I’m sure you use or are probably aware of the technique of cooking in parchment paper. The French call it ‘en papillote, the Italians ‘al cartoccio but we Canadians just call it cooking in parchment. This simple, yet elegant culinary tradition infuses the meats, vegetables and herbs together to create unbelievable flavor. Not only does this enclosed packet keep delicate foods like fish moist and intact but cuts down on your clean-up time. It is a super easy way to cook for one and not have lots of leftovers.
Since fall is upon us and we are back to more of those oven meals, HONEYTERIYAKI SALMON is the perfect, no-fuss Sunday meal.
In a small saucepan, whisk together soy sauce, 3 Tbsp water, honey, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger & sesame oil. Bring to a boil over medium heat. In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch with remaining 2 Tbsp water until well combined. Pour into sauce mixture; boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat & allow to cool slightly about 5-10 minutes.
Salmon & Veggies
Toss broccoli & carrots in olive oil; season with salt & pepper. Cut 4 sheets of 14-inch lengths of parchment paper. Divide broccoli & carrot mixture among sheets layering in center in an even layer. Set aside 1/4 cup of the sauce mixture then brush bottom sides of salmon fillets with a scant tablespoon of the sauce then rotate the salmon over veggies.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Brush tops of salmon with another scant tablespoon of the sauce mixture. Pull sides of parchment inward & seal then roll edges up, leaving a little room for heat to circulate, not wrapping to tightly. Place packets on a baking sheet. Bake until salmon is cooked through, about 25 minutes. Serve with white or brown rice if desired & remaining sauce. Sprinkle with green onions.
From what archaeologists can determine, pita bread originated with peoples west of the Mediterranean. Pitas have been both a bread and a utensil throughout the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean.It is a rather simple bread that could be made with limited technology. Pitas are cooked quickly at a relatively high temperature. The flat dough expands dramatically to form an interior pocket from steam.
Pitas’ popularity is partially attributed to using the pocket like a sandwich bread. Many traditional cultures use the pita more like a soft taco or the pita is pulled apart into pieces and dipped in a variety of sauces.
The possibilities of being able to pack, dip or wrap whatever you choose in the pita bread is limitless. Their taste can only be appreciated when eating your pita with different foods that will compliment them.
Although pitas are enjoyed all through the year, they seem like an easy summer meal to enjoy.
In a large skillet, cook beef, onion & green pepper over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Add the Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, garlic powder, cumin & Italian seasoning; mix well. Simmer, uncovered, for 5-10 minutes.
In a small saucepan, bring all the sauce ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered for 5-10 minutes. Spoon meat mixture into pita halves; top with sauce, tomatoes & lettuce.
With the passage of time, Kebabs have managed to find a very significant place in modern day cuisines. Although kebabs have their roots in the Mediterranean and Middle East, they have been able to make their way around the world.
There is something special about warm weather and the smell of grill aromas saturating the air; it just seems to take food to a whole new level.
Tradition has it that kebabs were invented by medieval soldiers who used their swords to grill chunks of freshly hunted animals over open field fires. The word kebab means ‘fry’ but is also synonymous to ‘burning’. The first kebab dates back to 17th century BC, Greece. Akrotiri, a settlement on the Island of Santorini was buried in volcanic ash which preserved the remains of many objects, etc. In 1967, the site was excavated and unearthed stone sets for barbecuing. The stones were carved to resemble long dog-like animals that would have slots for skewers to lay in. These were called ‘firedogs’.
The nice thing about this meal is that its simple and easy. I guess you could say ‘the pizza of the grill’. The picture at the end of the blog is a very common sight we saw in the streets of Ecuador. Brion and I were never brave enough to try them but it sure smelled good in the open air.
I am using chicken breast for my kebabs today. Nothing fancy, just good eating. Enjoy!
Cut chicken breasts into 18 lengthwise strips; place in a large resealable plastic bag. In another resealable plastic bag place green peppers, onions & mushrooms.
In a large bowl, combine salad dressing, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce & lemon juice. Remove 1/3 cup; cover & refrigerate. Divide the remaining salad dressing mixture between chicken & the vegetables; seal both bags & turn to coat. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight, turning occasionally.
Drain & discard marinade from chicken & vegetables. Alternately thread chicken & vegetables on 18 metal or soaked wooden skewers. Grill over medium heat for 12-15 minutes or until chicken juices run clear, turning & basting with reserved marinade occasionally.
Nothing says summer like barbecued ribs — big, bold flavor, finger licking goodness and that fall-off-the-bone texture.
Outdoor cooking is a very popular pastime uniting us with friends, family and of course great food. It seems there is no end to ideas on how to make the best barbecued ribs. I’ve definitely tried my fair share of recipes. One that I found quite unique is for the Korean-style Kalbi ribs.
As in every culture, I’m sure there are many recipes that have been handed down through generations of family members. Korean beef short ribs are cut across the bone (instead of between bones) with 3 bones per slice. The result is a thin strip of meat, about 8-10 inches in length, lined on one side with 1/4 inch thick rib bones. This cut is also known as beef ‘flanken’ ribs.
While in North America, we often braise short ribs for hours in a slow oven, Koreans have a very different approach to cooking this cut of beef. Kalbi is marinated for hours in an Asian inspired marinade and then barbecued for a short amount of time. Kiwi, Asian pears, bottled soda and sugar are all common tenderizing agents used in the marinade for making Kalbi. They are definitely worth a try if you haven’t already.
Using your hands, massage the short ribs with the kiwi puree. Sprinkle each piece evenly with sugar & let sit while you make the marinade.
In a bowl, mix together soy sauce, garlic, ginger, sesame seeds, sesame oil, honey, red pepper powder, pepper & soda. Place the ribs in a single layer in a wide shallow pan & pour the marinade over, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap & marinate in the refrigerator, turning occasionally, for at least 1 hour, or preferably 12 hours.
Preheat barbecue to medium heat with a rack 4-6-inches from heat. Drain ribs from marinade. Reserve marinade for basting, if desired.
Brush the grill rack with oil & grill ribs until they turn caramel brown, 6-8 minutes on each side. Baste with reserved marinade during the first 10 minutes of grilling if you wish.
If you prefer, omit the soda & add more sugar or honey for a little extra sweetness.
Lemon chicken is the name of several dishes found in cuisines around the world which include chicken and lemon.
In Canada, we usually either use breading or batter to coat the chicken before cooking it and serving it in a sweet lemon flavored sauce. A completely unrelated dish from Italy, also called lemon chicken is where a whole chicken is roasted with white wine, fresh lemon juice, fresh thyme and vegetables. In France, lemon chicken generally includes Dijon mustard in the sauce and is accompanied by roasted potatoes. I would presume the German version would be a chicken schnitzel with fresh lemon.
Having an inherited love of ‘sweet things’, lemon chicken has always appealed to me. I prefer to make a tempura batter to dip the chicken strips in and then fry them on a griddle. I’m not big on anything deep fried so this is as close as it gets for me. Some years ago I came across a recipe on a kraftfoods.com site for a very unique and easy ‘lemon sauce’ for chicken. It might not appeal to everyone but we enjoy it every so often.
Prepare vegetables & saute in 1/2 cup chicken broth until tender-crisp. Drain broth & reserve for later.
In a bowl, whisk together all batter ingredients. Slice chicken breast into thin strips & place in batter; mix well. Heat griddle to 325 F. Add a small amount of oil; remove chicken strips from batter & place on griddle. Fry on each side until cooked & golden. Lay on paper towel to blot off oil.
In a small saucepan, combine jelly powder & cornstarch. Add 1 cup chicken broth, dressing, garlic & ginger; stir until jelly powder is dissolved. Simmer over medium heat until sauce is thickened, stirring frequently. Add reserved broth from vegetables.
Combine vegetables chicken & lemon sauce. Serve over hot cooked rice, if desired.
Soups are for all occasions; from an elegant fruit soup at the start of a meal to a stick-to-your-ribs, homemade chowder or gumbo that is a meal in itself.
Homemade soups need need little attention, cooking by themselves. Most soups freeze well so they are an easy supper to pull from the freezer. At our house, we don’t eat a lot of ham but it’s nice once in a while. Even though there are just the two of us, I like to buy about 1.3 kg. This generally gives me enough for three different meals such as a glazed roast ham supper, pizza and a split pea/ham soup.
Split pea soup has been around for thousands of years. There are records of this soup being made and sold by street vendors in Greek and Roman societies.
This particular recipe has a delicious variety of healthful ingredients. Making it a day in advance allows the flavors to develop nicely. Of course, nothing rounds out a soup meal in winter better than a bread item. Warm, parmesan scones or bread sticks seem to be our favorites since they can be made and baked in about half an hour just before suppertime.
In a large stockpot, combine water, split peas, barley, bay leaves, soy sauce, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, sage, & cumin; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover & simmer for about 45 minutes. Add onion & chicken broth. Cover & simmer until onion is tender, about 10 minutes. Discard bay leaves & stir in diced ham.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line baking sheet with a small piece of parchment paper. In a small bowl, combine flour, parmesan, baking powder & soda. With fingers, work in margarine until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in sour cream OR buttermilk until a soft dough forms; gently kneading until no longer sticky.
Place ball of dough on the parchment paper & press into a 5" (12.7 cm) circle about 3/4" (1.9 cm) thick. Score top to make 6 wedges. Bake for about 20-25 minutes. Re-cut into wedges & serve.
Soup seems to be one of those comfort meals synonymous with cooler winter weather. So far, here in northern Alberta, Canada our winter has been very mild. Black bean soup has become one of my favorites. Of course, as usual there’s a little fond memory tucked away that I’d like to share with you.
For the many times Brion and I have spent holiday time on California’s Monterey Peninsula, I’m never quite able to absorb enough of it’s images. There’s something about the sea — the waves, the salt air, the broad expanse of blue, the ambiance of coastal living that forever calls us back.
It was on one of these trips that we were ‘snooping’ around an area called the Barnyard Shopping Village. Built in 1976, this Carmel landmark features more than 45 boutique shops. It’s cascading levels and beautifully landscaped courtyards create such a relaxed and peaceful atmosphere. There are about eight locally owned restaurants offering various cuisine options. We came across one called ‘From Scratch’ restaurant. Sounded good, so we went in. There was either outdoor or indoor seating available. It turned out the food definitely had that ‘homemade’ flavor. Over the years we have made a point of always going back to have one of those great meals when we are in Carmel.
One of the first meals I had there was a Veggie Wrap that in my opinion, was to die for. It consisted of romaine lettuce, avocados, cucumbers, walnuts and cream cheese in an over-sized tomato basil tortilla. For some reason it seemed to disappear from the menu so I tried the famous ‘From Scratch’ Black Bean Soup. It was just wonderful! Upon returning home I started making a very easy version. No need to do any soaking of the beans overnight. One of these 4-ingredient recipes using canned beans. Of course nothing like the one ‘From Scratch’ but still tastes great especially when served with some Thai Chicken Rolls.
In a blender, place 1 can of black beans, chicken broth, salsa & cumin. Blend for about 10 seconds to lightly puree.
In a saucepan, over medium heat, combine the pureed bean mixture with remaining can of beans. Simmer until hot. Ladle into 2 bowls; top with a dollop of sour cream & a sprinkling of fresh cilantro.
Thai Chicken Rolls (12 rolls)
Unroll dough on a work surface; pinch seams to seal & press into a 12 x 9 -inch rectangle. Cut into 12 rectangles.
In a small skillet, heat oil. Add chicken; cook 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink. Stir in water chestnuts, carrot, cilantro, garlic, apricot preserves, soy sauce, ginger & red pepper flakes. Divide mixture evenly between the 12 rectangles; placing some filling on long side of each rectangle to within 1/4" of short ends.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Starting with long side, roll up. Pinch ends to seal; place seam side down on a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush with beaten egg & bake 10-15 minutes until golden brown.
Spread each tortilla with herb & garlic cream cheese as well as a thin layer of hot red pepper jelly.
For the 3 ROSEMARY PEPPER HAM pinwheels, place 1 of the Asiago cheese slices on left side. Next lay 1/3 of ham slices followed by a length of 6 spinach leaves. Repeat with 2 more tortillas. For the 3 CAJUN JAMBALAYA CHICKEN pinwheels, place 1 of the strong cheddar slices on left side. 1/3 of chicken slices followed by a length of 6 spinach leaves. Repeat with 2 more tortillas.
Starting on the left side, roll tortillas up tightly. Wrap in plastic wrap for several hours or overnight. At picnic time, trim a bit off each end; slice each roll into 8 pieces. Secure with a tooth pick if you think its necessary. Place in fridge until picnic time.
On lightly floured surface, roll puff pastry sheets slightly. Spread mustard over all pastry. Divide & arrange pepperoni slices on the 2 pastry sheets, sprinkle with cheese & oregano. Tightly roll up pastry; gently pinch edge into roll to seal. Wrap in saran wrap & refrigerate 2-3 hours. Preheat oven to 425 F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut pastry into 30 - 3/4 slices. Place on baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes or until golden & slightly puffed.
Thai Turkey Pastry Pinwheels
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add turkey; cook 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cool before using.
On a lightly floured surface, roll puff pastry sheets slightly. Spread Thai turkey mixture over all pastry to within 1/2" of edges. Tightly roll up pastry; gently pinch edge into roll to seal. Wrap in saran wrap & refrigerate 2-3 hours. Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut pastry into 30 - 3/4" slices. Place on baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes or until golden & slightly puffed.
Fresh Fruit with Cheese, Cake Cubes or in Cups
On 6 wooden 8" skewers, alternately thread the strawberries, cheese cubes & cantaloupe. On another 6 skewers, alternate strawberries with cake cubes. Layer 6 plastic cups with colorful fresh fruit combos. Serve all as is or with a flavored yogurt for an easy dip.
Herb & Garlic Cream Cheese Spread can be purchased or make your own. I found a great recipe for this spread on allrecipes.com which I used in my pinwheels.
If you choose, you could lay some pickle strips or red pepper strips at the edge of the left side of the tortillas creating a center in your pinwheels.
If you feel like your picnic needs one more item, add your favorite salad to the mix.
You might want to include some flavored yogurt for dip to go with the fruit items.
You should have roughly about 48 pinwheels, 60 pastry pinwheels & 18 desserts.
When I think back over the years, I have many fond memories of picnics. For the most part, picnics differ from barbecues in that the food is usually served cold. They can be large or small events with the food varying from a simple sandwich or pot luck to an elegant gourmet feast. In any case, it’s a fact that dining ‘al fresco’ makes food taste so much better.
Having been raised in rural Alberta, Canada a community summer picnic was always a special event. It would be held at a one of the ‘country schools’ in our farming community. The men would play a game called ‘horseshoe’ while they visited. This game involved throwing metal horseshoes a set distance to land over a metal peg that had been pounded in the ground. Each family would bring a contribution to the picnic food. The women would set up this wonderful feast on picnic tables at lunch time. The kids ‘mingled’, chased around, drank kool-aid and loved every minute of it. The variety of pot luck meals the women would bring made it so special.
Later on in my life, I recall a few other picnic memories that are precious to me. One occasion when Brion and I were staying in Carmel, California, USA. Just outside Carmel is the Point Lobos State Reserve. It runs adjacent to the beautiful Pacific ocean. Numerous times we would pick up a sandwich with a juice/pop and spend the afternoon walking the beach and enjoy our ‘picnic’ lunch there. Another time we were staying further down the California coast and decided to take a wine country tour. The tour was with a company called Wine Affair. You were picked up at your hotel and it lasted about 5 1/2 hours. It was very personal with only one other couple, ourselves, and the driver/guide. He took us on a scenic drive through the Paso Robles wine country. We enjoyed breathtaking views of the countryside with it’s beautiful vineyards as well as wine tasting at six different wineries. At lunch time we arrived at a estate winery called Summerwood (which I have show cased in my blog photos). Here our guide took us to a lovely patio setting overlooking the estate vineyards. He then laid out an amazing gourmet ‘picnic’ lunch for the four of us to enjoy. What’s not to love about picnics!
Over the next few blogs, I thought it would be fun to create four picnic menus that maybe would inspire some summer picnic ideas. Some of the recipes I have featured in earlier blogs and a few new ones I’ve added.
The first one includes Easy Pork Short Ribs, Picnic Oven Fried Chicken (from the April 11/16 blog), Potato Salad (from June 9/16 blog) Oriental Rice Salad, and Easy Individual Fruit Pizzas.
Remove any fat & cut ribs into serving size pieces; place in a large resealable plastic bag. In a small bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients; pour over ribs. Seal bag & turn to coat; Refrigerate for several hours, turning bag occasionally.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Place a large piece of foil paper on a baking tray. Make 'temporary' sides on sheet of foil paper. Lay ribs in the center & pour marinade over them. Bring up two edges over center & fold down twice. Fold in side edges, allowing a each to have a small 'air vent'. Bake for 1 1/4 hours or until meat is tender. Remove ribs to a platter to cool. Ribs will be a great served cold with the rest of your picnic menu.
Oriental Rice Salad
To cold, cooked rice add peas, celery, onion & water chestnuts. Combine with salad dressing & refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Toss with chow mein noodles shortly before serving time.
Easy Individual Fruit Pizzas
In a small bowl, beat cream cheese, powdered sugar & orange zest until smooth. Beat in 1/2 cup strawberries until well blended. Spread 2 Tbsp on one side of each rice cake. Arrange prepared fresh fruit on top of strawberry cream cheese in patterns of your choice.
This recipe for Oriental Rice Salad I had been given by a friend in 1988. She had made it with a dressing which contained curry. I have never enjoyed the flavor of curry so I have been using other dressing ideas. Being such a simple salad it will lend itself easily to other choices.
Barbecuing is synonymous to grilling. The original definition of ‘barbecue’ was to slow-cook meat over an indirect heat source such as in a pit heated with charcoal or wood. This method was to tenderize tough cuts of meat. Although some may beg to differ, its not a sacrilege to roast ribs in the oven. Any time of the year almost anywhere you live, you can enjoy a finger-licking barbecue feast.
It seems anyone who ever cooked ribs, has laid claim to their’s being the most succulent, fall-off-the-bone ribs ever.
Thirty years ago, if you can imagine, I acquired a little recipe for a ‘steamed’ version of Oriental-style barbecued ribs. It takes a bit of preparation and time but I always ended up with some real tasty & tender ribs. It is one of those ‘oven roasted, make anytime of the year’, ideas.
Remove 'silverskin' lining from ribs; cut into 1-rib servings. Arrange in a single layer in a 13 x 9-inch baking pan. In a medium bowl, combine remaining marinade ingredients. Pour over ribs. Cover with foil or plastic wrap; refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. Drain; reserve marinade. Arrange marinated ribs in a single layer on a broiler rack on the broiler pan. Place broiler pan in a cold oven. Pour boiling water in bottom part of broiler pan until 3/4 full; cover with foil. Turn oven to 300 F. Bake 1 1/2 hours.
Remove foil; increase heat to 350 F. Brush partially baked ribs with marinade. Bake about 20 minutes. Turn & brush with marinade at least once during final baking. If your ribs are extra meaty you may want to bake them a bit longer.