Dinner Menu at the Brown Barn Cafe October 26

Starters:

This weeks dinner menu at the Brown Barn Cafe

Pear and fennel salad 6 – Brace’s orchard still has plenty of pears. The sharpness
of the fennel makes a nice contrast with the sweet subtleness of the pears. A few
shavings of asiago cheese add a salty bite. This one is vegan friendly without the
asiago. I have a vegan substitute that works nicely.

Pistachio, grape, “craisin” and blue cheese salad 8 – One of John’s favorites; it
is simple, elegant and full of wonderful flavor combinations. It will have a place
on the menu for awhile.

Cheese plate 8 – Also a simple thing to prepare. But a lot of care goes into the
pairing of the cheeses. And I love cheese. Still.

Cauliflower and asiago dip with flat bread 6 – Who knew that a failed effort to
make some naan would lead to the favorite dinner bread at the cafe? It isn’t naan.
It isn’t pita. It is entirely it’s own thing. It goes great with anything that naan
or pita goes with too.

Entrees:

Chicken Makhani 18 – This slow cooked chicken and butter dish is some serious
comfort food. Mildly spicy, full of flavor and served over a bed of basmati rice it
is filling, delicious and satisfying.

Cherry Chipotle Short Ribs 19 – another long cooking dish. I special ordered the
ribs from Trovato’s in Clarks Summit, my favorite butcher. The last time I made
them it was high summer and fresh cherries were in season. The original recipie
called for canned cherries, but I figured why not use fresh if they are in season?
Well, I’m still not going to used canned cherries. I bought lots of dried cherries.
The original recipe also wanted Guiness stout. I had the beer in my hand, ready to
buy, when I saw Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat. I put the Guiness back and picked up the Wheat. The dried cherries are getting a soak in the beer over night, then the
cherries and soaking beer are going into the pot with the ribs tomorrow.

Roasted pumpkin and forbidden rice salad 16- The original recipe called for plain
rice and acorn squash. Ho-hum. The last time I made a rice salad with black rice it
was gorgeous with red-yellow nectarines and bright green snap peas. So I decided to go with roasted chunks of pumpkin and plenty of fresh parsley – almost like a
tabouleh there is so much parsley. The original dressing didn’t seem sparky enough
either so I made one with allspice, cardamom, cinamon, cayenne and caraway seeds and plenty of lemon juice and olive oil. I soaked the roasted pumpkin chunks in the dressing and then tossed everything together. The pumpkin is from Miller’s farm in Clarks Summit. The parsley was from Hopkins farm. They had huge bunches of curly parsley on sale today, It looked and smelled wonderful, and that’s what decided me on making this dish more like a tabouleh than the original. It was a good idea. I think.

I’m going to top each serving with toasted pumpkin seeds. I soaked them in a brine
for about 40 minutes while the pumpkin was roasting, and then threw them in the
oven for the last 10 minutes of the pumpkin roast time. They are wonderfully
crunchy and just a bit salty – not overly salty like the ones you buy in a bag at
the store. This is a vegan friendly dish.

Broccoli-Basil Mac and Cheese 16 – This is Heidi Swanson’s (of 101 cookbooks)
recipe. I stuck to it faithfully with the exception of mini penne instead of elbows. Maybe next time I’ll play with it a little, but it is pretty wild all on its own. This mac and cheese is much too good for children. Oh sure, you’d like your own kids to like this – it’s got basil and
broccoli and butternut squash in it – and real cheese! But, after you try it you’ll
want it all for yourself. It is that good. Ovo-lacto vegetarian friendly

Sides:

Collards with ham – One of the vendors at the Scranton Farmer’s Market – and I’m
ashamed I don’t remember which farm it was – had absolutely fantastic collard
greens today. They were selling them as whole plants. No roots or anything, but the whole brasica cut at the base of the stem. Huge bright green leaves in a fabulous head. It was positively floral. I just had to buy it. I wasn’t planning on having collards on the menu this week, but I just had to have these collards. And what good are collards without some smoked pork product (stop that hissing, vegan
friends! liquid smoke just isn’t the same – although I’m making a bunch of them
without the pork products so you can enjoy them too!) with which to cook them? The Mountain Road Farm smokes the hams from the pigs they raise. They had no hocks, but a ham works for me.

Mountain Road also makes hot dogs, which go in their smoker too. I’m not really a
hot dog person, but these – well, John and I eat them for breakfast at the cafe -
If that’s wrong then I don’t want to be right. I just can’t quit them. Anyway, The
collards bumped whatever it was I had in mind off the menu for a side this week.
Even if what I had in mind was a better fit with the entrees. It is so far bumped
that I can’t even remember what it was. Oh well. The vegetarian version will go
great with the Pumpkin. Both versions will go great with the pumpkin, actually. I
just can’t imagine a carnivore ordering the pumpkin salad when there are short ribs
on the menu too.

Ginger, orange and honey carrots – Sorry again my vegan friends. I tried with agave
syrup and it just didn’t work right. The flavor of Honey is too unique. Anyway,
Hopkins farm had simply fabulous carrots at thier booth today, which is good,
because this was a side that I thought would pair well with any of the entrees;
probably best with the Makhani, but it will work with any of them. Fresh grated
ginger, plenty of clover honey, and juice from Valencia oranges. OK, so they aren’t
local! Not everything can be local. I made spinach with toasted coconut a couple of
weeks ago. The spinach was local, the coconuts were from Costa Rica. Nobody grows them here. When they do, I’ll buy them local. They are Pennsylvania Carrots though, and that’s the important thing. Vegetarian Friendly

Braised red cabbage with apples – I haven’t bought the apples yet. I’ll get them
fresh on the way in to the cafe in the morning. So I don’t know what variety I’ll
be using yet. The red cabbage was from another vendor at the farmers market. It was another impulse buy. It was so red, and so dense. I couldn’t resist it. It will go
great with the short ribs, or the mac and cheese. Vegan Friendly.

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After Action Report – Thursday September 1, 2011

The Cafe was buzzing tonight. The summer doldrums appear to be coming to a close, and we’re getting busier. John made some absolutely off-the-hook, delicious garlic bread sticks tonight to go with the Roasted Red Pepper and White Bean dip. We sold out of the dip, so I’m at the Cafe now cooking up a new batch of beans. I was able to roast some more red peppers during service when the oven wasn’t in use, but the stove top was in constant motion so the beans had to wait until closing.

We moved a lot of cheese plates tonight too. I made some good buys with the triple creme brie and the St Agur soft ripened blue cheese. The aged gouda nicely rounds out the three cheeses. John also made some gorgeous crispy-fluffy baguettes that went great with the cheese plate. Bread and cheese – what’s not to like? I think I’m going to have to add a few slices of some nice aged hard sausage like a sopressata or something along those lines – like the perfect farmer’s lunch – only as an appetizer for dinner!

Every entree got eaten tonight, but the by far the most popular was the smoked chicken (or tofu!) with roasted apples and smoked corn. What a dish! I’m not quite sure what it is, but it just works: The smokiness of the chicken doesn’t over power anything else, and there is something about roasting apples – well, yeah apple pie, of course, I knew that – but I just didn’t realize just how much roasting an apple does for it.

Oh, and I didn’t exactly lie about which apples were going to be in the dish, but there were only Honey Crisps and Ginger Golds at Brace’s Orchard when I stopped to buy them. So no Ida Reds were available. I couldn’t wait and dug right in to a Honey Crisp on the way to the cafe. It was delicious – sweet, crispy, tart – all the things you want from an apple. But roasting it! Oh my! And then tossing it in with the shredded chicken and sweet smokey corn, with some red onion and parsley and mixing it all up with the cider reduction. I’m really happy with the way the dish came out, and the reception it got from our diners. I’m going to have to fire up the smoker during lunch tomorrow and get some more chicken going to be ready for dinner tomorrow.

Cook’s Note: When roasting apples, make sure you poke some holes in them, or cut them in half or something first. Yeah, I forgot last night and had to re-roast a half dozen. I had a pan full of exploded apples. It was some yummy stuff, just not in the proper form for the application I had in mind.

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Dinner at the Brown Barn Cafe – Week of August 29th

I couldn’t get my act together quickly enough last Sunday night to get the menu out here, but here is this week’s menu for your reading pleasure:
Starters:

Fattoush -
My mint has some very nice new growth, tomatoes are still abundant, and the cukes
are big and juicy, so Fattoush is still on the menu. I’m going to be sad when the
the mint runs out, but when it does, the Fattoush goes off the menu.

Cold beet soup with vegan mint sour cream – John and I have been going back and
forth about Borscht for weeks. I finally got him to commit to a batch of it. I
bought a couple of big beet bunches from Miller’s farm of Clarks Summit. There is
nothing to compare to the color and flavor of beet soup! Nothing! We’re keeping it
vegan with vegetable stock and soy-based sour cream. I’m infusing the sour cream with fresh mint to add a bit more flavor to the party.

Roasted red pepper and white beans with olive oil and garlic bread – Similar to
Hummus, but with cannellini instead of chick peas. Fresh oregano makes this bean dip
taste more like Italy than Morocco.

Broiled tomatoes with pecan pesto – big fat red tomatoes smothered in basil and
pecans then broiled to make the top crispy. Served on cafe flat bread to soak up
the juices.

Entrees:

BBQ chuck roast with twice baked potatoes – This is an old favorite. It’s been a
long time since I made it since the rest of the family went vegetarian. The roast
gets tied up, then braised in a vinegar based BBQ sauce. After braising it goes on
the grill to caramelize the sauce and get some smoke flavor.  The twice baked potatoes get a topping of pecorino cheese.

Smoked chicken (or tofu), roasted apples and corn. A mix of ginger gold and ida red apples get roasted on a slow grill, along with corn on the cob and whole chickens.
The chickens get shredded, the apples cubed and the corn cut off the cob. It all gets together in a sweet, tart reduction of apple cider and other tasty things.This dish is served cold over a bed of greens. The vegan version has smoked tofu. It’s easy to over do tofu on a smoker. One minute you’ve got a lovely bit of smokey bean curd perfect for crumbling and the next you’ve got an inedible brick suitable only for building material. It has happened to me, and it is no fun. So I’ll be keeping a close eye on the tofu.

Seared haddock with pink rice and three beans – I’m assuming that there will be some nice haddock at the fish market. If not then substitute “Other White Flaky Fish.” Whatever the fish turns out to be, it will get short time in some lemon juice, white wine cracked black pepper and fresh herbs, then a quick searing in a hot pan with some steamed green, yellow and red beans. It will all go with some beautiful Madagascar Pink Rice According to the Lotus Foods site the strain of rice comes from a single grain found and propogated by a rice farmer by the name of Jean Baptiste Rakotomandimby. Rice is my favorite starch, and I’m really enjoying exploring the different varieties that are out there.

Black, white and red bean chili with vegan corn bread. I’ve been working on the vegan corn bread. What I’ve found is that a combination of vegan butter and soy creamer works best. I’m not quite sure why. Perhaps the fat content of the creamer is higher than plain soy milk, and makes the batter better. Regardless, I’m happy enough with the vegan corn bread to put it on the menu. The chili is full of fresh tomatoes, peppers, and some cafe smoked jalapenos which have been drying for about 3 weeks now. They should have a really intense flavor at this point.

Eggplant kabobs with garlic yogurt sauce. I’m having trouble finding a suitable plain soy yogurt at my usual places. They all seem to be flavored at least with vanilla, which is fine for many applications, but generally not savory ones. So for this dish the vegan version will have a soy sour cream based sauce. It isn’t quite the same as the yogurt flavored one, but it is delicious nonetheless. Red onion and big fat green olives round out the flavors on these kabobs. I’m thinking that if I stuff the olives with a bunch of chopped up parsley, basil, oregano and garlic that it will boost the flavor profile quite a bit. The eggplant and red onion chunks are going to spend a few hours in a bath of lemon juice, olive oil and black pepper.

Sides:

Fried kale – with garlic and onions – simple and delicious.

Green beans – I love green beans. I really do. The kitchen isn’t really conducive to doing a lot of on-the-fly cooking, but one of my favorite ways to eat green beans is to flash fry them with some garlic and soy sauce – after they’ve been par boiled to soften them up a bit, so I think that’s what I’ll do with them this week.

Corn on the cob – There’s maybe a week or two left of the best corn, so it is staying for now.

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Cuban Black Bean Soup

OK I’m sitting here waiting for this soup to finish and I am going bonkers, bonkers, I say! There’s plenty of cumin in it and the smell of the cumin, and the sweet red peppers, onions and garlic I sauteed to blend into the beans are just driving me to distraction.

Even though I’ve been snacking on a skinny sopresatta and a wedge of Idiazábal cheese all afternoon the smell of the soup is making me hungry. Only about 20 minutes until the potatoes are done. I’ve tasted the thing a few times along the way – it’s very nice! And my vegan friends will be happy to know it is free of animal products. The recipe says to serve with chopped red onion and green bell pepper. I think that’s fine, but I’m going to put a dollop of vegan sour cream on top too, and mince up some cilantro to go with the onion and pepper topping. I think a smallish squirt of lime juice on top of everything else will make it even better.

The black bean soup and a gorgeous roasted tomato soup that John made today are now on the menu! John bought a few pounds of Roma tomatoes from the Hopkins farm at the Scranton Farmer’s Market today and roasted them with a bunch of big garlic bulbs and extra virgin olive oil. I had other stuff going on so I didn’t see exactly how he made the whole thing, but it looks, smells and tastes great. He’s going to garnish it with a chiffonade of fresh basil, and I think a drizzle of olive oil. I can hardly wait!

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Dinner at the Brown Barn Cafe – Week of August 15th

Some of our starters and sides are so popular that we’ve decided to leave a few on
the menu again this week. With the abundance of delicious peaches and nectarines
from Brace’s Orchard, and the corn, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and zucchini we’re
finding at the farmer’s markets and stands the keepers are the Fattoush, the peach
salsa, corn on the cob, and the nectarine and tomato salad.

Without further ado, the menu:

Fattoush – The mint in my garden continues to flourish – a bit more than I want or
need, but it means plenty of sharpness for the fattoush dressing for the next few
weeks. No more heirloom tomatoes! This makes me sad, they added such a colorful and
flavorful dimension to the salad, but the big bright red ones are still delicious.  Vegan

Peach Salsa – I’ve played with the recipe on this one and found what I think is a
better balance among all of the ingredients; fewer tomatoes, more peaches and
peppers and some fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice at serving time to
brighten things up a bit.  Vegan

Caponata – roasted eggplant and tomato salad. This is similar to baba ganoush but
with the addition of fresh tomatoes. I’m thinking that the eggplants are going to
spend time in the smoker to punch up the flavor a bit. Plenty of fresh flat leaf
parsley and some lemon juice give it a brightnessr I think anyone would enjoy. It is
served with warm flat bread. Vegan

Smoked Salmon – Yes, the idea for smoking the eggplant for the caponata came from
the smoked salmon. There’s plenty of room in the smoker, so why not put the eggplant
in too? Traditional condiments – capers, chopped red onion, lemon wedges and a
horseradish remoulade come with the salmon.

Cheese Plate  – Cheese is fabulous, so the cheese plate stays – this week the
cheeses are a triple creme, brie, a Shropshire blue and aged gouda. If I ask nicely,
John will make the baguettes. Mine are good, but his are amazing!

On to the Entrees…

Bo Kho – this is a Vietnamese beef stew. I’m told it is breakfast food, and I’d be
happy to eat this fantastic stew to start my day, every day, but I’m serving it for
dinner. Slowly braised beef shanks in a glorious broth with carrots served over rice
noodles. The rice noodles make the dish Hu Tieu Bo Kho. It comes with toasted French
baguettes, sliced hot peppers, fresh basil, pickled onions, lime wedges and chopped
scallion and cilantro.

Black Forbidden Rice with Peaches and Snap Peas – Black rice! It is stunning on the plate, and nutty and delicious on the tongue. It has such a wonderful flavor all
it’s own, it doesn’t need much so I’m keeping it simple with fresh peach slices and
snap peas in a simple dressing of lemon and olive oil. This is a vegan friendly
dish.

Pink Lentils with Zucchini – Another Vegan friendly dish. OK I think the lentils are
a little more orange than pink, but I wont quibble. They are deliciously spiced and
provide a sound and nutritious foundation for a stew of zucchini – and depending on
availability – guzza squash, with plenty of onion, garlic and fresh herbs.

Chicken and Artichoke Casserole – Don’t the let the name fool you – there is a lot
more going on here than just chicken and artichokes! It sits on a bed of long grain
and wild rice. The chicken and artichokes are in a sauce of mushrooms, onions,
sherry, cream, and mozzarella cheese. The whole thing is topped off with more
mozzarella and a blend of sharp cheeses – Romano, Assiago and Pecorino. This thing
is just dense with flavor. Every bite brings something new to the party.

Eggplant Lasagna – The last few weeks at the farmers market have been overwhelming
me with all of the beautiful veggies and fruits. One thing I’ve overlooked is
eggplant – but on Friday when I saw all the varieties available I decided this week
I have to include them. So they feature in the caponata, and in this good old
comfort food standby. I’m going with both purple and white for this one. The tomato
sauce will be made from scratch, naturally, and the cheeses will be blended
perfectly. There is plenty of fresh oregano and basil to punch the flavors up a
click or two. Vegetarian
(Sorry my vegan friends, I have yet to find a vegan friendly “cheese” that can pass
muster. When I do, believe me, I’ll be making all sorts of vegan friendly cheesey
delights!)

Sides:

What can I say? I Love, love, love, corn on the cob. It is staying on the menu. I
highly recommend the chili lime compound butter to go with.

Pickled Daikon, Carrots and Onion – These go with the Bo Kho, but will add a nice
zingy crunch to any of the other entrees. Fresh pickles are a long time favorite.

Nectarine and Tomato Salad  – Two great tastes that taste great together – the
addition of a bit of toasted pecan, lemon juice and olive oil is all it takes to make this customer favorite. Simple but so delicious!

So, I hope you can come to see us at the Brown Barn Cafe this week. If you can’t
make it for dinner, come in for a nice quiche or salad or sandwich during lunch!

Edit – Need to talk to the legal department about any offers of complimentary wines

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Gazpacho!

OK, I’m here at the cafe fixin’ to make a big batch of Gazpacho based on  Alton Brown’s recipe. I’m staring at a very large pile of tomatoes; big, beautiful, ripe, red tomatoes that I bought at the Scranton Farmer’s Market this very morning.

I don’t want to do it! They need peeling. They require de-seeding. It is a chore, and there are so many of them.

What’s the payoff? Happy eaters. Anyone who orders it can’t help but love it. The flavors in this soup are so bright it’s amazing. And considering that the farm I bought the tomatoes from picked them this morning… well it doesn’t get any more fresh, does it?

So I guess I better get to it, eh? Those maters won’t peel themselves.

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Dinner at the Brown Barn Cafe – Week of August 7th

Hopkin’s farm is on the way from Clarks Summit to Shavertown. They have an honor
system stand with fresh picked produce. I stop there every day on the way to the
cafe to get the ingredients for the night’s menu. There are always beautiful little
summer squash, gorgeous tomatoes of all sizes; peppers, eggplants, onions, garlic
and fresh herbs. It is hard not to over-buy. It all looks so good I just want to
pack it all up. Brace’s Orchard is also on the way, and I stop there for
nectarines, peaches and my new favorite tart apple – the Lodi.

This week our fresh fruit dessert with orange/pomegranate caramel sauce, candied
orange peel and mint slivers is made with peaches and Lodi apples. The soft
sweetness of the peaches combined with the crunchy tartness of the apples is a real
treat. The orange peel adds a slight yet welcome bitter counterpoint to the
caramel. The bright fresh mint adds another dimension to this deceptively complex
mix of flavors. I can’t say enough about it.

But I’ve gotten ahead of myself. With corn and peaches and tomatoes and zucchini
all showing up in abundance, I’m going to feature them all but in new ways.

This weeks starters:
Gazpacho! – nuff said. This is Alton Brown’s recipe and it is fabulous!

Corn cakes – fresh corn off the cob, mixed with corn meal, eggs, milk and flour and
seared on the flat top. I’m thinking of several different toppings for it – sour
cream and horseradish seems like a natural, but I think something herbal might be
nice too – a pecan and cilantro pesto would work, or even a tamarind chutney… or
both! I’ll be working on the vegan version too, so our vegan friends can enjoy this
sweet and savory summer favorite.

Cheesey corn dip with tortilla chips – This will come in either spicy or mild
versions. Roasted poblanos for the mild and a mix of jalapeno and poblano for the
hot.

The Fattoush has become so popular that John and I have both decided to make it a
long-timer on the menu. As long as the sun-grown tomatoes hold out it is staying.

Everyone has had this one – tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil with balsamic and
olive oil. I’m going to try to make it a little more interesting in my
presentation. We’ll see how it goes. No matter what, it is a favorite and deserves
a place on the menu at least once.

Shrimps with peach and jalpeno relish. I’m still working out the details about the
shrimp – hot or cold? grilled or pan seared or sauteed? The peach salsa last week
was a real hit, but this time around I’m going for something spicier and more
peachy. I’m going to punch up the pepper and peach flavors, and maybe even take out
the tomatoes entirely.

On to the second course!

Butter chicken makhani – slow cooked chicken in a buttery sauce flavored with
Indian spices. served over basmati rice. Bridget made some of this and sent a
sample in to the cafe to me. It was out of this world. The sauce was so flavorful,
and the chicken was all fally aparty. The rice will be seasoned with some cumin and
cardamom and turmeric to add some zip.

Corn and Squash burritos – grilled corn and summer squashes mixed with rice and
wrapped in a big flour tortilla with refried pinto beans, lettuce, pico de gallo
and soy sour cream. A vegan’s delight. It is so good that our carnivorous freinds
will love it too!

Zucchini stuffed with sausage – crumbled cafe corn bread and sausage stuffed in to
big fat zucchinis and baked to perfection. Topped with chunks of fresh tomato and
melted mozzarella cheese.

Potato and peach curry – I know! Two curries in the same week! But they are worlds
apart from each other. This is a green curry of potatoes, topped at the last minute
with a chutney of fresh peaches and vegan sour cream. The chicken Makhani is a deep
and rich and mellow blend, while this is a bright and sharp – Isn’t it great how
curries can be so different?

Beef and preserved lemons with tomato coulis. Juicy strips of lean beef marinated
with preserved lemons and grilled. Served with couscous and tomato coulis. This is
another work in progress. I’m satisfied that the beef will be quite nice with the
preserved lemons, but the couscous is going to need something – and right now I
don’t know what that is – to make the dish stand out.

Sides:

The sides are always hard to figure out. But I think this weeks’ will find a comforatble place next to the entrees.

Nectarine and tomato salad – chunks of fresh nectarines paired with a blend of grape tomatoes, peppers, onion and balsamic vinegar and olive oil

Corn on the cob – once again we’ll be offering the chili lime butter to go with the corn. It really adds a wild dimension to the corn. I confess I ate a lot of it myself.

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