Archive for the ‘Main Dish’ Category

The September Baker’s Challenge is hosted by Patri from Asi Son Las Cosas. She has challenged her fellow bakers with a recipe for Empanada Gallega, which is a two crusted pie (usually savory), from Galicia, the northern region of Spain.

“My grandparents lived in a country house that my great-grandfather built a hundred years ago. It is in the northwest of Spain, right on top of Portugal, in the region called Galicia. Back in the 70s, the kitchen was the place of gathering, talking, reading… and there was always something cooking on the iron stove, be it a pot of caldo (a hearty soup), or a stew, or a cake in the oven. When I think back to those days, I can smell the sweetness of burnt wood or coal, the almost “chocolate” scent that rose up to your nostrils when you opened the door, the warmth of the air when coming in from a cool, windy and wet August morning…”

How wonderful is that memory????

As usual, I am typing this up the night the post date, but I actually started a round of these in the beginning of the month. Patri, provided a few recipe options for the dough and some savory fillings but  I immediately started thinking about how to turn this into a dessert. I still had a freezer-full of cherries that I picked last month, my raspberry bush out back is having a bumper crop this summer (what a nice surprise to come home to!) and I saw some lovely fresh figs at the farmers market. Mmmm…. Okay, this was going to be fun. With such beautiful fruit, the fillings could be simple and still shine. Time to turn the large savory pie into individual hand pies!

The dough for these were made using a recipe  “La Empanada Gallega”

3½ cups (500 gm) all-purpose (plain) or bread flour
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup (240 ml) warm water
½ cup less 1 tablespoon (100 ml) of liquid fat (oil, margarine, lard)
1 satchel (1 tablespoon) (15 gm) dry yeast
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 gm) salt

Sift the flour into a bowl, make a well in the middle and add all the ingredients Mix with a wooden spoon until all the ingredients have been incorporated. Turn dough onto your counter and knead for 10  minutes or place in a standing mixing with the dough hook attachment and knead for 10 minutes.

Make a ball and allow to rise covered with a cloth for about half an hour before using.

Cherry and Frangipane Filling

Frangipane is just an almond cream filling. It is fantastic used as a base for tarts or for pastry filling.

1/2 cup chopped almonds ( or almond meal if you have it)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 egg
3 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

In your food processor, place the almonds, sugar, and flour. Process until finely ground. Then add the rest of the ingredients and process until you have a smooth paste. Transfer to a small bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Balsamic Strawberries with Fresh Fig

2 cups fresh strawberries, roughly diced
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 vanilla bean, optional
2 or 3 fresh figs

Place the balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan. Scrape out the seeds from the vanilla and add, if using. Bring to a boil and reduce until half. This makes the vinegar sweet and syrupy. Cool and then toss with the strawberries. (This alone is amazing and even better spooned over vanilla ice cream)

Let macerate for 1 hour.

Raspberry and Sweetened Cream Cheese

3 oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 Vanilla bean
2 Tablespoons heavy cream
2 Cups fresh raspberries (one pint will probably be just fine if you make just a few of each)

Whip together the cream cheese, vanilla,and sugar. Slowly add the cream until smooth.


Roll the dough out quite thin so they don’t end up tot thick. I used a round pastry shell for my cutter. It is 4 inch across. If you are using the frangipane of cream cheese filling, add 1 full tablespoon of filling in the middle of your dough. Spread slightly. Top with 2 to 3 tablespoons of fruit. For the strawberry fig filling just lay 3 slices of juicy fig across the middle and top with the luscious balsamic berries.

Bring the top half of the dough over the filling ans line up with the bottom edge. Using you fingers, bring the two edges together, pinching the dough together.You can use a fork to press a design around the edges if you like.

Brush with an egg, lightly beaten, before placing into a 350F oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

All right. No, I mean that they were just all right. Don’t get me wrong, we ate them and enjoyed them.  The fillings were great ,I just think that I would prefer a tender, flaky crust for instead. But, I wasn’t giving up on this challenge. Onto a savory filling.

I hardly ever post savory recipes. I love to cook just as much as baking and am constantly thinking of menus in my head, but I am a “little bit of this, little bit of that” cook so please bear with me in quantities. I will say that this was delicious and we enjoyed it even more the next day. It started with a layer of carmelized onions followed by a thick layer of cheddar cheese polenta. I finished it off with sautéed carrots, zucchini (from the garden), and peppers. This was a very tasty dinner served with a side salad.

Grandmas recipe for dough

5-1/3 cups (1280 ml) (750 gm) bread flour
2 cups  (480 ml) of lukewarm water (about 85°F/30ºC), approximately
1 satchel (1 tablespoon) (15 gm) dry yeast or  (1 oz) (30 gm) fresh yeast
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (11 gm) salt
4 tablespoons (60 ml) oil (you can use oil from the pan where you have cooked the filling)
1 large egg, for egg wash

Sift the flour into a big bowl and add the yeast. Make a well in the middle. In a small bowl, mix the water and the salt.Now, using your fingers or a wooden spoon, start adding the water and mixing it with the flour-yeast mixture. Keep on working with your fingers or spoon until you have added enough water and all the flour has been incorporated and you have a messy ball of dough.On a clean counter top, knead the dough by  hand or use a standing mixer with the dough hook attachment  for approximately 10 minutes.Clean and oil the big bowl you used for mixing and place the kneaded dough in it. Cover it with a napkin or piece of linen and keep it in a warm, draught-free place for approximately 40 to 50 minutes.

Carmelized Onions (my way)

1 Large sweet onion, sliced
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon salt
3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
Place the onion, salt and olive oil in a small saucepan over medium low heat.Cook, stirring frequently for 10 minutes. Turn the heat to low, add the sugar and continue to cook another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the vinegar, stir again, and  cook for another final 10 minutes. Cool completely.

Cheddar Cheese Polenta

2 cups (16 oz)  water
3 Tablespoons butter
1 Cup yellow cornmeal
2 cups (16 oz)  milk , divided (I use skim)
200 g sharp cheddar cheese, grated
pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon cumin

Place 2 cups water, 1 cup milk and the butter in a medium sauceopan and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, stir together the  remaining cup of milk and the cornmeal. Gradually stir this into the boiling liquid, reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring constantly until the cornmeal is thick and creamy, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with the salt, cumin, black pepper and cheddar cheese. Stir until the cheese is fully melted into the polenta. Set aside to cool.

Sautéed Summer Vegetables

This is what I had on hand. Please use the vegetables you like; this also goes for the seasoning

1 large zucchini, chopped, equalling about 2 cups
1 Cup chopped carrots
1 red pepper, chopped
1 purple or green pepper chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoked Serrano chili powder
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili flakes
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil

Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the carrots, salt, cumin, chili powder and chipotle flakes; cook for 5 minutes. Add the peppers and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the zucchini and cook for 2-3 minutes, you still want the zucchini to be crisp since it will continue to cook in the oven. Set aside to cool.


Preheat the oven to 350 F

Once risen, turn the dough back into a floured counter and cut it in half. Cover one half with the napkin to prevent drying.Spread the other half of the dough using a rolling-pin. You can use a piece of wax paper over the counter, it will make it easier to move the dough around. Depending on the shape of your oven pan or cookie sheet, you will make a rectangle or a round.Now, the thinness of the dough will depend on your choice of filling and how much bread you like in every bite.  For your first time (like me), make it about 3mm thin (about 1/10th of an inch) and then adjust from that in the next ones you make.

Lightly flour your pan or tray.

Cover the base and sides with the dough. Using the rolling pin or a knife, cut the extra dough.

Place the filling, making sure it is cold and that all the base is covered. Using a hot filling will make the bottom layer of the empanadas become soggy. Be careful to avoid adding too much oil from the filling, try to make it as “dry” as possible

Take the other half of the dough and spread it out to the same or less thinness of the base.  Take into account that this “top” dough needs to be smaller around than the bottom, as it only needs to cover the filling. roll out the second piece of dough and transfer to cover the top.Trim away excess dough.Using your fingers, join bottom and top dough, when you have gone all the way around, start pinching top and bottom together with your thumb and index finger and turning them half way in, that way you end up with a rope-like border. As a picture is worth a thousand words, please watch this video to see how it is done: http://youtu.be/CNpB7HkTdDk

When you are finished, make a 1 inch hole in the middle of the top layer. This will help hot air exit the empanada while it’s baking without breaking the cover.In a small bowl, beat an egg and add a tbsp of cold water. With the pastry brush, paint the top of the empanada with the egg wash.Place the empanada in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes. Check that the bottom part is done. Enjoy!

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Torte Rustica


I brought this to my Aunts house for Thanksgiving.  This is from an old  magazine that I took out from the library last month. It was so gorgeous when I pulled it out of the oven- I still get such a thrill from making puff pastry. What’s great about this is that you serve it warm or at room temperature, so it’s perfect for bringing over to someones house. It was really tasty too! I am definitely making this one again and again….

1 small butternut squash, peeled,seeded and cut into 1/4 inch slices
2 eggs
3 cups ricotta cheese
1 tsp sage
1 medium onion, chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 packages frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1 pkg frozen puff pastry, thawed ( I made my own– it’s easy and tastes better)

egg wash: 1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tsp. water

Bake squash slices on a baking tray, lightly coated with PAM, for 15 minutes or until tender, at 400 F degrees.

Combine 2 eggs, cheese and sage. Saute the onion in oil until tender. Stir in spinach, garlic, nutmeg. Cook another 2 minutes; set aside
Roll pastry sheet into a 14 inch square. Press onto the bottom and up the sides of a greased 9 in springform pan, allowing the excess pastry to drape over the sides. Brush with some of the egg wash. Layer with half of the squash,cheese,and spinach. Repeat layers. Roll out the remaining pastry into a 10 inch square; place over filling.To trim the edges- fold the bottom pastry over the  top pastry and   press the edges to seal. Reroll any trimmings and cut out small patterns,if desired, and  place onto Torte.

brushing it with an egg wash makes it golden brown

Brush with egg wash. This ensures a beautiful color on the outside.
Bake at 400 F degrees for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire rack to cool 45 minutes. Serve warm or at room temp.

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fresh out of the oven!

fresh out of the oven...

This is a super simple and impressive roast to make for dinner and it also makes for outrageous sandwiches. I like to serve this with pureed cauliflower and a salad.

Pork Loin Stuffed with Garlic, Rosemary, and Thyme Wrapped in Pancetta

1 head garlic, peeled and minced
2 Tblsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 Tblsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
2 Tblsp olive oil
3 Lb boneless centre cut pork loin roast
15 slices thinly sliced pancetta
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock, or water

Mix the garlic, rosemary, thyme and oil in a small bowl or whirl in a mini food processor to form a paste and set aside.
Cut the pork lengthwise, leaving about a 1 inch border down the middle (like the spine of a book). Open the pork up and lay flat. Season well with salt and pepper. Smear about 3/4 of the garlic paste along down one side of your open “book”. Reassemble the pork.IMG_3851 Season the outside of the pork now with salt and pepper and smear in the remaining garlic paste. Set the pork fat-side down on your work surface on top of 6 equal pieces of kitchen twine. Top the the pancetta slices, overlapping them slightly. Tie up with the twine.IMG_3853

Cover and place in the fridge for at least an hour (or more if you can) to develop the flavors.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.IMG_3855



Put the pork onto a roasting rack in a pan filled with the 2 cups of stock (or water). Roast for 1 hour or the internal temp reaches 145 degrees.
When it comes out the oven, let it rest for 10 minutes before cutting it into a slices.


The next day with thinly sliced granny smith apple and lettuce on ciabatta

The next day with thinly sliced granny smith apple and lettuce on ciabatta

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Spinach Pie for Dinner


At my local produce market today I picked up a 5lb bag of fresh spinach for $2.99 and immediately started thinking about what I would do with it all. I was originally thinking along the lines of spinach bread but in the end thought that spinach pie would make a great dinner choice since I had some puff pastry in the freezer already. I realize that normally fillo dough is traditionally used but puff pastry is a fantastic substitute when the other is not on hand. I also have a huge, and I mean huge, oregeno plant in front of my house and knew what a great addition that would be in the mix

my massive oregano plant!

my massive oregano plant!

I have to apologize that when I cook (vs. baking) I rarely ever measure anything and just do things by eye. Anyway, while the puff pastry was defrosting on the counter I popped up to the stores and bought a large tub of 1% cottage cheese- maybe that would help balance out the calories from the puff pastry??? So… I boiled the spinach for about 5 minutes and let it cool off and drain for about an hour, then squeezing out as much of the liquid as possible, which of course left me with about 3 cups of spinach, probably the same as 2 boxes of frozen.
While that was cooling down, I chopped up a vidalia onion still lingering in my crisper drawer and slowly cooked it down on the stove, about 25 minutes I would say, then tossed it with the spinach, the tub of cottage cheese, a large handful of chopped oregano and 3 egg whites (to help bind it all together).

I have this really cool enamel lasagna pan that used to belong to my mother that I love to use for so many things from lasagna to brownies to well, spinach pie! I lined the bottom with a rolled out sheet of puff pastry, layed down the spinach filling and then topped if off with another rolled out sheet of puff pastry.IMG_3506

Bake at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes or until golden brown. This is a great meal with a nice tossed salad and a glass of white wine.

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