Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Vermont Cheese Council

The Vermont Cheese Council and I have come together in a fun new way. Every month on the Cheese Council's e-newsletter, I will be sharing flavorful recipes highlighting Vermont's fine cheeses.

Sign up for the newsletter at http://www.vtcheese.com/

September recipe:

Cheese Recipe of the Month
By Courtney Contos, Executive Chef for Cook Academy

Savory Harvest Tarts with Tomatoes and Blue Cheese
Makes two tarts

1 sheet (about 1/2 pound ) frozen puff pastry, thawed
1-1/2 cups Blue Cheese (crumbled)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1-1/2 pounds (about 2 large tomatoes) vine-ripened tomatoes, sliced thin
1 small red onion, halved and sliced thin
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley leaves

Preheat oven to 425F.
On a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin roll out pastry into a rectangle roughly 15 by 13 inches. Halve pastry lengthwise, forming two 15- by 7-inch rectangles.

Brush edges with water and fold in edges to form a 1/2-inch wide border on each rectangle. With tines of a fork, press border to seal. Transfer rectangles to a large baking sheet.

Sprinkle each tart evenly with Parmesan. Arrange tomato slices in one layer on cheese. Scatter onion slices and herbs over tomatoes and sprinkle with blue cheese. Season with fresh ground pepper to taste.

Bake tarts in upper third of oven 14 to 16 minutes, or until crust is golden. Tarts may be made 2 days ahead and chilled, covered loosely. Reheat tarts before serving. Serve tarts warm or at room temperature.

*Serve as hors d'Ĺ“uvre’s, as a garnish to your favorite salad, or along side grilled steak or roasted chicke
n. Delicious as they are,-hard not to eat the tarts right out of the oven!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday night in October

Fall is my favorite time of year, with its colors, celebrating the last of warm weather foods, and welcoming the winter hardy ones. Recently at home, on a cold windy night, with the wood stove warming the house we indulged. Some of our highlights were
Vermont Smoke and Cure Bacon wrapped in fresh local venison back straps. They were held together with a toothpick and grilled over charcoal wood and apples. In the last minute of grilling, I glazed the bacon wrapped venison with sweet family maple syrup.
I served the venison on top of grilled apple rings.

Also on the dinner table was braised red cabbage, which I just love. The red cabbage is slowly braised with juniper berries, fresh cranberries, cinnamon, and apples (recipe below). That same breezy night I had my first Brussels sprout since last year. I cooked them as I always do with maple syrup, Dijon, and walnuts with a bit of chicken stock. The Dijon and syrup help balance the bitter little sprouts.

This time of year I love lightly simmering red wine and VT apple cider with peppercorns and cinnamon. So gooood! As a youngster, I was served a taste of this divine spiced wine on a cold winter night (shhh).

Well, all this happened in that fun spontaneous way on a Monday night in October.

Courtney's Spiced Wine

1 bottle dry red wine
3 cups real apple cider
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
Good splash of Grand Mariner
Maple Syrup to taste ( I use 2 tablespoons)
2 tangerines or 1 orange seeded and sliced

Combine apple cider, dry red wine, cinnamon stick, peppercorns, Grand Mariner, maple syrup, and tangerines, in a medium pot. Gently simmer over medium-low heat for 10 minutes. Serve warm, in mugs.

Braised Red Cabbage
Serves 8

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 pounds red cabbage (1 medium head), shredded
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup apple cider
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen whole cranberries
2 bay leafs
10 juniper berries
1 cinnamon stick
1 large tart apple, cored and sliced
2-3 tablespoons real maple syrup
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and cook until tender.
Add cabbage and saute for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add apple cider, cranberries, bay leaf, and cinnamon stick. Cover and cook slowly over medium low heat until the cabbage is tender, approximately 30 minutes. Stir periodically. Then, add apples, maple syrup, and vinegar. Mix well. Cover and continue cooking until apples are very tender, approximately 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.