Raisins: Your essential sweet ingredient for flavorful recipes

Chef Sau del Rosario, food stylist Jenni Epperson and chef Miko Aspiras.

What do chef Sau del Rosario, chef Miko Aspiras and food stylist Jenni Epperson have in common? Well, based on their extensive experience working in the kitchen, they all use dried fruits as their natural sweetener in their dishes, particularly raisins.

“Raisins are naturally sweet and are great substitutes for traditional sweeteners,” Del Rosario said.

For Aspiras, “raisins can be an excellent replacement for refined sugars — either whole raisins or raisin paste.”

“Being a mom, you always want to give your kids healthy treats and raisins can be their perfect healthy snack anytime of the day,” added Epperson.

Del Rosario, Aspiras and Epperson all use raisins, such as California Raisins, to add a unique flavor, texture, color and natural sweetness to their dishes —whether in delightful desserts or savory meals. They recently demonstrated the versatility and natural sweetness of California Raisins during a cooking session before a group of media and foodies at Sawsaw on the 5th floor of Cayco House in Poblacion, Makati City.

Featured were Del Rosario’s Salmon en Croute with California Raisin-Caper Jam and California Raisins Wild Rice with Duck Confit; Aspiras’ California Raisin Madeleines; and Epperson’s California Raisins and Beef Taco Stuffed Bell Peppers.

“Because California Raisins are sweet by nature, they lend a natural sweetness to a wide variety of dishes, from hearty meals, delectable baked goods and refreshing beverages, that excite the Filipino sweet tooth. Besides adding natural sweetness to different dishes, the ingredient also has various benefits that make them must-have kitchen staples. For example, they help absorb moisture to lengthen baked goods’ shelf life and can be used as a starter in making bread,” said Thomas Wee of the Raisin Administrative Committee based in Singapore.

He added: “The California Raisins industry offers a variety of products that are suitable for both consumer and industrial usage. The vast majority of the products offered are of the ‘Vitis Vinifera’ Natural Seedless variety and are typically dried in the sun, whether it is on paper trays or dried on the vine.”

To highlight California Raisins’ natural goodness, Del Rosario, Aspiras and Epperson shared the following recipes for home cooks to try and enjoy.

Chef Miko Aspiras’ California Raisins Madeleines.

California Raisin Madeleines

by chef Miko Aspiras

Raisin Madeleines:

300 g California Raisins, soaked and chopped into small pieces

270 g Unsalted butter, melted

300 g Whole Eggs

280 g White Sugar

4 g Salt

32 g Honey

24 g Oil

250 g Plain flour (All purpose)

20 g Baking Powder

100 g Whole Milk, room temperature

g Hot water

In a sauce pot, melt the unsalted butter. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, soak the raisins for 30 minutes in hot water. While soaking the raisins, mix all together the ingredients. Lastly, add the melted butter. Fold in the drained chopped raisins onto the madeleine mixture. Let it rest overnight in the chiller. Bake the mixture at 190°C for 12 minutes.

White Chocolate Whipped Ganache:

200 g Whipping Cream

20 g Corn Syrup

20 g Glucose, liquid

190 g Valrhona Ivoire white chocolate

Whipping Cream

In a sauce pot, over medium-low heat, heat 300g of whipping cream, corn syrup and glucose until it boils. Pour onto the chocolate and sit for five minutes until melted. Stir using a rubber spatula and emulsify using a stick blender until smooth. Cool it down to 35°C. Add 200 grams of Dairy Whipping Cream. Keep it in the chiller overnight.

Milk Chocolate Gourmand Glaze:

680 g Valrhona Jivara Milk Chocolate

Cocoa Butter

In a mixing bowl, add the chocolate and cocoa butter. Melt over double boil. Cool it down and use it at 28°C-30°C.

To assemble:

Whip the white chocolate whipped ganache to medium peaks. Transfer into a piping bag fitted with a small round piping nozzle. Take each piece of cooled California Raisin Madeleines and pipe a small amount of whipped ganache. Stick three to four pieces of California raisins into it. Pipe more whipped ganache on top of it to cover, and flatten each side with a small metal spatula to resemble a mountain peak. Let the madeleine freeze and the cream set for three hours. Melt the chocolate gourmand glaze to 28-30°C. Dip the creamy part of each madeleine. Stick 3 pieces of whole California raisins before the glaze sets. Finish each piece with some gold leaves.

Chef Sau del Rosario’s Salmon en Croute with California Raisin-Caper Jam.

Salmon en Croute with California Raisin-Caper Jam

by chef Sau del Rosario

Marinated Salmon:

1 pc Salmon Fillet (1 kg)

100 g salt

100 g sugar Orange Zest

Dill Pepper

Mix all the seasoning together. Cover salmon with spice rub and refrigerate for at least six hours. Wash the marinate on the salmon and pat dry with a paper towel. Set aside in the refrigerator.

Stuffing ingredients:

100 g California Raisins

100 g capers

50 g onions

100 ml olive oil

50 ml white wine

200 g puff pastry

pc egg (egg wash)

Saute onions in olive oil then add California Raisins and capers. Deglaze white wine and reduce the liquid for 2 minutes. Blend the mixture and allow to cool completely before assembling the pie. Line the puff pastry into the mold. Fill with the filling. Close the pie with another piece of the puff pastry. Chill well before baking. Brush the prepared pie with egg wash. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes at 175oC. Serve with petite salade drizzled with lemon vinaigrette.

Jenni Epperson’s Beef Taco Stuffed Bell Peppers.

California Raisins & Beef Taco Stuffed Bell Peppers

by Jenni Epperson

½ c California Raisins

large bell peppers, cut in halves (red, green and yellow)

500 g ground beef

1 c onions, finely chopped

½ c carrots, finely chopped

2 tsp cumin

3 tsp chili powder

½ tsp chili flakes

½ c mozzarella cheese, shredded

½ c cheddar cheese, shredded

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cilantro, freshly chopped (for garnish)

For side: Salsa, guacamole or sour cream

To prepare the filling: In a skillet, brown the ground beef over medium heat. Add chopped onions and cook until they are translucent. Incorporate cumin, chili powder, chili flakes, salt, pepper, chopped carrots and California Raisins. Mix well and cook until the beef is fully cooked and the flavors meld.

To prepare the bell peppers: Cut the bell peppers in half lengthwise, removing seeds and membranes. Preheat your oven or your air fryer to 375°F.

To stuff the bell peppers: Fill each bell pepper half with the prepared beef and California Raisin mixture. Top each stuffed pepper with shredded cheese.

To cook in the oven: Preheat the oven temperature to 350°F. Place the stuffed bell peppers on a baking sheet or a cast iron pan. Bake in the preheated oven or air fryer for 10-15 minutes or until the peppers are tender, and the cheese is melted and bubbly.

To cook in the air fryer: Arrange the stuffed bell peppers in the air fryer basket, ensuring they are not overcrowded. Air fry for 15-20 minutes, or until the peppers are tender and the cheese is golden and melted.

Once cooked, remove from the oven or air fryer. Garnish with fresh herbs or additional cheese if desired. Serve these delicious California Raisins & Beef Taco Stuffed Bell Peppers with sides, such as salsa, guacamole, sour cream and freshly chopped cilantro.