No matter what the stuffing or style is, love for the empanada is not a difficult one to understand. They are cheap, easy to eat, transportable, and versatile.
Empanadas look as good as they taste; perfect food for a picnic. Eating outdoors, spaced apart is probably one of the safest ways to gather during the ongoing pandemic crisis. The great thing about picnicking is that you can do it practically anywhere you can throw a blanket down. If you can’t make it to a park or field, your yard, porch or any flat surface with a little grass (or sand), some sun (& shade) will do.
Empanadas can be eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They can be served as appetizers or snacks (hot or cold), but they can easily make a full and satisfying main course.
The very basics for an empanada are a combination of three things; dough, filling and a cooking method. The dough can be made from wheat flour, cornmeal, mashed plantains, potatoes, yuca, sweet potatoes etc. and the fillings can consist of meat, fish or vegetables. The cooking method is usually to be baked or fried although some can be cooked on a griddle or grill.
According to food historians, empanadas with seafood filling first appeared in a 1520 cookbook, published during the Moorish invasions.
I was real interested to see what I could do to make some salmon empanadas taste special. We found they were good as a hot meal served with the remaining ‘sauce’ or eaten COLD for a picnic lunch.
Salmon Picnic Empanadas
In a small bowl, combine sour cream & ice water; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, 1/2 cup 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, tossing with a fork to evenly distribute it. Do NOT overwork dough.
Cover bowl with plastic wrap & refrigerate for at least an hour.
In a skillet, melt butter & sprinkle with flour. Allow to cook for a few minutes. In a bowl, whisk together broth, milk & soy sauce. Slowly add to flour/butter mixture, stirring constantly until sauce thickens. Remove from skillet & set aside.
In the skillet, sauté salmon filet in 1 Tbsp oil until JUST cooked. Remove to a dish. With a fork, 'shred' salmon; set aside.
In the skillet, sauté vegetables in remaining Tbsp of oil for a couple of minutes. Add seasonings, shredded salmon, 1/3 cup prepared soy sauce & grated cheddar. Toss to combine; set aside to cool.
Assembly & Baking
Divide chilled pastry into 10 balls. Roll each one in cornmeal. Place a ball between 2 sheets of plastic wrap & roll into a 6-inch circle.
Divide filling into 10 portions. Place a portion on one side of the pastry circle, leaving about a 1/2-inch border (on filled side). With your fingertips, moisten edge of pastry with a bit of milk or water. Flip opposite side over filling & press edges together to enclose it well. Use a fork to make the classic look.
Repeat with remaining pastry & filling. Lay empanadas on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 20 minutes or until pastry is baked & slightly browned.
CELEBRATING HERTIAGE 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.
Our choice of meal for today are some special beef burgers on Portobello buns. Mushrooms are often cooked and served as a meat substitute in today’s ‘plant based’ society. Large Portobello mushrooms are the general size and shape of hamburger buns so using them to sub for buns seems only logical. I guess you could say they are the earth’s natural burger bun!
I have fond memories of my first introduction to a Portobello ‘burger‘. It was in the quaint little village of Carmel-by-the-Sea, located about 190 km (120 miles) from San Francisco.
Some 35 years ago, actor Clint Eastwood, was elected mayor of Carmel for a two-year term. During that time he opened a restaurant/bar there called the ‘Hogs Breath Inn’. You had to enter it through a long cobblestone alley/corridor. The outdoor patio was nestled between the restaurant and the bar. A massive wall mural and numerous stone fireplaces all added tremendously to the wonderful ambiance. It was here that I first tasted a Portobello Mushroom Burger.
This version , the Portobello mushroom seemed to have been marinated and then grilled on a barbecue. On top of it were some battered onion rings, lettuce and tomato. All of the came in a grilled ciabatta bun with pickles and a side dish of your choice.
In the case of today’s blog recipe, we are using the mushroom cap as the bun. The guacamole is a great accompaniment to the beef burgers along with smoked Gouda cheese, tomatoes and the mushroom ‘buns’.
Guacamole Beef Burgers on Portobello 'Buns'
Preheat oven to 400 F. & place rack in the middle. Line a baking sheet with foil paper & set aside.
Brush the mushroom caps (top & bottom) with Italian dressing & place them, gills side up , on the lined baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes then flip them over & bake for an additional 10 minutes.
When mushrooms are ready & the juices have been released, remove them from the baking sheet. Place them on a wire to drip off a bit.
On a piece of plastic wrap, mash avocado with lime juice, salt, garlic, onion & cilantro. Fold plastic wrap over guacamole & set aside in fridge.
Preheat barbecue grill (or roast burgers in oven).
In a bowl, combine all burger ingredients & mix well. Divide beef mixture into 4 equal parts & shape into patties. Grill patties 3 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Divide cheese between patties & allow to melt.
Top each of the 4 mushroom caps with some guacamole, a burger patty & tomato slices. These are definitely the kind of 'burger' you want to eat with a fork & knife. Of course you could always squeeze the whole thing in a ciabatta bun!
The kebab idea is often said to have had huge impact in global cuisine, starting in the Middle East where initially they were simply grilled meat heavily seasoned. There are two particular varieties which those of us in the West are particularly familiar, being shish kebab and doner kebab.
Shish kebab is by far, the more commonly known term and while we usually see these dishes prepared with the vegetables and meat on the same skewer, they were initially done separately.
Almost every culture has its own take on skewered meat, but one theme connects them all …. whether simple or intricate, kebabs are uncomplicated and easy to cook and offer near instant gratification. I love any excuse to eat zucchini but these turkey slider-inspired skewers take my love to a whole new level.
Turkey Zucchini Kebabs
Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with foil paper. Slice zucchini into (18) 1/4-inch slices & place in a bowl. Add Italian dressing & gently toss. Remove from dressing allowing excess to drip off & transfer to the baking sheet, laying the slices in a single layer. Roast for 5 minutes to brown a bit. Remove from oven; drain off any excess moisture.
Wipe off dressing from foil paper on baking sheet. Place a wire rack over a foil lined baking sheet. Spray lightly with cooking spray.
In a bowl, combine all of slider ingredients; mix ONLY until just combined. Form into (18) 2-inch patties; place on prepared baking sheet & bake approximately 15 minutes. Remove from oven & set aside until cool enough to handle.
On 6 soaked wooden skewers, alternately thread turkey sliders & zucchini slices (about 3 each per skewer). Dot with some salsa & sprinkle with grated cheese.
Lay on wire rack over the foil lined baking sheet & return to oven to bake until cheese is melted & bubbly. sprinkle with a bit of extra parsley before serving if you wish.
- If you prefer to make these on your barbecue, that works just as well.
CELEBRATING CANADA DAY!
Every year Canada celebrates its birthday on July 1st with parades, fireworks and other fun events. This year, due to the pandemic and out of respect for Canada’s Indigenous people, celebrations here in our city of Edmonton, Alberta will be virtual or be on a smaller scale.
No matter which way you decide to celebrate the day, we know good food will be an important part of it. Gorgonzola has been a favorite of Brion & I for many years. It’s actually kind of surprising as neither of us care for ‘blue’ cheese or Roquefort.
Gorgonzola is one of those classic Italian ingredients that’s more famous than understood here in North America. The name itself, refers to the little town in Lombardy, near Milan, where the cheese was invented.
There are two kinds of gorgonzola, Dolce (sweet) and Piccante (spicy). In Italian these terms mean fresh verses aged cheeses. Because dolce is softer and creamier, its great for spreading on bread or used in salad dressing, pasta sauce, pizza or burgers. Piccante is harder and tends to crumble.
This turkey burger is made special with the combo of gorgonzola, bacon and guacamole. Just great for celebrating Canada Day!
Gorgonzola & Bacon Turkey Burgers
In a skillet, fry bacon until soft cooked. Remove from pan & blot on paper towel. Chop & set aside.
Using bacon drippings, saute finely chopped leeks & garlic until tender. Remove from skillet & cool.
In a large bowl, combine ground turkey, sauteed leeks & garlic, panko, salt, pepper, sugar, coriander, sage & ginger. Mix well.
Shape into (8) 1/2-inch thick patties. Place 1/8 (10 gm) of the crumbled Gorgonzola & 1/4 of chopped bacon on each of 4; top with another patty, pressing edges to seal, making (4) 1-inch thick patties.
Place on a preheated grill over medium heat. Close lid & grill, turning once, until meat is no longer pink inside, about 12-14 minutes.
Alternately, you can place them in a 375 F oven on a foil-lined tray & bake for about 20-25 minutes.
When burgers are almost done, top each with remaining Gorgonzola.
Serve in toasted ciabatta buns with your choice of toppings.
When it comes to zucchini, there is virtually nothing it seems it can’t be made into. To be honest, my love affair with this vegetable spans many years. Long before the internet and Pinterest gave us access to any recipe you could ever want, print cookbooks were the go-to. So to make a long story short, I actually have a recipe book solely devoted to zucchini that is still relevant in today’s cooking and baking procedures.
The blog recipe I want to share today is a dish suitable to be prepared all year round. Baking the salmon parcels in the oven only takes a short bit of time, making it feasible even on warmer days. The thin slices of zucchini are first grilled & then woven together to form parcels of seasoned salmon.
A versatile meal in that you can vary the ingredients of the filling by choosing other types of fish or seafood. Although it could be made into an appetizer size we enjoyed ours as a main course with rice.
Salmon Zucchini Parcels
Slice the zucchini lengthwise into long, thin strips. You will need 16 good slices.
Trim the salmon pieces into pieces approximately 2.5-inches square. Count on 2 pieces per serving. On a plate, combine spices, grated parmesan & panko crumbs.
In a hot, non-stick skillet, grill zucchini strips quickly. You're only trying to soften them a little bit as well as giving them some color.
Lay 2 strips of zucchini out on a work surface. Take 2 more & weave them into the center of the first two.
Dredge the salmon pieces in seasoned cheese/panko mixture. Place a piece of salmon on the woven part (it should be about the same size as the interwoven section of the zucchini).
Bring the sides up & around & weave them over the top. Turn parcels over to show the weave. Brush the parcels with olive oil & sprinkle the remaining seasoned cheese/panko mixture evenly over the 4 parcels. Pat the breading gently to help it adhere to zucchini strips.
Bake for about 15 minutes; remove from oven & serve immediately.
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.
It seems as we get older, reminiscing becomes part of our lives. It is an important psychological process called ‘life cycle review’. Father’s Day, for Brion & I, is a day that brings back many fond memories. My father passed away in 2005 and Brion’s in 2011. There is never a week that goes by that we don’t reminisce about something we remember about one or the other. Both of our Dad’s loved to talk and tell you stories from their lives. I think back to when I was just a kid and my Dad would recount the same story more than once. At the time, it all seemed a bit boring but now I realize how the benefits of storytelling and review are greatly underestimated. I would give anything to retrace those years once again.
A father’s love and influence is never fully appreciated until he is no longer with you. It is so important to make the most of every day they are in your life.
For my Father’s Day blog recipe, I am doing a barbecue meal I think they both would have enjoyed.
Using apple butter not only in the turkey burgers but also in the caramelized onion is so unique tasting. Apple butter is in its own class of spreads, its not really a jam or jelly and it doesn’t have the thin texture of apple sauce. It is thicker, silkier and a highly concentrated paste produced by slow cooking. The apples caramelize turning the apple butter a deep brown.
Contrary to what the name suggests, there’s zero actual butter in apple butter. The name is derived from the fact that it is a dense spread.
These ‘gourmet’ burgers have a great apple butter flavor that pairs perfectly with smoked gouda cheese and caramelized onions. It seems apple butter, as ordinary as it is, cannot be found in every grocery store and when you find it, the price is amazingly high. I made a small batch from ‘scratch’ that worked out good in this recipe.
Apple Butter Onion Turkey Burgers
Preheat oven to 350 F. Peel, core & cut apples into wedges; place in a baking dish.
Cover the pan tightly & bake for 30-45 minutes or until apples are cooked & soft. Allow to cool for a few minutes.
Place the cooked apples to a food processor; add spices, honey & apple cider vinegar. Pulse until smooth. Transfer to a saucepan & simmer mixture over low heat to reduce down. Stir the mixture occasionally as it cooks. This process reduces the liquid in the apple butter & will take 30-90 minutes all depending on how much moisture was in the apples. When finished cooking, cool slightly before adding it to your burger mixture.
In a bowl, add ground turkey, panko crumbs, apple butter, cilantro, cumin, smoked paprika, salt & pepper. Combine well & shape into 6 slider or 4 full-size burgers. Set aside in fridge until onions are made.
Apple Butter Onions
Remove the papery skin from the onion & trim off top & bottom. Cut in half & thinly slice.
In a large skillet add olive oil & set over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add onions, salt & pepper. Cook for 20 minutes or until the onions are soft & caramelized. Add the apple butter & stir to combine. Keep warm while burgers cook.
Preheat barbecue grill to medium heat. Grill burgers 8-10 minutes depending on size. Top each burger with cheese & allow to melt. Toast buns if you wish, top with burgers, apple butter onions & tomatoes.
If you follow this blog, you have probably noticed numerous entries on plantains. For many years, prior to Brion & I living in Ecuador for three months, I saw them but didn’t take much of an interest. After tasting this veg/fruit, it definitely changed my attitude about them.
Plantains are like a cousin to the banana and depending on the ripeness you cook them in different ways. The main difference between bananas and plantains is that the former has more sugar and less starch, while the later has just the reverse and has to be cooked before eating. A plantain’s taste depends on how ripe it is. When it is almost black, that’s when its the sweetest.
If you like the combination of sweet and savory flavors, you will enjoy this meal. Basically it consists of a slice of baked ripe plantain, formed in a ring and filled with a spicy, ground turkey mixture, topped with cheese. Of course, you would never want to forget to serve them with guacamole!
It’s hard to experience another cultures food without something making an impact on your taste buds it seems. But, I guess that’s what is supposed to happen.
Plantain Lasagna Rolls w/ Guacamole
Preheat oven to 400 F. 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 peel by pulling it back. Slice the plantains horizontally into 6 pieces.
Spray a baking sheet & place plantain slices on it in a single layer. Lightly spray over plantains with baking spray & bake for about 12-15 minutes. Turn slices over after about 8 minutes. Plantains should turn slightly brown. Remove from oven.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, brown ground turkey in oil & season with salt & pepper. Use a wooden spoon to break it into small pieces. Add onions, garlic, green pepper & saute until tender crisp. Add tomato sauce, water, olives & spices. Reduce heat to low & simmer covered about 7-10 minutes stirring frequently. Remove from heat & cool slightly. Grate cheese.
Preheat oven (if it was turned off after baking plantains) to 400 F. Lightly butter a 9 X 13-inch baking pan. Cut 6 of the slices into 4 pieces each. With the remaining 12 slices form rings & secure each with a toothpick. Place the rings in baking pan then place 2 cut pieces in the bottom of each ring to form a 'bottom'.
Using 1/2 of the turkey filling, divide evenly between plantain rings. Using 1/2 of the cheese, place some in each ring on top of the turkey then repeat, making another layer with remaining filling & cheese. Drizzle or spoon beaten eggs over stuffed plantain rings (it will help to hold them together).
Bake 15-20 minutes or until plantains are heated through & egg is set. Remove from oven & allow to sit for 5 minutes then remove toothpicks before serving. Serve with guacamole.
While plantain is baking, mash avocado & add remaining ingredients. Combine well & serve with stuffed plantain.
My love for noodles, dumplings, etc. probably could be accredited to my German heritage. This recipe for Russian pelmeni has been hovering in my ‘must try’ file for quite some time, so today’s the day.
It seems most food historians agree that these Russian dumplings originated in Siberia. Although pelmeni forms the heart of Russian cuisine and culture, it does have numerous look-a-likes in particular the Ukrainian vareniki and the Polish pierogi. The easiest way to spot the difference is to look at the shape and size; a typical pelmeni is almost circular and about two inches in diameter. The other forms are usually more elongated and larger in size. Also, the fillings in pelmeni are usually raw, while the fillings of vareniki and pierogi are typically precooked. Pelmeni will never have a sweet filling , unlike its Ukrainian counterpart. The recipe may actually be an adaptation of Chinese pot stickers.
Fillings differ but essentially they are ground meat (pork, beef or sometimes lamb), fish or mushrooms as well as being quite spicy.
The word pelmeni comes from ‘pelnyan’ which means ‘bread ear’, a reference to the food’s ear-like shape.
Although this meal was favored by hunters who were looking for light, easy to prepare, nourishing food to take with them on long trips in the winter, its also seen as Russian fast food among students or bachelors.
This recipe gives you the option of making traditional pelmeni or using an alternate method called ‘lazy’ pelmeni. Both equally as good.
For Cooking 'Lazy' Pelmeni
In a bowl, combine all dough ingredients & knead until a smooth dough ball forms, about 10 minutes. Cover, set aside & allow dough to rest until your filling is prepared.
In a bowl, combine ground meats, onion, garlic, salt & pepper. Mix well.
FOR THE TRADITIONAL PELMENI:
Divide the dough in half & roll each portion out into 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut into 2-inch diameter circles & place about a teaspoon of the filling on each circle. Fold the circle in half & crimp edges well, then bring the ends together & crimp. Repeat to use remaining dough & filling. It is best to refrigerate or freeze finished pelmeni before you are ready to boil them.
To cook, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Place pelmeni in the boiling water & cook until they float to the top then cook for about 5 minutes more. Remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl. Add butter & mix to coat. Serve with sour cream & fresh parsley.
FOR 'LAZY' PELMENI VERSION:
Once dough has rested, transfer to a floured surface. Roll out the dough into a large thin rectangle. Spread meat filling over the dough, leaving a 1/4-inch at the far side of the dough.
Tightly roll the dough up, starting from the wider side, forming a log. Put seam side down to seal the edges. Seal ends of the dough as well. Using a very sharp knife, cut the dough log into 2-inch sections.
In a large skillet that will accommodate all pelmeni, heat oil & cook onion until translucent. Add garlic & continue cooking until fragrant. Add carrot & 1 bay leaf; cook until the carrot is tender, about 1-2 minutes.
Place pelmeni rolls into the skillet with veggies, add the vegetable broth, salt, pepper & the other bay leaf. Cover with the lid & cook for 30 minutes on low heat. Check pelmeni from time to time, to make sure there is liquid in the skillet. Add more if it evaporates too fast. Garnish with fresh parsley. Serve immediately with sour cream if you wish.
Today, February 16th, is officially known as ‘Shrove Tuesday’. This date varies from year to year and falls somewhere between February 3rd & March 9th. This traditional ‘feast’ day marks the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday and is always 47 days before Easter Sunday. The expression Shrove Tuesday derives from the word ‘shrive’, meaning absolve.
This day was observed by many Christians who wanted to make a point of self-examination to consider what wrongs they needed to repent. The ingredients for pancakes can be seen to symbolize four points of significance at this time of year.
EGGS -creation, FLOUR -the staff of life, SALT -wholesomeness, MILK -purity
For something different this year, I’m going the savory route with our Shrove Tuesday pancakes. When it comes to versatility, there aren’t too many dishes that can hold a candle to a Dutch Baby pancake. They easily go savory or sweet. You can go as minimal or maximal as you wish for the toppings or just have them warm from the oven as is.
The Dutch Baby is one of the simplest forms of pancakes to make. Just mix up a few pantry staples, pour the batter into a hot, buttery skillet or oven proof glass bowl and bake it until its puffed and golden.
I’m using a chicken/broccoli filling today. This meal is one of our favorites so we have enjoyed it with a variety of savory fillings.
Savory Chicken & Onion Dutch Baby Pancakes
In a skillet, heat oil & sauté mushrooms for 5-7 minutes. Mushrooms will expel a lot of moisture. Continue to cook until mushrooms are tender & most of the moisture has cooked off. Season with salt & pepper. Steam broccoli in the microwave for about 30 seconds or until tender-crisp.
Shred cooked chicken with 2 forks. Thinly slice green onions. Keep raw for topping filling with.
Prepare chicken gravy mix. Even though the package suggests using only one cup of water, I like to use 1 1/4 cup so that it is thinner & will cover the filling nicer. If you feel you need to add some red pepper flakes to spice it a bit more.
Dutch Baby Pancakes
Preheat oven to 425 F. Place (2) 6-inch diameter glass bowls (each with 2 tablespoons of butter in them) in the oven to heat while you are preparing the batter.
In a bowl, whisk eggs & milk. Add flour & whisk until incorporated. Next, whisk in the Parmesan cheese, scallions, parsley, thyme, salt & pepper.
Remove heated bowls; divide batter between them. Return to oven & bake for about 25 minutes. The Dutch baby will puff up during cooking & form 'bowl'. Once its removed from the oven & starts to cool it will deflate slightly.
As soon as you remove it from the glass bowl, place it on a serving plate & fill with the mushrooms, broccoli & chicken. Top with gravy & sprinkle with green onions. Serve immediately. Your filling should be enough for 2 Dutch baby pancakes.
Quiche is one of those meals that appeals to me at any time of the year. The choice of ingredients is truly only limited to one’s imagination and what’s in your fridge or pantry. In this particular quiche, I opted to use bacon as my ‘crust’ since it was filled with vegetables.
I have been wanting to make some savory ‘madeleines’ for a while and think they will compliment this quiche well.
The madeleine or petite madeleine was first created in northeastern France in the Lorraine area. Technically — they are tea cakes, not cookies and are nothing like scones, very light, puffy and soft — not heavy at all.
Madeleines have a distinctive shell-like shape acquired from being baked in pans with shell-shaped depressions.
The appeal of them is how easy they are to make, how cute they are and how light and airy they are. And while they’re delicate and generally a sweet cake, madeleines hold up to having cheese and onion added to them as well. Many savory versions exist so I decided to go with a cheese madeleine today.
Bacon Crusted Quiche w/ Savory Madeleines
Parmesan / Cheddar Madeleines
Bacon Crusted Vegetable Quiche
Parmesan / Cheddar Madeleines
Bacon Crusted Vegetable Quiche
Parmesan Cheddar Madeleines
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease depressions in madeleine pan. (If you are using a regular size it will have 12 or the mini size you will have enough batter for 36). It is a good idea to dust the pans with flour as well, tapping out any excess. Sprinkle dried thyme leaves in depressions of pans.
In a small saucepan, melt butter & honey; remove from heat & cool for 10 minutes. In a bowl using a hand held mixer, beat eggs until pale, thick & doubled in volume.
Using a large metal spoon, gently fold butter mixture into eggs. Next fold in flour, cheeses, yogurt & 1/4 tsp salt until combined. Divide between madeleine cups but don't smooth out.
Bake until risen & golden. The time will depend on whether you are using a regular or petite size madeleine pan. Cool in tin for 5 minutes. Firmly tap tin on surface to loosen the madeleines, then carefully invert onto a wire rack to allow them to fall out onto the rack.
Bacon Crusted Vegetable Quiche
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 8-inch round baking pan with foil paper.
In a skillet, fry bacon until lightly cooked but still pliable, 3-4 minutes. Remove the bacon from skillet & blot on paper towel. Drain all but one Tbsp of bacon drippings from pan.
Add the leeks, mushrooms & thyme; cook over moderate heat until veg are tender crisp but not browned, about 5 minutes. Microwave potatoes & slice; drain corn (or cook corn on cob & remove kernels). Grate cheese. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, milk & remaining spices.
Line the sides if baking pan with slices of bacon. Layer bottom with sliced, cooked potato & half of the cheese. Top with corn kernels & leek/mushroom mixture. Pour egg/milk mixture carefully over vegetable mixture. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Bake for 40 minutes, until the quiche has puffed up slightly & browned. Test middle to make sure eggs have set. Remove from oven & allow to cool for 2-3 minutes. Remove from pan & serve with savory madeleines.