It’s summer and there’s nothing better than the simple sweetness of fresh fruit. Barbecues are the highlight of the season and no doubt you will be making numerous ‘cool’ desserts.
I realize fruit marinated in alcohol is not for just any barbecue, but if it fits the occasion, it adds a nice finishing touch. Marinating fruit in alcohol is nothing new. Many cuisines have special recipes that include dried fruits such as raisins, currants and prunes. You can create endless combinations using fresh fruit with wine, spirits or liqueurs. Of course, the added bonus is this dessert does not require you to turn on your oven.
Limoncello is a traditional digestif of southern Italy, where the lemon trees give an abundance of bright, yellow fruit. The drink concentrates the flavor of those fresh golden fruits, making it the perfect palate cleanser after a rich meal. If you wish, store it in the freezer and serve it over ice.
Fruit is thirsty stuff and will soak up basically any kind of wine or liqueur you chose to pour over it. Put together your own personal ‘magical’ concoction and enjoy!
Fruit Salad w/ Limoncello
In a bowl, whisk together yogurt, lemon curd, honey & vanilla; set aside at room temperature.
Prepare & carefully toss fruit together with sugar & limoncello. Allow them to stand at room temperature for about 5 minutes to let fruit macerate with sugar & liqueur.
Serve in dessert dishes with a dollop of lemon yogurt on top. Garnish with a sprig of mint.
- If limoncello isn't what you enjoy, other suggestions would be cognac, grand marnier, marsala or Kahlua.
The irresistible combination of strawberry and lemon is a taste most of us love to savor. This sweet and tart pairing isn’t reserved for strawberry lemonade served in a cup either. The flavor combination works wonders in cupcakes, sophisticated crepe cake, custard tarts, etc. etc. With the fact that we can readily buy strawberries year round, doesn’t make them any less special.
I’m not sure if you recall that fabulous glazed fresh strawberry pie from years ago …. so addicting! It consisted of a crisp crust filled only with fresh strawberries held together by a thickened fruit juice glaze. It was the quintessential summer dessert back in the day. A lady by the name of Claire Moore created this pie in 1954 in the USA. She shared the recipe with her husband, former ‘Eat’n Park‘ CEO Bob Moore, and the rest is history! This regional diner chain began during the days of the 1950’s car hops when everyone thought it was real cool to park and eat right in their hot rods. Today they’re a family restaurant and coffee shop chain still serving their signature fresh glazed strawberry pie.
To make a long story short, it was the memory of that dessert that made me think of doing these strawberry custard tarts for today’s blog.
Strawberry Custard Tarts w/ Lemon Curd
In a medium sauce pan over low heat, whisk together butter, sugar, lemon juice, zest and salt until combined. Add eggs one at a time, whisking until fully mixed each time. Cook over low heat about 8-9 minutes, whisking frequently, until somewhat thickened. Remove from heat and cool completely. Chill in the fridge until ready to use.
In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and salt until fully combined. Add the cubed butter, and using either a pastry blender or two forks, cut the butter into the mixture until the pieces are around the size of a pea. Pour in the vanilla extract, and cold water. Stir until the dough clumps together.
Move the dough to a floured surface and fold the dough into itself until the flour is incorporated (if it is too sticky, add some more flour to the surface or your hands) and forms a ball. Divide the dough into quarters and pat each one down into four discs, about ½ inch thick. Wrap in plastic and chill in the fridge for 15 minutes to an hour.
Remove the dough from fridge. Roll it out into 5-inch circles on a lightly floured surface and use to line four 4-inch tart pans. Crimp the edges as desired.
Prick the bottoms with a fork. Line the chilled dough crusts with parchment paper and fill each with baking beans. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove the paper and beans. Remove from heat and let them cool completely.
Filling & Assembly
Whisk the eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract together and then stir in the honey yogurt. Place the strawberries on top of the cooled crusts. Pour the filling over the strawberries.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, until crust is golden and custard filling is set. Cool for 5 minutes, drizzle with lemon curd, and serve.
- There are numerous good quality lemon curds on the market if you would rather not make it from scratch since it is only used for drizzling.
Salmon croquettes are basically a version of a salmon cake, salmon balls or patties and can be fried or baked. They were originally made of beef, probably leftovers that needed to be used up. Croquettes originated in France in about 1898 by the founder of classical French cuisine, Escoffier. As Escoffier’s chefs started to travel throughout the world, they took the recipe with them to other cultures where it was transformed based on local cuisines. From the original beef croquette, it branched out into salmon croquettes, chicken, vegetarian, and many other versions.
There are many variations of ‘croquettes‘ on the market, and just about every culture has developed their own recipe. Constantly, new recipes are formulated and something new is invented and created. With the input of different cultures, the original recipe has taken itself into many directions, different applications and ingredients. Very often salmon croquettes (cakes, balls or patties) are made with canned salmon though there are quite a few newer recipes that use fresh salmon that has been either chopped finely or ground to mold into the various shapes.
I think, using a zesty orange-pineapple glaze is the perfect compliment to these baked salmon balls.
Baked Salmon Balls w/ Orange Pineapple Glaze
If using canned salmon, drain & flake well. If using fresh salmon, brush with olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Grill for about 6 minutes or bake wrapped in foil at 350 F. for approximately 10 minutes. When cool, flake salmon. Add carrot, green onion, potatoes, tartar sauce, egg, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, cilantro paste, Old Bay Seasoning, salt & pepper. Combine well.
Using a small scoop (about 1/2 oz size), measure salmon mixture out into palm of your hand & gently roll into balls. Mixture should make about 32 balls.
Roll salmon balls in Panko crumbs & place on a well buttered or sprayed baking sheet. Lightly spray tops with spray as well.
Bake about 30-40 minutes, turning halfway through. Remove from oven.
Place all glaze ingredients into a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir gently & simmer for 15-20 minutes or until liquid begins to thicken slightly & reduces by half.
Drizzle over salmon balls or serve on the side. These salmon balls are nice served with rice & a steamed veggie.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Many cultures around the world believe the key to a happy, healthy, prosperous & productive year begins with eating certain lucky foods on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. The theory is ‘do good, eat good’ on the 1st day of the year, to begin the New Year right.
It hard to believe we have arrived at the end of another ‘complicated’ year and its time to reflect and assess the year it was. The word ‘new’ brings thoughts of hope and makes us realize how precious time is.
The tradition of eating pork on New Year’s dates back to …. well, no one really knows when. If your a meat eater, chose pork over chicken or beef on New Year’s Day because pigs dig with their snout, representing forward movement or progress, while chickens or turkeys scratch backward, the cows stand still. That’s it, that’s the folklore behind the tradition!
Many European countries such as Germany, Austria, Switzerland & Ireland, eat pork not only because of the belief of moving forward but because fatty meat is also symbolic of ‘fattening’ their wallets. Germans feel that pigs are so lucky that they give marzipan pigs known as ‘Glucksschwien’ or lucky pigs, as gifts to bring good luck in the coming year. They can also be given in other forms, such as little wooden or glass figurines.
With the pandemic situation that seems to be never ending, I think anything that will help in the good luck department is a good thing.
Sage, Dijon Pork Tenderloin w/ Pistachio Couscous
Cook the couscous according to package directions. Add parsley, olive oil, salt and pepper, and pistachios. Stir to incorporate. Taste and adjust for seasonings. Cover and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350º. Spray an 9” x 13” baking dish with cooking spray.
Using a knife poke several holes in the tenderloin about a half-inch deep so marinade can penetrate.
In a small bowl whisk together the shallots, garlic, soy sauce, mustard, honey, juice, sage, salt and pepper, and olive oil.
Pour the marinade over the tenderloin.
Bake uncovered for 45 minutes basting every 10-15 minutes.
Transfer the tenderloin to a large cutting board and allow them to rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
Slice the tenderloin and transfer to a serving dish placing atop warmed couscous.
Drizzle the marinade from the pan over the sliced pork medallions & couscous.
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. Saskatoons ripen in late June or early July. They grow in many conditions from sea level to mountain peaks and are less picky about soil conditions than blueberries. 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!
Throughout North America, saskatoon berries have a variety of names including: prairie berry, service berry, shadbush or juneberry.
Saskatoon berries work equally good in sweet treats as well as savory recipes. This pork tenderloin entrée is a good example of the latter.
Honeyed Saskatoon Balsamic Pork Tenderloin
In a small bowl, combine panko crumbs, Parmesan, thyme, oregano, garlic & pepper.
Remove silverskin from tenderloin & 'butterfly'. Place meat between 2 sheets of plastic wrap & pound, making it all the same thickness. Spread mustard evenly on flattened cut side & top with 'stuffing'.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Starting with the long side, carefully roll the tenderloin as opposed to just folding it over.
Place a rack in a shallow roasting pan & lay a piece of foil on top creating sides for it. Lightly oil center of foil; place tenderloin on it & brush with Fig Balsamic Olive Oil Vinaigrette or just use olive oil. Roast for about 45 minutes until just a hint of pink remains.
In a small saucepan over low heat, add 1 tsp oil & sauté green onions & ginger for a couple of minutes. Add honey, water, cider vinegar, cornstarch & salt; mix well. Add saskatoons; bring to a simmer & cook until chutney thickens slightly.
Slice roast tenderloin into medallions about 1-inch thickness. Pour some chutney onto serving platter; place sliced tenderloin medallions on top & drizzle with remaining chutney.
CELEBRATING FATHER’S DAY!
Honoring your father on Father’s Day doesn’t require his physical presence. I feel what is more important, is just the act of doing it.
It seems as we get older, reminiscing becomes part of our lives. It is an important psychological process called ‘life cycle review’. Father’s Day, for Brion & I, is a day that brings back many fond memories. My father passed away in 2005 and Brion’s in 2011. There is never a week that goes by that we don’t reminisce about something we remember about one or the other. Both of our Dad’s loved to talk and tell you stories from their lives. I think back to when I was just a kid and my Dad would recount the same story more than once. At the time, it all seemed a bit boring but now I realize how the benefits of storytelling and review are greatly underestimated. I would give anything to retrace those years once again.
A father’s love and influence is never fully appreciated until he is no longer with you. It is so important to make the most of every day they are in your life.
For my Father’s Day blog recipe, I am doing a barbecue meal I think they both would have enjoyed.
Using apple butter not only in the turkey burgers but also in the caramelized onion is so unique tasting. Apple butter is in its own class of spreads, its not really a jam or jelly and it doesn’t have the thin texture of apple sauce. It is thicker, silkier and a highly concentrated paste produced by slow cooking. The apples caramelize turning the apple butter a deep brown.
Contrary to what the name suggests, there’s zero actual butter in apple butter. The name is derived from the fact that it is a dense spread.
These ‘gourmet’ burgers have a great apple butter flavor that pairs perfectly with smoked gouda cheese and caramelized onions. It seems apple butter, as ordinary as it is, cannot be found in every grocery store and when you find it, the price is amazingly high. I made a small batch from ‘scratch’ that worked out good in this recipe.
Apple Butter Onion Turkey Burgers
Preheat oven to 350 F. Peel, core & cut apples into wedges; place in a baking dish.
Cover the pan tightly & bake for 30-45 minutes or until apples are cooked & soft. Allow to cool for a few minutes.
Place the cooked apples to a food processor; add spices, honey & apple cider vinegar. Pulse until smooth. Transfer to a saucepan & simmer mixture over low heat to reduce down. Stir the mixture occasionally as it cooks. This process reduces the liquid in the apple butter & will take 30-90 minutes all depending on how much moisture was in the apples. When finished cooking, cool slightly before adding it to your burger mixture.
In a bowl, add ground turkey, panko crumbs, apple butter, cilantro, cumin, smoked paprika, salt & pepper. Combine well & shape into 6 slider or 4 full-size burgers. Set aside in fridge until onions are made.
Apple Butter Onions
Remove the papery skin from the onion & trim off top & bottom. Cut in half & thinly slice.
In a large skillet add olive oil & set over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add onions, salt & pepper. Cook for 20 minutes or until the onions are soft & caramelized. Add the apple butter & stir to combine. Keep warm while burgers cook.
Preheat barbecue grill to medium heat. Grill burgers 8-10 minutes depending on size. Top each burger with cheese & allow to melt. Toast buns if you wish, top with burgers, apple butter onions & tomatoes.
CELEBRATING MOTHER’S DAY!
As we celebrate Mother’s Day, many special memories come to mind. This day is our time to reflect and show gratitude to the women and mother’s who have been mentors and caregivers; ultimately those who have helped to shape us into who we are today.
This blog is especially to honor: the special memories of my mother for her endless giving of selfless love – my mother-in-law, Dolores, for her kind ways and raising that ‘special’ man I love sharing my life with – to my sisters, who have given so much of themselves to be such great moms.
Spring is here and although the pandemic keeps us close to home, it doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate Mother’s Day as well as one of the most ‘fruitful’ seasons of the year by baking something special.
The focus on food shifts to lighter recipes with fresh flavors and colors. Simple ingredient additions or substitutions can make spring and summer desserts stand out. Lime gives sweet dishes more complexity, adding a tart note. Substituting refined sugar with honey or maple syrup changes the texture and sweetness. If you have a recipe in mind and want to give it a spring touch, replacing the main ingredient with a seasonal fruit can be quite effective.
I love fruit curds as they differ from jam by having less sugar. Curd is a sort of cream or custard. The most famous is the lemon curd, although it can be made of orange, grapefruit, tangerine, passion fruit and of course lime. Curd is neither too runny nor thick; it is pourable when hot and soft once cooled. It can be used as a filling for tarts, as a spread for scones or toast or inside cakes or muffins.
I think blackberry lime cupcakes are the epitome of fresh flavor not to mention the beautiful visual presentation. Although lime curd can be purchased readily, preparing your own homemade version is not hard but does take a bit of time.
Blackberry & Lime Curd Cupcakes
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 8 muffin cups with paper baking cups.
In a large bowl, combine oatmeal, yogurt, honey, milk, butter & lime zest; mix well. Let stand for 10 minutes then stir in egg whites until blended.
In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda & salt; mix well. Add to oat mixture all at once; stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. (do not overmix).
Place a spoonful of the batter in each cup. Top with a small dollop each of blackberry preserve & lime curd. Divide remaining batter between the 8 cups.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool cupcakes in pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove from pan & cool completely.
Lime Whip Topping
Prepare as directed on pkg envelope, being sure to measure your lime juice in with the milk (omit the vanilla).
- I had originally though I would top these cupcakes with a cream cheese frosting but thinking they might be too sweet, I went with the lime whip topping instead.
‘Everything’ bagels have been around at least since the 1980’s, but more recently we are seeing the everything spice blend itself, showing up on grocery store shelves.
Everything spice has similar flavor notes to a number of Middle Eastern spices and dishes that have moved into the mainstream over the past few years. The mix of poppy and sesame seeds, garlic, dried onion and salt has always been a popular variation for people who want some tang at breakfast or brunch.
It automatically gives almost any food item that you dust it with a ‘trendy upgrade’. On one recipe website they list more than 101 ways to use the everything spice. Some of them included cheeseballs, savory french toast, meatloaf, cheesesteak and risotto.
To be sure, this spice isn’t for everyone. If you like blueberry bagels and red velvet doughnuts this garlicky blend won’t work for you.
In August of 2020, the Presidents Choice Brand made their ‘copy kat’ version available here in Canada. For that reason, I see no excuse not to buy some. You can stir it into plain cream cheese, sprinkle it on grilled meats, avocado toast, rice, scrambled eggs, salads, chicken, pancakes or use it on top of some ‘Everything Spice Rolls’. Yum!
'Everything Spice' Rolls
In a large bowl, whisk together 1 cup oats, honey, butter & salt with boiling water until combined. Cool to room temperature.
In a small bowl, combine the yeast with warm water. Let stand for about 5 minutes until foamy. Pour into the oat mixture followed by flaxseed meal, whole wheat flour & 1 cup all-purpose flour. Use a wooden spoon to stir into a shaggy dough.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface & knead until the dough is smooth & elastic, about 8-10 minutes. If the dough feels too sticky, add a little more all-purpose flour (up to 1/2-3/4 cup). Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover & let rise until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
Punch down the dough & let it rest for 5 minutes. Divide the dough in half; cut each half into 12 portions. Working with one portion at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent from drying), shape each portion into an 8-inch rope. Tie each rope into a single knot; tuck top end of rope under bottom edge of roll. Place each roll on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap coated with baking spray; let rise in a draft-free place for 30 minutes or until doubled in size.
Combine egg & water in a small dish; brush egg mixture over rolls. Sprinkle with everything seasoning mix. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden. Cool on wire racks.
- If you wish, shape your dough into more than one style of bun.
For most part, the category of soup is almost exclusively savory dishes. Fruit soups however, although they may be served at the beginning of a meal, are essentially sweet dishes. They may be thin and delicate or thickened and substantial.
Fruit soups actually have quite a long history, particularly in Scandinavian and Eastern European cuisines. Many of these traditional recipes are made with seasonal berries and stone fruits like cherries and apricots but any kind of dried fruit will work just as well.
While fruit soups can be served at room temperature, cold is especially nice when serving it as dessert. You can choose to make the soup with any one fruit or a combination of fruits. Of course, there are certain fruits that lend themselves naturally to soup. In addition to the fruits, they are often enriched with other ingredients such as yogurt, sour cream, milk or cream.
In 1959, the Campbell’s Soup Company produced fruit soups that were eaten hot or cold. The flavors included …. orange w/ apricots & white grapes, prune w/ oranges & apricots and black cherry w/ burgundy. Interesting! Who knew?!
Winter Fruit Soup
Rinse & drain dried fruit then transfer it to a large soup pot along with the cinnamon stick.
Cover fruit with 6 cups boiling water. Cover with the lid & allow pot to sit off the heat for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, add 2-3 Tbsp honey or to taste, & place the pot back on the stove. Bring it to a boil then reduce heat & simmer on low for 5-7 minutes.
Combine 2 Tbsp of potato starch with 1/2 cup cold water & slowly pour it into the soup pot while continuously stirring soup.
Bring the pot back to a boil & immediately remove it from the heat. Serve warm or cold.
- Other dried fruit choices could be: mango * pineapple * cherries * pears * peaches * figs
- Star anise spice
This is an example of great classic Belgium cuisine. Sweet, sour and savory all in one dish! It seems, in Europe alone, many countries have their own special version of meatball dishes, from Swedish and German meatballs in brown or white sauce to Italian meatballs with their classic red sauce.
Although meatballs are a staple of Belgium home cooking, you will find a variety of different recipes throughout the country.
Boulets a la Liegeoise, (a traditional Belgium meatball originating from the city of Liege), are a blend of ground beef and pork, eggs, some bread crumbs, salt, pepper and a bit of nutmeg. That’s it …. no fusion cooking, bells and whistles. Just good, plain food made special with a tart cherry sauce.
I just couldn’t resist making a variation of these since Brion & I have our own little cherry tree in our back yard.
Belgium Meatballs w/ Sour Cherries
Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a baking tray.
In a large bowl, combine all meatball ingredients & mix well. Measure out 20 meatballs, approximately 40 gm each, & place on the baking tray.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until meatballs are cooked through.
Measure cherry juice & cornstarch into a dish to combine.
In a small saucepan, heat cherries & add cornstarch mixture. Stir until sauce thickens, add honey & stir again.
Remove from heat. Drizzle over meatballs or serve on the side. Serve hot.
In a saucepan, melt butter; add flour to make a roux. Cook, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes.
Slowly add beef broth, stirring until sauce thickens. Season to taste.
Serve as an alternate to the cherry sauce with Belgium meatballs.