18 October 2010

Autumn Harvest Stew

Autumn harvest stew is rich and sweet with the flavors of fall - apple, maple, cranberries and root vegetables. It's a wonderful meal for a cold and rainy day, which we've had a lot of here. It's perfect for simmering on the stove, in fact, it's adapted for doing just that.
My mother is an avid wood stove cook - cooking nearly every meal from September to June on the wood cook stove. She always has something simmering or baking, and who wouldn't with the stove running day and night. She carefully manages the fire - selecting the right type of wood (maple wood burns hot and long, birch quick and fast, ash and apple somewhere in between), positioning the stoves damper just so to further manage the fire (with damper wide open she gets the fire 'cranking", with it closed down she can hold the heat steady). Failure to pay care with the wood cook stove usually results in an under cooked dinner or burned dessert.

As a result, my mother has perfected several recipes as wood stove fail-safes - recipes that simmer for long periods of time with rich aromas, but need relatively little attention and are forgiving when it comes to cooking temperatures. Autumn Harvest Stew is one of those recipes.

Autumn Harvest Stew
Adapted From Rachael Ray
2.5lbs Pork Roast or Tenderloin cut into 1-2 in. cubes
1/2 Cup Whole Wheat or White Flour
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
3 Small Onions cut into quarters
3 Leeks sliced
1 Bulb of Kohlrabi cut into 1" pieces
5 Potatoes cut into 1" pieces
2 Bay Leaves
1 Tsp Allspice
2-4 Springs of Thyme
3 Tbsp Maple Sugar or 1/4 Cup Grade B Pure Maple Syrup
2 Cups Apple Cider
3 Cups Chicken Broth
1 Cup Fresh Cranberries or 
1/2 Cup Dried Cranberries 
4 Unpeeled Apples cut into 1-2" chunks

Heat a heavy bottomed pan on high heat with the olive oil (1/2 the olive oil). Place the cut pieces of pork in a resealable plastic bag (1 gallon zippered works well) along with 1/2 cup of flour. Shake bag until pork is evenly coated. Once the pan is hot add a third to half of the pork  and brown on all sides. It will take 5 to 8 minutes depending on how large your pieces are. Remove from the pan and set aside. Repeat with remaining meat until all is cooked. Set aside the pork.

Place the remaining olive oil in the pan and add onions and leeks saute until soft 3 to 5 minutes. Add potatoes and kohlrabi and cook an additional 3 to 5 minutes. Add bay leaves, thyme, all spice, maple sugar, apple cider and chicken broth. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to incorporate all the bits from the browning of the meat and the cooking of the veggies. Add the pork back into the pot.

Simmer the stew for at least 1 to 2 hours. 10 to 30 minutes before serving add the apples and cranberries. Serve when the apples and cranberries are soft - making sure to remember to remove the sprigs of thyme and bay leaves before serving.

14 October 2010

Hearty Maple Corn Bread

I often have "helpers" in the kitchen and this is a recipe that works well when you find yourself with a little extra "help". It's sweet, simple and forgiving - all important characteristics when it's more than just you cooking. This moist, hearty bread is the perfect accompaniment to most any meal and always a great snack.

Hearty Maple Corn Bread
Adapted from the Moosewood Cookbook

1 Cup Coarse Cornmeal
1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
2 Tsp Baking Powder
1 Tsp Baking Soda
4 Tbsp Dried Buttermilk Powder
1/3 Cup Granulated Maple Sugar
pinch of salt
2 Eggs
1/4 Cup Olive Oil, plus 1tbsp for oiling the pan
1 Cup Whole Milk

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Oil a baking dish (9x9 or two bread pans).

Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a second bowl combine the eggs and oil. Then add the milk to the egg and oil mixture. Add the wet ingredients into the dry. Mix until just combined. Don't overmix. Pour batter into the pan and cook immediately. Remove when toothpick or knife inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean. Roughly 20 to 25 minutes.

Serve warm with butter or along with your favorite meal.

12 October 2010

Pasta with Winter Squash, Sweet Italian Sausage & Maple Sugar

Inspired by some local sweet "Italian" sausage we'd picked up at the farmer's market and some winter squash from the garden, I pulled onions, some dried sage and of course maple sugar from the pantry and began cooking. I tend to cook on the fly, and well, this was one of those recipes. I can't give you any exact measurements - but a rough ingredients list is below. It just kind of came together, a wonderful hearty blend of sweet and savory that was too good not to share. 

The flavors are bold and warm. It's a quick and wonderful dish for a cool fall day. Give it a try and make it your own - I'm sure you could easily substitute pure maple syrup for maple sugar. 

The Rough Recipe:
2 Sweet Italian Sausage 
Granulated Maple Sugar
1 Box Pasta (Bow Ties)
2 Small Winter Squash thinly sliced
8 Whole Dried Sage Leaves Crushed
1 Cup Apple Cider 
Salt and Pepper To Taste

To start, place a pot of water on to boil for the pasta. 

Slice the sausages into 1/2" rounds and lightly sprinkled with maple sugar. Cook on medium heat in a skillet for about 5 minutes. Removed the sausage and added the onions to caramelize. To speed the process add a bit of maple sugar to them. Cook about 10 minutes or until suitably caramelized.

While the onions are cooking add the pasta to the pot of boiling water. When the pasta is nearly done (with 3 or 4 minutes left to cook) add the sliced winter squash. When pasta is cooked, drain the squash and pasta.

Finally, add a bit of apple cider to the onions to deglaze the pan. Then almost immediately add a bit of the dried sage and let the cider reduce for a few minutes. Then return the sausage pieces to the pan, as well as any of the squash that need longer to cook. Finally, add the remaining squash and pasta to the pan. Season with salt and pepper, mix throughly, and serve.