by Irene Morse
The Cookers & Kibitzers Club is a group of women in Visalia who get together each month to enjoy cooking good food and having great conversation. See what they have for us this month-there are recipes at the end of this article & a coupon for Valentino’s Italian Restaurant in Reedley.
Our January menu was preposterous. Who cooks a meal based on food we don’t like? Well, the Cookers and Kibitzers decided that maybe food we didn’t like was the result of unimaginative preparation and not the food itself so we began compiling a list of food each of us didn’t like.
The list wasn’t long–we felt we had tested Margaret’s distaste for cooked orange vegetables enough– but it became apparent that many of us shared the same dislike for a few items. It also became clear that we didn’t want the entire meal to consist of food we didn’t like unless we were prepared to send out for pizza. We chose Brussels Sprouts and Parsnips as the vegetables the fewest of us enjoy and we built a menu around them.
Served six of us for $7 each (not including wine)
Carol brought fresh carrots for us to nibble on while cooking. She tried to pass them off as coming from her garden but she’s not very good at subterfuge. We all knew that her first attempt at growing carrots resulted in beautiful lacey tops but no carrot (just as mine had the first year). These Farmers’ Market carrots were unbelievably tender and sweet.
Rosemary and Garlic Roasted Pork Tenderloin
Herb-Roasted Fingerling Potatoes
Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts and Capers
Parsnip Pie (yes, Parsnips!)
Our numbers were reduced by winter illnesses. Chris sent over the recipes for the Brussels sprouts and parsnip pie although she was laid up with whatever bug she brought back from Disney World.
We had decided that our usual habit of one or two people tackling one portion of the meal while others tackled others resulted in individuals not being able to observe the whole meal being prepared. This meal would be ideal for making one dish at a time. The parsnip pie took the longest to prepare and everything else happened at the last minute.
Next thing I knew, everyone was sitting on the Kibitzer’s stools, sipping champagne and nibbling carrots. Sometimes we all feel lazy at the same time.
Finally, the parsnips were peeled and put on to boil. The spices were combined for the pork roast; the potatoes were washed as were the Brussels sprouts which went into the bowl of sauce to marinate.
Since this was a simple meal, we decided to make the pie crust from scratch rather than using store-bought. I’m including the recipe for the easiest, flakiest, most delicious pie crust you’ll ever come across–and you’ll impress your friends because they all think that pie crust is hard to do.
For the crust:
2 C Flour
½ tsp Salt
½ C Vegetable Oil
¼ C Milk
Measure 2 cups of flour, loosely packed, into a bowl. Add ½ teaspoon of salt.
Into a glass measuring cup, put ½ cup of vegetable oil. Without emptying the oil out of the cup, add milk up to the ¾ cup mark. Add to flour, salt mixture.
Mix together with a fork, or your hands, and roll out between two pieces of waxed paper (or parchment paper). If you try to roll this crust out using a floured board, the additional flour will make the crust tough.
We baked the crust, at 425, for about 10 minutes and set it aside while we prepared the filling.
For the filling:
3C Pureed Parsnips
¼ Stick Unsalted Butter-room temperature
½ C Honey
Zest of one Orange
½ tsp Mace
½ tsp Ground Cloves
½ tsp Cinnamon
¼ tsp Allspice
Juice from ½ a Lemon
1 C Heavy Cream
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Peel and boil the parsnips until they are fork tender.
Put all ingredients into a bowl and mix until smooth. Our parsnips were still a bit lumpy but it didn’t seem to hurt anything.
Add the filling to the partially cooked pie crust, drizzle about 2 Tbsp of honey over the top and bake 50 to 60 minutes. The pie is done when a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.
We whipped some cream, although it would be good just poured over the pie as well. We added 1 or 2 Tbsp brown sugar to the whipping cream for a little sweet flavor.
The consensus was that this pie was pretty uninspired. No one disliked it. We all just wondered why one might put in this much effort into preparing a pie that had very little flavor. I had the forethought to buy a pint of butter-pecan ice cream in case we hated the pie so some of us had pie a la mode.
The truth is that a couple of people, who shall remain nameless, added a generous serving of ice cream atop their pie and enthusiastically ate the ice cream – being careful to not let any pie onto their forks.
I’ve included the recipe for those adventurous cooks who might love parsnips or who might want to try adding ingredients to jazz it up a bit. Maybe there are people who like very bland pie.
We put the fingerling potatoes in a baking dish, poured 1 or 2 Tbsp olive oil over them and sprinkled them with Kosher salt and Herbes du Provence. We baked them at 425 degrees for about 30 minutes.
They were tender and yummy and their various shapes and colors kept us amused.
Janet found a wonderful recipe for roasted pork which we altered slightly.
Rosemary and Garlic Roasted Pork Tenderloin:
2 Lbs Pork Tenderloin
2 to 4 Cloves Garlic
2 tsp Chopped Fresh Rosemary
2 tsp Chopped Fresh Thyme
½ tsp Ground Cumin
½ tsp Kosher Salt
¼ tsp Pepper
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
Preheat oven to 425 degrees
Mix the garlic, herbs and spices in a bowl. Rub the mixture all over the pork tenderloin.
Add the olive oil to an oven-proof skillet. Add the pork and sear all surfaces–about 3 to 5 minutes.
Put the pan in the oven and roast about 15 minutes (150 degrees on a meat thermometer). Let sit 5 minutes before slicing. This leaves the pork very slightly pink in the thickest part; it is moist and delicious.
While the pork was resting and the potatoes were just finishing up, it was the moment of truth for the Brussels sprouts.
Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts and Capers:
We doubled this recipe but didn’t double the Serrano Chili–some of us can’t stand the heat
½ Serrano Chili, seeded and minced
1 ½ tsp Honey
2 Tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
½ Lb Brussels Sprouts, trimmed and quartered
1 Tbsp Capers–we just used the whole jar
1/3 C Walnut Pieces, toasted
Salt and Pepper to taste
In a bowl, combine the chile, honey, vinegar and olive oil. Toss with the Brussels sprouts and add salt and pepper to taste.
We let the sprouts sit in this sauce until the very last minute and were glad we did. The sauce flavors the Brussels sprouts nicely.
Sauté the sprouts in vegetable oil for about 2 or 3 minutes. Add the capers and fry a minute or so longer. Turn the mixture into a bowl and add the toasted walnut pieces. Serve immediately.
The truth is, we might have used just a bit more Serrano chili. Or, because it is a rather plain-looking recipe, a ¼ tsp or so of red pepper flakes might jazz it up.
Every single one of us loved this recipe. We all remembered Brussels sprouts from our childhoods as mushy and smelling of sulfur. There was none of that at our table this day.
The Brussels sprouts were crunchy and full of a cabbage-like flavor. We enjoyed having an abundance of capers for a tangy surprise and the walnuts added more crunch. Do not be afraid of this dish; it was delicious!
We all enjoyed our “hated foods” meal immensely. While we agreed that none of us were likely to prepare the parsnip pie recipe again, we thought it was fun giving it a try. We look forward to using all of the other recipes again and again.
As is usual with us, we talked about food while we ate. We decided that roasting duck was a good idea and we could do it in February to celebrate Chinese New Year.
There was some sort of sporting event on (I think it was football) so Janet stayed and, with one eye on the TV, chatted with me while Gary made his contribution, washing the dishes. All-in-all, a very pleasant day.
Cooking Tip of the Month:
No one likes to chop onions. Some of us have been known to go to great lengths to ensure someone else volunteers for that task. Here is a tip to make it a little quicker and easier.
Cut the “top” end off a whole onion. Stand the onion on end, cut side down and cut it in half, slicing through the middle of the root end.
Pull the outside skin off the onion. Make a slice through the width of the onion up to the root end. Make several slices through the length of the onion. Now dice the onion from the open end up to the root end.
Leaving the root end intact makes the onion hold together during the dicing process and makes the cutting faster and easier.
You can use a food processor, of course. I generally just end up with onion juice when I use that device and dicing by hand with this method is so easy, faster and no processor to wash.
You can find more recipes and some restaurant reviews in our food section, Food Fun!
And if you decide you’re not in the mood to cook, check out Valentino’s specials listed on their Facebook page. Check out this special coupon for KRL’s readers!