I’m not sure how far back I came to really enjoy using fig balsamic dressing as a marinade for various roasted meats. This dressing marinade adds a bold, zesty flavor to almost anything. Bursting with fig juice, balsamic vinegar, and herbs and spices. So, it only makes good sense that I take the idea further and test the possibilities of using fig preserves with savory meals.
Most people think of fig jam or preserves as what you find in the middle of a fig newton…basically dried figs and sugar, but a good preserve is a combination of sweet figs with a nice balance of balsamic acidity and the mustard heat lends itself to a whole lot of dishes far beyond a simple cheese plate.
The flavor of the preserves is more complex and less sweet than most fruit spreads, so it gives you enough of a contrast with salty items without tasting too sugary.
This is the very definition of a winning weeknight chicken dish: quick, sweet and savory, a little something different. The herbs enhance the savory quality of the dish and provide a touch of earthiness to balance the sweet.
Fruity Roast Chicken w/ Couscous
Combine apricots, raisins, apple & orange juice in a small bowl. Season with spices; mix well. Set aside to marinate.
Place chicken thighs in a heavy freezer bag. Gently pound until about 1/4-inch thick. On a sheet of plastic wrap lay out thighs to form a 'solid' piece. Sprinkle chopped fresh herbs over meat (if using). Mound the filling on flattened thighs then using the plastic wrap, roll up, tucking in the ends.
Line a baking sheet with foil & lightly spray center area. Transfer chicken roll to foil & top with fig preserves. Pull foil up around meat to form a catch 'basin' for meat & fruit juices (leave top open).
Roast about 25 minutes until meat is cooked. When you remove it from the oven reserve fruit & meat juices to use over your couscous if you wish. While the meat is cooking, prepare the couscous.
Heat first amount of oil in a medium saucepan. Add next 4 ingredients. Cook & stir for about 3 minutes until green onion is softened. Add honey. Heat & stir for about 30 seconds until green onion is coated.
Add broth. Bring to a boil. Add couscous & second amount of olive oil; simmer covered for about 10 minutes. Fluff with fork & stir in remaining 3 ingredients.
Place couscous on a serving plate topped with sliced chicken thigh roll. Serve.
Rugelach is an irresistible baked treat which is both delicious and versatile. So, is it a pastry or a cookie? Rugelach’s unique buttery, tender dough wrapped around any variety of tasty fillings seems to straddle the line.
Rugelach was invented around the same time as the croissant, in 1683 and has Jewish (Polish) origins. The word rugelach means ‘little twists’.
Traditionally, rugelach was made with yeast dough, but the pastry has evolved and is now made with cream cheese which is both quicker and easier to make. The cream cheese dough was first used by North American bakers in the 1940’s, and now forms the staple of the modern rugelach we know today.
Many folks don’t associate the crescent-shaped cookies with Christmas but rather consider rugelach a year-round treat. That being said, I see no reason not to make some summer rhubarb rugelach.
In a medium saucepan, combine rhubarb, sugar, cinnamon & orange juice. Bring just to boiling; reduce heat. Cook, uncovered stirring occasionally about 10 minutes or until rhubarb is broken down; set aside to cool.
In a cup combine water, sugar & yeast. Allow to sit until frothy.
In a large bowl, combine butter & flour until resembles small peas. Add eggs & the yeast mixture to the bowl. Knead the dough until smooth & soft then divide into thirds.
In a small bowl, combine nut filling ingredients. Spread 1/4 cup of the nut filling on a work surface & place 1/3 of the dough on top of it. Roll dough into a circle the size of a small pizza. Spread 1/4-1/2 cup of the rhubarb compote on top of the dough.
Cut the dough into 12 pieces like you would cut a pizza & roll each piece from the outside in. Place each rugelach on a parchment lined baking sheet with the point face down. Repeat with remaining dough.
Bake for 20 minutes or until slightly browned.
- Due to a nut allergy problem, I had to omit the nut filling for our rugelach.
Pork tenderloin, also known as pork fillet, is the leanest, most tender part of the pork loin. It is often cut into medallions, which are oval shaped steaks, made even more tender by trimming away excess fat. Pork tenderloin medallions are a versatile cut of meat, suitable for a range of different occasions. Their tender texture makes them perfect for a special dinner, but because they require short cooking times, they are quick and easy to prepare, making them an excellent choice for weeknight dinners, too.
For these honey orange medallions I’m using an ingredient called hoisin sauce. This is a Cantonese sauce that is often used both as an ingredient in dishes and as a table condiment.
Hoisin is the English version of the sauce’s Chinese name: haixian, which means seafood or sea delicious. The word hoi translates to sea and the word sin translates to fresh or delicious. The name is somewhat misleading since hoisin sauce contains no seafood and is not typically used in or on seafood dishes though there is some evidence that the earliest versions actually did contain fermented fish. When Hoisin sauce still contained seafood, it was considered a luxury food because of this fact.
Hoisin sauce ingredients typically include soybeans, garlic, and sugar along with sesame oil and chilies. The number of ingredients and the ingredients themselves can vary from brand to brand; however, the flavor profile is generally the same. It has a similar appearance to American barbecue sauce but is much denser.
This is such a nice meal served over steamed rice or Chinese noodles.
Honey Orange Pork Medallions
In a small pot, heat oil & garlic over medium low heat for just a minute or so until the garlic has softened but not browned. Add all of the remaining ingredients for the sauce & simmer until the sauce reduces to the consistency of a glaze. Keep warm on minimum heat while the pork gets fried.
Sift together the flour, salt, pepper, ginger & five spice powder.
Beat together the eggs and water to make an egg wash.
Heat 1/2 inch oil over medium heat in a large heavy skillet.
Season the pork medallions lightly with salt & pepper. Coat the pieces in the flour mixture before dipping them in the egg wash & then back into the flour mixture again. Drop into the hot oil and cook for about 3-4 minutes, turning once, until golden brown & crispy.
Toss the cooked pork medallions in the sauce, along with the vegetables of your choice. Serve over steamed rice or Chinese noodles.
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.
Salmon croquettes are basically a version of a salmon cake, salmon balls or patties and can be fried or baked. They were originally made of beef, probably leftovers that needed to be used up. Croquettes originated in France in about 1898 by the founder of classical French cuisine, Escoffier. As Escoffier’s chefs started to travel throughout the world, they took the recipe with them to other cultures where it was transformed based on local cuisines. From the original beef croquette, it branched out into salmon croquettes, chicken, vegetarian, and many other versions.
There are many variations of ‘croquettes‘ on the market, and just about every culture has developed their own recipe. Constantly, new recipes are formulated and something new is invented and created. With the input of different cultures, the original recipe has taken itself into many directions, different applications and ingredients. Very often salmon croquettes (cakes, balls or patties) are made with canned salmon though there are quite a few newer recipes that use fresh salmon that has been either chopped finely or ground to mold into the various shapes.
I think, using a zesty orange-pineapple glaze is the perfect compliment to these baked salmon balls.
Baked Salmon Balls w/ Orange Pineapple Glaze
If using canned salmon, drain & flake well. If using fresh salmon, brush with olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Grill for about 6 minutes or bake wrapped in foil at 350 F. for approximately 10 minutes. When cool, flake salmon. Add carrot, green onion, potatoes, tartar sauce, egg, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, cilantro paste, Old Bay Seasoning, salt & pepper. Combine well.
Using a small scoop (about 1/2 oz size), measure salmon mixture out into palm of your hand & gently roll into balls. Mixture should make about 32 balls.
Roll salmon balls in Panko crumbs & place on a well buttered or sprayed baking sheet. Lightly spray tops with spray as well.
Bake about 30-40 minutes, turning halfway through. Remove from oven.
Place all glaze ingredients into a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir gently & simmer for 15-20 minutes or until liquid begins to thicken slightly & reduces by half.
Drizzle over salmon balls or serve on the side. These salmon balls are nice served with rice & a steamed veggie.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Many cultures around the world believe the key to a happy, healthy, prosperous & productive year begins with eating certain lucky foods on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. The theory is ‘do good, eat good’ on the 1st day of the year, to begin the New Year right.
It hard to believe we have arrived at the end of another ‘complicated’ year and its time to reflect and assess the year it was. The word ‘new’ brings thoughts of hope and makes us realize how precious time is.
The tradition of eating pork on New Year’s dates back to …. well, no one really knows when. If your a meat eater, chose pork over chicken or beef on New Year’s Day because pigs dig with their snout, representing forward movement or progress, while chickens or turkeys scratch backward, the cows stand still. That’s it, that’s the folklore behind the tradition!
Many European countries such as Germany, Austria, Switzerland & Ireland, eat pork not only because of the belief of moving forward but because fatty meat is also symbolic of ‘fattening’ their wallets. Germans feel that pigs are so lucky that they give marzipan pigs known as ‘Glucksschwien’ or lucky pigs, as gifts to bring good luck in the coming year. They can also be given in other forms, such as little wooden or glass figurines.
With the pandemic situation that seems to be never ending, I think anything that will help in the good luck department is a good thing.
Sage, Dijon Pork Tenderloin w/ Pistachio Couscous
Cook the couscous according to package directions. Add parsley, olive oil, salt and pepper, and pistachios. Stir to incorporate. Taste and adjust for seasonings. Cover and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350º. Spray an 9” x 13” baking dish with cooking spray.
Using a knife poke several holes in the tenderloin about a half-inch deep so marinade can penetrate.
In a small bowl whisk together the shallots, garlic, soy sauce, mustard, honey, juice, sage, salt and pepper, and olive oil.
Pour the marinade over the tenderloin.
Bake uncovered for 45 minutes basting every 10-15 minutes.
Transfer the tenderloin to a large cutting board and allow them to rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
Slice the tenderloin and transfer to a serving dish placing atop warmed couscous.
Drizzle the marinade from the pan over the sliced pork medallions & couscous.
Its getting to be late summer/early fall and its ‘plum season’. Plums are easy to forget it seems. They’re not the most popular of summer fruits. Plums aren’t exotic as the fig or small and cute like blueberries. Plums are just plums and we should not overlook this humble fruit. They are actually quite special …. sweet & tart, not too big and not too small.
This particular dessert uses ‘plum butter’ which is simply a concentrated plum spread made by cooking plums down to a spreadable paste. These ‘cookies’ are using ready made puff pastry to keep life simple.
Puff pastry isn’t just for croissants. Arguably, its the foundation of many, many pastries as we know them today. Its a technique that lets you enjoy warm, flaky layers of dough instead of literally everything being a ‘biscuit’.
Using this spicy filling in the puff pastry dough really added a whole new dimension.
Plum Blossom Pastries
Spiced Plum Butter
In a large saucepan, combine juice & plums. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat & simmer 30 minutes or until tender. Place plum mixture in a food processor & process until smooth. Press pureed mixture through a fine sieve over a bowl; discard solids.
Combine plum mixture, sugar & spices in pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered until mixture becomes a thick paste. Cool. Any extra not used for these cookies can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 months.
Assembly & Baking
Thaw pastry. Preheat oven to 400 F. From parchment paper, cut 9 pieces each about 4-inch square. In a small dish, whisk together egg & water to make egg wash.
Using a sharp knife, cut pastry into 9 squares. Taking one square at a time, place on parchment paper squares. Brush edges with egg wash.
Place about 1 tsp of the spiced plum butter in the middle of the pastry square. Bring the 4 corners together, then repeat for the sides.
Shape pastry into a ball then flip. Lightly press the ball with your fingers. With a sharp knife, cut each piece into 12 equal parts from the center towards the outside edge. Leave the center part intact. Each part will become a pedal. Twist petals 45 degrees, all to the same side. The filling should be showing.
Bake for about 15 minutes or until pastry is golden. Remove from oven & allow to cool. Dust with powdered sugar if you prefer.
- Making the plum butter ahead of time definitely speeds up the cookie prep.
- Alternately, you can probably find a nice jar of plum butter at a deli store & just add your own spices to it. Works too!