Vegetable Torte w/ Chicken/Turkey Sausage

There is so much to love about summer, not least of which is the amazing bounty of fresh produce. This summer vegetable torte is a great way to showcase flavorful late-summer vegetables and savory herbs that are available. It is similar to a crustless quiche or a frittata that makes a wonderful addition to a brunch or a backyard barbecue.  It can be served warm or cold.  Either way, it’s delicious. 

One of the baking pans I have found extremely useful over the years is the ‘springform pan’. The function of this pan is to make it possible to take out of the pan a cake which is too fragile to trust to the conventional method of turning it upside down. A pan with a removeable bottom eliminates the need to risk inverting the cake.

A cheesecake might be the best example of a cake needing such a specialty pan. This was just what the late Pierre Franey was thinking of when he introduced the springform pan to New York Times readers back in 1980.

The pan he had in mind was made by Kaiser, a German metal goods company founded in 1919 by Wilhelm Ferdinand Kaiser to provide quality equipment to avid bakers like his wife. The company claims to have invented the springform pan, which it calls ‘the intelligent round cake pan’, and is the world’s largest manufacturer of them. They make 30 types, including one with a glass bottom that can double as a serving plate.

Thinking beyond cheesecake, the springform pan works so good when used to make this torte. The high sides of the torte gives it such a special look. It bakes up firm, but still creamy and delicious. It can be served as a vegetarian main course with a side salad, or served alongside some grilled sausage as we did for our meal.

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Vegetable Torta w/ Chicken/Turkey Sausage
Instructions
  1. Place the zucchini in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Let sit for 30 minutes tossing occasionally. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a sheet pan with a rack. After the zucchini sits for 30 minutes, rinse off the salt, drain and pat dry with a few paper towels. Pour the zucchini slices onto the rack and place in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove and cool.
  2. Reduce oven temperature to 350 F. Brush the bottom & sides of a 9-inch springform pan with oil. Line bottom with parchment paper & brush parchment with oil. Wrap outside of pan with aluminum foil.
  3. In a skillet, heat oil & sauté onion & mushrooms until veggies are tender-crisp, about 10 minutes.
  4. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Beat in eggs until combined ( can still be a bit lumpy). Beat in cream or 1/2 & 1/2. Stir in garlic, basil, Italian seasoning, salt & pepper. Using a slotted spoon to drain off any liquid on sautéed veggies, then add sautéed vegetables & zucchini to egg mixture along with drained sun-dried tomatoes & marinated artichokes. Add grated Swiss cheese; stir with a rubber spatula to combine. Spread mixture in prepared pan & set pan on a baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 1 1/2-1 3/4 hours or until top is puffy & golden brown & the center no longer jiggles when shaken. Remove from oven & allow to cool for 10 minutes in pan, then run a sharp knife around edges of torte to loosen. Gently remove pan sides. Serve warm, room temperature or cold.

Summer Vegetable & Shrimp Pizza

CELEBRATING HERITAGE 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 chose whether or not to recognize the day as a general holiday, which most do.

The Heritage Festival held in our city of Edmonton, Alberta Canada is a three-day event to sample delicious food, see creative performances and celebrate Canada’s multiculturalism. Thousands of visitors come to enjoy the tastes, smells and sounds of different nations around the world.

Even though many people will take in the day’s events and cultural food at the festival, some chose to pack a picnic lunch and take a drive somewhere just to relax.

I am posting a summer veggie & shrimp pizza that should work real well with that idea.

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Summer Vegetable & Shrimp Pizza
Instructions
  1. In a skillet, fry bacon until almost done. Remove to paper towel.
  2. Add zucchini, onion & garlic to skillet with bacon drippings & sauté for 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Increase heat slightly & add 1/2 tsp. of oil. Add shrimp & cook for 1 minute, turning halfway through. Transfer to a plate. Cut cooked corn kernels off of the cobs.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  4. Brush Naan breads with olive oil & sprinkle with salt, pepper & Parmesan cheese. Top with zucchini, onions, garlic, shrimp, corn, bacon bits & mozzarella cheese.
  5. Bake until cheese is bubbling & naan bread is 'toasted', about 7-8 minutes. Allow pizza to rest for 5 minutes, then cut into 8 slices. Sprinkle with basil & parsley. Serve

Asian Pork Chops

Plum sauce is one of several commonly used Chinese condiments. The sauce is both sweet and tangy, allowing the product to work well in a number of different applications.

The basic plum sauce is made using plums that have been allowed to ripen to the point where the flesh of the fruit is at its sweetest. As part of the preparation, the skin of the plum is usually removed by immersing the whole plums in hot water for a short period of time, allowing the skin to be peeled away from the fruit with relative ease.

Often you will find plum sauce made from other fruits, most commonly apricots. Or made from a combination of apricots & plums. It is also common to add other seasonings to plum sauce like garlic, star anise or Chinese 5-spice powder. The additional seasonings add different nuances to the flavor of the sauce and vary depending on the tastes of whoever is preparing it.

In this particular recipe, I’m using plum sauce as an ingredient in my sauce mixture rather than on its own. The combination creates a unique Asian flavor for the pork.

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Asian Pork Chops
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Asia
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Asia
Servings
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Instructions
  1. In a large skillet, brown chops in oil. Combine the plum sauce, orange juice, soy sauce, garlic, mustard, ginger & pepper; pour over chops.
  2. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover & simmer for 15-20 minutes or until tender.
  3. Remove pork chops to serving platter & drizzle with sauce. Sprinkle with sliced green onions & sesame seeds. Serve with steamed rice.

Coconut Shrimp w/ Spicy Rhubarb Sauce

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!

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Coconut Shrimp w/ Spicy Rhubarb Sauce
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Instructions
Rhubarb Sauce
  1. 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.
Coconut Shrimp
  1. Using 3 separate bowls, place flour in the first, beaten egg in the second & panko/coconut mixture in the third.
  2. Clean & devein shrimp. Dust them with flour then dip in the egg & lastly coat with panko/coconut mixture.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Sweet & Sour Pineapple Chicken Balls

Chicken balls aren’t authentic Chinese food but they were probably inspired by Chinese sweet and sour pork. The pork is replaced with chicken, it’s battered instead of breaded and the sauce is sweeter but its in the same ball park. These sweet and sour pineapple chicken balls are a type of modern Chinese food served in Canada, Ireland, United States and the UK as a staple of Chinese take-out. Due to their vast popularity among the masses, they have become linked unwilling to Chinese cuisine, for better or worse. They are largely unheard of in China, depending on the recipe and referred name.

Here in Canada, in our province of Alberta, many of the Chinese dishes that are served in small-town Chinese restaurants have a distinctly Canadian twist. Chinese Canadian food evolved over the decades and has developed into a its own unique cuisine. Some dishes that are unique to Canada and Alberta include ginger beef, cabbage chow mein & sweet and sour chicken balls. Across Canada, Chinese Canadian food has evolved from recipes that were created using the ingredients that were available to the restauranteurs decades ago.

The chicken balls we prefer are dipped in a light batter then baked in the oven as opposed to deep frying them. Brion & I enjoy them served over rice with the tangy pineapple sauce.

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Sweet & Sour Pineapple Chicken Balls
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Ingredients
Chicken Batter
Pineapple Sauce
Servings
Ingredients
Chicken Batter
Pineapple Sauce
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Instructions
Chicken
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. In a food processor, chop chicken meat with seasoning, JUST until it is a roughly ground texture. Divide into 12-16 portions. Wet hands & roll into balls. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Do not overbake. Remove from oven & cool slightly on paper towels until batter is ready.
Sauce
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine brown sugar & cornstarch. Stir in pineapple with juice, Zesty Italian dressing, (soy sauce), & minced garlic. Cook & stir over low heat until thickened. Set aside & keep warm.
Batter
  1. In a bowl, combine all batter ingredients; beat until smooth. Add chicken balls; stir until covered well with batter.
Baking or Frying
  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper & place a wire cooling rack over it. Lift chicken balls out of batter with a fork & place on wire rack. Bake at 400 F. for about 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven to a serving plate. Alternately, you could cook battered chicken on a griddle with oil or deep fry it in a pot of oil.
Serving
  1. When chicken balls are cooked in your preferred choice; pour pineapple sauce over them & serve with steamed rice.

Mexicali Quiche w/ Avocado & Roasted Tomatoes

There are so many great things to make with tortillas. You can load up burritos for breakfast, stuff some quesadillas with shrimp or make tortilla chips and cover them with cheese, guacamole and spicy salsa.

A tortilla quiche combines a classic breakfast quiche and a tortilla tart without having the traditional pastry crust.

Breakfast for supper is always good with Brion & I. Making this meal a day ahead of serving it allows the flavors to become exceptional.

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Mexicali Quiche w/ Avocado & Roasted Tomatoes
Instructions
  1. In a skillet, cook ground pork, onion, mushrooms & garlic. Cook until meat is brown & crumbly & moisture has mostly evaporated from the mushrooms. Stir in corn, beans, chili powder & cumin. Remove from heat.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  3. In a bowl combine eggs, milk, green chili peppers (if using), salt & pepper. Grate cheese.
  4. Lightly butter bottom of an 8-inch baking dish. Place one of the tortillas on the bottom of dish; sprinkle with a bit of grated cheese & top with half of the pork mixture. Tear other tortilla into pieces & place on top then sprinkle with a bit more cheese & remaining pork mixture.
  5. Carefully pour milk mixture over quiche then top with remaining cheese. Bake for about 30 minutes or until set.
  6. While the quiche is baking, place cherry tomatoes in a foil lined baking pan, drizzle with olive oil & roast until skins pop.
  7. On a plate, mash avocados; add salt, garlic & lime juice. When quiche is ready, top with avocado mixture & roasted tomatoes. Serve.

Chicken & Leek Calzones

Like their Italian cousin pizza, calzones originated in Naples, Italy during the 18th century. The calzone’s original purpose was to serve as a ‘walk around pizza‘ that were not meant to be eaten with utensils. This Italian style turnover is created by folding a pizza in half. When correctly prepared, the calzone’s outer crust is baked to crispy perfection while the inside filling contains a warm, gooey blend of ricotta and mozzarella cheeses along side an assortment of hearty meats and vegetables. The crust of calzones, traditionally made with yeast, olive oil, water, flour, and salt, makes them extremely portable. Calzones, are always baked.  The original calzones of Naples, were most likely much smaller than the modern calzones seen in North American restaurants today, because the pizzas created in 18th century Italy were for a single person to enjoy.

Calzones are similar to stromboli and the two are sometimes confused. Unlike calzones, which are always stuffed and folded into a crescent shape, a stromboli is typically rolled and folded into a cylinder. Both are pizza derivatives. They utilize the same ingredients to achieve different versions of a sealed, portable meal. Calzones are traditionally stuffed with cheese, tomatoes, and marinara. But much like the pizza, any sort of toppings can be added inside the calzone.

Today, I wanted to put a bit of a different spin on the calzone idea. I’m making a potato/leek yeast dough, filling them with chicken & mushrooms & adding a bit of pizazz to the shape. What’s old is new again!

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Chicken & Leek Calzones
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Course Lunch
Cuisine American
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Course Lunch
Cuisine American
Servings
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Instructions
Leeks
  1. Rinse & slice leek. In a skillet, place oil, sliced leek, sage leaves, garlic, salt & pepper. When the garlic is fragrant & the leek is tender, turn off heat & transfer to a dish to cool.
Dough
  1. In a small dish, combine yeast with lukewarm water; allow to stand for a few minutes until frothy. In a large bowl, combine butter, salt, sour cream, cooked, mashed potato & 1/2 of the leek mixture. Beat together well.
  2. When yeast is ready, add it to the wet mixture. Mix in flour, one cup at a time. When dough is blended, turn onto a lightly buttered work surface. Knead dough about 10 minutes, until smooth & elastic. Place dough ball in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap & let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours. While dough is rising prepare filling.
Filling
  1. In a skillet, fry bacon to a cooked but not real crisp stage. Transfer to a paper towel, reserving bacon drippings to sauté mushrooms in. When mushrooms have cooked & released most of their moisture, remove from heat.
  2. In a bowl, combine remaining other half of cooked leek mixture, bacon, cooked chicken (or turkey), & mushrooms. Add Ranch dressing & salt to taste. Set aside.
Assembly & Baking
  1. On a lightly greased work surface, divide risen dough into 8 balls. Roll each ball into an OVAL shape, about 7 x 6-inch size. Divide filling into 8 portions. On each oval, place a portion of the filling in a straight line on the middle of the dough.
  2. Keep one side free & cut the other side of the dough into thin strips using a knife. Fold the uncut side over the filling first, then continue rolling over the cut side.
  3. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper & place the 'calzones' on it, curving them into a C shape. (Place the side with the 'strips' curving to the outside). Brush calzones lightly with egg wash; cover with plastic wrap & allow to rise for about 20 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  5. Bake calzones for 40 minutes until a golden brown. Serve hot or room temperature.

Parmesan Baked Scallops

Scallops are an exquisite delicacy brought to us by the sea. Subtle as their flavors may be, the combination of sweet, buttery and nutty always hits the right spot and makes them so addictive.

Sea scallops are widely known for their iconic, beautiful shape …. a fan-like shell with fluted grooves. Different varieties are found in oceans all over the world and come in many sizes. For commercial purposes they are labeled similar to shrimp. A number is used to designate how many scallops of a given size it would take to constitute a pound. The label 20/30 means it would take 20/30 scallops to make up a pound and labels like U10 means it would take less than (‘under’) 10 to make a pound.

Scallops are bivalve mollusks (meaning having 2 shells- usually united by a hinge) that have a reddish-pink, upper shell and white or cream colored, lower shell.

Wild scallops feed by filtering microscopic plankton from the water. They are hand shucked immediately and frozen at sea to capture their fresh sweet flavor.

Brion & I don’t have scallops often but when we do we enjoy them to the fullest.

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Parmesan Baked Scallops
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Place 'scallop shells' on a baking pan.
  2. Rinse scallops & thoroughly pat dry on paper towels. Season with salt & pepper.
  3. In a bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the compound butter. Mix well.
  4. Place 4 scallops on top of each shell dish. Divide butter into 4 portions & place one on each dish of scallops. Bake for about 8-10 minutes, depending on the size of scallops. Test at about the 6 minute mark. Try to avoid over baking as you will be broiling for a few minutes to finish.
  5. As scallops are baking, melt butter in microwave for the crunchy topping. Mix in the panko crumbs & fresh parsley.
  6. Remove the scallops from the oven. Turn on the broiler. Top each with a spoonful of the crunchy topping. Sprinkle with a bit more parmesan cheese. Broil for about 1 minute or 2, just enough to brown the topping & melt the cheese.
  7. Nice to serve with rice or pasta. Garnish with fresh parsley & serve with lemon wedges.

Beer Can Burgers

CELEBRATING VICTORIA DAY!

For many Canadians, Victoria Day marks the unofficial beginning of summer. It is Canada’s oldest non-religious holiday and although we still hang on to the British Queen’s name (for old times’ sake), this truly Canadian holiday has everything to do with the end of the cold weather and short days and a lot to do with some great food.

This holiday is called ‘May 2-4’ in some parts of Canada, a name that refers both to the date around which the holiday falls (May 24th) and Canadian slang for a case of twenty-four beers (a ‘2-4’), the popular beverage during the long weekend.

I’m sure, for many this weekend, barbecuing will be up front and center with burgers, steaks and ribs taking top billing. By now we’ve all heard of or tasted Beer Can Chicken but what about Beer Can Burgers? One might think that the burgers were cooked with the beer can inside like the beer can chicken is. They’re not. The burgers are just shaped around the beer can or bottle, then they are filled with whatever you choose to put in them. What you’re trying to achieve is really just a bacon wrapped ‘cup‘ from the ground beef with a filling inside. After this you can either grill (with indirect heat) or bake them low & slow. The bacon renders and caramelizes, so the beef is flavored by both the bacon and the filling inside.

As for the fillings, the sky is the limit as long as you’re using something that’s both pre-cooked and can withstand the long slow cooking. Just a few ideas would be caramelized onions, peppers, mushrooms, hash browns, cheese (of course!), avocado, chili etc. etc.

When making beer can burgers its good to use an 80/20 blend of beef and the standard (not thick) slice bacon. The thing about this kind of burger, is that they are best made with about 285 gms (about 10 oz.) so you can wrap two rows of bacon around them. Reason being, if made smaller, as the burger cooks, the meat shrinks and the filling falls out. The ideal height going up the can or bottle would be about 3 1/4 – 3 1/2 inches.

Beer can burgers can be baked in the oven or done on a grill. They are going to take some time to cook, about 50 minutes to an hour. Low and slow is the key so aim at about 300 F. Once they’re cooked, you can eat as is or add some tomato, lettuce, pickles, etc. I could hardly imagine anyone needing a bun with the size of these burgers … but?!

Whatever you decide to have today, the main thing just enjoy it!

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Beer Can Burgers
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Caramelized Onions
  1. In a skillet, heat 1 Tbsp oil; add sliced or chopped onion & sprinkle with salt. Cook & stir about 15 minutes or until moisture is evaporated & onion is soft. Reduce heat; sprinkle with 1 1/2 tsp cider vinegar & 1 Tbsp brown sugar. Cook, stirring until caramel brown in color. Transfer to a dish to cool.
Sautéed Mushrooms & Avocado
  1. In the same skillet, add sliced mushrooms, minced garlic & a few drops of water (just to get them sautéing). Sauté until moisture evaporates. Set aside. Peel & cut avocado into 1/2-inch slices; set aside
Cheese
  1. Shred or cube cheese of choice; set aside.
Burgers
  1. In a bowl, combine ground beef with spices. Divide beef in half & form each piece into a ball. Place on a work surface; using a beer can or bottle, press down firmly. With your hands, form beef around can/bottle to a height of about 3 1/4 to 3 1/2 inches. Horizontally wrap, two slices of bacon, one to the bottom of the beef & the next just above on each burger. Carefully remove can/bottle.
  2. Set up grill for indirect heat at around 300 F. Alternately, set a wire rack over a rimmed, foil lined baking sheet & preheat oven to 300 F.
  3. Fill burgers with prepared fillings & cook for about 50 minutes or until meat is cooked. Once cooked, allow them to sit for a few minutes so the burgers & cheese firm up slightly without the burger losing its juiciness.
  4. Enjoy as is or top with whatever you prefer.

English Muffin Shitake Mushroom & Herb Pizza

From a history standpoint, I won’t dive into the origins of the English muffin simply because the origin doesn’t seem to be that clear. Some claim the English muffin is actually an American invention. Others claim it’s English, but with some slight modifications over time. It seems they began as another version of an English crumpet and have been marketed in North America in some form since the late 1850s (they were called toaster crumpets then).

An English muffin is a flat, savory yeasted flatbread, made from wheat flour (in most cases). It is made on a griddle, not in the oven like ‘regular’ muffins would. As with any food there are a ton of variations on the recipe. Their main distinguishing characteristic–although they are smooth on the outside, holes cover the interior surface. Those holes provide little pockets to hold melted butter or drops of marmalade, jam or jelly.

English Muffin Pizza is inspired by the infamous pizza bagels (and/or bagel bites). Pizza bagels didn’t come on the scene until about 1959 and there are actually several claims as to who invented them. The earliest claimed version was a pizza cooked on half of a bagel that was baked without a hole…which is kind of like an English muffin. Could this be the earliest iteration of the English Muffin Pizza?

That being said, English muffins actually can be used in numerous ways such as:
 hamburger buns next time you make burgers
–  a side of garlic bread on pasta night
–  the base of an appetizer instead of crackers
–  in your favorite panini sandwich instead of bread
–  avocado toast with an English muffin

These mushroom pizzas make a great little lunch.

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Shitake Mushroom & Herb Pizza on English Muffins
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Instructions
  1. Heat large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and mushrooms; sauté 4 to 5 minutes or until mushrooms are tender, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and herbs; continue cooking 1 minute. Stir in sherry; remove from heat.
  2. Toast muffins; place on baking sheet. Brush with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil; cover with cheese. Top evenly with mushroom mixture & a bit more cheese.
  3. Broil 2 minutes or until cheese is melted. Sprinkle with remaining herbs.