Sunday, October 30, 2011

Kohler Food Revisited

This weeks table has a dish from the Kohler Food and Wine Experience of last week. Andrew Zimmern prepared two chicken dishes, one of them is on the table today. Along with the dish is a pilaf. I will also show the dish that I prepared as part of my class mid-term. This table is an interesting mixture of flavors and textures. I was very pleased with everything. Here is the table:

Pan-Roasted Chicken with Apples and Cider

Brown and Wild Rice Pilaf with herbs and Cranberries

Toasted Couscous Salad with Grilled Vegetables and Smoked Shrimp

I used chicken thighs and a breast cut in half. Since there is heavy cream in the dish, I removed the skin. The chicken is sauteed in a bit of butter until nicely browned on all sides. The chicken is moved to one side of the pan and sliced shallots are added and cooked until softened. A mixture of cider vinegar, apple jack, apple cider and broth are added with two thinly sliced Granny Smith apples. The liquid is reduced by half and a cup of cream is added. The sauce thickens quickly and dried cranberries and fresh tarragon are stirred in. The sauce is served over the chicken pieces. Lots of flavor, though not a lot of color.

The pilaf begins with chopped onion and fresh thyme are heated in EVOO. Celery and chopped butternut squash are added along with chicken stock, salt and pepper. Brown and wild rice are added and simmered until the broth is absorbed. Dried cranberries are added before serving. This was a nice dish to accompany the chicken. A nice comfort meal for a rainy afternoon.

The toasted couscous salad was a dish I was very proud of. The couscous is toasted in a pan with a spritz of EVOO. Hot stock is added and the pan covered so that the broth can be absorbed. In a bowl a dressing/marinade is prepared with white balsamic, Dijon mustard, garlic, EVOO and S&P. Zucchini, yellow squash, asparagus, cherry tomatoes, red and yellow peppers are cut in pieces and marinated in the dressing. They are then grilled until slightly soft with grill marks. The vegetables are cut in bit size pieces and tossed with the couscous. The smoked shrimp are cut in thirds and added to the salad. The dressing is poured over the salad and a squeeze of lemon over the top. The tomato rose in the photo was a bit large, but since it was my first and it actually worked, I left it. The rose in class was not so successful so I garnished the salad with a plump whole shrimp. I like this salad a lot and will use it often with seasonal vegetables and a different protein....or none at all.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Midterm Trial Run

The midterm for my class is in two weeks. We will need to prepare a cold soup, a composed salad and a sandwich. This weeks table shows the recipes I elected to try. We shall see if the other two in my group agree or if we will select something different. Here is what on my table:

Gazpacho with Herbed Goat Cheese
Roasted Root Vegetable Salad with Chili Rubbed Tenderloin
Goat Cheese and Caramelized Onions

Gazpacho is the simplest of all soups. Not exactly a soup for the fall, but I think it could also be heated. Everything goes in a blender and chilled. Chopped cored tomatoes, diced cucumber, diced red and green peppers, sliced onion, chopped garlic and jalapeno. Bread cubes are soaked in tomato juice and added to the vegetables. White wine vinegar, salt and pepper are the seasonings with more tomato juice to thin the consistency. I did have to blend it in batches, and it came out slightly chunky. I served it with a round of herbed goat cheese and some fresh herbs. I think I have finally found a recipe I will repeat.

The salad is made up of oven roasted beets and sweet potatoes; a very colorful combination. The tenderloin is rubbed with a chili based mixture, grilled, finished in the oven and cooled slightly. The beets and sweet potatoes are arranged over a bed of arugula and chopped herbs with the sliced tenderloin along one side. The vinaigrette is standard; vinegar, Dijon, salt and pepper whisked with EVOO. The addition of a teaspoon of the beet juice gave the dressing a nice red color. I was not crazy about this. I think I would have liked better without the meat.

Instead of the traditional sandwich, I chose to do a crostini. A whole grain baguette is cut in half inch slices and toasted in the oven. Onions are caramelized in a pan and cooled slightly. Goat cheese is spread on the toasts with the onions on top. This is going to be a regular for me. Very flavorful.

This table had it's high points and some not so high. It will be interesting to see how the rest of my group respond.

I will not be here next week. I will be at the Kohler Food & Wine Experience. One of my favorite Food Network chefs, Alex Guarnaschelli is doing two demonstrations for which I have tickets. The event is always fun and informative. Kohler is a lovely town and some of the activities are in The American Club resort. Have a good week and try to stay warm. It sounds like the weather is going to turn chilly.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Vegetarian Delight

This was a glorious fall weekend. So...I decided the menu for the Table would be quick and easy. I planned a visit to the Chicago Botanic Garden with my camera. Also with the produce being extra special, I used as much fresh as I could. Here is what is on the Table:

South American Squash and Vegetable Ragout
Tomato-Basil Granite

The ragout is a variation of an Argentinean stew. A lot of fresh vegetables are used along with a surprise. The surprise is dried fruit! Apricots and prunes are put in a jar with a cup of boiling water over them. They sit for at least a couple of hours, drained (save the water) and rough chop. Set aside while onion, garlic and dry oregano are sauteed. Chopped red pepper and diced canned tomatoes and juice are added. Simmer about 15 minutes. Coarsely chopped Yukon gold potatoes and a sweet potato are added and cooked until slightly soft when fresh sweet corn kernels, the apricot and prunes and their soaking water are added. Heat through and add a can of drained, rinsed kidney beans. Season with salt and pepper to taste. I filled half an acorn squash (slice off the bottom so it will sit flat) with the stew and baked until the squash is soft, but not collapsed. This is a hardy filling meal. The rest of the ragout will be heated and served as a stew, perhaps over rice later in the week.

Because the dish is filling, I thought a simple light dessert was in order. I chose a Granite made with more fresh produce. Tomatoes (cut an X in the bottom) are dropped in boiling water until the skin begins to loosen. Immediately remove them and put in ice water. The peels will come away easily. Seed and chop the flesh; put in blender with some simple syrup (water and sugar heated until sugar is dissolved, set aside to cool) lemon juice, tomato paste, salt and chopped basil. Blend until smooth and pour into a glass dish. Put in freezer. Check on it and as it begins to freeze, scrape with a fork to that is becomes slushy. This should take several hours. Serve in a glass dish with basil leaf garnish. I had never done this before and was pleased with the result. More Granite in my future.

This is was a great meal and more vegetarian dishes will appear on the Table. By the way I did roast a turkey breast to use the rest of the week, but it did not appear on this table. Have a great week and enjoy the lovely weather.

Monday, October 3, 2011

October Day

This was a perfect autumn weekend. Lots of sun, the trees are well into the color change and it was Apple Fest in Long Grove. Way too many people, so I stayed only long enough to have my annual cider donut, then came home to put together the meal for this weeks Table.

Pumpkin Spider

Tuna Confit

Grilled Vegetables

Parsley Salad with Grilled Figs and Gorgonzola

Baked Apple with Spiced Cranberry Relish

The spider (spiked cider) is an interesting drink to take the chill off a cold day. Fresh cider is simmered with cinnamon sticks and cloves. Canned pumpkin is whisked in and heated through. The mixture is drained into a mug; a shot of rum added as well as a cinnamon stick. Very pretty, but the rum didn't add anything at all so I left it out of the second cup. I expect this will be a new staple on a cold winter evening. Very simple.

The tuna confit was a new experience. The tuna steak is salted and refrigerated over night. Into a pot goes yellow onion and fennel, thinly sliced, garlic, a split serrano pepper, basil, thyme, bay leaves and pepper corns. EVOO and Canola oil are added to cover and simmered for about half an hour. The herbs will be wilted and the oil very fragrant. The tuna is added and simmered until pink in the middle, about 10-15 minutes. Be sure there is enough oil to cover the tuna. The tuna is set aside until it is room temperature. The herbs are pressed through a sieve to get all their flavor out and into the oil. It's a terrific base for a vinaigrette. The vegetables are placed on an oiled grill and basted with the herb oil. I used red potato and acorn squash slices, thick onion and tomato slices, and red and yellow peppers. After grilling the vegetables are placed in the center of the plate and the tuna steak on top. A bit more of the oil is drizzled over all. I was very pleased with this dish and look forward to the leftovers.

Using Parsley for a salad is new in the last weeks. I tossed the parsley with a bit of the herb oil mixed with some balsamic vinegar. The fresh figs are cut in half and grilled basting with balsamic vinegar, just until soft. They top the parsley salad and a bit of crumbled Gorgonzola cheese is a garnish. Figs are new thing for me. Had not had them until a few years ago (Fig Newtons don't count) Fresh ones have a short life so I enjoy them while I can.

Last year about this time I did a baked apple, so I decided to do another this year. I found a different recipe that incorporated another of my favorite fall/winter foods, cranberries. I had a bag in the freezer and cooked them in ruby port wine with diced red onion, fresh ginger slices, dark brown sugar, salt, pepper and cinnamon. When the cranberries have popped, set aside to cool a bit. The apple is hollowed out with a melon baller and the hole filled with the relish. Cover with foil and bake until apple is soft, but not collapsed. I let it cool a bit and added a bit of whipped cream and a sprig of mint. I particularly liked this relish because it was not overly sweet and I will use this recipe again during the holidays.

This table was one I am very proud of. It looked wonderful and tasted the same. A very fitting table for this time of year.