Friday, September 30, 2011

Oven Baked Chicken Thighs and Veggies

Yes, another chicken recipe, but this time using most flavorful part of chicken, the thighs. They take much, much longer to cook then a breast but they are also so much more flavorful.

With the exception of mushrooms and chicken, of course J, all other ingredients that formed the sauce were from my garden: onion, eggplant, red and green peppers, tomatoes and garlic. Prep time is reasonable 20 minutes or so of chopping and slicing. As is the case with all of my recipes amounts given are for 2 people plus good leftovers for next day lunch. I served it with orzo (rice shaped dry pasta) but it can be served with any other dry or even fresh pasta, boiled potatoes, mashed potatoes or rice.


4 chicken thighs (bone in and skin on)
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs. butter
1/2 medium onion
1 Oriental eggplant or 1/2 regular eggplant
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
2 Roma tomatoes
1 cup sliced cremini or white mushrooms
3 cloves garlic, smashed
2 tsp. olive oil
2 tsp. butter
Salt and pepper
1 tsp. dried basil or 2 tsp. fresh chopped basil

 Preheat oven to 350 °F and place rack in middle.
Generously sprinkle salt and pepper on all sides of chicken thighs and set aside.
Slice or chop onions, eggplant, tomatoes and peppers.
In oven-proof skillet (avoid non-stick pans) heat oil and add butter. When the foam subsides place thighs skin side down and cook until skin starts to brown little bit. Turn the chicken thighs over and cook another 3 minutes. Remove to plate and cover with foil.

In the same skillet, drop in onions and cook until they start to caramelize, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits.
Add eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, garlic and mushrooms and stir to mix all vegetables.
Return the chicken thighs with accumulated juices back into skillet, cover and place in the oven. Check every 15 minutes if there is any juice left. If it looks too dry add white wine or chicken stock.

Meanwhile, cook your side (pasta, rice or potatoes).

After 30 minutes remove the cover from skillet and raise the oven temperature to 400 °F. Add the basil and cook for 10 more minutes or until the chicken skin is gold and crisp.

Serve immediately.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Chicken Breast Strips with Vegetables

All the veggies I used in this recipe were from my gardenand it did taste very fresh. From start to finish it took just little under 30minutes.
Main thing is to do all the prep first, start boiling waterfor pasta and you are on a roll. Also, I just do not like mushy vegetables,texture is terrible, they are tasteless and void of any vitamins, so I cookthem just until they are al dente or “soft to the tooth”. Same goes with the chickenbreasts, they are so easy to overcook. I just cook them till juices run clearwhen pierced with sharp point of knife or if there is no pink meat when you cuthalf way in.
I served this meal with wide noodles but I could have used gnocchi,rice or even potatoes with this sauce.

2 chicken breasts cut into 1” strips across
3 shallots or 1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 cup of chopped eggplant
2 red peppers, seeded and chopped
3 tomatoes, chopped or small can whole tomatoes
1 tsp. dry basil or 1 Tbs. fresh chopped basil
1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
2 Tbs. olive oil
Wide noodles or gnocchi,rice or even potatoes

Season the chicken breast strips with salt and pepper andcoat with 1 Tbs. of olive oil. (I like to use small but deep stainless steelbowl.)
Cook pasta, toss in tablespoon of butter and keep warm.
Heat remaining oil in medium hot frying pan or skillet, dropin the chicken strips and cook on all sides. Test if they are done and removeto bowl. Set aside and keep them warm.
In the same skillet sauté shallots and garlic until shallotsare translucent and garlic is fragrant, then add eggplant, peppers and tomatoesand cook on medium high heat until peppers feel soft, about 5 minutes.
Add basil and balsamic vinegar and stir to mix.
Add pasta, chicken strips and mix till pasta is coated withthe sauce and chicken and pasta are reheated.
Serve on warm plates and garnish with extra basil.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Hungarian Gulyás (Goulash)

Goulash is a stew or soup made with meat, vegetables andpotatoes. In Hungary, it is lot closer to soup then a stew and it doesn’tcontain tomatoes. There are many versions in former states of AustrianHungarian Empire. In Czech Republic and Slovakia the liquid base is choppedtomatoes and it is served with either bread or BreadDumplings, in Austria it is served with rye bread and in Northern Italywith spaetzle or gnocchi. However, one ingredient that is constant right acrosswhole former Empire is paprika, and lots of it. Also, in Czech version, thereare as many onions as there is meat, by weight, and green and/or red peppersare always included and potatoes are seldom cooked in goulash itself but ratheron side if used as side dish.
As is the case with every national dish there are manyregional varieties. Szeged goulash is made with pork, some potatoes are replaced with sauerkraut and sour cream is added at the end of cooking. Znojemský(Moravian) Goulash is made with beef, onions, peppers and chopped pickles.In short, there are as many varieties as there are regions. In this post I willdeal with a basic beef goulash using tomatoes and with potatoes on the side.

1 Lb. stewing beef
1 Lb. onions, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbs. Hungarian paprika
1 tsp. caraway seeds
2 green and 2 red peppers, roughly chopped
4 tomatoes, skinned, seeded and roughly chopped
Tbs. lard or vegetable oil
2 Tbs. flour
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. dried marjoram
Salt and pepper to taste
Cayenne pepper (optional)

 Place flour and beef inside plastic bag, close it and shakethe beef until all sides are evenly coated with flour. Shake off all excessflour and set aside.
Heat up lard or oil in heavy pan or Dutch oven on high heat.Place the beef cubes in lard, leaving space in between, and brown on all sides.Remove beef to bowl and set aside. The beef will release some juice.
Pour off the lard leaving just a thin coat on the bottom. Lowerthe heat to medium, drop in the onions and garlic and cook till light goldenbrown.
Off the heat sprinkle the paprika and caraway seeds on topand then mix until onions are evenly coated.
Put back on medium heat, add peppers and tomatoes with itsjuices, stir and bring to simmer.
Put back the beef with collected juice, bay leaf and blackpepper. Bring back to simmer on medium high, lower the heat to low and simmer,stirring and scraping the bottom every 15 minutes or so.
Braise for 3 hours making sure that there is enough liquid. Iftoo dry add some liquid such as beer, wine or stock.
Otheroption is to cook the goulash in the 350 °F oven.10 minutes before serving add marjoram and adjust seasoning(salt, cayenne pepper).
Serve in preheated shallow bowl with potatoes, pasta, breaddumplings or just slices of rye bread.
As is the case with many stews, this goulash taste betterwhen reheated next day and when served with a different side you end up with a new meal.

Beef is already coated in flour.

Meat is browned, onions and garlic are cooked and paprikaand caraway seeds are mixed in.

Peppers, tomatoes with its juice are added and brought backto simmer.

Beef is returned to pot with bay leaves, pot is covered and slowlybraised for 3 hours.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Home Made Paneer Cheese

Last week Ferdzy, the publisher ofSeasonal Ontario Food,posted Beans & Cabbage with Paneer recipe. Itbrought back memory of my favorite non-melting cheeses. Of course, Halloumi ismy favorite, but since it is made with sheep and goat milk there is no chance Ican make it myself. Paneer, however, being a cow’s milk cheese is another animal alltogether (pun intended J). The reason I am saying that isthat one of my colleagues (back in my working days) had many lunches that hadpaneer in it and he said that his wife made fresh cheese on daily basis. Well,if you make cheese every day it does have to be simple, right? And is it ever!It is so simple that you can use just a quart or 1 liter of milk or even less. On top of it,as proven by me on my very first try, it is idiot proof!
When I finished pressing my firstcurds I have noticed that the whey wasn’t clear and light green as I saw on YouTube.No problem, I said. I put the pot back on burner and when it started to simmerI have added more lemon juice. And what do you know, new curds started to formand whey has turned clear and light green.
Lesson learned: make sure you havemore lemon juice than you think you will need.

Here goes a long list of ingredients.
2 L 3.25% milk
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

Yup, that’s it.

Heavy bottom pot
Muslin cloth
Slotted spoon

Now the hard part. Yeah, rightJ

Bring the milk to simmer,scrapping bottom of a pot as you go. When the milk starts to roll over slowly pourin about a 1/4 cup of lemon juice. Keep stirring until curds start to form. Ifthe milk doesn’t separate into clear and light green whey, add more lemon juice1 teaspoon at the time. Juice of one large lemon should be enough to make aclear separation of milk solids and whey but it is always better to be on safeside and have some more juice ready, just in case.
When the whey turns greenremove the curds with slotted spoon into a colander or strainer lined withmuslin.
Let it drain for about 20minutes and then tie up the muslin into a ball and put some weight on top tocompact the cheese. What I did was that I put the bag with cheese in potatoricer (it does have small holes all around) and placed 1 quart jar on top.Perfect fit!
Let the weight compact thepaneer to consistency that you like.
Well, the paneer is done andwhen eaten still warm and fresh with some strawberry jam, it is a heaven!
Next day I did try to shallowfry some slices with little salt and hot sauce and it was delicious!
Thanks, Ferdzy!

Note: Here are some video linksthat will help you understand the process.

On this video notice how fastthe milky whey turns into a clear greenish whey with just a tee-spoon of lemonjuice.

This one is interesting thatit shows how to make very smooth paneer. She is using oversized Indian spicegrinder but I am sure that mini-chopper will do same thing.

Very innovative and original wayto use paneer. It is a definite “Must try soon” for me.

How I made Paneer
 Lemon juice was added and curds started to form.

 Curds started to separate in about 2 minutes.

Curds are placed in fine mesh bag and let drain for 15 minutes...

and then I put the bag in potato ricer (to form nice round cake) and a full jar of honey on top. In under one hour from milk to paneer!!! And, is it ever good still warm and super fresh!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mushroom and Vegetable Soup with Paprika

Thisgoes under Comfort Food label, for sure. It is so substantial that I serve it withbuttered rye bread as a supper. There is a nice mix of textures in this versionof mushroom soup.
Yes,it does take some time to prepare because of all that chopping but it can be alot faster if you have a small food processor or my favorite, the mini chopper.Just never put the machine on run or you will end up with a paste. Short pulsesare all one needs.
Whenit comes to ingredients you can use pretty much any root vegetable that youhave in your fridge. Here is what I have used and it tasted great.


1Tbs. oil
1Tbs. butter
3shallots or 1/2 onion, finely chopped
2cups sliced mushrooms
1tsp. caraway seeds
1Tbs. Hungarian paprika
3/4cup carrots, finely chopped
3/4cup celeriac, finely chopped
3/4cup celery, finely chopped
2Russet potatoes, cut into 1/4” cubes
2Tbs. flour
6cups chicken or beef stock, heated
1bay leaf
1tsp. marjoram
Saltand pepper to taste
Choppedparsley for garnish

Ina heavy bottom pan or Dutch oven heat the oil and butter.
Whenthe foam from butter subsides add shallots and sauté till light gold, about 10minutes.
Addmushrooms and caraway seeds and cook on medium high heat until mushrooms arelightly caramelised.

Addcarrots, celeriac and celery and sauté until vegetables are soft.

Offthe heat, sprinkle paprika over mushrooms and shallots and stir till mushroomsare coated with paprika.

Addpotatoes and mix with rest of the vegetables.

Returnto heat and sprinkle flour on top of potatoes, mushrooms and vegetables and keepstirring until flour is cooked and reached paste consistency. The flour willform lumps with vegetables.

Pourin hot stock and mix until al flour lumps are mixed in and soup feels smooth.
Lowerthe heat to medium low, bring to simmer and cook for 20 minutes scraping thebottom of pot with wood or bamboo spatula (my choice) to prevent flour fromburning.

Removeabout 1 cup of mushrooms and vegetables with slotted spoon and set aside.
Withan immersion blender finely chop or liquefy (your call) rest of the solids. Putback reserved mushrooms and veggies and bring back to simmer.

Addmarjoram and taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
Cookfor 5 more minutes.  
Servein a bowls and garnish with parsley.

Serves4 - 6

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Risotto Cakes with Goat Cheese

Every timeI make risotto I make sure to double the recipe so that I have a lot of left-overs.As I noted in another risotto cake post, some restaurants actually make risottojust for the cakes. Once you taste one (good one, that is), you will definitelylook forward to the next one.
When I madeChickenand Mushroom Risotto I made it really creamy. Really great as a risotto butit is a problem when you try to form a cake with the left-overs. I had no choicebut to mix it with little bit of bread crumbs to give it some body.
To make thecake I chopped the leftover chicken and mushrooms, mixed them with soft goatcheese and formed a small ball. Then I formed ball with risotto, made deepindentation in risotto ball, placed goat cheese ball inside, enclosed it andflattened it to form a cake or pate about 3” in diameter and inch and halfhigh. Next came 3-step breading job: first, coat cake in flour, then beaten eggand finally Panko. Press the Panko in so it doesn’t get loose when placed inhot oil. I shallow fried the cakes till light golden brown on all sides. In 10minutes it was ready to be served with arugula and cherry tomatoes andfreshly grated Parmigiano cheese on top.
I just lovethe texture of crisp Panko on the outside and soft risotto and creamy goatcheese on the inside, all in one bite!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Steamed Pearl Balls - Chinese Dim Sum

These steamed pork meat balls coated in sticky rice are not only favorites in Dim Sum restaurants but at formal Chinese banquets as well. They are so easy to make, especially if using store bought ground meat. Since I never buy ground meat it takes me few minutes longer to prepare, but for me it is worth the time and effort since I know exactly what is in my meat. Same pork mixture can also be used in wontons for soup and also pot stickers. It is very versatile recipe.
3/4 cup sticky rice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1 tsp. sugar
1 Tbs. cornstarch
3/4 pound pork butt or equivalent ground pork
1/2 Tbs. fresh ginger, minced
2 tsp. chopped garlic
1 tablespoons water chestnut, finely chopped
3 green onions, minced
2 shitake mushrooms, soaked and chopped fine
1 Tbs. Sake or rice wine
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 Tbs. peanut oil
1 large egg, beaten
Napa or Savoy cabbage leaves

Soak sticky rice in water for minimum 8 hours, preferably overnight.
Drain well in colander and leave the rice in the colander over a bowl to catch water drippings.
If using pork butt, grind the meat using 1/4” plate.
Mix salt, pepper, sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl.
Place the ground pork in a large mixing bowl together with ginger, garlic, water chestnuts, onions and mushrooms and mix with your hands until the mixture is well combined. Add dry mix and mix till mixture is smooth.
With a spoon scoop out about 2 tablespoons of meat mixture and roll it in palm of your hands forming uniform ball. Place the ball on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat till all balls are rolled. I prefer to scoop out all the meat first and then roll all the meat at the same time.
Firmly roll the meat balls in colander holding the rice until rice completely covers the meat. It is lot easier to do if you firm up the meat balls in freezer for about 20 – 30 minutes first.

Line a bamboo steamer with cabbage leaves. Place balls 1/2 inch apart in steamer and cover with steamer lid. Add water to a large skillet to a depth of 1 inch and bring to a boil. Place steamer in skillet, and steam balls 20 minutes or until rice is tender. Remove balls and cabbage from steamer and serve with soy and Chinese red vinegar dipping sauce.

This Chinese aluminum double-decker steamer is one of the most useful utensils in my kitchen. (This picture shows only one basket being used.)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Chicken and Mushroom Risotto

Last few days I had craving for nice creamy risotto so I checked my posts to see what kind I cooked last time. I was very surprised that I didn’t post any regular rise risotto recipe, none at all!
Risotto is so versatile. You can prepare it with so many different meats and vegetables and mix them right in risotto at the end of cooking or serve them on top. Since I bought King Oyster Mushrooms and farm fresh chicken breasts I wanted to use these two ingredients as a main topping. I just love these mushrooms for their taste and texture. Also, since I do have saffron on hand at all times, the risotto I have made was classical “Risotto alla Milanese”.


3 tsp. olive oil
3 Tbs. butter
2 1/2 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 skinless chicken breasts
1-1/2 cups Arborio rice
3 shallots
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 cup dry white wine
Pinch of Saffron
4-1/2cups chicken stock (heated)
1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano cheese
2 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley
Salt & pepper
Heat 1 tsp. of oil and 1 Tbs. of butter in skillet. Add mushrooms and toss to coat all slices. Cook till mushrooms show nice color (do not move them too much). When done, remove to bowl and keep warm.
Preheat oven or toaster-oven to 375 °F. In the same skillet where you cooked mushrooms, add 1 Tbs. butter and 1 tsp. oil and cook chicken breast for about 3 minutes on each side or until both sides are golden brown. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper, place in baking dish (I use steel pie plate) and roast in oven for about 15 minutes or till juices run clear when pierced with sharp pointed knife. Do not overcook! Remove from oven, cover with foil and let the breasts rest but keep warm.
In the same skillet that you cooked mushrooms and chicken, sauté shallots and garlic in remaining butter and oil until shallots are translucent. Add the rice and stir until the rice turns opaque, about two minutes.
Add the wine to the rice and stir frequently until the wine has been absorbed into the rice.
Add 1/2 cup of the heated chicken stock and stir until absorbed. The rice and stock should bubble gently.
Continue to cook the rice, adding chicken stock 1/2 cup at a time and allowing the rice to absorb it before adding the next 1/2 cup. Taste for seasoning and adjust.
Cook rice until al dente, about 25-30 minutes.
With the addition of last batch of stock add the grated parmesan cheese and 2 Tbs. of butter and stir thoroughly.
Remove from heat when the risotto is thick and creamy.
Serve on pre-heated plate or bowl, top with mushrooms and slices of chicken breast and garnish with freshly grated Parmigiano and parsley.  
Serve immediately.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Cook Ahead Risotto

To cook ahead:
With this technique you never have to stand at the stove, stirring, for 30 minutes while your guests wonder where you have gone. You can make any kind of risotto you want using this method. This method is used by restaurant chefs.
A standard recipe of 4 servings uses 5 cups liquid (wine and stock) to 1-1/2 cups Arborio rice.
Prepare your risotto according to your recipe, but use only 3 -1/4 cups liquid. You will use the remaining 1-3/4 cups to finish the risotto. Cook on medium-low heat until 3-1/4 cups of stock is absorbed.
Remove the rice from heat. If you are going to use it within few hours, just keep it on side, covered.
10 minutes before serving
Remove chilled rice from refrigerator and bring to room temperature. Place the remaining 1-3/4 cups liquid in a wide pot or sauté pan; heat to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and add the partially cooked risotto. Stir with a wooden spoon until the stock is absorbed, approximately 4 to 5 minutes or until rice is tender but still firm (the rice is done when it is tender, but firm to the bite). Turn off the heat and immediately add the remaining butter and Parmigiano cheese, stirring vigorously to combine with the rice. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Chicken and Polenta Soup Balls

As I mentioned on my “Baked Pimento Pepper Halves” post, I made these dumplings using minced chicken and polenta instead of usual matzo meal or bread crumbs. It was an experiment that turned out better than I had expected. It started quite innocently with polenta experiment. I had an e-mail thread going with my favorite nephew Seb about cooking polenta. I wanted to know if it can be cooked in microwave. I took 1/2 cup of chicken stock and nuked it for 45 seconds on 100% power, then mixed in 1/4 cup fine ground corn and cooked another 45 seconds on 75% power, uncovered. And, what do you know; it had a decent texture and tasted cooked, it was actually pretty good even though it was on a dry side. I left it on my kitchen island and started to prepare new chicken-on-skewers recipe from Cooks Illustrated where chicken breast is kept moist by coating it with bacon paste made in mini-chopper. I made the paste with 2 cloves of garlic and then I changed my mind about the skewers, there just wasn’t enough meat for two people. Eureka! Chicken dumplings for a soup!
I cut up the breast into small pieces and then minced it in mini chopper together with 1 egg, 1/2 tsp. of salt, 2 Tbs. of chopped garlic chives, 1/2 tsp. marjoram, 1/2 tsp. baking powder and 1/2 tsp. of white pepper. Then I mixed in the polenta, formed it into 1-1/2” balls and slowly simmered in salted water for 15 minutes. They came out nice and fluffy (baking powder J).
These are now my favorite dumplings for a chicken noodle soup.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Korean Zucchini Pancake

Hobakjeon  호박전
Last few days I had cravings for potato pancakes (or Čmunda in Czech) but it is a winter or cold weather meal. While browsing through other food blogs I came across zucchini version and since I bought bunch of zucchinis at local farmers market my plan was formalized. There is nothing like eating local and in season, right?
This pancake is great for nice quick lunch and can be eaten hot or at room temperature.
My version is based on recipe from Maangchi’s blog that I follow on regular basis. She also has her own channel on YouTube.
2 medium zucchini (I used 1 green and 1 yellow)
3 green onions
2 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup water
1 tsp. sesame oil
Peanut oil for frying

Julienne zucchini (matchstick size) and shred green onions. You should have about 2-1/2 cups of zucchini and 1/2 cup of green onions.
In large mixing bowl beat the egg and then add salt, flour, pepper, garlic and water and mix until well combined and smooth.
Add zucchini and onions and mix thoroughly with spatula.
Heat 12” non-stick frying pan, add 1 Tbs. of oil and when hot add about 3/4 cup of pancake mixture. Spread it evenly, making fairly thin pancake. Press down with spatula to get even browning on bottom. Add some sesame oil around the edges to help the browning. When edges are golden brown, about 2 minutes, flip or turn over and cook another 2 minutes. Again, add 1 tsp. of sesame oil around the edges.
Transfer to heated plate and keep warm while frying rest of the pancakes.
I know that it is basically traditional Korean dish and is served with spicy sauce but I served it with sour cream and sliced strawberries. Nice contrast in texture and taste!

Done just right!

Note: Do not let the frying pan get too hot or you end up with burned edges and raw center.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Baked Pimento Pepper Halves

Stuffed with Minced Chicken Breast

While rummaging in my freezer I came across vacuum packed chicken breast. Just one chicken breast is not enough to feed 2 people unless I use it in stir fry or with risotto or lots of pasta. None of these options appealed to me, I just had to come up with something that I haven’t done before. Last week I made soup dumplings using minced chicken breast, egg and polenta (!) instead of bread crumbs so I figured I could follow same process. Then I remembered one of our favorite dim-sums: fried and steamed green pepper halves stuffed with ground pork! I have a lot of red pimento peppers in my veggie garden (that I grew from seeds J) so I have decided to use them. They are just perfect size for quick bake, about 2” wide and 4” long. Problem: chicken breast is the leanest meat on the planet and because of that I will have to add some good fat. I figured since everybody (among normal people) loves bacon, why not take couple slices of bacon, chop it and then pulverize it in mini-chopper to add some taste and moisture. New recipe was done, at least in my head.
1 chicken breast (1 halve), cut into 1” cubes
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
2 slices smoked bacon, roughly chopped
1/2 cup toasted bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. Hungarian paprika
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. dried marjoram
1 Tbs. chopped garlic chives or French chives
6 small red peppers
Oil for initial frying

Wash and dry peppers and cut off excess stem.
Split in half lengthwise, remove seeds, white ribs and cut across the stem and as close as possible to pepper wall. You should have only small green knob left.
Place garlic and bacon in a mini-chopper or food processor and process until bacon has a paste consistency.
Scrape the sides of processor bowl and add chicken and pulse until chicken is well minced.
Place bread crumbs, paprika, salt, thyme, marjoram and chives into mixing bowl and mix until well combined.
Mix beaten egg with milk and pour in bread crumb mixture and mix. The crumbs should form small pellets.
Mix the chicken mince with bread crumbs and mix until mixture is well combined and smooth. You should be able to form a ball that holds its shape. Adjust the consistency if needed by adding more milk if dry or more bread crumbs if too runny.
Take a teaspoon of the mixture, make a small pate and fry in little oil to test for seasoning, mainly if it is salty enough since bacon differs a lot in how salty the slices are. Adjust if needed.
With spoon, stuff the peppers with mixture, pressing the meat in all corners and stuffing it a little bit higher than the rim of the pepper. It should have a little mound above the rim.
Preheat oven to 400 °F and place rack in middle.
Heat about 1/2 cup of oil in small frying pan and shallow fry meat side of pepper till golden, about 20 – 30 seconds. Fry only 2 halves at the time, they are very slippery and hard to handle. When seared remove peppers with tongues to plate lined with paper towel. Repeat for rest of peppers.
Place peppers meat side up on a wire or roasting rack and place the rack on baking sheet. (I used my BBQ grill so I’ve omitted the baking sheet and roasted them on warming rack that is higher than cooking grill.)
Bake for 20 minutes.
To Serve
Only you imagination will direct you in how many ways you can serve these stuffed peppers. Simplest one, and the one I used when I served them freshly baked, is just as it is: on a bed of lettuce or arugula with a baguette toast rubbed with garlic and fresh tomatoes. Other suggestion are that you can cut the peppers across into 1 inch slices and put them on top of toasted baguette slices…or serve them in a hot tomato sauce with, you guessed it, garlic rubbed and toasted baguette slices. This was today’s reincarnation of this great meal. Hmmm, it looks like we do like toasted baguette slices rubbed with my very own hard neck garlic. I have to agree, we do. It makes a great base for almost any toppings.

Peppers are ready for initial browning.
Caramelized and ready for baking.

Burners on right and left were on full and two center ones were on low.

  Ready for any way you want to serve them.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Fruit Dumplings with Cottage Cheese and Butter

Strawberry Version

If you ask any adult Czech living abroad what childhood foods they miss the most, the Fruit Dumplings will be at the top of a list, no doubt. My mom was a master in making these and when I came to Canada every summer I dreamed about them. When she visited us for the first time it was this recipe that I just had to have. The version here is slightly modified because European ingredients are bit different but taste is the same.

There are several types of dough used for fruit dumplings. Some regions use dough made with potatoes and flour, others use cottage cheese and flour and some combine cottage cheese, boiled and riced potatoes and flour. I like to follow the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid) and just use plain flour.

 Ingredients for the Dough
1/4 cup milk (room temperature)
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 egg yolks or 2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. instant yeast
1/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
2 cups all-purpose flour

1 pint strawberries, hulled, washed and halved.

In a bowl, mix together milk, water, vanilla extract and eggs.
In a food processor, pulse flour, salt, sugar and instant yeast to combine.
Slowly add liquid contents from bowl through the feed tube and mix till dough doesn’t stick to work bowl, about 45 seconds.
Since the flour moisture content varies you may have to adjust the ratio of liquid to flour by working in more flour if too wet or adding more water if the dough doesn’t form a ball.
Place the dough in clean, lightly buttered bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in warm and draft-free place until the dough has doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Punch the dough down and roll it out on floured board. You can roll the dough into 12-by-16 inch rectangle and cut it into 12 four-inch squares or roll it into a cylinder shape about 2” diameter, 18” long and cut into 12 disks about 1-1/2” wide and then flattened into pie shape that is 4” diameter. I did the later because I find it easier to make a ball with round disk instead of square.
Lay 2 strawberry halves into center of each disk, enclose the sides and roll it into a ball. Make sure that all the seams are tight and strawberries are well enclosed.
Place each dumpling on floured baking sheet, cover with towel and let them rise for 10 minutes.
In 4-quart pot, bring 3-quarts of lightly salted water to a bubbling boil. With a large slotted spoon, carefully place 4 or more dumplings (depending how wide your pot is) in the water. Partially cover the pot and once dumplings come to top, gently boil for 4 minutes. Turn dumplings over and cook additional 3 minutes.
Remove dumplings to large platter with a slotted spoon and immediately open each with 2 forks or prick them in several places with sharp needle to release the steam.
Repeat the process with remaining dumplings.
To serve, place 3 dumplings on preheated plate, top with cottage cheese, dribble melted butter on top and as an option, sprinkle sugar on top.
These dumplings are also popular when filled with pitted plums.