Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Welcoming Autumn

My favorite time year has arrived....Autumn or Fall, whichever  you prefer.  I am inspired to really cook something comforting and hearty.  Unlike Summer when cooking anything that isn't served cold is a trial. Over the last weeks many of my friends and family have talked about pots of chili.  I love chili and decided that would be on the table this week.  I found a new recipe and was anxious to try it.  Here is what was on Marilyn's Table this week:

Al Roker's Spectacular Chili
Bruschetta with Olives, Artichokes, Ricotta and Prosciutto

First comes the chili.  This particular one is considered 'healthy' for several reasons.  Minimal oil, very lean meat, lots of beans and some exceptional tomatoes.  There are two kinds of meat, the first is chuck steak.  Chuck has a lot of flavor, but needs to be cooked longer.  My supermarket had it in packages that were bite sized pieces with all the fat and gristle cut off.  Perfect so I didn't have to spend a lot of time trimming and dicing.  The second meat was mild Italian sausage, with the casings removed.  If you are so inclined, the sausage also comes in a hot spicy variety.  The meat is browned in a couple of teaspoons of oil until browned. It is removed from the pan with a slotted spoon and all but a teaspoon of fat is removed.  Onions and garlic are added to the pan and cooked until softened. The spices are added to the pan and they are cumin, smoked paprika and chili powder stirring until the onions are coated.  Then comes a very large can of tomatoes.  If you watch any of the television chefs, they rave about San Marzano tomatoes.  I found them in the store and wondered if they really  made a difference. Since I really liked this chili, I can't help but think the tomatoes made the difference. The meat goes back in the pan and simmered for about 1 1/2 hours.  There are three kinds of beans, which I rinsed and drained before adding to the pot.  I used pinto beans, dark red kidney beans and great northern beans.  This simmers for another half hour.  What I found interesting is that no salt or pepper are added during the cooking.  A pinch over a bowl before serving was all I used.  The toppings I used were Greek yogurt and some reduced fat shredded cheese.  I have not had a chili I have enjoyed more in a long time.  It's almost gone and I look forward to it again come those cold winter days ahead.

With chili I like to have some crusty bread for soaking up any juices.  I have a new kitchen toy that is a stove top toaster. It lays flat on the burner and smaller slices of bread toast very nicely.  I used an Italian baguette and cut it in half inch diagonal pieces. A mixture of chopped Calamata olives, diced tomato, diced marinated artichokes, diced onion, garlic, parsley, basil, oregano, bread crumbs and Ricotta cheese is mixed in a bowl.  Just a pinch of salt and pepper.  The mixture is spooned on the toasted bread slices and ribbons of prosciutto are the garnish.  This was a nice side for the chili. However, the topping fell off in the chili.....not necessarily a bad thing, but I only used one to dip into the chili. The rest were consumed alone.

This was a great start to cold weather cooking and I look forward to more in the months to come.  This week I will get out my crock pot.  A recipe for short ribs has appeared from my file and if I don't have to take out a loan to purchase them, they will be on the table next week.

Have a great rest of the week and stop by next week to see if the short ribs are on the table.  Enjoy the cooler weather and the changing of the leaves.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Ducky Weekend

It's getting to be that time of favorite.  Fall!!  There is a bit of color in the leaves, a nip in the air and lots of Canada Geese on our lake.  I enjoy duck when the cooler weather comes.  This is what is on Marilyn's Table this week:

Farmers Market Chopped Salad
Duck breasts a l'Orange
Almond Meringue Cookies with Peaches

I love the salad and expect to prepare it more often, perhaps swapping out some of the ingredients. Everything is raw. This one had snow peas, yellow bell pepper, zucchini, yellow squash, golden beets, chopped watercress and scallions.  Everything was cut in thin strips and tossed together with a creamy lemon dressing.  The dressing is fresh lemon juice, light mayonnaise, canola oil and salt and pepper.   Lot of crunch and the dressing will be repeated often on other salads.

Since I could not find individual duck breasts.  I purchased a whole duck and with my trusty boning knife took it apart.  I froze the leg/thigh portions and used the breasts for the table.  I roasted the carcass  and then used it to make duck broth.  That joined the leg/thigh portions in the freezer. The breasts are scored on the fat side and slow cooked in a skillet to render off the fat.  The fat is drained off (and now is in my refrigerator) Lots of things, potatoes in particular, are excellent when cooked in duck fat. The breasts are returned to the skillet and cooked until the doneness (not sure if that's a word) you prefer.  I like medium rare. While the breasts cook the orange sauce is made with a sugar syrup, red wine vinegar, duck stock, orange juice, a bit of butter and salt and pepper.  After the sauce is thickened, orange segments are added and blanched orange peel.  It is just sweet enough to cut what little duck fat remains on the breasts.  Next time I will use cherries in place of the orange.

Now for dessert......probably not something I will make again.  Almonds are ground and added with sugar and vanilla to beaten egg whites.  The cook in a slow oven for about 2 hours until crisp.  They are spread with a butter cream made with sugar, egg yolks, butter and  vanilla. The butter cream is covered with sliced peaches, another meringue, more butter cream, whipped cream and toasted almonds.  Makes my teeth itch just thinking about it.  It was way too sweet for my palate.

The weather for next weekend is supposed to be very fallish (not a word either).  A lot of my friends and family prepared chili last weekend, so I will follow their lead and chili will be on Marilyn's Table next week along with some type of bread.  Enjoy the cooler weather and do stop by next week