Saturday, February 27, 2016

"(Sunset Magazine) Cooking for Two..." (Pork Chops with Rhubarb Dressing) & "The Savory Way" (Winter Vegetable Puree) by Deborah Madison & "Leo Buscaglia's Love Cookbook with Biba Caggiano" (Honey Bread Pudding) - Valentine's Day 2016

Date I made these recipes:  February 14, 2016 – Valentine's Day

Sunset Cooking for Two...or Just for You
Published by: Lane Publishing Co.
© 1978
Purchased at Hennepin County Library Used Book Sale
Recipe:  Pork Chops with Rhubarb Dressing – p. 45

The Savory Way by Deborah Madison
Published by:  Bantam Books
© 1990; ISBN 0-553-05780-4
Purchased at Arc's Value Village Thrift Stores
Recipe: Winter Vegetable Puree – p. 197

Leo Buscaglia's Love Cookbook with Biba Caggiano
Published by:  SLACK Incorporated
ISBN: 0-8050-3725-X
Purchased at: Barnes and Noble Used Books, Roseville, MN
Recipe:  Honey Bread Pudding – p. 139

Well Valentine's Day has come and gone and although I barely had my act together when it came to selecting a menu, I managed to pull this meal out for the win!  Valentine's Day was saved, be still my heart! (Pun intended.)

Occasions like this often require a consultation with my better half as to which recipe(s) to select.  Normally, I'd go through a couple of cookbooks, earmarking recipes for him to consider, but this year I didn't and he was not at all happy: "What?  You don't have anything marked for me to look at?"  [Insert look of horror here.]  "No, I don't and that's because you often look through the entire book anyway and select something that I didn't mark."

Like tonight's entree, Pork Chops with Rhubarb Dressing.  I saw the recipe but ignored it; he saw it and thought it had potential.  And this is why we work so well together.

So he selected that recipe and I filled in the rest of the dinner with the winter vegetable puree and also the bread pudding from Leo Buscaglia and Biba Caggiano's "Love" Cookbook.   I toyed with making something chocolate but that is just so expected and I hate doing the expected so I switched it up and made honey bread pudding out of a "Love" cookbook; honey + "love" = perfect for Valentine's Day.  And so with that, our menu was all set and all that was left to do was to go shopping for the few ingredients I needed to make our day complete.

One and a half days later...

...Okay, this dinner almost didn't get off the ground because I couldn't find rhubarb.  Actually, I found it, I just didn't buy it when I found it (frozen) at the Lunds & Byerlys grocery store nearest our house because that would have been too easy.  Instead, I intended to purchase it at another Lunds & Byerlys in the city of Edina, where Andy and I were running some errands on Valentine's Day.

Except, of course, that Lunds & Byerlys was out of the frozen rhubarb.  What?  Let's review:  it's winter in Minnesota and a grocery store is out of frozen rhubarb?  Because....why?

Well this was puzzling and irritating at the same time because that meant we had to go all the way back to the other Lunds & Byerlys just to get rhubarb.  I was most certainly not feeling the love at that point, "L&B."  Not feeling the love.  But we made the trip because once we had our minds set on the dish, we had to have it which meant we had to have the rhubarb which meant that we had to waste gas going right back to the original source.  I could have screamed.

Luckily, the dish turned out and was very tasty even though I was skeptical that the spices – cinnamon and allspice - would overpower the dish.  They did not.  And as crazy as this sounds, I like the fact that a Cooking for Two cookbook delivered just the right amount of food.  I know, right?  Because folks, I've made a few other dishes from alleged "two person" cookbooks and either we both starved or we had way too many leftovers.  This amount was perfect plus, there were many other tasty-sounded recipes that will likely appeal if this one doesn't float your heart-shaped boat. 

Next up:  the side dish!  And now it's true confession time because I have to admit to you that I spent all of ten seconds leafing through The Savory Way  before finding what I wanted – potatoes – and calling it a day.  Some cookbooks are like that and I mean absolutely no disrespect to the author, Deborah Madison, because she writes excellent cookbooks.  I just needed to get on with my meal planning already, and that meant time was of the essence.  For those with plenty of time, this is a great cookbook and you'll be hard pressed not to find several recipes to suit your fancy.

For tonight's dinner, I made her dish pretty much to order although I barely added any butter (you can add butter or cream as optional ingredients) and I could have used a bit more salt because without it, the vegetables were not as flavorful.  I think that any type of root vegetables will do in this dish but I chose to go with potatoes, celery root, rutabaga and leeks. 

Although the flavors were slightly more savory than the pork chop dish, they worked pretty well together and we enjoyed eating them.  I wish we could say the same about the bread pudding which was not at all bad, it just wasn't the bread pudding we were used to.

For one thing, this recipe called for Italian bread and I don't know—I think it was the wrong flavor and consistency for the dish.  And instead of breaking the bread into cubes and baking it in a round casserole dish or soufflé dish, the bread was layered like a lasagna.  And then there was the rum and I want it noted that while I am always a fan of using liquor in cooking, the recipe called for 1/3 a cup and that's a lot of rum.  A lot of rum.  We could smell it in the living room, that's how much rum there was.  So if we made this recipe again and it's unlikely, we would not layer the dish, use different bread and – I cannot believe I am saying this – cut way down on the dark rum. 

The nice thing about Leo and Biba's cookbook is that they've created menus to help you with your menu planning -  Loving Dinners for Two; Loving Dinners for Friends; Loving Dinners for Family which can be a great thing if you're trying to design a special dinner for Valentine's Day. 

So I was just sitting here contemplating the bread pudding recipe and Valentine's Day and how disappointing this dish was when it sounded so promising, when out of the blue, this scene from the movie, The Godfather, played in my head:  "I know it was you, Fredo.  You broke my heart.  You broke my heart."  This recipe broke my heart but if you tweak it just a little, I think you could have a winner (and then Fredo won't die and then Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) won't be mad and it'll all be good).

Until next Valentine's Day....

Pork Chops with Rhubarb Dressing – serves 2- From Sunset Cooking for Two...or Just for You
1/8 teaspoon dry rosemary, crumbled
½ teaspoon salt
Dash pepper
2 pork loin or shoulder chops, cut ¾ inch thick
1 tablespoon salad oil
2 slices firm-textured bread, cut into ½-inch cubes (about 1 ¾ cups)
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1 pound rhubarb, cut into 1/2 –inch pieces (about 3 cups)
1 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour

Mix together rosemary, salt, and pepper.  Sprinkle evenly over chops.  Heat oil in a wide frying pan over medium-high heat; add chops and brown on both sides; set aside with drippings.

Stir together bread cubes, brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, rhubarb, and flour; spread half the mixture in a greased shallow 1 ½ to 2-quart baking dish.  Arrange chops on top; spoon over 2 tablespoons drippings (add water if necessary, to make this amount); top with remaining rhubarb mixture.  (Cover and refrigerate if made ahead.)

Bake, covered, in a 350 oven for 45 minutes; then uncover and bake for 15 minutes longer or until pork is fork tender.

Winter Vegetable Puree – makes about 2 ½ cups, serving 4 to 6 – From The Savory  Way
2 cups White Rose or red potatoes, scrubbed and diced into ½-inch pieces
3 cups mixed winter vegetables such as turnips, rutabagas, leeks, celery root, and fennel, diced into ½-inch pieces
3 sprigs chopped parsley
1 pinch of dried thyme
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
Butter or cream (optional)
Champagne vinegar
Freshly ground white pepper

Put the vegetables in a saucepan with the parsley, thyme, garlic, salt, and enough water to cover.  (Ann's Note:  just saying the word "salt" is not a good indication of how much.  I did not use enough.  You've been warned.)  Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer until the vegetables are completely soft, about 20 minutes.  Pour them into a colander set over a bowl; reserve the liquid.

Pass the vegetables through a food mill or mash by hand.  (The food processor will tend to make them too gummy and glutinous.)  Use the cooking water to thin the puree to the proper consistency.  Stir in additional butter or cream to taste and season with salt, a dash of vinegar and pepper.

Ann's Note:  I didn't use the vinegar and used just a scant amount of butter.  The resulting flavor was okay but a little bland so I added more salt.  If I made this again, I might use some chicken broth in place of some of the vegetable liquid; vegetarians, ignore that note!

Honey Bread Pudding – makes 6 servings – From Leo Buscalia's Love Cookbook with Biba Caggiano
Ann's Note:  As stated above, I think I would have liked this recipe a lot better had I used different bread, torn it into cubes instead of slicing and layering it, baked it in a round casserole and used less rum.  "But other than that, Mrs. Lincoln..."
8 to 10 (1/2-inch thick slices crusty Italian bread, preferably one to two days old, with crust removed
¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
½ cup honey
1/3 cup dark rum
½ cup golden raisins, soaked in lukewarm water for 20 minutes, then drained
4 large eggs
½ cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
3 cups milk

Preheat the oven to 375F.  Generously butter a 9 x 12-inch baking dish.  Arrange the bread slices in a single layer in the dish, slightly overlapping each other.  Set aside.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add the honey and rum, and raise the heat to high.  Cook, stirring, until sauce begins to thicken and is foamy and bubbling, 3 to 4 minutes.  Stir in the raisins, remove from heat, and pour over the bread evenly.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with 1/3 cup of the sugar.  Add the cream and milk, and beat well to combine.  Pour over the bread and sprinkle with remaining sugar.

Bake 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325F and bake an additional 20 to 25 minutes, or until pudding is set and the bread has a nice golden color.  Remove pudding from oven, and let it stand.  Cool to room temperature and serve.

Prepare ahead:  Complete steps one through four a day or two ahead.  Cover and refrigerate.  If pudding is refrigerated, allow it to come to room temperature before serving.

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