Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Calling up Thanks

Gatherings nourish ...
... comfort for the body and soul
Attended by all

Roasted Beets and Fennel with Mint – yields 6 servings

2 pounds beets
2-fennel bulbs – thinly sliced
1/4-cup mint leaves – roughly chopped
1/2-cup white wine vinegar
1-teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Wash the beets to remove any excess dirt and then place them on a baking tray. Wrap the tray with aluminum foil and cook the beets in the oven for 30 to 45 minutes to fork tender. Let the beets cool for 10 to 15 minutes and then rub off their skin. Slice the beets into 1/4-inch rounds.

In a wide mouth jar place two stems with a sprinkle of mint down and place in half the beets and fennel. Then place another sprinkling of mint and the remaining beets and fennel and salt. Top with the remaining mint and pour over the vinegar. If the vinegar does not completely cover the beets top with some extra vinegar. Secure with a tight fitting lid and store in the refrigerator for 1 to 3 days before serving.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Setting Table

We are a nation queued-up on the starting line of the holiday season. This coming Thursday kicks off that 6-week period when most of us will host the largest number of guests at a single time. The easiest part of having company seems to be cleaning the house. But the menu and its management are where so many of us get in trouble. The hardest thing to teach people is food and time management.

The first thing I think is making a menu plan then the shopping list at least one week in advance. In putting together a menu it is advisable to consider that 2/3’s of the dishes be presentable at room temperature or cold. This automatically gives at least 24-hours to prep those items. The remaining 1/3 should involve both stovetop and oven in order to avoid a major bottleneck at that crucial 30-hour prior to calling them to the table.

At a minimum of a week before I am baking and freezing all possible items – breads, cake bases, pie crusts, cookies – this allows me an easy counter defrost on most of those dishes. I love making turnovers, both savory and sweet, for I can bake them off and then freeze them. A quick re-warm in the oven and I am in business.

The most important thing to remember it is not worth stressing out and you got to keep a sense a humor about it– if it is not fun then it should not be done.

So, start rinsing out all the wine glasses and looking for the your platters and enjoy.

Potatoes with Almond Sauce – yields 6 servings

1-1/2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes

Bring the potatoes to a boil in salted water. Cook the potatoes until fork tender, and then drain. Peel the potatoes, if desired, while they are still warm, and then allow them to cool. Slice the potatoes into 1/4-inch rounds and arrange them a plate in a slightly overlapping fashion.

Drizzle with the almond sauce, and garnish with paprika.

Almond Sauce – yields approx. 3 cups
1/4-cup sherry vinegar
1/2-cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup blanched almonds
1 garlic clove - peeled
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1-teaspoon thyme leaves
1 tablespoon Italian Parsley leaves
1 yellow pepper – seeds and inner membrane removed
1/8-teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a blender place all ingredients, and process to smooth. Use some water to thin out the sauce as necessary.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

a ready pot

The full arrival of autumn, the layering, the twisting of a scarf, the gloves shoved in your pockets has had me planning a stew. I know it has been more than a half of a year since I took my large casserole pot from the shelf, and allowed it to sit defusing heat rather than collecting dust. So, right into the sink it went in anticipation of something slow, and warm.

I have many soups, stews and braises in my bag of tricks but what was I really in the mood for. I have been thinking of my Mom lately, and I kept thinking of the cabbage, potato and pork stew she would make. I always loved the combination of potato and cabbage after they sent some considerable time in the pot. The pork was always overcooked because she would use a boneless chop, which I would have advised should be replace with a shoulder or loin cut. But that was never a matter for me for thankfully copious moisture naturally contained within the bulging head help to offset any dissatisfaction with her meat choice.

Walking through my Saturday market answered my question as to what stew make, and simultaneously let me send time with my Mom. Cabbages abounded, as did potatoes, however, being her son I needed to twist it somewhat. My local game farmer produces the must addictive smoked pheasant sausage that I know was finding its way into the first simmering pot of the season.

Cabbage and Potato Stew – yields 6 to 8 servings
1-large head cabbage
3-tablespoons olive oil
1-1/2 pounds smoked sausage – cut into 1-inch rounds
1-pound Cippolini onions – peeled and quartered
1/2-pound parsnip – peeled and julienne
8-garlic cloves – roughly chopped
1/2-teaspoon cumin seed
1-teaspoon caraway seed
1/8-teaspoon ground mace
1-1/2 pounds potato – cut into 1-inch chunks
1-tablespoon fresh thyme leaves – roughly chopped
1/2-cup red wine vinegar
2-teaspoons salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Cut the cabbage in quarters and remove the core. Then cut each quarter into thick slices, about 1 to 2 inches thick. Hold to the side.

Heat a 10-quart casserole pan over a high heat. Add one-tablespoon of the olive oil, and the sausage. Brown the sausage and then remove from the pan.

Add the remaining two-tablespoon of oil and the onions. Brown the onions and then mix in the parsnip and garlic as well the browned sausage. Cooking for a few minutes. Sprinkle in the cumin, caraway and mace. Stir in the spices. Then mix the potatoes, and pour over the vinegar. Put the cut cabbage over the vegetables, and distribute the salt over the cabbage.

Cover the pot, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for an hour. Season with black pepper and salt if needed.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Time to nest

Leaves turning…..falling
The love of another… welcomed
A warming hearth ….shared

Creamed Celery Root and Potato Soup - yields approx.5-qurts.
2-pounds Yukon gold potatoes
1-1/2 pounds celery root – peeled and chopped
2 large onions (approximately 2-pounds)
2 heads of garlic
2-tablespoons sage leaves
1/2-cup raw cashew nuts
3-quarts chicken stock
1-tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Wash the potatoes well to remove any dirt and debris. Then slice the potatoes thinly and place them in at least a 6-quart soup pot along with the celery root.

Peel and roughly chop the onions, and peel the garlic. Place them in the pot along with the potatoes, celery root and cashews. Pour over chicken stock, and sprinkle with the sage, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the flame to a simmer.

Cook the soup for 1 hour. Puree the soup, and then return to the pot. Simmer the soup for an additional 15 minutes, and correct the seasoning.