Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Treat or Treat

It's hard to believe it's Halloween already.  Time flies when you spend your weekend cooking.  I thought I would approach the Halloween  theme in the food for the Table.  The menu is a real treat with no tricks involved.  Here is what is on the table:

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Mustard Fruit
Stuffed Pumpkin with Cranberry-Pecan Bread Pudding

Michael Symon is one of my favorite Food Network chefs.  His food is simply prepared and flavorful.  This recipe for pork tenderloin is no exception.  It just took more planning as the fruit and the pork marinate for specific periods of time.  First the fruit: in a sauce pan simmer one Bosc pear cut in small pieces with red wine, sugar, red wine vinegar, salt, whole-grain  mustard, and mustard seeds.  Pour the hot liquid into a jar over dried apricots cut in half and dried cranberries.  After it cools, put a lid on it and place in the refrigerator for a couple of days.  The pork is marinated in a plastic bag overnight.  The marinade is chopped cilantro or parsley, which ever you prefer, Dijon mustard, toasted ground coriander and cumin seeds, kosher salt, smoked paprika and the zest and juice of one lime.  The marinade is poured over the meat, turned to evenly coat and sealed.  The meat is grilled on all sides and finished in the oven.  After it has rested, slice and serve over a bed of arugula.  The mustard fruit is spooned over the top.  A drizzle of EVOO brings it all together. This is an excellent dish.  The meat is tender and the crust has a bright flavor.  The fruit is both sweet and tart.  It would be lovely at a dinner party, however, I am happy to have leftovers  for the rest of the week.

The stuffed pumpkin was something I have not done as a sweet.  I have used a baked pumpkin shell for both soup and stew.  This was very different and quite tasty.  The pumpkin top is removed and saved.  The seeds are cleaned out of the inside and then the inside is brushed with a bit of melted butter and sprinkled with brown sugar.  Eggs, sugar, melted butter, and half & half are whipped together.  The recipe called for cubed raisin bread, but I don't care for raisins so I chose a loaf of Parmesan olive bread.  The egg mixture is poured over the bread cubes and toasted pecans are added.  The pudding is baked in a square pan along side the pan with the pumpkin.  After about 25 minutes remove both from the oven and spoon the pudding into the pumpkin and return to the oven for another 15 minutes. With the pumpkin top on, the dish makes an impressive presentation.  The pudding is spooned on to a plate being sure that you get some of the cooked pumpkin too.  A vanilla lemon sauce is drizzled over it all.  In a saucepan, put a split vanilla bean, water, sugar, cornstarch, and salt.  Cook until smooth and thickened.  Stir in butter, grated lemon zest and juice and heat through.  Remove the vanilla bean before using.

Capital Brewery in Middleton has another terrific beer to serve, Island Wheat Ale.  The perfect beverage for the meal.

There were lots of new and interesting techniques and flavors on this table.  I will prepare the tenderloin again as a regular fall entree.  The pumpkin bread pudding has lots of possibilities and I will pursue other fruits and breads. I expect that next week turkey will be featured on the Table. This time of year I could have it weekly in many ways. I love the way the house smells while it is cooking.

Have a great week; stay warm.  I will be attending a cookbook signing for another one of my Food Network favorites, Ina Garten. Her new book  "Foolproof", is wonderful and I am anxious to try some of the recipes in the next weeks.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Pumpkin Two Ways

A beautiful day in my neighborhood and as promised, today I will tell you about pumpkin on Marilyn's Table.   It's my favorite time of year and the produce is amazing.  Today's Table will feature pumpkin in two very different ways.  Here is what's on the Table:

Pumpkin Ravioli with Sage Brown Butter Sauce
Spiced Pumpkin Dunking Sticks
Alton Brown's Hot and Spicy Cocoa

The ravioli recipe came from Saveur magazine.  However, it appeared to be a bit tedious.  So I took some shortcuts.  First of all, I did not make pasta dough from scratch.  I have found that using wonton skins work very well and the finished dish looks a bit free from. Also I used canned pumpkin (not pie filling) instead of roasting a whole pumpkin.

First comes the filling; onions are sauteed in a bit of EVOO about 10 minutes.  Then red pepper flakes are added along with amaretti cookie crumbs, cinnamon, Parmesan cheese, honey, white wine and salt.  Cook to combine and then add the canned pumpkin and heat through.  Cover and set aside to keep warm.

In a small skillet melt unsalted butter and add the sage leaves and cook until they are crisp.  Set this aside as well.  Heat a pot of salted water to boiling; dip the wonton skins in the water to soften, just a few seconds will do.  Arrange 3 - 5 on a plate and spoon  some of the pumpkin filling in the center of each, leaving a bit of the edge.  Lay another wonton skin over the filling and press the edges together.  Serve the warm sage butter over the top.  I really liked this process as well as the dish itself.  I expect to prepare more ravioli's using this method.

The cocoa is a dry mix that is mixed and stored in an airtight container.  It can then be made one cup at a time.  It is rich and creamy with just a bit of a kick.  Mix together: powdered sugar, Dutch process cocoa, powdered milk, salt, cornstarch and a pinch or two of cayenne pepper.  Fill a mug about half full of the mix and pour boiling water over.  Stir and top with whipped cream and a sprinkle of nutmeg. Yum!

The cookies were a bit of a disappointment, but I discovered I had left out an ingredient so it was no wonder they were not what they should have been.  Soft unsalted butter is beaten with sugar until thoroughly mixed.  Then cinnamon, baking powder, nutmeg, ginger salt and cloves are added and mixed together.  In a separate bowl, canned pumpkin, egg and vanilla are combined and added to the butter mixture.  Stir in flour with a wooden spoon.  Now the dough is to be placed in a pastry bag and piped in a corkscrew motion onto a cookie sheet.  Well I found the dough to be to stiff to use the pastry bag so I rolled the dough into 'little cigars' about 4 inches long and put them on the baking sheet. They are to bake 5 - 7 minutes, but since they were not in the shape the recipe called for, I left them a bit longer.  While they cool a glaze is made to drizzle over the cookie.  Cream cheese, butter, are mixed together. lemon and orange peel are grated and added with some lemon juice.  Powdered sugar and milk are added until the glaze is of a consistency that will drizzle over the cooled cookies.  I grated more orange peel over the glaze.  I will work with this again, being sure to put in ALL the ingredients.  Perhaps they will come out lighter and more of a dunking consistency.

All in all the meal was good and perfect for the weather and time of year.  I will be taking next week off from cooking.  I will be in Kohler, Wisconsin for the Food/Wine Experience and will see demonstrations by two of my favorite PBS chefs.  It's one of my favorite events and Kohler is a lovely town. Have a good week and I will tell  you about it in the following week.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


The Autumn season brings us many things.  Some of my favorite foods arrive on the scene both in the farmers markets and in the supermarkets. Halloween, homecoming parades and football games, corn mazes, hayrides and apple picking come to mind. One of the big foodie events is Oktoberfest.  Typically the food involves brats and sauerkraut, candy apples and cider.  However, I decided to do different foods for Marilyn's Table.  Here is what we had:

German Rouladen
Cabbage and Potato Saute
Black Forest Tart

I have never made a Rouladen and was surprised as to how simple it was.  A flank steak is pounded flat and cut in rectangles. One side is painted with stone ground mustard.  Sliced deli ham, onion slices and dill pickle spear are arranged on top.  The meat is rolled and secured with string.  Saute in a bit of oil/butter mix and when rolls are browned pour over an inch or so of good beef stock. Cover and simmer for and hour and a half until meat is tender.

While the meat is cooking, saute diced onion in a bit of butter until soft.  Stir in shredded savoy cabbage and cook until wilted.  Add sliced cooked canned potatoes.  When heated through, stir in diced deli ham, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper.  Add a bit of water and cook about 10 minutes.

To serve, spoon some of the cabbage mixture on a plate and place a meat roll on top.  Spoon some of the broth over the top. Garnish with chopped parsley for some color.

Dessert was a classic Black Forest Tart.  I changed the recipe up a bit, and downsized it as well.  In the bottom of a mini spring form pan, press crushed chocolate thin cookies with a bit of butter added.  Melt some dark chocolate over a low heat until it is completely melted.  Cream powdered sugar with half a package of cream cheese and stir in the chocolate.  Add some cherry pie filling and pour mixture into the crust.  Chill in refrigerator. When ready to serve spoon some cherry pie filling over the tart and top with some whipped cream. Sprinkle with additional cookie crumbs.  More pie filling can be spooned around each slice.

I found some Oktoberfest beer from Capital Brewery in Middleton Wisconsin and served it with the meal.  A heavier meal than my usual, but very tasty.  The beer was perfect with the food, I wish I had purchased more than one bottle.  Still time.....

I have a lot of Autumn harvest recipes.  I'm thinking that I might just feature some of them in the weeks to come. Perhaps not as a meal, but as special foods of the season.  So in the next weeks look for recipes featuring apples, pumpkin, and squash.  Get out and enjoy the crisp weather and the rapidly changing leaves.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Comfort Food

Looking out the window, it is clear that fall is upon us.  The leaves are beginning to change quickly. I fear that the color season will be short because the summer was so hot and dry. And next week is the last of my farmers market.  I will have to make a trip to stock up on the fresh produce to use for next weeks table and perhaps to freeze.  This week I pulled out my crock pot for the first time and used my first can of pumpkin.  Here is what was on Marilyn's Table.

Coffee Braised Short Ribs with Cheesy Polenta
Tuscan Kale Caesar Slaw
Gingersnap Crumble Pumpkin Parfaits

I have never had much luck with short ribs, but this recipe sounded like it might be a winner.  My first suggestion is that you not purchase boneless short ribs.(I did because it was all they had)  There is not enough fat on them and cooking on the bone always makes for better flavor.  The ribs are sauteed in a skillet until brown, turning them on all sides.  Drain them on a paper towel lined plate. Add white wine and strong coffee to the skillet and simmer, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Put chopped onion and minced garlic in the bottom of a slow cooker.  Mix in salt, chili powder and oregano. Transfer the ribs to the  slow cooker and pour the wine/coffee mixture over.  Cook on high for about 3 1/2 hours.  Uncover and cook until ribs are falling off the bone.

I used instant polenta and followed the recipe on the container.  At the end of the cooking time I added grated Parmesan and stirred in until melted.  Serve the ribs and a bit of the onion sauce over the polenta. This is a rich dish so I decided to soften the richness with a simple salad.

The market had some excellent looking kale.  I cut it into thin strips to serve.  The dressing is lemon juice, anchovy paste, garlic, Dijon mustard and EVOO.  Shake it in a covered jar and add Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste.  Drizzle over the strips of kale and top with sliced hard boiled egg.  I particularly like the dressing and the leftover kale went into a pot of vegetable soup.

This dessert was the first of  a lot of pumpkin recipes in my 'in the wings' box in the kitchen.  The canned pumpkin (not pie filling) is mixed with brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and a dash of salt.  A quart of softened vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt is mixed in and chilled in the refrigerator.  Gingersnaps are crushed and stirred in a bowl with melted butter.  They harden nicely on the counter.  Parfait glasses are filled with the pumpkin mixture, topped with broken up gingersnap crumble and set in the freezer to set.  To serve, the gingersnap crumble is spooned over the top and whipped cream goes over the crumble.  I garnished with more of the crumble, but a sprinkle of pumpkin spice would be nice as well.

All in all it was an OK dinner.  The short ribs were a bit chewy, but the polenta and the sauce worked well with them.  The salad cut through the richness of the the entree.  The star was the parfait.  I have used pumpkin mixed with ice cream before as a pie filling, but this was a good choice.

I am thinking that next week will be Oktoberfest at the Table. Stop by and see what is served.  Have a good week and stay warm.