Classic pelmeni are dumplings of Russian cuisine that consist of a filling wrapped in thin, unleavened dough. There is debate about the exact place of origin with Ural and Siberia both maintaining strong claims. This Russian comfort food is part of the group of Eastern European dumplings like ‘vareniki, pierogis and uszka’. The word “pelmeni” describes the ear-shaped appearance of these dumplings. Fillings generally consist of ground meat such as pork, lamb, beef or mushrooms as well as salt, pepper and sometimes herbs and onions.
In Russia’s Far East the locals replace meats with salmon to make a native version of this common national dish. This is an exotic region with a unique climate, landscape, flora and fauna. Basic fruits and vegetables that grow in most Russian home gardens must be shipped to this region because of its harsh climate does not allow much to grow. Dairy products are also imported at high cost so they rarely are found in the local diet.
Fish and seafood are the basic staples in the Far Eastern diet and are not delicacies for special occasions as is the case in Russia’s European and Siberian regions. Fish is often used instead of meat in cooking common Russian dishes such as cutlets, cabbage rolls and pelmeni.
Back in March of this year (2021), I had posted a blog about traditional pelmeni containing beef filling. We enjoyed that meal a lot and have since had it numerous times with various fillings. After doing some research, I realized that fish pelmeni was a ‘real thing’. I had also seen an idea from the internet about using salmon and pastry to form a ‘salmon rose’. I thought, why couldn’t that tender pelmeni dough be used along with fresh salmon & leeks to make something special? I realize I have strayed a long way from the classic ear shaped pelmeni but the flavor is just as wonderful.
Salmon Leek Pelmeni 'Rose'
In a bowl, combine all dough ingredients & knead until a smooth dough ball forms, about 10 minutes. Wrap in plastic wrap & set aside to allow dough to rest until the filling is prepared.
Leek & Salmon Fillings
In a sauce pan, sauté garlic, leeks & mushrooms in 1 Tbsp olive oil until tender. Remove from heat & place in a dish to cool until needed later.
Prepare fresh salmon (skin, debone & slice thinly); refrigerate until ready to assemble. In a small bowl, combine all remaining filling ingredients. Set aside
Soya Broth & Veggies
In a non-stick skillet over medium heat, add 1 Tbsp olive oil. Sauté onion until it starts to soften. Add mushrooms, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, zucchini & oregano. Cook for about 2 minutes; remove veggies to a dish & set aside.
In the NON-STICK saucepan, bring all broth ingredients to a boil. Simmer for a few minutes; turn off heat.
Assembly & Cooking
On a LIGHTLY oiled work surface, roll out dough as thin as possible. Cut (20) 4-inch discs from pastry with a fluted, circular pastry cutter. Align the discs in 2 lines, making them overlap slightly. One line should consist of 12 circles & other other line the remaining 8. With your rolling pin, slightly roll over each line to help press the circles together a bit.
On the shorter line of dough, distribute cooled leek/mushroom filling. Roll up to form the center of the salmon 'rose'. The roll should hold together but not be tightly rolled so it will steam properly. On the longer line of dough circles, distribute the thinly sliced salmon. Top salmon with Panko crumb 'filling' & press with a spatula to flatten slightly.
Carefully place the rolled leek/mushroom 'center' at one end of the salmon 'line'. Roll up to form the outside rings of the 'rose'. Using a large heavy spatula, gently lift the 'rose' pastry into the center of the broth in the saucepan.
Turn on heat & bring soya broth to a gentle simmer. Cover & steam salmon/leek 'pelmeni' for about 35 minutes or until both salmon & dough are cooked. Remove to a serving plate & keep warm.
To the remaining broth in saucepan, add 1/4 cup milk & the previously sautéed veggies. Gently stir together then drizzle sauce & veggies over salmon/leek pelmeni 'rose'. Serve.
Special birthday wishes are going out to my sister Loretta today on July 25th. Loretta you are a treasure that our family holds dear. We appreciate you as a person, sister, friend, mother and any other function that you hold in your life! You don’t have a bad bone in your body and you never do anything to compromise your kind heart and tender soul, you are one special lady.
Even if Brion & I can’t have a ‘birthday supper’ together with Loretta, I still like to post a meal I think she would enjoy to have on her day.
This is a gourmet take on a classic potato dish. Its creamy, cheesy and comforting but instead of making this gratin with cream, I am using a béchamel sauce made with milk and two cheeses. Gruyere and Parmesan together with parsley, thyme & Dijon mustard give it a lovely flavor which highlight the taste of the leek & salmon.
WE CELEBRATE YOUR BIRTHDAY WITH LOVE, LORETTA!
Salmon, Leek & Potato Gratin
Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Sauté garlic, lemon zest & thyme for 2 minutes. Add flour & cook 1 minute, stirring to combine. Remove from heat & gradually add the milk, stirring constantly, then return to the heat & cook, stirring until thickened.
Add salt, pepper, Dijon mustard & 3/4 cup of the combined parmesan & Gruyere cheese (reserving 1/4 cup) & stir until the cheese melts. Remove from the heat & stir in the parsley & lemon juice.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease an 8-inch square baking dish lightly with olive oil.
Wash & pare potatoes (leave the skin on if you prefer). Slice very thinly; place one sliced potato in a layer on the bottom of the baking dish, overlapping slightly.
Arrange one third of the sliced leek & salmon evenly on top, then spoon one quarter of the cheese sauce over all. Repeat the layers with the remaining potatoes, leek & salmon, finishing with the final layer of potato & topping with the last quarter of the cheese sauce.
Sprinkle with reserved 1/4 cup grated cheese. Cover with foil & bake for 45 minutes, then remove the foil & bake for a further 30 minutes. Allow the gratin to stand 10 minutes before serving.
- If your making this for a 'special' occasion, you may want to make them in individual servings as I did in the picture. I used 5-inch round pans with removeable bottoms & lined them with parchment paper so they couldn't leak.
Tenderloin has always been one of my favorite ‘go to’ meats. Lean, tender, tastes great, so what more could you ask for?! I’m forever pairing it with another kind of stuffing or roasting it with different glazes or marinades.
Today I wanted to roast it with the classic combo of cabbage and apples. The perfect accompaniment probably because you really don’t need to add much else to the meal to make it taste great.
Cabbage isn’t glamorous. It doesn’t have a fancy name but it is common, versatile and lasts forever in the refrigerator. Even the smallest head yields enough for at least two or three meals.
When cabbage is roasted, a caramelized sweetness comes out, giving it such a nice flavor and especially when paired with apples.
Sometimes, cabbage is avoided because when cooked, the sulfur that it contains multiplies, giving off an unflattering odor. It helps to avoid using aluminum pans when preparing cabbage; aluminum reacts strongly to the sulfur present in the leaves. Stainless pots make a much better choice.
You can neutralize the odor by adding 1 teaspoon of white vinegar or lemon juice. Certain ingredients will also help absorb the odor. Try adding a bay leaf or a couple of ribs of celery to sautéed cabbage. The sulfur odor will be absorbed without changing the taste of the cabbage. Simply discard the bay leaf or celery before serving.
No doubt about it, the flavor in this meal doesn’t lack for anything.
Stuffed Pork Medallions w/ Cabbage & Apples
Cook rice. Place in a bowl & set aside. In a skillet, heat oil & sauté onions until tender crisp. Add garlic & mushrooms & sauté for another 3-4 minutes. Add all herbs & spices; cook another minute than transfer to bowl with rice. Add Panko crumbs & egg, stirring to combine.
Remove silver skin from tenderloins. Cut a slit all the way down the long end of your tenderloin, making sure not to cut all the way through. Open the tenderloins like a book, cover with a sheet of plastic wrap & pound with a meat mallet until they are about 1/2-inch thickness.
Divide filling mixture between the two tenderloins & spread evenly over the surface of the tenderloins, leaving 1/2-inch at the borders. Roll tightly starting with the long end & secure the ends with toothpicks. Season all over with salt & pepper.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Heat a large oven proof skillet with 2 Tbsp oil. Once oil is hot, place tenderloins in the skillet & sear about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the skillet with the tenderloins to the oven & bake for about 18-20 minutes or until thermometer reads 145-150 F. in the thickest portion of the meat. Transfer to a cutting board, brush with pan drippings. Cover loosely with foil & allow to rest 10 minutes before slicing.
Cabbage & Apples
While tenderloin is roasting, prepare cabbage/apple mixture.
In a large skillet over medium heat, cook onion in butter until soft & translucent, 3-4 minutes. Add garlic & continue cooking just until fragrant, 1 minute more.
Add the cabbage & continue cooking until wilted, 6-8 minutes. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Continue cooking until cabbage begins to caramelize, 4-5 minutes longer.
Add the cubed apple, cider, mustard & brown sugar; carefully combine. Cover & cook until any liquid has evaporated & apples are soft. Place on a serving platter. Top with sliced tenderloin medallions & serve. If you wish, you could also serve the tenderloin with some mashed potatoes & oven roasted carrots.
When you cook meatloaf/roll were connected to something bigger …. a tradition and a time line. A comfort food that has been enduring not only an answer to hunger but is served without undue fuss or expensive implements. It reigns supreme.
The reason meatloaf has stayed with us through so many generations is because it is a master of evolution. It can be personalized and adapted any number of ways, all the while requiring only basic skills.
In the 1955 edition of the Good Housekeeping Cookbook, a recipe for ‘mushroom-stuffed meatloaves’ was featured. To enliven a simpler offering, there was an inexhaustible trend for garnishing, glazing, saucing and decorating.
Then in 1966, the Campbell’s Soup Company featured a recipe for a ‘rolled, stuffed meatloaf’ to promote their tomato soup (in place of traditional tomato sauce). The idea was that by rolling a vegetable into the meatloaf, you could save the work of creating a separate side dish. A new one dish meat and vegetable dinner …. and soup makes it great!
The fact that meatloaf takes on variations so easily shows how it dresses up just as well as it dresses down. This meal definitely does not lack in flavor.
Mushroom Beef Roll
In a saucepan, saute onion in butter until translucent. Add mushrooms, garlic, soy sauce, salt & thyme. Cover & simmer on low for 10 minutes. Remove from heat; add heavy cream & cheese. Allow to cool.
In a bowl, combine beef with kalbi sauce; mix well.
On a piece of plastic wrap, press out meat in a rectangle about a 1/4-inch thickness. Sprinkle meat with green onions. Top with mushroom filling. Using the plastic wrap, roll from the short end in a jelly-roll style.
On a piece of parchment paper, spread crushed french onions in a rectangle shape. Place meat roll on top & roll to cover it with the crushed french fried onions.
Place parchment paper with meat roll on a baking sheet & bake for about 50 minutes.
New Year’s Eve ……. normally this eve would bring about lots of parties and celebrations but the start of 2021 looks much more subdued. As expected, cities have cancelled or modified their plans due to the pandemic. Although tradition has been silenced this year, one thing that will never change is the ticking of time and the arrival of a New Year at midnight on December 31st.
When I was growing up, I recall one of the Christmas tree ornaments my mother had was a mushroom with a white spotted red cap. At that time, I remember thinking it seemed unusual as a Christmas tree ornament but never really questioned it. Many years later, through my interest in food history, I understand the connection.
In Germany and other parts of Central and Eastern Europe this iconic mushroom (Amanita muscaria) has long been considered a symbol of good luck and is intertwined with the Yuletide Season.
‘The Mushroom’ of Christmas and the New Year is frequently found growing underneath pine trees because the roots of this specific mushroom can only grow in the root zones of certain trees. There is some speculation that the red & white of Christmas and the use of pine trees may be linked to these humble mushrooms.
Even though the Amanita muscaria mushroom is toxic and should never be eaten it is still symbolizes the hope for good fortune in the coming year. The tradition of gifting mushroom imagery has stuck around, especially for those of German or Austrian descent who still exchange the pretty red & white mushrooms at Christmas time (often in the form of cards or other trinkets). Its not hard to understand why ‘meringue’ mushrooms are a popular decoration for the ‘Yule Log’ cakes.
After all these years, I understand the meaning of my mothers little mushroom ornament. New Year’s of 2020 seems like a good time to make a mushroom finger food in hopes of having the good fortune of Covid 19 coming to an end so we can all resume ‘normal’ life in 2021.
Mushroom, Caramelized Onion & Gruyere Finger Food
Preheat oven to 400 F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large, heavy bottomed skillet, heat olive oil over medium-low heat; add onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to caramelize, about 20 minutes.
Add the butter to the pan. Once melted, add the mushrooms & sauté, stirring occasionally, until they are completely soft & all the liquid evaporates, about 20 minutes.
Add the garlic, sage & thyme; sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Season with salt & pepper to taste.
Add the broth, scraping the bottom of the pan to pull up all of the browned bits, & cook until all of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat.
Unfold the thawed sheet of puff pastry & cut out 36 circles from dough, placing them evenly spaced on the baking sheets. Using a very sharp knife, make four small scores around the perimeter of the dough, about 1/4 to 1/2-inch from the edge.
Top the rounds of puff pastry with a small spoonful of the mushroom mixture, trying to keep the filling within the score marks. Top with grated Gruyere cheese. Brush the edges of the dough rounds with the egg wash.
Bake until the pastry is golden brown, about 15-25 minutes. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley.
In 2019, Boston Pizza, a Canadian pizza chain created a Christmas pizza which literally consisted of a turkey dinner on top of a pizza crust.
The most notable aspect of their Christmas pizza was the ‘singing box’ it came in. The company had an advertising agency create a caroling delivery box. Using a play on ‘Carol of the Bells’, the jingle ran through the components of the holiday menu item: ‘cranberry sauce, gravy on top, turkey as well and also cheese. Why the cheese? Cause we love cheese, turkey & cheese, four kinds of cheese’.
Like those musical greeting cards that emit tinny tunes when you open them, the ‘Chorus of the Pizza’, playing box reportedly operated using a light senor device. When the box was opened, the music played, as soon as it closed, silence.
The singing box was to replicate carolers coming to your door, but it was better because they brought pizza and you didn’t have to stand awkwardly listening to people sing to you.
I’m not sure if Boston Pizza is using this kind of promotion in 2020, but based on their ad from 2019, I developed a Christmas pizza ‘copy cat’ recipe. Great taste and a nice way to use some leftover turkey.
Christmas Turkey Pizza
Cook potato, peel, mash & cool. In a small container, combine yeast with lukewarm water; whisk until yeast is dissolved. Let stand about 3 minutes until foamy.
In a large bowl, combine yeast/water, butter, salt, sour cream & potato; mix well.
Stir in flour, one cup at a time. When dough is completely blended, turn onto a lightly floured surface. Knead dough about 5-10 minutes, until smooth & elastic. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise in a draft-free place until doubled in size, about an hour.
In a skillet, melt butter; add herbs & cook for 2 minutes. Pour in your choice of either heavy cream OR chicken broth. Heat until hot, about 2 minutes more. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Set aside to cool slightly.
On a large sheet of parchment paper, roll or press dough into a 16-inch circle. Transfer with paper to either a 14-inch pizza pan or a flat baking sheet.
Carefully spread the 1/2 cup herb sauce over the bottom of the pizza (leaving the outside ring without sauce). Sprinkle a bit of the cheese over sauce then layer with turkey & stuffing. Drizzle with turkey gravy & top with remaining cheese. If you prefer, brush the outside edge of the pizza ring with egg wash.
Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven & slice.
When you are ready to serve, dot pizza with cranberry sauce or just let everyone put on their own.
- As an alternate to the herb sauce, using 1/2 cup bottled lite Alfredo sauce w/ Parmesan cheese makes a good choice.
Italy, often regarded as the home country of pasta, still has a deep love for another popular dish called risotto. Risotto like pasta can be dressed with an endless variety of ingredients.
Mushroom risotto is a delicious variation on this classic dish. The beauty of mushroom risotto is in its earthiness of the mushrooms you choose. Italians make mushroom risotto with fresh porcini mushrooms when they are in season in spring and fall. If you are unable to find some at an Italian store, dried porcini mushrooms make an excellent substitute in this recipe.
The key to preparing items en croute is that however long it takes to cook the pastry until its golden brown, is how long the item will spend in the oven.
Normally, Beef En Croute can be an expensive proposition. By using a well seasoned ground beef instead of ‘Beef Tenderloin‘, it can be transformed into a more economical meal but still have a degree of richness & elegance to it.
Beef w/ Porcini Risotto en Croute
Dice onion & garlic finely. Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a saucepan & cook until tender soft. Add risotto mix along with hot chicken broth. The rice should be soft cooked in about 20 minutes. Stir in Parmesan & 1 1/2 tsp butter. Your mixture should not be loose or dry. Set aside to cool.
In a saucepan, saute ground beef along with diced onions, garlic & spices. Cook ONLY until beef is no longer pink. Remove from heat & allow to cool.
Brush mushrooms with a clean damp cloth & slice. Heat oil in saucepan & saute mushrooms with thyme to release some of their moisture. Remove from heat & set aside to cool.
Brush one of the puff pastry sheets with egg white. Down the center of the pastry sheet, spread the risotto & top with half of the mushrooms. Next, top with the spiced beef & remaining mushrooms.
Lay the second sheet of pastry on top & either braid the edges or press pastry together with a fork. Beat together egg yolk & remaining white plus a bit of water. Brush pastry evenly with beaten egg. Bake until golden about 20 - 25 minutes.
- When using dried mushrooms for this or any dish, soak them in boiling water for 30 minutes, strain the liquid, & add it to your dish or save for another day. In this preparation, add it to the broth.
It probably seems odd that I would post this meal today instead of around St. Patrick’s Day. The truth of the matter is, corned beef is really not an Irish classic as most would think. So for us, it’s just a case of enjoying corned beef in a pot pie.
You cook this dish the same way you would cook chicken pot pie. Instead of roasting the corned beef myself, I picked some up at the deli counter. I had them slice it about 1/4″ thick then I cut it into small cubes. Logic would tell you that a ‘beef’ pie needs beef gravy, but corned beef is different. I used chicken broth in the white sauce, which is delicate enough to allow the flavor of the corned beef to come through nicely.
There is often debate whether pot pies should have one or two crusts. For me, its just whatever appeals to me when I’m making some. Today, since I’m using frozen puff pastry, I went with just a top crust. Draped over them, gave such a rustic look … just for the sake of eye appeal.
Corned Beef & Cabbage Pot Pie
In a large Dutch oven or pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add potatoes, carrot & cabbage & cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Add flour & cook, stirring, for about 1 minute more. Add chicken broth, milk, mustard, thyme, salt & pepper. Stir to combine. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Simmer 15-20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Stir in corned beef & cheese, cook, stirring until cheese has melted. Taste to adjust seasoning as necessary. Remove from heat & allow to cool 15-20 minutes.
Cut thawed puff pastry sheets to suit your preference. I used 4 - 14 oz. (414 ml) ramekins with a top crust only.
Preheat oven to 425 F. Place ramekins on a baking sheet & spoon cooled filling in to them. Place pastry squares over top. Cut several slits in the middle to allow steam to vent. Combine egg with water & brush top of puff pastry with it.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until puff pastry is golden & filling is bubbling. Allow to stand 5 minutes before serving.
Easter is synonymous with spring, it represents a time of renewal. The winter months are now in our rear view mirrors and we can look forward to those wonderful summer days. Fresh new buds are on the trees, just waiting to burst out as the season unfolds. Everything speaks of new life and fresh hope. Spring is so unique (even if we still have snow on the ground in our part of the country).
Though ham is traditional in many homes, there are just as many people who would prefer something different for dinner on Easter Sunday. Holiday cooking is all about making a meal that feels more special than what you would cook on a regular basis.
Pork tenderloin is one of my favorite meats due to its tenderness and versatility. This meal started out with an idea to stuff a tenderloin and developed into so much more. I must say, I was even more pleased with the final results when we both enjoyed it.
Braided Pork Tenderloin w/ Pineapple Stuffing
Drain pineapple; reserving 1/3 cup juice. In a large saucepan, melt margarine. Add walnuts, celery & sage; cook stirring until celery is tender-crisp. Stir in green onions, pineapple & reserved juice. Remove from heat; toss in cornbread stuffing mix & set aside.
Using a sharp knife starting 3-inches from end, slice tenderloin lengthwise twice; making 3 equal strips. Carefully take the knife & cut pockets lengthwise every 3-inches in the center of each of the tenderloin strips. Spread the combined rub ingredients over meat & allow to stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes before continuing with preparation.
When meat is marinated, stuff each pocket with pineapple stuffing. Place a strip of bacon along each tenderloin strip. Braid the stuffed tenderloin/bacon by crossing the right section over the middle section then the left section over the new middle section. Continue until you run out of tenderloin.
Insert a wooden or metal skewer into the end of braided tenderloin to keep it together. Tuck in the remaining stuffing mixture in the folds of the braid.
Preheat oven to 425 F. Bake, uncovered for 25-30 minutes or until meat thermometer reads 160 F. Remove from oven & loosely cover with foil. Allow to rest for 3-5 minutes before slicing. Serve with pineapple salsa.
In a large skillet, combine pineapple, sugar, vinegar, lime juice, red onion, cumin, salt & pepper. Bring to a boil & cook over medium-high heat until thickened, 7-10 minutes. If there is still a lot of liquid left, use a slotted spoon to transfer the pineapple to a bowl & continue to cook the liquid over high heat for 5 minutes more, then pour the liquid over the pineapple. Mix in the onions & cilantro. Season with salt to taste.
Mushroom Wellington is a vegetarian spin on the French classic ‘beef wellington’. The original is an elegant meal, using a beef tenderloin covered with liver pate’, wrapped in pastry and baked. The key to preparing items in this fashion, is that however long it takes to bake the pastry to a golden brown is how long it will be in the oven. In other words, the filling needs to require less time to cook.
A plant based filling makes that even easier to achieve than its meat filled cousin. The use of different types of mushrooms cut into varying sizes gives the dish texture and heartiness along with an earthy flavor. The secret to a deliciously juicy yet flaky mushroom wellington is to drain everything dry and make sure it is completely cold before wrapping it in the puff pastry. Skip this step and your pastry is not only going to be soggy, it will tear when you try to wrap up your wellington. Believe me — ‘bin there, done that’!
Although this would probably be the center piece of a vegan meal, it works beautifully as an accompaniment to meat and roast veggies as well.
In a skillet, fry diced bacon until crispy. Remove bacon to paper towels & blot dry, leaving drippings in skillet. Chop mushrooms, onion & garlic. Saute veggies with spices in bacon drippings until moisture has evaporated. Remove from heat, add bacon & drain or blot off any excess moisture. Cool mixture completely then add cold, cooked Basmati rice, stirring to blend. While the mixture cools prepare vegetable gravy if you are using it.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Line your choice of preferred baking pan mold with thawed puff pastry. You should have excess enough to fold over the 'top' of filling. This will form the bottom of your wellington when baked. In each wellington, place 1/4 of the filling, topping each with 50 gms of the cheese. Divide remaining filling between the two wellingtons & fold the excess pastry over it.
If you choose to make a decoration for your baked wellingtons, cut it from some of the excess before closing them. Bake the decorations on a separate pan. Place molds on a baking sheet & bake for about 35 minutes or until pastry is cooked. Remove from oven. I like to flip them onto paper towel at this point just to blot off any excess butter from pastry. Do what you prefer in this case.
In a saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add bouillon powder, garlic, carrot, celery & onion. Cover & simmer until veggies are very soft. Remove from heat & cool slightly. Puree in food processor or blender. Combine cornstarch & water in a small dish. Stir into puree; return to heat & stir until boiling & slightly thickened. Stir in sour cream IF USING. Serve over mushroom wellingtons.
- If you prefer, omit bacon & use butter to saute your veggies in making it a more vegetarian friendly entree.