Comical Commercials and Spring Surprises

May 8, 2010 at 5:54 pm 1 comment

   Years ago there was a commercial on local television showing a robust Viking Maiden – complete with shield, spear, and antlered helmet – belting out in operatic style, “Welcome to winter, in Minne-sotah, here is your fuel bill, ha-ha-ha-hah!”  Used to crack me up every time.    

With this week’s temperatures falling from 80° at midday on Tuesday, down to the 40s with a mitten-requiring wind chill twenty-four hours later, and the jokers on the weather channel talking about a “few flakes of snow in the upper portion of the state,” I’m not so inclined to laugh.  (Uh, wasn’t that me you heard chortling a month or so ago about having made it through March with no white stuff?)

But cooler weather is the cook’s friend, so I grasp the opportunity to make hot chocolate out of plain old cocoa powder with a menu of Roasted Vegetable Mélange served over Creamy Polenta and alongside oven-tender Pork “Dominoes” cut from boneless ribs, with some Crusty Whole Wheat Peasant Bread (remember that artisan bakery outlet just around the corner from lucky me?).  My mother-in-law likes Cranberry Sauce on the side with this, and with practically any other non-beef entrée, so that might nice if you have some on hand.  I make mine with fresh or frozen cranberries and part-sugar, part-stevia extract.

Add Baked Pears Stuffed with Chopped Apricots and Almonds and served with a creamy Wedge of Gouda and you’ve got dessert.  I’ll take mine with a nice hot mug of *Skinny Mocha Supreme, thank you.   (*See “choco-coffee” recipe in 10/10/09 post.)  For the pork main dish: 

2 # boneless country-style pork ribs                      3/4 C soy flour          

salt & pepper                                                                      paprika – about 1/2 tsp

2 tsp butter + 2 tsp olive oil                                       1/2 C medium sherry   

1/4 C dry vermouth                                                       1 C chicken broth    

Cut ribs across the grain into ½ inch slices.  Dredge each “domino” in a mixture of made by combining the soy flour, seasoned to taste with salt, pepper, and paprika, then sauté a half-batch at a time, each batch in 1 tsp butter and 1 tsp olive oil, over med-low heat in a non-stick pan until nicely browned, about 5 minutes per side.  Remove to an ovenproof shallow casserole dish.  Whisk together the sherry, vermouth, and chicken broth and pour over meat.  Cover pan with foil and roast at 350 for 1-1/2 hours.  Check every half-hour, adding more broth if necessary. 

If you can, prepare the vegetables a day ahead; they are even better reheated and it takes less time on the “day of”: 

14 oz can diced tomatoes                      2 small red onions

1 yellow bell pepper                                1 red bell pepper

4 med zucchini                                          1 med eggplant

4 large carrots                                           1/4 C olive oil

1 tsp dried basil                                         1 tsp dried oregano

2 large cloves garlic, minced               2 TB lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste 

In a large bowl combine diced tomatoes, well-drained; onions, sliced thick and then each slice quartered; yellow and red bell peppers, sliced thick and then each slice quartered; zucchini peeled (I leave a small strip of green between each peeled strip) and sliced thick, then each slice quartered; eggplant, peeled and cut into ¾” cubes; and carrots, peeled and diced large.  Whisk together the olive oil, basil, oregano, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste, and pour over the chopped vegetables.  Cover and marinate from 2-12 hours.  Roast vegetables uncovered in a large roasting pan at 350° until tender (for 60-80 minutes), stirring every 20 minutes.  

Cook the polenta as usual, using evaporated milk for half of the liquid: 

2-1/2 C cold water                                          2-1/2 C  cold  milk or chilled evaporated skim milk

1-1/2 C yellow or white cornmeal            1 TB butter (optional) 

In a heavy saucepan, combine water and milk with cornmeal and butter, if using.  Bring to a boil over medium, whisking constantly to prevent lumps.  Reducer to a simmer and cook and stir until liquid has been absorbed, 10-15 minutes. 

For the dessert pears: 

8 oz Gouda                                                         4 firm fresh pears

4 tsp melted butter                                        ¼ C maple syrup

¼ C brandy                                                        ¼ C water

1/2 C coarsely chopped almonds             ¼ C finely chopped dried fruit 

Bring cheese to room temperature and cut into eight wedges.  Wash, halve, and core pears and place in a foil-lined baking dish, cut side up.  Combine butter, maple syrup, brandy, and water and set aside. 

Combine almonds and dried fruit – apricots are nice, but any dried fruit or dried fruit combination will work.  Stuff the fruit and nut mixture into the hollows left in the cored pear halves and pour brandy sauce over all.  Cover pan loosely with foil and bake at 350 for 45 minutes, or until pears are tender.  Uncover and heat another 5-10 minutes to crisp up the filling a bit.  To serve, place one pear half in a shallow dessert bowl, drizzle with warm sauce from the pan, and nestle a wedge of Gouda into the side of the bowl, submerging it partially in the sauce. 

“Nestling the Gouda” (wasn’t that an 80s movie?) results in a heavenly, gooey consistency that makes apple pie and cheddar embarrassed to be country cousins.  Viva la wintry spells!

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Kitchen Karma Stewing Over The Weather

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Recipe. According to Encarta, "a list of ingredients and instructions for making something." The thesaurus offers the alternate terms, "formula, guidelines, directions, steps, technique."

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