A Fall Feast in Five Courses

As temperatures drop and storm windows replace screens in Northeast Ohio, it’s a natural time for nesting, cocooning ... and cooking. There’s no better way to make a house feel cozy and inviting than to fill it with good kitchen smells wafting from sizzling skillets, simmering soup pots and a casserole in the oven. To help you serve up something special, we turned to members of Cleveland Originals, an association of locally owned and operated restaurants that give our community its unique culinary character. Five area chefs agreed to help us plan a meal. Each one shared a recipe for a single dish. The result is a five-course feast, featuring creations from some genuine Cleveland taste-makers. It all adds up to one great dinner that’s perfect for a November night.

Sergio Abramof
The Appetizer

When the days grow cold and gray, Sergio Abramof, owner of both Sergio’s in University Circle and Saravà on Shaker Square, turns to the tropics for inspiration, making dishes that evoke memories of warm places and sunny skies to fend off the winter blues. “Hearts of palm is a favorite in many hot-weather countries,” says Abramof, a chef who has Brazilian roots. “It comes from certain species of wild palm trees native to the Amazon region. The sweet, soft, ivory-colored flesh has a delicate flavor. In this appetizer, it provides a wonderful counterpoint to the firm texture and assertive flavors of the shrimp.”

Sergio Abramof’s Gulf Shrimp and Heart of Palm

(serves 4)

12 raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 tablespoon fresh garlic, finely chopped

2 tablespoons onion, diced

1/2 cup heart of palm, sliced

1/3 cup fresh tomato, diced

1/4 cup white wine

6 tablespoons scallions, green top only, chopped thin in 1/8-inch circles, divided use

1/4 cup chicken stock

1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk

juice of 1 lime

3 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup vegetable oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

To prepare: Heat oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Sauté the shrimp for about one minute and then turn each one over. Add garlic and onions, and cook for about two more minutes. Add the heart of palm. Season with salt and pepper and continue to sauté over high heat approximately one minute. Add diced tomato, and 3 tablespoons of the chopped scallions. Continue to sauté another 30 seconds. Add wine and stir to deglaze the pan. Add chicken stock, coconut milk and butter and bring to a simmer. Cook only until butter is melted, then remove from heat. Stir in lime juice.

To serve: Arrange three shrimp on each plate; top with the sauce from the sauté pan. Garnish with remaining chopped scallions and serve at once.

Chef’s tips: Choose shrimp that are sold 16 to 20 per pound. Heart of palm, sold in cans or jars, is available at many finer grocery stores.

Michael Sharpe
The Soup

Michael Sharpe doesn’t behave like the Soup Nazi on “Seinfeld,” but he’s proud to say he’s got the same following of devoted fans as that fictional character. Lunchtime customers at Susy’s Soups, his takeout place downtown on Public Square, form long queues, just like those on the famous episode of the NBC sitcom, that stretch out the door and down the street. His easy recipe for carrot ginger soup just may have your friends and family lining up for more too. “Its gorgeous bright-orange color gives every bowl eye appeal,” says Sharpe, “and it is surprisingly rich for a soup made without cream. The ginger really wakes up the taste buds to carry you on to the next course.”

Michael Sharpe’s Carrot Ginger Soup

(serves 6 to 8)

4 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup olive oil

1 large Spanish onion, diced

2 1/2 pounds (approximately 5 cups) carrots, peeled and sliced

4 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and minced

5 cups vegetable stock OR chicken broth


salt and pepper, to taste

For garnish:

8-ounce container sour cream

1/2 bunch fresh cilantro leaves, minced

To prepare: In a large 4-quart pot, heat butter and olive oil until butter is melted. Add onions, carrots and ginger, and cook until soft. Add stock or broth and cook another 15 minutes over medium heat. Stir in a sprinkle of nutmeg. Remove from heat. Carefully transfer soup to a blender or food processor in small batches and puree until smooth. Add salt and pepper.

To serve: Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish each bowl with a tablespoon of sour cream and a dusting of minced cilantro. Serve immediately.     

Chef’s tip: Make your own stock or broth or choose a good quality commercial brand such as Minor’s, a concentrate found in the refrigerator case at many area markets, or Kitchen Basics.

Randal Johnson
The Salad

“Fall is my season. I adore this time of year for cooking,” says Randal Johnson. “People tend to eat lightly in hot weather, but once there’s a nip in the air, they’re ready for richer dishes and fuller-bodied flavors. And there’s still an abundance of Ohio harvest fruits and vegetables to work with.” In this recipe, the chef/owner of Molinari’s, a wine store, cooking school and Italian-inspired restaurant, uses fresh pears in his warm mÃ.che salad.

Randal Johnson’s Warm Pear and Pecan MÃ.che Salad

(serves 6)

3 tablespoons walnut oil

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons aged sherry vinegar

3 pears, cored and cut into 16 wedges each

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 cup toasted pecan halves

3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

12 ounces fresh mÃ.che, washed well

To toast pecans: Spread nuts in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes.

To prepare: Heat both oils in a large skillet over medium heat. Add pear wedges and sauté till the pears are heated through (2 to 3 minutes). Add brown sugar and sherry vinegar and stir well to dissolve the brown sugar. Add salt and pepper and stir to combine. Pour over the mÃ.che in a large mixing bowl, add pecans and feta, and toss gently.

To serve: Divide among six warm plates. Serve at once.

Chef’s tip: MÃ.che is a type of lettuce with a dark green color and small, rounded, spoon-shaped leaves. It has a sweet, nutty flavor and is available at many area markets.

Thomas Quick
The Entrée

Pot roast is a homespun classic and Midwestern winter favorite. Chef Thomas Quick, owner of Epiq, a fine-dining bistro and wine bar in Concord, takes it upscale with some professional touches. He serves this elegant braise at home and at the restaurant. “It’s a true seasonal comfort food,” Quick says. “This version of the dish has a fantastic aroma that makes everybody’s mouth water.”

Thomas Quick’s Slow Roasted Pot Roast with Truffled Mashed Potatoes

(serves 6 to 8)

For the pot roast:

4-pound cut of beef shoulder or bottom round

2 cups flour

1/2 cup chopped onion, 1/2-inch dice

1/2 cup chopped carrot, 1/2-inch dice

1/2 cup chopped celery, 1/2-inch dice

2 bay leaves

3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped rough

zest of 2 oranges

juice of 2 oranges

2 cups Madeira wine

2 quarts veal or low-sodium beef stock

To prepare: Dust meat on all sides with flour. Shake off excess. In a large heavy-bottomed pan, brown meat on all sides over high heat in a small amount of heated vegetable oil. Add onion, carrot, celery and garlic to pan and cook five minutes. Add Madeira and bring to a boil, stir occasionally with long-handled spoon to loosen meat and vegetables that may have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add all other ingredients. Transfer to ovenproof baking dish if necessary, and bake loosely covered for three to four hours at 325 degrees or until meat is fork tender.

To serve: Slice meat. Arrange on a platter, top with pan juices.

For mashed potatoes:

4 large russet potatoes, peeled

1/2 cup cream or half-and-half

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons truffle oil

To prepare: Put whole potatoes in cold water, bring to a boil, cook until soft and drain. Add remaining ingredients and mash with a potato masher. Serve immediately.

Chef’s tip: To zest an orange, remove only the thin outer layer of skin, without the white pith underlayer, using a sharp paring knife, vegetable peeler or zester, and mince. Then squeeze the juice from the skinned oranges and strain to remove seeds.

Jonathan Bennett
The Dessert

Jonathan Bennett, chef and co-owner of two Beachwood restaurants, Moxie and Red, lives on a former orchard, and a few apple trees remain. In the fall, he explains, fruit drops on his head when he mows the grass under them. With apples quite literally on his mind, it’s no surprise that he uses them in this spectacular dessert. The recipe is best undertaken by those who are bold and somewhat athletic, because it requires a tricky flicking move to get the finished tart out of the pan. Bennett finds that a clear mind and a little prayer are also helpful. But if the flip fails, he says, all is not lost. “As long as it didn’t hit the floor, scoop the apples into bowls, cut the pastry into pieces, put them on top of the apples and cover with the ice cream and syrup.”

Jonathan Bennett’s Gingered Apple Tart Tatin

(serves 4 to 6)

For the tart:

6 fresh, local apples, peeled, quartered and cored

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter

1 premade puff pastry sheet

Ginger syrup:

1/2 cup water

pinch salt

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and minced

To prepare: Combine all syrup ingredients in a small saucepan, bring to a simmer uncovered over medium-high heat and reduce by half. Cool in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes.

To serve: Cut the tart into the desired portions and top with vanilla ice cream drizzled with ginger syrup.

To prepare: Combine apples in a bowl with the sugar, salt, lemon juice and water. Crumble the butter in the bottom of an ovenproof, nonstick 10-inch sauté pan. Arrange the apples in a shingled circle, filling in the center as well. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook for approximately 30 minutes, uncovered, occasionally giving the pan a gentle swirl, or until a lightly colored caramel has formed around the apples. Cut the pastry sheet to fit inside the pan and carefully tuck the edges down between the apples and the pan. Place in a 450-degree oven for about 10 minutes or until the pastry is fully cooked and golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 5 minutes. 

To serve: Gently give the pan a swirl to loosen the tart. If the whole tart does not appear to move a little, place pan on high heat for about 20 seconds and swirl again. Wearing two long oven mitts, invert a serving plate over the pan. With the handle of the pan firmly in your right hand and the plate held firmly on top of the pan with your left, lower the pan to thigh height, quickly raise it to chest height, flip it over, and lower back to thigh height. The momentum keeps the caramel in the bottom of the pan until the last possible moment. Do not simply invert the pan, as hot caramel is likely to spray out onto the counter, floor, walls and possibly you. Note: Left-handers should reverse hand placement. 

Chef’s tips: Northern spy apples work very well in this recipe. Pillsbury brand puff pastry sheets are recommended.

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