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.
Being a fig lover, I am always attracted to recipes with this tasty little fruit in them. Some years ago, I started using the Kraft Fig Balsamic Dressing and it became one of my favorites.
Salad dressings have started catering to consumer demand for thoughtfully crafted products made with natural ingredients. Fig balsamic dressing can be used in numerous ways. It has a tangy and delicately sweet, caramelized fig flavor that works as a glaze for roasted or grilled pork, sauteed chicken and baked salmon. You can brush it on in the last few minutes of cooking or add a little to the skillet, just to coat your saute.
This balsamic vinaigrette has enough flavor to dress a salad on its own or use over roasted veggies, aged & soft cheeses or in soups. For dessert try drizzling some over fruit & Greek yogurt or ice cream. It’s amazing!
This glazed salmon is an excellent meal served with rice or roasted potatoes.
Honey Balsamic Glazed Salmon
Heat oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add vegetables; cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Spoon vegetables to one side of skillet. Add salmon, flesh side down, to other side of skillet; cover. Cook on medium heat 8 minutes or until fish flakes easily with fork, turning after 4 minutes.
Transfer fish & vegetables to a plate; cover to keep warm. Add dressing & honey to skillet; cook & stir 30 seconds or until heated through.
Pour dressing mixture over fish. Top vegetables with Parmesan & fresh basil.
CELEBRATING VICTORIA DAY!
Victoria Day is the distinctly Canadian holiday that serves as the official marker to end winter. For Canadians, this is the first long week-end since Easter and a good excuse to celebrate the beginning of the summer season. Camping and barbecuing are the name of the game but this year in view of the pandemic crisis, things are quite a bit more subdued.
In keeping with the spirit of a ‘seasonal barbecue’ on this holiday, Brion & I are having some char siu pork tenderloin.
Char siu is a dish made from seasoned boneless pork. The pork is covered in a sweet, savory glaze and placed on wooden skewers or forks over low heat. Its cooked until tender but not falling apart. The use of the skewers changes how the meat cooks. It should heat slowly and evenly from all sides. The char siu marinade is very distinctive in its flavor.
Many cuts of pork can be used in char siu such as neck meat, pork belly and pork butt. Just about any lean boneless cut will work but I like pork tenderloin the best.
Char siu has been around for many years and was generally roasted over a fire. Nowadays, its either cooked in an oven or on an outdoor grill. No matter which way you choose to cook char siu, the shiny red glaze gives it a very unique look and flavor. Char siu doesn’t have a lot of fancy ingredients or a complicated procedure. Instead, it pairs a tasty marinade with a lean cut of quality meat for a super good meal.
Char Siu - Chinese Roast/Barbecued Pork
Whisk marinade ingredients together in a bowl. Cut pork in half horizontally to make two long, flat, thin pieces about 2 X 1-inches in thickness. Place the pork & marinade in a zip-lock bag. Marinate 24 - 48 hours in refrigerator (3 hours is the bare minimum). Soak wooden skewers in water while meat marinades.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a deep baking tray with foil.
Remove pork from marinade, save marinade. Thread meat onto soaked skewers. The skewers will naturally suspend the meat above the baking tray with plenty of room to ensure that the meat is cooked evenly from all sides. A small amount of water in the bottom of the baking tray will help to keep the meat moist while its roasting.
Pour reserved marinade in a saucepan & combine with the 2 Tbsp of extra honey. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat & cook for 2 minutes until syrupy. Remove from heat.
Around halfway through roasting, baste generously with the reserved marinade. Try to get as much marinade on the meat as possible as it is the key for getting the thick glossy glaze. When finished roasting, the meat should be tender but not falling apart. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
- One of the key ingredients that gives char siu its wonderful taste is hoisin sauce.
- Chinese five spice refers to a mixture of spices used commonly in Chinese cooking. Each brand varies in terms of content.
One of the more interesting aspects of cooking is combining flavors to create something unique. Case in point would be meat and fruit. Some of the classic pairings such as turkey with cranberry sauce or lemon chicken are delicious, yet the idea of using both fruit and meat in the same dish is undoubtedly a little controversial. Nevertheless, these flavor companions with their sweet and salty relationship does work.
Pork for one, pairs well with an endless array of fruits. Pork comes in many forms so it gives us the opportunity to find the perfect combination.
In mid November, I had tried using some quince paste in some pastries. We quite enjoyed them so today I want to do the meat/fruit thing using the paste in a different context.
To make quince paste, the fruit is cooked in water and the strained pulp is then cooked with sugar. It turns red after a long cooking time and forms a relatively firm jelly. The taste is sweet but slightly astringent. Quince paste is usually sold in squares and is served by cutting it into thin slices to accompany cheese. It can also be served on crackers, spread on toast, used in baking or as a glaze for roasted meats.
With a fragrance that hints of vanilla, musk, pineapple and lemon blossom, quince deserves a little culinary exploration. Even if they are not a fresh fruit that is seen readily in our part of the country, I do think its worth enjoying some in ‘paste’ form.
Roasted Pork Chops w/ Quince Glaze
Preheat oven to 250 F. Rub pork chops with oil & place on a piece of foil on a baking sheet. Season with salt & pepper. Bake about 1 1/4 hours until very tender.
Add cider vinegar to a small saucepan over medium-high heat & bring to a boil. Add quince paste, honey & mustard. Whisk to dissolve the quince paste & blend the mustard. Continue to boil sauce until it reduces to around 1 cup & becomes syrupy, about 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat & pour into a small pitcher. Set aside.
Onions & Apples
In a large skillet over medium heat, add butter & saute onions, stirring often, until they are slightly translucent, about 5 minutes. Add apple wedges & thyme; cook until apples are tender. Add 1/3 of the quince sauce, tossing to coat both onions & apples well then simmer for about 1 minute. On each serving plate, place some apples & onions & top with a roasted pork chop. Serve with remaining quince sauce.