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Autumn Flavor Serenade

SOMETIMES THE BOUNTIFUL FALL HARVEST ON RICH DISPLAY IN THE
farmer's market sings out to us. We think of bright, colorful afternoons, lusty red wines, creamy goat cheese and fresh pears, crisp apples and warm pumpkin pies. We want to eat. Our autumn menu captures the melodic spirit of the season: colorful, bold flavors, with enough warmth to complement the crackling fire you'll want to light when you pour the first glass of wine. You can serve this delicious meal to friends on a late Sunday afternoon after picking pumpkins or seeing a football game.

Smoked Salmon with Capers on Rice Crackers

Assorted Fresh Olives

Baby Greens with Warmed Goat Cheese, Toasted Walnuts, and Walnut Oil Vinaigrette

Pork with Apples and Calvados

Mashed potatoes

Steamed Sugarsnap Peas

Pumpkin Pie

 

Start things off with a few simple palate teasers. Arrange an assortment of fresh, ripe olives in small, colorful dishes and put out a platter of smoked salmon on rice crackers. You can find rice crackers in the cracker section of most grocery stores these days. Recommended by Weight Watchers for their miniscule contribution to calories and carbohydrates, they are light, crunchy, and delicious, and they won't fill you up. Top the salmon with a couple of capers for a little added zip.

When it's time for the first course, warm the rounds of goat cheese briefly in the oven. Then toss the greens with our walnut oil vinaigrette and arrange on salad plates. Sprinkle the toasted walnuts on top; you can toast the nuts ahead or just before you warm the cheese.

Our Pork with Apples and Calvados will become a favorite fall meal. It combines fresh-picked apple flavor with savory herbs and tender pork. Even better, you can prep the pork ahead and then sauté it just before you serve the main course. You can even sauté the apples earlier in the day and then simply reheat them in the microwave. Creamy mashed potatoes and a simple dish of freshly steamed sugarsnap beans round out your dinner.

Next, a delicious dessert that sings of the harvest: pumpkin pie. But fear not, although pumpkin pie might seem like a calorie and fat extravaganza, ours is not. We've transformed it with tofu, and you'll be hard-pressed to miss the heavy cream and eggs we took out. Try it, and you may never make it with all the fat ever again.

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BABY GREENS with WARMED GOAT CHEESE,
TOASTED WALNUTS, and WALNUT OIL VINAIGRETTE

Serves 4

8 cups mixed baby greens
4 ounces Montrachet (goat cheese) sliced into 4 rounds
2 tablespoons toasted breadcrumbs
½ cup toasted walnuts
Walnut Oil Vinaigrette Salad Dressing (below)
Cooking spray

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (a toaster oven works well for this).
  2. Place walnuts on small baking sheet and bake for 5-7 minutes until toasted. Set aside.
  3. Spray a small baking sheet lightly with cooking spray. Carefully press toasted breadcrumbs onto each round of goat cheese. Place on baking sheet and warm in oven for 3 minutes.
  4. Toss salad with vinaigrette. Arrange on salad plates. Sprinkle the top of each salad with walnuts and place a warmed round of goat cheese on the side of each plate.

Walnut Oil Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

½ cup walnut oil
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

  1. Shake to mix. Keep tightly covered and refrigerated. Allow to come to room temperature before using.

 

PORK with APPLES and CALVADOS

Serves 4-6

1½ pounds pork tenderloin (or pork cutlets—skip steps 1 and 2)
1/3 cup finely chopped shallots
1½ teaspoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
¼ cup Calvados (or other apple brandy)
¼ cup apple juice (unfiltered is best)
½ cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons butter
Flour
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 medium Granny Smith apples
2 teaspoons brown sugar

  1. Trim the tenderloins and cut into 1-inch thick slices.
  2. Place each pork slice between sheets of wax paper (or plastic wrap) and pound to thickness of ¼ inch with a mallet or rolling pin.
  3. Lay the pork slices on a plate and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and ¼ teaspoon of the thyme. Lightly sift flour onto the slices. Turn them over and repeat. Set aside. (Can be prepared up to 3 hours ahead. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate).
  4. To prepare apples: peel, core, and slice each apple into 16 slices.
  5. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in large, heavy skillet on medium-high heat. Add sugar and stir into butter. Add apples and sauté until golden brown and tender, about six minutes. Set aside in microwavable dish.
  6. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the pork slices and sauté about 2 minutes per side until browned and cooked through. Transfer to plate and cover loosely with foil. Repeat with remaining 1 tablespoon butter and pork slices. Transfer cooked pork slices to foil–covered plate.
  7. Reduce heat to low and melt 1 tablespoon butter in same skillet. Add thyme and shallots and sauté until shallots are soft, about 2 minutes. Turn heat to medium–high; add apple cider vinegar and boil until syrupy. Add the Calvados, scrape up browned bits, and boil until syrupy. Add apple cider and heavy cream; boil until thickened to sauce-like consistency, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  8. Put pork slices back into hot sauce and turn to coat slices. Reheat apple slices in microwave. Serve pork topped with sauce and apple slices.

 

MASHED POTATOES*

Serves 4

4 large baking potatoes (6 ounces each), peeled and cubed
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
½ - ¾ cup milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper

  1. Place the potatoes in a saucepan, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat slightly and cook until potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes.
  3. Drain the potatoes. Return potatoes to pot and mash until smooth.
  4. Add butter and milk and stir over low heat until butter melts.
  5. Season with salt and pepper and serve warm.

*Can be made 2 hours ahead. Transfer to microwavable serving bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand at room temperature. Before serving, add 2 tablespoons of milk. Stir and heat in microwave until warm.


 

PUMPKIN PIE

Serves 8

1 prepared 8” graham cracker pie crust
12 ounces soft tofu
2 cups canned pumpkin
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger
¼teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon nutmeg

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. In blender or food processor, purée the tofu and pumpkin until smooth.
  3. Add the brown sugar and spices and blend thoroughly.
  4. Pour the mixture into the pie crust and bake at 425°F for 15 minutes.
  5. Reduce the temperature to 350°F and continue baking for 30–40 minutes or until set.
  6. Cool to room temperature before serving.

Alternative method: For a crustless pumpkin pie “pudding,” bake in a greased soufflé dish or 8” pie pan for 40–45 minutes at 350° F, until set.

 

© 2002 by Claudia Pillow and Annalise Roberts