If its possible, I’d like to sneak in another rhubarb recipe even if it is September. While we never grow tired of the classic pairing of strawberries and rhubarb, I love rhubarb too much to simply let it be a sidekick to those sweet berries. Rhubarb is capable of so much more, whether its used in sweet or savory applications (such as the rhubarb chutney I had featured in an earlier blog). This pretty, long, tart piece of produce is not a one-dimensional character …. it loves the spotlight!
Perhaps, not as famous as the combination above but every bit as delicious, are raspberries and rhubarb. While cinnamon may be a more common spice to pair with rhubarb, herbal cardamom lends a warm, citrusy note and is amazing in these twists.
Raspberry Rhubarb Twists
Place rhubarb, raspberries & sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring to a slow simmer over a low heat. Simmer until mixture begins to thicken. Turn off heat & set aside to cool.
In a small bowl, combine yeast with lukewarm water or milk & 1 tsp sugar. Allow to sit for a few minutes until frothy.
In a large bowl, slightly melt butter; cool a couple of minutes then whisk in egg. In another bowl, combine flour, salt & remaining sugar. Add yeast mixture to butter mixture, whisking together. Add flour mixture, combine then turn on a floured work surface & knead for about 5 minutes. Dough will be very soft but not sticky.
Lightly grease bowl, place dough ball in it & cover with a tea towel. Place in a draft-free place & allow to rise for about 20 minutes.
Lay a piece of parchment paper over the removable bottom of a 10-inch tart pan on your work surface. Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured work surface; divide into thirds.
Place one portion on parchment paper & roll or press out dough the size of the bottom of tart pan (10-inches). Carefully spread the circle with half of the filling mixture. Roll out the second portion to the same size & transfer with your rolling pin to top the first portion. Carefully spread it with remaining filling.
Roll out third portion of dough to the same size & place it on top of the other two layers. Pinch dough around outer edge to seal. Place a small glass in center. Cut from outside edge just to the glass, forming 12 wedges.
Remove the glass. Twist each wedge 3-4 times. Tuck edge under. Place bottom of tart pan (with parchment paper & pastry) inside tart pan ring. Cover & allow to rise for about 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 F. If you prefer, lightly brush twists with a bit of egg wash before baking. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan to a wire rack to cool.
Combine glaze ingredients; drizzle over warm twists.
Although there are many variations of this dish, Austria’s apricot growing tradition has made apricot dumplings (marillenknodel) an emblematic dish of Austrian cuisine. Each spring, some 100,000 apricot trees transform Wachau Valley into a fragrant pink-white sea of blossoms.
There are two types of dough that can be used to make apricot dumplings …. potato dough (made with cooked & mashed potatoes) and cheese dough. Topfen is the Austrian cheese traditionally used as its ‘sour’ taste gives the dough a nice ‘tang’. Other alternatives would be either Quark or cream cheese.
To prepare the apricots you need to slice them in half and remove the pit, then place a cube of sugar in the cavity. A few other alternatives for the centers of the apricots would be chocolate or a nougat cube.
Once the dough has been chilled, it is divided into balls and stuffed with the filled apricots. These dumplings are then boiled in salted water and while they are still hot, coated in cinnamon-flavored, buttered breadcrumbs.
Apricot dumplings are most often served just sprinkled with powdered sugar. Soft apricots provide enough liquid so they don’t taste too dry. If you wish, you could serve them with: vanilla ice cream, apricot coulis, whipped cream, vanilla or chocolate sauce.
Austrian Apricot Dumplings
In a bowl, whisk together butter, sugar, vanilla & salt; add the egg & cheese & whisk until combined. Add flour; stir until combined. Don't overmix, the dough should be slightly sticky but not dry. Form into a disk & wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Slice each apricot in half & remove the pit. Place a sugar cube in the cavity & press the two apricot halves together until the apricot closes. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, combine milk, sugar, salt, cornstarch & vanilla; stir well until combined. Cook over medium heat stirring constantly. Lower heat & continue to cook, stirring constantly until mixture thickens & coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat; cover with plastic wrap & chill. When sauce is cool, whisk it until it becomes smooth.
Cook & Coat Dumplings
Cook dumplings in a large amount of salted water, half of them at a time. Cook for about 12 minutes from the moment you've put them in the water. Reduce the heat to medium-low as the water should only simmer. Do not allow the dumplings to stick to the bottom. Take cooked dumplings out of the water with a slotted spoon, drain well.
Place the hot dumplings in the breadcrumb topping. Roll the dumplings around to coat completely, the place on a platter.
At serving time you can place them atop some vanilla sauce or just simply sprinkle with powdered sugar (or any of the other suggestions listed in the main article).
- Other fruit alternatives for the dumplings would be: plums, cherries or strawberries.
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.
Strawberries have been around for more than two thousand years. There are records of strawberries eaten as food as early as ancient Roman times as they probably grew wild in Europe.
Shortcake on the other hand, was a European invention. The ‘short’ in shortcake does not refer to stature or scope. Rather it derived from a 15th century British usage of ‘short’, similar to crumbly.
The true shortcake is neither bread, nor cake, nor pastry, though bearing what might be called a ‘differing likeness’ to each. It’s greatness lies in the contrasts of textures and flavors of simple cake, fruit and cream … hard & soft, moist & dry, sweet & tart, acid & cake. Shortcake proves the ideal base, as it is firm enough to stand up to the juicy berries and damp cream but absorbing only some of them without losing its identity or becoming a mushy mess.
The first strawberry shortcakes were made of heavy pastry that were somewhat similar to pie crust but a little thicker. The crust was baked, then split apart and filled with strawberries that had been mashed and sweetened and the whole thing covered with a sugared frosting. At some point the icing was replaced with whipped cream. Today, the shortcake ‘biscuits’ are sometimes replaced with sponge cake, angel food or even puff pastry.
July seems like the perfect time to indulge in some fresh strawberries!
Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
In a bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder & salt. Add butter & work it into flour mixture with your fingers until it resembles coarse meal.
In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon zest, egg & 1/2 cup buttermilk. Add to the flour mixture & lightly mix until dough just comes together. Do not OVERMIX.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. With lightly floured hands, gently pat the dough into a 7-inch round about 1/2-inch thick. Cut into 8 equal wedges.
Space the shortcakes evenly on the prepared baking sheet. Brush tops with remaining 1 Tbsp buttermilk & sprinkle with the almonds. Bake until golden brown, 12-15 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine the strawberries, sugar & orange zest & juice. Allow to stand until sugar is dissolved & the mixture is syrupy, about 15 minutes.
Split the shortcakes. Place the bottom halves of the shortcakes on serving plates & top evenly with the strawberry mixture & yogurt. Cover with shortcake tops. Serve.
- Instead of cutting your shortcakes into wedges, you could bake them in tart molds for a fancier look.
Pepita seeds might not be what you ordinarily think of as chicken coating material, but these nutty, chewy kernels are every bit as tasty and versatile as almonds or pistachios in cooking.
Many people use the words pepitas and pumpkin seeds interchangeably, but they are actually two different things. A pepita is harvested from specific hull-less pumpkin varieties, known as Styrian or Oil Seed pumpkins. Any other variety of pumpkin produces a hulled seed that’s slightly fibrous and less tender.
Pepitas are more versatile in the kitchen than traditional pumpkin seeds since they’re not as tough. Aside from using them as a garnish or a snack, pepitas make good pesto, or as a crust for meat or fish, as a topping on muffins, mixed in granola, baked in focaccia bread or made into brittle.
Crunchy pepita seeds are little powerhouses of nutrition, so using them instead of breadcrumbs along with a light, spicy ‘tempura’ batter to prepare this chicken breast, really takes it from ordinary to special. It’s the whole package …. moist, crisp with the toasty appeal of pepitas.
Chicken Tenders w/ Pepita Seeds
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper & set aside.
In a bowl, combine all tempura batter ingredients (except pepita seeds), whisking until smooth.
Pat chicken tenders dry & add to batter. Turn in mixture to coat evenly. Allow to stand in refrigerator for 10 minutes.
Place whole pepita seeds on a large tray or plate. Lift chicken out of batter & coat evenly with pepita seeds.
Place chicken on baking sheet & bake 15-20 minutes or until golden brown & cooked through.
- Alternately, you could cook the chicken on a griddle using a combo of oil & butter.
The flavors of the meal hint of Moroccan cuisine to me. It wasn’t until Brion & I visited Morocco on a holiday one year, that I realized how many of their spices appealed to me.
Moroccan cuisine is very refined because of its interactions and exchanges with other cultures and nations over the centuries. Its dishes are layered with sweet and spicy, earthy and bright flavors that reflect the vast array of spices available in their local markets.
Often referred to as the national dish of Morocco, couscous is made of tiny balls of wheat semolina, steamed so they’re are soft and fluffy. Subtle cumin and ginger spices add an exotic flavor to it.
Pairing apricot and lemon flavors with the chicken breast and serving it over couscous makes this simple meal quite special.
Apricot Lemon Chicken Breast w/ Couscous
Preheat oven to 425 F. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.
Beat egg & water slightly. Stir together baking mix, lemon pepper & garlic powder. Pound chicken breasts gently to achieve uniform thickness. Dip chicken into egg mixture, then coat with baking mix mixture. Place on baking sheet & drizzle with melted butter.
Bake uncovered 20 minutes; turn chicken. Bake about 10 minutes longer until no longer pink inside. While chicken is baking prepare couscous & sauce.
In a saucepan, heat 1 tsp oil; add green onion, cumin, ginger & garlic. Cook & stir for about 3 minutes until green onion is softened.
Add honey. Heat & stir for about 30 seconds until green onion is coated. Add broth. Bring to a boil. Add couscous & second amount of oil. Stir. Cover & remove from heat. Allow to stand for 5 minutes without lifting lid. Fluff with a fork & stir in remaining 3 ingredients.
Apricot Lemon Sauce
In a small saucepan over low heat, combine sauce ingredients, stirring occasionally, until warm.
Place couscous on a serving platter. Top with chicken breasts & drizzle with apricot lemon sauce. Serve.
Although we may change the way we celebrate Easter this year, we can still enjoy some great food. One of the special things about any holiday is the brunch that seems to come with it and Easter is no different. The word itself sounds like coziness.
The practice of creating special breads to celebrate holidays, harvests, religious rites and other occasions worldwide, dates back thousands of years. In some cases, breads aren’t symbolic as much as traditional, baked as a reminder of family, togetherness and celebration. They often contain warm spices like cinnamon or cardamom. Some have a touch of liqueur added to them while others are created in special shapes or have little surprises baked in them.
Cardamom may not get the acclaim of cinnamon, nor does it pop up in recipes as often as ginger, but its flavor pairing capabilities are extensive. This is a flavor that you may love or hate, but for me it is very addictive. Warm, subtly spicy, exotically aromatic, a flavor that transforms both sweet and savory recipes into heavenly dishes.
With some simple snipping and shaping, this cardamom sweet dough turns into adorable bunnies for Easter brunch. Edible table décor!
Cardamom Lime Easter 'Bunnies'
In a small bowl, whisk together yeast , 1 tsp sugar & lukewarm milk. Set aside until yeast mixture begins to form a frothy foam, about 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, remaining sugar & salt. Add yeast mixture, melted butter & egg. Knead until dough comes together in a ball & no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. Transfer dough to a greased bowl & cover with a tea towel. Set aside in a draft free place until dough doubles in size, about an 1 hour.
In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, lime zest, cardamom & butter. Mix well. Set aside.
In a small bowl, beat together cream cheese, butter & lime juice. Add powdered sugar & mix until glaze consistency. Set aside until buns are baked.
Assemble & Bake
Turn dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide in half; roll each half into a rectangle about 12x10-inches. Sprinkle filling evenly over one of the rectangles. Place the second sheet of pastry on top. Lay a piece of plastic wrap over the pastry & lightly roll with a rolling pin.
With a pizza cutter cut 14 strips. You will use 12 of the strips for 'bunnies' & 2 strips for their tails. To form bunnies, overlap one end of strip over the other to form a loop; bring the end that's underneath up over the top end, letting one end extend on each side to make ears.
Place the shaped 'bunnies' on a parchment lined baking sheet, leaving about 2-3-inches between them as they will expand a bit. Cut each of the remaining strips into 6 equal pieces. Roll each into a ball & place it in the loop to form the tail. Loosely cover the 'bunnies' & let them rise for about 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Brush bunnies with egg wash & bake for about 15 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven & allow to cool slightly on a cooling rack.
While still slightly warm, brush bunnies with glaze. Sprinkle with lime zest & top tails with whites candies.
- If you prefer your bunnies to be a bit more plump, instead of making 12, just make 8 or 10.
The ultimate Easter bun! Who doesn’t love hot cross buns?! Given the baked good’s long history, legends and superstitions have had ample time to develop and grow around them.
Hot cross buns are inseparably linked to Easter and to Christianity. But in reality, they probably have pre-Christian origins. Cross buns were baked to celebrate ‘Eostre’, the Germanic Goddess after which the season of Easter is said to be named.
Over the years, the bun has evolved and changed. Victorian recipes suggest various glazes to top the bun with after baking, including molasses or a honey/turmeric combo. The buns have become spicier too, with the addition of mace, caraway seeds and even coriander.
While some hot cross buns appear on grocery and bakery shelves as early as New Year’s Day, the sweet bun is usually associated with the end of Lent.
Every year I like to try and make a different version of these traditional, seasonal treats. This year I’m going with a ‘rum raisin‘ idea. Should be good!
Rum & Raisin Hot Cross Buns
Rum & Raisin Filling
In a bowl, combine raisins, warm rum & sugar. Cover with plastic wrap & allow to sit for at least 40 minutes. Strain, discarding liquid.
In a large bowl, combine lukewarm milk, yeast & 1/4 cup sugar. Let stand until mixture is frothy, about 10 minutes.
In a bowl, whisk together 5 1/3 cups flour, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg & allspice. When yeast mixture is ready, add half of the flour mixture to it, beating until just combined. Beat in melted butter, eggs & rum/raisin mixture. Gradually add remaining flour mixture, kneading until smooth dough forms. Add remaining 1/3 cup flour if needed as the dough should not be sticky.
Grease a large bowl, place the dough in it& turn to grease top. Loosely cover & allow to rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Cream Cheese Filling (Balls)
In a shallow dish, combine sugar & cinnamon. Cut cream cheese into 12 cubes. Roll each into a ball shape then roll them in the cinnamon sugar, coating evenly. Divide dough into 12 pieces. Place a cream cheese ball in the center of each piece of dough, pinching to seal seam. Roll each piece of dough into a ball & place in PARCHMENT lined muffin cups. Cover & let stand in a warm, draft-free place for about 20 minutes.
In a small dish, whisk together egg & a Tbsp milk. When buns are ready to bake, brush with egg wash. Bake until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. While the are baking prepare RUM GLAZE & CROSS PASTE.
Rum Glaze & Cross Paste
In a small saucepan, place water, spiced rum & sugar. Over medium heat, bring ingredients to a simmer & allow to bubble gently for 3-5 minutes. The volume of the mixture should drop by at least half. Remove from heat & set aside until ready to use.
In a small dish, whisk together cornstarch, flour, sugar & water until a thick paste forms. You want your paste to be stiff enough to be able to pipe in a clean line, but still manageable.
Brush warm rolls with rum glaze & allow to cool. Using a pastry bag fitted with a piping tip, pipe paste over top of buns to form a cross.
- If you prefer, don't hesitate to make these buns without the cream cheese inside. I'm sure they will be just as good --- they're hot cross buns!!