Sweet evolution

Twenty years of good cookies and good friends

Twenty years of good cookies and good friends

December 20, 2006|by JULIE E. GREENE

There's a certain delight in discovering a new treat, maybe a cookie the taste buds haven't before enjoyed.

In their pursuit of such new discoveries, Mary Kalin and Cookie McDowell have shared more than just cookie recipes. They and several friends have shared tales of their families and have created new memories to recount during their annual cookie exchange.

"It's really about getting together with friends," said McDowell, 57, who lives north of Hagerstown.

Kalin, McDowell and six friends, along with spouses, recently celebrated their 20th cookie exchange with a progressive dinner, one in which different portions of the meal were served at three homes.

The women decided to have a progressive dinner every five years because "some of the guys (who don't attend the annual cookie exchanges) were feeling left out," McDowell said.


This year's dinner began with appetizers at theHagerstown-area home of Karen Spessard.

The main course - mushroom-stuffed pork tenderloin accompanied by rustic roasted vegetables and polenta stars - was served at the North End home of Mary and George Kalin. The dinner was preceded by a winter fruit salad.

Dessert - the cookies - was served and exchanged at the home of Cookie and Jay McDowell.

For the exchange, each of the eight women presents her cookie, usually while holding an individual cookie on a small silver platter, and explains how the recipe was discovered.

Then they taste the cookies, and each gets to take home a batch of each cookie and the recipe.

Kalin and McDowell got the idea to create a cookie exchange group after each separately attended larger ones. They thought a group of eight would be more manageable, so each recruited three friends to attend.

There's been little turnover in the group; some people have moved away.

This year's gathering included original members Kalin, McDowell, Alice Breslin and Barbara Diefenderfer, who includes a handmade ornament with each batch of cookies.

The other women attending this year were Spessard, Denise Hovermale, Teresa Barr and Margie Wight, who was substituting for Stephanie Bock. All of the women live in the Hagerstown area, except for Barr, who lives in Clear Spring.

Preparing the home and cooking the entree and side dishes for the group is a lot of work, but Kalin made it look easy, Wight said.

"I love to do it," said Kalin, 64. "I love to cook."

Mushroom-Stuffed Pork Tenderloin With Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

4-pound pork tenderloin, butterflied (see note)
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons melted butter

For the mushroom filling:

1/4 cup olive oil
2 shallots, minced
1 head of garlic, roasted (see note)
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, finely minced
1 ounce dried mushrooms, soaked in 1 cup of hot water for 30 minutes, drained and squeezed dry, then minced
2 teaspoons fresh sage, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

For the sauce:

Four roasted red peppers
1 head of garlic, roasted (see note)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup mushroom filling
1 teaspoon finely minced fresh sage
1/4 cup dry vermouth or white wine

To prepare the filling, in a large skillet, saut the shallots in the olive oil until golden. Add mushrooms and garlic pulp, sauting about 5 minutes or until mushrooms are starting to brown. Add sage and continue to saut for about 1 minute. Let cool and stir in the parsley. Reserve 1/2 cup of filling for the sauce.

To prepare the sauce, place red peppers, garlic pulp, olive oil, salt and pepper in a blender. Blend until smooth. Pour mixture into a medium saucepan. Add reserved 1/2 cup of mushroom filling, sage and vermouth. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until heated thoroughly.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

To prepare the meat, place opened tenderloin flat on a foil-lined jellyroll pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place remaining mushroom filling lengthwise down on side of the meat and roll lengthwise. Tie the tenderloin at 1-inch intervals with kitchen string. Brown on all sides in the olive oil and butter. Place in a roasting pan and roast in oven at 450 degrees until internal temperature is 165 degrees. Takes about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Let sit for 10 minutes.

Slice tenderloin into 3/4-inch-thick pieces, removing the string. Serve with the warmed red pepper sauce.

Notes: Specify to the butcher that you want the entire tenderloin butterflied so it can be rolled, not cut into individually butterflied pieces.

To roast a head of garlic, cut the top of the bulb off to expose the ends of the cloves. Drizzle one tablespoon or so of olive oil over the bulb. Roast the garlic in an ovenproof container at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or until the bulb is brown on top and the garlic is soft. Cool. Squeeze the bulb and the cloves will pop out. The cloves will be pulpy.

Serves 8.

- Courtesy of Mary Kalin

Polenta Stars

The Herald-Mail Articles