Monday, January 24, 2011

Baked Pepper, onion and sausage casserole

Aside from pasta, meatballs, scrumptious pastries and minestrone soup... what other flavors does your mind conjure up when you think of Italian foods? My mind zooms right in to peppers, onions and sausage.

It's been a long while since I prepared this dish, but one that my family always enjoyed. and because it is so darn cold today, I wanted to run the oven as much as I could and just stay put in the kitchen. First, I made some rosemary and basil foccaccio and for lunch today a small favorite casserole. I still had much in the frig from the childrens visit that I wanted to use up. Some sausage, roasted red peppers, onions, a half tub of ricotta cheese along with a bag of spinach. Usually I'd use hot Italian sausage in this dish, but I had on hand some homemade chicken and herb sausage that needed to be used up along with the last of my garden potatoes.

This is a very quick and easy meal to prepare, served with some warm crusty bread and big salad and a few glasses of Cab-- a perfect lucheon dish. The fragrance from the peppers, onions and rosemary combine to make this casserole amazing, both in smell and flavor!

Baked Peppers, Onion and Sausage Casserole

5 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
2 TBLS butter, softened
1 large onion, sliced
1/4 cup roasted red peppers
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bell pepper, sliced
2 TBLS olive oil
3 Italian sausage links, sliced into one inch pieces
3 cups fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp dried thyme, rosemary and savory
sea salt & ground pepper

* Butter an ovenproof casserole dish and place potato slices across the bottom and along the sides of dish overlapping them. Reserve enough potato slices to encrust the top of finished casserole.
* Saute the pepper, onions, garlic in some olive oil until vegetables are softened, about five minutes. Add sausage and cook until lightly browned.
* Turn off the heat, stir in spinach,roasted red peppers, ricotta cheese, half the herb seasonings, sea salt and pepper. Cover the pan and let sit just a few minutes, or until the spinach wilts.
* Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the potato base crust. Add the cooked vegetable/sausage mixture and cover casserole with remaining potato slices. Drizzle just a bit more olive oil over all and sprinkle on the remaining herbs and grated cheese.
* Bake covered in a 400 degree oven for twenty minutes. Uncover casserole, and lower oven to 350 degrees and bake 10 minutes longer. Serve with a tossed salad and crusty bread. Lunch is served. Enjoy!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Healthy Granola

Well the kids got out of town just in time, and just before they closed the airport due to the storm. It was so great to see everyone. So much catching up to do. Much chatter, many laughs and plenty of time spent in the kitchen. Once they got all that skiing out of their systems, it was time to cook. We made stuffed manicotti, filled with roasted root veggies, veal parmesan for the non vegans, sausage subs with peppers and onions for Bill, Bobby and Hank--the football fans who were first in line when we made two trays of white pizza. They, in turn arrived bearing gifts from the North End of Boston as they arrived here via Logan airport with boxes of Italian pastries. I had forgotten just how much I miss a good Italian bakery living here in Maine now. I was in heaven ;-) One morning Nan, Susan and Jeanine wanted to make some granola to bring back home. I can't tell you how many bags of this I ship annually to these kids.

I simply love granola. Added on top of my morning yogurt with honey, sprinkled over most of the smoothies I prepare, in most of my muffins.. or just to munch on. It's all good, and so good for you. I figured, if we made some, perhaps my annual postage bill would decrease somewhat too. ;-) This is my base recipe, but feel free to add or subtract to it. Sometimes I'll add dried fruits-- cranberries,raisins,or apricots but typically you'll always find a mix of almonds, walnuts and pecans in my granola. Susan left me a recipe she found for granola biscotti, so I'm anxious to try this next. It just sounds so good to me.

Healthy Granola

4 cups old fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup Canola oil
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 cup honey
1/2 cup oat bran
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup molasses
2 TBLS cinnamon powder
pinch of nutmeg
1 TBLS vanilla extract
1 cup each: chopped walnuts, coarsely chopped pecans, whole almonds
** optional-- 1/2 cup dried fruits: cranberries, raisins,chopped apricots, dates

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In large bowl combine oatmeal, wheat germ, oat bran, wheat bran, cinnamon powder and nutmeg. Mix in all of the nuts. Then stir in the canola oil, honey, maple syrup, molasses and vanilla until everything is well coated.

Spread evenly onto a large 12 x 15 sheet pan and bake for 30-40 minutes, stirring every ten minutes so everything bakes evenly. Don't overbake it. Add dried fruits of your choice after removing the granola from oven and it has cooled completely. This granola can be stored up to three weeks in an airtight container. Enjoy!

We're already missing you you guys-- see you again in August. xoxo

Our ski bums. :-)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Chick Pea & Miso Soup

Hmmm.. my kitchen smells so good right now. See, we New Englanders have some perks on windy, frigid days like today too. We can just stay indoors and put on a large pot of Chick Pea and Miso soup to warm us right down to our toes :-) Catch all the football games on TV--perhaps finish knitting that sweater I've been working on for weeks now. Even better, how about some warm peasant bread just out of the oven. Who could ask for anything more? Well I could think of several, but for now I'm toasty warm, and not missing those pina colada's poolside on some remote island. What am I saying? I think this flu has shaded a few of my grey cells. But, I'm on the mend. Heck, I can smell the soup so that's one major improvement!

I just love this soup. The addition of the chick pea miso gives it such a yummy flavor. I'm certain it's the brown rice and chick peas vs. soybean in the blend. Try not to omit this ingredient if you give it a try. I've tried other miso, and none compares to this one. You can readily order it online from South River Miso, or if you're lucky enough to have a Whole Foods nearby--they also carry it. And while you're at it, you might want to give their Azuki Bean Miso a try too. I've never seen it anywhere else.

Stay warm. Enjoy!

Chick Pea & Miso Soup

2 oz prosciutto, sliced thin
1 shallot, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 celery stalk, sliced
2 garlic cloves, mashed
2 tsp fresh rosemary
2 TBLS olive oil
1 large can crushed plum tomatoes
4 cups low salt vegetable stock
2 (15 oz) cans chickpeas, rinsed well
1 handful fresh spinach leaves, torn
2 tsp South River Chick Pea Miso
sea salt, ground pepper
1 cup baby pasta shells
cooked chicken pieces,diced *optional
Parmigiano cheese rind *optional
freshly grated Pecorino cheese

Chop prosciutto, shallot, carrots, celery & garlic. Heat olive oil in a large pot and sautee until veggies become softened. Add all remaining ingredients except pasta & grated cheese. Bring the soup to a gentle simmer and cook for 30 minutes. If you've added in cheese rind, remove it now and cut the softened cheese into cubes and return it to the simmering pot. Five minutes before serving add the spinach and pasta to the pot. When it is al dente, ladle the soup into bowls and generously sprinkle with cheese and pass the bread!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Tabouli salad

Wrong time of year? Right time of year too! Whenever I serve tabouli, most often it's in the warmer months when I can just pop into the garden to pick the freshest of ingredients, and typically it disappears after no more than 20 minutes. So recently when a group of friends got together for a girls night out, and oh, everyone is bringing something to 'pick on' I just knew what the topic of conversation would be. After all the holiday goodies we all overdid on--diet, diet, diet and how the new year waistlines were bulging because of all of that overindulging, so instead of bring a dessert dish, I made a double batch of the salad to bring along with some roasted red pepper hummus and a spinach artichoke dip. Served with toasted Syrian bread wedges, it disappeared just as quickly.

It's such a healthy dish and with a little planning ahead, an easy to prepare and one of the most popular Middle Eastern recipes. I like to soak my cracked wheat (bulgur) overnight whenever I make this salad, and then all that needs to be done is chopped the veggies and your good to go. But if you forget to pre-soak, you may pour two cups of boiling water over the bulgar and let it rest for an hour or so before using.

Tabouli Salad

1 cup cracked wheat, fine bulgur - soaked overnight and drained
1 bunch of scallions or 1 red onion, minced
2 large bunches of fresh parsley, minced
1/2 bunch of fresh mint, minced
4 medium tomatoes, chopped
juice of 4 lemons
1/2 cup olive oil
sea salt & ground pepper to taste

Soak wheat covered in water overnight. Drain the bulgur and set aside. In a large bowl, add finely chopped parsley, mint, tomatoes and onion. Salt and pepper to taste. Add lemon juice, olive oil and drained bulgur and mix well to combine. Serve with toasted Syrian bread triangles, lettuce leaves, or grape leaves. Some days I'll stuff a tomato with tabouli salad for lunch. Enjoy cold or at room temperature, but I think it's really best made a day ahead. Enjoy!