Coffee Cocoa and Chili-Rubbed Pork Loin with a Brandy Cream Sauce

OR a Pineapple Salsa.  I couldn’t decide.   Should it be a round, full, rich Brandy Cream Sauce or a Pineapple Salsa bursting with fresh, bright and healthy?  I couldn’t decide so I made both.  The rub is a snap to make but oh, so elegant.  Then all you need to decide is do you go decadent or fun?  Either will work.  Both are in the column that ran today in the Portland Press Herald.  Coffee, Cocoa and Chili-Rubbed Pork Loin with a Blood Orange, Walnut and Manchengo Salad.

Coffee Cocoa and Chili-Rubbed Pork Loin

Annie
With friend or all to your self!

Dear Grandma, Can I tell you about my Elderberries?

Dear Grandma,

Well, the moment I’ve been dreaming about and waited on for so long has arrived and I’m about to go out to harvest my first crop of elderberries.  When I do, I’ll don a white, long sleeved shirt that Jon tossed into the rag pile, only it won’t go down to my knees like it did when I was little and I’ll only need to roll the sleeves up once.  We used to have metal buckets when we tromped out to the fields behind Uncle Bob and Aunt Marjorie’s house, but mine all have wood ash in them from emptying the wood stove so I’ll bring a basket lined with some parchment paper so that the berries don’t fall through the bottom.  I don’t remember ever picking through the berries with you once we got home.  I suspect that I made myself scarce at that point and you and mom did the lion’s share of that work with me running into the kitchen for a snack to take out onto the patio where I sat in some much needed shade and watched the daddy long-legged spiders build nests and listened to the background music of you and mom catching up and telling each other stories.

I’m going to make your pie first, but I have a lot of berries so I’ll also make some jelly and syrup.  If you were here, I’d love to share some with you over a cup of tea, but I guess we’ll have to wait on that until I see you again in the future.

Love,
Anne

elderberry picking

picking elderberries for jam and syrup

cooking with elderberries

My Grandma in My Garden

Each year when we visited my grandparents for three summer weeks in their rural home in New York, we’d spend our time doing essentially nothing.  It wasn’t exciting, it wasn’t exhilarating and it wasn’t elucidating.  Sometimes it was boring.  The funny thing is, however, that now I look back on those days with a rosy, idyllic sense of dreamy time where the hours passed without incident from one card game to the next, to another trip out to the garden and back, to another game of fetch with Bridgett, their collie.

My grandma worried that we would get so bored that one year we would eventually resist coming.  I’m not sure why we worry as adults so much about the children in our lives being bored.  I know as I look back on my childhood memories, the softer, less thrilling moments are the ones I cherish most.  As I watch my own children, move in and out of boredom, what comes after bored is so interesting to observe.

“Mama, I’m bored.”

“Oh, excellent!  I can’t wait to see what comes after ‘bored.’  Whatever you discover, I know it will be terrific!”

I’m certain that this is one of the phrases that I give to my children which they promise to themselves they will NEVER repeat to their offspring.  We’ll see.

During one of my many childhood periods of boredom spend with my grandparents, we would don my grandpa’s old oxfords with the tails down to our knees and the sleeves rolled up to our wrists, armed with pails and some sort of muck boot.  We’d then tromp through the bushes to my grandma’s favorite haunts looking for whichever berry was in season – usually raspberries, blackberries, or my favorite, elderberries.  We would then trounce home, tired and sunburned and mouths watering for my grandma’s famous elderberry pie.

For the longest time I tried to recreate it with other berries, but eventually gave up the effort, resigning myself to reliving elderberry pie in my mind only.

Until this summer!  When the elderberry patch went into my garden!  It’s American Elderberry, Sambucus canadensis, and I should see my first pie next year.  My mom has always said that gardening skipped a generation and that my grandmother passed her green thumb on to me.  Thank you, Grandma, for the memories.  I’m so glad you are with me again in the garden.

Annie
Thinking of Cecile Hunt

Citrus and Pomegranate Fruit Compote

Pomegranate is one of the girls favorite winter fruits.  That, combined with our gigundous box of citrus that has just arrived from Florida, rounds out this dish nicely.  It’s a beautiful crop of oranges and grapefruits this year and the juicy globes are just what I’m hankering for.  

This recipe is one I almost always serve with brunch because the time to cut up the fruit is worth the extra effort.  On the other hand, we have so much citrus, I might also go for it as an afternoon snack.

Citrus and Pomegranate Fruit Compote

2 oranges
1/2 grapefruit
1/2 pomegranate, seeded
1 tablespoon honey

With a knife, peel the oranges and the grapefruit and then separate the segments of fruit from the membrane and pith.  Save the juice from the oranges and grapefruit.

Combine the reserved juice with the honey.  Place all of the fruit into one large or separate bowls and drizzle with the honey dressing.

Serves 4-6

Boosting the vitamin C
Annie

Elegant Fruit – Vanilla and Orange Poached Pears

Poaching is a technique used to gently cook what is usually already a tender ingredient.  Chicken and fish are commonly poached in a flavorful broth called court bouillon, which is made by simmering aromatic vegetables and herbs in water.  When used to cook fruit, it’s common to simmer in red wine, another sort of alcohol or a flavored simple syrup.  A simple and elegant method for fantastic results.

Vanilla and Orange Poached Pears

4 pears
2 cups apple juice
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 peels of orange
1 vanilla bean, split
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 inch slice of ginger
1/3 cup crème fraiche (for garnish)

Peel the pears, leaving the stem on.  Place the pears in a saucepan with the rest of the ingredients except crème fraiche and cover with parchment paper.  Bring the liquid to a boil and reduce to a gentle simmer for 15 minutes or until the pears are tender when tested with a sharp paring knife.  Transfer the pears to a plate and remove the solid pieces from the liquid.  Bring the liquid to a boil and reduce until it coats the back of a spoon, about 30 minutes.  Cool the pears in syrup with the parchment paper covering.  To serve, slice a sliver of pear off the bottom to get the pear to stand upright.  Serve either on a platter or individual plates with the syrup drizzled over the pears.  Spoon a dollop of crème fraiche next to each pear.

Serves 4

Elegant Fruit – Vanilla and Orange Poached Pears

Poaching is a technique used to gently cook what is usually already a tender ingredient.  Chicken and fish are commonly poached in a flavorful broth called court bouillon, which is made by simmering aromatic vegetables and herbs in water.  When used to cook fruit, it’s common to simmer in red wine, another sort of alcohol or a flavored simple syrup.  A simple and elegant method for fantastic results.

Vanilla and Orange Poached Pears

4 pears
2 cups apple juice
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 peels of orange
1 vanilla bean, split
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 inch slice of ginger
1/3 cup crème fraiche (for garnish)

Peel the pears, leaving the stem on.  Place the pears in a saucepan with the rest of the ingredients except crème fraiche and cover with parchment paper.  Bring the liquid to a boil and reduce to a gentle simmer for 15 minutes or until the pears are tender when tested with a sharp paring knife.  Transfer the pears to a plate and remove the solid pieces from the liquid.  Bring the liquid to a boil and reduce until it coats the back of a spoon, about 30 minutes.  Cool the pears in syrup with the parchment paper covering.  To serve, slice a sliver of pear off the bottom to get the pear to stand upright.  Serve either on a platter or individual plates with the syrup drizzled over the pears.  Spoon a dollop of crème fraiche next to each pear.

Serves 4

Cook the Book: Beef Ragu with Fennel & Orange

Beef Ragu with Fennel and Orange

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds stew beef
¼ cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 large onion, diced
1 cup diced fennel
2 large carrots, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
½ green pepper, diced
6 cloves minced garlic
2 tablespoons fennel seed
½ tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Zest of one orange
2 cups red wine
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes

 

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Toss the beef, flour, salt, pepper and paprika in a bowl so the beef is coated with the flour. Place the beef in the pot and cook until browned. Add the onions, fennel, carrots, celery, peppers, garlic, spices, salt and cook for another 10-15 minutes until the onions are translucent. Add the orange zest, red wine and tomatoes.  Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours or until the meat is tender.

Serve with polenta

The Fall Bounty – Creamy Butternut Squash and Pear Soup

Creamy Butternut Squash and Pear Soup

2 tablespoons butter
1 cup onions, diced
1/4 cup celery, diced
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds butternut squash (or 1/2 butternut squash), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 pear, peeled, cored and minced
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup sherry
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a medium saucepan, over medium high heat, melt butter and sauté the onions, celery and garlic.  When they are translucent, add the squash, pear and nutmeg.  Sauté until the squash starts to stick to the bottom, stirring frequently and then add the sherry, chicken stock.  Bring to a simmer and cook until the squash is very tender, about 15 minutes.  Transfer to a blender and puree.  Freeze for up to 6 weeks.  When you are ready to serve, bring to a simmer in a medium saucepan and then add the cream.

Serves 8

Fall is in the Air – Pear Tarte Tatin

Pear Tarte Tatin

Pastry:
1 1/2 cups flour
6 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup ice cold water, as needed

Pears:
8 Anjou or similar pears; peeled, cored and quartered
12 tablespoons butter
1 cup sugar

Pastry:  In a medium bowl, sift the dry ingredients.  Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  Add the egg and then the water 1 tablespoon at a time.  The dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl and form a ball.  Form a disc with the dough and wrap in plastic wrap.  Place in the refrigerator until the pears are ready.

Pears:  Preheat oven to 375º.  In a 10-12 inch cast-iron skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat.  Remove from heat and sprinkle evenly with sugar.  Tightly pack the pears around the edge of the skillet and then pack the center so that they resemble a fan of sorts.  Return to medium-high heat and cook for about 15 minutes and the butter and sugar are caramelized.

Roll the pastry out on a floured surface into a 12-inch round.  Gently place the pastry over the pears and tuck the edges under loosely between the pears and the wall of the skillet.  Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the pears are tender and the pastry is golden brown.  Allow tart to cool for  5 minutes and then loosen edges and invert onto a round platter.  Serve warm.

Serves 8-12

Cook the Book: Nectarine Jam, Plum Preserves, and Red Pepper Jam

Nectarine Jam  

This jam shouldn’t be canned due to the lower amount of sugar.

1 pound nectarines, peeled, pitted and sliced thin
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Bring all the ingredients to a boil in a non-reactive skillet. Reduce heat and simmer until it begins to look syrupy.  Skim off any foam that develops on the surface. Cool and serve.  It will keep in the refrigerator for two weeks, or you can freeze it.

Makes 2  cups

Plum Preserves  

This jam shouldn’t be canned due to the lower amount of sugar.

1 pound ripe, juicy plums, unpeeled, pitted, halved and thinly sliced
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Bring all the ingredients to a boil in a non-reactive skillet. Reduce heat and simmer until it begins to look syrupy.  Skim off any foam that develops on the surface.  Cool and serve.  It will keep in the refrigerator for two weeks, or you can freeze it.

Makes 2 cups

Red Pepper Jam 

2 large red bell peppers, seeded and finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 cup cider vinegar
1 1/4 cups sugar

Place the peppers in a large bowl, sprinkle them with the salt, and let them sit for 30 minutes. Drain the excess liquid. Rinse the peppers in cold water and drain the water; rinse and drain again. Put the peppers into a wide, heavy saucepan with the vinegar and sugar.  Bring the mixture to a boil and stir for 15-20 minutes or until the peppers are translucent and the candy thermometer reads 220 degrees.Ladle the jam into hot sterilized jars and seal.  Refrigerate up to 2 months or freeze for up to a year. If you’re freezing them leave additional space in the jars.

Makes 2 cups