Monday, October 9, 2017

Scottish Sweets & Savory

I've never dedicated an entire post to desserts and snacks. It's about time, doncha think?


Tiffin Cake
Sally first had this when we were visiting Tracey's Mum near Findochty, Scotland. It took some sleuthing to discover that the delectable squares were called Tiffin or Tiffin Cake, or sometimes Refrigerator Cake due to its un-baked preparation.

1-1/2 sticks Butter
2 Tbsp Sugar
1/4-1/3 cup Golden Syrup*
2+ Tbsp Raisins
10 oz package of Rich Tea tm, plain or digestive biscuits**
12 oz bag Milk or Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips

Some recipes call for coca powder to make these chocolate-y.  IMHO this is one time when chocolate is not necessarily a good thing...

Melt the butter, sugar and syrup in a large pan. Err on the side of excess -- a bit more butter, syrup and sugar will not go amiss here! Add the raisins and bring to the low boil. Allow to bubble gently for a couple minutes to thicken a little.

Crush the biscuits (in a plastic bag to cut down the mess),with a rolling pin. Don't leave pieces bigger than a dime, or the final product will tend to break up when cut. The finer crush the better.  Mix the crumbs well into the melted mixture, coating thoroughly.

Press the mixture into a lined 8x10 shallow “lasagna pan” and level out, pushing down the mixture well.

Melt the chocolate carefully (avoid boiling), a microwave works well here, and spread over the top.

Refrigerate for at least a couple hours, then cut into pieces with a sharp knife.

* Can't find Golden Syrup? Use the American equivalent – pure cane syrup (Steen's tm is a widely available brand)
** You could try this with any sort of un-frosted vanilla-flavored American cookies...

Although it's called "refrigerator cake", let it come to room temperature before eating it, otherwise the cold will deaden the flavor.


Aberdeen Butteries
Oh so good toasted, with butter and jam. Or use two to make the ultimate Bacon Butty. We first had these in Findochty, Scotland, on the Northeast coast. Ian would disappear in the early morning, visit a local shop, and come back with pre-packaged butteries, or rowies as they are sometimes called, for our breakfast. The recipe is strictly regional to northeast Scotland – ask for these elsewhere in Scotland or England and you'll get a blank stare...

Not a simple recipe, as it has multiple raises and foldings and rollings, and takes some time. But they are well worth the work a couple times of the year. Cooked, cooled rowies can be bagged in ziptops and frozen, to be eaten another day. This recipe makes about 16 cakes. The measures have been translated from Scottish for you!

1 cup or 2 Sticks plus 2 Tbsp Butter
1/2cup Lard
1 Tbsp Brown Sugar
1 lb AP Flour – yes you should weigh this...
1 Tbsp Salt
2 tsp Dried Yeast
2 cups warm Water (may not need all of this)
Pinch of salt 

  1. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, yeast, sugar and salt until well combined.  
  2. Make a well in the center of the mixture, and gradually add the water in a thin stream, stirring well, until the mixture just comes together as a dough. You may not need all of the water.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead lightly for 8-10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic.
  4. Transfer the kneaded dough to a clean, greased bowl and cover with a greased sheet of cling film. Set aside in a warm place to rise for at least one hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
  5. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, cream together the butter and lard until well combined. Divide the mixture into four equal portions.
  6. When the dough has proved, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a further 1-2 minutes.
  7. Roll out the dough into a 16” x 8”rectangle, about 1/2” thick.
  8. Turn the dough so that the short edge is facing you. Spread one portion of the butter and lard mixture over the bottom two-thirds of the dough rectangle.
  9. Fold the remaining one-third of the dough rectangle onto the butter and lard mixture to cover the center section of the dough rectangle. Fold the other end of the dough rectangle over the folded dough, so that the dough ends up three times its original thickness. Roll the dough out again to a 16” x 8” x 1/2” rectangle.
  10. Repeat the process of spreading and folding with another portion of the butter and lard mixture, until all of the mixture has been used up and the dough has been rolled out a total of four times.
  11. Preheat the oven to 400F.
  12. Cut the rolled out dough into 16 pieces and roll each into a round, flat shape.
  13. Transfer the disks to a lightly oiled baking tray and raise again for 40-45 minutes.
  14. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until they are golden-brown and cooked through. Set aside to cool on a wire rack.

As you can see, mine didn't turn out too good – tasty, but flat. They should be at least twice s thick.  They were nicely risen when I put them in the oven, but went flat as they baked! It wasn't a problem with the yeast, as I had two good rises. I've never had that happen before! Must try again, until I get it right, as the originals were soooo good!


Treacle Flapjacks
Flapjacks, in the UK, are not those thin, round, sweet skillet breads that you get in America at places like IHOP. Over there, a Flapjack is a simple, decadent dessert bar made from butter, brown sugar, rolled oats, and (usually) Golden Syrup, a sort of thick version of our local Florida Cane Syrup.

This recipe uses black treacle (similar to molasses but much thicker). Fans of the Harry Potter books and the hilarious Discworld novels by Sir Terry Pratchett, will be very familiar with treacle in tarts, sandwiches and the mine under the city of Ankh-Morpork.

Treacle and Golden Syrup can be found in some mega-marts or other stores which have a lot of international foods. Our local Publix carries Golden Syrup, or can get it for you from a store which does.  I inherited a can of Black Treacle from my foodie friend Sara Peterson.

I suspect you could also make these from cane syrup or molasses, but the first cooking stage would need to be longer to thicken things up more. A bit of corn starch may help too.

1-1/2 sticks Butter
3/4 cup packed Light Brown Sugar
1/3 cup Black Treacle
3-3/4 cups Rolled Oats

Preheat oven to 350F.

Line a 6x10 or 8x8 baking dish, with baking paper or a liberal dose of non-stick spray. Do not use tinfoil as I did, it will be almost impossible to remove!! A silicon dish would be perfect for this application! This stuff is the definition of “sticky”!!

Put the butter, sugar and treacle in a sauce pan on medium-low heat and stir, just until things start to bubble and the sugar is melted.

Pour the mixture into the oats and stir together until the oats are well covered. Dump into the baking dish, spread it out, and flatten with a spatula.

Bake for 30 minutes, cool for 5 minutes. Score with a knife into bars, and let cool completely in the pan.


Monday, October 2, 2017

Scottish Haggis and more!

Don't worry, there are recipes below that do not involve internal organ meats...

I was wrong! For years I've been saying “there's no such thing as Scottish cuisine, there's just sheep guts and oatmeal (referring to haggis)”. Boy was I wrong!! Contemporary Scottish cuisine is right up there with the best of the best!
Traditional Scottish Breakfast -- eggs, toast, slice of haggis, bacon, beans and a Scottish pancake.  This is what Scottish cuisine used to be -- stick to your ribs and last all day, but not very fancy.

We had fabulous meals everywhere we went, from simple steak & mushroom pie and bangers & mash in a chain pub, through lots of local seafood, to potted rabbit (which I'd only heard of). Lanark White cheese, Heather Honey, Aberdeen Butteries, Tiffin Cake, and Rhubarb Fool, oh my!
Classic Pub Grub -- Steak & Mushroom Pie with Chips
Classic Pub Grub -- Bangers & Mash
A village "deli" serving local cheeses, meats, drinks, and a variety of sandwiches and sweets made with local ingredients 

Our first night in-country, in the Glasgow suburb of Paisley, we went to dinner at a local Italian restaurant with our friends Fiona and Toby, who'd driven North from England to spend a couple days with us. For a tiny restaurant that probably didn't seat forty people, the food was outstanding! Not at all like the Italian-American food we've come to expect in America. Because it was “odd dish out” on an Italian menu and it was our first meal in Scotland, I just had to have the Haggis appetizer – served with gravy and a sunny-side egg on toast:
Haggis and an egg on toast as an appetizer!
Sally had this beautiful and very tasty Salmon with shrimp and mixed vegetables

The next day we drove across the country to Edinburgh (175 miles). From our AirBnb we could see the Royal Yacht Britannia, now a tourist attraction. That night we ate at King's Wark, a highly rated pub-restaurant where I sampled Potted Rabbit and mixed seafood cakes while Sally had the Salmon plate.
 Potted Rabbit with pickled beetroot and cornichons
 Mixed Seafood Cakes with micro greens and a small salad
Sally's Salmon entree

While Fiona and Toby went back south to go to work, Sally's other girlhood friend Tracey and her husband Ian picked us up in Edinburgh and took us for a whirlwind tour of The Borders – the long (175 mile) narrow (20-40mile) strip of 17th century no man's land between England and Scotland, where both Sally's and my ancestors hailed from. This rolling landscape, punctuated by higher, sharper hills is the 'breadbasket' of modern Scotland, source of meat, vegetables and grains.

Then Ian and Tracey took us up through the highlands to the northeast coast on the North Sea where we stayed for a few days and traipsed among the fishing villages along the coast there.


Although we didn't have any, we drove through the village of Cullen, home of Cullen Skink, a quintessential thick Scottish soup of smoked haddock, potatoes, onions and milk. The Cullen Bay Hotel hosts the annual Cullen Skink Championship cook-off every November. I was very tempted to enter, but would have had to come back in November for the cook-off!

Last night in Scotland, again in Glasgow, we had dinner at a small but eclectic restaurant called Fanny Trollope's. I had their seared pork fillet, with an apple, leek & Stornoway black pudding filled sausage roll, buttery mash potatoes, a Parma ham crisp, and a calvados lyonnaise coule.  Sally had an outstanding squash soup and salmon.  We finished the evening by sharing a Rhubarb Fool!




Lots of other adventures that aren't really germane here. We had a fabulous holiday! Lots of wonderful food, too, but enough for now. Let's cook!

Mustard Crusted Salmon
Inspired by the wonderful salmon we experienced on our trip. In case you didn't catch it, Sally really likes salmon... While farmed salmon is the sustainable choice, nothing really beats the texture and flavor of wild caught fish which has had to struggle its whole life to survive. Farmed fish, by comparison is soft and insipid...

Preheat your oven to 300F.

1/4 cup Mayonnaise or Skyr yogurt
3 Tbsp stone ground or other strong Mustard, to taste
1 Tbsp Lemon juice
optional - Panko

Stir the ingredients together. Line a baking sheet with baking paper or parchment, and place your fillets on the paper, skin side down. Spoon or brush the mustard mixture on the fillets and spread it out roughly 1/4” thick. Bake the fish for 15 minutes. For more of a crust, switch over to Broil and cook another 5 minutes or so. I topped the mustard mixture with sprinkle of Panko, thinking it would crisp up; but no luck. Tasty though. 

Next time I'll mix the panko in with the skyr-mustard mixture.


Avocado & Sardine Toast
We've been reading about Avocado Toast, one of the current “in” foods. Sally found a recipe for avocado toast topped with sardines. No, sardines aren't my cuppa tea, so I had something else for dinner that night, but she thought the meal was splendid – simple, inexpensive and filling. She had the leftovers for her lunch the next day.

2 cans Sardines in oil
2 Hass Avocados, ripe, not hard, mashed
1/4 cup EVOO
2 Tbsp minced Flat Leaf Parsley
2 Tbsp White Wine Vinegar
Red Pepper flakes to taste
4 slices multigrain bread

Mix the oil, vinegar, parsley and pepper flakes together and marinate the sardines in the mixture for at least 2 hours.

Toast the bread and spread it with mashed avocado. Top with marinated sardines and dive right in!


Raspberry Fool
You're nobody's Fool if you make this for dessert!

8oz box of fresh Raspberries (or blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, etc.)
1 pint of warm Custard

You can use that Jell-O stuff, but we prefer Bird's brand Custard, an English staple that you can find in the international aisle at your local mega-mart. Tastes much better. Less hassle to make.

Follow the package instructions (2 Tbsp custard powder, 2 cups of milk, heat, combine, simmer and stir, etc.) to make a 1 pint batch of custard. Before it sets up, fold in the raspberries, and let it cool. Mostly. Warm is good too. That's it.


Faux Haggis
I've made this for a number of years, for those who want the flavors of traditional Scottish haggis (lamb, oats, onion and a hint of nutmeg) but not the organ meats of the original... Think “poached meatloaf”. If you like lamb, you'll love this!

1 lb ground Lamb (lamb mince as they say across the pond)
1-1/2 cup steel cut Oatmeal (not that flat stuff)
1 White Onion, diced
2 tsp ground Nutmeg
1 Egg, beaten

Smoosh (a highly technical cooking term) the ingredients together in a large bowl, as if you are making meatloaf, being sure to get everything evenly distributed. Roll into a large log shape, and roll the log up in a couple layers of cheesecloth. Tie off the ends of the cloth, and you have a sort of giant sausage about 8” long and 4” in diameter. 
Not my faux haggis, but you get the idea...

Put a loaf pan on your largest stove burner turned to medium high and place the sausage in the pan. Add broth (chicken or vegetable if you can't find lamb broth), enough to come half way up the side of the log. Bring to a simmer, and cook – turning every 15 minutes or so – until the internal temperature reaches 145F. Allow it to cool a bit, then unwrap, slice and serve with HP Brown Sauce or Lizano (a similar sauce from Costa Rica of all places).


There are several Scottish and Icelandic recipes that I'll be working up and sharing with you over the next few weeks. Sláinte!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Icelandic Fiskur, and more

Iceland is a fabulously beautiful, clean, wild country. We spent 3 full days and 4 nights there, and had a blast! Being at 66° North latitude, they don't grow much in the way of veggies – but they do harvest and eat a LOT of fish and other seafood. Icelandic cod is a touchstone of the industry, but they also harvest deep water catfish (a.k.a. Wolf fish, haddock, langoustine, arctic char (a kind of salmon), halibut and other cold water marine fish.

The recipe below is a very traditional Icelandic dish that uses leftovers – fish and potatoes – to make a filling, tasty meal for a hungry fisherman and his family. In America, very few of us have leftover fish – it's too expensive!  Making this dish from scratch, though, is simple enough, and well worth the little effort.

This is called a stew, but you've never seen stew this thick! It's really a crust-less fish and potato pie, especially the way I was served it at the Reykjavik Fish Restaurant.


Plokkfiskur (mashed fish) Fish-Potato Pie
Plokkfiskur isn't a very exciting name, is it? Especially the translation  - mashed fish. Kind of literal though, as you'll see. I've Americanized things somewhat to make the dish more of a complete meal, by adding frozen green peas or other veg to the mixture. This serves 4-6 easily.

1-1/2 lbs Haddock or Cod (I used equal amounts of both fish)
1-1/2 lbs Potatoes, peeled and roughly cut up
1 White Onion, diced
2-3 Tbsp Butter
2-3 Tbsp Flour
1-2 cups Milk
Salt and pepper to taste

(Optional but very good – 12 oz thawed frozen peas)
Chives or green onion dice for garnish

Boil the potatoes until tender.

At the same time, bring another pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the fish, and after the water returns to a boil, take the pot off of the heat, cover, and let it sit until the potatoes are ready. The fish will be perfectly cooked.

Remove the fish from the pot and cut/flake it into pieces. In a large bowl combine the fish bits, and cooked, roughly 'smashed' potatoes. You want the potatoes to still be in pieces, not mashed. Fold in the peas or other veggies if you're using them.

Sauté the onion in a pan. Add the butter to melt, then add the flour to make a roux. Cook for a minute to get rid of the floury taste. Add the milk a bit at a time and whisk to make sure there are no lumps. Cook the roux until it's pretty thick.

Fold the onion roux into the fish/potato mixture. Liberally salt and pepper to taste. Spoon into a wide baking dish, garnish with chives or green onion, and slide under the broiler for a few minutes to get a nicely browned crust. Serve with dark rye or similar bread.

Although darn near perfect as originally conceived, this simple dish is open to lots of modification! Add more veg. Try different fish – I think smoked haddock or salmon would be great; so would non-smoked salmon. You can also give the dish some serious spice flavor with a curry powder or Cajun/Creole spice blend, or even just a nice 24/7 blend.


Best Fish & Chips Ever! 
Sally and I are real fish & chips aficionados. Cod, plaice, haddock; battered or breaded, we love 'crunchy fish' with fried potatoes or yams. We've eaten them a lot of places around Fort Myers and Florida, as well as England, and we do have our favorites.

Then we went to Iceland and Scotland. 

Our first recommended restaurant -- Icelandic Fish & Chips, is an organic bistro kind of place by the Old Harbor in Reykjavik. I had spelt flour battered Wolf fish with what we would call Home Fries.

Sally had the spelt battered Cod with a few potatoes and a Mango salad.

Very interesting, and tasty. Spelt, an ancient European grain, gives the batter a unique nuttiness. The dishes were accompanied by a couple of Skyronnaise – skyr yogurt instead of mayonnaise-based dips; a supposedly 'spicy chili' dip and a basil-herb dip, both excellent flavors. Both dishes were around $18-20 or about 2000 kronar.


The next day we ate at the Reykjavik Fish Restaurant, which we discovered while wandering around the old part of town.This place has THE best fish & chips that Sally and I have ever tasted:


This is also the place where I discovered the fish-potato pie. Again the meals were in the $20-25 range.

Our last dinner in Iceland was at the Lava Restaurant, adjacent to the Blue Lagoon resort spa. Google “Blue Lagoon Iceland” to see what we experienced for the afternoon. After relaxing in the geothermal-heated, silica-rich waters we decided to experience the on-site Lava Restaurant. The cuisine was 5-star and worth the $66 per plate price. Sally had what they called Icelandic deep-water ocean catfish (I later discovered this "catfish" is a local name for Wolf Fish), which was similar in taste and texture to cod.  I had the most exquisite plate of lamb I've ever tasted. Cost?  $66 per plate. 
  
This is the 'right' kind of restaurant, IMHO.  Rather than trying to baffle you with a 12 page menu of a hundred mediocre dishes, they have 5 Starters, 5 Main course dishes with sides, and 5 Desserts.  Each and every item is cooked to perfection and plated with real artistry!!!  


Rúllupylsa
I have to tell you about this unique kind of sausage that I discovered in an Icelandic mini-market. It's derived from a Danish sausage with a similar name and construction (until WWII Iceland was a Danish possession, but when the Nazis invaded Denmark, the Icelanders declared themselves separate and neutral).

Start with lamb or mutton flanks – the soft belly meat, cut into large, thin-ish slabs. Crisscross a number of slices – think meat layered like plywood. Sometimes sliced onions are added between layers of meat, other times each layer is rubbed with a spice blend.

This layered meat is then rolled up, tied tightly, and cooked – boiled, smoked, pickled, etc. Then it is placed between two heavy weights and pressed until it is dry and cool. Slice it crosswise “bologna thin”, and lay a slice on top of dark rye bread as an appetizer or sandwich filling (that's what I used it for).





Monday, August 28, 2017

Lite Lasagna, a Bake, a Skillet, and a Balsamic-Strawberry Tart

This post will have to hold you until Sally and I get back from vacation -- 3 days in Iceland and 2 weeks in Scotland.  

My next post should be September 18th, with lots of exotic foods to share!

No-Pasta Lasagna
A lighter take on the Italian classic. Using a white sauce here reminds me a lot of the Greek Pastitsio which I've shared with you in the past. This recipe is from the British version of Better Homes and Gardens magazine, and I've translated the measures and ingredients from British to American for you...

2 Zucchini, thinly sliced lengthways
1 large Eggplant, thinly sliced lengthways
1 tsp Olive Oil
1 Onion, finely chopped
2 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
3/4 lb extra lean Ground Beef, or bulk Pork Sausage
8 oz Mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 can drained Diced Tomatoes, or 3-4 fresh tomatoes, diced
1 cup “other vegetables of choice” I had half a cup each of cooked chopped spinach, and frozen peas
1 Tbsp Tomato Purée
1 Tbsp Italian Seasoning mix
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
3 Tbsp Flour
3 Tbsp Butter
2 cups Whole Milk
White Pepper to taste
4 oz Mozzarella cheese, sliced

Turn your Broiler on High.

Eggplant and zucchini substitute for the lasagna noodles.  A mandolin is the perfect tool to create thin slices of zucchini and eggplant, unless your knife skills are better than mine!

Lay the thin slices in a single layer on baking trays. Add a dash of Italian seasoning, then broil (in batches if necessary) until just cooked through -- 2-3 min. Set aside on paper towels to remove excess moisture. Reserve.

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

In a large skillet over medium heat; fry the onion in a splash of oil until soft. Add garlic and ground meat and cook until mostly browned. Now add the mushrooms and cook for another 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, tomato purée, other veggies and Worcestershire Sauce. Bring to boil; simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking. When the mixture is fairly “dry”, remove from the heat and set aside.

While that's simmering, make the white sauce in a small pan. Melt the butter, add the flour while whisking, and cook for a couple minutes to get rid of the floury taste. Slowly whisk in the milk and season with white pepper. Bring to boil, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens.

Now it's time to “layer up”. Spoon half the meat/veg mixture into an 8x12 ovenproof dish; top with half the eggplant/zucchini slices in an even layer. Next spoon on half the white sauce and spread it around; then lay on half the mozzarella slices ripped into about 2” squares. Repeat with the remaining meat, veg slices, sauce and cheese.

Bake for 45 min or until piping hot and golden.


Eggplant Tomato Bake
From the 12 Tomatoes website, I borrowed this simple, very tasty vegetarian dish. You could add meat, but you really don't need it.

1 large Eggplant, peeled and cubed
2-3 large Tomatoes, sliced 1/4” thick
1 Sweet Onion, sliced thin
1 Green Bell Pepper, sliced thin
1 cup Milk (to make the dish richer, use Half & Half
1 cup shredded Cheddar Cheese (we like tangy White Cheddar)
4 large Eggs
2 tsp dried thyme
Salt & pepper to taste
1-2 tsp Cavender's spice blend tm

Preheat oven to 400 F and lightly spray an 8x8 baking dish.

In a skillet over medium heat, using a splash of EVOO saute the onion, bell pepper and eggplant, spicing with the Cavender's. Cook until the eggplant is tender and the onions translucent. Spread the mixture in the baking dish.

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk, then add the cheese, thyme, salt & pepper and stir to combine. Pour the mixture over the eggplant in the baking dish.

Flatten the contents of the baking dish, and top with 9 slices of tomato. Bake for 45 minutes until the eggs are set and the top is nicely browned. 

 Rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing and serving.


Garbanzo-Lentil Skillet
I don't recall where I saw this originally, but it's certainly worth sharing. A simple, easy and tasty dinner or side dish. With the garbanzos adding a meaty 'tooth' to the dish, you don't miss meat in this dish either. Sally had me make a double batch to take for a couple work potlucks.

1-2 tsp Cumin
2 Tbsp each minced fresh Basil, Mint and Rosemary (or other fresh herbs)
2 cups cooked Lentils
2 cans Garbanzos, drained (or cook them from dried)
2 cans Fire Roasted Tomatoes

Simmer together everything but the lentils, while they cook (I used a rice cooker, but a pot on the stovetop works just as well). When cooked, add the lentils to the other ingredients and stir to combine. Continue cooking until the mixture is almost dry. 

 Serve over rice or by itself.


Strawberry-Balsamic Tart
We got a box of strawberries in last week's Co-op box, and I found this on a blog called She Wears Many Hats. Really, really simple – and oh so good! The balsamic-honey is the perfect balance to the sweet berries.

1 sheet of Puff Pastry, rolled out approximately 12x12"
16 oz Strawberries, sliced
2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
3 Tbsp Honey

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Roll the puff pastry out about 12x12” on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Turn up the edges all the way around, pinch the corners to make them stand up and fold the edges over about 1/2”.

Spread sliced strawberries evenly across the puff pastry. 

 Whisk together the balsamic vinegar and honey. Brush the tops of strawberries with mixture. Bake for about 25 minutes or until pastry is slightly browned.


See you in September!


Monday, August 21, 2017

Rice Timbale, Salmon Wellington, Fried Squash, Banana Pudding

Sausage & Rice Timbale
This is a sort of simplified version of the Sartu di Riso recipe by Gina de Laurentis that I replicated and wrote about last year. 

I made this Timbale for our friend Doris who just returned home from several weeks of rehab after a bad fall; and a second one for another foodie friend recovering from surgery. This version uses a springform pan rather than a bundt cake pan, making it a lot easier to un-mold!

This is actually pretty simple and straightforward – make some rice. Make a meat & veg filling. Line the pan with a 1/2” layer of rice miture. Put the filling in the pan and cover with more rice. Bake, unmold and serve.

3 cups Arborio or Jasmine Rice (do not use long grain rice, you want short grain sticky rice here)
1 Onion, chopped
1 cup frozen Green Peas, thawed
1 lb bulk Italian sausage, Hot or Mild, your choice
1 Tbsp Italian Seasoning
2 cloves Garlic, minced
3-4 large Beefsteak tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup Breadcrumbs (if using Panko, crush it a bit finer)
4 large Eggs
1 cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese (the stuff in the green can is just right)

Cook the rice in your usual manner (I use a rice cooker). Spread the cooked rice on a baking sheet to cool.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F and place a baking sheet on the middle rack.

To a large skillet over medium-high heat add a splash of EVOO, and the onion and cook until soft. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until browned. Add the seasoning, garlic and tomatoes. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until it starts to thicken, 15 to 20 minutes. In the last 5 minutes, add the peas. Add a couple tablespoons of Panko, if needed, to soak up excess liquid.

Meanwhile, grease the bottom and sides of an 8-inch springform pan with butter. Coat the pan with the breadcrumbs, tapping to remove any excess. Put the eggs and cheese in a small bowl and beat with a fork. Put the cooled rice in a large bowl; add the egg mixture and stir to combine.

Transfer about two-thirds of the rice mixture to the prepared springform pan. Using moist fingers and a rice paddle or spatula, pat the rice onto the bottom and up the sides of the pan, forming a 1/2-inch-thick layer.

Spoon the sausage filling into the packed rice shell, filling it to 1/2 inch from the top of the pan, and smooth it out. Spread and pack the remaining rice mixture on top to totally enclose the filling.

Put the pan on the hot baking sheet and bake until golden, about 45 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool, 5 minutes.

Run a small knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the timbale, then remove the side of the pan. Slide a spatula under the timbale and transfer it to a platter, to serve. Slice into wedges and serve. 

 Can be eaten at room temperature, but it's better warmed up. Some people serve this with a side of a good marinara sauce.


Fried Yellow Squash
Boy! Talk about a trip down memory lane... I don't think I've had this dish in 50 years or more. That first taste brought back a real rush of childhood memories. My Mom always made these with the big, warty crook-neck yellow squash, but you don't see them any more – or at least no place I've lived in the last 50 years.
What we used to see
What we see today

 Simple recipe, the essence of summer cooking for me. A batch of fried squash, a couple ears of corn, and a pork chop – Good Eats in 1960s Northern Ohio!

Squash cut into 1/4” thick rounds
Flour – seasoned with blak pepper and a bit of paprika – divided in two dredging bowls
Oil for frying
1-2 Eggs, beaten, for dredging

Dredge squash rounds in flour, then egg, then flour again, and lay them out in the hot oil to fry! Fry and turn until both sides are GB&D! Sprinkle with a bit of Kosher salt and serve piping hot!


Salmon Wellingtons
Instead of one large Wellington, I made three individual ones for yesterday's Sunday Brunch.

3-4 pieces Wild Caught Salmon, 5oz each
2 sheets Puff Pastry
1 box frozen chopped, cooked Spinach
4 oz sliced Mushrooms
1 Egg, beaten, for egg wash

Pre-heat oven to 400 F.

Saute the mushrooms in a bit of butter. Skin the salmon pieces. Thaw the spinach, rinse and drain. Squeeze every drop of water out of the spinach that you possibly can. Thaw the puff pastry sheet and roll out the seams. Cut each sheet in half.

Lay down a bit of bench flour and roll out a half sheet of puff pastry so it's large enough to cover one of the salmon pieces. Top the salmon with a handful of spinach and some mushrooms.

Egg wash the edges, and fold the pastry over to totally enclose the salmon and toppings. Lay the packet seam side down on a baking sheet. Prick the top with a knife to allow steam to escape uring baking. Repeat with the other pieces of fish and toppings. 

 Since I was serving 3 dinners, I used the 4th piece of pastry, a handful of raspberries and some diced mango, to make a quick-and-dirty fruit pie for later!


Bake for 30-35 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and delicious.


Banana Pudding
This simple version of a southern classic dessert is basically a kind of trifle. We've been getting a LOT of bananas from the SWFL Produce Co-Op, so it seemed like a good thing to make. You could do this with any of the vanilla flavored pudding mixes, but we like the taste of Bird's brand Custard which is an English product that can be found in your mega-mart's Ethnic section. A little goes a looooonnnggg way – 2 tablespoons of custard powder to a pint of milk!

4-6 large Bananas – ripe, but no over-ripe are best, IMHO
1 Box Nabisco brand Nilla Wafers tm (reserve 6-10 cookies for topping)
2 pints of Custard (4 Tbsp Bird's powder, 4 cups milk, follow package directions)
Real or fake Whipped Cream if desired

Sally wants you to know that she made the custard while I sliced bananas and arranged the layers in the bowl!

Spread a couple tablespoons of pudding around the bottom of your dish; then lay down a layer of the cookies. Top that with a layer of banana coins, and then a layer of pudding. Rinse and repeat with the available ingredients, finishing with pudding on the top.

Crumble the reserved cookies into powder and sprinkle it across the top pudding. 
Chill for 3 hours or so before serving. Top with whipped cream if desired, although I think that that is overkill!