Monday, November 22, 2010

May the Best Buckeye Win




This coming Saturday is the big college game day. My alma mater, Ohio State, plays Michigan in a match that has long been the biggest rivalry in college football. Some of my family will be at the game cheering for my Bucks, and my friend and fellow Buckeye, Debbie, is coming over with her family to watch the game with me.

Debbie is a diehard Buckeye fan. Her dog’s name is Wayne Woodrow Hayes (Woody, for short) after the infamous Buckeye coach of many years. She is worried that our TV is not big enough, that I will talk too much during the game, that I don’t know any of the player’s names, that I don’t have a scarlet and gray sweatshirt to wear and that I know nothing about football. She’s right on all fronts. I only care about what we will eat.

I decided to make an All-Ohio menu. We will be serving chili cheese dogs with Skyline chili (imported from Cincinnati), Buckeye potato chips (imported from Columbus) with a garlicky blue cheese dip topped with bacon. And for dessert, I will be making Buckeye candies—a delicacy that is served at many an OSU tailgate party. Little balls made of peanut butter and confectioners sugar are dipped in melted chocolate, leaving a cap of peanut butter at the top. Made to look like the buckeye nut—the fruit of the tree of my home state—these yummy treats are one of the best things about being from Ohio.

I am looking forward to game day. My daughters and I made a big batch of buckeyes, and in the spirit of good sportsmanship I shared some with a parent at Sophie's school who is a diehard Wolverine. And I’ll definitely tune in to the Ohio State marching band half time show—in between the chili dogs and dessert. Let’s Go Buckeyes!!!

Buckeyes

1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter

1 stick softened butter

1/2 tsp. vanilla

3 cups powdered sugar (about 1/2 lb.)

4 cups good quality semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 tsps. vegetable shortening

In a large bowl (or the bowl or an electric mixer), combine the peanut butter, butter, and vanilla. Gradually add the powdered sugar to the mix until it is well mixed.

Roll the mixture into 3/4" balls, using your hands, and place on a plate lined with waxed paper. Stick a toothpick in each of the balls (to be used as a handle for dipping in the chocolate). Chill in the freezer for about 30 minutes.

When the peanut butter balls have set, gently melt the chocolate and shortening in the top of a double boiler, stirring frequently, under smooth.

Dip the frozen peanut butter balls in the chocolate, holding them by the toothpick. Leave a small portion on the peanut butter showing at top so the candy resembles the fruit of the buckeye tree. Return the buckeyes to the plate. Gently remove the toothpick and smooth over the hole. Refrigerate at least two hours before serving.

Giving Thanks That The Turkey is Gone: Turkey Chili

My children won’t eat leftovers. No amount of cajoling, bribing, or demanding will get them to eat food the day after it was cooked and served. That poses a bit of a problem for the biggest leftover meal of the year: Thanksgiving. Nothing can be served in its originally prepared state to these picky eaters. So, to throw them off, I began creating a party the day after Thanksgiving—a Mexican fiesta with guacamole, chips, cheese quesadillas and steamed tortillas (served up with drinks that have pineapple and cherry skewers in them!)---and a big steaming pot of turkey chili.

It looks or tastes nothing like Thanksgiving dinner. The thick spicy tomato sauce is flavored with onions, peppers, celery, garlic, beans and a mixture of spices that completely mask the fact that it was yesterday’s meal. I have even chopped up the previous days steamed carrots or baked sweet potatoes, as long as they don’t look like they did at Thanksgiving. My girls have happily eaten the chili topped with shredded cheese, sour cream and a little extra hot sauce. And it packs a nutritional punch with the protein loaded turkey and beans.

Our Turkey Chili Fiesta has now become an annual event—and I have passed along the recipe to friends and family who cannot face another turkey pot pie or turkey soup leftover meal. Blend up some nice icy margaritas and chill the Coronas—it’s a great way to celebrate the weekend--con gusto!!

Turkey Chili

2 onions diced fine

2 peppers diced fine

2 stalks celery diced fine

2 carrots diced fine

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tbsp cinnamon

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp allspice

2 tbsp chili powder

salt/pepper to taste

(I have also thrown in curry, chinese five spices, and cayenne before to taste)

(I have used up our cooked carrots from dinner and also sweet potatoes--it's a great way to use leftovers!)

Olive oil

2 cups chicken stock.

turkey diced into small bites (2 cups or whatever is leftover. If you have the turkey carcass with meat on, add it with the chicken stock and let the meat steam off--then shred with a fork.

2 large cans tomatoes, chopped

1 can tomato sauce,

1 can garbanzo beans

1 can kidney beans

1 can pink beans.

Heat Oil in large stock pot or dutch oven. Add vegetables and spices above. Saute 5-7 minutes. Add chicken stock and turkey/carcass. Cover and let steam 20 minutes. Shred remaining meat from carcass with fork and return to pan. Discard carcass. Say prayer of thanks that the turkey is finally finished.

Add to stock 2 cans tomatoes, chopped, 1 can tomato sauce, 1 can garbanzo, 1 can kidney, 1 can pink beans. Simmer for 1 hour (or put on low and let cook all day--that's what we did). Correct seasoning and add tomato paste to thicken about 10 minutes before eating.

Serve with cheese, sour cream, guacamole, chips, steamed tortillas and beer.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Healing Foods: Miso-Marinated Black Cod

I cooked for our friends Cynthia and Michael this weekend, which is always a fun challenge. Both are worldly, consummate foodies who love to cook, and they are great company. Our evenings together are always fun, and full of laughter and great conversation. I wanted to cook healthy, and when I saw the beautiful cod fillets at the fish market I was reminded of a recipe from one of my favorite food websites www.rasamalaysia.com. Bee Yinn Low, the blog founder and editor, is an amazing cook who has adapted (and created) many Asian recipes that are easy and delicious. Her Nobu inspired Miso-Marinated Black Cod is one of those—and is as easy as it is mouth wateringly delicious. And with two nutrient dense foods, miso and cod, it is a great healing dish.

According to the World’s Healthiest Foods website (www.whfoods.org), cod is an excellent low-calorie source of protein (a four-ounce serving of cod provides 52.1% of the daily need for protein for only 119 calories) cod contains a variety of powerful nutrients (vitamins B12, B6, and Omega 3 fatty acids) to aid in heart health, lowering cholesterol, and strengthening the immune system. Paired with miso, cod becomes an even healthier choice, since miso is recommended as a powerful B12 source. It also provides daily needs for manganese (for healthy bones and blood vessels), and the trace minerals zinc (for aiding immune function and healing) and copper (for aiding in energy production and antioxidant defenses).

We vowed to make this dish more often—so I will work on great sides to pair with it in future posts. Steamed broccoli and rice were our side dish choices this time around—which were tasty. So, with thanks to Bee and Nobu, I am happy to introduce you to this recipe.

2-3 black cod fillets (about 1 lb)

For the marinade:
1/4 cup sake
1/4 cup mirin
4 tablespoons white miso paste
3 tablespoons sugar

Mix the marinade ingredients thoroughly in a plastic container (with lid) and set aside. Save some for plating purposes.

Pat the fish fillets dry with paper towels and put them into the plastic container with the marinate. Cover the lid and leave to steep in the refrigerator overnight or for 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Preheat an indoor grill at the same time.

Lightly wipe off any excess miso marinade clinging to the fish fillets but don’t rinse it off. Place the fish on the grill and lightly grill on both sides until the surface turns brown.

Transfer the fish fillets to the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes.

Add a few extra drops of the marinade on the plate and serve hot.

Adapted from Nobu: The Cookbook

Recipe and photo courtesy of www.rasamalaysia.com

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Comfort Food: Norcino Pasta (Butcher's Spaghetti)

One of my favorite New York restaurants, Beppe, closed its doors a couple of months ago. Beppe was a warm, welcoming space with delicious Italian foods prepared by chef Cesare Casella. Cesare grew his own herbs, both in clay pots outside the restaurant and in his own garden, and generously flavored his foods with herbs, both fresh and fried. His Tuscan fries—french fries with quick fried herbs and sea salt were a favorite of many returning customers, including me.

But my favorite dish there was a simple bowl of Norcino pasta, or butcher’s spaghetti. It is such a delicious, satisfying and comforting dish—so simple in its ingredients and so pleasing to the palate—it became my only main course as I went back again and again with friends to introduce them to this amazing comfort food. The mix of flavors and spices is complex and rich, and as hard as I tried I could not seem to replicate it at home. A friend and I found a recipe on an Italian website which came close—but it did not quite match Cesare’s dish.

I recently came across a blog written by Cesare (Italian Cooking in the Loop) in which he divulges the recipe for this revered dish. Imagine my delight when I saw HIS recipe, and realized that I could make this at home for my family. I am certain it will become a staple in our comfort food repertoire.

And since my daughter and I promised to start making comfort foods from different cultures and countries on our Sunday cooking days, we will gladly make this one. Grazie Mille, Cesare, for generously sharing this recipe with your fans. Comfort food—with a lovely Italian accent.

Norcino Pasta (Butcher’s Spaghetti)

2 tablespoons roughly chopped garlic

1 1/2 cups roughly chopped red onions

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

2 1/2 pounds hot sausage, casings removed and meat crumbled

1 cup dry red wine

3 1/2 cups canned whole tomatoes, with their juice, pureed or finely chopped (You can also buy pureed tomatoes, but whole ones are less acidic and of higher quality)

Large pinch crushed red pepper

Large pinch grated nutmeg

Large pinch ground cloves

Large pinch ground cinnamon

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 pound spaghetti or tagliatelle

Grated Parmesan cheese, for finishing

In a food processor puree the garlic and onions to a coarse paste.

Coat the bottom of a large skillet with the olive oil. Add the garlic and onion paste and the rosemary and sauté over medium heat until the mixture begins to color, 10-15 minutes.

Add the sausage meats, stirring with a wooden spoon to break them up. When the sausage is brown, add the wine and reduce completely, 8-10 minutes

Add the tomatoes, crushed red pepper, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and 4 cups water. Season with salt and pepper. Cook over low hear for 3 hours, adding additional water, a little at a time, if the mixture starts to look too dry. When the sauce is ready, skim off the excess fat and adjust the seasonings.

Bring large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until just under al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.

Add the spaghetti to the sauce with 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Continue cooking 2 to 3 minutes for the pasta to absorb some of the sauce, adding more pasta water if the mixture becomes too dry. Sprinkle with parmesan and serve.

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Pumpkin With a Purpose: Curried Pumpkin Soup

My daughter Sophie thought it would be a good idea to recycle our Halloween pumpkins this year. Of the 4 pumpkins that we picked on our apple and pumpkin picking excursions, only one was carved into a jack-o-lantern. After watching me struggle with a bevy of sharp, dangerous carving and x-acto knives to make the first one, Sophie suggested we draw faces on the rest. Phew.

When I suggested that by not cutting the pumpkins we could actually repurpose them after Halloween and make them into something delicious, she was all for it. We roasted the seeds with olive oil and salt (a big hit), and made pumpkin and sweet potato puree (not so big). With more than 6 cups of purée after cleaning, roasting and scraping the pumpkin from its skin (and throwing it into the food processor to mash), we had enough pumpkin to try a couple of experiments. Curried pumpkin soup was the big favorite—a creamy, spicy and warm bowl of goodness, and I am pleased my girls will eat something so healthful.

I have gone on before about the nutrient dense winter squashes (see sweet potato puree and butternut squash farfalle recipes) so I will be brief about the many health benefits. These beta carotene and vitamin rich foods help lower the risk of asthma, heart disease, arthritis, colon cancer and diabetes. In addition to all that has been mentioned before--we all have good reason to get more winter squashes into our meals.

So feel free to give your pumpkin an even better purpose than creating an eerie ambiance on Halloween. Cook it up and make some healthy and delicious fall foods!

Curried Pumpkin Soup

2 medium onions, finely chopped (2 cups)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon ground ginger

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon turmeric

2 tablespoons curry powder

3 ½ cups fresh pumpkin purée (or use canned pumpkin)

4 cups water

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

1 (14-oz) can unsweetened coconut milk

1/4 cup olive oil

Cook onions in butter in a wide 6-quart heavy pot over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add cumin, coriander, turmeric, curry and cardamom and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in salt, red pepper flakes, pumpkin, water, broth, and coconut milk and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes. In batches, purée soup in a food processor or blender until smooth (be careful when blending hot liquids!), and return soup to pot. Keep soup warm over low heat. Correct seasonings and thin with additional chicken stock, if needed.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Food to Comfort the Grieving

When I was 20, my oldest brother died in a car accident. It rocked our family to the core, and my sisters, younger brother and I together watched our grieving parents and wondered how we could possibly help them in their sorrow. We couldn’t begin to focus on our own loss as we helped to plan the funeral mass, and began the sad task of letting our extended family and friends know what had happened.

My forever friend Mary, who I have known since first grade, came over to console me. She brought me a bag of salted cashews, one of our favorite foods. I was so touched that she would come over to offer her sympathy and dry shoulder to me, and I remember how heartwarming those first salty cashews tasted once I was reminded by my friend to eat.

Mary was the first of many friends and neighbors to start arriving with food gifts--comforting, sustaining foods to feed our family and help us through our grief. It was such a lovely gift of community, sympathy and sustenance as we made it through the sad and painful rituals that follow death. Warm, bubbling casseroles, frosty delicious cakes and plates of hearty, comforting food, both savory and sweet, graced our tables and helped to feed the family and friends who passed through our home that week. These gifts of kindness and sympathy were a wonderful comfort to all of us, and I promised myself then that when I knew people close to me were grieving, I would start bringing out comfort food recipes of my own.

Two weeks ago, a dear friend from childhood was in town from L.A., and he was coming to dinner at our house with a group of friends. I haven’t seen my friend Terry in a few years, and was excitedly planning the menu for our evening together. On the morning of our dinner, he got a call that is father was very ill, and he needed to go back to our hometown of Grove City, Ohio. His father passed away that day, and Terry began his grieving rituals. I was happy to know that so many friends from our childhood were sending Terry their thoughts and prayers, and I started thinking about what I could do to offer support.

It got me thinking about the comfort foods I have had in times of grief, and the dishes that I make for friends and family as they go through the grieving process. From shepherd’s pie and boeuf bourgignon to pound cake and brownies, there are a host of foods that sustain and comfort in tough times. I am offering a couple of mine below—and sending Terry the chocolatey brownies for when he needs to finally sit down and have that big cry that he’s been holding in while keeping everyone else together.

Brownies

4 squares unsweetened chocolate

3/4 cup butter or margarine

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup flour

1 cup coarsely chopped pecans (optional)

Heat oven to 350°F. Line 13x9-inch pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over sides. Spray foil with cooking spray.

Microwave chocolate and butter in large microwaveable bowl on high 2 min. or until butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Stir in sugar. Blend in eggs and vanilla. Add flour and nuts; mix well. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake 25-30 min. or until toothpick inserted in center comes out with fudgy crumbs. (Do not overbake.) Cool completely. Use foil handles to remove brownies from pan before cutting to serve.

Shepherd’s Pie

1 lb ground beef and 1 lb ground veal

1 onion chopped

1 cup chopped carrots, I cup (frozen) peas

1 1/2 - 2 lbs potatoes 5-6 medium/large potatoes

8 tablespoons butter (1 stick)

1/2 cup beef broth

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

Salt, pepper, other seasonings of choice

Peel and quarter potatoes, boil in salted water until tender (about 20 minutes). While the potatoes are cooking, melt 4 Tablespoons butter (1/2 a stick) in large frying pan.

Sauté onions in butter until tender over medium heat (10 mins). If you are adding vegetables, add them according to cooking time. Put any carrots in with the onions. Add peas either at the end of the cooking of the onions, or after the meat has initially cooked.

Add ground beef and sauté until no longer pink. Add salt and pepper. Add worcesterchire sauce. Add half a cup of beef broth and cook, uncovered, over low heat for 10 minutes, adding more beef broth as necessary to keep moist.

Mash potatoes in bowl with remainder of butter, season to taste.

Place beef and onions in baking dish. Distribute mashed potatoes on top. Rough up with a fork so that there are peaks that will brown nicely.

Bake at 400 degrees until bubbling and brown (about 30 minutes). Broil for last few minutes if necessary to brown the top of the potatoes.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Healing Foods: Sweet Potato Purée

I am always trying new and inventive ways to get my daughter Sophie to eat her vegetables. Sometimes I get lucky, and she will actually like what I serve and eat a helping--but rarely more than that.

So recently, when I was reminded about the healing and nutrient dense powers of sweet potatoes, I decided to make some for Sophie. It really is a superfood, and we would all be well served to get more sweet potatoes into both our vegetable and dessert dishes. Baked, roasted, cut into fries and roasted with a little olive oil—or even in a pie, sweet potatoes are a healthy choice.

As an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene) and a very good source of vitamin C, sweet potatoes have healing properties as an antioxidant food. Both beta-carotene and vitamin C are very powerful antioxidants that work in the body to eliminate free radicals. Free radicals are chemicals that damage cells and cell membranes and are associated with the development of conditions like atherosclerosis, diabetic heart disease, and colon cancer. This may explain why beta-carotene and vitamin C have both been shown to be helpful for preventing these conditions.

Since simple is best for my daughter, I baked the sweet potatoes until tender, then removed them from the skin. I puréed them in the food processor with a little butter, salt, pepper and Chinese 5 spice powder (which has cloves and cinnamon, among other spices). She ate them, and asked for more! I will now happily add this to my vegetable repertoire. And next time, I may even whip some into a pie for dessert….

5-6 sweet potatoes, washed and pricked

2 oz butter

salt and pepper to taste

¼ teaspoon Chinese 5 spice powder

Bake sweet potatoes in oven or microwave until tender. Scoop potatoes from their skins into a food processor. Add butter, salt, pepper and 5 spice powder. Purée until smooth. Serve warm.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Comfort Foods: Channeling My Inner Asian

This weekend, I read a post by my food blogger friend Linda Skelcy. She is an amazing woman and cook with a delicious, soulful blog: (www.thegoodcooknj.blogspot.com). Her recipe for apple egg rolls reminded me that I had both egg roll and wonton wrappers in my fridge, and it got me inspired me to experiment with my favorite Asian comfort foods—dumplings and egg rolls. I have tasted every soup dumpling I could get my hands on in New York, eaten dim sum as often as my family will indulge me, and have studied dumpling and egg roll making techniques with my friend Marilyn’s Chinese mother-in-law (an incredible cook!). I decided to experiment with my wrappers and ingredients that I had on hand. I channeled my inner Asian, which I firmly believe I was in a past life, to make dumplings and egg rolls—the Asian comfort food.

I started with sausage, onion and fresh rosemary dumplings, and followed up with some healthier cumin spiced edamame dumpling that my daughters love. Both were a big hit, and the ponzu sauce (soy sauce with lemon juice) and a spicier dipping sauce (soy sauce and rice wine vinegar with Korean red pepper paste) were a perfect accompaniment to the dumplings. They are easy to make, and the combination of filling possibilities is endless---I can’t wait to experiment with some more exotic combinations next time.

As my daughter and I tasted the dumplings, we talked about how comfort foods exist in every culture, and decided to try different comfort food recipes from different countries in our next Sunday cooking day. It will be an international comfort food adventure—without ever having to leave our kitchen!

Edamame Dumplings

1 cup shelled edamame, steamed

juice of ½ lemon

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon cumin

1/8 teaspoon salt

Wonton wrappers

Oil for sautéing (I use grapeseed oil, which is a healthy neutral flavored oil)

Purée first 5 ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Place 1 teaspoon of the filling into the center of a wonton wrapper. Wet the edges around the square of the wonton wrapper and fold into a triangle. Pinch together the edges. Heat the oil in a sauté pan over medium heat, about 1 tablespoon per batch. Sauté the dumplings on each side until browned and crispy. Add ¼ cup of water to the skillet (do this with each batch of dumplings), cover and let steam for about a minute or until liquid absorbs. Serve warm with a dipping sauce made with ½ cup soy sauce flavored with the juice of ½ lemon (Ponzu Sauce). Makes about 20 dumplings.

Sausage, Onion and Fresh Rosemary Dumplings

2 sweet Italian sausages, casings removed and meat crumbled.

1 cup red onion, diced fine

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon tamarind sauce

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 egg, beaten

Combine all ingredients together in a bowl. Place 1 teaspoon of the filling into the center of a wonton wrapper. Wet the edges around the square of the wonton wrapper and fold into a triangle. Pinch together the edges. Heat the oil in a sauté pan over medium heat, about 1 tablespoon per batch. Sauté the dumplings on each side until browned and crispy. Add ¼ cup of water to the skillet (do this with each batch of dumplings), cover and let steam for about a minute or until liquid absorbs. Serve warm with a bowl of ½ cup soy sauce with 1 teaspoon rice wine or sushi vinegar and 1 teaspoon Korean red pepper paste or Sriracha sauce. Makes about 25-30 dumplings.

Apple Egg Rolls: (makes 4)

These apple egg rolls come from one of my favorite bloggers, Linda Skelcy. She proposes these apple egg rolls as the perfect substitute when a pie is too big.

1 large apple (your choice) peeled and chopped into small pieces

2 tablespoons butter, melted

2 tablespoons brown sugar

Generous pinch cinnamon

1 teaspoon flour

4 egg roll wrappers

Oil for frying

Powdered sugar for sprinkling

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir to combine. Add the apples and sauté until just a bit soft, about 3 to 4 minutes. Sprinkle flour over the apples and cook for about 30 more seconds to thicken sauce. Cover and chill.

When apples have cooled, spoon a generous amount onto each egg roll wrapper, wrap up like an envelope.

Fry each egg roll until golden. Sprinkle generously with powdered sugar and serve warm.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Healing Food: Farfalle with Butternut Squash and Sage Butter


My friend Gabs is an Italiophile. She lived there, speaks it fluently, and talks of her love of Italian food with an adoring, faraway look in her eyes. Now that she has finished the last of her chemo treatments, I have been looking for great Italian dishes that she can eat just for the pleasure of it---along with a glass of lovely Italian wine! So, since the fall season is upon us, I chose to cook with one of my favorite farmer’s market picks of late: butternut squash.

Butternut squash is abundant at local farmer’s markets, and winter squash is full of healthy vitamins and nutrients. It is an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene—which prevents the oxidation of cholesterol in the body), a very good source of vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber and manganese. In addition, winter squash is a good source of folate, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B1, copper, vitamin B6, niacin-vitamin B3 and pantothenic acid. And fresh sage has long been used as an anti-inflammatory and memory enhancer in herbal medicine.

The butternut squash is cut into chunks, sautéed in a bit of butter until softened, then steamed with a bit of chicken stock. Then, the sage is sautéed in a browned butter, and the squash and sage mixtures are tossed with farfalle pasta (or your favorite pasta). I have made this dish with fresh ricotta cheese stirred in (or with a dusting of freshly grated parmesan) and without, and both are comforting and delectable.

So when she is up for it, I will host a celebratory dinner in her honor. She braved her chemo with a grace, strength and determination that made me proud. I am happy to celebrate her health and recovery with the circle of friends that she inspired with her amazing example. Salute, Gabrielle!!!

1 butternut squash, peeled seeded and cut into 1 inch chunks

2 tbsp. butter or olive oil

½ cup chicken stock

6-8 sage leaves, julienned into thin slices

1 stick butter, clarified to remove the butterfat and dregs

salt and pepper to taste

Optional: ½ cup fresh ricotta cheese or ½ cup parmesan, freshly grated

1 lb farfalle (bow tie) pasta, cooked

In a sauté skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add butternut squash and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add chicken stock and allow the squash to simmer until fork tender. In a separate skillet, heat the clarified butter and add the julienned sage, until the butter comes to a simmer. In a bowl, toss the pasta with the squash, butter and sage and season with salt and pepper. Add the ricotta at this time, if desired. Garnish with parmesan cheese.

Healing and Comfort Food: Mushroom Paté

I have been busy trying new recipes using the local foods of the season from farmer’s markets—lots of root vegetables and squashes. The cooler weather makes it easy to move to hearty, comforting dishes—so you’ll be seeing new posts with lots of beta-carotene filled foods in the coming weeks!

This past weekend, while pots simmered and squash roasted in the oven, I came across some mushrooms in the fridge and decided to make an old favorite recipe from my vegetarian days—mushroom paté. This simple, richly flavored paté is great on baguette, crackers or crostini, and makes a delicious dip for crudités. And--mushrooms are great in the healing department, with plenty of vitamin B2 and B3, and selenium—powerful allies for cancer prevention.

According to World’s Healthiest Foods (www.whfoods.org), “phytonutrients in mushrooms have been the object of anti-cancer research. Most of this research has centered on the "specialty" mushrooms, including Shiitake, Maitake, and Reishi. More recently, however, common button mushrooms, including crimini, have been shown to have anticancer properties as well. In particular, adding these mushrooms to the diet may help protect against the development of breast cancer by preventing circulating levels of estrogen in the body from becoming excessive.”

As if that weren’t enough of a reason to eat more mushrooms, this paté is quick, easy and foolproof. If you are not eating dairy, it can be made with tofutti instead of cream cheese. And did I say delicious? It’s got that going for it, too.

Mushroom Paté

8 oz. mushrooms, rinsed with woody bottoms removed (I like to mix the mushrooms, using a combination of crimini, button, shiitake and portobello)

1 tablespoon butter or olive oil

¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon chopped chives (for garnish)

½ cup chicken stock

8 oz. package cream cheese

sea salt and pepper to taste

Heat butter or oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and ¼ cup chives. Sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add chicken stock and sauté until liquid is absorbed, about 7-10 minutes more. Allow mushrooms to cool to room temperature.

In a food processor, add cream cheese and mushrooms and blend. Spoon mixture into a bowl and garnish with 1 tbsp. chopped chives. Serve with crackers, bread or crostini.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Comfort Food: Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin with Savory Apples

While looking for ideas of what to do with the last of the Macoun apples from our apple-picking excursion, I came across a few recipes for savory dishes using apples. I was immediately intrigued by the recipe here today, from the Chow recipe website (www.chow.com). This bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin is served with savory apples, which are tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper before being scattered around the almost-done tenderloin and caramelized in the hot oven. Such a convergence of delicious flavors from the crispy bacon to the tender juicy pork to the caramelized sweet and savory apples!

I can say that apples are healthy, with phytonutrients that help regulate blood sugar, plenty of fiber and vitamin C—but I will stop there. This is really a melt in your mouth kind of comfort food—so I won’t go on about healthy properties—especially since there is bacon fat involved. Just serve it with some pureed sweet potatoes for beta-carotene, vitamin a and magnesium, and a side of the green beans with parsley and garlic (see previous post) and enjoy the bliss that bacon brings to almost any food experience. You will not be disappointed.

1 (1-pound) pork tenderloin

4 teaspoons olive oil

4 to 5 slices thin-cut bacon (about 4 ounces)

2 pounds Pink Lady apples, or other firm, sweet apples (I used Macoun)

1 teaspoon fleur de sel and freshly ground peppe

Heat the oven to 500°F and arrange a rack at the top.

Coat tenderloin with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil, salt to taste, and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Wrap bacon around tenderloin in a spiral so it completely covers the meat. Place on a baking sheet and roast until bacon just begins to render, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, core apples, slice into 6 wedges each, and place in a large bowl. Add remaining 3 teaspoons olive oil, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper to taste and toss until well coated.

Scatter apples around tenderloin without allowing them to touch each other or the pork and roast until bacon is light brown, the underside of the tenderloin is browned and the meat registers 150°F on a digital thermometer, and the apples are knife tender, about 10 minutes more.

Set the oven to broil and cook the tenderloin until the apples begin to brown, the bacon is golden brown, and the pork reaches 155°F to 160°F. Let rest at least 5 minutes before serving.