Sunday, October 25, 2015

Banana Squash and White Asparagus Crème Soup







      An Elegant Tasting Winter Squash Cream Soup For The Holiday Season! 
     Banana Squash are huge and they can weigh over 20 pounds.  Most food market produce clerks will cut a big banana squash into manageable size pieces by request.  This winter squash has a nice semi-sweet flavor that tastes nice in a cream soup.  Banana Squash also tastes nice with the light savory flavor of white asparagus.

     White asparagus is always cut to size, like spears, then it is peeled and a large piece of thick stalk is leftover.  The thick stalks are most often used to make soup.  The peelings are usually discarded.  Using asparagus stalks to make a puree cream soup reduces food cost and the flavor is exceptionally nice.  
     Some extra thick white asparagus stalks are too tough and fibrous to be used in a puree soup recipe.  If the extra thick asparagus stalk ends are too fibrous, it is best to discard them or the puree soup will have a grainy texture.   
      
     Today's soup is very easy to make.  A blender, food processor or blending wand can be used to puree the soup.  The puree soup can be passed through a fine mesh strainer for a refined texture or it can be served as it is.  The flavor of Banana Squash and White Asparagus Crème Soup will certainly please guests on a chilly day!  

     White Roux:
     This recipe yields about 3/4 cup of roux.
     Making a large batch of roux is easy.  For today's recipe, only a small amount of roux is needed for thickening 3 cups of soup.  The extra roux can be refrigerated up to 7 days and it can be used to make many recipes.  
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 4 ounces of unsalted butter.
     Allow the butter to melt.  
     *If excess watery milk fats are present, simmer till the liquid evaporates. 
     Step 2:  Add an equal volume of flour, while constantly stirring with a whisk.  (About 1/2 cup)
     *The roux should look like a very thick shiny liquid.  The roux should not look dull, opaque and caky.  Adding too much flour is a mistake that many cooks make.  The proportion of flour to butter can only be adjusted in the first 30 seconds when making roux!  
     Step 3:  Constantly stir till the roux while it cooks.  Stir till the roux turns a pale whitish yellow color with no hazelnut aroma.  
     Step 4:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Transfer the roux to a metal or ceramic container.  
     Set the roux aside or chill the roux for later use

     White Asparagus and Banana Squash Crème Soup:
     This recipe yields about 3 cups!           
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 2 tablespoons of chopped onion.
     Add 2 tablespoons of chopped peeled celery.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced shallot.
     Gently sauté till the onions turn clear in color.
     Step 2:  Add 1 cup of chicken broth.
     Add 2 cups of milk.
     Add 1/4 cup of cream.
     Add 3/4 cup of small chopped peeled seeded banana squash.
     Add 3/4 cup of small chopped peeled white asparagus stalks.  (The leftover stalks from cutting white asparagus spears.) 
     Step 3:  Add 1 pinch of nutmeg.
     Add 1 small pinch of cardamom.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of ground fenugreek.
     Add 1 small pinch of ground sage.  
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.
     Step 4:  Raise the temperature to medium heat.
     Bring the soup to a gentle boil.
     Step 5:  Add just enough white roux, while stirring with a whisk, to thicken the milk broth to a very thin consistency.  (The soup will simmer and reduce to a thicker consistency later in the recipe.)  
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer the soup, till the asparagus and squash become very tender.  
     Step 7:  Remove the pot from the heat.  
     Use a blender, food processor or blending wand to puree the soup.
     Step 8:  Pour the soup through a fine mesh strainer into a sauce pot.  
     Place the sauce pot over medium low heat. 
     Simmer and reduce the soup, till it becomes a medium thin consistency that can coat a spoon.  (The volume should be about 3 cups.)
     Keep the soup warm over very low heat.
      
     Presentation:
     Ladle the soup into a wide shallow soup bowl.
     Float 3 cilantro leave on the surface of the soup in a flower pattern.
     Float 1/4 teaspoon of brunoise sweet mini red bell pepper on the soup in middle of the cilantro leaf flower pattern.  (Brunoise = 1/8" dice)

     This crème soup is gentle tasting and satisfying on a chilly day!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Cured Pork Loin Cutlets en Brandy Crème Fraîche with Dates, Pearl Onions and Fried Curry Leaves








     A Modern German Café Style Entrée!
     Today's pork cutlet entrée is designed for a chilly day.  There is plenty of protein, lipids and carbohydrates to warm the body up on a cold day.        
     Cured pork chops and cured pork cutlets are traditional winter fare.  There are many traditional German recipes that feature cured pork loin chops.  In the old days, it was necessary to fully cure or lightly cure meats that were stored for a long winter.  Cured meats are durable and they do not easily spoil.  Cured meats also can make a person feel more full than the amount of food consumed would suggest.  
     It is very easy for a home cook to lightly cure pork loin chops.  The idea is to experience the traditional flavor of cured meat that was preserved for winter in the old days  Older gourmands may still recall the nice flavor of winter season cured pork, but many younger people have never experienced such a thing.  Keeping a food traditions alive is always a good thing, especially when an item like cured pork loin chops tastes so good!
     
     Sauces made with crème fraîche are traditional throughout norther Europe, especially when the weather is cold.  Many old traditional German recipes combine crème fraîche with onions and dried fruit, like prunes.  Palm Dates also taste nice with crème fraîche and the sugary dates help to sweeten the sauce.
     Modern café style cooking often involves creating a fusion of international ingredients.  Dates are not traditional added to a German style cured pork loin cutlets in brandy crème fraîche recipe and neither are fried curry leaves.  I had some fresh curry leaves on hand and I thought that the flavor would add a nice touch.  The flavor of fried curry leaves tastes like complex green herbs and roasted peanuts.  Curry leaves are healthy to eat, they taste good and they add an interesting visual effect to the entrée presentation.   
     
     Lady Apples are something that has not been featured at this website before today.  Lady Apples are tiny sweet apples.  German style baked spiced apples are a traditional winter season entrée accompaniment.  Baked Lady Apples are so small, that they require a short baking time.  Care must be taken to not overcook these tiny apples or they will become unpleasantly soft and mushy.   

     *This entire recipe yields 1 fully garnished entrée!

     Cured Pork Loin Cutlets:
     This recipe yields 1 portion!  
     Morton Tender Quick is the curing salt mixture that is used in this recipe.  This is not a strong curing salt product and it is relatively safe to use.  Every curing salt product has its own formula and its own usage ratio.  
     *1 Tablespoons of Morton Tender Quick is enough to cure 1 pound of pork loin cutlets or pork chops.
     *Today's recipe calls for 3 lightly cured pork loin cutlets that weigh 2 1/2 to 3 ounces apiece.  The total pork weight is 7 1/2 to 9 ounces, so 1/2 tablespoon of Morton Tender Quick curing salt is all that is needed.  
     *The length of curing time makes a difference.  For lightly cured meat, 2 to 4 hours is enough.  For fully cured cutlets, cure the meat for 12 hours overnight. 
     Step 1:  Place 3 boneless pork loin cutlets that weigh 2 1/2 to 3 ounces apiece in a container.
     Sprinkle 1/2 tablespoon of Morton Tender Quick over the each cutlet.
     Rub the curing salt on the surface of each cutlet.
     Step 2:  Seal the container.
     Place the cutlets in a refrigerator and allow the cutlets to cure for 2 to 4 hours.
     Step 3:  Rinse the cured cutlets under cold running water.
     Set the cutlets on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan and let them dry off in a refrigerator. 

     Pearl Onion Preparation:
     This is the best way to prepare pearl onions!
     Step 1:  Boil 2 cups of water in a small sauce pot over high heat.
     Add 4 whole pearl onions.  (Leave the skin on!)
     Boil the pearl onions, till they are blanched al dente.
     Cool the pearl onions under cold running water.
     Step 2:  Minimally trim the root end off of each onion.
     Pinch the skin toward the tapered end, to squeeze the pearl onion out of the skin. 
     Chill the peeled blanched pearl onions till they are needed.

     Baked Lady Apples:
     Lady Apples only need to be baked for a short time!
     Step 1:  Core 2 lady apples.
     Cut the top and bottom off of the apples.
     Step 2:  Place the apples on a small roasting pan.
     Brush the apples with melted unsalted butter.
     Sprinkle these ingredients on the apples:
     - 1 pinch of allspice.
     - 1 pinch of cinnamon
     - 1 small pinch of nutmeg
     - 2 to 3 pinches of sugar
     Step 3:  Bake the lady apples in a 350ºF oven till they are tender.  
     Keep the baked lady apples warm on a stove top.

     Roasted Potato:
     Step 1:  Carve 1/2 of a large russet potato large tournée style.  (Chateau or Fondant Tournée - 3" length) 
     Cut one end flat, so the potato can stand vertically.
     Step 2:  Place the potato on a small roasting pan, so it stands vertically.
     Brush the potato with melted unsalted butter.
     Season the potato with sea salt and white pepper.
     Step 3:  Roast the potato till it is tender and golden brown.
     Keep the potato warm on a stove top.
     
     Fluted Portobello:
     Step 1:  Trim the stem of an unopened medium size portobello mushroom so it is flush.
     Peel the mushroom.
     Use a paring knife or a sharp channeling tool to flute the mushroom.  (Save the mushroom peelings for other making stock or other recipes!)
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan over medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Sauté the portobello, till it is tender and golden brown highlights appear.
     Season with sea salt and white pepper.
     Keep the portobello warm on a stove top.

     Fried Curry Leaves:
     Step 1:  Heat a small sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add enough vegetable oil, so the oil is about 1/8" deep.
     Step 2:  Add about 10 fresh curry leaves.
     Pan fry the curry leaves till they become crisp.
     Step 3:  Carefully use a slotted spatula to place the fried curry leaves on a parchment paper lined pan.
     Keep the fried curry leaves warm on a stove top.

     Cured Pork Loin Cutlets in Brandy Crème Fraîche with Dates, Pearl Onions:
     Step 1:  Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add the 3 cured pork loin cutlets.
     Sauté the cutlets on both sides, till they become fully cooked and golden highlights appear.
     Step 2:  Drain the excess butter out of the pan.
     Add 3 ounces of brandy.
     Flambé!
     Step 3:  Add 2 ounces of light chicken broth.
     Add 3 ounces of milk.
     Add 2 ounces of sour cream.
     Add 2 ounces of cream. 
     Add 5 pitted palm dates.
     Add the 4 prepared pearl onions.
     Add 1 pinch of white pepper.
     Add 1 small pinch of nutmeg.
     Stir the ingredients together.  
     Step 4:  Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce the sauce, till it is a medium thin sauce consistency that easily coats a spoon.  (Add milk if the sauce is too thick.)

     Presentation:
     Step 1:  Remove the 3 cured pork loin cutlets from the sauce and overlap them across the front half of a plate.
     Step 2:  Quickly arrange the Baked Lady Apples, Fluted Portobello, roasted potato and a vegetable of your choice on the back half of the plate.  
     *Make it look nice!  German fine dining café cuisine always requires a clean looking presentation! 
     Step 3:  Use a slotted spoon to gather the dates and pearl onion from the sauce.  
     Place the dates and pearl onions on the back edge of the cutlets.
     Spoon a generous amount of the sauce over the cutlets.  
     Step 4:  Arrange the fried curry leaves on top of the sauced cutlets, so they look nice.

     Viola!  A nice café presentation of modern German food!  

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Cellentani al melanzane e zucchine salsa di olio d'oliva






     Classic Café Style Pasta!
     Italian style pastas seem to always have a great flavor, even when there are only a few select ingredients in the recipe.  Today's recipe is an example of a very simple pasta that is made with traditional Italian cooking techniques.
     The olive oil sauce is started with thin sliced garlic, fine chopped eggplant and zucchini are added.  Olive oil has a low smoking point, so the sauté temperature is moderate.  This allows the full flavor of the vegetables to develop.  When tossed with the pasta, the tiny bits of vegetables cling to the Cellentani.  As always, the idea is to coat the pasta with flavor.  A pasta like this is usually served as the second course in a formal Italian four course dinner.
     Many mediterranean countries traditionally use anchovies or anchovy paste like a seasoning.  The tiny amount of anchovy paste brings this pasta to life!  The finely chopped eggplant and zucchini easily clings to the pasta.  The sliced garlic flavor is thoroughly infused with the olive oil.
     Some Italian pastas are made with chopped garlic and some are made with sliced garlic.  Sliced garlic is usually part of an olive oil sauce or a marinara.  The splash of virgin olive oil finish, freshens the great olive oil flavor.
  
     Cellentani al melanzane e zucchine salsa di olio d'oliva:
     This recipe yields 1 large portion or 2 petite portions.
     Eggplant absorbs a lot of olive oil!
     Step 1:  Cook 1 portion of Cellentani pasta in boiling water, till it is al dente.
     Cool the pasta under cold running water.
     Drain the water off of the pasta.
     Toss the pasta with 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil, so it does not stick together.
     Set the pasta aside.
     Step 2:  Keep a pot of water boiling, so the pasta can be reheated later in the recipe.
     Step 3:  Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add about 1/4 cup of olive oil.
     Add 3 very thin sliced garlic cloves.
     Sauté the garlic, till it is a light golden brown color.
     Step 4:  Immediately add 1/3 cup of very fine chopped peeled eggplant.
     Add 1/3 cup of very finely chopped zucchini.
     Sauté the vegetables till they just start to become tender.
     Step 5:  Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of crushed dried red pepper.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of anchovy paste.
     Sauté till the vegetables are tender and golden highlights appear.
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 2 teaspoons of virgin olive oil.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of fine chopped Italian Parsley.
     Stir the sauce.
     Step 7:  Place the portion of al dente cooked cellentani pasta in a pasta net and briefly reheat it in the boiling water.
     Use the pasta net to drain off the water.
     Add the cellentani to the sauce.
     Step 8:  Toss the ingredients together.
     Place the pasta on a plate.
     Sprinkle some finely grated imported Parmigiana Cheese over the pasta.
     No garnish is necessary!
  
     Cellentani is a ribbed pasta, so it is perfect for an olive oil sauce!