Friday, November 27, 2009

A Wisconsin Thanksgiving

Here I sit with a glass of Wollersheim Ruby Nouveau and a turkey sandwich. My visit to Madison encountered a dusting of snow, orange shirted hunters in the fields, yummy smells and good company upon arrival.

Every holiday we think 'This is the best', however this was 'the best' least until Christmas! Here is our menu:

Appetizer: Fig-Prosciutto/Gorgonzola Flatbread

This is an amazing appetizer. The sweetness of fig jam, the saltiness of prosciutto, and the creamy taste of the of the melted Gorgonzola Cheese with rosemary/garlic. Sliced green onions for garnish make this a colorful appetizer. Baked and sliced like pizza. YUM!

Turkey: Butter basted bird with Penzey's Bi-Centennial Rub. Wonderful color and very moist.

Salad: Molded Cranberry Salad Loretta's special and always a favorite!

Veggies: Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Gravy; Apricot-Orange Glazed Carrots; Green Bean - Corn Casserole and Brussels Sprouts, with Onions and Bacon. (isn't everything better with bacon) Very colorful and tasty.

Dressing: Pumpernickel Bread and Wild Rice with Veggies. When I opened the oven and saw this I was taken aback. The dark color was unexpected. Lots of textures and excellent? Good choice Chris!

We had an Appetizer Dessert:

Don't know the "actual name" but....

Cream Cheese, Pumpkin, Spices and Vanilla, whipped together It is wonderful as a spread/dip with very thin Gingerbread Cookies (from World Market). Good job Mary! One of my new favorites and will use it again!.

Also cherry pie and whipped cream!!

This was a great family dinner!!

We are always happy to hear from the family in Georgia. Facebook photos brought a tear to my eye to see Tim in Grandpa's Apron while he prepared his appetizers. TG's place cards were very cute.!

A Food Network rival? I think so!!!

To all my family and the extended ones, thank you for giving me so much to be thankful for. Love and blessings to you all. Start planning for next year??

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Autumn Minestrone from the Italian Rivera

I have a great soup cookbook that I like to use pre-holiday. Since there will be a lot of cooking and eating this week, I thought a pot of soup that had options would be a good thing and would leave time for other Thanksgiving preparations. The book is "Good & Garlicky, Thick & Hearty, Soul-Satisfying More Than Minestrone Italian Soup Cookbook" by Joe Famularo. A long name for a great small book. Many of the soups are vegetarian and there are also recipes for soup enhancers: breads, spreads, and crackers. The soup I chose is a minestrone and full of vegetables. Carrot, celery, onion, herbs, tomatoes, green beans, acorn squash, cabbage and potatoes. During the last part of cooking rice is added, I chose arborio. Excellent! Simmer time was about 2 hours. I also prepared crostini with leftover asiago bread from last week. The slices are toasted, drizzled with olive oil and topped with thin strips of fresh sage and grated fontina cheese. Baked until the cheese melts. A great accompaniment to the soup. I saw these served atop a butternut squash soup that was pureed, but this soup is chunky and floating a slice was not an option. Great for dipping, however. I expect some of the turkey meatballs in my freezer will join the soup at some point, but yesterday and today, just the soup as is.

Look for another recipe from this book in the days before Christmas. Perhaps a pasta fagioli? Next week I will share our Wisconsin Thanksgiving. I expect it will be full of great food and good company. Have a wonderful holiday!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Lidia's Bolognese X 2

Over the years, I've heard of and seen bolognese prepared, but never tried it. So this week I decided to go to one of the authorities of Italian cooking, Lidia Bastianich and her book "Lidia's Family Table". This project evolved into the most labor intensive one thus far.

Ragu' alla Bolognese
Green Beans with Cherry Tomatoes, Mozzarella and Basil
Baked Persimmon Pudding

I was not aware that there is a white bolognese as well as a red one. Unable to decide between the two, after preparing the meat mixture base, I divided it and prepared both. The white uses milk and nutmeg and has a gentle flavor and texture. The red uses red wine, tomatoes, and has more of a bite. Lots of blending, processing in both preparations. Both sauces are hearty and I would expect to see them used successfully over polenta or gnocchi, in lasagna, in risotto, and perhaps with ravioli. A good meal on a damp cold night. I had asiago bread with it to sop up the gravy.

As a side dish the beans, tomato, Mozzarella and basil dish is quick and easy. The vegetables, basil and fresh Mozzarella slices are tossed with salt, pepper and a bit of EVOO. A topping of Panko bread crumbs and grated Parmesan covers the top and baked for less than half an hour. Colorful and full of flavor.

To finish off the meal, I took a detour. I saw persimmons in the store and as I have never cooked with them, brought some home. One of my Face Book Friends speaks of a persimmon pudding he likes very much. I hunted up a recipe (don't know if it's the same one) and prepared it. The aroma while baking is very nice. I served a portion with a drizzle of melted raspberry jam and a tiny bit of whipped cream. Not too sweet, just right. Thank you Joe I will make this again.

All in all this was a good week. I have a freezer full of bolognese and will enjoy it over the cold winter. Next week? I am undecided, but perhaps a soup? We shall see.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Visiting Vermont

I have some very dear friends who retired from academia to a small town in the Green Mountains of Vermont. I visited them last year. Vermont is a magical place; green hills, covered bridges, and slow paced living. Vermont Fresh Network is a group of farmers, growers and producers of local food providing the best to chefs and locals alike. Maple syrup and cheese are two of Vermont's outstanding products. "Dishing up Vermont' by Tracey Medeiros brings recipes from many of the inns and restaurants of the state:

Roasted beets with baby greens, maple mustard vinaigrette and goat cheese from Trapp Family Lodge
Sauteed pork medallions with rosemary butter and apple salsa from Middlebury Inn
Cheddar mashed Yukon potatoes from Trapp Family Lodge
Maple moose from Chruchill House Inn

The salad has many steps, but well worth it. The beets are roasted in a mixture of orange juice, oil, fennel seeds, salt and pepper. The beets are cooled, peeled and cut into chunks. The liquid is saved to use for presentation. Baby greens are tossed with a vinaigrette of vinegar, mustard, lemon juice and maple syrup. The beets are arranged on top and drizzled with the roasting liquid and topped with toasted pumpkin seeds and crumbled Vermont goat cheese. The salad looks spectacular and has many flavors and textures.

Pork tenderloin is a very versatile cut of meat. In this dish, it is no exception. The medallions are sauteed and then finished cooking in a sauce of rosemary, cider vinegar, honey, bourbon and butter. They are served with a salsa of apple, red onion, jalapeno pepper, lime juice and garlic. The salsa was a very pleasant surprise. The combination of flavors complimented the pork very well.

Cheddar mashed potatoes are a simple side for the pork, but the flavor of the sharp cheddar brings a great flavor to the potatoes and compliment the pork.

The 'moose' is just that. It was created by the chef at the inn because moose regularly visit the yard outside the inn. Simple ingredients: egg white, maple syrup and heavy cream. The mixture is frozen and served with toasted walnuts and a sprig of mint. Very sweet, so a small portion goes a long way; but a nice ending to this meal.

Vermont is a special place and one I enjoy visiting. The foods and pace of life are relaxing and a step back in time. I hope you try these recipes. Next week? Lidia Bastianich and her wonderful Italian cooking.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

More Fast Food My Way

Last week in their Kohler presentation, Jacques and Claudine prepared 4 dishes from his book "More Fast Food My Way" Although this was not a quite a 30 minute meal, it is close.

Smoked Salmon Pizza
Crusty Chicken Thighs with Mushroom Sauce
Spinach with Macademia Nuts and Craisins
Skillet Apple Charlotte

The pizza is a elegant looking appetizer. The store had an Indian Naan which I crisped in the oven. It is then spread with a mixture of sour cream and horseradish. Thinly sliced smoked salmon and red onion are put on top. Garnish with parsley leaves. I really liked this and will prepare it again.

Chicken thighs are a good choice for this dish. They remain moist as they cook. A cut down each side of the bone and the flesh opened up allows the thickest part of the thigh to cook evenly and quickly. The thighs are put skin side down in a very hot pan until the skin is very crispy and brown. The heat is lowered and the pan is covered until the thighs are done, about 15 minutes. Remove the thighs and keep warm. Onions, garlic and sliced baby bellas are cooked in a small amount of the fat from the chicken. Some white wine is added and reduced. Usually when I cook poultry I remove the skin after cooking, but since the fat has cooked off, the remaining skin is more of a crust. The color of the chicken is lovely when served over the mushroom sauce. The dish cooks quickly and I would think using a duck breast instead of the thighs might be an interesting option. Lots of flavor!

The Macademias are cut in half and browned in a bit of oil. The spinach is added and cooks down very quickly. The craisins add a bit of color and a tang. The original recipe called for raisins which are not a favorite. I think the craisins are a better choice.

I have never prepared a Charlotte. The recipes I have seen required a special dish and is a bit tedious. This is prepared in a single small skillet and finished in the oven. When inverted on a serving plate it is glazed with peach jam. Very nice and not too sweet or heavy.

This was a very nice meal and none of the recipes was a disappointment. A good possibility for a week night supper.

Next week?.... I have no idea at the moment.