Vegetable Torte w/ Chicken/Turkey Sausage

There is so much to love about summer, not least of which is the amazing bounty of fresh produce. This summer vegetable torte is a great way to showcase flavorful late-summer vegetables and savory herbs that are available. It is similar to a crustless quiche or a frittata that makes a wonderful addition to a brunch or a backyard barbecue.  It can be served warm or cold.  Either way, it’s delicious. 

One of the baking pans I have found extremely useful over the years is the ‘springform pan’. The function of this pan is to make it possible to take out of the pan a cake which is too fragile to trust to the conventional method of turning it upside down. A pan with a removeable bottom eliminates the need to risk inverting the cake.

A cheesecake might be the best example of a cake needing such a specialty pan. This was just what the late Pierre Franey was thinking of when he introduced the springform pan to New York Times readers back in 1980.

The pan he had in mind was made by Kaiser, a German metal goods company founded in 1919 by Wilhelm Ferdinand Kaiser to provide quality equipment to avid bakers like his wife. The company claims to have invented the springform pan, which it calls ‘the intelligent round cake pan’, and is the world’s largest manufacturer of them. They make 30 types, including one with a glass bottom that can double as a serving plate.

Thinking beyond cheesecake, the springform pan works so good when used to make this torte. The high sides of the torte gives it such a special look. It bakes up firm, but still creamy and delicious. It can be served as a vegetarian main course with a side salad, or served alongside some grilled sausage as we did for our meal.

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Vegetable Torta w/ Chicken/Turkey Sausage
Instructions
  1. Place the zucchini in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Let sit for 30 minutes tossing occasionally. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a sheet pan with a rack. After the zucchini sits for 30 minutes, rinse off the salt, drain and pat dry with a few paper towels. Pour the zucchini slices onto the rack and place in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove and cool.
  2. Reduce oven temperature to 350 F. Brush the bottom & sides of a 9-inch springform pan with oil. Line bottom with parchment paper & brush parchment with oil. Wrap outside of pan with aluminum foil.
  3. In a skillet, heat oil & sauté onion & mushrooms until veggies are tender-crisp, about 10 minutes.
  4. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Beat in eggs until combined ( can still be a bit lumpy). Beat in cream or 1/2 & 1/2. Stir in garlic, basil, Italian seasoning, salt & pepper. Using a slotted spoon to drain off any liquid on sautéed veggies, then add sautéed vegetables & zucchini to egg mixture along with drained sun-dried tomatoes & marinated artichokes. Add grated Swiss cheese; stir with a rubber spatula to combine. Spread mixture in prepared pan & set pan on a baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 1 1/2-1 3/4 hours or until top is puffy & golden brown & the center no longer jiggles when shaken. Remove from oven & allow to cool for 10 minutes in pan, then run a sharp knife around edges of torte to loosen. Gently remove pan sides. Serve warm, room temperature or cold.

Coconut Shrimp w/ Spicy Rhubarb Sauce

I have an obsession with rhubarb. I think because it is something I grew up with that makes it a nostalgic thing for me. Now, I’ll be the first to admit when it comes to rhubarb, my mind immediately jumps to desserts. But, over the years, I’m leaning more and more to using it in savory ways.

Tart and tangy, with just a little bit of sweet and spicy complexity, this rhubarb sauce is a unique and unexpected twist that is perfect served with coconut shrimp.

Brion & I love coconut shrimp which is really odd given that neither of us like coconut?? One of the nice things about this meal is that it takes minimal prep work but gives great results. We have tried many versions of sweet & spicy sauce with these shrimp and enjoyed them all. Today we’re experimenting with this savory rhubarb sauce. Should be good!

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Coconut Shrimp w/ Spicy Rhubarb Sauce
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Instructions
Rhubarb Sauce
  1. In a heavy saucepan, combine sugar, cider vinegar, ginger, cinnamon & cumin. Bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add rhubarb & onion; increase heat slightly & cook until rhubarb is tender & mixture thickens, about 5-7 minutes. Cool then place in a food processor with Hot Red Pepper Jelly & process to a smooth sauce. Adjust the amount of red pepper jelly used to your liking. Set aside.
Coconut Shrimp
  1. Using 3 separate bowls, place flour in the first, beaten egg in the second & panko/coconut mixture in the third.
  2. Clean & devein shrimp. Dust them with flour then dip in the egg & lastly coat with panko/coconut mixture.
  3. Preheat skillet over medium heat. Melt butter then add oil. Once the combo is heated, place the shrimp in the skillet & cook 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown.
  4. Place cooked shrimp on paper towel then serve with spicy rhubarb sauce. We enjoyed these shrimp as a main course with rice & some steamed broccoli.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Roasted Chicken Breast

CELEBRATING FATHER’S DAY!

Today is full of memories for Brion & I. 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. Our Dad’s were men who always had great, real-life stories to tell. If only those stories had been recorded or written down so we could enjoy them once again.

They each followed a very different path on their life’s journey; my father was a farmer and Brion’s an army soldier. Both of them gave so much of themselves to their life’s work as well as to their families.

There are never enough words to describe just how important they were to us and what a powerful influence they continue to be. A father’s love is such a special gift beyond compare. You only know the meaning when he is no longer there.

For this blog post, I’m preparing a meal I think they both would have enjoyed. The sweetness of cooked strawberries creates a lovely balance with the saltiness of the prosciutto and the smoked gouda cheese.

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Prosciutto-Wrapped Roasted Chicken Breast
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Chicken Breast
Raspberry-Pepper Sauce
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Ingredients
Chicken Breast
Raspberry-Pepper Sauce
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Instructions
Chicken
  1. Butterfly chicken breasts & lay out flat; season with salt & pepper. In each chicken breast, add about 1/4 cup sliced strawberries, 2 green onions & about 30 gm smoked cheese. Allow green onions to stick out from both ends of the breast. Fold the breast closed & place another 30 gm cheese on top.
  2. On your work surface, lay out 3 slices of prosciutto, overlapping slightly. Place the stuffed chicken breast at one end of the prosciutto & begin rolling. Repeat with second chicken breast. As you roll, the prosciutto will stick to itself.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  4. Drizzle breasts with olive oil & roast for about 25 minutes or until cooked through. Place on serving dish & keep warm.
Raspberry-Pepper Sauce
  1. In a microwave safe dish, whisk together raspberry preserve & hot pepper jelly. Heat in microwave.
Serving
  1. Drizzle warm sauce over chicken breast & serve. This chicken is excellent with rice & steamed broccoli.

Chicken & Leek Calzones

Like their Italian cousin pizza, calzones originated in Naples, Italy during the 18th century. The calzone’s original purpose was to serve as a ‘walk around pizza‘ that were not meant to be eaten with utensils. This Italian style turnover is created by folding a pizza in half. When correctly prepared, the calzone’s outer crust is baked to crispy perfection while the inside filling contains a warm, gooey blend of ricotta and mozzarella cheeses along side an assortment of hearty meats and vegetables. The crust of calzones, traditionally made with yeast, olive oil, water, flour, and salt, makes them extremely portable. Calzones, are always baked.  The original calzones of Naples, were most likely much smaller than the modern calzones seen in North American restaurants today, because the pizzas created in 18th century Italy were for a single person to enjoy.

Calzones are similar to stromboli and the two are sometimes confused. Unlike calzones, which are always stuffed and folded into a crescent shape, a stromboli is typically rolled and folded into a cylinder. Both are pizza derivatives. They utilize the same ingredients to achieve different versions of a sealed, portable meal. Calzones are traditionally stuffed with cheese, tomatoes, and marinara. But much like the pizza, any sort of toppings can be added inside the calzone.

Today, I wanted to put a bit of a different spin on the calzone idea. I’m making a potato/leek yeast dough, filling them with chicken & mushrooms & adding a bit of pizazz to the shape. What’s old is new again!

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Chicken & Leek Calzones
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Course Lunch
Cuisine American
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Course Lunch
Cuisine American
Servings
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Rating: 5
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Instructions
Leeks
  1. Rinse & slice leek. In a skillet, place oil, sliced leek, sage leaves, garlic, salt & pepper. When the garlic is fragrant & the leek is tender, turn off heat & transfer to a dish to cool.
Dough
  1. In a small dish, combine yeast with lukewarm water; allow to stand for a few minutes until frothy. In a large bowl, combine butter, salt, sour cream, cooked, mashed potato & 1/2 of the leek mixture. Beat together well.
  2. When yeast is ready, add it to the wet mixture. Mix in flour, one cup at a time. When dough is blended, turn onto a lightly buttered work surface. Knead dough about 10 minutes, until smooth & elastic. Place dough ball in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap & let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours. While dough is rising prepare filling.
Filling
  1. In a skillet, fry bacon to a cooked but not real crisp stage. Transfer to a paper towel, reserving bacon drippings to sauté mushrooms in. When mushrooms have cooked & released most of their moisture, remove from heat.
  2. In a bowl, combine remaining other half of cooked leek mixture, bacon, cooked chicken (or turkey), & mushrooms. Add Ranch dressing & salt to taste. Set aside.
Assembly & Baking
  1. On a lightly greased work surface, divide risen dough into 8 balls. Roll each ball into an OVAL shape, about 7 x 6-inch size. Divide filling into 8 portions. On each oval, place a portion of the filling in a straight line on the middle of the dough.
  2. Keep one side free & cut the other side of the dough into thin strips using a knife. Fold the uncut side over the filling first, then continue rolling over the cut side.
  3. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper & place the 'calzones' on it, curving them into a C shape. (Place the side with the 'strips' curving to the outside). Brush calzones lightly with egg wash; cover with plastic wrap & allow to rise for about 20 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  5. Bake calzones for 40 minutes until a golden brown. Serve hot or room temperature.

Salmon & Leek Naan Pizza

The Naan which is known for its soft and fluffiness and original flavour also led to other types of it being created.

Different types of Naan also became popular depending on them either being stuffed or coated with specific toppings. The many varieties include:

  • Plain Naan – simplest form which is brushed with ghee or butter
  • Garlic Naan – topped with crushed garlic and butter
  • Kulcha Naan – has a filling of cooked onions
  • Keema Naan – includes a filling of minced lamb, mutton or goat meat
  • Roghani Naan – sprinkled with sesame seeds
  • Peshawari Naan and Kashmiri Naan –  filled with a mixture of nuts and raisins including pistachios
  • Paneer Naan – stuffed with a filling of cheese flavored with ground coriander and paprika
  • Amritsari Naan – stuffed with mash potatoes and spices 
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Salmon & Leek Naan Pizza
Instructions
  1. In large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add leeks and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until leeks are softened, about 5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat; let cool slightly.
  2. Meanwhile, in small bowl, combine sour cream, dill, mustard and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Place naan on prepared baking sheets. Evenly spread sour cream mixture on naan, leaving 1/2-inch border. Top with leek mixture, salmon and Swiss cheese. Bake until edges of naan are lightly browned and salmon is cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes. Sprinkle with dill fronds, if desired.

Savory Sweet Potato Toast w/ Avocado & Poached Egg

Its hard to believe its already Easter Sunday. In North America, many of us like to enjoy or host an Easter brunch. Traditional favorites very often include glazed baked ham, quiche, frittata & French toast casseroles. Of course, there are the classic hard boiled eggs that have been dyed & decorated for the occasion. Many countries make their own signature Easter breads ands buns. The one thing that I always loved about Easter was it signified the coming of ‘Spring’ in our part of the world. Plants were coming to life in the garden, the birds were singing their cheery, little tunes & the stores were filled with beautiful pastel colored Easter ‘things’.

I wanted to come up with something unique for our Easter brunch this year. French toast is always good but I was thinking more along the savory line. Sweet potatoes seem to be one of those polarizing food items, people either love or hate. For most part, I think its the memory of the overly sweet casserole most of us remember from our childhoods. But have you ever thought about using them in a savory context?

I had seen an idea using grated sweet potato patties with avocado and poached eggs. The temptation to kick it up a notch and make a savory sweet potato ‘toast’ for a base become a wonderful Easter brunch for Brion & I.

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Savory Sweet Potato Toast w/ Avocado & Poached Egg
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Savory Sweet Potato Bread
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Ingredients
Savory Sweet Potato Bread
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Instructions
Bread
  1. Pierce sweet potato several times, and wrap in a paper towel. Microwave the wrapped potato 4 - 6 minutes, or until it is soft to the touch & cooked through. Remove from oven, cool slightly, peel & mash. Measure correct amount needed for bread & reserve the rest for another use.
  2. In a small bowl, combine water, milk, sugar & yeast . Allow to sit until yeast is frothy.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together flour & salt.
  4. In a large bowl, combine sweet potato, butter, black pepper, cumin, coriander, thyme & sage. Taste & adjust seasonings if desired. Add yeast & flour mixtures. Combine well but don't overmix.
  5. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface & knead until dough is smooth & elastic. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, & set in a draft free place until doubled in bulk.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a flat work surface lightly dusted with flour. Leave to rest about 10 minutes. Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Flatten, shape into a loaf & set inside of pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap & set aside to rise.
  7. Preheat oven to 375 F. When dough is about an inch over the top of pan, place in oven & bake about 45 minutes, rotating pan about half way through baking time. Remove from oven & allow to cool completely before slicing. It is a good idea to make bread the day before you want to serve it.
Additional Preparation
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Place cherry tomatoes in an oven proof dish. Drizzle with 1 Tbsp olive oil & roast for about 15 minutes.
  2. Cut avocados in half & peel off skin. Lay one half of the avocado, cut side down, & slice the avocado thinly. Fan out avocado slices so that they form a long line with the slices overlapping each other. Starting from one end, curl avocado slices toward center. Continue curling the avocado slices until you have a 'rose'. Repeat with remaining 3 halves.
  3. Heat a griddle to 350 F. Slice sweet potato bread to your desired thickness. Lightly butter bread slices on both sides. When grill is heated, grill bread on both sides. Place on serving plates, cover & keep warm.
  4. Bring some water to a boil then poach the eggs for about 2 minutes. Drain.
  5. Top grilled savory bread with avocado roses, poached eggs & roasted cherry tomatoes. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes, salt & pepper.
Recipe Notes
  • This dough is very soft so it is a bit tricky to work with. I would imagine if you prefer it to be firmer you could you less yeast. 
  • When working with it , I used a buttered spatula.

Apricot Oat Breakfast Cake

Who can turn down cake for breakfast? It says right there in the recipe that ‘Served warm, it makes a delicious breakfast bread’. Although, bread might be stretching the truth a bit too far. Its cake, let’s be honest.

Oats are like the chameleon of the breakfast table, occupying many forms and disguising themselves as a bevy of morning meal options. The baked oats trend has been converting skeptics in huge numbers these days.

This lightly sweetened, apricot oat cake is a breakfast cake that celebrates apricots. A combination of regular all-purpose flour with oat flour results in the perfect crumb and a lovely flavor.  Because oat flour is surprisingly light and retains moisture makes it perfect for pairing as well with the coarser, grittier texture of cornmeal. The slightly sweeter taste of oat flour not only complements the corn flavor, it also lets you use a little bit less sugar.

There’s just something comforting about breakfast cake in the morning!

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Apricot Oat Breakfast Cake
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Course Brunch
Cuisine American
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Course Brunch
Cuisine American
Servings
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Spray an 8-inch round baking pan with cooking spray. Combine apricot halves and boiling water and let stand 15 minutes to soften. Drain apricots and arrange in bottom of pan.
  3. In medium bowl, whisk together oat flour, white flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, ginger, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  4. In separate bowl, stir together whole egg, egg whites, buttermilk, and olive oil. Make well in center of dry ingredients. Pour egg mixture into well, stirring just until moistened. Pour batter over apricots and smooth top.
  5. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes. Turn cake out onto rack to cool completely. Dust with confectioners’ sugar if desired.
Recipe Notes
  • It’s super easy to make your own oat flour. You’ll need a food processor or a good blender, and oats, that’s it! You use raw oats, any type, and process for a few seconds until they turn into a fine powder.... oat flour!
  • TO MAKE OAT FLOUR USE:
  • 2 1/2 cups oats - use steel cut or rolled
  • Put the oats in a food processor or high speed blender. Blend until the oats become a fine powder. This will only take a few seconds in a high speed blender, and a little bit longer in a food processor. Store the oat flour in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  • 1 1/4 cup oats will yield approximately 1 cup flour.

Ground Beef Ratatouille Galette

Ratatouille is a classic dish of southern France. Served as a side dish, hot or cold, arranged in a casserole or individual plates, its a recipe that lends itself to many different main dishes.

Ratatouille can be a challenging dish to pair with meat because the rich and luxurious flavors come from the freshness of the vegetables. There are, however, many types of meat that would not compete with ratatouille and still keep the meal light & satisfying.

For the meat lover, beef can make this meal quite enjoyable. Hence the inspiration for this galette: eggplant, squash, onion and tomato. Roasted together in the oven over a layer of seasoned beef all in a sturdy homemade pastry crust. Brion & I thought this vegetable-beef ratatouille came together in one harmonious blend and made a super nice meal.

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Ground Beef Ratatouille Galette
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine French
Servings
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Instructions
Pastry
  1. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, and salt. Using a pastry cutter or your fingertips, work the butter into the mixture until most of it resembles coarse meal with some pea-size pieces. Form a well in the center. Sprinkle with 4 Tbs. of the ice water. Mix with your fingertips until the dough holds together enough to form a ball. If too dry, add the remaining water by the teaspoon, and mix until the dough comes together.
  2. Form the dough into a ball, put it between two sheets of plastic wrap, and then press it into a 12-14-inch round. Wrap it tightly in more plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Veggies
  1. Wash & slice veggies; set aside in refrigerator until ready to use.
Beef Filling
  1. In a large skillet over medium heat. Brown beef until no longer pink; season with salt & pepper. Remove beef from skillet with a slotted spoon & set aside.
  2. In the beef drippings, sauté shallot & 1 tsp Herbs de Provence until caramelized. Add beef back to pan with crushed tomatoes & 1 Tbsp olive oil. Stir & simmer for 6-7 minutes. Allow to cool slightly.
Assemble & Bake
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Remove dough from fridge. Transfer pastry circle to a sheet of parchment paper.
  2. Spread beef /sauce mixture evenly inside the circle leaving about 3" of dough from the edge. Place the veggies in a spiral, rotating for some color interest. Drizzle with 1 Tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp salt 2 tsps Herbs de Provence & some black pepper.
  3. Fold edges of dough over filling, making sure there are no cracks. Brush the galette dough with egg wash.
  4. Bake for about 45 minutes or until veggies are roasted & pastry is golden. Allow to cool slightly then slice & serve.

Portobello Pasta Casserole w/ Crumb Crust

It seems the Portobello mushroom got its name in the 1980’s during a marketing effort to glamorize and hopefully sell, a mushroom that was often discarded. The Portobello mushroom is a mature form of the common mushroom known by various names: button mushroom, white mushroom or cremini mushroom.

It appears that ‘Portobello’ was the original name invented but from what I understand there is no right spelling …. Portabella, Portobella??

The mushrooms cap can be up to 6-inches wide (15 cm). Some will have smooth caps while others will have caps that slightly wrinkled.

This savory casserole combines sautéed Portobello mushroom slices, onion & egg noodles and is topped off with a buttery crumb mixture and Parmesan cheese. Brion & I really enjoy the rich, strong flavor you get from Portobello mushrooms so I think this casserole will be a keeper!

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Portobello Pasta Casserole w/ Crumb Crust
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 450 F. In a pot of salted, boiling water cook noodles according to package directions. Drain, rinse & set aside.
  2. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion & sauté until slightly browned. Add water & mushrooms; cover & simmer for 10-12 minutes until mushrooms have given off a considerable amount of liquid. Remove to a bowl & set aside.
  3. In the skillet, melt 3 Tbsp butter; add flour & cook until frothy. Slowly add vegetable broth, stirring constantly as it thickens. Add salt, soy sauce & dried savory; simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Add mushroom mixture & cooked noodles; toss to mix well.
  4. Place mushroom/noodle mixture in a lightly greased shallow baking dish, cover evenly with the crumbs & top with the cheese. Drizzle with butter & bake until lightly toasted. Serve immediately.

Stuffed Pasta Shells w/ Wild Salmon, Leeks & Mushrooms

Some years ago I started using leeks and have never looked back since. Brion & I have never tired of that subtle flavor. When a recipe calls for leeks, it usually indicates to use the white and light green parts only and to either discard the ‘tough dark green tops’ or save them for another use.

So what are these ‘other uses’? Usually it refers to using the green tops as add-ins for soups or stock, only to be removed once they have imparted their wonderful layer of flavor and discarded.

When you think about it, we cook up all kinds of vegetables that are ‘tough’ to start out with yet end up nice and tender when cooked or braised. I find, using the dark green tops presents no issues, just cook them a bit longer than the tender leaves.

On the other hand, you can braise the dark green tops with some butter/olive oil, chicken or veg stock, minced garlic, dried chili flakes, salt & pepper & some lemon juice and make a great side dish to serve with fish or pasta etc.

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Stuffed Pasta Shells w/ Wild Salmon, Leeks & Mushrooms
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Instructions
Pasta & Filling
  1. In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Add pasta shells & cook 3 minutes less than the cooking time indicated on the package instructions. Drain pasta
  2. In a large saucepan, over medium-high heat, saute chopped bacon until cooked. Remove from saucepan with a slotted spoon to a paper towel. Add leeks, garlic & mushrooms to bacon drippings. Sauté until leeks are soft; season with salt & pepper. Add salmon, gently combine & set aside.
Garlic Sauce
  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, add butter & olive oil. Once melted, add garlic then sauté until light golden brown, about 30 seconds, being careful not to burn. Sprinkle in flour; whisk & sauté for 1 minute. Slowly pour in chicken broth and milk while whisking until mixture is smooth. Season with salt & pepper then switch to a wooden spoon & stir constantly until mixture is thick & bubbly, 4-5 minutes.
  2. Remove saucepan from heat & stir in mozzarella cheese, garlic powder & parsley flakes until smooth. Taste then adjust salt & pepper if necessary.
Topping
  1. In a small saucepan, over medium heat, add olive oil. Add breadcrumbs & cook, stirring until toasted & golden in color. Remove from heat & place in a small bowl; combine with parmesan cheese.
Assembly & Baking
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a 13 X 9-inch baking dish, spread a small amount of garlic sauce over the bottom. To filling mixture, add reserved bacon & enough garlic sauce to help the filling stick together.
  3. Divide filling between the 16 cooked pasta shells & place in baking dish. Top with any remaining garlic sauce then sprinkle topping over all.
  4. Bake for about 30 minutes making sure not to overcook the salmon. Serve.