This week, I and a few other San Diego-area food bloggers teamed up with Melissa’s Produce to come up with some fabulous new recipes using locally-grown winter produce.
Our challenge was to make a sweet and a savory dish, using Christmas Crunch seedless grapes, Korean pears, and Jeju mandarins, as well as Melissa’s pre-steamed and pre-prepared (totally ready-to-eat!) baby potatoes, baby beets, and chestnuts.
For the sweet dish, using all of those delicious fruits was pretty easy. The Christmas crunch grapes are really sweet, and the Korean pears are less sweet than their western cousins. So, I sliced the pears and cooked them in some clarified butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg before I put them in the finished product. As for the Jeju mandarins — they are so juicy and delicious, and almost too delicate for a tart — I juiced them and used the yummy mandarin juice to sweeten up the cream cheese filling!
The finished product really showcases the deliciousness of the fruits, and it’s not too sweet. It’s the perfect light dessert.
Winter Fruit Tart
- 1 large Korean pear, sliced
- 2 Jeju mandarins, juiced
- 1 bunch of Christmas crunch seedless grapes
- 5-6 sheets of phyllo dough, thawed and cut into squares
- 5 tbsp. cream cheese, softened
- 1 stick of butter, separated
- 2 tbsp. brown sugar
- 1 tbsp. cinnamon
- 1 tbsp. nutmeg
First, prepare the phyllo dough. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees and make sure your phyllo dough is ready to use (if you bought it frozen, make sure it’s thawed – or you can make your own dough using this really easy recipe). You can stuff the squares of dough into a (well-greased) muffin tin, and form cups, or you can simply lay the slices of dough on a baking sheet. Add a dab of butter to each cup or slice of dough, and bake for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Then remove from the oven and let cool. Set aside.
*Note: I used phyllo dough because I prefer the dough to be a little crunchy, and I wanted the dough to bake into a hardened cup that I could fill with cream cheese and fruit. However, this recipe would work just as well with a puff pastry or other type of dough.
While the dough is in the oven, melt 2-3 tbsp. of butter in a skillet and add the brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cook 2-3 minutes on each side until the slices of pear are caramelized. Set aside.
Mix the Jeju mandarin juice and softened cream cheese together in a bowl, and whip with a fork or whisk until there are no lumps. Set aside.
When the dough is cooked and has been cooled, fill each cup (or spread each baked piece of dough) with the cream cheese/ juice mixture. Then slices the grapes lengthwise, and arrange the grapes and slices of cooked pear on each cup or piece of dough.
You can prepare this up to a day ahead of time. Serve chilled.
For the savory part of my challenge, I had some of the items ready ahead of time, and luckily, the pre-prepared produce from Melissa’s made everything else really easy to cook.
A few weeks ago I scored some awesome eggplants, peppers and cucumbers, so I went a little crazy pickling things, including a lovely recipe for Lebanese pickled eggplant, from Linda Zeidrich’s book, “The Joy of Pickling.” (Here’s another adaptation of the recipe, but I highly recommend her book, if you do any pickling at all.) Traditionally, the Lebanese pickled eggplant is served with hummus, pita bread, and a myriad of side dishes or tapas, so I that’s how the idea was formed to use my pre-cooked produce for some tasty kebabs. Luckily the foods randomly selected for this challenge were perfect for roasting or grilling.
Normally I don’t go for pre-cooked produce, but I really love all of the options Melissa’s has for pre-steamed, pre-peeled and ready-to-eat vegetables. Check out all of the options offered on Melissa’s Produce Pinterest page.
This was the hard part of the challenge … beets? Chestnuts?
The pre-steamed and pre-peeled potatoes were obviously ready to skewer and grill, but the chestnuts and beets?
I’ll be honest with you: beets are not my favorite thing to eat.
And, before this challenge, I had never eaten a chestnut (that I’m aware of) – in fact, I’d never even heard of them except in a Christmas song, which helpfully suggests roasting them.
Beets are also pretty tasty when roasted, and of course, so is a steak, so I thought a nice kebab would be the best way to showcase all of the flavors together. The final result was a really good combination of flavors. The chestnuts are a little difficult to keep on the skewers, so I used some in a pesto as well.
Grilled Steak and Veggie Kebabs with Chestnut Pesto
- 1 medium thick-cut New York steak, cut into chunks
- 1 package steamed baby beets, cut into quarters
- 1 package peeled and steamed chestnuts
- 1 package peeled and steamed baby potatoes, halved or quartered if necessary
- 4-5 cloves of garlic, smashed and chopped
- 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus more in a spray/spritz bottle
- 1 tbsp. dried marjoram
- 1 tbsp. dried rosemary
- 1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped
- 2 tbsp. crumbled feta cheese
- salt and pepper
- wooden skewers (pre-soak before using!)
First, prepare the kabobs. Make sure your wooden skewers have soaked for at least several hours, or use metal skewers (you don’t want them to catch fire!). Arrange the pieces of steak, potatoes, beets and chestnuts on skewers, and season with salt and pepper, then spray with olive oil. Place on a pre-heated outdoor grill and cook for about 10 minutes on each side, until you can see grill marks on the food.
Next, while the skewers are on the grill, prepare the chestnut pesto. Place the garlic cloves, cilantro, remaining chestnuts (there should be about a cup), plus the dried rosemary, marjoram, and salt and pepper into a chopper or food processor. Puree until smooth, and gradually drizzle in the olive oil. Set aside.
Finish up the kabobs by crumbling some fresh feta cheese on top and serving the pesto nearby.
I served my kabobs and pesto with all of my favorite munchies: hummus and pita chips, sliced cucumber and carrot sticks, homemade dilly tzatziki sauce, and lots of good cocktails.
I invite you to check out the other challenge recipes using Melissa’s Produce products here: