Garden Fritters

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Make enough of these and it is a total meal, or use as an appetizer or side dish, either way, you are going to love these intense vegetable fritters.

 

I’m having a fritter moment.  It seems like a magical way of getting pounds of vegetables eaten up in record time, just when it is all at the peak of freshness, and who doesn’t love that?  I had to call these garden fritters, due to the tangle of grated zucchini, the wilted swiss chard, the crunchy pop of corn kernels fresh off the cob ….  Now just add to that a bunch of herbs, some garlic and a bit of cheese.  In today’s version I used feta and a bit of cumin.

If you make fritters just a few times you will quickly realize you don’t really need a recipe, but here is my general guideline:

  • 4 cups of vegetables
  • 1 clove of garlic (completely variable depending on your garlic love)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • salt, pepper and seasonings to taste

Now – once you’ve got  this far, just use your imagination with seasonings, and/or any cheese you decide to add.  Cheese certainly isn’t necessary, just adds another level of tasty goodness.

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These fritters have grated zucchini, lightly wilted swiss chard, corn kernels cut off a fresh cob, and herbs of parsley and chives.  One garlic clove and a bit of cumin with some feta cheese crumbled in created an intensely mouthwatering fritter.

A cast iron frying pan works best but any non stick pan will work well.  Lightly coat with oil, and on medium heat drop in dollops of the mixture.  Fry until golden brown and cooked through, about 3-4 min per side.

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HEAD’S UP – these delicious little kernels of corn will actually pop and sizzle like crazy in the oil – be prepared for the splatter.

I served these with a dip resembling tsatsiki:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/3 cup grated cucumber
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp dill weed
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • salt & pepper to taste

Pizza Pockets & Hand Pies

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Following is the recipe for a basic, soft and easy to work with dough.  I used this recipe for making pizza pockets for my granddaughter Sloan’s first week of Grade 1, and then turned leftover dough into meat hand pies for 93 year old Auntie Elsie, who is kind of tired of cooking these days. Leftover dough you say???  Well I didn’t think 8-10 small pizzas would give me enough dough so I doubled the recipe … which yielded 25 pizza pockets, 10 hand meat pies and 1 pizza for our dinner.  Significant yield!!!

Pizza Crust: (makes 8-10 small pizzettas)
Ingredients:

  • 750 g white flour (use Tipo ’00 flour if you can or a strong bread flour)
  • 200 g semolina flour
  • 2 ½ cups lukewarm water
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. (or 1 x 8 oz packages) yeast
  • 2 tsp. sea salt
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil

Directions:

  1. Place your flour(s) and sea salt in a large bowl and whisk together. Create a well in the center.
  2. In a large measuring cup, mix together your lukewarm water and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Sprinkle in the yeast and let it sit for approximately 5 minutes, until the yeast starts to ferment.
  3. Pour the water/sugar/yeast mixture into the well along with the olive oil and stir together with a fork or large spoon until it is well mixed. Once it becomes too difficult to mix together with your fork or spoon, sprinkle extra flour on the dough and your hands and mix with your hands until the dough comes together in a ball.
  4. Place the dough on a well-floured flat surface and knead, pushing the dough using the palms of your hands, for approximately 10 minutes, until the dough looks smooth and stretchy. You may need to add extra flour as you go, being careful not to add too much to keep the dough from being too stiff.
  5. Place the ball of dough in a large bowl coated with olive oil, dust the top of the dough with flour, and cover with a clean dish towel and place in a warm draft-free area for about an hour, until the dough has doubled in size. Punch the dough down.  At this point you can either refrigerate the dough overnight (or up to 2 days, covered with plastic wrap and occasionally punched down) or divide the dough into 4-6 portions (depending on how big you want your pizzas).  I highly recommend making your dough in advance and letting it sit in the fridge as the longer ‘proof’ really makes a difference.   Ensure that your pizza dough comes to room temperature before cooking (bring it out of the refrigerator 1-2 hours before you are ready to cook).
  6. Once ready to cook, heat your oven to the highest heat setting (500F for most ovens) and place your pizza stone in the oven for at least 20 minutes.
  7. Portion the dough into 8-10 balls and place on a well-floured surface. Using your hands, with your knuckles, (dusted with flour, along with the counter to prevent the dough from sticking) form your pizza crust 15-20 minutes before cooking your pizza on a flat surface dusted with semolina flour until it is nice and thin. Keep stretching it with your hands to make a flat pizza base (it doesn’t have to be round or perfect!).
  8. Remove the pizza stone from the oven, lay your rolled dough on the stone, and add your ingredients ….

If you are using this dough for pizza pockets or hand pies, after step 5 skip to step 7 and form circles of dough.

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For pizza pockets, layer on pizza sauce, your chosen ingredients and cheese, closing the pockets with a fork.  Make sure to prick the top surface with the fork so steam can escape.

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For the meat pies I used an ice cream scoop to get a consistent amount of the meat mixture – centered on the dough, and then brought up the edges to crimp over the middle of the circle.  Brush with beaten egg and poke with a fork.

Bake pizza pockets or meat pies at 400 until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

FILLING FOR MEAT PIE

1 onion, minced finely

1 garlic clove, grated

2 carrots

2 stalks celery

1/2 cup each frozen corn and peas

1 small zucchini, diced

1 lb ground beef

1 tbsp each dried oregano and basil

Saute the onion and garlic until the onion is lightly carmelized, add the carrots and celery, season with salt and pepper, and cook until vegetables are almost cooked through, then add zucchini and saute for another few minutes.  Remove from heat and place in bowl.  Add frozen corn and peas.  Return pan to heat and stir in ground beef – cooking until lightly browned, seasoning with salt and pepper.

Add beef to vegetable mixture and season with dried herbs, adding more salt and pepper if needed.  At this point, if you feel like it needs a bit more flavour, add 1 tbsp of tomato paste.  Stir well and set in fridge to cool down.  When cool, continue on with forming your hand pies.

These pies are only limited by your imagination – use whatever you feel like to fill the pies, making sure to taste the mixture before filling the dough rounds.  Made in a smaller size they make a great appetizer too.

Crab Cakes with Horseradish Aioli

Crab cakes are one of our favourite appetizers to get when eating out …. this is an easy to create appetizer at home, or make slightly larger – serve with a great big tossed salad – amazing bread, and you have a complete meal.

Delicious crab cakes, served with horseradish aioli.

Delicious crab cakes, served with horseradish aioli.

1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup finely sliced green onions (green and white bits)
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Blend well together, and gently stir in:
1 pound lump crabmeat (take care to pick through it to make sure it is shell free)
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs

In separate bowl combine:
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
Sprinkle of salt and pepper

1 pound of crab meat should make about 16 small cakes (appetizer size) or 8 larger cakes.

Form crab meat mixture into balls, and press each ball into the panko crumbs to coat.

Set aside in fridge to allow them to set up.

The crab cakes can be done to this stage, and kept in fridge until the next day.

Heat fry pan, and add 2 tbsp butter, 2 tbsp vegetable oil. When foam has subsided, add crab cakes and heat through for 2-3 minutes per side, flipping gently. Do not crowd the pan, fry in batches if necessary.

Horseradish Aioli

1 cup good quality mayonnaise
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp horseradish
1/2 tsp smoked garlic powder (or roasted garlic)
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Blend all ingredients well, and allow to sit in the fridge so that the flavours develop.

Serve crab cakes with aioli, sprinkled with a few cilantro sprigs.

Roasted Red Pepper Stuffed Mushroom Caps

This summer we had a LOT of Italian red peppers in the field ….. we decided to try roasting and canning them – they were a fantastic success!

Creamy and delicious stuffed mushroom caps

Creamy and delicious stuffed mushroom caps

To make stuffing for about 12 medium – large mushroom caps

1/3 cup softened cream cheese
1/2 cup minced roasted red pepper
1/4 cup minced green onion
1 mushroom (minced)
1 stalk celery (minced)
1 tsp paprika

salt and pepper to taste

Lightly toasted sliced almonds
fresh parsley

First, sauté the minced mushroom and celery until lightly browned.

Stir all ingredients together until smooth and creamy – taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper, but also be aware if you have enough red pepper flavour. If not, mince some more!

Stuff mushroom caps and bake at 375 until bubbly – sprinkle almonds and parsley over top and serve

Curried Crab Dip

This has been a family favorite for many years, and one I am often requested to bring. It is easy to serve with crackers or vegetables. When you want to get fancy, pipe it into little prepared pastry cups – looks like you are a pro!

Curried crab dip

8 ounce pack cream cheese (softened)
2 tbsp good quality mayonnaise
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp tabasco sauce
1 small tin crab meat

Blend softened cream cheese with spices until nicely creamed together. Stir in crab meat (if you want to make it extra luxurious use 2 tins crab meat!)

Turn into serving dish and sprinkle with freshly chopped chives.

Crispy Peanut & Sweet Chili Chicken Wings

2 pounds chicken wings
1 tbsp. oil
1/3 cup sweet chili sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp. smooth peanut butter
2 tbsp. lime juice
1 tsp tamarind concentrate
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp. sriracha sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 ” piece of ginger, minced

Marinate chicken wings for as long as you have available – Remove from marinade (reserve marinade) then bake on a rack in preheated oven (400 or 425 convection) until golden brown and crispy – at least 30 minutes.

Heat the marinade in a small saucepan until it boils and reduces slightly.

When they are starting to get golden brown and crispy, toss them in the reduced marinade and put back on rack to get all crunchy.

Garnish with chopped peanuts and cilantro.

Prosciutto wrapped nectarines

Anything wrapped in prosciutto has to be great! These are fabulous little appetizers that – once you have made them for anybody – are sure to be requested again. I have made them with both nectarines and peaches – whatever looks best in the market.

These appetizers are sure to be a crowd pleaser

These appetizers are sure to be a crowd pleaser

Cut fruit into wedges large enough to handle – probably 6 wedges out of one piece of fruit. ( try to use fruit that isn’t too soft…..)
Put 1 heaping teaspoon of goat cheese into cavity from stone
Tightly wrap prosciutto (I usually halve slice lengthwise)
If desired, glaze with a bit of warm apricot jam

Grill just until you have beautiful grill marks and the prosciutto crisps up a bit.

Greek Style Pork Baby Back Ribs

Greek style ribs in Phoenix

Every so often I crave a simple rib without barbecue sauce ….. yes it is true, ribs can be fabulous minus the barbecue sauce (even one as great as mine!)  Try these, very easy to do and fall off the bone tender.  Serve with a greek salad, some grilled vegetables and garlic toast – pretty darn yummy.

2 racks baby back ribs (membrane removed from back)

olive oil

juice and zest of 1 lemon

kosher salt

freshly cracked black pepper

basil

rosemary

oregano

dry mustard powder

dry garlic powder

Combine all the dry ingredients, mixing well.  In season I like to use fresh herbs, but in the winter when we just can’t get them I use either dried or frozen herbs.

Give the ribs a nice little massage with the olive oil – drizzle lemon over top.  Now generously sprinkle herbs with seasoning and the lemon zest, and give it another little rub to make sure all these seasonings are covering every surface.

Cover tightly and allow to marinate.  A couple of hours will do the trick, but I really prefer to do this the night before so the flavours go right through and the lemon has a bit of time to make those ribs even more tender. 

I find it easiest to do this right on a foil covered baking sheet, with the ribs covered in another sheet of foil – that way you can just put the whole thing in the oven without any further fuss.

Bake in a slow oven – about 300 degrees for 2 1/2 – 3 hours – until they are tender but not off the bone.  Finish on the grill just to crisp up the edges – drizzle lemon over top and serve!

Grilled Pizza

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When the sun is shining, and the weather warm I can’t get enough of grilling.  One of our favorites is grilled pizza.  Once you get the hang of it you won’t be happy with doing it any other way.

I’m a bit of a nut – preferring to do everything from scratch – but you could easily purchase any part of these recipes ready made.  We have an Italian Deli right next to my work, and when I am pinched for time I buy ready made pizza dough from them when I pick up the cold cuts. 

If however, you like the process – then go ahead and give the whole thing a whirl. 

One thing I find really helpful is to pre-cook all the toppings.  For example, carmelized red onions taste way better than raw!  Thinly sliced, roasted potatoes make a great topping, as do roasted sweet peppers or sauted mushrooms.  Experiment with toppings you already love and try some new ones.

Pizza dough:

3 cups flour

1 packet instant (or Rapid Rise)  yeast

1 tsp kosher salt

2 tbsp good quality olive oil

1 cup warm water

Lightly sift together flour, salt and instant yeast.  Combine olive oil and warm water – slowly pour into flour blend.

If you have a stand mixer, allow it to do all the work for you – kneading for about 10 minutes.  If not, go ahead and dig in there – something therapeutic about kneading dough after spending the day at a desk.

Once the dough has reached a nice soft workable mass (adding either flour if it is too wet or water if it is too dry) allow it to rest for a bit before forming pizza.

SAUCE

I like my sauce simple – toss grape tomatoes (1 packet) with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper – allow to roast in a 350 oven just until the skin starts to burst.  Blend well with some olive oil, basil, oregano, salt and pepper.  Adding a bit of tomato paste gives it more body.

To grill pizza, get your grill nice and hot.  Either oil one side of the pizza dough, or your grate.  Cook pizza without touching for 1-2 minutes, then lift and rotate to get great grill marks.  Do not flip.  Once you have rotated, close the lid and don’t peek – let it cook for 2-3 minutes.  This will take some experimenting with your grill to know the temperatures – you want it crispy but not burnt.

Once the grilled side is nicely done, it is time to put it in a cookie sheet, cutting board, or plate to dress.  DRESS THE GRILLED SIDE.  Don’t worry, the uncooked side will not stick to the surface.  Once you have dressed the grilled side, return it to the grill and allow it to cook for another few minutes until the uncooked side is grilled perfectly and your toppings have warmed through. 

A few suggestions for toppings:

Spicy hot capicolla, red peppers, olives, mozzarella and feta cheese

ham, sauted mushrooms, carmelized red onion and applewood smoked cheddar cheese

thinly sliced roasted red potatoes, thinly sliced zucchini, fresh rosemary and mozzarella

(try the potato pizza without the traditional tomato sauce – roast a garlic bulb, add enough olive oil, chili flakes and fresh basil to get a smooth paste – smooth over pizza before adding the toppings

salami, fresh tomato, sun dried tomato and basil

Sweet & Spicy Brown Sugar Pecan Brie Round

brown sugar pecan brie round

 

This recipe is so easy – I am not going to use any particular ingredient amount so that you feel free to work with your own taste preferences.

Round of brie

brown sugar

toasted pecans (roughly chopped)

butter

chile flakes (or cayenne pepper)

salt and pepper

lemon
Sprinkle brown sugar over brie (no need to cut off the top), sprinkle with cayenne pepper or chili flakes, chopped toasted pecans, and lightly season with salt and pepper.  Squeeze just a little bit of fresh lemon juice over, and dot with butter over surface.

Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes.  If you keep the rind intact, it should just start to look like the rind is bulging a bit.  Once you cut into it, the cheese will be ooey gooey, butter melted and all the seasonings are just a little bit of nirvana!

Serve with either fresh baguette, toast rounds or your favorite crackers.