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.
Asian Pork Chops
In a large skillet, brown chops in oil. Combine the plum sauce, orange juice, soy sauce, garlic, mustard, ginger & pepper; pour over chops.
Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover & simmer for 15-20 minutes or until tender.
Remove pork chops to serving platter & drizzle with sauce. Sprinkle with sliced green onions & sesame seeds. Serve with steamed rice.
Limoncello, (pronounced lee-mon-CHAY-low) the Italian lemon liqueur, is known for its refreshing sweet and tangy flavor. It is made from lemon rinds, alcohol and sugar. Although, traditionally served as an after dinner drink, it is a wonderful ingredient to use in cooking and baking.
Families have passed down recipes for limoncello for generations, as every Italian family has their own recipe. In the winter of 2013, Brion and I spent some time travelling Italy. It was in Sorrento where we tasted limoncello for the first time and loved it. As we walked through the quaint artisan shops packed together onto a maze of medieval alleys, we came across one that sold liqueurs & confectionery. One of the treats that they made were limoncello sugar coated almonds … to die for!
Limoncello origins are disputed. Some say it was created by monks or nuns while others credit the wealthy Amalfi Coast families or even local townsfolk. In any case, its roots are in Southern Italy, primarily along Italy’s Amalfi Coast and the Sorrentine Peninsula known for their meticulous lemon cultivation. These lemons are considered the finest lemons for making limoncello. Prized for their yellow rinds, intense fragrance, juicy flesh and balanced acid.
Today, I’m using limoncello not only in the cake but the glaze as well. This is definitely a refreshing cake, great for a summer picnic or dinner.
Glazed Limoncello Cakes
Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray an 8-inch square cake pan with cooking spray or baking pans of your choice.
Whisk sour cream, white sugar, canola oil, eggs, 3 tablespoons limoncello, and lemon zest together in a large bowl.
Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in another bowl. Add flour mixture to sour cream mixture; stir with a wooden spoon until batter is just combined. Pour batter into prepared cake pan or pans.
Bake for about 35 minutes OR until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool cake(s) in the pan for 5 minutes.
Whisk powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons limoncello liqueur together in a bowl until glaze is thin and smooth. Drizzle glaze over the top of the cake. Cool cake completely before serving. Top with a bit of whipped cream if desired.
- You may need a bit more glaze if you have made individual cakes as I did here.
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!
Today as we celebrate Mother’s Day, many special memories come to mind. My mother passed away in 1978 but even after 44 years, time has changed nothing. I still miss the sound of her voice, the wisdom in her advice, the stories of her life and just being in her presence. I miss her today as much as the day she left us. At the time of her passing a friend said to me, ‘your mother is always with you’. At the time, I didn’t quite understand what she had meant but as the years have passed it has come clear to me.
We are fortunate to still have Brion’s mother, Dolores, in reasonable health. It is with loving thoughts we celebrate her today for her loving and kind ways. Even though covid hasn’t allowed us to spend time with Dolores, to still be able to hear her voice on the phone is precious.
I wanted to post this article today that I had saved from many years ago. It certainly clarifies the meaning of my friends comment.
Your mother is always with you * She’s the whisper of the leaves as you walk down the street, she’s the smell of certain foods you remember, flowers you pick, the fragrance of life itself * She’s the cool hand on your brow when you’re not feeling well, she’s your breath in the air on a cold winter’s day * She is the sound of the rain that lulls you to sleep, the colors of a rainbow, she is Christmas morning * Your mother lives inside your laughter * She’s the place you came from, your first home, she’s the map you follow with every step you take * She’s your first love, your first friend, even your first enemy, but nothing on earth can separate you * Not time, not space … not even death.
On this Mother’s Day, I would also like to acknowledge my sisters, Loretta, Marilyn & Rita, who give so much of themselves to be the great mom’s they are.
I thought this nice sweet bread would be fitting for a Mother’s Day brunch.
Peach Melba Sweet Bread
In a small dish, place lukewarm milk, 1 Tbsp sugar & yeast. Allow to sit 3-5 minutes until frothy.
In a large bowl, whisk together melted butter, oil, eggs & 2 Tbsp sugar. Add flour & mix until well incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap & a towel. Allow to rise in a draft free place for about an hour.
NOTE: Be sure to roll out and shape the dough on parchment paper for easier transferring. Generously dust parchment paper with flour, add the dough. Add more flour to the top of the dough.
Gently roll out the dough into a rectangle about 16x10” in size, adding more flour as needed so the dough doesn't stick to the rolling pin. The dough will be slightly sticky.
Spread dough with a thin layer of peach preserves. Using a piping bag, pipe seedless raspberry preserves on top. Fold dough over, from the short end, in half.
Starting about an inch down from the fold, make 6 slices. Twist each slice then roll dough into a loaf starting with the uncut folded end, rolling towards you.
Transfer bread with parchment paper to a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Whisk together egg and water, carefully brush top of bread. Allow bread to rise 30 minutes.
Bake for 20 minutes, until the top of the bread is golden.
- You notice this bread does not have a lot of sweetener in the dough because of the fact you are using jam or preserves for the filling. For something special, I used a St Dalfour product that uses only grape, dates & pineapple concentrate to sweeten the jam. It was definitely not oversweet so it comes down to personal taste.
Though they come in all shapes and sizes, dumplings are a near-universal culinary constant as almost every culture has one. So naturally, dumpling recipes are incredibly versatile, coming with a wide array of fillings, wrappers, shapes and sizes. Eaten as an appetizer, dessert, side dish or for the main meal, they might just be the ultimate comfort food.
Chicken and shrimp go together surprisingly well, and this dish is no exception. In March of this year (2021), I posted a blog about Russian Pelmeni. Since then, Brion & I have had ‘pelmeni’ numerous times in which I’ve experimented with various fillings. In case you’re not familiar with these dumplings, traditional Russian pelmeni consist of a filling wrapped in thin, unleavened dough. The word “pelmeni” describes the ear-shaped appearance of these dumplings.
When I made them for the March blog, I used a different technique for preparing them. Instead of making them into the traditional ear shape, I rolled the dough out into a large rectangle. I then spread the raw meat filling over it very thinly and rolled it up in a jelly roll fashion. After slicing the roll into 2-inch pieces, they were steam cooked in broth in a skillet. It’s a quick and easy take on authentic pelmeni.
Since Brion & I eat a lot of chicken and shrimp, I could see no reason to ‘develop’ a new version with an almost oriental twist on it.
Shrimp & Chicken Pelmeni
Broth for Steaming Pelmeni
Broth for Steaming Pelmeni
In a bowl, combine all dough ingredients & knead until a smooth dough ball forms, about 10 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap & set aside to rest until your filling is prepared.
Chop mushrooms & mince garlic. In a skillet, heat butter & add garlic. When aromatic & light golden, add mushrooms & a light sprinkle of salt. Cook for about 2 minutes, until fragrant, soft & roughly a third of the original volume. Set aside in a bowl to cool.
Chop shrimp into pieces the size of large peas. Add to the mushrooms with the chicken, green onion, water chestnuts & ginger. Combine with a fork.
Stir together salt & white pepper, sugar, soy sauce & water. Pour over the filling; stir to mix & firm up. Cover & set aside to rest for 30 minutes.
Once dough has rested, transfer to a floured surface. Roll out the dough into a large, THIN rectangle. Spread filling over the dough, leaving a 1/4-inch at the far side of the dough.
Tightly roll dough up, starting from the wider side, forming a log. Put seam side down to seal the edges. Seal ends of the dough as well. Using a very sharp knife, cut the dough log into 2-inch sections.
In a large skillet that will accommodate all pelmeni, heat oil & cook onion until translucent. Add garlic & continue cooking until fragrant. Add grated carrot; cook about 1-2 minutes more.
Place pelmeni rolls on top of veggies, add vegetable broth, salt & pepper. Cover with a lid & simmer for 30 minutes on a low heat. Check pelmeni from time to time, to make sure there is still some broth in the skillet. Add more broth if it evaporates too fast. Garnish with extra sliced green onions if desired. Serve.
- A nice condiment for these dumplings would be a sweet chili sauce.
Parsnips are one of those vegetables that very often gets over looked as being bland and tasteless. The unassuming parsnip has neither carrots’ obvious sweetness or potatoes mashable, fryable, butter-loving appeal.
I’ve always loved their sweet, mellow, complex flavor. To me, parsnips have a taste reminiscent of hazelnuts, cardamom and a gentle peppery spice. They are at their best after a few autumn frosts, which converts the tuber’s starches into sugar. In fact, if they are left in the ground over winter and dug at the first sign of spring, parsnips are nearly as sweet as carrots.
Over the years, I have used them in many different applications. Pork with parsnips is a common savory pairing but grating them into breads and spice cakes is equally good. Making cakes with vegetables used to be a necessary economy, while today we use it as a way to improve the quality and it adds a range of flavors we’d forgotten about.
Using some fresh root veggies at this time of year seems to be a good choice. This cheesy parsnip bake makes such a flavorful meal.
Pork & Cheesy Parsnip Bake
Peel parsnips & cut into chunks. Cook in salted boiling water until they are tender, about 20 minutes.
In saucepan, heat oil & sauté onion until tender crisp. Add the mushrooms & cook gently for an additional 5 minutes. Stir in pork & fry, breaking it up as it cooks, until lightly browned.
In a small container, combine vegetable broth with cornstarch. Carefully add to meat mixture, stirring until it starts to thicken. Add extra broth if needed. Stir in chopped zucchini & cover. Turn heat to low & cook gently while preparing the parsnip topping.
Turn oven on to broil. When parsnips are soft, mash thoroughly. Stir in butter, milk & grated cheese. Spoon pork mixture into an ovenproof dish. Evenly spread the cheesy parsnip mixture on top. Place under a broiler until the topping starts to brown. Serve immediately.
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.
In a time when people chatted over the fence rather than the internet, backyards had rhubarb patches. The big, old-fashioned plant with its huge ruffled green leaves is easy to grow and its extremely hardy. The same roots can produce rhubarb for up to 15 years. Pioneer women smuggled rhubarb cuttings across the plains, even though they were not supposed to take anything worth less than a dollar a pound because of the crowded covered wagon conditions.
Most often we cloak rhubarb in sugar for cake, cheesecake or pies. This recipe shifts rhubarb to the savory side, a chutney that is fabulous in pulled turkey pizza. This pizza concept changes up the usual tomato sauce base with a spiced rhubarb chutney. Chutney is good with pretty much everything and takes on unexpected flavors when paired with different foods.
This pizza was an experiment that turned out to be amazing with the combination of salty and sweet. The addition of a potato crust and some caramelized onions, what’s not to like?! Of course, you have to start with being a rhubarb lover.
Pulled Turkey Pizza w/ Rhubarb Chutney
- 250 gm pulled turkey Either slow roast some turkey thighs or pick up at a deli counter already cooked
In a large heavy pot, combine sugar, vinegar, ginger, cumin, cinnamon & pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add rhubarb & onion; increase heat to medium high & cook until rhubarb is tender & mixture thickens. Cool completely. (I prefer to make this a day ahead).
In a skillet, heat oil until hot. Add onion & sprinkle with salt. Cook & stir about 15 minutes or until moisture has evaporated & onion is soft. Reduce heat; sprinkle with vinegar. Cook & stir until golden. Add brown sugar, stirring until caramel brown in color. Remove from heat & cool. ( I prefer to make these a day ahead as well).
Potato Pizza Crust
Cook potato in microwave, peel, mash & cool.
Combine yeast with lukewarm water & allow to sit about 3 minutes until foamy. Add butter, salt, sour cream & potato; mix well.
Stir in flour until completely blended. Turn onto lightly floured work surface. Knead dough until elastic & smooth. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap & allow to rise in a draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
Turkey & Cheese
If you are slow roasting your turkey thighs its best to have done this a day ahead so you had ample time to 'pull' the meat. Shred the cheese & set aside.
On a large sheet of parchment paper, roll or press potato dough into a 16-inch circle. Transfer dough (& paper) to a 14-inch pizza pan.
Carefully spread 1 1/3 cups rhubarb chutney over bottom of pizza crust. Sprinkle with a bit of grated cheese.
Layer with the pulled turkey meat & caramelized onions. Top with remaining grated cheese & bake 15-20 minutes or until crust is baked & cheese is melted. Remove from oven; cool slightly & slice.
- When I slow roasted my turkey thighs for this pizza I used a covered roasting pan. To give them a nice flavor I poured a bottle of Zesty Italian Dressing over them. They were super tender & so flavorful, perfect for this pizza.
- Alternatively, you can purchase the meat (either turkey or pork) as well as a pre-made pizza crust if time is of the essence.
- We have also tried this pizza with pulled pork.
- Any extra rhubarb chutney will come in handy for another kind of meal.
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.
Pepita seeds might not be what you ordinarily think of as chicken coating material, but these nutty, chewy kernels are every bit as tasty and versatile as almonds or pistachios in cooking.
Many people use the words pepitas and pumpkin seeds interchangeably, but they are actually two different things. A pepita is harvested from specific hull-less pumpkin varieties, known as Styrian or Oil Seed pumpkins. Any other variety of pumpkin produces a hulled seed that’s slightly fibrous and less tender.
Pepitas are more versatile in the kitchen than traditional pumpkin seeds since they’re not as tough. Aside from using them as a garnish or a snack, pepitas make good pesto, or as a crust for meat or fish, as a topping on muffins, mixed in granola, baked in focaccia bread or made into brittle.
Crunchy pepita seeds are little powerhouses of nutrition, so using them instead of breadcrumbs along with a light, spicy ‘tempura’ batter to prepare this chicken breast, really takes it from ordinary to special. It’s the whole package …. moist, crisp with the toasty appeal of pepitas.
Chicken Tenders w/ Pepita Seeds
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper & set aside.
In a bowl, combine all tempura batter ingredients (except pepita seeds), whisking until smooth.
Pat chicken tenders dry & add to batter. Turn in mixture to coat evenly. Allow to stand in refrigerator for 10 minutes.
Place whole pepita seeds on a large tray or plate. Lift chicken out of batter & coat evenly with pepita seeds.
Place chicken on baking sheet & bake 15-20 minutes or until golden brown & cooked through.
- Alternately, you could cook the chicken on a griddle using a combo of oil & butter.