Classic Beef PLov

‘Plov’ originated from Uzbekistan (a landlocked country in Central Asia), centuries ago. It has become known and loved throughout Central Asia as well as being a staple dish in Russia.. This meal differs according to the occasion: a wedding plov is the most magnificent, a holiday plov a bit less exotic and there is even an everyday plov. These vary both in cooking technique and ingredients. Traditionally, plov is made with mutton, rice, carrots and spices and involves three main stages.

There are over sixty different plov recipes in Uzbek cuisine. In every area it is cooked in a special way. To an experienced gourmet, it would be easy to recognize its origin from what I’ve read.

Time has changed and refined plov recipes with more ingredients being added. Plov is usually served on big ceramic or porcelain plates.

This turned out to be a very nice meal. As usual I always enjoy food history as much as trying the recipe. I hope you found the blog interesting and the plov tasty if you had a chance to try it.

Classic Beef PLov
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Classic Beef PLov
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Season cubed meat with salt. In a large skillet, heat a splash of olive oil & add meat cubes; brown well. Remove meat from skillet. To the same pan add onion, carrot & garlic. Saute until golden brown. Return meat to pan & add broth, seasonings & stir together. Cover; reduce heat to low & simmer for 1 hour or until meat is tender.
  2. When plov has finished simmering, add garbanzo beans. Sprinkle uncooked rice evenly over the meat & broth. DO NOT stir the rice & meat together, simply arrange it so it submerged under broth. Season with fresh ground pepper, cover & continue to cook over a low heat. DO NOT stir the rice during cooking time to create light & airy rice that is not mashed together. When rice is cooked THEN stir together & serve.
Recipe Notes
  • Traditionally, plov is accompanied by salads made of fresh or marinated vegetables - tomatoes, cucumbers, radish & fruits & herbs such as pomegranate, dill or basil.
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Papaya, Mango & Pear Pie

A wide variety of fruit has be used to make pie, from crisp apples to juicy berries or tender stone fruit. Tropical fruit, not as commonly used, can make amazing additions to pie filling creations. One such combo is papaya and mango.

Once considered exotic, papaya can now be purchased pretty much throughout the year. A very versatile fruit which contains enzymes that help in tenderizing meat as well as using it in salads, puddings, yogurt, chutney etc. For the sweetest flavor, select a papaya with a yellowish-orange skin that yields to the touch. Green papaya can be peeled like a carrot. It is similar to winter squash and can be baked or barbecued in the same fashion.

Mangoes have a rich sweetness with an aromatic floral note that isn’t present in many other fruits. As well as holding their shape during baking, mangoes become extremely tender, which makes them an excellent choice for pie filling.

Regardless of what type of pie your eating, the general consensus is that it should have a base made of some kind of pastry. When people first began cooking food in ovens there was little to protect the filling from searing heat. As a result, juices would fizzle out and everything would burn rather quickly. As a solution, dough was used to protect the filling. The dough or pastry absorbed the juices, making the entire case and filling a dish in itself. Since then, many complex forms and fillings have evolved in the world of pie making.

My objective today, was to create a ‘tropical’ pie. I had picked up a papaya as well as a couple of pears on my last shopping trip. I already had some mango chunks in the freezer. I thought pears would compliment the papaya and mango well. Between the fruit and spice combos, the flavor was just incredible. I think I ‘nailed it’!

Papaya, Mango & Pear Pie
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Servings
6-8
Servings
6-8
Papaya, Mango & Pear Pie
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Servings
6-8
Servings
6-8
Ingredients
Pastry Crust
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Prepare pastry if making from 'scratch'. Line a 8-9-inch pie pan. Peel & core papaya, mango & pear. Cut & dice into 1/2-inch pieces. In a large bowl, combine fruit with lemon zest & juice. In a small bowl, mix cornstarch, sugar, spices & salt. Carefully mix 3/4 of dry mixture with fruit reserving remainder for later.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 F. Pour filling into pastry lined pie dish. Sprinkle with the rest of dry mixture & dot with butter. Roll out pastry for top crust. Make into design of choice or just place over pie; pinch top & bottom together to form a seal & cut 'vents'. Brush with egg wash & sprinkle with sugar.
  3. Place in oven & bake for about 10-15 minutes to bake bottom crust somewhat then reduce heat to 375 F. & bake another 30 minutes or until golden brown & filling is bubbling.
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Basil Chicken Stuffed Eggplant

It goes without saying, eggplant is beloved in many cuisines. It has been considered the ‘queen of the garden’ with it’s almost purple-black, glossy skin and cap-like crown.

Eggplants are bitter when raw but develop a savory and complex flavor when cooked. The texture of the flesh is meaty and easily absorbs sauces and cooking liquids.

Native to the Indian subcontinent and the Himalayan area, they have been cultivated in Southeast Asia since prehistoric times. Cultivars in the 18th century were white to pale yellow in color and resembled hen’s eggs which explains the reason this fruit is called ‘eggplant’. There are dozens of eggplant subspecies grown throughout the world in many shapes and sizes. 

The most popular one we see here in North America is the dark purple ‘globe’ eggplant which ranges in weight from 1-5 pounds. When buying them, look for ones with smooth, firm, unwrinkled skin and a fresh looking green stalk or cap. Eggplant is commonly used in ratatouille, pasta dishes, spreads, dips, moussaka or stuffed and roasted.

Today, I’m making a stuffed version with an interesting fresh basil-chicken filling.

Basil Chicken Stuffed Eggplant
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Servings
2
Servings
2
Basil Chicken Stuffed Eggplant
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Servings
2
Servings
2
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Cut eggplant in half lengthwise; carefully hollow out each half. Roughly chop the removed flesh.
  2. In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil & saute onion until tender, about 5-6 minutes. Add the chopped eggplant, mushrooms & garlic. Cook until eggplant is tender, about 7-8 minutes. Add ground chicken, oregano, salt & pepper. Cook until chicken is no longer pink, about 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in in roasted red peppers, cooked rice & fresh basil; remove skillet from the heat. Place eggplant halves in a baking dish & fill with chicken/rice mixture. Sprinkle with sunflower seeds; drizzle with remaining olive oil & bake 30-35 minutes until tender.
  4. Remove eggplant from oven & top with grated cheeses.
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‘Ube’ Sweet Rolls

I received an email from Pinterest the other day with some interesting recipe ideas. One was to do with Filipino breads. I noticed many centered around a purple yam. A very popular tuber in the Philippines, widely used in desserts and called ube ( pronounced ooo-bae). While purple yam is a relative of the sweet potato, they are not the same tuber. It is also not the same as taro root.

Just like any other tuber, purple yams can be boiled, steamed or baked. Once cooked, they don’t actually taste like much. It’s flavors are enhanced, when combined with sweeteners and liquids such as sweetened condensed milk and coconut milk. Ube adds an earthy, nuttiness to baking and is so visually striking with its vibrant purple color.

Swirl bread or rolls are made of a soft, yeasted, sweet dough filled with purple yam paste. Shredded Edam or queso de bola cheese is often sprinkled on top, giving it a sweet/salty flavor. I decided to try my luck at making some ‘ube rolls’. After scouring the usual grocery stores for purple yams with no luck, Brion and I found an Asian grocery store. They sold grated and frozen ube in 454 gram packages. Perfect! I looked at numerous recipes on the internet, then did my usual. Piece together a few different recipe ideas and ingredients that looked like it would work for me.

It just happens, Brion works with a Filipino lady by the name of Janice. I was hoping to share some of the finished product with her family to see if I had got the taste right. To my surprise, she said it was exactly how it was supposed to taste. Wow! Sometimes you get lucky.

'Ube' Sweet Rolls
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Servings
18
Servings
18
'Ube' Sweet Rolls
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Servings
18
Servings
18
Ingredients
Ube (Purple Yam) Filling
Sweet Roll Dough
Servings:
Instructions
Ube (Purple Yam) Filling
  1. In a medium saucepan, melt butter. Add coconut & condensed milks; stir until heated. Add thawed, grated ube & stir everything together. This process takes about 40-50 minutes until the ube is cooked. The mixture will be thick & sticky. It is important to stir the mixture often during cooking to prevent it from forming a crust. Transfer the ube paste/jam to a container & set aside.
Cheese
  1. Grate cheese & set aside in refrigerator until needed.
Sweet Roll Dough
  1. In a small dish, heat milk to lukewarm. Add yeast & 1 tsp sugar; let sit for 5 minutes to allow yeast to activate. In a large bowl, whisk together remaining 1/4 cup sugar, melted butter, sour cream & egg. Add yeast mixture & stir to combine.
  2. In another bowl, whisk flour & salt. Add flour mixture to yeast mixture 1 cup at a time, combining after each addition. Once all flour has been added, knead on a lightly floured surface for about 2 minutes.
  3. Lightly grease the large bowl, place dough in it & cover with plastic wrap & a tea towel. Allow to rest for at least one hour, in a draft free place until dough has doubled in volume.
  4. Punch dough down. Divide into 18 equal pieces. Roll each piece with a rolling pin. Spread the middle of each piece with ube filling & SOME of the grated cheese. Close up the piece over the filling like an envelope, pinch long edges together, & roll it with your fingers into a rod shape. Coil each rod into a rounded snail shape. Place in greased baking dish & cover with plastic wrap/towel. Allow to rise for an hour or until doubled in size.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake rolls about 20 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven; cool for just a few minutes then pat with butter. Sprinkle with sugar & more grated cheese.
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Orange Tempura Chicken

Though called Chinese food in North America, ‘orange chicken’ is rarely found in Chinese restaurants in China. It seems its more an Americanized mutation of the sweet & sour dishes found in China.

Chef, Andy Kao is credited with inventing orange chicken in 1987. Inspired by flavors from the Hunan Province of China, he developed the dish while he was employed as Panda Express’ executive chef in Hawaii.

I, personally, have never enjoyed eating anything that is coated in a heavy batter. Tempura is different from other fried fare due to its distinctive batter. It uses no bread crumbs and less grease than other frying methods. The light batter is made of cold water (sometimes sparkling water is used to keep the batter light) and soft wheat flour. Eggs, baking powder, baking soda, cornstarch, oil and/or spices may also be added.

Tempura batter is traditionally mixed in small batches for only a few seconds. Leaving lumps in the mixture along with the cold batter temperature, result in a unique fluffy and crisp structure when cooked. Over mixing tempura batter will result in activation of the wheat gluten, which causes the flour mixture to become soft and dough-like when fried.

The orange chicken I’m making today uses a nice light tempura batter, is grilled instead of deep fried, then coated with a unique and quick orange sauce (from kraftcanada.com). Add some Jasmine rice and veggies — perfect!

Orange Tempura Chicken
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Servings
4-6
Servings
4-6
Orange Tempura Chicken
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Servings
4-6
Servings
4-6
Instructions
Vegetables
  1. Prepare vegetables & saute in 1/2 cup chicken broth ONLY until tender-crisp. Drain broth & reserve for sauce when vegtables are sauteed.
Orange Sauce
  1. In a small saucepan, combine dry jelly powder & cornstarch. Add broth, dressing, garlic & gingerroot; stir until jelly powder is dissolved. Add reserved broth from vegetables & cook until sauce is thickened, stirring frequently.
Tempura Batter & Chicken
  1. Slice chicken into strips. In a small bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, baking soda & salt. In another small bowl, whisk egg with veg oil, soy sauce & ice water. Add to dry mixture, mixing only for a few seconds. Batter should be somewhat 'lumpy'.
  2. Heat oil on an electric griddle to a medium heat. Dip slices of chicken in tempura batter with a fork, draining off excess. Place on griddle & fry about 7 minutes or until cooked through. Drain on paper towels.
  3. Prepare Jasmine rice & place on a serving platter. Top with sauteed vegetables & chicken. Ladle orange sauce over vegetables & chicken. If you prefer, serve rice, veg, chicken & sauce all separately so everyone can make up there own combination.
Recipe Notes
  • We always like quite a bit of sauce but if you don't, just make half a recipe of the orange sauce.
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Potato Pancakes w/ Pork Filling

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
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Potato Pancakes w/ Pork Filling
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Ingredients
Potato Pancakes
Servings:
Instructions
Pork Filling
  1. In a bowl, combine pork filling ingredients; divide into 8 portions & form each into a patty shape. Refrigerate until potato pancake 'batter' is prepared .
Potato Pancakes
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Once cooked, remove from griddle & serve with sour cream or Ranch dressing.
Recipe Notes
  • Don't hesitate to make the pancakes the size that works best for you.
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Pork Medallions w/ Apricot Brandy Sauce

This is a meal that has a lot of interesting flavors going on. First you are marinating dried apricots and figs in brandy, then rubbing the pork medallions with a cumin-ginger spice combo.

Some years ago I became interested in using the cumin spice. If you have not yet tried it, the flavor is very distinctive. It could be described as slightly bitter and warm with strong, earthy notes. Cumin is an essential ingredient not only in Mexican and Southwest-inspired dishes but in the more trendy foods of North Africa, India and the Middle East. This delicate looking annual plant has slender branched stems. It is fast growing, with tiny white flowers that yield the cumin seeds. Farmers have to manually harvest the seeds by pulling the whole plant out of the ground and thrashing the seeds off of the plant onto a sheet. They are then sun-dried and hand sifted over a screen to separate out stems and twigs.

Although you need very little cumin in most recipes, it gives a great flavor. Like most spices, you must develop a taste for it to really enjoy it.

Pork Medallions w/ Apricot Brandy Sauce
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Pork Medallions w/ Apricot Brandy Sauce
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, marinate figs & apricots in brandy. Slice pork tenderloin into medallions. Combine cardamom, cumin, ginger, salt & pepper in a plastic bag; add pork medallions & toss to evenly coat with spice rub.
  2. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add pork, brown nicely on each side & remove to a plate. Return skillet to medium-LOW heat & add butter & onions. Gently saute onions for 5 minutes; add figs & apricots but NOT brandy. Saute 1 more minute.
  3. Turn heat back to medium-high & pour in the brandy & allow to simmer 1 minute. Add chicken broth & return pork to skillet. Cover & cook until pork medallions still have a hint of pink. Best to not overcook.
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Beet & Apple Crostata

Crostata, Galette and Tart are three terms largely interchangeable when it comes to baking fruit or a savory filling into tender crust. Nevertheless, there are in fact reasons why three different words exist. Just for interest, here’s the ‘scoop’ on the subject.

Crostatas are a rustic looking, free-form pastry that consists of a rolled out piece of dough piled high with fruit and/or veggies. Baked on a flat sheet, the edges of the dough are folded in about an inch or so to create a crust. They are usually brushed with an egg wash before baking.

When it comes to galettes, the only difference from the crostata is linguistic. Crostata is an Italian term and gallette is French. Both refer to the same thing.

Now the tart is actually the European cousin of the pie. What defines a tart is the pan in which it is baked. It can be rectangular, square or circular and vary vastly in size and depth. In a tart pan the bottom is removable, so unlike pies, tarts are usually served unmolded, showing its elegant, fluted edges. Tart crusts are a bit more shortbread-like, as opposed to a flaky pie dough. Tarts can be savory or sweet as well.

Since we are into the fall season, it would seem appropriate to use some beets and apples. These little crostatas have such a great color due to the beets in them. I simply love the flavor of this combo with these spices, Brion not so much! Beets have never been on his ‘favorite’ list but —. The sour cream/cornmeal pastry adds a little ‘crunch’. Hope you have time to give this recipe a try.

 

Beet & Apple Crostata
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Beet & Apple Crostata
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Pastry Crust
Filling
Servings:
Instructions
Pastry Crust
  1. In a small bowl, combine sour cream & ice water; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar & salt. Using a pastry blender or finger tips, cut in butter until mixture resembles BOTH coarse crumbs & small peas. Sprinkle the cold sour cream mixture over dough, I Tbsp at a time, tossing with a fork to evenly distribute it. After you have added all the sour cream mixture, dough should be moist enough to stick together when pressed; if not, add additional cold water, 1 tsp at a time. DO NOT overwork dough.
  2. Press dough into a disk shape & wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. The dough can be kept in the refrigerator for a day or two or it can be wrapped airtight & frozen for a month. When ready to use, thaw, still wrapped in refrigerator.
Filling
  1. Trim off top & bottom of beet. Chop apples & beet into 1/2-inch cubes. Place apples, beet, sugar, spices & salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat & simmer for 5 minutes. Add flour & simmer for 1 minute allowing the filling to thicken slightly. There should still be some liquid in the bottom of the pan but filling should not be watery. Cool slightly.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 F. Remove chilled pie dough from fridge & divide into 4 balls. On a piece of parchment paper the size of your baking sheet, roll each ball into a 6-inch circle. Spread 1/4 of the filling evenly over each circle, leaving a 1-inch border. Gently fold pastry over filling, pleating to form your crostatas. Brush with egg wash & sprinkle with sugar if you prefer.
  3. Bake about 35 minutes until filling bubbles & crust is golden. Remove from oven & cool on a wire rack.
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Pumpkin Seed Crusted Pork Chops

The quintessential food of Autumn, the pumpkin, is actually a Mexican native as well as an ancient food staple.

Thinking about Autumn itself, gives us the opportunity to recognize beautiful ‘moments’ in an imperfect world. Fall is an especially ‘magical’ season that is often overlooked with its stunning foliage,mild weather and pumpkin ‘everything’ food fare. It’s when the green around us is replaced by vibrant orange, bright red and golden yellows. We need to discipline ourselves to linger even if its just for a moment on those things so they will be embedded in our memory like a snapshot in a tattered scrapbook. Soon the color disappears as the frosty white takes its place as time slips away.

These symbolic associations are powerful reminders that Mother Nature has an incredible influence on our lives. 

In keeping with ‘all things pumpkin’, I am making some pumpkin seed crusted pork chops today. Pumpkin seeds, also called pepitas by the Mexican-Spanish.  Pepita de Calabaza, meaning ‘little seed of squash’, were actually discovered by archaeologists in caves in Mexico. Aztec cultures used them as both a ritual offering and food.

We found these pork chops real good with the pumpkin seeds giving them a real earthy, nutty flavor.

Pumpkin Seed Crusted Pork Chops
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Servings
2
Servings
2
Pumpkin Seed Crusted Pork Chops
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Servings
2
Servings
2
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. In a food processor, combine pumpkin seeds (saving a few whole ones for garnish), panko breadcrumbs & salt. Pulse for a couple of seconds then add melted butter & parsley; pulse a second more.
  2. Arrange 3 bowls on work surface. Put flour in first bowl, whisked eggs in second bowl & pumpkin seed mixture in third bowl. Coat pork chops in flour, shaking off any excess then dip in eggs & last in the pumpkin seed mixture, pressing down on both sides.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a skillet, heat olive oil & brown pork chops lightly on both sides. Place pork chops on a roasting tray & bake for 12-15 minutes. Allow pork to rest 5 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with a few whole pumpkin seeds as a garnish.
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Cornbread Scones with Sour Cherry Chia Jam

When I was growing up, cornbread was one of my favorites. My mother always called it ‘Johnny Cake’. Because it is a little sweeter than most dinner breads, it seemed like we were having dessert along with our soup, chili or whatever our main course was. That’s the nice thing about cornbread — it can be whatever you want it to be from breakfast to dessert.

Tucked away in the freezer, I have a little stash of sour cherries. On this occasion I’ve decided to make a bit of ‘sour cherry chia jam’ and add a dollop to the center of some cornbread scones.

Chia seeds used to be a niche ingredient you could only come up with at health food stores. Then all of a sudden they began appearing at the grocery store in the bulk department. As time has passed, the price is becoming a little better as well as the availability of them.

Chia seeds are harvested from a flowering plant in the mint family, which is native to parts of Mexico and Guatemala. Good quality seeds are naturally black or white in color, not brown. The brown chia seeds are immature ones which haven’t had a chance to mature properly, resulting in a bitter taste. Having a long shelf life, chia seeds will keep for several years when stored in a cool, dry place.

These scones may seem a bit unusual, but are well worth trying. I always enjoy to incorporate a bit of oatmeal for some extra flavor.

Cornbread Scones with Sour Cherry Chia Jam
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Servings
10
Servings
10
Cornbread Scones with Sour Cherry Chia Jam
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Servings
10
Servings
10
Ingredients
Scones
Sour Cherry Chia Jam
Servings:
Instructions
Sour Cherry Chia Jam
  1. In a saucepan, bring cherries to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low & simmer until the cherries soften, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat & stir in honey & chia seeds. Continue stirring for about 5 minutes until mixture thickens. Use in making the cornbread scones. Store any leftovers in a glass jar in the refrigerator. The jam will keep in the fridge for up to a week.
Scones
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly butter mini loaf pans or whatever choice of pan is preferred. In a food processor, pulse oatmeal for a few seconds then add flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder, baking soda & sugar. Pulse for a few more seconds to evenly mix. Add cold butter & pulse just slightly to cut in; do not over mix. Place in a bowl, add buttermilk & combine ONLY until just mixed.
  2. Divide dough into 10 mini loaf cups. Place a dollop of cherry chia jam in the center of each scone. Bake 15-20 minutes or until they test done with a toothpick. Nice to serve warm.
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