Pan-Seared Scallops w/ Spicy Raspberry Sauce

Scallops are beloved by pretty much everyone who can eat them …. they’re tender, sweet and taste ever so slightly of the sea. Being not only expensive and easy to overcook, scallops are often considered restaurant only fare.

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.

Pan-seared scallops pair well with bright, tangy flavors that contrast their meaty sweetness or in creamy dishes that emphasize their richness.

One of my go-to ‘sauces’ that I’ve used on numerous occasions on the blog, contains hot red pepper jelly. I’ve added a raspberry preserve to the jelly for a new twist on the flavor this time. The parmesan risotto brings it all together, definitely making this meal a ‘keeper’.

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Pan-Seared Scallops w/ Spicy Raspberry Sauce
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Instructions
Risotto
  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook & stir diced bacon until browned, about 5-10 minutes. Drain the bacon & reserve.
  2. In the skillet, melt the butter & sauté onion & garlic for about 4 minutes until soft & translucent. Add the rice & mix well until it is fully coated with the butter.
  3. Pour in 1/2 cup of the broth & lemon/lime juice. Once the rice has absorbed all the liquid, turn heat to medium low. Add one cup of broth & continuously stir until the liquid is absorbed. Repeat, one cup at a time, with the remaining broth. This will take about 20-25 minutes.
  4. Add 1/2 cup water & take the pan off the heat once risotto is at your desired consistency. Add the parmesan cheese, reserved bacon & parsley; stir to combine. Add salt & pepper to taste.
Sauce
  1. In a food processor, puree ingredients for sauce & set aside.
Scallops
  1. Thaw scallops as directed on package. Rinse & pat dry with paper towels; season with salt & pepper. Add oil & butter to a non-stick skillet & heat over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Sauté scallops by turning over once until browned & just cooked through, 4-6 minutes total.
  2. Serve over a bed of parmesan risotto & drizzle with sauce.
Recipe Notes
  • Of course, if you live where you have access to fresh scallops, your in a whole different class!!

Roast Turkey Breast w/ Sausage, Pecans & Cranberry Stuffing

In acknowledgement to our American neighbors who are celebrating Thanksgiving today, I am featuring a stuffed turkey breast meal on the blog today.

Technically, stuffing cooked inside turkey/chicken is called ‘stuffing’ whereas stuffing cooked separately is called ‘dressing’. But no matter what you call it, stuffing can easily upstage the turkey.

If you’ve never made sausage stuffing, your missing out on all the flavor and savor it adds to the meal. Any kind of ground sausage that you think would blend well with the other ingredients will work well.

You can use dried herbs, but your best flavor will be achieved from using fresh. I not only like herbs in the stuffing but using them in an herb butter for rubbing on the outside is so good.

Toasting the bread cubes isn’t always necessary. The toasting process is meant to dry out the bread to prevent your stuffing from becoming soggy with the bread absorbing too much liquid too fast. ‘Stale’ bread is already dried out and can be used instead of toasting. Crusty bread, such as sourdough or a French loaf, make good choices for preparing stuffing.

The addition of fruit and nuts further enhances the flavor and texture. For me, I can easily make a meal of the stuffing alone. I guess its another one of those ultimate ‘comfort foods’.

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Roast Turkey Breast w/ Sausage, Pecans & Cranberry Stuffing
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Turkey Breast
Herb Butter
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SERVINGS
Ingredients
Turkey Breast
Herb Butter
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Instructions
Stuffing
  1. In a saucepan, cook sausage meat until brown & crumbled, about 5-7 minutes. Remove sausage with a slotted spoon to a paper-lined plate & set aside. Drain off excess fat from saucepan.
  2. Add butter to saucepan & melt. Stir in onions & celery; sauté until softened. Add apple & garlic; cook & stir for 2 minutes. Stir in herbs & spices. Transfer mixture to a bowl. Stir in sausage, bread cubes, pecans & cranberries. Add chicken broth & stir to combine. Set aside.
Turkey Breast
  1. Arrange turkey breast skin side down on a work surface so that it lies open & flat. Cover with plastic wrap, then pound lightly with a meat mallet to flatten & make an even thickness all over. Discard plastic wrap & season turkey with smoked paprika.
Herb Butter
  1. In a small dish, combine all herb butter ingredients & set aside. Preheat oven to 325 F.
Assembly
  1. Spread stuffing over turkey breast, leaving a 3/4-inch border around the edge. Close up snugly, tucking in the stuffing as you go, then tie with kitchen twine at 1-inch intervals around the entire turkey breast. Rub turkey all over with herb butter & arrange in a roasting pan.
  2. Roast uncovered, basting occasionally, for 2 1/2 hours or until cooked thru. Cover with foil if top browns too quickly. Transfer turkey to a craving board, tent with foil & set aside for 10-15 minutes. Remove & discard twine, slice turkey & serve.

Stuffed Mushrooms in Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce

Stuffed mushrooms are one of those items that can be an appetizer as well as a main course. They are as versatile as you can get. The number of different fillings are endless and can be anything from a simple bread stuffing to seafood, veggies or any kind of meat.

Portobello mushrooms are big, meaty and the ideal vessel for stuffing, creating a dish that is a meal unto itself. Few things can match the flavor of stuffed mushrooms.

Depending on the source, this unique dish has been around since the late 19th century or early 20th century. The fact that they resemble stuffed zucchini, it is likely that the Italians should receive credit for their creation.

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Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms in Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce
Instructions
Mushrooms
  1. Trim stems from mushrooms & finely chop them; reserve for sauce. Whisk the egg lightly in a shallow bowl. In a separate shallow bowl, combine flour, salt, pepper, oregano, thyme, paprika & garlic salt.
  2. In a large skillet, heat olive oil on medium-high. Dip the mushrooms in the egg then in the flour mixture. Coat the outside of the mushrooms, trying not to get too much flour inside the 'cap'.
  3. In a skillet, fry mushrooms on both sides until lightly golden. Use a tongs to help fry the sides as well. Remove mushrooms to a plate. To the skillet, add a splash of water & Swiss chard leaves. Sprinkle with salt & pepper & saute until leaves are wilted, about 1 minute.
  4. Divide cream cheese between the 4 mushroom caps. Top with wilted Swiss chard; sprinkle with grated Parmesan & paprika. Set aside, keeping warm.
Sauce
  1. In a skillet , heat oil. Add onion & cook for 2 minutes until it starts to soften. Add reserved mushroom stems, garlic, oregano, paprika, sun-dried tomatoes, red peppers & zucchini. Cook for 2 minutes while stirring with a spatula. Add wine (or chicken broth) & allow to bubble for 2 minutes then add vegetable broth, salt & pepper. Bring to a boil & simmer for 5 minutes.
  2. Stir the cream & Parmesan cheese into the sauce, then nestle the mushrooms on top. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley. Nice to serve with pasta or potatoes and/or a meat item.

Barley & Apricot Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

Grains and seeds have always been high on my priority list to cook and bake with. Now, you take barley, a humble grain with good nutrition even though it doesn’t get much credit for it. The first barley grown in North America was in Newfoundland, Canada in 1578. Production moved westward from there to the prairie provinces.

Barley has a chewy texture with a slightly nutty flavor. It absorbs liquids in soups, stews and salad dressings, capturing their flavors. Barley flour gives baked goods a lovely rustic taste and look.

The difference between pot & pearl barley has to do with the milling process. Pot barley has most of the barley bran still intact whereas with the pearl barley, most of the bran is removed. Barley bran is found throughout the kernels so both are still healthy options.

There is absolutely nothing fancy about mushrooms and barley except for its flavor. This recipe combines the duo with dried apricots and almonds to make one amazing stuffing for the pork tenderloin. Yum!

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Barley & Apricot Stuffed Pork Tenderloin
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, German
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Instructions
  1. In a saucepan, heat oil, add onion & mushrooms; saute until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in barley & chicken broth. Bring to a boil; cover pan & simmer about 15 minutes. Allow cooked barley mixture to cool, then stir in almonds, apricots, parsley, sage & thyme.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Slice tenderloin down the center, cutting just slightly more than half way through. Sprinkle with salt & pepper. Spoon barley stuffing on one side of the tenderloin then cover with the opposite side. If necessary, tie or skewer tenderloin to keep filling in during baking.
  3. Place tenderloin on a rack in a roasting pan and roast in the oven until inserted meat thermometer registers 160 F. Any excess stuffing can be spooned into a small buttered baking dish & baked for the last 20 minutes to serve as a side.

Pork Loin Chops with Crab meat Stuffing

Combining pork with seafood has been going on for centuries in Europe and Asian countries. For example, take the Spanish with their paella — a mix of chorizo, prawns and mussels and the Chinese with pork and prawn dumplings.

During January, Brion & I spent a few weeks at the Los Cactus resort in Varadero, Cuba. Varadero is a 1.2 km wide peninsula situated along Cuba’s northern coast with 20 km of white sandy beaches. This vicinity has a variety of natural attractions as well as cultural and historical. Varadero is primarily visited by European and Canadian tourists.

Cuba is one big classic car museum. These 1950’s cars are everywhere, in every color and in many shapes, makes and models. While in the USA & Canada these cars would be collector’s items, in Cuba, they are used as everyday vehicles as well as taxis, often providing a good income for their owners.

Being so close to Havana we took the opportunity to take a guided day tour of the capital city. One thing we found really amazing in Cuba, was their bus system. The buses were relatively clean and comfortable with professional drivers. Our day trip to Havana was about 10 1/2 hours long, round trip, with an English speaking guide. Brion & I found the day very interesting. It consisted of a walking tour of Old Havana, lunch and then a panoramic tour of modern Havana to Revolution Square, the famous ‘Malecon’ seawall promenade, Christopher Columbus Necropolis and the Vedado Residential area.

This city is a mixture of opulence and decay, old world and new, socialism and capitalism, Europe, Africa and America. In Old Havana, effort has gone into rebuilding for tourist purposes, and a number of the streets and squares have been rehabilitated. The fact is that Old Havana is a large city, and the restoration efforts concentrate in all on less than 10% of its area. It seems whatever your interests, Havana offers an interesting mix of rhythms, rum, revolution and history.

During the tour, our guide took us to the top floor of the Gomez Vila. You climb up to the tower, about eight flights of stairs where there is a rooftop veranda. Here you can get a 360 degree view of the city. Located here as well, is the ‘Camera Obscura’. This optical device of lenses and mirrors projects an aerial image of the city into a giant concave screen taking you on a bird’s eye tour of Havana in real time. The projections are so clear that you can even pick out individuals walking on the cobble stone streets. It is one of the 74 cameras like it worldwide. Amazing!

In Revolution Square, we viewed some iconic images on the buildings of two Revolutionary heroes, Che Guevara and Camillo Cienfeugos. It was very interesting listening to our tour guide in regards to the Cuban Revolution, giving us this history from a Cuban perspective. There is a complex system of three fortifications that protected Havana, it’s port and it’s dockyard. From the seawall we got some photos of Morro Castle at the entrance with its emblematic light house that was built four centuries ago.

Cuban cuisine is a blend of several cultures — Taino, Spanish, African and Caribbean, with each adding their own methods of cooking and choice of spices. The most common spices used are garlic, cumin, oregano and bay or laurel leaves. Black beans and rice are Cuban staples.

The popularity of pork in Cuban cuisine has long historical roots. Spanish explorers brought pigs to the Caribbean islands back in 1492. From what I understand, one of the secrets of moist and flavorful Cuban pork is that the pigs feed on palmiche, the fruit of a palm tree.  The ‘Royal Palm’ is the national tree of Cuba. It is native to the island and is such a characteristic symbol of its scenery. Notice the big clusters of palm nuts at the top of the Royal palm tree in one of the blog pics.

I wanted to share a recipe today that seemed very in keeping with our Cuban travels. These pork loin chops are stuffed with crabmeat filling and drizzled with a raspberry pepper jelly sauce. 

Brion has added a few of his great pics from Cuba for you to enjoy.


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Pork Loin Chops with Crab meat Stuffing

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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Cuban

Servings

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Instructions
Pork Chops
  1. Trim all excess fat from loin chops. Place meat on a sheet of plastic wrap & cover with a second sheet. Using a meat tenderizer, pound meat flat until double in diameter. Set aside.

Crab meat Stuffing
  1. In a saucepan, saute onions & garlic in 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat until onions are tender. Remove from heat. Add remaining stuffing ingredients, including the 2 Tbsp of reserved crab liquid. Mix just until incorporated.

Assembly/ Cooking
  1. Lay TWO chops on lightly oiled griddle or skillet. Divide filling between them; place remaining TWO chops on top. Brown the stuffed pork chops on both sides, turning carefully.

  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Place stuffed chops in an ungreased casserole. Cover & bake for 30 minutes. Uncover; bake for 15 minutes longer or until meat thermometer reads 160 F. when inserted into the meat & juices run clear.

Sauce
  1. In a small saucepan, heat chicken broth, red pepper jelly & raspberry preserves. Divide sauce between 2 serving plates & top each with a stuffed pork chop.

White Bean Soup with Pumpkin Pastry

This meal, better known in German ‘circles’ as  Weisse Bohnensuppe & Plachinda.  Kind of an unusual pairing of sorts  —  bean soup with a sweet pumpkin pastry?? It is one of those meals my mother used to make that got pushed into the back of my memory. With pumpkin season approaching and the weather feeling like fall, hearty soups start to come to mind.

Once again I set out to bring back the ‘taste of a memory’. Of course, this usually starts with some discussion about the meal with my sister Loretta. Between the two of us we can usually remember enough so I can attempt to recreate the taste.

It seems most recipes you find on the internet make plachinda as individual turnovers. I think I recall my mother making it in a rectangle casserole dish with the pastry on the bottom and up the sides and the filling showing. I decided to make it as a ‘jelly roll’.

Here’s my ‘spin’ on this much loved meal. Good but as usual never quite as wonderful as my mother’s. 

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White Bean Soup with Pumpkin Pastry
A full-bodied soup with a rich appetizing flavor served with a German pumpkin pastry.
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Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine German
Servings
Ingredients
Pumpkin Plachinda Filling
Plachinda Pastry Dough
Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine German
Servings
Ingredients
Pumpkin Plachinda Filling
Plachinda Pastry Dough
Votes: 0
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Instructions
White Bean Soup
  1. Cover beans with water in a large stock pot & soak overnight. Rinse & drain beans well; return to pot with ham bone & 12 cups water. Simmer uncovered for 2 hours.
  2. Add parsley, onions, garlic, celery with tops, salt & pepper as well as the extra 6 cups of hot water. Simmer, uncovered for 1 hour or until vegetables are tender. Remove ham bone, dice the meat & add to soup. Serve with pumpkin plachinda.
Pumpkin Plachinda
  1. In a small bowl, combine filling ingredients; set aside. Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan (or line with parchment paper).
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder & salt. Whisk together eggs, milk & oil; add dry ingredients, working into a soft, stiff dough. Turn onto a lightly floured piece of parchment paper. Roll dough into a 14 x 14-inch square; spread pumpkin filling down the center & half way out to the sides -- about 1/4 -inch thick.
  3. Fold outside third of the dough over filling, repeating with the last third; pinch to seal. Leaving plachinda on paper, transfer to a baking sheet. If preferred, individual turnovers can be made instead. Bake for about 35-40 minutes or until golden brown. Slice & serve warm.