By Carolyne

Medjool dates and my cream cheese pastry (or frozen puffs; even pizza)

Coarsely chop room-temperature Medjool dates (about a pound).

Simmer the dates in a half cup of Asbach Uralt cognac for just a few minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let steep for about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with just a little salt.

Remove the dates with a slotted spoon. Mash with a potato masher. Add a half cup of figgy jus from your marinating jar to the cognac pot. Simmer. Reduce by half. The reduction should be a sticky gooey spread. Add the date mash back to the pot. Stir.

Using my recipe for cream cheese pastry, while still hot, top the flaky baked pastry, cut into two-inch squares and using a spoon of the date mash and top with a piece of room temperature blue cheese. Drizzle a small spoon of my wonderful tomato butter over the blue cheese. Serve right away at room temperature.

ALTERNATE: You can also serve the cognac figgy date mash on a rectangle bed of frozen puff pastry (follow package baking directions). Egg wash the edges of the rectangle. When the pastry puffs, this tasty treat is ready to eat. Drizzle with just a little of your favourite red pepper jelly, warmed in a skillet or even cold from the fridge.

Or, you can prepare mini frozen puff rounds and then fill the warm or room temperature pastries with the date mash. Use a pastry ring to cut.

Another idea: Paste the cognac date mash in a thick layer, add a few candied walnuts and chop a few candied orange rinds from your citrus sugar jar onto my Stollen dough. And continue that recipe, instead of using the Christmas fruit mix.

For a wildly wonderful treat, you can even top homemade pizza with the date mash. Spread the mash on the pizza dough, instead of tomato sauce base, and bake as usual.

Fresh from the oven, drop generous bits of room temperature Brie over the pizza. Lots of Brie. Spritz with a little figgy jus. Grind fresh cracked peppercorns and sprinkle on a little salt.

Add crispy fried half-inch pieces of bacon on top. Chop a bosc pear and sprinkle a few of your favourite nuts on top. Candied walnuts are wonderful. Drizzle with just a little of the bacon fat and cut the pizza in pie-shape wedges.

Make plenty. Your unusual gourmet pizza will be a hit.

Now for the dinner-table special treat:

Medjool dates and maple syrup pork chop cream 

Marinate a centre cut thick pork chop on the bone, for just a few minutes, in just a little oil, a sprinkle of nutmeg, pepper and a little garlic salt on both sides, and paint both sides with a little Dijon mustard. Sprinkle with salt just when ready to pan fry. Use a rubber scraper to wipe the marinating plate liquid into the skillet.

Melt butter in a hot stainless-steel skillet. There’s already enough oil on the chop that will mix with the hot butter. Set the timer for three minutes. Sear the pork chop, turn down the heat, reset the timer for three minutes and sear the other side. Check doneness. Cooking time will depend on the thickness of the chop.

Tent the skillet with foil, then move the skillet to a turned-off burner and re-check for doneness. The chop should be just cooked. Be careful not to overcook. Remember the chop will continue to cook in its own heat while resting, tented. Remove from the skillet to a plate to rest, tented.

Deglaze the pan with Asbach Uralt brandy and reduce, scraping the stuck-on pork chop bits.

Slice the chop in thin slices on the diagonal when ready to serve.

Spoon a little puddle of Medjool date maple syrup cream sauce (see instructions below) on a serving plate. Arrange the sliced pork chop off to one side. Dress with fresh leaves of basil, sage and or tarragon and fresh chopped parsley. And if you like, decorate the plate with candied citrus rinds from your pantry citrus sugar jar and a few candied kumquats or mandarin orange slices.

To make the Medjool date maple syrup cream sauce: Every kitchen should have a mini-processor. They cost about $20 in housewares departments in such stores as Canadian Tire. They are worth every penny and don’t require much storage space.

Grind six or eight Medjool fresh sweet dates. A big sweet lump will form. Push out the date lump into the still hot butter oil pan juices and deglazing liquid. Mash with a fork, stirring constantly over low heat. Drizzle three tablespoons of maple syrup over the mashed dates. Keep the skillet hot on minimum heat so the dates don’t burn. Sprinkle a little salt.

Note: You could substitute three tablespoons of figgy jus from your marinating jar for the maple syrup.

Now you can make this sauce as plain or fancy as you like. It stores well in a covered glass container in the fridge. If preparing a plain sauce, add a cup or more half and half cream and increase heat to incorporate the bubbly hot cream with the mashed dates, stirring constantly. A most beautiful sauce will happen right before your eyes. If it gets too thick, add more cream and incorporate well.

If you want to dress up the sauce, sauté finely chopped onions in butter and add to the sauce. You could add chopped fresh tomatoes, and/or chopped sautéed bell peppers.

As a side, offer a wide flat soup bowl of al dente, your choice of pasta noodles. Fresh homemade pasta is wonderful. Top the pasta with the hot fresh Medjool maple syrup cream sauce, grate fresh peppercorns and sprinkle with shards or grated Sartori BellaVitori Raspberry Cheese.

Beyond yum. A most unusual combination of flavours. The result is a sweet savoury sauce that can be used on many dishes. (Take into consideration that Medjool dates are very sweet).

A Caesar salad is a nice pairing if you wish to add a salad on a side plate.

Make a bruschetta with toasted slices of black-olive bread, topped with coarsely chopped brandy marinated black mission figs, a little chopped oil packed sun-dried tomatoes and chopped green, red pepper-stuffed Manzanilla olives. Sprinkle with your favourite nuts. Top with grated mozzarella cheese or gobs of Celebrity label Canadian goat cheese (even my marinated goat cheese pucks) and pop under the broiler for just seconds.  Drizzle with a little of the Medjool date maple syrup cream sauce.

Flash un kas

This fantastic recipe makes about eight dozen bite-size delights.  If this sounds like too many, cut the recipe in half.  I did that the first time I made them and boy, was I sorry.  I hardly got to eat any. They just disappeared. They can be filled with nearly anything that strikes your fancy.   I made some with liverwurst and others with lobster paste and creamed crab.

Work together two cups of flour and a half-pound of cream cheese.  Chill thoroughly overnight.  Take pieces of the dough and roll them very thin, quickly, on a floured board.  Preheat the oven when you cut out the dough.

Cut with a round cookie cutter or small glass and fill with the mixture of your choice.  Fold in half, close and bake at 400 F for about 10 minutes.

Reheat for serving or make them ahead and bake just before guests arrive.  Flash un kas can be frozen.

ALTERNATE: Fresh King crab, claw meat, chopped mashed macerated, marinated in Asbach Uralt brandy, black mission figs, cream cheese, pinch of mustard.


© From Lady Ralston’s Kitchen: A Canadian Contessa Cooks | Turning everyday meal making into a Gourmet Experience

The working title for Carolyne’s Gourmet Recipes cookbook is From Lady Ralston’s Kitchen: A Canadian Contessa Cooks. This kitchen-friendly doyenne has been honoured and referred to as the grande dame of executive real estate in her market area during her 35-year career. She taught gourmet cooking in the mid-70s and wrote a weekly newspaper cooking column, long before gourmet was popular as it is today. The cookbook will be available in the coming year. Email Carolyne.

1 COMMENT

  1. SPECIAL WEATHER ALERT HEADLINING APRIL NEWS: AHEAD OF THE STORM (special post with editor Jim’s permission; there’s no place in particular to post this info compiled on the fly at the last minute.)

    Stock up ahead of April ice storm warning:

    Eggs, a couple dozen. OR several dozen. While you have power, boil several. Hard-cooked eggs will keep in the fridge for several days. You can eat them individually just with a little salt, pepper and paprika, or make egg salad. Egg salad makes wonderful buttered bread sandwiches. With or without shredded romaine. Store the egg salad in a covered glass container. In the powerless fridge.

    Bread, crackers of all sorts, peanut butter, butter and tins of salmon and tuna. (Mix with egg salad for a tasty sandwich filling.) Tins of chick peas (mashed, they are wonderful or just to pick at, or make a salad with onion, chopped raw bell pepper, oil and dry pantry herbs). LiteHouse brand bottles of freeze-dried parsley. It’s amazingly like fresh and has many uses.

    Sliced cheeses. Or in an emergency, even cheese whiz to stuff celery stalks.

    Normally I would never suggest buying packaged sliced meats due to the extreme preservatives and salt. But in an emergency they come in handy because they don’t spoil easily.

    Likewise stock up on prosciutto and or salami. Also large packages of frozen smoked Norwegian salmon. Peel it in thin sheets and wrap an egg or make an open-face sandwich. Bottled asparagus stocks come in handy, as do pimento stuffed olives, artichokes packed in oil, sun-dried oil packed tomatoes.

    Stock up on bread sticks. And pumpernickel bread to spread liverwurst on. Liverwurst once opened will only keep a couple of days. Homemade pâté, packed in bacon fat will last longer.

    Normally you wouldn’t keep whole tomatoes in the fridge, but kept in the fridge they will keep longer and stay fresh longer (slice and drizzle with good extra light olive oil and best quality wine-vinegar 3:1); likewise celery wrapped in paper towel in a plastic bag in the powerless fridge will keep for many days. So will romaine lettuce stored the same way. Washed in hot water before the storm and wrapped in paper towel or a clean white tea towel. Likewise, Belgian endive leaves make an excellent serving vessel. Keep bell peppers in the fridge. They can be eaten raw.

    Stock up on citrus fruits; they keep better and longer than fresh berries and bananas. Don’t forget fresh lemons and limes.

    A small hibachi can save the day to use thawed frozen meat; don’t toss out the thawed meat (cook it). But burn the hibachi or Coleman camp stove outside, never indoors. Many people find the BBQ useful. Outdoors! A Bunsen burner and a chafing dish can add a gourmet touch to storm filled power outage days.

    I once lived next door to a cop who decided to bring his BBQ indoors to use, inside his sliding door walk-out. What a mess resulted. It caught fire!

    Anything that needs to be kept in the fridge will keep even in a fridge with no power for about three days. Don’t let children keep opening the fridge door.

    Before the storm, fill a few glass jam jars three-quarters full and freeze. (Leave room for the frozen water to expand.) Move the jars to the fridge when the power is off to help keep the fridge interior cool.

    Leave the freezer door closed and even with power off, what’s in there will keep each other frozen for several days.

    Homemade jams and jellies come in handy, as do jars of store bought in such cases. Basic peanut butter and jam sandwiches work well in a storm. Try sliced cheese with sliced bread and butter pickle sandwiches.

    Ahead of the storm, sauté several boneless, skinless chicken breasts, marinated for just a few minutes in your favourite oil, Dijon, fresh ground pepper, and herbs (no salt till ready to cook). Three or four minutes each side, in hot butter. Let cool and slice on the diagonal. Store in covered container in the fridge to make sandwiches or chicken salad during the storm. Will keep maximum of three days in the cold powerless fridge. Likewise you could pan fry steaks and slice for sandwiches.

    As to water being unavailable, for sanitary use, fill buckets ahead of the storm, and even fill the bathtub, to use to flush toilets.

    Using this list might help you get through power outages.

    If you are very careful, a dozen lighted tea-lites in flat serving dishes will heat a 10 x 10′ room if you need heat in a storm. Keep out of reach children and pets and away from fabrics.

    Of course stock up on batteries and filled portable cell phone chargers. A cell phone car charger comes in handy if you can get to your car. It won’t drain your car battery.

    © “From Lady Ralston’s Kitchen: A Canadian Contessa Cooks”
    Turning everyday meal making into a Gourmet Experience

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