Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Local Cook 

Real Food Menu for October

Zuppa Valdostana

Apple Butter Glazed Pork Loin

Plum Sticky Bites

Cabbage Bake Valdostana

(Cabbage specialty of the Aosta Valley)

Serves 8

The Cabbage Bake is a combination of two inspirations from past yummy experiences. One version is the traditional Valle soup I worked with on World Class Cuisine when I traveling to do a tv show in Breuille Cervinia, Italy; the other is a strata or layered bake I ‘ve prepared over and over as an hors d’oeuvres (when cut into small squares) or an entree. The recipe was called a zuppa or soup, but I swear when I had it in Italy, it was thick and dense since the bread sopped up all of the liquid and the cheese basically glued it together.

Valle d'Aosta-The “Aosta” Valley or valle, is tucked away in the Alpine region of northwestern Italy. It is a lovely nature center for outdoor living of skiing in the winter and hiking or biking in the summer. We also encountered herds of cattle, complete with musical bells, crossing the road at their leisure. It was up to the traffic to pull aside-not the cows. This traditional recipe  of Aosta Valley is indicative of the hearty foods served there where Fontina cheese is a specialty.

  • 1 small Savoy cabbage (about 1 lb.)10 cups julienned cabbage steamed to equal 6 cups
  • 2 medium size onions, caramelized
  • 8 ounces. Fontina cheese, shredded
  • 4 cups. beef broth
  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seed, toasted and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 16-18 slices of country bread (about l/2-in. thick)
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Drain the steamed cabbage well. Bring the beef broth to a boil, remove from heat and add milk. When the broth and milk cool slightly, whisk in eggs, nutmeg, caraway seed and salt.

In an ovenproof casserole (preferably terra cotta) alternate layers of bread, onions, cabbage and Fontina until all ingredients are used up, making sure to finish with slices of bread. Drizzle the top layer of bread with melted butter.

Gently pour the broth, milk-egg mixture over it and bake for about 45 minutes, until the top layer is crisp. Serve the zuppa valdostana hot.

Grilled Apple Butter Glazed Pork Loin

Serves 6-8

  • 1  (2 pound piece) pork loin
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Locally made apple or pumpkin butter, about 3/4 cup
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup

Preheat the grill to medium high.

Trim any fat to a thickness of 1/4 inch thick. Generously salt and pepper pork loin.

Place over direct flame to caramelized the entire outside until a golden brown. Now place on a heavy sheet of aluminum foil and move to the indirect heat of the grill. Close the grill lid and continue to cook for about 30-3 minutes total (or until a meat thermometer inserted in the center registers 145 degrees, turning over after half of the cooking time.

Mix the apple butter and maple syrup together. During the last 20 minutes of grilling, baste generously with the apple butter mixture.

Let rest on a cutting board, tented with a sheet of foil, for 10 minutes befire slicing. Serve warm with additional apple butter on the side.


Plum Apple Sticky Bites

Serves 8 as dessert or 16 as “Little Bites”

If truth be told, most of us adore a time-saver whenever we can get it and above all, if it’s high quality. I often teach classes and write about “speed scratch”. Ok-what IS that? Well my friends. You have a bit of help with a quality cake or bread mix, for example-one without 37 ingredients in the list and devoid of all those fancy chemicals. I have found some great products at Trader Joe’s and the price is right! You’ll often find selections at health food stores. Another speed scratch item might be a beautifully grilled filet of salmon that you purchase from a “to go” case and you add your signature sauce. Specialty sauces can also come from the store and if you add a few fresh herbs and a fresh vegetable or two, you quickly have a vibrant topping.

For the Topping (or Bottom)

  •  5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons chopped crystalized ginger (optional)
  • 3 large ripe plums, scrubbed, dried and cut into thin wedges
  • cinnamon
  • 1  Trader Joe’s 16-ounce package Spiced Apple Bread Mix
  • ingredients called for on package
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9X13 (lasagna) baking pan.

Make the mix according to package directions but add the additional vanilla.

Place the melted butter in the baking pan. Sprinkle on the sugar and crystalized ginger. Layer the plums on top of this until you have a single layer of fruit. Dust the plums with cinnamon. Top with the apple bread mixture.

Bake about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the cake area comes out clean. Let cool 15 minutes on a cooling rack. Run a knife around the edges and invert onto a cutting board. Cut into small bite-size squares or diamonds and place on a serving platter. Serve immediately or at room temperature.


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