Cooking With Local Chefs

Squash provides fantastic fall flavors

Arugula & Cremini Mushroom Stuffed Pork Loin 
 PROVIDED PHOTO
Arugula & Cremini Mushroom Stuffed Pork Loin PROVIDED PHOTO

When you start to see coffee houses featuring Pumpkin Spiced Latte that's a sure sign that fall has officially arrived. So, why not add some new flavors and textures on your dinner table? Save the pumpkin for your pie making and flavored coffee, and think about using some type of squash.

Butternut squash is one of the finest of the winter squash family. Varying in shapes from cylindrical to half-dumbbell, its smooth tan exterior hides a deliciously sweet, dense and buttery orange flesh.

The adaptability of the butternut squash is demonstrated by the wide variety of uses to which it is put in different countries. Across the globe it is used in recipes for stews, gratins, pasta dishes, risottos, soups and curries. When baked and mashed, perhaps with a touch of nutmeg or cinnamon, butter and brown sugar or maple syrup it makes a very appetizing side dish in the fall. Try it with your Sunday roast or Thanksgiving spread.

I recently catered a large event where I served Toasted Pearled Couscous as a side dish, and I had so many people that had never tried it who were begging me to give them the recipe, so I thought I would oblige them by offering it here.

Now, this pearled couscous, also called Israeli couscous, is similar to regular couscous in that it's a small, whole grain-like food made from semolina or wheat flour. While I've always seen it labeled as Israeli couscous, others might know it as "pearl couscous," "Jerusalem couscous," or as it is known in Israel, "ptitim."

So, what does it taste

like? Because of its size, Israeli couscous has a slightly chewy texture, similar to barley, and, because it's toasted, it has a slightly nutty flavor. Like regular couscous and other whole grains, however, Israeli couscous is rather bland on its own, and needs to be prepared with seasonings, spices, sauces or fresh herbs. It can be served hot as a replacement for rice pilaf or served cold as an alternative to pasta salad. Feel free to add your own flavors to it, which could include a variety of nuts such as pine nut or slivered almonds and dried fruits such as raisins, dried cranberries or apricot.

The pearled couscous will add a nice difference in texture when served with the smooth butternut squash and the roast pork.

ARUGULA & CREMINI MUSHROOM STUFFED PORK LOIN

1 3-pound pork loin, butterflied

2 tablespoons olive oil

6 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced

4 cups sautéed fresh arugula

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 tablespoon chopped rosemary

2 cups Panko bread crumbs

1 cup chicken stock

½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Sauté the mushrooms in a hot skillet with the olive oil.

Add the garlic & rosemary and sauté for 30 seconds, and then add the arugula to wilt slightly.

Remove from the heat; add in the bread crumbs, chicken stock and parmesan cheese.

Allow this stuffing to cool before stuffing the pork loin.

Spoon the stuffing mixture down the length of the pork loin starting about 2 inches from the top and roll the pork up like a jelly roll ending with the seam down and the fat side up.

Tie the pork loin with butchers twine and season with salt & pepper and place in a roasting pan.

Roast the pork loin in a 375 degree oven for 1 hour and 20 minutes until the internal temperature is 155 degrees and allow it to rest for 15 minutes before slicing.

The internal temperature will continue to rise as it rests.

Slice the Pork Loin into thin slices and serve with the couscous and butternut squash puree.

TOASTED PEARLED COUSCOUS

2 cups Israeli couscous

2 ½ cups chicken stock

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon garlic

Julienned red & green pepper

Add the olive oil to a medium hot saucepan and add the couscous and garlic and toast for 1 minute.

Add the Chicken Stock and bring up to a boil, stir and reduce to a simmer for 8-10 minutes.

The couscous will absorb all of the liquid and double in size.

Remove from the heat and add enough of the Blood Orange Vinaigrette to taste and add the julienned peppers.

BLOOD ORANGE-POMEGRANATE WHITE BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE

2 tablespoons sweet chile sauce

1 tablespoon garlic chopped

6 ounces blood orange juice

6 ounces pomegranate molasses, may substitute pomegranate syrup by Monin

6 ounces white balsamic vinegar

Lemon zest & juice from 1 lemon

8 ounces extra virgin olive oil

2 ounces fresh chopped chives

Place the garlic and sweet chili sauce in a food processor or blender with the blood orange juice and pomegranate syrup.

With the motor running, slowly add in the White Balsamic vinegar and drizzle in the Olive Oil.

Add the Lemon juice and zest and the fresh chives.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH PUREE

2 butternut squash, halved and seeded

6 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces

¼ cup maple syrup

Salt & white pepper to taste

Dash of cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place the squash halves, cut side down, on a baking sheet and roast for 30-40 minutes or until fork-tender.

Scoop out the flesh into a bowl and add butter, syrup, cinnamon, salt & white pepper

Mash with a potato masher or puree with a food processor.

Chef David Meador, executive chef at Renaissance on 9th, can be reached at jbjork@renaissanceon9th.org.

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