Fall harvest bounty beckons

| October 31, 2020 | 0 Comments
Black Bean Salad served in seasonally appropriate fashion in a whole roasted pumpkin adds excitement to a harvest or Halloween table. (Photo: Margaret Dickenson)

Black Bean Salad served in seasonally appropriate fashion in a whole roasted pumpkin adds excitement to a harvest or Halloween table. (Photo: Margaret Dickenson)

Leaves bursting into a glowing spectrum of warm colours, days becoming shorter and cooler, pumpkins appearing by the truckloads — all announce the arrival of autumn and a time to give thanks for our blessings. Observing the long-standing tradition, we gratefully celebrate Thanksgiving Day with a special harvest dinner shared with family and friends — at least in non-COVID times. Pumpkin, no doubt, will make an appearance on some fall harvest tables and menus. Bon Appetit!

Black Bean Salad
Makes 4 ½ cups or more than1 litre

Tasty, colourful, addictive, might best explain what can be anticipated with every bite of this salad. To add an extra touch of excitement, particularly to Thanksgiving dinner, present the salad in a seasoned and baked whole pumpkin. Don’t hesitate to scoop out and serve some of the pumpkin as well.

1 can black beans (540 mL or 19 fl oz)
1 cup (250 mL) corn kernels, cut from cooked cobs
¾ cup (180 mL) fresh mango, diced (¼-inch or 0.6-cm)
3 tbsp (45 mL) sundried tomatoes in seasoned oil (excess oil shaken off), very coarsely chopped
18 red grape tomatoes
6 tbsp (90 ml) fresh coriander leaves, coarsely chopped
2 ¼ tsp (11 mL) cumin powder, or to taste
1 1/3 tbsp (20 mL) Tangy Asian Dressing (recipe follows)
To taste, salt and crushed black peppercorns
1 cup (250 mL) avocado, diced (¼ inch or 0.6 cm)

Garnish (optional)
Microgreens or sprigs of fresh herbs

1. Drain and rinse beans very well; place between paper towels until excess liquid is removed. (Yields 1½ cups or 375 mL of beans).
2. On a large platter, with a fork, gently toss beans, corn, mango, sundried tomatoes and grape tomatoes.
3. Sprinkle with cilantro and cumin powder; toss.
4. Drizzle with Tangy Asian Dressing and toss gently. Add salt and crushed black peppercorns to taste (as well as more cumin powder if desired) and toss.
5. Carefully and evenly incorporate diced fresh avocado.

Tangy Asian Dressing
Makes ¾ cup (180 mL)
If you delight in a true burst of Asian flavours, this dressing will soon become a favourite. Not only is it a versatile salad dressing, but you can also drizzle it over raw or cooked veggies or vermicelli noodles, or serve it as a dipping sauce (e.g., with spring rolls).

5 tbsp (75 mL) sesame oil
2 ½ tbsp (38 mL) of rice vinegar
2 ½ tbsp oyster sauce
1 ½ tbsp (23 mL) minced fresh garlic
2 to 3 tsp (10 to 15 mL) Indonesian hot chili paste (sambal oelek) or ¾ tsp (4 mL) sriracha
2 to 2 ½ tsp (10 to 13 mL) peeled and grated fresh gingerroot

1. In a small bowl, thoroughly combine sesame oil, rice vinegar, oyster sauce, garlic, hot chili paste and ginger.
2. Place in a well-sealed jar and refrigerate. (Dressing may be stored refrigerated for up to several months.)


Roasted Whole Pumpkin
Pumpkins make their entrance only once a year, in the fall. Why not welcome them into your culinary repertoire? What could be more dramatic than giving a whole baked pumpkin a star role at your table — be it as a serving vessel, a centrepiece, part of the meal itself or as all of the above? Set your imagination into high gear in deciding what to serve from it — a soup, a salad, a stew, a pilaf, a medley of vegetables…. Regardless of your choice, the concept alone is certain to be a hit. (Note: If desired, also serve portions of the pumpkin, or save it for another meal.)

1 whole pumpkin*
Olive oil (preferably garlic-infused)
To taste, ground nutmeg, garlic powder, salt and crushed black peppercorns
1. Wash and dry the pumpkin thoroughly.
2. Carefully slice off the top of the pumpkin to create a lid.
3. With a soup spoon, scrape away all of the pithy interior and seeds to create a vessel.
4. Rub all exterior and interior surfaces of the lid and vessel with olive oil.
5. According to taste, sprinkle all interior and exterior surfaces evenly with nutmeg, garlic powder, salt and crushed black peppercorns.
6. Wrap the lid and vessel separately in heavy-duty aluminum foil and place in the centre of a preheated 350 F (180 C) oven. Bake until the flesh of the lid and vessel are tender. (Note: The lid will bake much faster than the vessel.)**

* The size of the pumpkin should reflect the capacity of the vessel required.
** Baking time will vary according to the size and variety of the pumpkin chosen. (e.g. For a common-type pumpkin, the lid may take about 30 minutes and the vessel about 1 ½ hours.)


Cumin Pork in Grape and Mushroom Sauce is an interesting main course when served with cooked asparagus spears and long young carrots. (Photo: Larry Dickenson)

Cumin Pork in Grape and Mushroom Sauce is an interesting main course when served with cooked asparagus spears and long young carrots. (Photo: Larry Dickenson)

Cumin Pork in Grape and Mushroom Sauce
Makes 4 servings
An exquisite wine sauce, combining grapes and mushrooms with the cumin, makes this grilled pork recipe unique. It is quite simple and quick to prepare. I like to serve the pork over flavoured fettuccine or linguine. Just don’t overcook the meat. The recipe may also be prepared with veal.

Accompaniment tip: Drizzled with sesame oil, cooked spears of asparagus or peeled long young carrots (with “tufted tops” attached), make the entire combination a winner.

4 pork loin chops* (each about 6 oz or 175 g)
2 tbsp (30 mL) olive oil (preferably garlic-infused)
1 tbsp (30 mL) ground cumin, first addition
To taste, salt and crushed black peppercorns
8 oz (225 g) mushrooms,** sliced
4 tbsp (60 mL) garlic butter, divided
10 oz (280 g) uncooked fettuccine, linguine, or spaghetti (e.g., Italian herb, spinach, tomato basil)
2 tsp (10 mL) vegetable oil
¼ cup (60 mL) chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 ¼ cups (300 ml) seedless green grapes, halved

1 cup (250 mL) heavy cream (35 per cent fat)
1 ½ tbsp (23 mL) cornstarch
1 tbsp (15 mL) Dijon mustard
1 tbsp (15 mL) ground cumin, second addition
1 ½ tsp (8 mL) finely chopped fresh garlic
1 cup (250 mL) dry white wine
1 tbsp (15 mL) instant beef bouillon powder

Garnish: (optional)
Edible flowers and/or sprigs of fresh herbs

1. Rub exterior surfaces of pork chops with garlic-infused olive oil; sprinkle with 1 tbsp (15 mL) of cumin; season with salt and crushed black peppercorns; set aside.
2. To begin making the sauce, in a small bowl, whisk together cream, cornstarch, mustard, garlic and 1 tbsp (15 mL) of cumin to form a smooth mixture.
3. Pour wine into a medium saucepan over medium-low heat; add instant beef bouillon powder and stir to dissolve. Whisking constantly, add cream mixture and continue whisking until sauce comes to a boil and thickens; remove from heat. Makes 2 cups or 500 mL.
4. In a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, sauté mushrooms in 3 tbsp (45 mL) melted garlic butter until lightly browned; transfer to a plate. Clean skillet.
5. Cook pasta in an abundant amount of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain well, reserving ½ cup (125 mL) of liquid. Rinse pasta with cold water, drain well and toss with remaining 1 tbsp (15 mL) of melted garlic butter. Set aside.
6. About 15 minutes before serving, pour 2 tsp (10 mL) of vegetable oil into a preheated skillet over medium heat; add pork chops and grill for 2 to 3 minutes per side or until just barely “medium” in doneness (160° F or 70° C) to avoid overcooking of the final dish. Immediately transfer pork from skillet to a warm platter and cover with aluminum foil with the shiny side down.
7. Pour sauce into skillet set over medium-low heat and scrape brown bits from bottom of skillet into sauce. Add mushrooms plus any juice and parsley, heat mixture. Note: If necessary, to thin the sauce, add some reserved liquid from cooking the pasta.
8. A few minutes before serving, add grapes, cooked pork*** and any meat juice; heat through. Avoid overcooking the grapes and pork.
9. To serve, arrange heated pasta in 4 individual bistro bowls or on 4 large dinner plates, bathe with sauce and top with the pork. If desired, garnish with edible flowers and/or fresh herbs.

* Option: 1 ½ lbs (675 g) pork tenderloin sliced into ¾ inch (2 cm) thick medallions.
** A combination of cremini, shiitake, small oyster, etc. Small mushrooms may be left whole if desired.
*** If desired, cut pork chops/medallions into ¼-inch (0.6-cm) slices.

Make-ahead tip: The recipe may be prepared hours in advance to the end of step 4. If necessary, refrigerate the uncooked pork, cooled sauce and sautéed mushrooms until about 30 minutes before serving.

The touches of ginger, maple extract and Armagnac make this pumpkin pie a year-round delight. (Photo: Larry Dickenson)

The touches of ginger, maple extract and Armagnac make this pumpkin pie a year-round delight. (Photo: Larry Dickenson)

Margaret’s Easy Pumpkin Pie
Makes 1 pie (diameter: 9 inches or 23 cm) or 8 servings

Pumpkin pie is one of the quickest and simplest desserts to make, as long as you have a great recipe and a technique that works for you. This recipe involves blind baking (pre-baking) the crust in advance to ensure crispness. The touches of ginger in syrup, maple extract and Armagnac make this pumpkin pie a year-round delight. The pie’s “blooming flower” application will be its crowning glory — with little effort.

1 unbaked 9-inch (23 cm) pie crust* (not pricked), chilled
½ cup (125 mL) brown sugar (lightly packed)
1 tsp (5 mL) ground cinnamon
½ tsp (3 mL) ground ginger
¼ tsp (1 mL) each of ground nutmeg, ground allspice and salt
2 eggs
1 ½ cups (375 mL) heavy cream (35 per cent fat)
1 tbsp (15 mL) Armagnac (first addition)
1 tbsp (15 mL) ginger in syrup, finely chopped
1 tsp (5 mL) maple extract
2 cups (500 mL) canned pumpkin purée (not pie filling)

Decorative “Blooming Flower” (optional)
3 tbsp (45 mL) sour cream
1 tsp (5 mL) Armagnac (second addition)

Garnish (optional)
2 cups (500 mL) Whisky Whipped Cream** or whipped cream
ground cherries

1. Prick bottom and sides of chilled pastry shell in many places to prevent puffing during baking. Blind bake shell by lining it with aluminum foil and completely filling with pie weights or dried beans. Place the pie shell in the freezer while the oven is heating. Bake pie shell on bottom rack of a preheated 425 F (220 C) oven until shell is firmly set (about 10 minutes or so). Remove foil and beans. Return to oven and bake until shell is crisp and slightly coloured (about another 5 minutes).
2. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, all-spice and salt.
3. In a large bowl, whisk eggs lightly; add heavy cream, 1 tbsp (15 mL) each of Armagnac, ginger in syrup and maple extract; whisk thoroughly. Blend in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture; stir to combine well; set aside. (Note: Mixture is thin.)
4. To make a white decorative pattern on the pie, stir together sour cream and 1 tsp (5 mL) of Armagnac; place in a small plastic bag; close bag with an elastic band and snip off one corner of bag.
5. Pour pumpkin filling into pie crust. To make a decorative white floral blossom design on surface of pie, work very quickly starting at centre of pie and pipe sour cream-Armagnac mixture in a spiral pattern over entire surface of pumpkin filling. Then, beginning at the outer edge of the pie and working toward the centre, draw the tip of a dinner knife (in a shallow manner) through the sour cream and filling; repeat to divide surface into 12 or more wedges of equal size.
6. Cover edges of pie with 2-inch- (5-cm-) wide strips of aluminum foil (shiny side out) to prevent excess browning. Bake pie on bottom rack of a preheated 350 F oven (180 C) until a knife inserted midway between crust and centre comes out clean (about 45 minutes or more. Note: The centre may still be just slightly soft.) Cool pie on a cooling rack, then refrigerate until ready to serve.
7. Cut pie into wedges and serve with Whisky Whipped Cream. If desired, garnish with ground cherries.

* Homemade or commercial. Note: For a homemade crust, roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface to form a circle 2 inches (5 cm) larger than top diameter of pie plate (thickness: 1/8 inch or 0.3 cm). Fold in half and transfer to pie plate. (Avoid stretching pastry.) With scissors, trim pastry, leaving a ¾-inch (2 cm) overhang beyond rim of pie plate; fold under creating a thick double layered edge on rim; flute edge with thumbs and fingers. Place in the freezer to chill for 30 minutes.
** To make 2 cups (500 mL) of Whisky Whipped Cream, place 1 cup (250 mL) of chilled heavy cream in a medium-sized chilled bowl and beat with chilled beaters at high speed until cream begins to thicken. Gradually add 2 ½ tbsp (38 mL) of icing sugar and continue beating until soft peaks form. Drizzle with 1 1/3 tbsp (20 mL) of whisky and beat until firm peaks form.

Margaret Dickenson is a cookbook author, TV host, menu and recipe developer and a protocol, business and etiquette instructor.

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Category: Delights

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Margaret Dickenson wrote the awardwinning cookbook, Margaret’s Table — Easy Cooking & Inspiring Entertaining (www.margaretstable.ca).

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