Saveur: Roasted Cranberry Sauce

from Saveur, no. 115, November 2008

Every time I try a Saveur recipe, I think, “Maybe I can survive the disappearance of Gourmet.” For this year’s Thanksgiving, I made two recipes from the magazine: this one and the one for Cornbread-Sausage Stuffing. Both deserves repeated revisits. The cranberry sauce took me to entirely new places that no cranberry sauce had done before. It has something to do with the cardamon and olive oil, I’m sure.

With minor tweaks, here it is:

Heat oven to 450. Using a peeler remove peel from 1 orange, taking off as little of the white pith as possible.

[Shadowcook: A seemingly trivial direction. However, the more white pith there is, the more bitter the contribution to the dish made by the orange.]

Cut peel into very thin strips, about 1 1/2″ long. Squeeze juice over orange, strain and reserve 1 tablespoon juice. In a bowl, combine peel, 1 pound fresh or thawed cranberries, 1 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 4 smashed green cardamon pods, 4 whole cloves, 2 sticks cinnamon, and 1 small stemmed and thinly sliced jalapeño. Toss and transfer to a parchment [or aluminum foil] lined baking sheet. Roast until cranberries begin to burst and release their juices, about 15 minutes [or less, if using a convection oven]. Transfer cranberry mixture to a bowl; stir in reserved orange juice and 1 1/2 tablespoons port. Let sit for at least 1 hour so that the flavors meld. Remove and discard caradmon, cloves, and cinnamon before serving. Makes 2 cups.

[Shadowcook: Lacking port, you might try madeira or a heavy red wine.]

Return to Weight Watchers: Peppers Stuffed with Greens and Israeli Couscous

A couple of month ago, I decided to drop twenty pounds by New Year’s Day. As the first step on the road to Slimmerdom, I eliminated alcohol from my diet. That was hard until, suddenly, I got over it. Then in August, I realized that I had to return to the only method that has ever resulted in my losing weight: Weight Watchers. As the Sex and the City character Samantha says, overhearing two women in a bookstore talking about diets, in one episode, “It’s the only thing that works.” It’s true. If you follow WW’s program, you will lose weight. The genius of WW is its simplicity. Simplicity is also what makes it hard. It’s all about repackaging calories in a user-friendly form. You have to have a little bit of the control-freak in you to do it, since you weigh and measure everything you eat. In Spring 2004, I followed the WW regime for about 8 months, and by 2005 I had lost thirty pounds. Since then, my weight has slowly crept back to its starting point. It took a while, but I finally worked myself up to the decision to try WW again. And I’m glad to say that it’s working. Ten pounds down, fifteen to go. And then I’ll lose a last five pounds in a victory lap.

However, I am pissed off. Even though I am in my fifties, when metabolisms are notoriously slower, I am not ready to entirely relinquish my appetites. I like to cook and to eat in reasonable quantity and frequency. It’s the unfairness of life that gnaws at my innards. Some of my friends who are of a similar age eat like birds — or less. Others eat whatever they want and don’t gain weight. They all annoy me. I like to eat. But I am one of those people who will always have to be hungry in order to keep my weight down.

That, as I said, is life. I have to deal with it. The challenge in restraining myself for the next few months to only 1200-1300 calories worth of food a day lies in making it interesting. I don’t want to eat only steamed vegetables. Fortunately, in the five years since I was last on WW the recipe database has greatly improved. It still is by no means a Foodies’ paradise, but one can now make do very well and adapt the recipes to make them more flavorful without adding many calories. Whats more, there’s an iPhone app for WW! When I learned that, I thought all is well with the world.

The photo shows one green pepper cut in half and stuffed. That counts as two servings, if you’re eating anything else in the meal:

2 servings

350 calories or 7 points per serving

about pound of greens (Swiss chard, kale, spinach, or a combination of all three2 green bell peppers)

1/2 onion, chopped

1/2 oz pine nuts

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup Israeli couscous

1 ounce hard cheese (Comté, Gruyère, any hard cheese conducive to melting)

Preheat oven to 350.

Clean and stem the greens. Shake the greens of water, but don’t dry the leaves completely. Roughly chop. Set aside.

Chop the half onion. Set aside.

Cut the pepper in half, seed and take out the ribs. Place cavity-side up in a very lightly oiled small baking dish.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet wide enough to accommodate the chopped greens. Add onion and sauté for a few minutes. When the onions are translucent, add the damp greens. Stir to coat with the olive oil and onion. Let the greens throw off their water and wilt. If you want to experiment at this point by adding spices to the greens (a pinch of nutmeg?), do so now.

Meanwhile, place a small saucepan of water on to boil. When the water is boiling, add the half cup of Israeli couscous and cook for 5 minutes. Drain and add to the wilted greens in the skillet. Stir to combine. Add the pine nuts. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Fill the pepper halves with the greens-Israeli couscous filling. Don’t pack it, but you can mound it. You’ll probably have leftover filling. Grate the one ounce hard cheese and sprinkle it over the pepper halves.

Bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Variations:

  • If you to add protein and have room for more calories, consider adding a few anchovies to the onions as they sauté.
  • Or skip the Israel couscous, beat an egg and mix it into the sauteed greens after cooling them. The egg will work as a binder.
  • Add a lttle lowfat ricotta to the cooled sauteed greens.

David Kinch: Strawberry Gazpacho

Manresa, 320 Village Lane (just off North Santa Cruz Avenue), Los Gatos, CA 95030
408.354.4330

No, I have no lost my mind and added diced bell pepper and cucumber to strawberry gelato. But I am mad enough about gazpacho to eat it in any form. And if there were ever a season for strawberries, now would be it. Until the real gazpacho season comes along, the strawberry version will do very well.

Two particularly generous friends treated my sister to a birthday dinner at Manresa in Los Gatos. Manresa is one of the relatively few restaurants in the United States to receive two Michelin stars — for what that’s worth. These diners reported that they had an excellent four-course dinner, among which were two amuse-bouches. The first was a soft-boiled egg yolk at the bottom of an empty egg shell, topped with sherry-vinegar whipped cream, chives, maple syrup, and salt. You can find a version of that recipe here. The strawberry gazpacho was the second amuse-bouche. Clearly, David Kinch, the chef, is a chemist. This recipe defies logic, I suppose, only if you don’t understand the chemical reactions of incompatible ingredients, which I certainly don’t. So, you’ll just have to take my word for it.

This recipe is dead simple:

1 pound, 4 ounces strawberries, hulled and lightly crushed

4 ounces white onions, thinly sliced

4 ounces red bell peppers, thinly sliced

5 ounces cucumber, peeled, seeded, thinly sliced

1 half clove garlic, crushed

1/4 cup tarragon leaves

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Garnish:

Strawberries, hulled and finely diced

Chives, finely minced

Red bell pepper, finely diced

English cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely diced

1-2 tablespoons almond oil

Chervil sprigs (if you can find them)

Put first 8 ingredients in a bowl; mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, puree the ingredients in a blender and season with salt and pepper. Thin with water if too thick. Allow to chill thoroughly before serving.

To garnish, mix together all the minced vegetables and fruit with almond oil. Mound in the center of a soup plate; top with chervil sprigs.

Shadowcook: The only observation I would contribute to this recipe is that it is easy to overdo the garnish. The garnish only exists for crunch, although the almond oil is a nice touch. You’ll appreciate the silky smooth texture of the gazpacho if you remember that less is more.

Update: watch the salt.

Up-update: David Kinch’s recipe is posted online. He provided it to a TV show in which he appeared. Google it, if you feel the need to check me.