Originality as a culinary booster

| October 16, 2021 | 0 Comments
Burrata Persimmon Stacks with Caviar are a heavenly starter for any meal. (Photo: HEadshot: Michelle Valberg; Margaret Dickenson)

Burrata Persimmon Stacks with Caviar are a heavenly starter for any meal. (Photo: HEadshot: Michelle Valberg; Margaret Dickenson)

This issue features three recipes that illustrate my determination to continue introducing originality into my culinary repertoire. Over the past decade, burrata cheese — a cloud-like ball made of cream and mozzarella — has become a darling of serious chefs, usually paired with luscious tomatoes. Instead, I surprise guests with a unique burrata persimmon stack with caviar, delivering exquisite and complex colours, textures and flavours. Keep in mind that only ripe Hachiya persimmons should be used in this recipe. They appear on grocery shelves in October and are gone by mid-February. Next, my inviting escargots and orzo with portobello are always a winner. And, when preparing for the holiday season (or any time of the year), thrill your family and guests with my crunchy, addictive and scrumptious peanut butter chocolates. They are certain to become everyone’s new favourite. Bon Appetit!

Burrata Persimmon Stacks with Caviar
Makes 4 servings

For many, persimmons remain a rather unfamiliar fruit. They tend to make their appearance on the market primarily from October until February. But what does one do with persimmons? Here, I share a favourite persimmon creation, which specifically uses ripe Hachiya persimmons.

3 ripe Hachiya* persimmons
6 oz (175 g) burrata cheese
2 cups (500 ml) arugula
To taste, salt and crushed black peppercorns
To taste, a mustard herb type of vinaigrette
4 straight, firm stems of fresh rosemary
3 tbsp (45 ml) black caviar**
2 fresh lemons

1. Slice off the tops and acorn-shaped bases of the persimmons, setting them aside for another purpose.
2. Cut the persimmons horizontally into 1/3-inch (0.8 cm) slices.
3. Cut the burrata ball(s) horizontally into four 1 1/3-oz (40 g) slices.
4. For 4 individual servings, arrange ½ cup (125 ml) of arugula in the centre of 4 dinner plates. According to taste, season with salt and crushed black peppercorns and drizzle with vinaigrette.
5. Place one persimmon slice in the centre of the arugula on each plate, top with a slice of burrata and crown with a second slice of persimmon.
6. Pierce a sprig of rosemary through the centre of the stack to hold it in position.
7. Add a total of 4 small dollops (each about ½ tsp or 3 ml) of caviar to each serving (e.g. 3 dollops to the surface and 1 placed at the base of the persimmon on the arugula).
8. Cut one lemon into 6 equal wedges, remove any seeds and garnish each plate with a single slice of lemon.
9. According to taste, squeeze the juice of the remaining 2 wedges and as required from the second lemon, over the persimmon stacks and caviar.

* NOTE: Not any type of persimmon will do for this recipe. It is absolutely necessary to use only Hachiya persimmons (also called Japanese persimmons). Hachiya persimmons are round, can be up to 3-inches or 8 centimetres in diameter, and have a slightly elongated, pointed base (i.e., acorn-like in shape). Only eat them when they are ripe (i.e., soft and rather “squishy” when pressed gently); otherwise, they have a more astringent flavour, causing the mouth to pucker. When completely ripe, their smooth, edible skin is a bright red-orange in colour; they have a jelly-like texture and a tangy-sweet flavour.
** Option: Black mullet and herring roes (or similar types of black roe).


Escargots and Orzo in a Portobello Dish is an unusual quartet of simple ingredients. (Photo:TONYA Dickenson)

Escargots and Orzo in a Portobello Dish is an unusual quartet of simple ingredients. (Photo:TONYA Dickenson)

Escargots and Orzo in a Portobello Dish
(with Instant Goat’s Cheese Sauce)
Makes 4 servings

Here, I have introduced an unusual quartet of exotically simple ingredients (portobello mushrooms, orzo, escargots and goat’s cheese) to design a dramatically original dish. Together, these elements offer an exciting myriad of flavours, textures and shapes while my “stack” presentation contributes to the artistry and appeal of the recipe. Try it as a main course for lunch or brunch or even as a light dinner. Basically, this is an “assembly” recipe where many of the components may be prepared a day in advance.

3 cans escargots (can size: 4 oz or 115 g, drained weight)
3 tbsp (45 ml) butter
1 ½ tsp (8 ml) finely chopped fresh garlic
1 ½ tsp (8 ml) peeled and grated fresh gingerroot
1 tbsp (15 ml) beef bouillon powder
To taste, crushed black peppercorns
1 cup (250 ml) orzo
1/3 cup (80 ml) soft garlic butter, divided
To taste, salt
4 large portobello mushroom caps (diameter: 4½ inches or 11 cm), stems removed
7 oz (200 g) fresh spinach leaves (stems removed)
1 tsp (5 ml) garlic-infused olive oil

Instant Goat’s Cheese Sauce
5 oz (150 g) soft unripened goat’s cheese
½ tsp (3 ml) chicken bouillon powder
½ cup (60 ml) hot water

Garnish (optional)
8 fresh chive stems

1. Drain and rinse the escargots; drain well again; check for and discard any pieces of shell.
2. Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger; stirring constantly, cook for 1 minute.
3. Add escargots; sauté for another minute; sprinkle with beef bouillon powder and crushed black peppercorns; cook for 2 or 3 more minutes stirring frequently. Cover, remove from heat and allow escargots to rest for about 10 minutes to absorb flavours.
4. Cook orzo in an abundant amount of salted boiling water over medium heat until al dente (about 7 to 8 minutes); drain well. (Makes about 2½ cups or 625 ml.) Toss with just 2 tsp (10 ml) garlic butter and salt to taste; set aside.
5. Meanwhile, to make the Instant Goat’s Cheese Sauce, break up goat’s cheese in a small bowl. Dissolve chicken bouillon powder in hot water; gradually whisk only a sufficient amount (e.g., 6 tbsp or 90 ml) into the goat’s cheese to form a smooth, creamy sauce. (Makes about 4/5 cup or 200 ml.)
6. Rub all surfaces of mushroom caps (as required) with remaining soft garlic butter.
7. In a couple of large nonstick skillets over medium heat, sauté the whole portobello mushroom caps on both sides, seasoning them with salt and crushed black peppercorns. Cook until barely 2/3 done; remove from heat. (Note: mushroom caps should be rather firm.) Transfer sautéed mushroom caps (underside up) to 4 individual dinner plates. Drizzle any mushroom drippings into inverted caps.
8.  Heat spinach leaves in a microwave oven for a matter of seconds only to soften slightly. (Spinach should still look fresh.) Season with salt and crushed black peppercorns, drizzle with garlic-infused olive oil and toss.
9. Place an equal quantity of the spinach into the 4 mushroom caps; top with warm orzo (about 1/3 cup or 80 ml per cap); crown with heated escargots.
10. Drizzle escargots with sauce.
11. Garnish each serving with 2 fresh chives arranged in an “X” formation across the top of the stack.

Scrumptious Peanut Butter Chocolates are good for the holidays or for any occasion. (Photo: Margaret Dickenson)

Scrumptious Peanut Butter Chocolates are good for the holidays or for any occasion. (Photo: Margaret Dickenson)

Scrumptious Peanut Butter Chocolates
Makes 20 chocolates

Peanut butter lovers will want to check out this unique recipe that combines white chocolate with the nutty spread.

6 tbsp (90 ml) smooth peanut butter
¼ tsp (1 ml) maple extract
2 tbsp (30 ml) icing sugar
½ cup (125 ml) lightly crushed Rice Krispies cereal
½ cup (125 ml) very finely chopped walnuts
6 oz (175 g) white chocolate
2 oz (60g) dark chocolate (preferably bittersweet), optional

1. Place peanut butter in a bowl. Add maple extract and combine thoroughly before adding the icing sugar and blending it in well.
2. Gradually, add crushed Rice Krispies, incorporating them well into the peanut butter mixture after each addition.
3. Finally, incorporate the chopped walnuts.
4. Transfer the mixture to a rectangular or square airtight plastic container, pressing down firmly and smoothing the surface. Cover and place in the freezer for at least several hours.
5. Using a melon baller (capacity: 1 tsp or 5 ml), scoop and level off portions of the mixture, pressing down firmly to create small domes. Place the peanut butter domes on a parchment paper-lined tray and place in the freezer for at least a couple of hours.
6. Place white chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and soften gradually in a microwave oven at medium heat, stirring well every 15 seconds until the chocolate is quite soft, but definitely not melted. Remove from microwave oven and stir until the chocolate is smooth and creamy. (Note: The chocolate should be thick to facilitate coating of the domes.)
7. Working with a few peanut butter domes at a time, remove them from the freezer, dip into the chocolate and coat completely. Transfer to a wax paper-lined tray and refrigerate.
8. When the white chocolate coating is set, if desired, decorate* the chocolates with melted dark chocolate and refrigerate to set.
9. Store the peanut butter chocolates in a single layer in an airtight plastic container lined with wax paper and refrigerate until ready to serve.

* e.g., Lattice-work, dots, stars, swirls, etc.

Margaret Dickenson is a cookbook
author, menu/recipe developer and a protocol, business and etiquette instructor.

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Category: Delights

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Margaret Dickenson wrote the awardwinning cookbook, Margaret’s Table — Easy Cooking & Inspiring Entertaining (www.margaretstable.ca).

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