Friday, October 3, 2008

Impressions Of Changing Seasons


"If a man be sensible and one fine morning, while he is lying in bed, count at the tips of his fingers how many things in this life truly will give him enjoyment, invariably he will find food is the first one."
Lin Yutang (1895-1976)




SEASON TO TASTE
October 2008
(This entire SEASON TO TASTE column appears here, just as it does in the October edition of Heartland Women, even though it includes recipes for Dannie's Grilled Pork Chops with Balsamic Caramelized Pears and Bubble Bread, which have appeared in recent posts on Cora Cooks.)
My first awareness on each new day is the view outside my bedroom window on the world. This time of year, it’s as if I’m looking at a pointillism painting – a canvas full of gray-green dots with light and space surrounding each of them. The picture was a solid forest of leaves, not so long ago. But now, the colors are beginning to change, the leaves are curling at the edges and light shows through the canvas. Soon summer will fall away entirely.

The second view I encounter each morning lies across my bedroom, through a guest room window and out to the pond. Today, I am doubly rewarded for rising earlier than usual. This is much more a traditional impressionist vision, with pink and golden waves rippling across the sky above the shadowy line of trees, diffused through a mist of tiny prisms, before flawlessly refocusing on the glassy surface below. I am reminded that time and reflection will give you another way to look at things – an important element to change.

A day such as this is perfect for personal reflection. First, I am reminded of Mrs. Renfro and her lessons in appreciating artistic expression way back in 7th grade art. I still have my single attempt at pointillism – a bowl of fruit against a blue background – now safely and forever tucked away inside a portfolio in my loft office.

Thus challenged to find another outlet for my youthful right brain point of view, I turned to sewing. . . . and cooking . . . and writing to express myself. That is why I was delighted this morning when I sensed Calliope, sitting at the little table on the deck outside my bedroom, against that backdrop of leaves. My muse provides much needed inspiration, especially when I’m thinking too many thoughts to write even one complete sentence.

So this morning, I sipped coffee at the little bistro table on my deck and enjoyed the view just long enough. The words I needed to convey the look and the feel of autumn began to flow. The softened morning light, the musty smells, the quiet calm, and the damp mist collaborated to give me the total sensory knowledge of change in the seasons and my method of adaptation.

All that remains for me now are the words to convey to you some recipes to fill your senses with the flavors of fall, and that’s the easy part. I had already chosen the recipes for the season . . . crisp apples, fruity wine, savory bread, sharp cheeses, rich juicy pork, ripe pears, tangy sauces, and pumpkin spice. Just read below and I’m sure you’ll find something to feed you senses for the cool, clear days ahead.

One of my favorite ways to savor autumn is a bottle of wine, a chunk of cheese and some sliced crisp apples or ripe pears. The combination of these flavors always takes me back to my first trip to California during the harvest season. A spicy Gewurztraminer is my first choice for wine to go with fall fruits and cheeses, but I’m open to new experiences, so one afternoon this soon I’ll pair Last of the Summer Sangria with my fruit and cheese tray.

The name says it all – Honeycrisp apples – sweet, crisp, and juicy. In my humble opinion, the very best apple ever! I only discovered them last year, but they have been on my mind ever since. I found them at local markets a few days ago, but just in case, I’ve ordered a case – from www.honeycrisp.com -- where you can also read all about them. Autumn Apple Salad blends flavors to compliment this delicious apple, but I doubt you’ll have enough left to make it, unless you buy them by the case too.

For the past year, I’ve also been hearing a lot about Heritage Berkshire pork. My first and only taste of Berkshire pork was a few bites of tenderloin this summer and, though it was delicious, I’m not sure tenderloin is a fair taste test comparison – I want pork with flavor like it used to have. I do know that more and more fine dining restaurants, especially those that favor local and heritage foods, have it on the menu. Although I’ve yet to find a local retail source, I have located some at the Heritage Foods USA website (www.heritagefoodusa.com) and I plan to order some big juicy pork chops soon, so I can try my friend Dannie’s recipe for Grilled Pork Chops with Balsamic Glazed Pears.

The beautiful days of autumn are perfect of outdoor sports and parties. Whether you are grilling out on the deck, organizing a block party, or heading out to the stadium for an afternoon of tailgating and football, you’ll want to try these recipes for tasty accompaniments to any grilled meat, chicken and seafoods. All three come from the kitchen of my brother and sister-in-law, Jeff and Gail – the sauce masters!

My brother, Stephen the Chef, has shared his version of the famous Bubble Bread recipe from the Bubble Room Restaurant on Captiva Island, Florida. If you’ve ever been there, you’ll recognize this as the real thing. And even if you’ve never been, trust me, it will be love it at first bite.

Rounding out this month’s menu is a classic seasonal dessert, and one of my favorites anytime – Pumpkin Roll. Easy to prepare, makes a lovely presentation, and keeps well – if it doesn’t disappear as soon as you serve it.

Every now and then, I’m greeted by a reader who has missed an edition of Heartland Women, or misplaced a clipping, and wants to know how she can find a copy of one of my recipes. There are several ways to find what you’re looking for from past Season to Taste columns.

The Heartland Women website at www.heartlandwomen.com archives the past year of published newspapers, including Season To Taste. All of my columns, from January 2004 through July 2007, are indexed and can be found on the Season To Taste website at www.seasontotaste.net. Columns since August 2007 can be found on my blog Cora Cooks at http://corascooks.blogspot.com, where they are archived by month and searchable by recipe subjects.

Of course, I’d love to hear from you anytime and you can always expect a prompt reply to email sent to me at CoraCooksBlog@gmail.com -- I’m almost always at my computer reading or writing something! And if you stop by my Cora Cooks blog to see what’s new, please leave a comment to let me know what you think.

In the meantime, enjoy the beautiful weather and the seasonal foods available this time of year. Allow all five of your senses to experience and reflect on all that nature reveals to us everyday, from sunrise to sunset. And if you feel like expressing yourself in response to the season, why not step into the kitchen and create something to share with someone who will enjoy it with you.

LAST OF THE SUMMER SANGRIA
1 bottle Rioja red wine
1 c. sugar
2 tbsp. Brandy
2 tbsp. Triple Sec or other orange liqueur
2 tbsp. Peach Schnapps
2 bottles white wine – Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, or Riesling
Optional fruit garnish – peaches, apples, oranges, strawberries, raspberries, etc.

Bring the Rioja red wine to a boil in a saucepan and reduce by half. Remove from the heat and add the sugar. Stir to dissolve. Add the Brandy, Triple Sec, and Peach Schnapps and refrigerate. Add the red wine syrup to white wine. Chill before serving and garnish with sliced fruit, if desired.

AUTUMN APPLE SALAD
6 oz. Stilton cheese
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. heavy cream
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
6 Honeycrisp apples cut into 1/2 in. dice
4 celery stalks, thinly sliced, plus several whole
celery leaves for garnish
2 tbsp. chopped dried cranberries
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 c. coarsely chopped pecans, toasted

Put one-third of the cheese in the bottom of a large bowl. Add the olive oil and, using a fork, mash together the cheese and oil. Add the vinegar and continue to mash and to mix. Add the cream and pepper and mix well to make a thick, chunky dressing. Add the apples, sliced celery, cranberries and lemon juice to the dressing and mix well. Crumble the remaining cheese and sprinkle it over the salad along with half the pecans. Mix them into the salad gently and evenly.

DANNIE’S GRILLED PORK CHOPS WITH BALSAMIC CARAMELIZED PEARS
Brine:
1 1/2 qts. water
5 tbsp. kosher salt
2 tbsp. white sugar
6 pork loin chops, 1/2-in. thick

Marinade:
1/2 c. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. fresh rosemary, minced

Sauce:
1/2 c. balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 Vidalia onions, each cut into 8 wedges
2 pears, cored and each cut into 8 wedges
1 tsp. salt

In a large bowl, stir together the water, kosher salt, and sugar. Add pork chops to this brine, and let them soak for no more than one hour. Drain and discard the brine. Pat pork chops dry with paper towels.

In a shallow dish, stir together the olive oil, garlic, and rosemary. Place pork chops in the dish, and turn to coat. Cover, and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1-2 hours.










Pour the balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, and cook until reduced by 1/2, about 10 minutes. When the vinegar cools, it should be the consistency of syrup.










Melt butter with olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high or high heat. Add the onions and pears, and quickly brown, being careful to keep the wedges intact. Once the onions and pears are browned, reduce heat to low, and cook for about 7 minutes, or until tender. Stir in the reduced vinegar and salt. The recipe can be prepared up to this point several hours before grilling.

Preheat the grill for medium-high heat. Place skillet with pears on a cool part of the grill and warm them while the pork cooks. Place the pork chops over the hot part. Cook pork for about
3 minutes per side, or to desired doneness.

Remove to a serving plate, cover with aluminum foil and let rest for a few minutes. Uncover, top with the pear onion sauce, and serve.

CIDER SAUCE FOR GRILLED PORK, CHICKEN & SHRIMP
1 qt. good apple cider (unpasteurized, if available)
1/4 c. sweet chili sauce (Asian grocery kind)

Pour cider into a heavy saucepan and heat until reduced by half; add chili sauce. Use as a finishing glaze or dipping sauce for grilled chicken, pork or shrimp.

JEFF’S SPECIAL 1-2-3-4 SAUCE
1 part sherry
2 parts soy sauce
3 parts apple cider vinegar
4 parts brown sugar
Garlic powder
Onion powder
Ginger powder
Chile flakes, if desired

Heat ingredients together to completely dissolve sugar.
As a marinade - pour over chicken, pork chop, pork steaks, beef, salmon, ice cream, and brush on fish or vegetables.
As a sauce - use as to flavor stir-fried meats and vegetables.
As a glaze – reduce over heat until sauce is thickened and brush over roasted or grilled meats and seafood during the last few minutes of cooking.

ONION MARMALADE FOR BEEF, CHICKEN & PORK
5 lbs. onions
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c. sugar
3/4 c. cider vinegar
2-3 tbsp. curry powder

Peel and slice onions into 1/4-inch rings. In a large heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat olive oil and add onions; cook slowly over medium-low heat until lightly browned. Add remaining ingredients and adjust measurements to taste. Continue to simmer until liquid has evaporated and the onions are completely brown. Cool completely and store in a jar in the refrigerator until ready to use. Bring to room temperature to serve with grilled meats, chicken, fish, or on top of burgers. *Packed into small jars, this makes a great gift that will keep for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator. Makes 2 1/2 to 3 cups.


BUBBLE BREAD
1 loaf Italian bread
2 c. mayonnaise (Hellman’s)
5 oz. crumbled Gorgonzola
1/2 tsp. granulated garlic (NOT garlic salt)
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1/2 tsp. red wine vinegar
4 oz. grated Swiss cheese
4 oz. grated Kraft Parmesan cheese

Split Italian loaf lengthwise. Blend mayonnaise, Gorgonzola, garlic, pepper and red wine vinegar. Spread dressing on bread, covering all the way to the edges, about 1/4 in. thick. Blend Swiss and Parmesan cheeses and sprinkle generously on top of bread. Sprinkle lightly with paprika. Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until “bubbly” and serve while warm.

PUMPKIN ROLL
3 eggs
1 c. sugar
2/3 c. pumpkin
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. ginger
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 c. flour
1 c. nuts, chopped
1 c. powdered sugar
1 pkg. cream cheese
1/2 stick butter

Beat 3 eggs; gradually add 1 c. sugar, continue
beating for 5 mins. Fold in by hand 2/3 c. pumpkin and 1
tsp. lemon juice.

Combine nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, baking powder, salt
and flour. Fold all of this into the egg mixture. Spread
batter into a large jellyroll pan and pat 1 c. chopped nuts
onto the batter. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 mins. Turn out on
powdered sugar towel; roll up until it cools.

Beat until creamy the cream cheese (room temperature),
butter and powdered sugar. Unroll towel of batter; spread with
cream cheese filling. Reroll and chill. Slice into desired
thickness for serving. This is excellent for freezing.

2 comments:

Dawn said...

Oh my! The Autumn Apple Salad & Bubble Bread look simply delicious! I am so glad Betsy led me to your site. :-)

Melissa said...

Hi Cora-
It was great to meet you at BlogHer Boston. I am digging that sangria recipe and will share with my boss who has been hunting down sangria recipes and trying them since her tapas party this summer.