Tag-Archive for ◊ Italian ◊

05 Sep 2010 Blasted Sausages

Holy Moly, this recipe delivers in both taste and presentation. The original recipe stated this is a traditional Tuscan harvest dish, but I know I have never run across anything like this before (not that I have ever been to Tuscany…).  I found this recipe in “150 Best American Recipes”, but I changed it up a bit to suit my taste (and reduced the quantities to serve a small crowd, rather than a whole village).  Now’s the time to make this recipe.  The grape harvest is in.

My son came home from college last night for a quick 36 hour visit.  I almost fainted when he asked me to teach him to cook something while he was here.  Did he REALLY say that?  Be still my heart! Lucky for him, I had been wanting to make this recipe and had all the ingredients on hand.  This is an easy-easy recipe, a great one for newbie 19 year old cooks (and stretched-to-the-max parents of small children, and older folk who are tired of cooking but still want to eat well…)

I just had to give my son the MamaBear warnings about how HOT pans are after being in a 500 degree oven.  I’ll remind you, too.  Use thick pot holders. Be careful. Have fun with this.  It’s truly delicious.  If I had a Bistro, this would definitely be on the menu.

Blasted Sausages and Grapes

1 1/2 lbs Sweet Italian Sausages (usually 6)
1 can beer (or water)
3 T. butter,melted
1 lb red seedless grapes, stemmed
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Rustic mashed potatoes (recipe summary included in body of recipe)

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat cover the sausages with beer or water and parboil for 8 minutes to rid sausages of excess fat. Drain.

Pour melted butter into a baking pan (or a large ovenproof skillet). Add the grapes to the pan and toss to coat with the melted butter. Place the sausages in the pan with the grapes and butter.  Push the sausages down into the grapes.

Put the roasting pan or skillet with the grapes and sausages into 500 degrees for 12 minutes. Turn sausages over, and roast for an additional 12 minutes. (While the sausages are cooking, make some Rustic Mashed Potatoes.  Cube one russet potato for each guest, do not peel.  Put cubed potatoes in a pan of salted water and bring to a boil.  Boil for approx 20 minutes (could be longer if your potato cubes are larger).  When potatoes are soft, drain and place in large mixing bowl.  Add 1T of butter to mixing bowl for each potato.  Whip potatoes and butter lightly together with an electric mixer. Pour in 1T. milk, cream or sour cream for each potato.  Whip again.  Rustic Mashed Potatoes should remain a bit lumpy. Taste, then add as much salt and pepper as needed.)

With a slotted spoon remove sausages to serving platter.  Top or surround the sausages with the cooked grapes. Retain the pan juices in the bottom of the pan and move to a small saucepan.  Stir in  2 tablespoons of good balsamic vinegar.  Cook juices and vinegar over medium-high heat until the mixture is thick and syrupy. Drizzle the sauce over the sausages and serve immediately with the Rustic Mashed Potatoes.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.  Your visits help lift my spirits, as did the weather. I am always glad to open the door to you and close the door on summer. It’s going to be Fall soon, my very, very, very favorite season of the year. Enjoying a plate of Blasted Sausages and Roasted Grapes is a great way to celebrate.

29 Aug 2010 Fresh Tomato Lasagna

Every morning, every good, calm morning, I browse the food blogs.  Most mornings I print off a few recipes.  The recipes then sit around for awhile and I revisit them from time to time.  Eventually, I do try some of the recipes.  Very few of the recipes I repost “as is”.  Some recipes show promise and I work with them for a bit (I have been working on a recipe for Orange Creamsicle Cookies for a few months now).  I probably post (or plan to post) about 50% of the recipes I test.

This morning I found this recipe.  This afternoon I printed it off, picked two pounds of tomatoes from my garden, and went to the store for some fresh mozzarella.  This evening I made the recipe (since our temperatures have finally dropped about 25 degrees in the last two days, I was OK with turning on the oven for 45 minutes).  This lasagna was creamy, cheesy and fresh tasting,  lighter than regular lasagna, but still rich.  Since there are so few ingredients in this lasagna that, if you decide to make it, be sure your tomatoes are the BEST and your olive oil is the best you can get.  Although this pan of lasagna looks very small,  it would certainly serve four people.

The original recipe can be found at SortaChef, One Hot Cat in a Woodfired Kitchen.  I changed the Bechamel Sauce to more closely resemble one I have made many times before and really like the flavor of (adding nutmeg, allspice and Parmesan cheese).  I also added some chopped fresh basil (thanks to a suggestion from my friend, Jeanne) and oregano, and changed the method a bit.

Fresh Tomato Lasagna

2 pounds fresh ripe tomatoes (don’t use tomatoes purchased at the supermarket)
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, preferably buffalo, sliced thinly or shredded
4 Barilla no-boil lasagna noodles
3-5 cups water at 150º (use half hot tap water and half boiling water)
2 tablespoons good olive oil
4 teaspoons chopped fresh basil (more or less to taste)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano (more or less to taste)
approx. ¾ teaspoon salt

For the Béchamel Sauce:

2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk (I used 1%, but whole milk is traditionally used)
¾ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon finely ground pepper (or more to taste)
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
dash of allspice
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 375º.

Pour 3-5 cups very hot water (about 150 degrees) into a loaf pan or casserole dish and slip the no-boil noodles in one at a time. Let noodles soak for 15 minutes.

Make the Béchamel sauce. Heat milk in microwave for one minute. Melt butter in a quart-sized saucepan over medium heat. Once the butter is barely melted whisk in the flour and cook for 2 minutes.  Turn off heat. Whisk in one third of milk and incorporate thoroughly before adding the next third.  Be sure the sauce is smooth before you add more milk. Once you have successfully added all the milk and the sauce is hot and smooth, add in the salt, pepper, nutmeg and allspice. Whisk in the egg.  Turn heat back onto medium and cook sauce for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, cover tightly with a lid and set aside until ready to use.

Slice 8 ounces of Buffalo mozzarella (or other fresh mozzarella) into ¼ inch pieces. Slice the tops and bottoms off of the tomatoes and discard or reserve for another use. Cut the rest of each tomato into ¼ inch rounds. Coarsely chop the basil and oregano.

In glass loaf pan build the lasagna in this order:

  • A layer of uncooked tomato slices, pack as many in there as you can.  Drizzle with your finest olive oil and sprinkle with 1/4 t. salt, 1 t. basil and 1/2 t. oregano.
  • 1 lasagna noodle
  • ¼ of the mozzarella
  • ¼ of béchamel sauce spread evenly to all edges of the pan
  • Continue the sequence with remaining noodles and filling, finishing with a layer of tomato slices drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt, basil and oregano.

Bake at 375º for 40-45 minutes, until béchamel has puffed up and the edges are bubbling.

Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen, and my garden, today!

10 Jul 2010 45 Minute Pasta with Turkey Sausage

I think this is the fifth pasta recipe in my teaching-19-year-olds-how-to-cook series. We’ll have to move onto another type of food shortly.  In defense of pasta though, it  reheats really well; so one batch could feed a college student for 3 or 4 days. Pasta is almost a universally liked food, so the roommates, friends, study groups (wishful thinking…) will like it too.  It’s not too expensive.  It’s relatively easy and foolproof and most substitutions usually work out fine.  Yep, pasta is a good starting point for a new cook!  If they know how to cook five or six good pasta dishes, they should be set right? So far we’ve done one veggie, one chicken, one cheese, one beef, this sausage one…

I’ve been making this pasta dish for a number of years. I think I found the original recipe on Epicurious.com. The original recipe had some cannelloni beans in it, but the kids just picked them out so I no longer add them (but I am leaving them in the recipe in case they grow up and decide beans are a good thing to eat). I was thinking that a few mushrooms in place of the beans might be a good idea so maybe next time I will try that.  If you don’t have a shallot, just leave it out.  I don’t expect college kids to have shallots on hand in their apartments, but maybe they will surprise me.

The real problem with this recipe, for 19 year olds in California, is that it calls for 1 cup of red wine. OOOPS.  We made it with the red wine yesterday, but when they are out on their own I have advised them to use chicken broth (not that I have tested that). Ohdearrrrr…, my recipe is contributing to the delinquency of my minors!

ANYWAY, as written below this is a really GOOD 45 minute refrigerator-to-table recipe. It’s good enough for company. I’ve served it more than once to guests, and some of those guests have gone home with the recipe. Serve with a salad, some bread (easy, Easy, EASY if you have any of those Bread in Five Minutes a Day cookbooks), and dessert (of course!).

45 minute Pasta with Turkey Sausage

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot chopped (if you have it)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 lb Italian Sausage (or Turkey Italian-style Sausage), casings removed
1 cup of red wine (or any kind of broth–or even water)
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 lb. Penne Rigate Pasta (thin tubes, although bow ties, elbows or any other pasta shape would work, too)
1 can Cannelloni beans (optional, or substitute 1 cup sliced mushrooms–add after onion is sauteed)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (or 1 tablespoon dried)

Heat olive oil in a large skillet until hot. Add in chopped shallot (if using) and onion. Saute until limp (clear looking). If using stir in one cup of sliced mushrooms and saute for 3 minutes. Add in sausage, or turkey sausage (be sure to remove the casings first). With a wooden spoon or spatula (or even kitchen scissors), break up large hunks of sausage into small bite-sized pieces. When most of the redness of the sausage has gone, stir in 1 cup of red wine, broth, or water. Increase heat to high and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and simmer for 30 minutes. During this time, make the salad or the veggies and cook the pasta. To cook the pasta bring salted water to a boil, add pasta, and cook for the time instructed on the package. Drain pasta when done, reserving about a cup of the pasta water. When sauce has simmered for 30 minutes, stir in drained pasta and drained cannelloni beans (if using), grated cheese, and chopped (or dried) basil and simmer for 3 minutes. IF the sauce seems too thick, stir in some of the reserved pasta water. You want the pasta to be perfectly coated and a little bit saucy (your personal preference will dictate how much pasta water to add, if any). Serve immediately, pass more Parmesan cheese at the table, if desired (I always desire!).

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today,

10 Jul 2010 Hamburgers Italiano

The boy child cooks again! He likes all things sausage. So I gave him this recipe to try, a twist on the basic hamburger. It’s a pretty darn good burger, a very nice blend of beef and sausage accented with fresh basil and parmesan cheese. I taught him how to make his own “bun”, too, which often tastes better than those sesame covered packages ones. Toast two slices of good bread (in our case sourdough from Le Boulanger, although I love Trader Joe’s Cornbread Rye). Cut toast to fit the size and shape of the hamburger patty, slip the patty between the two slices of toast, and he was all set–after loading up on ketchup. I had him use a hamburger mold to form the patties. It’s a good tool for a beginner cook. I’ll have to add that to the growing list of kitchen essentials. I had him use a timer to cook the patties, too. It’s a skill to cook a patty all the way through. A timer helps.

Hamburgers Italiano

3/4 lb. ground beef
3/4 lb. sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 c. thinly sliced fresh basil
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 T. Dijon mustard
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. pepper

Break beef and sausage into small pieces in a large bowl. Add cheese, basil, garlic, mustard, salt and pepper. Using a fork, lightly mix ingredients together. Divide meat into 4 or 6 portions (we make 6, about 4.5 oz. each) and flatten to 3/4 – 1 inch thick. Place on hot grill. Grill for 2-4 minutes on first side, and 3-4 minutes on second side. Drain on paper towel if you want, then place on bun, or toast cut to fit the burger, or a toasted English muffin. Add condiments and veggies as desired.

Thanks for visiting the kitchen today!