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

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.

Hasselback Stuffed Pork Loin

The ‘hasselback’ style of cooking originated many years ago in Stockholm, Sweden. Overtime many variations have been made and are simply products and preferences of the individual preparing them. It is the slicing and roasting that distinguish the style rather than the variations on seasonings or toppings.

Today, I wanted to do a pork roast in this manner using some mushrooms and ‘pancetta‘. An Italian specialty, pancetta is made from pork belly that is spiced, salted and cured for about 3 months. Often seasoned with spices like fennel, nutmeg, garlic, dried ground hot peppers and peppercorns to create pancetta’s distinctive spicy flavor.

After it has been cured and dried for a few months, it is often rolled into a spiral so that the fat and meat form a cylinder, alternating each other. Pancetta is also sold as a slab so that most of the fat is located only on one side.

Although, both pancetta and North American streaky bacon are from the same raw cut of pork, in taste, texture and uses they have two key differences. Pancetta is cured, not cooked over heat while bacon is a smoked meat. Pancetta is described by the spices used to flavor and cure the meat whereas bacon’s many varieties are derived from the different wood pellets used to impart its signature smoky flavor.

This is such an easy way to make such a flavorful roast.

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Hasselback Stuffed Pork Loin
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Instructions
  1. Pre-heat oven to 425°
  2. In a medium frying pan add 2 tablespoons olive oil, mushrooms, salt, pepper, oregano, rosemary, parsley and garlic, sauté for approximately 10-15 minutes.
  3. Make approximately 6 x 1/2 inch slices in the pork loin, be sure to not slice right through, place 1 slice of pancetta between each slice and divide mushroom mixture between the 6 slices. Stick 3 long kabob sticks through the meat to hold the mixture in place.
  4. Drizzle a little oil on baking pan, Place stuffed pork on pan and sprinkle with more oregano, a little salt and pepper and a sprig of rosemary.
  5. Bake for approximately 50-60 minutes or meat thermometer reads 155-160° F. Let sit 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Apple Sauce Pasta & Cheese w/ Turkey Chicken Sausage

The exact origin of the classic ‘macaroni and cheese‘ is unknown, though it likely hails from northern Europe. Although there were French dishes with pasta and cheese as early as the 14th century, it was an English writer and business woman called Elizabeth Raffald who first wrote the recipe for what we would recognize as macaroni and cheese in 1769. Elizabeth’s recipe was for macaroni, cooked in a béchamel sauce with cheddar cheese added and sprinkled with parmesan.

Many countries have a profound love and deep historical connection to a version of this dish including the USA, Canada, the United Kingdom, France and of course Italy where pasta was first popularized in Europe. It is also possible that some of its origins may trace back to the Alps of Switzerland.

Pasta itself is neither Swiss nor European in origin; it dates to at least 3500 BC in Japan and China, likely spreading to the Middle East and northern Africa via the Silk Road. Some studies believe that the 7th century nomadic Arabs then likely brought it with them while travelling from Libya to Sicily, from where it spread north along the Italian peninsula.

Whatever the truth, this humble pasta w/ cheese dish has become an ultimate comfort food in a plethora of cultures and countries around the world. There have been many inventive twists put on this classic. The 1953 edition of the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook, calls for a sauce made from Velveeta, onion and cream of mushroom soup. Other variations sub in Brie, figs, rosemary and mushrooms for the traditional cheddar based sauce. Adding applesauce might sound like a weird addition, but it works. Just like cheddar melted over a piece of apple pie is an unexpectedly delicious treat.

I used some orecchiette pasta, which cups the sauce well and amped up the flavor with smoked turkey chicken sausage. Comfort food at its best!

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Apple Sauce Pasta & Cheese w/ Turkey Chicken Sausage
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Dice onion & slice smoked sausage. Heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a saucepan; sauté onion until almost tender-crisp then add sliced sausage & continue to cook for a few more minutes.
  3. Bring a pot of water to a boil & prepare the orecchiette pasta according to package directions. When it is cooked, drain it well, drizzle it with the remaining Tbsp of olive oil. Shake it around a bit in the strainer to keep pieces from getting stuck together.
  4. Heat the milk & applesauce in pot that was used to cook pasta, stirring constantly. Do not bring to a boil.
  5. In a Dutch oven over medium heat, melt butter & whisk in the flour. Cook mixture for two minutes, whisking all the while then whisk in the hot milk/applesauce mixture. Cook for 2 more minutes continuing to whisk while the mixture is thickening.
  6. Remove the Dutch oven from the heat & stir in salt, pepper, sage, gruyere (save a bit for garnish if you wish), cheddar, onion & sausage slices. Combine evenly then add cooked pasta & stir until pasta is evenly covered with sauce.
  7. Place the Dutch oven in the oven, uncovered & bake for 30-40 minutes or until the orecchiette on top just begins to turn golden brown at the tips.
Recipe Notes
  • Alternately, you can skip the oven time as the ingredients are already cooked. I thought some sautéed leeks made a nice garnish along with the gruyere.

Herbs de Provence Shrimp

If you are not familiar with ‘Herbs de Provence‘, it is a mixture of dried herbs considered typical of the Provence region in Southeastern France. This region is known for endless vineyards, olive groves and its vibrant, purple lavender fields. Lavender is the herb that adds a distinctive scent as well as working beautifully with the rest of the herbs (thyme, marjoram, savory, oregano & rosemary) that make up this blend.

Prior to the commercialization of the product in the 1970’s, the person responsible for bringing the French phrase into the vocabulary of cooks around the world was non other than Julia Child (American-turned-French chef), who included it in a recipe in her classic cookbook ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking‘.

This iconic French spice blend can easily elevate any number of meals. Like most spice blends, there is no set formula for the ideal Herbs de Provence. While it uses ingredients that are found in the North American creation known as ‘Italian Spice‘ (with the exception of basil), it also includes lavender flowers and has a strong floral taste.

Although I am using the individual herbs in this recipe, you can easily substitute with bottled, dried Herbs de Provence with no problem. They are readily available in the larger grocery stores. This makes such a great tasting meal …. well worth your time.

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Herbs de Provence Shrimp
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan, fry chopped bacon until crisp, about 3 minutes; remove from pan & blot on a paper towel. Saute mushrooms, onion & garlic in bacon drippings until softened.
  2. Add peas, basil, lemon zest & 1 Tbsp oil. Season with salt & pepper.
  3. In a bowl, combine shrimp, thyme, marjoram, rosemary, lavender & remaining tablespoon of oil. Add shrimp mixture to saucepan; cook, turning once, until opaque throughout, about 2-3 minutes. Place in a dish & set aside to keep warm.
  4. In the saucepan, bring vegetable broth to a boil & add couscous. Cover saucepan & remove from heat; set aside until liquid has been absorbed, about 10 minutes.
  5. Add shrimp mixture along with cooked bacon, lemon juice & tarragon. Gently stir together with a fork. Serve immediately.

Wheatberry & Turkey Stuffed Cabbage Cake

For many of us, stuffed cabbage rolls bring back memories of a true comfort food. Historically this iconic meal has roots in ancient Middle East and spread to Eastern Europe as trade routes developed and people migrated.

Many cultures claim to have invented stuffed cabbage …. Persian, Russian, Ukrainian and Polish. As with many dishes, there seem to be hundreds of recipes. This humble food probably originated as most comfort food has, from leftovers and the ubiquitous cabbage.

Fillings vary from beef, lamb or pork seasoned with garlic, onion and spices. Other additions to the fillings consist of rice, breadcrumbs, eggs, vegetables, legumes, etc. The sauces used vary widely by cuisine or personal taste.

Instead of making individual cabbage rolls today, I thought it would be something different to make it as a layered cabbage ‘cake’. For the filling I went with ground turkey. What is unique about this filling is that it uses a combination of wheatberries and bulgur, some fresh herbs, leeks, celery and apples.

Wheatberries add such a nice chewy and nutty flavor. We both really enjoyed this savory cake.

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Wheatberry & Turkey Stuffed Cabbage Cake
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Instructions
Stuffing
  1. Place wheat berries in a saucepan & cover with about 3 inches of water. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat, stirring once or twice. Cover, reduce heat to medium low & simmer until tender, about an hour. Drain & transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Meanwhile, put bulgur in another saucepan & cover with about 3 inches of water. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Cover, reduce heat to medium low & simmer until tender, about 10-12 minutes. Drain & transfer to same bowl as wheat berries.
  3. Heat 1 tsp of oil in a skillet. Add turkey & cook, breaking up into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in 1 Tbsp of sage, 2 tsp of thyme, 1/2 tsp salt & 1/8 tsp pepper. Cook, stirring, until turkey is coated with herb mixture, about 1 minute; transfer to bowl with wheat berries & bulgur.
  4. Heat remaining teaspoon of oil in same skillet. Add leek & celery; sauté until vegetables are almost tender, about 6 minutes. Stir in apple & sauté until apple is light golden, about 4 minutes. Stir in broth; bring to a simmer until apples & vegetables are tender, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in remaining herbs & spices. Add to the bowl of wheat berries & bulgur mixture; combine. Set aside
Parmesan Sauce
  1. In a saucepan, combine flour & broth until smooth; gradually stir in the milk, salt & pepper. Bring to a boil over medium heat; cook & stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Add 1/2 of the grated cheese, stirring to combine. Add to wheatberry/bulgur filling mixture.
Cabbage
  1. Core & separate leaves from the head of cabbage. Place in a steam basket over boiling water & cook until tender. Drain, pat dry.
Assemble & Bake
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Grease bottom & sides of a deep casserole dish & arrange the largest cabbage leaf on the bottom. Place another leaf on top of that & up the sides of the dish all around. Place about a 1/2 an inch of filling on top the cabbage leaves on the bottom of casserole. Place a layer of cabbage leaves on top & repeat until you run out of filling.
  3. Finish with cabbage on top making sure to tuck it in the dish all around. Drizzle the top with oil & a sprinkling of salt & pepper. Bake for about 40-50 minutes. Let it rest for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Place a serving dish over casserole; flip over to release cabbage cake. Top with zesty red pasta sauce & sprinkle with remaining cheese. Cut into slices & serve.

French Tian w/ Chicken & Turkey Sausage

A tian itself, is a no-frills round earthenware dish that goes from the oven to the table. Its usually filled with layered, overlapping vegetables and sometimes a sauce, baked in the oven and served as a main or side dish.

The classic vessel is a truncated cone, flattened at the base and flaring outward to a wide rim. It is traditionally glazed on the inside but is unglazed on the outside.

As far as the ingredients go, tian and ratatouille generally share a lot of similarities. Both use some combination of vegetables such as squash, potatoes, onions and tomatoes, etc. The difference between the two is largely found in how they are prepared and cooked. With tians, thinly sliced vegetables are aesthetically arranged in a casserole baking dish. Ratatouille, on the other hand, usually involves cooking cubed or thinly sliced vegetables in olive oil until they create a hearty stew.

If your a vegetable lover, this recipe will work for you. We rounded it out with some nice chicken/turkey sausage but I’m sure just adding a loaf of French bread would be just great.

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French Tian w/ Chicken & Turkey Sausage
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine French
Keyword French tian
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Coat a baking dish with olive oil spray.
  2. In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Sauté onions until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add garlic & cook for another 60 seconds. Spread onion mixture on the bottom of the greased baking dish.
  3. Slice potatoes, zucchini, squash & tomatoes in 1/4-inch thick slices. Layer them alternately in the dish on top of the onions, fitting them tightly into a spiral, making only one layer. Season with salt, pepper & dried thyme to taste. Drizzle the last Tbsp of olive oil over the top.
  4. Cover the dish with foil paper & bake for 35 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Uncover & sprinkle the parmesan cheese on top & bake another 25-30 minutes or until browned.

Stuffed Acorn Squash w/ Turkey & Rice

Squash is one of those quintessential autumn foods that we have come to recognize. Even though it is considered a winter squash, acorn squash belongs to the same species as all summer squashes including zucchini and yellow crookneck squash. The main difference between the classifications is that summer squashes have soft skins and tender seeds and are fairly perishable, while the winter types have hard shells, fully formed seeds and are very suited to long storage.

For all their many splendored shapes and colors, squash is not something most of us crave, although they are an integral part of the cuisine in scattered points of the globe, such as South and Central America, the West Indies, India and Japan.

The acorn squash is similar in flavor to the butternut squash yet has a bit of a nutty taste to it as well. Resembling its name in shape, the acorn squash usually weigh between 1-2 pounds and generally grow between four and seven inches long.

Roasting them partially before stuffing makes the squash a lot more tender and easier to eat. I am always aware of the concept of ‘seasonal eating’. I was born in September, so I figure its totally natural to love fall food (& colors) such as squash, pumpkin, apples and cranberries.

The large cavity of acorn squash just begs to be filled. In this recipe, seasoned ground turkey and smoked Gouda cheese join forces in the savory stuffing. One squash the size of a grapefruit or a little larger is usually enough for two people.

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Stuffed Acorn Squash w/ Turkey & Rice
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray the fleshy part of the seeded, acorn squash & place halves on a baking sheet, cut side down. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until flesh is slightly tender. Cook rice & grate cheese, set aside
  2. In a skillet, heat 1 Tbsp of oil. Sauté garlic & shallots for 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, cumin & thyme & sauté another 3 minutes. Remove veggies from pan & set aside in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Add the remaining Tbsp of oil to skillet & brown the ground turkey for about 5 minutes or until no longer pink. Drain if necessary & add to mixing bowl along with cooked rice. Stir to combine well.
  4. Using a spoon, take equal portions of the filling & place into the cavity of each acorn squash half. Place the baking tray back into the 400 F oven & bake for 20 minutes.
  5. Top each acorn squash half with sprinkles of the shredded cheese. Place back in the oven & bake for another 5 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly.
  6. When ready to serve, garnish with sliced green onion.
Recipe Notes
  • To make it easier, microwave the acorn squash for a few minutes, just to soften a bit before attempting to slice in half.

Seafood Stuffed Pork Medallions with Peppercorn Sauce

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. I am very grateful to have had a father who was such a strong role model in my life. Everything he did was driven by his commitment to provide and care for the family he loved.

My father passed away in 2005 and Brion’s in 2011. Both our Dad’s loved to talk and tell stories from their lives. We often wish we could retrace that time and hear their voices again. It seems you never fully appreciate your parents until they are no longer on this earth. It is so important to appreciate every hour they are in your life.

My special meal to honor them on this Father’s Day, is a nice medley of pork, shrimp and mushrooms.

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Seafood Stuffed Pork Medallions with Peppercorn Sauce
Instructions
Stuffed Mushrooms
  1. Shred zucchini, sprinkle with a little salt & set aside. In a bowl, combine the cheeses, crumbled bacon, egg & seasonings. Squeeze as much liquid from zucchini as possible. Add it to the filling & mix well. Divide the filling between mushrooms. Place a small amount of Zesty Italian dressing in a cup. Dip bottom of each mushroom in dressing & allow to dip off for a few seconds. Place stuffed mushroom caps on a small baking dish making sure they will stay upright. Place in fridge until ready to bake.
Parmesan Shrimp
  1. In a bowl, combine oil, garlic, oregano, basil, Parmesan, salt & pepper. Add shrimp & toss gently; thread onto skewers. Place on a plate & refrigerate until ready to cook.
Stuffing / Tenderloin
  1. In a saucepan, saute garlic & shallots in 1 Tbsp olive oil for a few minutes. Add a few pinches of salt & pepper; stir in breadcrumbs. Add water; stir till all is combined & transfer to a bowl.
  2. In a bowl, cream together butter & cream cheese. Add 1/2 of the capers, the parsley & stir thoroughly. Add the Gruyere & scallops, stirring gently. Set aside.
  3. 'Butterfly' tenderloin & pound making it all the same thickness. Spread stuffing evenly on flattened cut side. Starting with the long side, carefully ROLL the tenderloin as opposed to just FOLDING it over. On work surface, lay out bacon strips side by side. Lay stuffed tenderloin at one end & roll up in bacon strips, placing a toothpick at end of each strip.
  4. Preheat the oven to 400 F. In a skillet, heat remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil, add the roast carefully & saute for about 3-4 minutes on each side to cook the bacon a bit. Place a rack in a shallow roasting pan & lay stuffed tenderloin on it; bake at 400 F. for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 F. & bake for another 20 minutes. Remove from oven, set the roast on a cutting board, cover loosely with foil, & let rest while the shrimp & stuffed mushrooms are cooking. When ready to serve, slice into 1 - 1 1/2" thick 'medallions'.
  5. Increase oven temperature to 400 F. Remove stuffed mushrooms from refrigerator, bake for 20-30 minutes or until filling is golden & mushrooms have softened. Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with foil, place skewered shrimp in oven for the last 6-8 minutes of cooking the mushrooms.
Peppercorn Sauce
  1. This can be made earlier or while the last items are cooking in the oven. In a hot skillet, add butter, shallots & peppercorns; stir until shallots are golden, about 1 minute. Add broth & thyme sprigs; reduce heat & allow sauce to simmer for a few minutes. Remove thyme sprigs. Add cream & salt & pepper to taste. If you wish to thicken sauce, combine cornstarch & water in a small dish, stirring until smooth. Add a bit at a time to your hot mixture, stirring until desired thickness is achieved.

Scalloped Potato Roll

I guess this meal could be classed as making the most of a traditional comfort food. Scalloped potatoes seem to feed both stomach and soul. Maybe that comes from so many of us having childhood memories of this dish. It seems most of the recipes now contain cheese. From what I remember, it was basically thin sliced potatoes and onions placed in a baking dish alternated with flour, butter, hot milk, salt & pepper and topped with buttered bread crumbs. It tasted so creamy and good!

Meatloaf and scalloped potatoes seem to be synonymous with each other. When I saw this recipe for scalloped potato roll on the internet, I felt it certainly kicked the two up a notch. You can use whatever ground meat that you prefer. I like a combo of beef, veal and pork. Beef is necessary for texture as well as flavor, veal contains a high level of gelatin keeping meat tender and the pork adds flavor. Just a little side note for what its worth — if you only have ground beef on hand, add half a teaspoon of unflavored powdered gelatin to 454 gm. The gelatin will act much like veal, keeping the texture softer and moister.

This meal looks like a lot of work but it really isn’t. The combo of roasted potatoes, ground meat, three cheeses and spinach or chard is excellent.


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Scalloped Potato Roll

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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, European

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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 11 X 7-inch baking sheet with parchment paper. Sprinkle half of the Parmesan cheese evenly over parchment. Peel & slice potatoes 1/8-inch thick. Rinse & pat dry on paper towels. Place the potatoes over the Parmesan so each potato is overlapping the previous potato both vertically and horizontally. Continue until the entire pan is filled with potatoes. Sprinkle the rest of the Parmesan evenly over the potatoes. Season with 1 teaspoon of salt. Bake 30 minutes, until golden. The potatoes should be slightly crispy & flexible .

  2. In a saucepan, heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil & saute onions until caramelized, about 15 minutes. Add ground meat, scramble fry with onions. Mix in tomatoes, 3 Tbsp parsley, paprika, 1 tsp salt & 1/2 tsp pepper. Stir, cooking until meat is browned & cooked through. Remove from heat & place in a bowl.

  3. Add 2 Tbsp of olive oil to the saucepan. Add spinach (or chard); cook until wilted. Add 1 tsp of salt & the garlic; stir to combine then remove from heat. Combine ricotta with spinach mixture & spread evenly over potato 'sheet' followed by the meat mixture & then topping all with the mozzarella.

  4. Take one end of the potato sheet, holding the parchment paper begin rolling upward, making sure the ingredients are not coming out the ends. Once the filled potato sheet is completely rolled, arrange it in the center of the parchment on the baking sheet & bake for about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining parsley & a bit more cheese if you wish.