts go from ordinary to extraordinary when filled with tart cranberries and Gruyere cheese.
Chicken & Stuffing
Flatten chicken breast to a 1/4-inch thickness. In a small bowl, combine cheese & cranberries. Divide cheese mixture between breasts; roll up & secure with toothpicks.
In a food processor, place walnuts & parsley; cover & process until ground but not over processed. Transfer to a shallow bowl; stir in bread crumbs, salt & pepper. In another shallow bowl, combine eggs & mustard. Place flour in a third shallow bowl. Coat chicken with flour, then dip in egg mixture & coat with walnut mixture.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with greased foil paper. Place breasts seam side down & bake for 35-40 minutes or until thermometer reads 170 F. Remove from oven; discard toothpicks & serve. This is real nice served with couscous & a veggie.
Potato pancake variations are present in National cuisines all over the world and considered by many to be pure comfort food. The nice thing is, you can create this great meal by using leftover mashed potatoes. It can be kept simple or you can amp up the flavor with cheese, onion, bacon or a variety of spices. I recall my mother making them. I think she just added some eggs, onion, a bit of flour and some salt & pepper to the leftover, mashed potatoes. They were made into patties and pan fried as you would a pancake.
Depending on which part of Eastern Europe you come from, the name varies — Kolduny, Zrazy, Kartoffelpuffer are just a few. Regardless of the name you call them, they are just simply delicious. The Russian version takes it a bit further. The potato pancake is stuffed with a filling and then fried to a golden brown.
After reading through numerous recipes, I decided to ‘meld’ some of them into my own creation. These are what developed — nothing pretty but really good flavor. Yes, truly comfort food.
Potato Pancakes w/ Pork Filling
In a bowl, combine pork filling ingredients; divide into 8 portions & form each into a patty shape. Refrigerate until potato pancake 'batter' is prepared .
In a skillet, fry bacon until crispy; drain on a paper towel until cool. In skillet with remaining bacon grease, saute onion & garlic until translucent.
In a large bowl, crumble bacon into small bits. Add cold mashed potatoes, onion, garlic, beaten egg, cheddar (if using), flour, salt & pepper. Combine well. Using a large piece of waxed paper, form 16 patties. On top of each one, place one of the pork patties & then top each with the remaining potato patties. With a pair of scissors, cut waxed paper to separate filled potato pancakes so it will be easy for you to place them on a griddle for frying.
Lightly oil a frying pan or griddle. Using the waxed paper remaining under each pancake, carefully flip each filled pancake onto the griddle. Flatten a bit & press edges to enclose filling better. Fry first side to a nice golden brown then carefully flip with a spatula & brown second side a few minutes. Cover with a lid (or foil) for remaining cooking time to ensure pork is cooked through.
Once cooked, remove from griddle & serve with sour cream or Ranch dressing.
- Don't hesitate to make the pancakes the size that works best for you.