Blackened Salmon

“Ooh”  I gasped under my breath as the waiter deftly lowered my plate, carefully centering it in front of me. Before I could gain my composure he had swept away with an enthusiastic injunction to me to “enjoy”.

I had been taken to lunch by a friend who was convinced that I would love the fabulous salmon salad this restaurant was known for. This was years ago just when blackened salmon was just becoming a new sensation. Although I’d heard of it, I’d never yet seen it, nor was I at all expecting  my salmon at this lunch to be blackened, but here it was before me…..and very black indeed..

Determined to make this a positive experience for the sake of my friend I bravely, though skeptically, took my first taste, and with that taste I became a fan. Now, years later I now have developed my own version, somewhat modified but very flavorful.  I highly recommend it to all salmon lovers, especially at this season of the year.

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Blackened Salmon
SERVINGS
4people
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
people
COOK TIME
10minutes
PREP TIME
10 minutes
READY IN
20minutes

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 400° Fahrenheit.
  2. In a shallow bowl, combine the paprika, cayenne, thyme, teaspoon of the onion salt.
  3. In a saucepan, over medium heat, melt 2 ½ tablespoons of the butter. Add the lemon juice.
  4. Working with 1 salmon fillet at a time, dip the top and bottom halves first in the lemon butter, then in the spices.
  5. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the salmon until blackened to your liking about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to the oven for 8 minutes.

 

 

Villa Sacra Stuffed Peppers

This weekend, we will be harvesting the last of our peppers from our garden.  We have been so blessed to have such an abundance of beautiful vegetables this year, so much so, that we are still reaping the benefits of the eggplant, leeks, butternut squash, and pumpkins.  My brain goes into overdrive, as recipe after recipe comes to mind.. what magical combination can we concoct next?

We had a special request for stuffed peppers from one of our Sisters. She adores them, and has happy childhood memories from her Pennsylvania roots.  I was delighted to fulfill her request.  While in Italy, I came across this wonderfully spicy stuffed pepper recipe.  I modified it with the ingredients I had on hand.  I’ve never been a big fan of green peppers, but I love the sweet, colored varieties, as recommended here.  The flavors of Italy abound: balsamic, red pepper flakes, fennel and spicy sausage. This is sure to be a family favorite.

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Villa Sacra Stuffed Peppers
SERVINGS
8
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
COOK TIME
1hr30 mins
PREP TIME
30mins
READY IN
1 hr50 mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Bring rice and water to a boil in a saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until the rice is tender, and the liquid has absorbed, 20-25 min. Remove from heat and set aside
  3. Cook the ​chopped ​leek in olive oil over medium low heat until the leek begins to soften (watch that it doesn’t burn), about 5 min. Transfer half of this mixture to a large bowl and set aside.
  4. Stir tomato sauce, beef broth, balsamic vinegar, and red pepper flakes into the skillet with half the leek mixture; cook and stir for 1 minute.
  5. Pour tomato sauce mixture into a 9x13-inch baking dish and set aside.
  6. Combine ​the ​ground beef, Italian sausage, fennel seeds, diced tomatoes, parsley, garlic, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper into bowl with reserved leek; mix well. Stir in cooked rice and 1 cup of Parmigiano Reggiano. Stuff bell peppers with beef and sausage mixture​, heaping slightly.​
  7. Place stuffed bell pepper halves in the baking dish over tomato sauce; cover baking dish with aluminum foil, and bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes.
  8. Remove aluminum foil, sprinkle with remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano, and bake until the meat is no longer pink, the peppers are tender and the cheese is browned on top, an addition​al​ 20 to 25 minutes. Andiamo Mangiare!

Cheese Soufflé

For years I thought of making a soufflé as something too difficult to tackle except by the experts, so I put off making them. After finally trying one, I was amazed to discover how simple and straightforward it really is…and how very satisfying! The sight of your creation as it begins to rise before your eyes in the oven and then finally puffs up into all its glory… is reward enough to say nothing of the delight in tasting it.

In case you have been intimidated as I was, this may be the perfect time for you to overcome that fear and tackle one, because these light fluffy wonders are perfect for hot weather meals when you want to serve something other than cold food, and you don’t want anything cooked that’s too heavy. Guests in our retreat house are always thrilled when served a soufflé.  They say it makes them feel so special!

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Cheese Soufflé
SERVINGS
4people
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
people
COOK TIME
35-40minutes
PREP TIME
25minutes
READY IN
30minutes

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Allow the egg yolks and egg whites to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  2. For cheese sauce, in a medium saucepan melt butter; stir in flour, dry mustard, onion salt, Worcestershire and cayenne pepper.
  3. Add milk all at once.
  4. Cook and stir cheese sauce over medium heat until thickened and bubbly.
  5. Turn heat to low. Add cheese, a little at a time, stirring until melted.
  6. In a medium bowl beat egg yolks with a fork until combined.
  7. Slowly add cheese sauce to egg yolks, stirring constantly. Cool slightly.
  8. In a large mixing bowl beat egg whites with an electric mixer on medium to high speed until stiff peaks form (tips stand straight).
  9. Gently fold about 1 cup of the stiffly beaten egg whites into cheese sauce.
  10. Gradually pour cheese sauce over remaining stiffly beaten egg whites, folding to combine.
  11. Grease with butter and coat with grated Parmesan a 2-quart soufflé dish.
  12. Pour batter into dish.
  13. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for about 40 minutes or until a knife inserted near center comes out clean.
  14. In the last 10 minutes of baking sprinkle some grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 tablespoons) for a nice crust on top.
  15. Serve immediately.

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Spicy Almonds

I hope all of you had a very blessed and happy Christmas. Ours was a quiet celebration with reflection on what Christmas really means. But of course we had wonderful food to help us do just that. And the season continues as we face the new year and the celebration that goes with it. My favorite party is appetizers; small savory bites and wonderful hot cheesy dips. One great dish to prepare that everyone loves is spiced nuts. I love sweet and spicy, but decided to try out some spicy ones. They are easy and delicious and you can adjust the heat according to taste.

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Spicy Almonds
SERVINGS
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COOK TIME
18minutes
PREP TIME
READY IN

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a saucepan combine all ingredients except almonds and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook for about 3 minutes.
  3. Pour over almonds and combine well.
  4. Pour almond mixture onto a pan lined with parchment and cook in oven for 15 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven and sprinkle with salt to taste. Let cool. Enjoy!

Golden Pear Chutney

I am a cold weather girl. Yesterday was one of those crisp fall days, and I was actually cold! It’s a promise of things to come — apples being picked and pumpkins rolling in — so I do look forward to it. I love autumn! This year we have a bumper crop of pears. Last year was plum year — we had hundreds of pounds of the purple beauties. I don’t think we have as many pears, but it is a respectable harvest, enough that one starts wondering how many pears a person can eat? I love pears off of the tree, and I love to make upside cakes, poached pears, and pear muffins…. I also love chutney, so I decided to make up a few jars of a fiery pear one. Perfect for pork, or ham, turkey or chicken. Great in a ham and cheese sandwich on the griddle, or in the oven. But be warned — this one has a kick!

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Golden Pear Chutney
SERVINGS
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COOK TIME
1hour
PREP TIME
READY IN

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Cook the pears in enough water to cover until they are medium soft.
  2. Drain, saving the water, then make a syrup of the water in which the pears were cooked and the brown sugar by boiling in a large nonreactive pot until thick, about 20 to 30 minutes.
  3. While the syrup is boiling, add the remaining ingredients to the pears, then mix everything together and cook for about 30 minutes or until the raisins are softened, the onions are transparent, and the chutney has a good thick consistency.
  4. Transfer to sterilized jars and seal, process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes, or store in refrigerator.
  5. (Quatre – Epices: equal amounts of white pepper, nutmeg, ground cloves and ground ginger. Cinnamon can also be added, but for this recipe I left it out.

Cheddar/Parmesan Cheese Ball with port wine soaked craisins

Spring is officially here. It’s a lovely day, sun shiney, a bit cool, but leaves are starting to come out. I am keeping a close eye on all of the perennials I planted last fall, and almost all have come up. And of course we have been babying our vegetable seedlings in our grow-tent, which will start to go into the ground any minute now. It’s a very hopeful time of year, full of new beginnings and promise.

We have been hosting special receptions each month as a part of the celebration of our choir’s 25th anniversary. Each month I am faced with the challenge of beautiful finger food that fits in a budget, and isn’t the same every time. I often use ingredients I’ve popped into the freezer. Cheese and crackers are always a good staple. We tried out two different recipes of cheese balls, and ended up combining elements of both to make a really classy cheese ball with lots of flavor. It’s a cheddar/Parmesan with port wine-soaked craisins folded into the mixture. Really delicious, and everyone loved it!
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Cheddar/Parmesan Cheese Ball with port wine soaked craisins
SERVINGS
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COOK TIME
PREP TIME
READY IN

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Soak craisins in port wine.
  2. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix cream cheese, sour cream, shredded cheeses, lemon zest, onion, garlic, pepper, cayenne until well combined, adding craisins at the end.
  3. Put chopped pecans on a piece of waxed paper.
  4. Remove cheese mixture from bowl, form into a ball, and roll in the chopped pecans.
  5. Can be refrigerated, but fine to serve right away.