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A Semi-Grilled Supper: Bruschetta Pasta with Sausage and Zucchini

Summer marches on at a breakneck pace. Not only is the time going by far too quickly, but the school year will be starting in just over two weeks. Summer has been wonderful even if I’ve only made a small dent in the plans I had for this time. Here in the Midwest, the weather has been on the hot and humid side. Yes, I know that’s what summer in the Midwest is like, but the hot and humid seems to cling to the days like static cling to polyester.

Grilling is still the cooking style of choice, but Mama and Papa can’t live by the grill alone. Once in a while we want pasta. I do not intend to put pasta to the “Can You Grill It?” challenge, at least not in its uncooked state. There is certainly the possibility of grilling the sauce ingredients and that’s what I did not long ago.

It really started because I had some tomato bruschetta ( click here for more about bruschetta) left over. It met all the pasta sauce requirements. Tomatoes in a highly flavorful liquid complimented with red onions, basil and garlic. I also had some Chicken Italian Sausage and zucchini (it isn’t summer without it). I had just enough whole grain penne left to make it a meal.IMG_2167

So the main characters were assembled and the sausage and zucchini begged to be cooked on the grill. Well, I may have had something to do with their decision. The whole grilling process was pretty quick since the sausage was already cooked and the zucchini (combined with some onions and dressed with some olive oil and  Italian seasoning) doesn’t take long to char lightly.IMG_2172

While everything was cooking I pondered what else might make this dish even better. A little fresh mozzarella and a hearty handful of basil seemed like the perfect additions. These were already on hand so it was one of those “no brainer” choices.IMG_2170

When the pasta was cooked to my liking, I saved several ladles of the pasta water to give the sauce a little more “umph” Everything came together in rapid fashion and a simple yet delicious supper was on the table.IMG_2173

Bruschetta Pasta with Grilled Sausage and Zucchini
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Bruschetta Pasta with Grilled Sausage and Zucchini
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Combine the Zucchini, Onion, Italian Seasoning, and Olive Oil in a bowl. Toss to mix and set it aside.
  2. Heat a large pot of water to boiling and season generously with salt. Add the pasta and cook to your favorite level of "al dente" Reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta.
  3. While the pasta cooks, heat your grill to medium high. Place the sausage on the top rack. Heat a grill basket and add the zucchini onion mixture. Grill until the sausage is browned and the zucchini is lightly charred.
  4. Slice the sausage into 1/2 inch thick coins.
  5. Combine the drained pasta, sausage, zucchini and the reserved pasta water in a large skillet over medium heat. Toss to mix everything together. Add the mozzarella and basil and toss once more to combine.
  6. Transfer to a large bowl and serve.
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This is a wonderful way to use the bounty from the garden or the farmer’s market. Use whatever sounds or looks perfect to you. There is never a right or wrong when it comes to a supper filled with freshness and love.

 

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Can You Grill It? Potato and Green Bean Salad, Revisited

Yes, the grill on Mama D’s balcony is still working its grates off. It is after all, grilling season and everything is fair game. That’s where my “Can you grill it?” test comes into play. Taking a recipe or food that is usually made in the comfort of the kitchen into the great outdoors can be an adventure. Sometimes the result is wonderful, every once in a while, not so much. This potato salad, however, was a rousing success.

I’ve made this salad before and I’ve even shared the recipe. I don’t know why it took me this long to realize that it would be awesome on the grill. Well, thankfully it did (dawn on me, that is) and I wanted to share it with you.

Baby red potatoes got steamed until almost tender and green beans were blanched before meeting up with some sliced onions.IMG_2057

Everything got tossed with a little salt and pepper and a generous glug of olive oil before diving into the grill basket. Can this really count as a grilled dish if some time on the stove was required?  Why yes, it can. Partly because I said so, but primarily because the potatoes would burn before they cooked through and the green beans would lose their beautiful green-ness if this step wasn’t taken. So there.

My original recipe used a vinegar based dressing featuring a combination of balsamics (white and other wise) with olive oil, garlic, and grainy mustard. For the grilled version I lost the vinegars and went straight to the lemon juice. I know they are available all year, but fresh squeezed lemon juice just says summer to me. I have a condiment crush on grainy mustard right now, so it played a major role in the dressing. Some garlic, olive oil and a few snips of rosemary from the herb garden and I called it dressing.IMG_2052

Once the veggies were suitably golden, I tossed them with the dressing and lo and behold, a perfectly delicious side dish was born. In this case, it was paired with some grilled chicken thighs, but I think that any protein would enjoy sharing a plate with this “Can you grill it?” winner.IMG_2064

Grilled Potato and Green Bean Salad
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Grilled Potato and Green Bean Salad
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Steam the potatoes for 5 - 7 minutes or until they are barely tender. Set aside.
  2. Blanch the beans in boiling water for 2 -3 minutes until barely tender. Remove from pan and plunge them into an ice water bath. Drain and set aside.
  3. Combine the potatoes, beans, and onions in a large bowl. Add a bit of the olive oil and some salt and pepper and toss to coat everything evenly.
  4. Spray a grill basket with non-stick spray and set on a grill over medium/high heat. Spread the potato mixture evenly in the basket.
  5. Cook, tossing occasionally until the potatoes are golden and tender and the beans are tender with a bit of crunch. How long this will take depends on your grill. Don't go too far away.
  6. When the vegetables are cooked place them in a large bowl.
  7. Combine the remaining olive oil and the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until blended. Pour the dressing over the veggies and toss to coat. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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You can be sure that the grilling adventures will continue. There will be more “Can you grill it?” tests that will hopefully result in some fantastic recipes that will find their way into these posts. Until the next time, Happy Grilling!

 

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Supper From the Grill: Linguine with Sausage and Artichokes

Pasta isn’t food that takes very kindly to the grill. It does however, make a wonderful base for sauce ingredients that can be grilled. This easy and delicious dish features sausage and artichoke hearts grilled to perfection and tossed together to create a sauce that any plate of linguine would be proud to wear.

The ingredient list isn’t long or exotic. Just a few quality items that are relatively easy to procure.IMG_2004

I love linguine. I love how it cooks up, I love how it twirls on my fork and I love how when perfectly cooked “al dente” it feels in my mouth. I used an Italian Sausage from Ream’s, a local meat market and butcher shop known for its sausages of distinction. The artichoke hearts came from Trader Joe’s. If you don’t have fresh baby artichokes or the time to prepare them, this is a great alternative. The rest of the ingredients have appeared so often in Mama D’s Kitchen that they need no introduction. Onions, garlic, olive oil (Mama D’s Trinity), and red pepper flakes all make their presence known.

We all love those marinated artichoke hearts. You know the ones. They come in those cute little jars and are perfect on a relish tray or in a salad. Tasty as they are, they would fail the “Can you grill it?” test woefully. Frozen artichoke hearts, especially the ones that T. J’s. sells, are nice, big, firm, quarters that can be cooked and will still be  identifiable as artichokes. So, I went about making my own marinated artichoke hearts, I added some sliced onion and red pepper flakes along with garlic, white balsamic, and olive oil. I once again called on my trusty McCormick Italian Herb grinder to lend an air of herbal authenticity. Once everything was tossed together, I let them get happy in the refrigerator for the better part of a day.IMG_2009

A nice thing about this sauce is that the main components can be cooked ahead of time. A nice thing about having a small grill on a small balcony, is that I can sit and enjoy the sights and sounds of summer while I grill. I can even enjoy a glass of wine and pleasant conversation with Papa D . IMG_2015My marinated artichokes became something magical in the grill basket. Lightly charred and completely recognizable they waited for their moment of glory. The sausage also came to life on the grill. They had just the right balance of fat to stay plump and juicy without the aid of a fire extinguisher. Sometimes there is no substitute for quality.IMG_2018

While the pasta cooked, I sliced up the sausage and added it to an  olive oil coated skillet along with the artichoke hearts. Everything developed a little more golden goodness before a splash of dry vermouth and several ladles of pasta water made just the right amount of “sauce”. IMG_2020All that was left to do was add the pasta and some torn fresh basil. Moments later it was ready to grace our bowls.IMG_2026

The bowls of goodness were garnished with a little Pecorino Romano and the lightest drizzle of olive oil. This was a supper fit for company, but we were the lucky ones who got to partake. And that we did. We ate it all and didn’t even feel guilty.IMG_2033

Linguine with Grilled Sausage and Artichokes
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Servings
3
Servings
3
Linguine with Grilled Sausage and Artichokes
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Servings
3
Servings
3
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Combine the artichokes, onion, and garlic. Place the olive oil, vinegar, pepper flakes, and Italian herb blend in a container with a tight fitting lid. Cover and shake until well blended. Pour over the artichoke mixture toss well. Refrigerate, covered for at least 4 hours.
  2. Heat a grill to medium high heat. Add the sausage links and cook, turning frequently until well browned and cooked through. Remove from grill and allow to cool before slicing .
  3. Heat a grill basket over medium high heat. Spray well with cooking spray. Add the artichoke mixture . Grill, tossing frequently until the mixture is golden brown. This should take about 10 minutes or so. Remove from grill.
  4. Cook the pasta according to the package directions reducing the time by a minute or two. Prepare the sauce while the pasta cooks.
  5. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. Add the sliced sausage and the artichoke mixture to the pan. Cook tossing occasionally until everything is heated through and has become a little more golden.
  6. Add the vermouth to the pan and stir to deglaze. Add several ladles of the pasta water to the skillet and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Drain the pasta and add it to the skillet along with the basil, tossing to combine with the sauce. Cook for another minute or two and remove from the heat.
  8. Place the mixture in pasta bowls and sprinkle with the Pecorino. Drizzle each serving with a little olive oil and it is ready to eat.
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There you have it. Easy, kind of quick, and ever so tasty…give this one a try before grilling season is but a memory. If you’re anything like Mama D’s Kitchen however, that grilling season never ends.

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Supper in the Summer: Pizza Frittata

I believe that we have established that summer is officially here. The calendar has caught up with the weather and we are (suntanned) shoulder deep in warm, sunny, summer. The warmer temperatures and the longer days make light suppers the thing to do. Of course, there is the required amount of grilling, but the stove can also turn out some fantastic meals often from the humblest of ingredients. Take the “incredible, edible, (& cheap), egg.” Can you say Frittata?

I’ve shared frittata recipes before, but there’s always room for one more. I call this a Pizza Frittata. Now don’t take the name too literally. This eggie wonder has the essence of pizza, that is, peppers and onions laced with garlic, seasoned with ground fennel and red pepper flakes. That’s right. Classic pizza toppings with what in my kitchen are the spices that make sausage Italian. Where’s the meat?  Not here. No need. This flavor combination doesn’t miss it. So, while it is delicious any time, it can be a Marvelous Meatless Monday Meal. (Don’t you love alliteration?)

This particular pizza was going to be the “Vegetable Lover” variety so it had to start with summer bright veggies. It is Mama D’s Kitchen, so onion and garlic had to be represented, tooIMG_1974

The magic took shape in my smallest of cast iron skillets which is the perfect size for a frittata for two. It is also the perfect vessel, as it can go from stove top to broiler without a worry. Olive oil coated the bottom of the skillet and in went the onions.IMG_1975I wanted them to caramelize a bit before the peppers and garlic joined them. Once everyone was happily co-mingling, I added the red pepper flakes and ground fennel. A quick note on ground fennel; it is not necessary. Crushed fennel seeds will work. You could go even more rustic and use the seeds whole, just give them a rub between your hands to release the fragrance (and a beautiful one it is).IMG_1977Every frittata needs  eggs and I used 5. Yes, four would have worked, but I was feeling a bit generous and hungry so five it was. I beat them well and added some fat free half & half along with grated Romano cheese and Italian Herb Blend. The eggs waited stove side with some sliced tomatoes and fresh cilegine that would become the final toppings.IMG_1980

So, when the time was right, I added the eggs to the skillet and cooked them until they were almost set. As mentioned in other posts, this is a process that involves patience, and a good amount of jiggling, lifting, and otherwise manipulating the mixture. Once everything was perfect, it was time to crown it with the tomatoes and mozzarella.IMG_1984A little more Italian herb blend and a drizzle of olive oil and under the broiler it went. This step doesn’t take long and should be closely monitored as beautifully golden can become horribly charred in a matter of seconds. I was vigilant and the frittata came out perfectly browned. IMG_1986It rested for 5 minutes and could sit even longer if needed. We were hungry, so we went with the 5 minutes. This was wonderful on its own, but as with any good Italian meal, a little crusty bread and a salad would be great.IMG_1989

Pizza Frittata
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Servings
2
Servings
2
Pizza Frittata
Print Recipe
Servings
2
Servings
2
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat a small oven proof skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan.
  2. Add the onions and cook until softened and just beginning to brown, about 5 - 7 minutes.
  3. Add the peppers and the garlic and continue to cook another 5 - 7 minutes until everything is slightly golden.
  4. Beat the eggs with the half & half and grated Romano Cheese. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables in the skillet.
  5. Shake, tip and otherwise gently move the eggs around allowing the mixture to cook until almost set. This can take up to 10 minutes depending on the stove and your diligence.
  6. Preheat the broiler. When everything is almost set, top the eggs with the sliced tomatoes and the cilegine .
  7. Place the skillet in the broiler and cook until the top is lightly browned and the cheese has melted
  8. Remove from the broiler and allow to sit 5 - 10 minutes. Drizzle with a little olive oil, cut in half, and serve.
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The flavors were lovely. The onions and peppers retained a bit of crunch that complimented the creamy texture of the eggs. A crisp white wine was the perfect accompaniment. 

There are hundreds of ways you can take a frittata, so look at this recipe as your invitation to create your own adventure. 

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Mama D’s Milwaukee Adventure

School is out and Summer Vacation is here. Working in a school related industry means that for the next few weeks I have copious amounts of free time. While my furlough will allow for lots of time in the kitchen, there will also be room for adventures outside of said kitchen. That’s what happened recently.

We decided to kick off the summer with a long weekend in Milwaukee. Many of you are saying, “Milwaukee, why?” Well, because it’s a really great city. If Chicago had a “Mini Me” it would be Milwaukee. They are both on Lake Michigan, each has a lakefront rimmed with statue laden parks and impressive museums. There are many other comparisons and I will be touching on some of them in this post. There will not be a recipe, in fact there won’t be a lot about food (though we had some great meals and spectacular dishes), but there will be a bit of beer, and even a distilled spirit or two. Yes, Milwaukee is a drinker’s city, but it is also a whole lot more. (You can explore the places we visited by clicking on the red links in this post.)

Let me start at the beginning. We stayed at the Plaza Hotel, a residence/ hotel, which meant that our room came with a complete kitchen. This little Art Deco gem is located in East Town, an area that is, of course, east of the Milwaukee River. While still considered “Downtown”, it is a grand old residential neighborhood with turn of the century houses and apartments. The housing atmosphere was reminiscent of the Gold Coast in Chicago. This was definitely a walk-able area. Short strolls took us to the lake, museums, and many lovely dining choices. It was the perfect headquarters for our adventure. We never go anywhere to just hang around our hotel however, we had places to go and sights to see.

We are Frank Lloyd Wright geeks. While I don’t like how he chose to live his life, there is no denying that the man was an architectural genius. We have been to some very interesting places in search of his work. This time we went to see his American System Built Houses which were in, for lack of a better word, the seamier side of town.

He designed these as housing for the average family. There were bungalows, duplexes, and four flats that were delivered to the site as do it yourself kits. This was pre-WWI, folks. Sadly, very few still exist. F.L.W.’s differences with the contractor resulted in the project stalling and ultimately the war made materials unavailable.IMG_1883 The block long row of models ran the gambit from hideously sided to beautifully restored. Still the Prairie Style Architecture shone through.IMG_1886

Milwaukee may be know as the Beer Capitol of America, but they have taken a leap into the distilling business as well. Long established Great Lakes Distillery paved the way, but there’s a new kid on the block (actually, a few blocks away) that is raising the standard, (no pun intended…well maybe a little),  Central Standard Craft Distillery.IMG_1918 This place is just coming up on its second anniversary and they make some darn good spirits. The best is their vodka which is made from rye. This makes it dangerously smooth and a little fruity. They take it one step further with a Coffee Vodka that is fantastic. A collaboration with the Anodyne Coffee Company (that is just around the corner), the ingredient list is rye vodka and coffee. No artificial flavors or sweeteners involved.  The Eye Opener, a concoction of this vodka, oatmeal stout, caramel, and cream was wonderful.

The crown jewel in the skyline is the Milwaukee Art Museum. It is so iconic to the city that it appears in their official logo. IMG_1900The building was designed by Santiago Calatrava and for lack of a better word, looks remarkably like a bird or maybe a sailboat (depending on your vantage point). The building itself is a work of art, but it houses a respectable collection of paintings and sculpture. The collection is decidedly American, Modern, and very approachable. Galleries are softly lit and almost intimate. There were many works by lesser known artists, but there was an entire gallery of Georgia O’Keefe, several Joan Miro paintings, and ten Marilyn’s by Warhol.IMG_1897

Picture taking was allowed and as luck would have it, admission was free thanks to Meijer’s Free First Friday.IMG_1925 In numerous trips to Milwaukee, this was our first visit to the museum…it won’t be our last (even if it isn’t free).

Milwaukee is often called “Brew Town” and rightly so. Some of the earliest breweries were founded here. Our adventure took us to the original Pabst Blue Ribbon Brewery. Pabst isn’t made there any more, production happens in Los Angeles (odd isn’t it?). 20160604_122347The old brewery operation which took up several city blocks, is going through a lot of development. The brew house is now a suite hotel called, what else, the Brew House. A number of buildings have been torn down and have been replaced with apartments and lofts. The area is a major work in progress. The original corporate office building however, is still much as it was when Frederick Pabst went to work there everyday. It’s now called “The Best Place” and it is a beautifully restored tavern and beer hall that gives a very entertaining and informative history lesson along with a cold one. We were fortunate to have a former employee on the tour whose insight into working there was wonderful (“I could drink beer any time I wanted”). Actually, back then, a beer break was built into the work day.

There were many other wonderful adventures and the food is outstanding. In spite of what I do in my spare time, I do not take pictures of the food that I eat in restaurants, so here’s a brief description of the best thing I ate in Milwaukee. It was a breathtaking Lemon and Pistachio Semifreddo at Onesto, a small Italian bistro in the Historic Third Ward. My taste buds remember it very clearly.  Cold, creamy and perfectly balanced with lemony goodness and pistachio crunch. If you are ever in Milwaukee check it out, the pasta is homemade and the wine list is impressive as well.

See, I did manage to get  something about food into this post after all. Mama D is never too far away from a great meal, a great adult beverage, or a great city.