Category Archives: Sauces and Salsas

Rhubarb and Beer Barbeque Sauce

Beer Barbeque Sauce
Rhubarb and Beer Barbeque Sauce

We have a good-sized patch of rhubarb and, every year, I develop one or more new recipes using it.  I recently paid a visit to Upstreet Craft Brewing in Charlottetown in preparation for a story on this brewery and, lo and behold, they have a strawberry-rhubarb beer. This got me to thinking that I could combine the rhubarb with this beer to make a tasty barbeque sauce which is just what I did!

Beer Barbeque Sauce
Rhubarb and Beer Barbeque Sauce

Now, this barbeque sauce takes a little time to make but the end result is so worth it.  Just like making a traditional fine tomato sauce, the key is in letting the sauce simmer to allow the flavors to mix and mingle and get to know each other – very social just like Upstreet’s Rhuby Social beer! The sauce is a mix of savory, tart, and sweet, especially with the addition of crushed pineapple that goes well with rhubarb.

Beer Barbeque Sauce
Porkchops with Rhubarb and Beer Barbeque Sauce

This barbeque sauce is particularly good on pork and chicken but also pairs well with burgers. This is my signature barbeque sauce for this summer.  I use my immersion blender in the sauce but, if you like it more thick and chunky, leave it just as it is.  I hope you enjoy it.

Porkchops with Rhubarb and Beer Barbeque Sauce
Porkchops with Rhubarb and Beer Barbeque Sauce

(Printable recipe follows at end of posting)

Rhubarb and Beer Barbeque Sauce

Ingredients:

½ lb rhubarb, sliced ½” thick
2 tbsp water
1½ tsp lemon juice
2-3 tbsp. oil
½ cup onion, finely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup ketchup
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
¼ cup maple syrup
½ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
¼ tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
½ tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp salt
Pinch cayenne
¾ cup crushed pineapple with juice
½ cup Upstreet Craft Brewing’s “Rhuby Social” beer

Method:

In medium-sized saucepan, combine rhubarb, water, and lemon juice.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for approximately 10 minutes, or until rhubarb is soft and mushy.

In separate medium-sized saucepan, heat oil and, over medium heat, sauté onions until soft and translucent.  Add garlic and cook for one additional minute, stirring constantly, being careful not to burn the onions or garlic. Add the cooked rhubarb, ketchup, tomato paste, mustard, maple syrup, brown sugar, cinnamon, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and cayenne.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium low and cook for approximately 45 minutes or until thickened, stirring regularly.

Add the crushed pineapple and beer.  Cook for apx. 30 minutes longer, stirring regularly to prevent scorching.  Cool.  Purée in blender, food processor, or with an immersion blender.

Store in refrigerator for up to 1 week. Use on chicken, pork, or burgers.

Yield: 
Apx. 2½ cups

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Beer Barbeque Sauce
Rhubarb and Beer Barbeque Sauce

Rhubarb and Beer Barbeque Sauce

Yield: Apx. 2 1/2 cups

Savory and sweet barbeque sauce combines rhubarb, crushed pineapple, and beer to make a tasty sauce for pork, chicken, and burgers.

Ingredients

  • ½ lb rhubarb, sliced ½” thick
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1½ tsp lemon juice
  • 2-3 tbsp. oil
  • ½ cup onion, finely chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • ½ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • ½ tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Pinch cayenne
  • ¾ cup crushed pineapple with juice
  • ½ cup Upstreet Craft Brewing’s “Rhuby Social” beer

Instructions

  1. In medium-sized saucepan, combine rhubarb, water, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for approximately 10 minutes, or until rhubarb is soft and mushy.
  2. In separate medium-sized saucepan, heat oil and, over medium heat, sauté onions until soft and translucent. Add garlic and cook for one additional minute, stirring constantly, being careful not to burn the onions or garlic. Add the cooked rhubarb, ketchup, tomato paste, mustard, maple syrup, brown sugar, cinnamon, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and cayenne. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium low and cook for approximately 45 minutes or until thickened, stirring regularly. Add the crushed pineapple and beer. Cook for apx. 30 minutes longer, stirring regularly to prevent scorching. Cool. Purée in blender, food processor, or with an immersion blender. Store in refrigerator for up to 1 week. Use on chicken, pork, or burgers.
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Chunky Cranberry Salsa

Chunky Cranberry Salsa Hors d'oeuvre
Chunky Cranberry Salsa Hors d’oeuvre

By now, if you are a regular follower of this food blog, you have probably detected that I am a big fan of cranberries!  I am always developing recipes using these tasty morsels.

Chunky Cranberry Salsa
Chunky Cranberry Salsa

Today, I am sharing my newly-developed recipe for Chunky Cranberry Salsa. As its base, it uses my homemade cranberry sauce for which you can find the recipe here.  You need a good thick cranberry sauce for this, not a runny, watery version as many of the canned, commercial versions are. If a watery cranberry sauce is used, it will make the salsa too runny and messy. The photo below shows what the consistency of this salsa should be – it should “hold its own” and stay in place when used on nachos or crackers.

Chunky Cranberry Salsa
Chunky Cranberry Salsa

Any flavour of dry salsa seasoning available can be used in this recipe. I use the Epicure Brand, “Pico”, Salsa Mix which is a mild flavoring. If you are using another brand, or one that is quite spicy, just be aware that the amount this recipe calls for may not apply and you may need to adjust the amount you use.  Also, I use 1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons of the Epicure “Pico” seasoning but that can be altered according to taste.  However, I suggest making the salsa first with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the seasoning and then adding more according to your personal taste.  As the old saying goes, you can add more seasoning but you can’t remove it if you put in too much!

Almost any flavour of balsamic vinegar can be used, even a traditional white balsamic. I have used a honey ginger balsamic vinegar from our local Liquid Gold and All Things Olive store here in Charlottetown as this vinegar flavour pairs particularly well with the other ingredients in this salsa.

Chunky Cranberry Salsa on Nachos
Chunky Cranberry Salsa on Nachos

I use this salsa on nachos but it is also exceptionally good served on gourmet crackers. Simply top each cracker with a small slice of Brie or Gouda cheese and some shaved turkey.  Add a small spoonful of the cranberry salsa and, voilà, an instant hors d’oeuvre. Once you have the salsa made, it makes a quick, easy, and tasty hors d’oeuvre.

Chunky Cranberry Salsa Hors d'oeuvre
Chunky Cranberry Salsa Hors d’oeuvre

With the jewel-toned color of this salsa, this hors d’oeuvre also looks very attractive on a serving tray.

Chunky Cranberry Salsa Hors d'oeuvres
Chunky Cranberry Salsa Hors d’oeuvres

This salsa often finds its way on to my charcuterie boards, too.

It can also be used to top baked chicken breasts or grilled pork chops. It’s very versatile, especially if you already have cranberry sauce made and in the freezer.  Simply let the cranberry sauce thaw at room temperature and then mix up the salsa. It’s best if the salsa can be made and refrigerated for a couple of hours before serving to allow the flavours to blend and mellow.

Chunky Cranberry Salsa

Ingredients:

1 cup cranberry sauce
¼ cup red onion, finely chopped
½ cup Granny Smith apple, finely chopped
1½  tsp sugar
1¾ tsp lime juice
1½ – 2 tbsp Epicure “Pico” Salsa Mix, or to taste
2 tsp Honey Ginger White Balsamic Vinegar
1 tsp. finely grated orange zest
½ orange, finely chopped

Method:

In medium-sized bowl, mix all ingredients together. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours before serving to allow flavour to develop.

Serve with nacho chips. May also be served as an hors d’oeuvre: Place slice of Gouda or Brie on favorite cracker. Add shaved turkey topped with a small dollop of chunky cranberry salsa. Can also be used as a topping on chicken or pork.

Store in sealed container for up to two to three days in refrigerator.

Yield: Apx. 1 2/3 cups

Chunky Cranberry Salsa
Chunky Cranberry Salsa

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Chunky Cranberry Salsa

Yield: Apx 1 2/3 cups

Jewel-toned cranberries transform into a versatile and tasty chunky cranberry salsa

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cranberry sauce
  • ¼ cup red onion, finely chopped
  • ½ cup Granny Smith apple, finely chopped
  • 1½ tsp sugar
  • 1¾ tsp lime juice
  • 1½ - 2 tbsp Epicure “Pico” Salsa Mix, or to taste
  • 2 tsp Honey Ginger White Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 tsp. finely grated orange zest
  • ½ orange, finely chopped

Instructions

  1. In medium-sized bowl, mix all ingredients together. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours before serving to allow flavour to develop.
  2. Serve with nacho chips. May also be served as an hors d’oeuvre: Place slice of Gouda or Brie on favorite cracker. Add shaved turkey topped with a small dollop of chunky cranberry salsa. Can also be used as a topping on chicken or pork.
  3. Store in sealed container for up to two to three days in refrigerator.
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Chunky Cranberry Salsa
Chunky Cranberry Salsa

 

Chunky Cranberry Salsa
Chunky Cranberry Salsa

Zesty Cranberry-Orange Sauce

Zesty Cranberry-Orange Sauce
Zesty Cranberry-Orange Sauce

While cranberry sauce is traditionally associated with Thanksgiving and Christmas, I eat it year-round. In fact, I batch cook it and freeze it for use throughout the year.

Each fall, I eagerly await the cranberry harvest on PEI. The photo below was taken on a day that Mikita Farms in Farmington, PEI was wet harvesting their cranberry crop. Produce just does not get any fresher than this!

Freshly-harvested Cranberries from Mikita Farms in Farmington, PEI

In the fall, I buy a huge bag of cranberries for the freezer as I use them in several recipes, including cranberry-orange sauce.

These gems turn into a rich jeweled-toned cranberry sauce.

Zesty Cranberry-Orange Sauce
Zesty Cranberry-Orange Sauce

Any time I am cooking a chicken dinner, chicken pieces, or have a craving for cranberry sauce, I head to the freezer for a small container of the sauce as it just seems to make the meal.

Zesty Cranberry-Orange Sauce
Zesty Cranberry-Orange Sauce

I hope you enjoy my recipe for cranberry-orange sauce.  This is not a sickeningly sweet sauce although you can add a bit more sugar if you have a really sweet tooth!  Adding some apple and orange juice to the sauce gives it an extra flavour boost and both fruits complement the cranberry flavour well.  While the sauce is lovely without the Cointreau, it does add to the flavour of the sauce.

The method I use for the sauce is to make a simple syrup by boiling the sugar and water and then adding the cranberries, apple, and orange juice. I don’t care for runny cranberry sauce so I have learned this tip from my mother: Occasionally stir the sauce as it is cooking but make sure you stir it several times as it cools as this will help to thicken the sauce.

Don’t save this zesty cranberry-orange sauce for the holidays; enjoy it year-round!

Zesty Cranberry-Orange Sauce
Zesty Cranberry-Orange Sauce

Zesty Cranberry-Orange Sauce

Ingredients:

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
2 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen
½ cup apple, finely chopped
1/3 cup orange juice
1 tsp finely grated orange rind
1½ tbsp Cointreau (optional)

Method:

In medium-sized saucepan, bring sugar and water to boil. Boil, uncovered, for 5 minutes over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.

Add cranberries, apple, and orange juice. Bring to a boil. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring periodically throughout the cooking process for about 15 minutes or until mixture thickens.

Remove saucepan from heat and add orange rind and Cointreau. Stir several times as the sauce cools to help it to thicken.

Store, covered, in refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze for longer storage.

Yield: Apx. 2 cups.

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Zesty Cranberry Orange Sauce

Yield: Apx 2 cups

A mildly tart and flavorful sauce that pairs well with roast turkey and any poultry dishes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen
  • ½ cup apple, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1 tsp finely grated orange rind
  • 1½ tbsp Cointreau (optional)

Instructions

  1. In medium-sized saucepan, bring sugar and water to boil. Boil, uncovered, for 5 minutes over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add cranberries, apple, and orange juice. Bring to a boil. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring periodically throughout the cooking process for about 15 minutes or until mixture thickens.
  3. Remove saucepan from heat and add orange rind and Cointreau. Stir several times as the sauce cools to help it to thicken.
  4. Store, covered, in refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze for longer storage.
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Zesty Cranberry-Orange Sauce
Zesty Cranberry-Orange Sauce

Blueberry Barbeque Sauce

Blueberry Barbeque Sauce
Blueberry Barbeque Sauce

With the abundance of local blueberries in season and available locally, I try to maximize my use of them.  So, today, I am introducing my recipe for blueberry barbeque sauce made with high bush blueberries picked at Tryon U-Pick Blueberries in North Tryon, PEI.

High Bush Blueberries
High Bush Blueberries

As well as being tasty, this sauce is a lovely deep rich color.

Blueberry Barbeque Sauce
Blueberry Barbeque Sauce

This sauce is very versatile and can be used in the same recipes and on the same foods as any barbeque sauce.  It is particularly good brushed on grilled chicken, pork chops, ribs, and burgers.

Blueberry Barbeque Sauce on Grilled Chicken Breast
Blueberry Barbeque Sauce on Grilled Chicken Breast
Blueberry Barbeque Sauce on Pork Ribs
Blueberry Barbeque Sauce on Pork Ribs
Blueberry Barbeque Sauce on Burgers
Blueberry Barbeque Sauce on Burgers

Adding some blueberry balsamic vinegar to the sauce deepens the blueberry flavour. I used a chipotle and lemongrass infused maple syrup to add flavour complexity but plain maple syrup also works well.

Blueberry Barbeque Sauce

Ingredients:

1-2 tbsp olive oil
½ cup onion, chopped
5-6 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups high-bush blueberries
½ cup ketchup
¼ cup blueberry balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp pineapple juice
½ cup brown sugar
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp liquid chicken bouillon
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp cardamom
½ tsp cayenne
¼ tsp allspice
1/8 tsp ground ginger
Salt and pepper to taste

1 tsp cornstarch
1 tbsp pineapple juice

Method:

Heat oil in saucepan. Add onion and sauté for 2-3 minutes then add garlic. Sauté, stirring constantly to prevent burning, for a further 1-2 minutes.

Add the blueberries, ketchup, balsamic vinegar, pineapple juice, brown sugar, maple syrup, chicken bouillon, mustard, lemon juice, and spices. Bring mixture to the boiling point then reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes.

In small bowl, mix 1 tsp cornstarch with 1 tbsp pineapple juice until smooth. Add 1-2 tsp of the hot mixture. Stir and add to the hot mixture in the saucepan. Cook, stirring regularly, until mixture is thickened to desired consistency.

Purée sauce till smooth in blender, food processor, or with an immersion blender.

Yield: Apx. 2¼ cups

Blueberry Barbeque Sauce
Blueberry Barbeque Sauce

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Blueberry Barbeque Sauce

Yield: Apx 2 1/4 cups

A tasty barbeque sauce that blends nicely with grilled chicken, pork chops, ribs, and burgers

Ingredients

  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ cup onion, chopped
  • 5-6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 cups high-bush blueberries
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • ¼ cup blueberry balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tbsp pineapple juice
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp liquid chicken bouillon
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp cardamom
  • ½ tsp cayenne
  • ¼ tsp allspice
  • 1/8 tsp ground ginger
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp pineapple juice

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in saucepan. Add onion and sauté for 2-3 minutes then add garlic. Sauté, stirring constantly to prevent burning, for a further 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add the blueberries, ketchup, balsamic vinegar, pineapple juice, brown sugar, maple syrup, chicken bouillon, mustard, lemon juice, and spices. Bring mixture to the boiling point then reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes.
  3. In small bowl, mix 1 tsp cornstarch with 1 tbsp pineapple juice until smooth. Add 1-2 tsp of the hot mixture. Stir and add to the hot mixture in the saucepan. Cook, stirring regularly, until mixture is thickened to desired consistency.
  4. Purée sauce till smooth in blender, food processor, or with an immersion blender.
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Blueberry Barbeque Sauce
Blueberry Barbeque Sauce

Rhubarb Salsa

Rhubarb Salsa
Rhubarb Salsa

I am always developing ideas for ways I can make use of rhubarb. We have a long-established rhubarb patch at the end of the garden that always produces large beautiful red stalks. It was planted circa 1993-94 and is the German Wine variety. Because of its rich red color, it lends itself to colorful dishes. While we freeze lots of rhubarb for winter usage, I try to make good use of it while it is fresh. There’s just something so satisfying in being able to go to the garden to pick a few stalks of rhubarb just as I need them for a dish I am making.

Rhubarb Salsa
Rhubarb Salsa

Today, I am sharing the recipe I developed for rhubarb salsa. As you know, there has to be some kind of base for the salsa – something that gives it its bulk, if you will. For example, in many salsas, that tends to be a tomato base. In my recipe, which is a sweet salsa, I am using rhubarb as the base. Use young, thin rhubarb stalks for this recipe.

Rhubarb Salsa
Rhubarb Salsa

Rhubarb cooks quickly and can fast become sauce in which case in loses its shape. For this recipe, cook the rhubarb for only about 1 minute (or even less) and then quickly rinse it with cold water to immediately stop the cooking process. The rhubarb should be fork tender and still able to hold its diced shape and not be mushy. Because rhubarb does lose some of its bright color when cooked, I have added some highly colourful fruits and vegetables to make the salsa attractive – i.e., chopped mango, crushed pineapple, red pepper, and red onion.

Rhubarb Salsa
Rhubarb Salsa

For sweetener, I have used maple syrup and you can use either plain syrup or a flavoured or infused version.  Any flavour of salsa seasoning available can be used. I don’t personally care for really spicy salsa so I have used the Epicure Brand, “Pico” salsa seasoning, which is a mild flavoring. Likewise, any flavour of balsamic vinegar can be used, even a traditional white balsamic. I have used a honey ginger balsamic vinegar which is available from our local Liquid Gold and All Things Olive store here in Charlottetown as this vinegar flavour works quite well with the other ingredients in this salsa.

Rhubarb Salsa
Rhubarb Salsa

This salsa can be used on nachos or as a topping for fish, pork, or chicken. It adds color and flavour to many dishes.

Rhubarb Salsa on Salmon
Rhubarb Salsa on Salmon
Rhubarb Salsa

Ingredients:

2 cups rhubarb, finely diced
⅔ cup canned crushed pineapple (with juice)
⅓ cup red onion, diced
¾ cup mango, diced
¼ cup red pepper, diced
Juice of ½ lime
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp honey ginger balsamic vinegar
Zest of ½ lime
2 tbsp. Epicure “Pico” salsa mix
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 – 2 tbsp chopped fresh lemon balm or cilantro leaves, to taste (optional)

Method:

Assemble ingredients.

Bring 1 cup of water to boil in pot. Add diced rhubarb and cook over medium heat for apx. 1 minute. Drain and immediately rinse rhubarb under cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain well and gently pat rhubarb dry with paper towel.

Combine crushed pineapple, onion, mango, and red pepper in bowl. Add the cooled rhubarb. Stir gently, trying not to break up the rhubarb.

In small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, maple syrup, vinegar, lime zest, salt and pepper.

Stir in the “Pico” salsa mix.

Pour over fruit and vegetables and stir gently.

If desired, add chopped lemon balm or cilantro leaves.

Refrigerate salsa at least 20 minutes before serving. Store in sealed container for up to two to three days in refrigerator.

Serve with nachos or as a topping on fish, pork, or chicken.

Rhubarb Salsa over Salmon
Rhubarb Salsa over Salmon

Rhubarb Salsa

Ingredients

  • 2 cups rhubarb, finely diced
  • 2/3 cup canned crushed pineapple (with juice)
  • 1/3 cup red onion, diced
  • ¾ cup mango, diced
  • ¼ cup red pepper, diced
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp honey ginger balsamic vinegar
  • Zest of ½ lime
  • 2 tbsp. Epicure “Pico” salsa mix
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 – 2 tbsp chopped fresh lemon balm or cilantro leaves, to taste (optional)

Instructions

  1. Bring 1 cup of water to boil in pot. Add diced rhubarb and cook over medium heat for apx. 1 minute. Drain and immediately rinse rhubarb under cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain well and gently pat rhubarb dry with paper towel.
  2. Combine crushed pineapple, onion, mango, and red pepper in bowl. Add the cooled rhubarb. Stir gently, trying not to break up the rhubarb.
  3. In small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, maple syrup, vinegar, lime zest, salt and pepper. Stir in the “Pico” salsa mix. Pour over fruit and vegetables and stir gently. If desired, add chopped lemon balm or cilantro leaves.
  4. Refrigerate salsa at least 20 minutes before serving. Store in sealed container for up to two to three days in refrigerator.
  5. Serve with nachos or as a topping on fish, pork, or chicken.
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Rhubarb Salsa
Rhubarb Salsa

Basil Pesto

Basil Pesto
Basil Pesto

Fresh basil is plentiful in many gardens and at farmers’ markets right now.  It’s a good time to make a batch or two of basil pesto.

Basil pesto is so versatile.  It can be used on pizzas, in pasta dishes, mixed with mayo for a sandwich spread, in soups, salads, in wraps, spread with butter over corn on the cob, as an ingredient in steamed mussels, and the list goes on.  As any creative cook will attest, basil pesto is a good staple to have on hand.

If you have an abundance of basil growing in your herb garden, or otherwise at your disposal, making pesto is a quick, easy, simple way to process it for a multitude of uses.  It takes very few ingredients but, fair warning, one key ingredient is very expensive – pine nuts.  However, the recipe doesn’t take many, thankfully.  I bought 1/4 cup to use in my recipe and it came to $2.65.  Walnuts can be substituted for pine nuts.

One of the easiest ways to store pesto is to freeze it in ice cube trays.

Freezing Basil Pesto
Freezing Basil Pesto

Simply place a large piece of plastic wrap over the ice cube slots and fill each with the pesto.  Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for several hours.  Remove from freezer and lift the plastic wrap with the frozen pesto cubes from the tray.  Peel off the frozen pesto cubes and store them in a sealed container or plastic bag in the freezer.  These are very handy because they can easily be popped into soup or quickly thawed for spreading on your favorite sandwich or wrap or used in any other dish in which you would normally use basil pesto.  If you need more than a tablespoon or two of pesto at a time then, of course, you will want to freeze the pesto in larger containers.

Basil Pesto

Ingredients:

2 cups gently packed fresh basil leaves (washed and dried)
¼ cup pine nuts
2 cloves garlic
½ cup olive oil
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt, to taste
Fresh ground pepper, to taste

Method:

Assemble ingredients.

Ingredients for Basil Pesto
Ingredients for Basil Pesto

My fresh basil is from Just A Little Farm in Bonshaw, PEI.  Farmer Jessica Vos grows her herbs and vegetables naturally with no chemicals.

Fresh Organic Basil from "Just A Little Farm", Bonshaw, PEI
Fresh Organic Basil from “Just A Little Farm”, Bonshaw, PEI

In food processor, mix together the basil leaves, pine nuts, and garlic.

Adding the pine nuts
Adding the pine nuts
Adding the garlic
Adding the garlic

Pulse the Pesto!

Pulse until mixture is finely chopped into a paste.

Pulse the Pesto!
Pulse the Pesto!

With the food processor running, add about ⅓ of the olive oil in a steady, slow stream. Reserve remaining oil for drizzling over finished pesto.

Adding the olive oil
Adding the olive oil

Add the Parmesan cheese and pulse again.

Adding the Parmesan Cheese
Adding the Parmesan Cheese

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Adding the salt
Adding the salt
Adding the freshly-ground pepper
Adding the freshly-ground pepper

Bottle the pesto and drizzle remaining olive oil over the pesto. Store pesto in refrigerator or freeze.

Bottling the Pesto
Bottling the pesto and adding remainder of olive oil

Yield:  Apx. ¾ cup

Homemade Basil Pesto
Homemade Basil Pesto

Here are a couple of my favorite uses of basil pesto.

Corn on the Cob – Slather some butter and basil pesto on hot steamed peaches and cream corn.

Basil Pesto on Corn on the Cob
Basil Pesto on Corn on the Cob

We love our PEI mussels!  A cube of basil pesto is a quick way to add some extra flavor to the steaming broth for mussels.  Added to some onion, garlic, and white wine, the pesto deepens the flavour of the mussels.

PEI mussels steamed in basil pesto with white wine, onion, and garlic
PEI mussels steamed in basil pesto with white wine, onion, and garlic

Oh, and don’t forget to dip those tasty little morsels in melted butter!

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Caps off to Haskaps – A Trendy New Berry on PEI

Haskap Berries
Haskap Berries

It’s not often that I discover a new food on Prince Edward Island. Until recently, I had never heard of haskap berries and did not know that they were grown on PEI.  Earlier this month, I travelled to Rollo Bay in the Eastern end of the Island to view a five-acre field of haskap bushes and to have a chat with the growers.

Rows of Haskap Bushes
Rows of Haskap Bushes

Mother and daughter duo, Lynn and Becky Townshend, began growing 2500 haskap bushes five years ago. Haskap bushes are very hardy and can withstand cold winter temperatures. They are also fast-growing and, once established, are one of the season’s earliest plants to bear fruit.

Haskap Bushes
Haskap Bushes

Before meeting the Townshends, I did a little research on the elongated-shaped berries which are the color of blueberries. I imagined they would grow on a low bush and, because they somewhat resemble blueberries, thought they would taste something like traditional blueberries. However, that is not the case. Their color is where I find the similarity with blueberries ends. They grow on high bushes like the ones in the photograph below. These are five-year old bushes and they range in height probably between about 3-5 feet.

Haskap Bush
Haskap Bush

Haskaps have their origin in Siberia and are also found in Russia, Japan, and China. A few years ago, Dr. Bob Bors at the University of Saskatchewan developed the haskaps for commercial production. Haskaps are a member of the honeysuckle family and are sometimes referred to as honeyberries.

Haskap Berries
Haskap Berries

The Townshends grow four varieties of haskaps -Indigo Gem, Indigo Treat, Tundra, and Borealis. Some varieties are sweeter than others but, for the most part, I would class these berries as tart and they would not be ones I would be likely to eat in a bowl with milk and sugar as I would, say, blueberries or strawberries. Raw, according to my tastebuds, I would suggest the haskaps most closely resemble Concord grapes in flavour while cooked or baked, they are (in my opinion) perhaps closest to black currants.

Hand-picking Haskap berries
Hand-picking Haskap berries

Picking the berries is a tedious and time-consuming task. At present, there is no mechanical harvester available (at least locally) for haskaps which means they must all be picked by hand.

Hand-picking Haskap Berries
Hand-picking Haskap Berries

As Becky says, “they’re devils to pick”! This is because the berries grow in through the branches and leaves on the bushes and the branches have to be moved away from the plant to reveal the berries.

This labour-intensive task is what keeps the price of the berries high. At time of writing, Riverview Country Market in Charlottetown sells pint boxes of haskaps for $6.00 each.

Pint box of Haskaps
Pint box of Haskaps

So, what can you do with haskaps? They make a great syrup or sauce for pancakes, waffles, French toast, or over ice cream or as the sauce for a shortcake. They can be used in baked goods, alone or in combination with other fruits such as raspberries or blackberries (I find they pair really well with raspberry – the flavors blend together well). They are suitable for pies, muffins, and baked puddings as well as for jam. Haskap berries also freeze well for later use. Essentially, you could use haskaps in the same manner in which you would use blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries.

The recipe I have chosen to share today using haskaps is for a rich sauce. Adding a mere teaspoon of a high quality raspberry balsamic vinegar and just a dash of cardamom gives additional complexity and flavour to this sauce. This sauce is particularly good in Haskap Shortcake.

Haskap Sauce

Ingredients:

1 cup haskap berries, fresh or frozen
½ cup super-fine sugar (aka caster sugar)
dash cardamom
1 tsp raspberry balsamic vinegar
1-2 tsp water
1-2 tsp cornstarch

Method:

Place haskaps, sugar, cardamom, and raspberry balsamic vinegar in small bowl. Stir gently to release juice from berries. Do not break up berries. Let sit for 3-4 hours at room temperature (can be placed in covered bowl in refrigerator for up to 24 hours) to allow sugar to begin to naturally dissolve and for the flavors of the berries, balsamic vinegar, and cardamom to blend.

Transfer berries to saucepan and add about 1 tsp water or so, just enough so that the berries and sugar do not scorch (do not add too much water as the sauce will be too runny). Over medium-low heat, cook berries, stirring gently, just until mixture starts to boil.

In small cup, combine 1 teaspoon of cornstarch and 1 teaspoon water to make paste. Temper with about 1 tablespoon of hot berry mixture then stir into berry mixture in saucepan. Cook and stir until mixture thickens to desired consistency.  Note: It may be necessary to add more cornstarch to reach desired thickness – repeat preceding procedure to mix in any additional cornstarch needed. Remove from heat and let cool. Store sauce in covered bottle in refrigerator for up to one week.

Yield: about ¾ cup

Serving Suggestion: Serve sauce over pancakes, French toast, waffles or ice cream. May also be used as a sauce for shortcake.

Hascap Shortcake

To make Hascap Shortcake, use your favorite sponge cake or biscuits.  Split cake or biscuit in half.  On bottom half, pipe a border of whipped cream around edge of cake or biscuit to form a dam to hold the sauce.  In center of whipped cream border, add about 1 tablespoon of hascap sauce.

Place top of cake or biscuit over whipped cream and sauce.   Drizzle more hascap sauce over top and add a dollop of whipped cream.

And, here is the finished product….

Haskap Shortcake
Haskap Shortcake

 

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