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.

Overnight Breakfast Enchiladas

As I mentioned in my previous blog, Brion and I would like to share some more January holiday adventures while they are still fresh in our minds.

Merida, Mexico made a perfect home base for us to enjoy many interesting things. The cultural capital of the Yucatan peninsula, Merida is a city steeped in Colonial history. It has some of the region’s best museums, beautiful historic mansions and architecture as well as many Mayan ruins to make for some amazing day trips.

One tour we took was to the archaeological sites of Uxmal and Kabah.              Uxmal (pronounced Ush-mal) covers around 150 acres. The central area is reasonably well preserved due to the high quality of the buildings which are constructed of well-cut stones set in concete. The most famous structure at Uxmal is the Temple of the Magician. This temple was rebuilt three times; this is where Uxmal got its name, which means ‘thrice built’. The structure towers above the surrounding jungle, crowned with intricately carved stonework.

The city of Uxmal was erected with its buildings at precise angles from and in relation to each other. Astronomical, geometrical and metaphysical calculations were carefully considered when the layout of the site was designed.

Unlike many other Mayan sites, no stone quarry has been found at Uxmal. Where the Maya quarried the stone and how it was moved to this site without the help of the wheel or animal strength is unknown. How such a large city could grow up in an area without springs, rivers or cenotes (sinkholes) to provide water is totally amazing. Uxmal residents were completely dependent upon cistern rain water collection systems. This explains their reverence to the Mayan rain god Chac.

The Kabah ruins are also very interesting in their own right. This city is connected to Uxmal by a Mayan ceremonial causeway called a ‘sacbe’. It’s most famous structure is the ‘Palace of the Masks’. The facade is decorated with hundreds of stone masks of the long-nosed rain god.

My recipe for today is originally meant for breakfast but Brion and I enjoyed it just as much for our evening meal. 

Hope you enjoy my briefed info as well as some more of Brion’s great pictures.


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Overnight Breakfast Enchiladas


Instructions
  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add green pepper, onion, garlic & all spices; cook 3-4 minutes or until softened.

  2. Add chicken sausage & cook, stirring frequently, for another 5-6 minutes or until cooked through, breaking up the sausage into small pieces. Once fully cooked, stir in 3/4 cup of cheese.

  3. Spray a 13 X 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. On a work surface, lay out tortillas. Spoon about 1/4 cup of the sausage filling onto one side of the tortillas; roll each tightly. Place seam side down in the baking pan; sprinkle any extra sausage mixture on top.

  4. In a bowl, whisk together eggs & half & half until completely combined. Pour over enchiladas & sprinkle with remaining 1 1/4 cups shredded cheese. Cover with foil & refrigerate overnight or at least 8 hours.

  5. Preheat oven to 350 F. Remove chilled enchiladas from fridge, bake for 20 minutes covered, then remove foil & bake for an additional 15 minutes OR until center is set (eggs should no longer be jiggly) & cheese is lightly browned. If you prefer, leave the casserole covered & bake longer, before removing foil. Serve with your choice of toppings.

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.

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Classic Beef PLov
Course Main Dish
Cuisine European, German
Servings
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine European, German
Servings
Ingredients
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.

Egyptian Kofta

Over the years, our travels have taken Brion and I to many interesting places in the world. Each has left us with amazing memories.

In November of 2009, before Egypt was in such disarray, we explored this ancient country. You could safely say that time has not lessened the mystique of the world’s oldest tourist attraction. No matter how many pictures you look at, or how much you read on the internet, there is just nothing as powerful as seeing the real thing. Brion’s ability to speak fluent Arabic was a huge bonus for us while in Egypt.

The flight from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada to Cairo, Egypt was a bit grueling at 16 hours long but we ‘recovered’ fairly fast. To make the most of our vacation, we divided it into four segments; – five days in Cairo, six days in Alexandria, eight days on a Nile River cruise and the last week at Sharm El Shiekh on the Red Sea.

The Nile River cruise was definitely the highlight of the vacation. We boarded the ‘Helio’ cruise ship in Luxor which took us to Aswan and back. Each day the ship would dock at various sites along the way and our personal guide would take us to explore temples, tombs, the high dam and the beautiful botanical gardens at Kitchener Island. It was such an incredible experience viewing the sights and sounds as you slowly sailed along. Travel is a good reality check to make us appreciate what we have in our own lives and so often take for granted.

Every evening, the supper buffet on the ship was created with a different theme. One of the items Brion really enjoyed was ‘EGYPTIAN KOFTA’. Egypt’s local and rich resources of fresh foods coming from the Nile Valley, has given the world some of the most coveted cuisines. Egyptian food is a mixture of all the different civilizations that came to Egypt in the history of its existence.

The word kofta (or kefta) has its origins in Persia. Although you can make meat, seafood or vegetarian kofta, the most popular in Egypt is a mixture of ground beef and lamb combined with onions, garlic, parsley and a ‘BAHARAT’ spice blend.

Along with my recipe today, I thought you may enjoy to look at some of the photos from our Nile River cruise. 

 

 

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Kofta
This is the burger meat of the Middle East.
Servings
skewers
Ingredients
Servings
skewers
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Soak 16 wooden skewers in water for about 1 hour; remove from the water when you are ready to begin. Lightly oil grates of grill or BBQ & preheat to medium high temperature.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients thoroughly. Divide meat mixture into 16 portions. Mold each onto a wooden skewer to form a 'kofta kebab' about 1-inch thickness.
  3. Place kebabs on lightly oiled, heated grill or BBQ. Grill for 4 minutes on one side, turn over & grill for another 3-4 minutes. Serve immediately with mini pita breads, tahini, hummus or yogurt dip.