Salmon Picnic Empanadas

No matter what the stuffing or style is, love for the empanada is not a difficult one to understand. They are cheap, easy to eat, transportable, and versatile.

Empanadas look as good as they taste; perfect food for a picnic. Eating outdoors, spaced apart is probably one of the safest ways to gather during the ongoing pandemic crisis. The great thing about picnicking is that you can do it practically anywhere you can throw a blanket down. If you can’t make it to a park or field, your yard, porch or any flat surface with a little grass (or sand), some sun (& shade) will do.

Empanadas can be eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They can be served as appetizers or snacks (hot or cold), but they can easily make a full and satisfying main course.

The very basics for an empanada are a combination of three things; dough, filling and a cooking method. The dough can be made from wheat flour, cornmeal, mashed plantains, potatoes, yuca, sweet potatoes etc. and the fillings can consist of meat, fish or vegetables. The cooking method is usually to be baked or fried although some can be cooked on a griddle or grill.

According to food historians, empanadas with seafood filling first appeared in a 1520 cookbook, published during the Moorish invasions.

I was real interested to see what I could do to make some salmon empanadas taste special. We found they were good as a hot meal served with the remaining ‘sauce’ or eaten COLD for a picnic lunch.

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Salmon Picnic Empanadas
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Servings
6 inch EMPANADAS
Servings
6 inch EMPANADAS
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Cornmeal Pastry
  1. In a small bowl, combine sour cream & ice water; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, 1/2 cup cornmeal, sugar & salt. Using a pastry blender or finger tips, cut in butter until mixture resembles both coarse crumbs & small peas. Sprinkle the cold sour cream mixture over dough, tossing with a fork to evenly distribute it. Do NOT overwork dough.
  2. Cover bowl with plastic wrap & refrigerate for at least an hour.
Soy Sauce
  1. In a skillet, melt butter & sprinkle with flour. Allow to cook for a few minutes. In a bowl, whisk together broth, milk & soy sauce. Slowly add to flour/butter mixture, stirring constantly until sauce thickens. Remove from skillet & set aside.
Filling
  1. In the skillet, sauté salmon filet in 1 Tbsp oil until JUST cooked. Remove to a dish. With a fork, 'shred' salmon; set aside.
  2. In the skillet, sauté vegetables in remaining Tbsp of oil for a couple of minutes. Add seasonings, shredded salmon, 1/3 cup prepared soy sauce & grated cheddar. Toss to combine; set aside to cool.
Assembly & Baking
  1. Divide chilled pastry into 10 balls. Roll each one in cornmeal. Place a ball between 2 sheets of plastic wrap & roll into a 6-inch circle.
  2. Divide filling into 10 portions. Place a portion on one side of the pastry circle, leaving about a 1/2-inch border (on filled side). With your fingertips, moisten edge of pastry with a bit of milk or water. Flip opposite side over filling & press edges together to enclose it well. Use a fork to make the classic look.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  4. Repeat with remaining pastry & filling. Lay empanadas on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 20 minutes or until pastry is baked & slightly browned.

French Mussels w/ Bacon & Leek Risotto

Thanks for the memories! This phrase says it all when I think back to the wonderful time we spent in France. Although this holiday is now 20 years past, the memories remain very vivid and special.

My sister, Loretta had joined Brion & I on this French vacation which had made it even more special. Our journey began in Paris where we had rented a car, then travelled south (about 613 km/380 miles) to the sleepy little village of St Thibery. For this segment of our trip we had rented an apartment to use as ‘home base’ during our time in this part of France. Many of these houses are from the 14th,15th & 17th century. The apartment was quaint but adequate even having a roof top patio.

St Thibery is situated between the larger towns of Agde & Pezenas and is just a short distance from the Mediterranean Sea. On one of our day trips we visited the town of Agde. It is one of the oldest towns in France and is captivating by its maze of narrow streets. Agde was built of black basalt from a volcanic eruption thus the black color of its buildings.

It was here we discovered a nice restaurant where we enjoyed some classic French steamed mussels. It would be an understatement to say how much the three of us enjoyed this feast of fresh seafood.

During the time we spent in the area, we made the 20 minute drive from St Thibery to Agde just to have some more mussels on numerous evenings.

Brion & I decided to revisit the taste of those ‘French’ mussels today with our supper meal. Of course, nothing compares to the ‘taste of a memory’!

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French Mussels w/ Bacon & Leek Risotto
Instructions
Risotto
  1. Bring vegetable broth to a boil in a saucepan, then turn heat to low & keep at a simmer.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat; add bacon & sauté until crisp. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain & set aside.
  3. Remove all but 2 Tbsp bacon drippings from skillet (add extra olive oil if necessary to equal 2 Tbsp) then add leeks, mushrooms & shallot. Turn heat up to medium-high; season with salt & pepper. Sauté until vegetables are tender & starting to turn golden brown, about 7-8 minutes. Add garlic & sauté for 1 minute. Add rice; stir to coat & cook for 1 more minute.
  4. Turn heat back to medium; add wine & stir until absorbed by rice. Add hot vegetable broth; stir near constantly until rice is tender & all the broth is absorbed, about 25 minutes. If broth gets to a hard boil, turn heat down. Remove skillet from heat; stir in thyme, parmesan cheese & cooked bacon. Keep warm until mussels are ready.
Mussels
  1. Heat olive oil & butter in a large pot over medium high heat. Sauté the onion & garlic until softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the mussels, wine, cream, butter & parsley. Season well with salt & pepper to taste.
  3. Mix well, cover pot with a lid & cook until mussels are cooked through & opened, about 12-15 minutes.
  4. Serve mussels along with the juices in the pan with risotto & crusty or garlic bread.

Pork Rolls w/ Seafood Stuffing

Stuffed pork tenderloin is an amazing way to amp up a simple cut of meat. Pork tenderloin is incredibly tender since it is essentially the ‘filet’. Because there is very little fat in a tenderloin, its perfect to stuff with all sorts of tasty things to bring in both moisture and flavor.

The ‘old-fashioned’ idea of surf & turf seems to still retain an odd appeal. Having seafood and meat on the same plate lets you alternate bites and flavors from two realms, but there is a better way of mixing ‘sea & land’. Actually, combining seafood and pork so they cook together produces something quite amazing. Pork with its mild but rich taste complements the clean, delicate flavor of seafood.

This seafood stuffing uses a blend of rice and barley along with crab, shrimp and some veggies. The seasoning brings it all together into a real special meal.

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Pork Rolls w/ Seafood Stuffing
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Seafood Stuffing
Servings
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Seafood Stuffing
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Instructions
Seafood Stuffing
  1. In a saucepan, cook rice & barley in vegetable broth until tender; transfer to a large bowl. Sauté onion, celery & mushrooms in 2 Tbsp butter until tender-crisp.
  2. Combine sautéed vegetables with rice/barley mixture in large bowl. Stir in shrimp & crab meat; sprinkle with seasonings & toss to combine.
Pork Rolls
  1. Using a meat mallet, pound out the tenderloin strips very thinly, then divide stuffing between them. Roll tightly, encasing the filling inside. If necessary tie with kitchen twine.
  2. Roll the pork rolls in seasoned flour to coat lightly. Heat the butter & oil in a large skillet & brown the rolls well on each side. Remove rolls to a plate.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  4. Add veg (or seafood) broth to skillet, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer making sure to stir in all browning bits from pork rolls; cook for 5 minutes. Season the broth with salt & pepper to taste, then pour into a casserole & place stuffed rolls on top.
  5. Bake for about 45 minutes. Serve.

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.

Russian Pelmeni

My love for noodles, dumplings, etc. probably could be accredited to my German heritage. This recipe for Russian pelmeni has been hovering in my ‘must try’ file for quite some time, so today’s the day.

It seems most food historians agree that these Russian dumplings originated in Siberia. Although pelmeni forms the heart of Russian cuisine and culture, it does have numerous look-a-likes in particular the Ukrainian vareniki and the Polish pierogi. The easiest way to spot the difference is to look at the shape and size; a typical pelmeni is almost circular and about two inches in diameter. The other forms are usually more elongated and larger in size.  Also, the fillings in pelmeni are usually raw, while the fillings of vareniki and pierogi are typically precooked. Pelmeni will never have a sweet filling , unlike its Ukrainian counterpart. The recipe may actually be an adaptation of Chinese pot stickers.

Fillings differ but essentially they are ground meat (pork, beef or sometimes lamb), fish or mushrooms as well as being quite spicy.

The word pelmeni comes from ‘pelnyan’ which means ‘bread ear’, a reference to the food’s ear-like shape.

Although this meal was favored by hunters who were looking for light, easy to prepare, nourishing food to take with them on long trips in the winter, its also seen as Russian fast food among students or bachelors.

This recipe gives you the option of making traditional pelmeni or using an alternate method called ‘lazy’ pelmeni. Both equally as good.

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Russian Pelmeni
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine European
Keyword Russian pelmeni
Servings
Ingredients
Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine European
Keyword Russian pelmeni
Servings
Ingredients
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Instructions
Dough
  1. In a bowl, combine all dough ingredients & knead until a smooth dough ball forms, about 10 minutes. Cover, set aside & allow dough to rest until your filling is prepared.
Filling
  1. In a bowl, combine ground meats, onion, garlic, salt & pepper. Mix well.
Assembly
  1. FOR THE TRADITIONAL PELMENI: Divide the dough in half & roll each portion out into 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut into 2-inch diameter circles & place about a teaspoon of the filling on each circle. Fold the circle in half & crimp edges well, then bring the ends together & crimp. Repeat to use remaining dough & filling. It is best to refrigerate or freeze finished pelmeni before you are ready to boil them.
  2. To cook, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Place pelmeni in the boiling water & cook until they float to the top then cook for about 5 minutes more. Remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl. Add butter & mix to coat. Serve with sour cream & fresh parsley.
  3. FOR 'LAZY' PELMENI VERSION: Once dough has rested, transfer to a floured surface. Roll out the dough into a large thin rectangle. Spread meat filling over the dough, leaving a 1/4-inch at the far side of the dough.
  4. Tightly roll the dough up, starting from the wider side, forming a log. Put seam side down to seal the edges. Seal ends of the dough as well. Using a very sharp knife, cut the dough log into 2-inch sections.
  5. In a large skillet that will accommodate all pelmeni, heat oil & cook onion until translucent. Add garlic & continue cooking until fragrant. Add carrot & 1 bay leaf; cook until the carrot is tender, about 1-2 minutes.
  6. Place pelmeni rolls into the skillet with veggies, add the vegetable broth, salt, pepper & the other bay leaf. Cover with the lid & cook for 30 minutes on low heat. Check pelmeni from time to time, to make sure there is liquid in the skillet. Add more if it evaporates too fast. Garnish with fresh parsley. Serve immediately with sour cream if you wish.

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.

Cauliflower Monte Cristo Lasagna

Do you recall the Monte Cristo sandwiches of ‘yesteryear’? There was a time when you could find this sandwich on most restaurant lunch menus across North America. Basically, its ham and cheese sandwiched between two pieces of french toast, smothered in egg batter, deep fried, sprinkled with powdered sugar and dipped in a side of jelly. It’s where salty meets sweet and savory.

It’s believed that the Monte Cristo evolved from the French sandwich called ‘Croque Monsieur‘. The original grilled cheese sandwich consisted of Gruyere cheese and lean ham between two slices of crust-less bread, fried in clarified butter.

This sandwich, although delicious, is neither health or diet food but sometimes its fun to just enjoy these kind of things in moderation, of course.

This ‘lasagna‘ turned out to be real tasty. It kind of puts a new spin on an old classic. Instead of french toast, the ham and cheese are layered in between a baked cauliflower mixture that resembles slices of bread or lasagna noodles. Serve with cauliflower sauce or a sauce of your own choice.

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Cauliflower Monte Cristo Lasagna
Votes: 3
Rating: 4.67
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Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American, European
Servings
Ingredients
Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American, European
Servings
Ingredients
Votes: 3
Rating: 4.67
You:
Rate this recipe!
Instructions
Cauliflower 'Pasta'
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the tablespoon of salt & lemon juice. Cut cauliflower into florets, add to boiling mixture & cook until they are soft. Drain cooked cauliflower & roughly crush them into 'mush'. Add breadcrumbs, Parmesan, egg, garlic, Italian herbs, salt & pepper; mix well.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Press cauliflower mixture on baking sheet into a 9 x 9-inch square. Bake for about 15 minutes or until crispy. Remove from oven, cut cauliflower into 3 strips. In a buttered baking dish place the first strip. Cover with half of each of the ham & cheese slices. Put another strip of cauliflower on it & top with the rest of the ham & cheese slices. Place the third strip of cauliflower on top & sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Adjust oven temperature to 350 F. & bake 'lasagna' for about 30 minutes.
Cauliflower Sauce
  1. Add butter to a blender or food processor. Cook cauliflower according to package instructions. Using a slotted spoon, drain off any excess water, transfer to blender. Add the vegetable broth, Parmesan, garlic, milk, salt & pepper. Process until a very smooth consistency is reached. Serve warm over Monte Cristo lasagna.