Autumn Glory

By: Don Curto

Once again, summer has ended. In our region, this one was strange, indeed. There was not enough heat for the whole season to provide really good growing conditions. Tomatoes were mostly quite poor, though at season’s end, I did find some that are more than acceptable. Almost got my fill of tomato and peanut butter sandwiches, my mother’s favorite.
Before I send you the autumn glories from my recipe file, you might enjoy the following tale. Recently, I accessed the Web site for St. John’s College in Annapolis, and a great books program that I wished many times that I had attended.
Now, it costs $50,000 a year, and besides, I am too old. The St. John’s program addresses the “fundamental problems that human beings have to face today and at all times. It invites them to reflect both on their continuities and their discontinuities.”
In the first year students are required to read, among many other writers, Homer, Sophocles, Euripides, Herodotus, Plato and Euclid. Everyone at St. John’s takes the following classes: four years of language (Ancient Greek and French), four years of mathematics, four years of interdisciplinary study, three years of laboratory science (biology, physics, chemistry), one year of music. You leave this college an educated person.
I have not read as many of the books on their four-year list as I probably should have, and I was feeling pretty sad about this yesterday.
Sleep was elusive. I got up, wondering how I might overcome my seemingly poor education. I do know the square root of -2, however and as rare a bit of knowledge as this is, it brought no solace and no sleep.
So, I went into my study and retrieved The Thurber Carnival Modern Library book. I let the book fall open as it would, and there, seemingly by blind luck—if you believe in luck now that you know about continuities and discontinuities—was James Thurber’s short essay about “The Little Girl and the Wolf.”
It goes like this…
“One afternoon a big wolf waited in a dark forest for a little girl to come along carrying a basket of food to her grandmother. Finally a little girl did come along and she was carrying a basket of food. ‘Are you carrying that basket to your grandmother?’ asked the wolf. The little girl said yes, she was. So the wolf asked her where her grandmother lived and the little girl told him and he disappeared into the wood.
“When the little girl opened the door of her grandmother’s house she saw that there was somebody in bed with a nightcap and nightgown on. She had approached no nearer than twenty-five feet from the bed when she saw that it was not her grandmother, but the wolf, for even in a nightcap a wolf does not look any more like your grandmother that the Metro-Goldwyn lion looks like Calvin Coolidge. So, the little girl took an automatic out of her basket and shot the wolf dead.
“Moral: It is not so easy to fool little girls nowadays as it used to be.”
Your gifts for Autumn are the following recipes that will keep you from nighttime worry.
This is the “real” foccacia, easy to make and great tasting.

Sage Flatbread (Foccacia con Salvia)
To make one 12-inch round flatbread:

2 1/2 cups flour. Use unbleached white or all purpose white. You can, also, add some whole wheat or light rye (no more than fifteen percent)
1 pkg active dry yeast (approximate 1 tbls)
1 cup warm water (approx. 110 F.)
1 tbls olive oil
15 medium to large fresh sage leaves, stripped from their center ribs and coarsely chopped
1 egg yolk
kosher salt
1 sprig of fresh sage for center decoration

Mix yeast with water in large bowl; let proof. Add the chopped sage and the olive oil. Work in the flour until the dough is firm enough to be turned out on a floured surface.
Continue adding flour as you knead until dough can be handled easily without sticking. Knead until smooth and elastic.
Put in oiled bowl, let rise until doubled. On a floured surface, roll dough out gently until about a half-inch thick. Place on oiled pizza pan (or other kind); dough should be about twelve inches in diameter.
Make indentations with your fingers over top for appearance. Brush the dough with the egg yolk glaze and, in the center, place the sprig of sage artistically. Sprinkle the bread with kosher salt (do not use regular table salt—must be a coarse salt) and let it rise at room temperature, normally about twenty minutes.
Bake in a preheated 375 degree Fahrenheit oven for about thirty minutes or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped on top and bottom.
Use salt with discretion, but note that no salt is mixed in dough, so this is it.
Let cool on rack for about thirty minutes. Not very good hot, but also not as tasty after about four to five hours from oven time.
Here are two venison recipes for the upcoming deer season.

Venison Moutarde Flambe

In skillet heat 1.5 tablespoons butter. In it saute over high heat six fillets of venison, 1.5 inches thick for about three minutes.
Turn and sprinkle with salt, coarsely ground black pepper, 1/2 tsp rosemary and 1/2 tsp crumbled sage leaves.
Cook to desired doneness. Pour off excess fat, sprinkle filets with cognac and ignite. When flames die, transfer to warm platter and keep warm.
To skillet, add six teaspoons Dijon mustard, six teaspoons mild brown or herb flavored mustard and 1/2 tsp paprika.

Combine two tablespoons sour cream and 1/2 cup heavy cream and stir into mustard in the skillet. Cook, stirring, for one minute. Pour the sauce over the filets and serve.

Venison Chili With Apples

1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 med yellow onions, 1/4-inch dice
2 1/2 lbs venison stew meat, cut into 1/2-inch dice (can use beef, too)
1 small jalapeno pepper, minced
6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/4 cup ground cumin
1 tbls chili powder
2 tsp black pepper
salt to taste
1/4 cup chopped garlic
1 5-ounce can tomato paste
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, chopped, juice reserved
1 cup red wine
2 cups chicken broth
grated cheddar cheese for garnish
chopped scallions for garnish

In a pot large enough to hold all the ingredients, heat the oil and brown the onions, venison and jalapeno. Add the apples, spices and seasonings and garlic and brown five more minutes.
Add the tomato paste, tomatoes and juice, wine and broth. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for two hours. Adjust the seasonings and serve with grated cheddar and chopped scallions on the side.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

This is a very good dish and so simple there should never be a need to buy jars of sauce. Make your own and enjoy more. It also is quick.

Spaghetti, Prostitute’s Style

(Spaghetti alla Putanesca)
4 tbls butter
3 tbls olive oil
8 anchovy fillets, canned in oil, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried red pepper flakes (or to taste) or 1 small dried hot red chili pepper, minced
3 large ripe tomatoes, peeled and thinly sliced (or canned, peeled tomatoes, chopped)
1/4 lb Greek black olives, pitted and sliced
1 tbls capers, washed and drained
1 lb spaghetti, cooked and drained
1 tbls fresh chopped parsley

In large skillet, heat the butter and olive oil. Add anchovies, garlic and red pepper, cook briefly, stirring. Add tomatoes, olives and capers and cook two to three minutes. Taste and correct seasoning if needed
Add drained warm spaghetti to sauce in skillet and mix well. Add parsley and cook for thirty seconds. Serve at once. Yield: four servings.

Chilled Cucumber Soup with Warm Salmon or Lake Trout

2 medium sized cucumbers
8 oz plain, low-fat yogurt
2 or 3 sprigs fresh dill, plus for garnish
1/4 cup heavy cream
salt & cayenne pepper
Olive oil, as needed

6 oz salmon or lake trout filet, skin removed, cut into twelve thin one-inch squares.
Peel the cucumbers, halve them lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with a teaspoon, reserving the seeds. Cut up the cucumbers, setting aside a one-and-one-half-inch length for garnish if desired, and place in a food processor with the yogurt and dill.
Puree until smooth. Transfer the puree to a mixing bowl; whisk in the cream. Place the reserved cucumber seeds in the food processor and process briefly. Strain the liquid from the seeds into the puree (this adds more cucumber flavor); discard the seeds. Season the soup with salt and cayenne; cover and chill at least two hours.
At serving time, cut the reserved cucumber into 1/4 cubes; salt lightly and set aside. Heat a thin film of olive oil in a heavy skillet, preferably nonstick. Pat the squares of salmon (trout) dry; season lightly with salt if desired. Add the fish to the skillet and sauté quickly over medium heat, turning once, until lightly golden, about two minutes total.
Place three pieces of salmon in each soup bowl; place diced cucumber and a sprig of dill in the center. Pour the cold soup gently over the warm salmon and serve immediately.Yield: four servings.

Despite that there are few oysters in Lake Superior, they are now available from Thill’s in Marquette and probably elsewhere.

Scalloped Oysters

1 pt oysters
3/4 cup dried bread crumbs
3/4 cup cracker crumbs
1/2 tsp salt
Dash of pepper
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 cup half-and-half

Drain oysters. Combine crumbs, Sage Flatbread (Foccacia con Salvia)
To make one 12-inch round flatbread:salt, pepper and butter. Sprinkle 1/3 of the buttered, seasoned crumbs in a well-greased eight-inch round baking dish. Cover with a layer of oysters. Repeat layers.
Add Worcestershire sauce to milk and carefully pour over the oyster mixture. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for twenty to twenty-five minutes or until brown.
Good luck. Young maidens, be wary of marauding wolves. Enjoy the season.
—Don Curto

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