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An autumn menu

Beautiful table with thanksgiving food
Beautiful table with thanksgiving food

From one of my favorite books, "Sharing The Vineyard Table" by Carolyn Wente, comes an appetizer: Baby Baked Yukon Gold potatoes stuffed with butternut squash and goat cheese. Essentially, we are going to cut some 1 1/2"-2" Yukon Gold potatoes in half, bake them and then scoop them out, leaving a nice little shell. Then we prepare a filling of baked butternut squash, red peppers (you

can get a little hot if you like), red onion and parmesan cheese. Stuff the potatoes with the mixture, and return them to a warm oven until you are ready to serve. Top off with a little fleur de sel, and I would be tempted to add a tiny dollop of sour cream. One other side note, this squash filling would be ideal for home made ravioli, so it wouldn't hurt to make a little extra.

For my soup, I found inspiration from Saveur Magazine, and their Cauliflower and Red Pepper soup. I think this soup idea comes out of eastern Europe, because it has dumplings and copious amounts of paprika in it. You start by whipping up some light little dumplings, which are a matter of flour, butter, and egg and a little salt. Make up a bowl of the dough, which should be soft and fluffy, and refrigerate.

Next, you are going to gently sauté some chopped onion in butter, working some paprika into the soup kettle. When the onion is translucent, pour in some low sodium chicken broth, and toss in your cauliflower florets, matchstick cuts of your favorite red peppers, and some diced carrot, possibly some diced parsnips as well.

Simmer this soup until all the vegetables are soft, then drop your dumplings into the pot and let them cook through. Adjust the seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with parsley and you are good to go.

For my main dish, I went back to the Wente cookbook: Roast Pork Loin with Spicy Apple Sauce and Braised Red Cabbage. This whole dish is a question of balancing sweet and sour, so taste early and taste often, and have your apple cider vinegar handy.

You will want to get a nice tenderloin of pork, Liberty Delight Farm is a great supplier, and you are going to butterfly it so you can lay it out flat. Next you are going to lay some port-soaked dried figs (cut in half if they are too plump) in the center of the loin. Sprinkle salt and pepper, then roll it up and tie the "log" securely with butcher's twine. Easy. Roast the loin in a 350° oven for about an hour; you're trying to get an internal temperature of about 145°. You can add a little apple cider vinegar, and a taste of honey to the pan juices to make a quick sauce.

To make your apple sauce, select the in-season Ida Red apple if you can find it. If not, Braeburn, Northern Spy or Winesap work well too. Peel, de-seed and cut into a small dice, making 3-4 cups. Place the apples into a saucepan along with a little cayenne pepper, some cinnamon and nutmeg, a little brown sugar and about a cup of apple cider. Bring this to a boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes. Puree in a food processor and you're all done.

For the braised red cabbage, you'll start by frying up some bacon with thinly sliced onion and carrot. When nicely crisp, add your thinly sliced red cabbage, a bit of brown sugar, some apple cider vinegar, carraway seeds and salt and pepper. There should be enough liquid to braise the cabbage, which you will cook low and slow and under cover for about 30 minutes. Don't over cook or it will become soggy.

And finally for dessert, Maple-Apple Upside-Down Cake. Here's the outline of this recipe. Reduce one cup of maple syrup by a third. Heavily butter a 10" springform cake pan. Pour the syrup into the bottom of the cake pan, then lay out circles of sliced apple. Pour your cake batter on top of the apples, and cook in a 350° oven for up to an hour and a half.

Recipe for Upside-down Cake Batter

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

3 large eggs

3/4 cup buttermilk

1 tbs vanilla extract

1 1/2 stick softened sweet butter

1 1/3 cups white sugar

1. Whisk the dry ingredients in a bowl. Beat the eggs and buttermilk in a separate bowl. With a hand mixer, blend the softened butter and sugar until thoroughly mixed.

2. Working in batches, mix the dry and wet ingredients into a well blended wet batter.

Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.
Executive Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks restaurant is fascinated by food and wine, and the way they work in harmony on the palate. His understanding of the two goes all the way to the molecular level, drawing on his advanced education in molecular biology. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients together to work with Corks' extensive wine offerings.