Plum Torte, a simple to make butter cake topped with Italian prune plums, vanilla, sugar and cinnamon baked in a spring-form pan. New York Times food columnist Marian Burros was given a recipe for a plum torte soon after she married. She published the recipe for the first time in 1983. The paper continued to run it for the remainder of the decade every single September, until one year they said enough is enough. But people noticed, and they were not happy. They sent angry letters demanding the recipe be reprinted. So, The Times printed it one more time, but with a note urging people to clip it out and laminate it inside their cupboard!
The beauty of this torte is that it doesn’t require plums to be delicious. You can substitute berries, peaches, pears, apples—most any fruit—fresh, canned, or frozen. The thing is, it’s so simple, that in spite of its hallowed status as an all-time favorite, I don’t see how you could forget this recipe!
The plum has enough tang to stay interesting in a sweet dessert, and it also tends to bake into a jammy, gooey texture.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease an 8" or 9" springform pan.
Cream the butter & sugar until light and fluffy. Scrape the bowl. Add the eggs; beat until smooth and light. Scrape the bowl again. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, & salt; add to creamed mixture & mix JUST until fully combined.
Pour the batter into the cake pan. Arrange the plums, on top of the cake. Press plums down into batter. Drizzle with lemon juice & sprinkle with a Tbsp of sugar & 1 tsp cinnamon.
Bake for 50 - 60 minutes, depending on the size of the cake, or until a cake tester comes out clean, and the plums are juicy and bubbling.
Let cool before releasing the cake from the springform pan.
Homespun desserts such as crisps, cobblers, betties, slumps & pandowdy’s are all variations on the same theme. As much as we like to be definitive, these old fashioned desserts are ‘folk-food’ passed down orally from mother to child and like all folk culture slight variations arise from kitchen to kitchen.
My spice drawer gets a good workout in the fall. I want to add fall spices to as many things as possible. Warm fruit desserts are a perfect candidate for doing just that.
The filling for this cobbler is a combination of peaches, brown sugar, butter and some added spices. All of that is cooked briefly to give it a caramel-like flavor. The topping is a simple one but the combination of spices adds such amazing flavor and is the perfect complement to the peaches. I’ve added cardamom to both the filling and topping. If you follow the blog, you are probably aware of my obsession with cardamom. Definitely feel free to use your favorite combination and ratio of spices.
I think this Chai-Spiced Peach Cobbler is everything you could ever want in a fall dessert.
Chai-Spiced Peach Cobbler w/ Pepita Oat Crumble
In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, rolled oats, pistachios, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom & sugar.
Using a pastry blender, combine flour mixture with butter until it resembles a coarse meal. Store the mixture in the fridge until ready to use.
Place a large saucepan over medium heat & add in butter. Once the butter is melted, add in the (thawed) peaches, brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, cardamom & black pepper. Bring the mixture to a simmer & cook for an additional 10 minutes.
Pour cooked peaches into a large casserole dish & evenly top with the pistachio-oat crumble.
Bake for 40 minutes, or until the top is golden-brown & the sauce bubbles around the edges.
Once finished baking, serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream if you wish.
The warm notes of ginger and cinnamon paired with the sweetness of the pears & shallots are exactly what makes these pork chops go from good to wow!
Brion & I have come to really enjoy chutneys over the years. I think I could make a chutney out of just about anything. You want the perfect balance of the trinity of chutney which is sweet, sour and spicy.
Chutney originated in India as a simple fruit paste preserved in honey, eventually evolving to incorporate a variety of fruits, spices and vegetables. During the 17th century when the British colonized India, they would bring chutney back to England as a novelty good. Because of its bright and exotic flavor, chutney became a popular condiment all over the world.
As chutney made its way to various parts of the world, people adopted new preparation techniques and experimented with various flavor profiles. This cranberry pear chutney really highlights the those wonderful fall pears.
Pork Chops w/ Pear Chutney
In a medium pot, combine all chutney ingredients. Bring to a slight simmer for about 6-7 minutes until pears soften, but not mushy. Remove from heat. Set aside until pork chops have been cooked. Serve chutney at room temperature or slightly warmed.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Pat pork chops dry and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan and heat until shimmering. Lay 4 chops in pan and sear until golden on one side, about 3 minutes. Turn and cook 1 more minute. Remove from pan; set aside and keep warm. Repeat with remaining oil and chops. Add chutney to pan and, scrape up any brown bits from bottom using a wooden spoon. Simmer until slightly thickened. Stir in cilantro. Serve chops with chutney.
Autumn is upon us and love it or hate it, pumpkin spice season is well underway. It all started with the introduction of the famous Starbucks ‘Pumpkin Spice Latte’ in 2003. Strangely enough, as a kid, I wasn’t crazy about pumpkin at all. But that was then, now I’m one of those who loves everything pumpkin.
The leaves are changing, the weather is cooling and the air is filled with the ‘flavors of fall’. With both apples & pumpkins in season right now its hard not to enjoy making use of them.
As usual, this recipe started out with a simple little no-cook pudding but got an upgrade with some spiced, caramelized apples. Yum!
Pumpkin Spice Custard w/ Caramelized Apples
Caramelized Apples & Cranberries
Caramelized Apples & Cranberries
In a medium pot, melt butter then add water & sugar. When the caramel is golden brown, add the cranberries, swirling them into the caramel. When the cranberries begin to burst, add the apple & orange zest, then sprinkle with the spices. Lower the heat & simmer 5-10 minutes to thicken. Do not over cook the compote as it will thicken when cooled.
Transfer to a heat resistant glass bowl & cool to room temperature, then cover & chill.
In a large bowl, beat pudding mix, pumpkin puree, milk, brown sugar & spices until smooth & creamy, about 1-2 minutes. Chill for an hour before assembling with fruit.
In serving glasses of choice, layer the pudding with caramelized fruit compote. Top with a dollop of whipped cream & a sprinkle of gingersnap crumbs if you wish.
The rustic and humble russet potato is a wonderful ingredient just waiting to be transformed in some mouthwatering and unique way. Many of my favorite recipes are those that make use of simple ingredients to create a full-blown meal filled with an abundance of coziness and comfort.
Salmon stuffed potatoes are a healthy dish that potato lovers will enjoy either for lunch or dinner. Broadening our horizons and experimenting with ‘stuffing’ that give you a whole meal in one big baked potato is well worth it. Think about it: you have veggies, protein and carbs packed into one easy-to-eat and delicious package, ideal for dining solo or serving numerous people.
Lemon-Dill Salmon Stuffed Potato
Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with foil; place a wire rack over the baking sheet.
Place the potatoes in a bowl & drizzle a bit of oil over them; sprinkle with salt & pepper. Rub oil/seasoning into their skins. Place the potatoes on the wire rack & bake for about 70 minutes or until tender when pierced with a knife. Remove from oven & allow to cool just until they can be handled. Roast salmon fillet at the same time until it flakes easily.
While potatoes bake, place a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Pour about 1-2 Tbsp. veg oil in it & add the sliced onions plus a pinch or two of salt & pepper to caramelize to a deep golden brown, for about 20-25 minutes on a medium-low heat, stirring frequently.
Once the onions are caramelized, remove to a dish & set aside. Add mushrooms to saucepan & sauté until moisture evaporates.
Steam broccoli florets in microwave for about 3 minutes, just so they are tender-crisp. Grate cheese. Flake baked salmon.
To prepare sauce, melt butter in a saucepan. Remove from heat, stir in water & sauce mix. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat & simmer 3 minutes.
Assembly & Baking
Make a row of deep cuts in each potato from end to end, they should be just under 1/4-inch apart. Take care not to cut the potatoes all the way through. Place the potatoes in a casserole dish & sprinkle with salt & pepper to taste.
Divide the salmon, onions, mushrooms, broccoli & cheese between the 2 potatoes. Pour the sauce evenly on top & sprinkle with smoked cheese.
Lower oven heat to 350 F. Bake potatoes for about 30 minutes to combine flavors. Remove from oven. Garnish with fresh dill if you wish.
- The secret to making hasselback potatoes is to use a large wooden spoon. Place the potato onto the spoon & cut thin slices across the potato. The edges of the wooden spoon will stop the knife from cutting all the way through the potato.
Ever thought of grating your shortbread dough? Perhaps frilly doesn’t quite capture these bars. Airy doesn’t quite fit either, but compared to other shortbread I’ve made, that’s exactly what they are. You see, instead of the dense texture associated with many recipes for shortbread bars, these are light (but no less buttery) because you shred the frozen dough on the coarse holes of a grater before baking. The final product is almost chewy, with an open-crumb texture, something that you wouldn’t get if you just rolled the dough. By avoiding the use of pressure, the dough bakes with all the air pockets between the grated pieces, melding into an almost fluffy result which crumbles and melts in your mouth. The glue for the two layers is the saskatoon berry filling.
Here on the Canadian prairies we have a native berry called a ‘Saskatoon’. These berries are very special …. the kind of special that only comes once a year. Saskatoon berries look much like blueberries, but in fact are part of the rose family which includes apples, cherries, plums and of course roses. Trying to explain their flavor to anyone who has never tasted them is difficult and elusive. They’re sweet, dense, rich, seedy, slightly blueberryish, more almondish, a bit apple-y, dusky and deep. Like I said …. difficult to explain!
At this time of the year when these little gems are available, I always like to make numerous things with them as they work well in either sweet or savory applications. They certainly make a nice filling for these shortbread bars.
Grated Shortbread Bars w/ Saskatoon Berry filling
In a saucepan, combine berries & water & simmer for 10 minutes over low heat. In a separate bowl, mix sugar & cornstarch; add to berries & combine. Stir in lemon juice & vanilla; simmer until mixture slightly thickens. Set aside to cool.
In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar, cardamom & salt. Using a pastry blender or a fork, cut in butter & lemon zest. Mix ONLY until combined, divide in half & wrap each piece in plastic wrap. Place in freezer until slightly frozen.
Remove one ball of dough from the freezer. Using the large hole side of a 4 sided grater, grate dough into a 4 1/2" x 14" baking pan. Pat the dough but don't press it, so it gets evenly spread in the pan.
Carefully place the saskatoon filling evenly over the crust. Grate remaining ball of dough & carefully spread on top.
Bake for 40 minutes or until shortbread is golden. Cool to room temperature on rack. Cut into 14 bars. Dust with powdered sugar if desired.
- I found that if I placed the pan of bars in the freezer for about an hour, I was able to cut cleaner slices.
I guess I’ll have to take the blame for Brion’s love of dessert. When we were first married years ago, he really didn’t care much about sweets. I, on the other hand, had grown up in a German family where every meal was finished with something sweet. It didn’t have to consist of anything more than a dish of vanilla pudding, but it was sweet and that’s what mattered. Funny how something like that can become so ingrained in your life. Of course, over time Brion has come to like dessert as much as I do, not really a good thing now that we are getting older … hmmm!
But I need to explain today’s decadent blog dessert. I just happens, we are celebrating Brion’s birthday so we are pulling out all the stops and having cheesecake! Of course, some of it will probably end up in the freezer but that works to.
Brion and I have never been much on giving each other ‘gifts’ for special occasions. Our time spent together ‘just living’, whether its at home or on a vacation has always been the best gift. Throughout our married life Brion has always gone above and beyond to look after us. I’m grateful to have the privilege of such a loving and caring husband.
So here we are, celebrating you, my love with rhubarb cheesecake and all the trimmings. Life is good!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY WITH LOVE!
Candied Rhubarb Curls
Make the simple syrup, combining the sugar & water in a small pot and heating until dissolved. Let the syrup cool to room temperature, add gel food coloring stirring to combine. Using a paring knife (or try a vegetable peeler), slice long, thin strips of rhubarb from the outer stalk. Soak the ribbons in the cooled simple syrup for about 5 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200 F. Line or lightly grease a baking sheet. Lay each ribbon on the baking sheet. Bake until the ribbons have dried out. Note: they will still be sticky and flexible from the heat.
If you want to make curls, work with one or two ribbons at a time so the remaining ribbons can stay soft in the oven. Wrap each ribbon loosely around skewers or the handles of cooking utensils, and let dry for around 10 minutes before gently sliding the curled ribbons off.
Cook rhubarb, sugar & water. Simmer for 8 minutes over medium heat. Add in the cornstarch & cook 2 more minutes. Set aside to cool.
Beat together the cream cheese with icing sugar until smooth then add eggs. Try not to overmix at this point. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Line a 9-inch springform pan with foil paper. Crumble together butter, flour, oats, brown sugar & salt. Add two thirds of the mixture to springform pan & press firmly. Add walnuts to the remaining crumbs & set aside.
If using a silver springform pan, bake at 325 F. If using a dark nonstick springform pan, bake at 300 F. Bake bottom layer of crumbs for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, pour cheesecake mixture over the crust & spread with a spoon, being careful not to disturb the crust layer too much.
Spread the rhubarb mixture on top of the cheesecake.
Crumble the remaining crust/crumb mixture evenly over the top & lightly press down.
Bake until topping is golden brown & cheesecake is set, about 50 minutes.
Cool completely, then decorate with fresh strawberries, rhubarb curls, chocolate malt balls & silver sugar pearls or as you wish.
- You will have extra candied rhubarb to nibble on!
There is something about fresh roasted fish that always appeals to me. This simple preparation really allows the fish to be the star of the meal.
Trout are fresh water fish, with firm textured flesh and a medium to high (good) fat content. Rainbow trout is probably the best known and one of the most popular varieties in the world. Being a mild, white fish with a light, clean flavor and just a touch of ‘sweetness’, makes it perfect for even a non-fish lover.
Rainbow trout fillets vary from ivory to pink as they belong to the same family as salmon. They’re most often fried but can be poached, baked, steamed, grilled or broiled. Whole trout is often stuffed before being cooked. Mushrooms and fish are an underrated combination but a good one nonetheless. Fish cook very quickly so its important to make sure the stuffing is cooked first.
Rainbow Trout w/ Mushroom Stuffing
Clean & scale trout; set aside.
In a saucepan, heat butter. Add onions & celery; sauté for 3 minutes. Stir in mushrooms & season well; continuing to cook 3 more minutes. Add breadcrumbs & mix well. Add cream, fennel & chives; cook 3 minutes.
Remove pan from heat & stuff trout. Tie with string. Dredge with flour & bake 12-15 minutes.
I have an obsession with rhubarb. I think because it is something I grew up with that makes it a nostalgic thing for me. Now, I’ll be the first to admit when it comes to rhubarb, my mind immediately jumps to desserts. But, over the years, I’m leaning more and more to using it in savory ways.
Tart and tangy, with just a little bit of sweet and spicy complexity, this rhubarb sauce is a unique and unexpected twist that is perfect served with coconut shrimp.
Brion & I love coconut shrimp which is really odd given that neither of us like coconut?? One of the nice things about this meal is that it takes minimal prep work but gives great results. We have tried many versions of sweet & spicy sauce with these shrimp and enjoyed them all. Today we’re experimenting with this savory rhubarb sauce. Should be good!
Coconut Shrimp w/ Spicy Rhubarb Sauce
In a heavy saucepan, combine sugar, cider vinegar, ginger, cinnamon & cumin. Bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add rhubarb & onion; increase heat slightly & cook until rhubarb is tender & mixture thickens, about 5-7 minutes. Cool then place in a food processor with Hot Red Pepper Jelly & process to a smooth sauce. Adjust the amount of red pepper jelly used to your liking. Set aside.
Using 3 separate bowls, place flour in the first, beaten egg in the second & panko/coconut mixture in the third.
Clean & devein shrimp. Dust them with flour then dip in the egg & lastly coat with panko/coconut mixture.
Preheat skillet over medium heat. Melt butter then add oil. Once the combo is heated, place the shrimp in the skillet & cook 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown.
Place cooked shrimp on paper towel then serve with spicy rhubarb sauce. We enjoyed these shrimp as a main course with rice & some steamed broccoli.
A quesadilla is a Mexican dish that dates back to the 16th century. Traditional quesadillas were made with a corn tortilla that was warmed on a griddle, filled with cheese and various other fillings (meat, vegetables), and then folded over to be eaten by hand. The addition of toppings like guacamole, salsa and sour cream seems to have come along later.
Quesadillas are simple and quick to make. Place the quesadilla in a dry griddle (or skillet) over low to medium low heat. That way, you don’t have to handle greasy tortillas with your hands. But more importantly, oil is a heat conductor which browns the tortillas faster than the filling heats through and the cheese melts. Tortillas are thin – and they cook fast!
If you cover with a lid, the filling heats through and melts the cheese faster, before the tortilla gets too brown. Cook until underside is golden and crispy, then remove the lid.
Pulled pork and savory black beans are a great match by themselves but adding creamy avocado takes it up a few more notches.
Black Bean Pulled Pork Quesadillas
On a griddle, heat butter & sauté mushrooms until moisture has evaporated; add corn & green onions. Sauté for another few minutes. Remove from heat; transfer to a dish.
Wipe griddle with paper towel; place 2 tortillas on dry griddle & top each with 60 gm of the cheese. Next, divide black beans, green onions, corn & mushrooms between the 2 tortillas. Top with another 60 gm each of the remaining cheese. Cover the tortillas with the 2 remaining tortillas.
If your griddle does not have a cover, use a sheet pan to cover the 'quesadillas' until cheese melts & quesadillas are heated through. Remove from griddle onto cutting board. Cut into wedges & place on serving plates. Top with avocado slices & diced Roma tomatoes. If you prefer, sprinkle with additional cheese & green onion. Serve with your choice ... salsa or sour cream or maybe both!