Mushroom Barley Soup w/ Mini Meatballs

Beef barley soup is a classic old-world dish, and it’s been simmering away in pots for centuries, probably as long as people have been making soup. It just makes sense ~ the little white pearls of barley add lovely texture, as well as extra nutrition and satisfying bulk, all important things when you’re trying to make dinner out of a pot of soup. For an added bonus, barley’s natural starch thickens the soup as it cooks.

Beef Barley Soup is classic comfort food that you can make on the stove or in the crock pot. The soup has roots in the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe. Mushrooms were popular in these cold-weather countries because they could be harvested, dried, and stored for later use.

Barley was also plentiful and easy to grow in the Eastern European climate, making it a common addition to hearty winter dishes like soup. Barley’s history goes back even further; in fact, it is arguably the world’s first and most ancient, cultivated grain.

As far as the meatballs, texture can be an issue. If the meatball is too wet, it will disintegrate when cooking in soups. If it is too dry, it will lose its flavor and potentially break up into pieces. Using the right amount of liquid or eggs for the mix to keep them moist, but equally so, enough breadcrumbs or flour to bind them adequately. Remember, you can never get enough seasoning, so don’t be gentle with it, and use spices and herbs liberally.

One of Brion’s favorite soups has always been mushroom beef barley, so now seems a good time to make some.

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Mushroom Barley Soup w/ Mini Meatballs
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Instructions
  1. In a large saucepan, combine the broth, water, barley & thyme. Season with salt & pepper; bring to a boil. Cover & cook over low heat until the barley is nearly tender, about 18 minutes.
  2. In a large skillet, heat oil. Add the mushrooms & shallot, season with salt & pepper; cook over high heat until tender and browned, about 8 minutes.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the ground beef, egg, bread crumbs, cheese, 1/2 teaspoon of salt & 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Knead the mixture until blended, then roll it into sixteen 1-inch balls.
  4. Add the meatballs & mushrooms to the soup. Simmer over moderate heat until the meatballs are cooked through & the barley is tender, about 8 minutes. Discard the thyme. Stir the parsley into the soup & serve in bowls with sour cream.

Scarpaccia

Scarpaccia is a savory zucchini tart originating from the northern coast of Tuscany. There are two versions: savory from the town of Camaiore, and sweet from Viareggio. It’s name roughly translates to ‘old shoe’, the reason being twofold; first it bakes up as thin as the sole of a shoe and second, much like a bad shoe that has been worn by many, this tart can be made with a variety of ingredients.  Scarpaccia was typically considered a spring time specialty that sailors made with their garden vegetables which included zucchinis and their blossoms.  The dish was served warm or at room temperature and enjoyed at the end of a meal (because of its slight sweetness), or a snack food paired with white wine or prosecco. The dish was made by folding zucchini into a simple batter of flour, eggs, olive oil and sugar or honey, then spreading the mixture into a baking sheet and cooking until golden and crisp.

The recipe has evolved to incorporate seasonal vegetables and herbs along with variations on the type of flour used allowing for its enjoyment year-round.  It can be eaten for dessert, as a great brunch dish or the main course when paired with a salad. 

Every region in Italy has its own specialties, some shared by other regions but with different names. Scarpaccia can be made sweet or savory, thin or thick, crisp or soft – as long as the common ingredients of zucchini and flour are used. Zucchini … what a treasure!  

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Scarpaccia
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian
Keyword scarpaccia
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Filling
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian
Keyword scarpaccia
Servings
Ingredients
Filling
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Prepare a 12 x 16 inch baking sheet pan by spraying with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Slice zucchini into very thin slices & place in a large bowl. Slice red onion into very thin slices; add to zucchini along with corn.
  3. Drain oil from sundried tomatoes into a cup measure and set oil aside. Cut tomatoes into quarters & add to bowl with the other vegetables. Add pepita seeds, basil, 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, salt & pepper to the large bowl with vegetables; toss all ingredients together.
  4. In a separate smaller bowl mix flour, corn meal and baking powder. Add this to the large bowl and toss again to mix the ingredients. In that same smaller bowl, beat eggs & add to the large bowl, mixing into ingredients.
  5. Take the reserved cup measure with the oil drained from the tomatoes and add enough olive oil to fill one cup. Add to the large bowl, mixing to combine. Slowly mix the water into the large bowl, only using enough to make a thin batter. You may not need all of the water. Pour batter into the prepared sheet pan, drizzle the top with olive oil.
  6. Bake for 55-60 minutes.
  7. When it comes out of the oven, sprinkle the Parmesan cheese all over the top and drizzle with a little more olive oil and sprinkle the remaining thyme over the top. Cut into squares and serve.

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

Cheesy Zucchini w/ Bacon

Zucchini can be used as a canvas for so many combinations. Stuffed zucchini recipes usually contain ground meat, cheese, tomatoes, rice, spices, etc. I decided to take ours in a different direction today using bacon.

We enjoy zucchini in any form, not just when its in season but anytime. Its amazing how zucchini can be the perfect ingredient in so many recipes. Not all vegetables can take on so much. I’ve used it in just about everything I can think of from crispy fries, zoodles, desserts, breads, main dishes, etc. etc.

This stuffed zucchini meal was real good with steamed rice and roasted tomatoes.

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Cheesy Zucchini w/ Bacon
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Slice ends from zucchini & cut each one into 4 equal pieces. Carve out the inside, being careful not to go all the way through the bottom.
  3. Chop pieces of the zucchini removed from the insides. Place in a bowl with the grated mozzarella, panko crumbs, egg & spices. Cut slices of bacon in half.
  4. Place a half slice bacon in the shape of a 'U' inside each piece of zucchini. Divide filling between the 8 pieces of zucchini, placing it on top of bacon.
  5. Bake filled zucchini in a buttered, foil lined baking dish for about 30 minutes. After removing from oven, sprinkle parmesan cheese over top & garnish with fresh basil if you wish.

Parmesan Baked Scallops

Scallops are an exquisite delicacy brought to us by the sea. Subtle as their flavors may be, the combination of sweet, buttery and nutty always hits the right spot and makes them so addictive.

Sea scallops are widely known for their iconic, beautiful shape …. a fan-like shell with fluted grooves. Different varieties are found in oceans all over the world and come in many sizes. For commercial purposes they are labeled similar to shrimp. A number is used to designate how many scallops of a given size it would take to constitute a pound. The label 20/30 means it would take 20/30 scallops to make up a pound and labels like U10 means it would take less than (‘under’) 10 to make a pound.

Scallops are bivalve mollusks (meaning having 2 shells- usually united by a hinge) that have a reddish-pink, upper shell and white or cream colored, lower shell.

Wild scallops feed by filtering microscopic plankton from the water. They are hand shucked immediately and frozen at sea to capture their fresh sweet flavor.

Brion & I don’t have scallops often but when we do we enjoy them to the fullest.

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Parmesan Baked Scallops
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Place 'scallop shells' on a baking pan.
  2. Rinse scallops & thoroughly pat dry on paper towels. Season with salt & pepper.
  3. In a bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the compound butter. Mix well.
  4. Place 4 scallops on top of each shell dish. Divide butter into 4 portions & place one on each dish of scallops. Bake for about 8-10 minutes, depending on the size of scallops. Test at about the 6 minute mark. Try to avoid over baking as you will be broiling for a few minutes to finish.
  5. As scallops are baking, melt butter in microwave for the crunchy topping. Mix in the panko crumbs & fresh parsley.
  6. Remove the scallops from the oven. Turn on the broiler. Top each with a spoonful of the crunchy topping. Sprinkle with a bit more parmesan cheese. Broil for about 1 minute or 2, just enough to brown the topping & melt the cheese.
  7. Nice to serve with rice or pasta. Garnish with fresh parsley & serve with lemon wedges.

Cauliflower Pizza Crust w/ Barbecued Chicken

According to writer Mark Twain, ‘cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education’. This uniquely versatile veggie has graduated above its many cousins, …. broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, collards, kale and kohlrabi to become the sophisticate darling of the species. Delicious raw, fried, grilled, pickled, riced, roasted, steamed or sautéed.

Cauliflower ‘rice’ came on the scene as a popular grain-free alternative to rice. As with many food trends, the ‘riced’ craze has continued using other veggies like sweet potatoes, broccoli, carrots, onions, and peas.

The grocery stores have jumped on the bandwagon with fresh and frozen products and in a variety of plain and flavored versions.

Making your own riced vegetables is even easier than in days gone by. Just trim, chop and pulse your veggies in a food processor. Cook with a quick steam or sauté and flavor with some fresh herbs and spices. Of course, you can always change it up with other chopped veggies, nuts, or a sprinkle of cheese.

Riced cauliflower makes an interesting pizza crust. A different texture than the traditional bread dough crust but loaded with flavor. It’s sort of firm, chewy and soft all at the same time. I had tried this idea some years ago and we quite liked it so why not try it with a different topping and have it again!

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Cauliflower Pizza Crust w/ Barbecued Chicken
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Instructions
Cauliflower Crust
  1. In food processor or blender, pulse cauliflower until it reaches consistency of coarse crumbs.
  2. Place cauliflower and 3 tbsp water in microwaveable dish and cover with plastic wrap, leaving one edge lifted. Microwave on high, stirring once or twice during cooking time, until cauliflower is tender, 5 to 7 minutes; let cool. Drain cauliflower in colander lined with cheesecloth or thin, clean tea towel. Wrap cauliflower in cheesecloth and twist while pressing to remove all liquid (this step is essential).
  3. Place pizza pan or baking sheet in oven and preheat oven to 425°F.
  4. In bowl, combine cauliflower, egg, mozzarella, Parmesan, garlic powder and oregano, season with salt and pepper. Using your fingers, transfer cauliflower mixture to piece of parchment paper and press into 12-inch circle. Slide parchment paper with cauliflower crust onto hot baking sheet from preheated oven. Bake until crust is golden brown, 13 to 15 minutes.
Toppings
  1. In a saucepan, sauté red onion & mushrooms until tender and moisture has evaporated.
  2. Evenly spread half of the barbecue sauce over baked cauliflower crust, leaving 1/2-inch border. Top with half of the mozzarella cheese & all of the onion & mushrooms . In bowl, toss chicken with remaining barbecue sauce; evenly arrange over crust and top with remaining mozzarella. Bake until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with green onion.

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.

Mushroom Crust Quiche

Quiche, the great savory dish that originated in Germany, was perfected by French cooks who went on to create one of the most popular quiche in the world called the quiche Lorraine. Since then, many new variants of the quiche have been added. But all of those creative modifications involved mainly the filling, and the crust had that same nice and familiar, but plain taste. For that reason, many cooks didn’t bother with the crust dough preparation; instead they would buy good frozen puff pastry and concentrate on the filling.

Enter the unique mushroom crust quiche! To my knowledge, the first publication of the recipe was in the mid 1970’s in ‘Sunset’s Favorite Recipes’ cookbook magazine. The main advantage of this recipe is that the mushroom crust is nice and light as well as it goes with almost any quiche filling.

For a crunchier crust, use wheat thins instead of saltines, regular onions instead of green or change up the spices. Use your choice of cheese, instead of Swiss go with Monterey Jack, gruyere, Jarlsberg or cheddar. Add bacon, sausage or some pulled turkey as I did. Of course, nothing wrong with just using veggies and cheese …. endless possibilities!

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Mushroom Crust Quiche
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Instructions
  1. In a skillet, melt 3 Tbsp butter over medium heat. Add mushrooms & garlic; cook until soft. Stir in crushed crackers. Remove from heat & press the mushroom mixture evenly over the bottom of a well-greased 8-9-inch pie pan.
  2. In the skillet, melt 2 Tbsp butter. Add green onions & cook until soft; spread over mushroom crust.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  4. Sprinkle about 3/4 of the grated Swiss cheese over the onion then top with the cooked, pulled turkey.
  5. In a small container, whisk together eggs, milk, spices, salt & pepper. Combine the remaining Swiss cheese with the parmesan & sprinkle it over the turkey. Pour egg mixture over all & bake for about 30 minutes or until set. Allow to stand for a few minutes before serving.

Layered Zucchini Cheddar Meatloaf

Food history is full of surprises. The history of meatloaf, a North American staple, offers more than a trip down culinary lane. It provides a glimpse into how advances in technology have shaped the way we eat and prepare food today.

It turns out, the idea of mixing meat with a tenderizing filler traces back to the 4th & 5th century AD, when a Roman cookbook presented a recipe for patties made of chopped meat, bread & wine. But it wasn’t until the late 1800’s that American meatloaf was born, inspired by recipes offered by manufactures of the newly invented meat grinder.

In the 1940’s, WWII rationing spawned meat-free loaves, whereas postwar creativity in the 1950’s & ’60’s produced the likes of Bacon-Dill Meatloaf. In the 1970’s & ’80’s, veal, pork & beef ‘meatloaf mix’ came into vogue. In the 1990’s, restaurateurs marketed upscale versions and today, innovations continue as loaves are stuffed, wrapped or laced with international flavors.

When we cook meatloaf, we’re connected to something bigger: a tradition, a time line. Meatloaf is elemental. It’s enduring, served without undue fuss or expensive implements …. comfort food without a doubt.

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Layered Zucchini Cheddar Meatloaf
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a small bowl, combine tomato sauce, oregano, basil & garlic powder.
  3. In a bowl, combine beef, bread crumbs, egg white, salt, pepper & HALF of the tomato sauce mixture; mix well.
  4. Divide meat in half. On a sheet of wax paper, form 2 rectangles each about 8 X 10-inches. Spread zucchini over half of each rectangle. Divide cheese & sprinkle over zucchini, still covering only half the meat. Fold the meat over so that zucchini & cheese are inside. Pinch edges of meat to seal.
  5. Place layered meat loaves on top of each other then place on a rack in a shallow baking pan. Top with remaining tomato sauce & sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
  6. Bake uncovered for about 1 1/2 hrs. or until meat is cooked. Allow to stand 5-10 minutes before slicing.