Cabbage with Sausage

I made this dish tonight to go with my frozen homemade pierogies (http://wp.me/p1S4sU-2V). I wish I was able to find kielbasa because that would have made it truly Polish style, but, alas, all’s I was able to find at my grocery store was Italian sausage. Oh well. Maybe the butcher about 3 miles away has it. You might be wondering why I didn’t just go to the butcher to begin with since it is that close. Well A) the grocery store is right across the street and B) our car is getting repaired. It’s a brand new car and already it needs a new part. An air condition compressor. Whatever that is. According to the guy at Bay Ridge Honda, the fact that we need this part is just bad luck. I could have taken the Q22 bus (that’s a Queens bus) up Rockaway Beach Boulevard, but that’s so slow and my kielbasa would have gotten warm. So now you see why I ended up at the grocery store with my Italian sausage.

When making this dish, I used a medium cabbage and oh goodness gracious did it cook down. I knew it would a little, but it surprised me that it cooked down as much as it did. So I suggest getting a big head of cabbage. Also, I used turkey bacon, but feel free to use pork bacon of course!

So here are the ingredients:

1- Cabbage, cut into small strips

2- 6 pieces of bacon, cooked and chopped into bits

3- 1 lb kielbasa (or sausage!) cut into small pieces.

4- 1/4 cup water

5- 2 tbs brown suger

5- A little salt and a little pepper

All my ingredients prepped and read to go!

Directions:

1- Add the 1/4 cup water to a pan, the cabbage, brown sugar, salt, and pepper. Let cook for about 10 minutes.

2- Add the kielbasa or sausage to the pan and cook until the kielbasa or sausage is cooked through and browned. You can cook longer if you want the cabbage nice and caramelized.

3- Add the bacon bits when ready to serve. If you refrigerated the cabbage mixture, heat up the bacon bits for about 10 seconds before serving.

Serve with your homemade pierogies, just like I did for dinner tonight!

Semi Homemade Four Layer Lasagna

Well, maybe I should be more accurate. This is more than semi homemade. We made the noodles and the sauce by hand, but we cheated and instead of making a white sauce and using fresh Parmigiano Reggiano, we used ricotta and Sargento shredded cheese.

I think homemade noodles hold up SO much better than boxed noodles. Homemade noodles don’t get mushy in the oven. It’s a little more effort, but with all the leftovers lasagna usually makes, you’ll end up saving time by not having to make dinners the next few days:) And if you’re making the homemade noodles, you might as well make a homemade sauce because while the sauce simmers, you can make the noodles!

The noodle recipe is from Marcella Hazan. I have that memorized by now. And the sauce recipe is also from Marcella. One time we made her Lasagna with Bolognese Sauce (https://the365cook.wordpress.com/2011/09/20/homemade-lasagna), but this time I just took a sauce recipe from her book that looked like it would fit well in the lasagna. I used my Dutch Oven to layer up the lasagna because my regular lasagna pan doesn’t allow as many layers as I wanted.

So, finally, here are the steps and ingredients:

Ingredients:

For the sauce:

1- 5 tbs butter
2- 6 tbs each onion, carrot, and celery, finely chopped
3- 29 oz can San Marzano tomatoes plus two small fresh tomatoes chopped (because one can isn’t quite enough)
4- salt

And about a lb of ground turkey or beef to be cooked separately and added to the sauce later.

For the noodles:

1- 2 cups unbleached flour
2- 4 egg
3- Pasta machine

For the ricotta mixture:

1- 30 oz ricotta
2- 1 egg
4- 3/4 cup shredded cheese

Directions:

Start the sauce first:

1- Place all ingredients into a pot and cook, uncovered, at a very low simmer, for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally.

2- Brown the meat and then set aside.

While the sauce simmers, work on the noodles:

1- Put the flour on a clean work surface. Make a well and add the eggs. Use a fork to break up the egg and to incorporate the flour. Use only as much flour as you need to make a dough. Add more if needed. The eggs I use are always super absorbent, so I always need more flour.

2- Once the dough has come together and is no longer sticky, knead for a full 8 minutes.

3- Cut the dough in to about 10 small manageable pieces and start putting through the pasta roller. Start at 7 and work your way down to 4 putting the dough through twice on each number. Once rolled out, place on a kitchen towel. If the pieces are long, you can cut into a more manageable size.

Somewhere in the midst of this, start boiling a pot of water and have an ice bath prepared.

4- Once the noodles are cut, add them to the pot of boiling, salted water. Allow the water to come back to a boil and boil, literally, for about 30 seconds. Remove and plunge into the ice bath. Take them out and run them under cold water to remove excess starch. Lay on a kitchen towel.

For the ricotta mixture:

1- Mix the egg, ricotta, and cheese together. Easy.

Now preheat the oven to 400 degrees

Add the browned meat to the sauce and stir to combine. Begin to build the lasagna.

Layer of sauce, noodles, ricotta, sauce, noodles, ricotta, sauce, etc. If you have extra noodles, you can cut into strips of pasta and save for later.

Bake at 400 for 15 minutes. Check after 10 minutes to see if a crust has formed. If not, boost up 50-75 degrees and bake another 10 minutes. Do not bake more than 15 minutes is what Marcella Hazan says.

Let cool and enjoy. And of course you know lasagna is always better the second day:) We just had it for dinner last night and I put the rest in the freezer.

Homemade Pierogies

Saturday afternoon I had every intention to make my homemade pierogies to freeze for a quick meal. Every intention. Really. I thought I would start them right after we took our puppy Dexter for a short walk. We get to the boardwalk for our walk and see all the people in the water and you know what happens? We turn around, sprint home, get into our wetsuits, and there goes pierogi making until another day.

So, Sunday rolls around and there’s no excuse. There’s a bad rip current and choppy waves, so I get into the kitchen and make my pierogies. And boy am I glad I did. They look so pretty! And I’ll be glad when I’m busy and need a quick meal!

I always used to make Mrs. T’s pierogies, but it’s my motto that fresh, homemade, and handmade is always better than anything boxed. Besides when you have some spare time, why not get in the kitchen and cook something fantastic that can be frozen for a later date? My freezer is packed with things like that! Sometime this week I plan on making sauerkraut as well!

The dough for this recipe is SUPER easy to work with as long as you keep it chilly. The recipe tells you to moisten the dough to create a seal, but I just used a fork to crimp the dough closed. Let’s see. I think that’s everything. Oh, this is actually a Rachael Ray recipe, which I followed semi closely. If I made any additional changes besides the one listed above, I’ll let you know below. The original recipe can be found here: http://www.rachaelraymag.com/Recipes/rachael-ray-magazine-recipe-search/dinner-recipes/holiday-pierogi-with-brown-butter

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound baking potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup shredded white cheddar cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 3/4 cups flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons onion, diced (optional)
Note that the original recipe has you make a brown butter sauce for the pierogies, but since I’m freezing them, I won’t be making that here.
Directions:
1- In a small pot of boiling salted water, cook the potatoes until fork-tender, about 8 minutes. Drain and transfer to a medium bowl. Mash with 2 tablespoons butter. Stir in the cheddar cheese, onion (if using) and season with salt and pepper.
2- In a large bowl, combine the flour, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Make a well in the center of the flour, add the egg and sour cream and stir into the flour.
3- Transfer to a work surface and knead until a smooth, stiff dough forms. Cut the dough into quarters, wrap each in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
4- On a floured work surface, working with one-quarter of the dough at a time, roll out each piece. You don’t have to be be precise in rolling (you’ll see mine below!). You can always re roll leftover dough. But, if anything, make sure to roll the dough out nice and thin.
5- Using a 4-inch biscuit cutter (I used the top of a glass), cut the dough into rounds. Start with one piece of dough and keep the remaining three in the refrigerator.
See my rolling out of the dough was anything but precise! This piece looks like South America!!
6- Place a tablespoon of potato filling slightly off center on each circle. Moisten the edge, if it needs it. Otherwise just press closed and crimp with a fork.
7- In a large pot of boiling, salted
water, cook the pierogi, about 9 at a time, for 5 to 7 minutes. Or freeze as I did. I lined a gallon ziploc bag with wax paper, placed a single layer down, placed wax paper on top of the first layer, added a second layer of pierogies, and went through this one more time. I had two ziploc bags full at the end. I then placed both bags in the freezer.
Enjoy:)

Leffe Brune

Now owned and brewed by InBev Belgium, Leffe beer originated from the abbey of the same name in southern Belgium, which was founded in 1152. Monasteries throughout Europe, especially in Belgium, are famous for beers that have been produced using the same recipe and locally sourced ingredients for centuries. Only recently have major corporations stepped in, distributing these fermented gems worldwide.

Leffe Brune is only the second beer, of the nine produced, to reach the American shores, joining Leffe Blonde. Brune is a terrific example of the Belgian dark ale style, offering warm aromas of bready Belgian yeast and light notes of caramel. These aromas mirror the beer’s wonderful flavors of dark sugar, banana, and toffee. Exceptionally smooth, and accented by traditional clove and coriander spices.

This beer should be a staple in everyone’s fridge, right next to the Camembert cheese that pairs so well with it.

Sauteed Peas with Prosciutto

We always have a vegetable with dinner, always. Whether it be a quick salad, frozen steam in the bag Brussels Sprouts (which are REALLY good, by the way), or yummy roasted carrots. We always have something. Anyway, this half used bag of frozen peas has been sitting in the freezer for a while now so one night last week when thinking about what vegetable to serve with dinner, I remembered that bag. Now what in the world to do with frozen peas? Steam them and add some butter? No, too boring. Hmmm Let’s just see if my good friend Marcella Hazan has anything to say about peas. And you know what? Of course she did. Why was I surprised? That lady knows everything. I skimmed the ingredient list and realized I had everything home except the prosciutto. Luckily the grocery store is right across the street and they have that computer kiosk at the deli, so all’s I had to do was put my order in the machine and wait for the deli counter person to slice it and put it in the refrigerated collection area. Minimal human interaction. Sounds pretty good to me. Sometimes I’m too tired and just don’t feel like talking to people. Anyway, I get home and start making my peas not following the recipe at all really. Marcella just gave me the ingredient ideas, I implemented on my own and it came out quite well! I think Marcella and I work well as a team 🙂

Here are the ingredients with quantities listed for a half bag of frozen peas. Really just make everything proportionate and you should be fine.

1- frozen peas

2- 2-3 slices prosciutto, sliced into pieces

3- 2-3 cloves garlic, whole

4- olive oil, about 2 turns of the pan

5- salt and pepper

Directions:

1- Add the olive oil to the skillet over medium high heat and add the garlic to the pan. Allow the garlic to flavor the olive oil for a few mins. The garlic should turn a golden color. After this has happened, remove the garlic.

2- Add the sliced prosciutto to the pan and quickly stir to coat with the olive oil.

3- Add the peas and the salt and pepper. Turn the heat down to low and cover the pan. Cook until the peas are done (about 3-5 mins).

4- Pile high in a pretty bowl and enjoy.

Lemon Vinaigerette Dressing

I was watching an episode of Secrets of a Restaurant Chef on Food Network the other day and caught the very end of an episode where Anne made a warm arugula salad with lemon vinaigerette dressing. It looked delicious. I ended up making it tonight to go with our chicken wrapped in prosciutto. The lemony flavor juxtaposed with the peppery arugula was delicious. Heating the dressing a bit before wilting the arugula in it makes all the flavors meld together nicely too.

The ingredients presented below makes enough dressing for two large salads.

Ingredients:

1- 1/4 cup olive oil

2- 1 tsp dijon mustard

3- zest of half a lemon

4- juice of half a lemon

5- 2-3 cloves garlic, leave whole

Directions:

1- Whisk all ingredients together.

2- Heat the dressing in a pan over medium low heat until the garlic turns a light brown. Remove the garlic and discard.

3- Turn the heat to low and wilt the arugula in the dressing.

4- Serve warm with some fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and croutons.

Vino Con Brio Estate Matzin Old Vine Zinfandel, 2006, Lodi, California

Vino Con Brio Winery offered roughly 5000 cases of 15 different varietals in 2011. Owned and operated by the Matson Family in Lodi, California, Vino Con Brio’s Matzin Old Vine Zinfandel is an estate grown red that has been highly rated by the likes of Wine Spectator and others for the spectacular juice that is produced by the 66 year old vines.

The 2006 bottling was the Matson’s eighth vintage and offers gentle blackberry and green pepper aromas. These open to supple plum and currant flavors. An edge of spice and acidity frame its fleshy fruit. This Old Vine Zinfandel’s finish is long lasting, with haunting cherry notes.

The Matson Family recently retired from wine making in June of 2011, selling the vineyards to Mettler Family Vineyards. Their wines are still widely available, and are excellent for pairing with pizza, turkey, and good friends.

Olive Oil Bread

I wanted to make some homemade bread over the weekend and of course I opened up Essentials of Italian Cooking to the bread section. This basic white bread caught my eye mainly because I had all of the ingredients home. It takes a LONG time to make though. Not so much a long amount of active prep, but lots of rising time, about 6 hours 30 mins. A lot, right? But I did it and it was worth the effort. It has a deliciously crusty exterior and a crumby interior. For dinner last night, I made chicken salad sandwiches using this bread along with leftover chicken from the crock-pot recipe from the other night and lettuce from my garden. Yum. 

Ingredients:

2 tsp active dry yeast

2 cups lukewarm water, divided

1/4 tsp sugar

5 cups unbleached flour

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

baking stone

baker’s peel or cookie sheet

cornmeal

pastry brush or spoon

Directions:

1- Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup lukewarm water and the sugar. Let stand for about 10 minutes.To this add 2 cups flour and 3/4 cups lukewarm water. Mix with a wooden spoon.

2- Pour the contents onto a lightly floured surface and knead for exactly 10 minutes. Incorporate more flour if the dough is sticky. By the end of the 10 minutes, you want the dough to be smooth and elastic.

3- Place the dough into a lightly floured bowl and cover with a damp towel. Let it rise for 3 hours, or until doubled in size.

4- Pour the remaining 3 cups flour onto the counter. Place the risen ball of dough onto the flour. Punch the dough down and open it into a bowl shape with your hands. Pour the remaining 1 cup lukewarm water over it and add the salt and the olive oil. Work quickly to incorporate all the ingredients. Knead for another 10 minutes.

5- Return the ball of dough to the lightly floured bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and let rise for another 3 hours, or until doubled in size.

6- When the dough has doubled in size, take it out of the bowl, and slap it down very hard until it is stretched out lengthwise. Reached for the far end of the dough, fold it a short distance toward you, push it away with the heel of your palm, fold it, push it away again, gradually rolling it up and bringing it close to you. It will have a tapered, roll-like shape. Pick up the dough, holding it by one of the tapered ends, and slap it down on the counter several times, stretching it out in a lengthwise direction. Repeat the folding process you just did. Work the dough in this manner for 8 minutes.

7- Divide the dough in half and shape each into a loaf (thick in the middle and tapered at the ends). Sprinkle the cornmeal onto the baking sheet or peel. Cover with a damp towel and let rest for 30 minutes. At this point pre-heat the over to 450 degrees. Make sure the baking stone is in the oven. You can bake the bread on the cookie sheet, but results will be more desirable with the stone.

8- After the 3 minutes have elapsed, take a knife and make a single lengthwise cut, about an inch deep, into the bread. Brush the tops with water then slide the loaves from the peel or the cookie sheet on the preheated stone. Bake for 12 minutes at 450 degrees, then turn the oven down to 375 and bake for another 45 minutes.Transfer loaves to a cooling rack and let the bread cool completely before cutting and serving.

7- Wrap remaining bread in saran wrap and store on the counter.

Tartar Sauce

The other night I made fish sandwiches and to go with the sandwiches, I obviously wanted Tartar sauce. Upon looking at the various Tartar sauces in the store and their ingredients, I was pretty much grossed out and just decided to make my own. How hard could it be? Not very, as it turns out. I looked up some recipes and chose the most popular ingredients and just started putting some things together. Here are the ingredients I used with some notes about quantities.

Mayo– This forms the base of the sauce, so use how ever much you think you’ll need for what ever dish you’re making. For two fish sandwiches, I used about a 1/2 cup of light mayo.

Dijon Mustard– A big squirt or two depending on quantity of mayo.

Kosher Pickles or gherkins– Chop some pickles up into small pieces and add them to the mixture. Don’t overwhelm the mixture with pickles, but you also want some in every bite. You can also substitute pickles for relish.

Lemon– A good squeeze to taste. Don’t make it too watery though!

Cayenne– To taste.

Some other things to add in are:

1- green onion

2- capers

3- parsley

This is all about taste- so keep tasting and adjust quantities as needed. You can always add!

Mediterranean Fish Casserole

This seems to be my go-to meal when we want something very healthy and also something very easy to put together. It takes some time to roast the veggies and then cook the fish, but the prep is pretty easy. The only downside is that the fish is not really good for leftovers because it gets kinda rubbery the second night. Roast some extra veggies though because it makes a good side dish for later in the week.

We usually use a basic white fish when we make this, almost always Tilapia because it’s cheap and it takes on the flavor of the veggies very nicely, but we got Cod this round. Cod’s an interesting fish. It has a very fishy taste…and it’s meatier. I guess I’ve only ever had Cod beer battered and fried and therefore didn’t notice the fishy taste. Anyway, maybe next time I’ll put some lime or lemon juice on it to counteract the fishy taste. I wonder though if the fishy flavor means the fish wasn’t as fresh as it could have been? hmmm

For this recipe, I’ll give the basics for making it for 2 people with some leftover vegetables.

Preheat oven to 400.

Ingredients:

3 small red or white potatoes, coarsely chopped

2 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped

3 cloves garlic

1 bell pepper, cut into strips

a few asparagus spears, cut into thirds

3/4 – 1 lb white fish of your choice

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Directions:

1- Place potatoes, pepper, and asparagus in a casserole dish and sprinkle with olive oil, enough to coat all the veggies. Also season with salt and pepper. Put in the oven and roast for about 30 mins, or until the potatoes start to become tender, but not too tender as you will be adding the fish and continuing to roast in the next step.

2- After taking the vegetables out of the oven, add the garlic and tomatoes to the casserole dish. Season the fish with salt and pepper and place on top of the vegetables. Place back in the oven and cook about another 25 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through and the vegetables are tender.