As my love affair with leeks continues, I just can’t imagine what took me so long to try them. It’s amazing how many ways there are to use these giant ‘onions’.
The ‘cordon bleu’ idea has been around forever and generally it features a specific cut of meat stuffed with ham and cheese. In this recipe, the leeks are wrapped in Swiss cheese & Canadian bacon, then baked in a béchamel sauce and served over steamed rice.
Though ham and Canadian bacon look and taste remarkably similar, they’re not the same thing. Ham comes from the back legs, specifically the thighs and rear end, while Canadian bacon comes from the center of the pig’s back otherwise known as the eye of the pork loin.
There are a few names for Canadian bacon which include back bacon and pea meal bacon. During the early part of the last century, yellow peas were ground up and used to coat and cure pork loin. This became known as pea meal bacon. Once cornmeal became more readily available, it was swapped out for the pea meal.
Probably the bacon most people are familiar with is American bacon, which comes from the belly of the pig and tends to be much fattier …. hence the name ‘streaky bacon’.
I have to be honest, I’ve never been a bacon lover (which probably stems back to my Dad’s home cured version !!) but I did find this meal light and tasty.
Leeks Cordon Bleu
Remove roots, outer leaves & tops from leeks; leave 6-inches of each leek. Cut each in half crosswise. Steam, covered 8 minutes or until tender. Wrap each leek half in 1 piece of cheese & top with 4 pieces of Canadian bacon. Place leeks in an 8-inch square baking dish.
Place flour in a small saucepan; add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended. Stir in broth. Bring to a boil over medium heat; cook 6 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly with a whisk. Reduce heat & season with salt & pepper. Pour sauce over leeks & sprinkle with panko crumbs.
Bake for 10 minutes or until golden. Serve over steamed rice.
No matter what the stuffing or style is, love for the empanada is not a difficult one to understand. They are cheap, easy to eat, transportable, and versatile.
Empanadas look as good as they taste; perfect food for a picnic. Eating outdoors, spaced apart is probably one of the safest ways to gather during the ongoing pandemic crisis. The great thing about picnicking is that you can do it practically anywhere you can throw a blanket down. If you can’t make it to a park or field, your yard, porch or any flat surface with a little grass (or sand), some sun (& shade) will do.
Empanadas can be eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They can be served as appetizers or snacks (hot or cold), but they can easily make a full and satisfying main course.
The very basics for an empanada are a combination of three things; dough, filling and a cooking method. The dough can be made from wheat flour, cornmeal, mashed plantains, potatoes, yuca, sweet potatoes etc. and the fillings can consist of meat, fish or vegetables. The cooking method is usually to be baked or fried although some can be cooked on a griddle or grill.
According to food historians, empanadas with seafood filling first appeared in a 1520 cookbook, published during the Moorish invasions.
I was real interested to see what I could do to make some salmon empanadas taste special. We found they were good as a hot meal served with the remaining ‘sauce’ or eaten COLD for a picnic lunch.
Salmon Picnic Empanadas
In a small bowl, combine sour cream & ice water; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, 1/2 cup cornmeal, sugar & salt. Using a pastry blender or finger tips, cut in butter until mixture resembles both coarse crumbs & small peas. Sprinkle the cold sour cream mixture over dough, tossing with a fork to evenly distribute it. Do NOT overwork dough.
Cover bowl with plastic wrap & refrigerate for at least an hour.
In a skillet, melt butter & sprinkle with flour. Allow to cook for a few minutes. In a bowl, whisk together broth, milk & soy sauce. Slowly add to flour/butter mixture, stirring constantly until sauce thickens. Remove from skillet & set aside.
In the skillet, sauté salmon filet in 1 Tbsp oil until JUST cooked. Remove to a dish. With a fork, 'shred' salmon; set aside.
In the skillet, sauté vegetables in remaining Tbsp of oil for a couple of minutes. Add seasonings, shredded salmon, 1/3 cup prepared soy sauce & grated cheddar. Toss to combine; set aside to cool.
Assembly & Baking
Divide chilled pastry into 10 balls. Roll each one in cornmeal. Place a ball between 2 sheets of plastic wrap & roll into a 6-inch circle.
Divide filling into 10 portions. Place a portion on one side of the pastry circle, leaving about a 1/2-inch border (on filled side). With your fingertips, moisten edge of pastry with a bit of milk or water. Flip opposite side over filling & press edges together to enclose it well. Use a fork to make the classic look.
Repeat with remaining pastry & filling. Lay empanadas on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 20 minutes or until pastry is baked & slightly browned.
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.
Special birthday wishes are going out to my sister Loretta today on July 25th. Loretta you are a treasure that our family holds dear. We appreciate you as a person, sister, friend, mother and any other function that you hold in your life! You don’t have a bad bone in your body and you never do anything to compromise your kind heart and tender soul, you are one special lady.
Even if Brion & I can’t have a ‘birthday supper’ together with Loretta, I still like to post a meal I think she would enjoy to have on her day.
This is a gourmet take on a classic potato dish. Its creamy, cheesy and comforting but instead of making this gratin with cream, I am using a béchamel sauce made with milk and two cheeses. Gruyere and Parmesan together with parsley, thyme & Dijon mustard give it a lovely flavor which highlight the taste of the leek & salmon.
WE CELEBRATE YOUR BIRTHDAY WITH LOVE, LORETTA!
Salmon, Leek & Potato Gratin
Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Sauté garlic, lemon zest & thyme for 2 minutes. Add flour & cook 1 minute, stirring to combine. Remove from heat & gradually add the milk, stirring constantly, then return to the heat & cook, stirring until thickened.
Add salt, pepper, Dijon mustard & 3/4 cup of the combined parmesan & Gruyere cheese (reserving 1/4 cup) & stir until the cheese melts. Remove from the heat & stir in the parsley & lemon juice.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease an 8-inch square baking dish lightly with olive oil.
Wash & pare potatoes (leave the skin on if you prefer). Slice very thinly; place one sliced potato in a layer on the bottom of the baking dish, overlapping slightly.
Arrange one third of the sliced leek & salmon evenly on top, then spoon one quarter of the cheese sauce over all. Repeat the layers with the remaining potatoes, leek & salmon, finishing with the final layer of potato & topping with the last quarter of the cheese sauce.
Sprinkle with reserved 1/4 cup grated cheese. Cover with foil & bake for 45 minutes, then remove the foil & bake for a further 30 minutes. Allow the gratin to stand 10 minutes before serving.
- If your making this for a 'special' occasion, you may want to make them in individual servings as I did in the picture. I used 5-inch round pans with removeable bottoms & lined them with parchment paper so they couldn't leak.
Pudding cake is kind of a magical concept that lies precisely at the intersection of cake and pudding. When you mix it, it looks like a very light cake batter. But, as it bakes, it separates into two layers. The top is the lightest cake ever and the bottom (in this case) is an intense lemon pudding with some fresh ‘seasonal’ saskatoons.
Of course, overtime, there have been many versions of this classic dessert developed, all of which are no doubt delicious. You have to love a dessert that practically garnishes itself, right?! Sometimes, old recipes really are the best.
Lemon Saskatoon Berry Pudding Cake
Saskatoon Berry Compote
In a small saucepan, combine berries, sugar & 1 tsp lemon juice; heat until bubbling. In a separate dish, combine cornstarch & water; pour into berry mixture. Stir until thickened & remove from heat.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter 6 ramekins (or a 10-inch glass dish). Divide the saskatoon compote between the ramekins; set aside.
Grate 1 Tbsp of lemon zest. Squeeze 1/3 cup lemon juice. Set aside.
In a bowl, whisk together flour, salt & 2/3 cup sugar. In another bowl, whisk together YOLKS, milk, lemon zest & juice. Add to the flour mixture; whisk until completely blended.
In a bowl, beat WHITES until soft peaks form; add the 1/4 cup sugar slowly & beat until medium peaks form. Whisk 1/4 of the whites into flour mixture; our this mixture over the remaining whites. Whisk together using a folding technique to keep from deflating egg whites.
Pour the batter into ramekins & place them into another larger pan. Fill the bottom pan with water as high as it can go without floating the ramekin dishes.
Bake for 25-30 minutes depending on the size of ramekin dishes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
- I flipped my little puddings over so all those pretty saskatoon berries could sit on top.
A Dutch baby pancake is a cross between a fluffy style pancake and a soufflé. Its less work than standard pancakes and less complicated than a soufflé.
If you follow our blog, you probably have seen other versions, both sweet & savory featured on it. Dutch baby’s are such an easy meal to make, they are a regular in our meal rotation, not to mention how delicious they are.
Dutch baby recipes work best in cast iron pans because they retain heat and cook evenly. If you don’t have cast iron cook-ware, I find pyrex bowls will work as a substitute.
Because of the delicate nature of the batter, you can only add your toppings once the batter has baked. For some toppings, this will require cooking these ingredients on the stove top while the eggy batter bakes.
Be careful with recipes that instruct you to mix chopped veggies and meat directly into the batter. The combination of weight and moisture will prevent the batter from cooking and puffing up as it should. One exception to this would be finely grated Parmesan cheese. To help create height, bring the eggs to room temperature before mixing into the batter.
Being seafood lovers, this meal really works for us.
Shrimp Dutch Baby Pancake
Dutch Baby Pancakes
In a bowl, whisk together eggs & milk. Add flour & whisk until incorporated then whisk in parmesan cheese, scallions, parsley, thyme, salt & pepper. Set aside in refrigerator until sauce & filling are made.
In a small saucepan, melt butter; sprinkle with flour & seasonings. Mix well; add milk & broth, stirring until sauce becomes thickened. Blend in cheese; set aside
Shrimp Filling / Baking
Peel & devein shrimp (you can chop into pieces if you prefer). Prepare filling veggies for cooking.
Place 2 Tbsp butter in each of TWO 7-inch pyrex baking bowls (alternately you can use one 10-inch cast iron skillet). Place bowls in hot oven to melt butter (and heat the bowls for baking pancakes in). Once the butter is melted & the bowls are hot, divide the batter between them. Bake for 25 minutes.
The Dutch Baby will puff up during cooking, but once its removed from the oven & starts to cool it will deflate slightly. At this point its nice to do the final sautéing of your filling so that when the pancakes come out of the oven you are ready to fill & serve.
In a large skillet, sauté zucchini, onion, mushrooms & garlic in oil until tender-crisp. Combine soy sauce with water in a cup; add to vegetable mixture along with shrimp. Gently stir fry ONLY until shrimp is cooked, then fold in Gouda sauce.
When Dutch Baby pancakes are finished baking, remove from oven & transfer to 2 serving dishes. Divide filling between the 2 pancakes & serve hot.