White Wine Sangria/ Strawberry Lemonade

CELEBRATING THE LONG WEEK-END!

The Victoria Day weekend is upon us. There was a point in the slushy, frigid, not-so-distant depths of February when Canada’s unofficial but unequivocal start of summer simply could not be visualized. And yet here we are, hanging flower baskets on the front porch. While many Canadians familiarly know it as May two-four weekend (often used in reference to the size of a case of beer), a few of us will be looking to bring back a little ‘Victorian-era’ glamour to this much anticipated holiday with some white wine sangria or a non-alcoholic strawberry lemonade.

No doubt, no shortage of beer will wash over the lips of Canadians as we open up our cottages, take overdue road trips — albeit with lighter wallets thanks to recent hikes in gas prices — or simply a well-deserved break from work.

Wherever you live across Canada, this May long weekend – typically marks the start of grilling season. It’s time to get outside in the sunshine, fire up the BBQ, and enjoy savory grilled food with family and friends. All you need are the barbecue essentials and some great marinated meat or veggies.

I thought it would be nice to post a white wine sangria, I’ve made many times over the years, along with a non-alcoholic strawberry lemonade to enjoy with your BBQ today.

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White Wine Sangria/ Strawberry Lemonade
Instructions
White Wine Sangria
  1. In a pitcher, combine sugar, lemon & lime juice; stir until sugar dissolves. Add white wine & orange flavored liqueur. Just before serving, add club soda, fruit & ice. Makes 8 cups.
Strawberry Lemonade
  1. In a blender, combine strawberries & lemon juice. Cover & blend until smooth. In a pitcher, combine strawberry mixture & sugar; stir until sugar dissolves. Add club soda. Serve over ice; garnish with strawberries & mint if desired. Makes about 8 cups.

Plantain Lasagna Rolls w/ Guacamole

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.

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Plantain Lasagna Rolls w/ Guacamole
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Ingredients
Guacamole
Servings
Ingredients
Guacamole
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Instructions
Plantains
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
Filling
  1. 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.
Assembly
  1. 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'.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
Guacamole
  1. While plantain is baking, mash avocado & add remaining ingredients. Combine well & serve with stuffed plantain.

Cardamom Roasted Persimmons

Persimmons are in season between November and February. Mildly sweet and juicy with a slight crunch reminiscent of a cross between a peach and a pear. Since there is only a short window in which you can enjoy this exotic fruit, persimmons make up for it by working well in both sweet and savory recipes.

The two most commonly available varieties are Fuyu and Hachiyas. Some recipes prefer one over the other. Treat them like you would an apple and turn them into jams, puree, tarts and cakes. Paired with pork adds a nice fruity and caramelizing sweetness.

Fuyus are squat and round whereas Hachiyas are acorn shaped and have a pointed bottom. When buying persimmons, look for the unblemished skin with the green leaves and top still attached. The texture should be like a tomato-firm but a bit of give without being to soft. Persimmons are usually sold unripe, so leave them on the counter for a day or two until the skin deepens to a rich sunset orange.

Cardamom is a complex flavor that can be used in any of the usual autumn and winter recipes. There is nothing subtle about cardamom, so when used in all but sparing amounts, it will dominate whatever its paired with. Cardamom has been used in Christmas baking in Germany since the middle ages.

You can eat roasted persimmons hot or cold. For a quick breakfast, make a batch ahead of time, then just reheat in the microwave or eat cold.

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Cardamom Roasted Persimmons
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. In a small bowl, combine hot water with 3 Tbsp honey; stir until honey is dissolved. With a sharp knife, split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise & scrape half of the seeds into the bowl. Reserve excess seeds for yogurt.
  2. Peel the persimmons, cut them in half lengthwise & then slice into 1-inch thick wedges. Arrange the slices in a baking dish, drizzle with lime juice & sprinkle with the honey mixture, cardamom & butter.
  3. Roast persimmons for about 45-60 minutes spooning the pan juices over top occasionally. When done they should be tender & easily pierced with a knife.
  4. In a small bowl, combine 1 1/2 Tbsp honey & yogurt. Add the remainder of the vanilla bean seeds; whisk until yogurt is smooth & well blended.
  5. To serve, divide yogurt between 4 serving dishes, top with a quarter of the persimmons, drizzle with any extra syrup & sprinkle the pistachios on top.
Recipe Notes
  • When using extract in place of vanilla bean in a recipe, use 1 teaspoon for every one inch of vanilla bean. Be sure to replace vanilla bean with vanilla extract and not vanilla flavoring or imitation vanilla, which are both a far cry from real vanilla.

Fish Tacos with Guacamole

The countryside around Merida, Mexico is home to many plantations or haciendas.They grew a cactus of the Agave family and processed the leaves to remove the fibers inside to make what is called a ‘sisal’ rope and other  related cordage products. Although most haciendas laid abandoned for  many years after the Mexican Revolution and the invention of synthetic  fibers, today many have been restored and turned into luxury hotels,  restaurants, museums and attractions.

On one of our day trips we went to Hacienda Sotuta de Peon. This is a  restoration project focused on preserving the history of how a native plant was farmed for its fibers and made into rope. You can witness the whole process step by step; from plant in the ground, to raw material, to fibre and finished product.

This tour of the plantation was very interesting!  The ‘grand hacienda’, or landowner’s home, was one, very long building. The rooms from kitchen through the bedrooms were all in a row connected by doors. The veranda ran the length of the house  overlooking the pool and beautiful gardens. Sheer opulence in comparison to the conditions of the factory workers a short distance away. Over in the factory, the sisal leaves are lifted up from the street onto a conveyor belt  where it is arranged by hand for maximum efficiency. Equipment,  powered by a loud diesel engine, with overhead drive shafts and big  leather belts, squeezed the leaves. Rivers of green pulp and liquid ran  down to the carts below. The cleaned leaves came out the other side and  workers made individual batches of the fibre and sent them down a rail to the room below where they would be hung out to dry in the  sun.

In the next process, machinery separated short and long fibers, spun it  into grade rope or baled it. When nylon and other synthetic materials  were created it changed the economics of this industry. No longer able to  compete they ultimately had to shut down. At the end of this part of the  tour we were taken on a mule drawn, covered cart to see the fields of the  sisal growing. What was interesting about the ride was that the mule  pulled all of us around the plantation in this cart attached to the same rail  system  that was used over a century ago to transport the workers.

I’m including some of the highlights of Brion’s photos of that day for you  to enjoy. In keeping with the Mexican theme, here is a tasty little recipe  for some fish tacos as well.

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Fish Tacos with Guacamole
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Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American, Mexican
Servings
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Instructions
Fish
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Place a metal rack over a baking sheet & spray the rack with vegetable spray. Set aside. In a shallow bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, cumin, chili powder, salt & pepper. Set aside. Cut fish fillets into fingers & brush with olive oil. Toss the fish fingers a few at a time into the flour mixture until well coated. Transfer fish to baking rack. Spray the top of fish lightly with vegetable spray. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden & cooked.
Guacamole
  1. In a large bowl, coarsely mash avocados, lime juice, salt & cumin using a fork; stir in tomato, garlic, onion & cilantro. Cover & refrigerate until ready to assemble tacos.
Coleslaw
  1. In a bowl, combine coleslaw with ranch dressing.
Assembly
  1. In each (heated) tortilla, place a small amount of coleslaw. Top with a couple of fish fingers, guacamole, red onion, diced tomato, grated cheese & the remainder of coleslaw. Serve any extra guacamole on the side. Of course, nothing wrong with adding a bit of salsa to the equation!

Brunch in St.Thibery, France

Brunch! The word evokes thoughts of a lazy week-end morning, sleeping late, eating ‘brunch’ while sipping a glass of sangria in the late morning or early afternoon.

In the food industry, brunch was a fun meal to prepare. Being a combination of both breakfast & lunch means the options are endless. If you are serving a large amount of people, generally eight food groups make up the menu along with beverages. I always enjoyed the visual beauty of a large brunch presentation all carefully prepared and set out.

At our house, Brion and I have always been early risers so brunch isn’t a meal that really works for us. That being said, I do have some special memories of a time when we enjoyed brunch.

It was in the south of France. In 2001, after we had left Paris, we drove 613 km (380 miles) south to the sleepy village of St. Thibery. This little medieval village, population of 2481, can be traced back more than 4000 years of known history.

As I had mentioned in an earlier blog, my sister Loretta had joined Brion and I on this French vacation. For this segment of the trip we had rented an apartment in St Thibery to use as ‘home base’ during our time there. Many of these houses are from the 14th, 15th and 17th century. The apartment was quaint but adequate even having a roof top patio. What’s not to love, amidst the beautiful French vineyards, close to that blue Mediterranean. 

We spent about a week in St Thibery and it was there that the three of us made some special memories enjoying our leisure French brunches. In view of all the world crisis we are experiencing today, I cherish the many memories we have from our world travels in more peaceful times.

A few brunch options that I think are noteworthy and would like to share with you today are Bacon & Egg Croissants with Lime-Ginger Fresh Fruit, Peaches & Cream French Toast as well as Asparagus Cordon Bleu Crepes.


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Bacon & Egg Croissants/Lime-Ginger Fresh Fruit * Peaches & Cream French Toast * Asparagus Cordon Bleu Crepes

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Course Brunch

Servings

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Instructions
Cheese Sauce
  1. In a small saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour, dry mustard salt & pepper. Add milk. Stir constantly over medium heat until mixture thickens & bubbles. Reduce heat to low & stir in cheese. Cook, stirring constantly, until cheese is melted. Keep warm.

Lime-Ginger Fresh Fruit
  1. In a saucepan, mix sugar & cornstarch. Stir in water. Heat to boiling over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Cook & stir until thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in lime peel, lime juice & gingerroot.
    In a large bowl, gently toss prepared fruit. Pour lime mixture over fruit; gently toss. Cover & refrigerate until ready to serve.

Bacon & Egg Croissants
  1. Cook bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Split croissants, lay on a barely warm griddle to warm. In a saucepan, pour water to a 3" depth & bring to boiling. Reduce to simmering. Break an egg into a shallow dish; gently slip into water. Repeat with the remaining 3 eggs. Cook 2 -3 minutes. Remove eggs from water with a slotted spoon.

  2. Place 2 bacon slices on bottom half of each croissant then top with a poached egg. Ladle some cheese sauce over egg, placing croissant top on the side. Serve with side dishes of Lime-Ginger Fresh Fruit.

Peaches & Cream French Toast
  1. In a small bowl, whisk eggs & 3 Tbsp peach preserves. Beat in half & half. Place a single layer of bread slices in a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Pour egg mixture over bread. Cover & refrigerate a few hours or overnight until most of the liquid is absorbed. In a small bowl, beat 1/3 cup peach preserves & 4 Tbsp softened margarine with an electric mixer on high until fluffy; set aside until ready to serve.

  2. At serving time, Heat griddle to medium-high heat; melt 2 Tbsp margarine. Add bread slices & cook until lightly browned, turning once. Serve French Toast topped with peach butter & fresh peach slices. Sprinkle with toasted almonds & powdered sugar.

Asparagus Cordon Bleu Crepes
  1. Prepare crepes (see recipe on 'French Crepe' blog from July 25/16). Trim asparagus spears. In a large saucepan, cook asparagus spears in boiling salted water just until tender-crisp; drain. Place a slice of ham on each crepe. Spread ham slice with mustard. Top with a slice of cheese, asparagus spears & tomatoes. Sprinkle with parsley & tarragon, as desired.

  2. Roll up crepes. In a 13 x 9-inch baking dish, place crepes seam-side down. Preheat oven to 375 F. In a medium saucepan, melt margarine; blend in flour, 1/2 tsp tarragon, salt & pepper. Whisk in half & half, stirring constantly over medium-high heat until mixture thickens & bubbles. Stir in sliced mushrooms. Pour sauce over crepes in baking dish. Bake 25 minutes or until heated through.


Recipe Notes
  • Lime-Ginger Fresh Fruit adapted from from pillsbury. com
  • Brunch ideas adapted from Pat Jester's Brunch Cookery (1979)