Monthly Archives: August 2015

Dinner vs. Supper and Fancy Farfalle with Sausage and Broccoli

What do you call your evening meal? Is it dinner or is it supper? Mama D isn’t quite sure what she calls it because she has called this meal by both names over the years. A little online searching revealed that Dinner generally refers to the largest meal of the day.  Supper is defined as “a light meal served in the early evening, if Dinner was served at midday…or it is the meal served late in the evening when Dinner was served in the early evening.” I’m still trying to wrap my head around that sentence, but it does seem, in this instance, size matters.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to this lately because now that I am back to working a split shift, meal preparation is beginning to change. Here we eat the biggest meal of the day in the early evening, which by definition makes it Dinner which we are eating at Supper Time. Should I call it Sinner? Probably not. What if I call it Dupper? That just sounds silly. I think that I will leave the semantics to the linguists and come up with my own working definition.

The evening meals from Mama D’s Kitchen will be labeled by what is served. Dinner will be a more formal affair. It will consist of a protein served with various side dishes that require a good amount of time and several pots, pans and other appliances to prepare.

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THIS IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN DURING THE WEEK!  Weekends will be the time for Dinner when the time for preparing and enjoying meals are more flexible.

The meal that graces the evening table Monday through Friday, while made with just as much love, but far fewer pans and in much less time shall now be called Supper. Supper shouldn’t take too much more time than it takes to enjoy a glass of wine. It should be healthy and satisfying, but not too heavy and with just enough creativity to keep things from getting boring. That’s what this post is about and the recipe I’m sharing pretty much fits my definition. 2015-08-19 19.44.45This one dish supper required a pot (to boil the pasta) and a fry pan (to put everything together). It did also require a grill ( for the broccoli and sausage) which I left in the capable hands of Papa D.

2015-08-29 16.08.56The farfalle pasta I used was lemon flavored and sported bright yellow stripes. The lemon was noticable to the nose but subtle on the tongue. Lemon became one of the inspiration flavors for the dish. I found this pasta at Aldi along with a spinach and tomato basil variety. Not the type of thing one expects to find there, but it’s been my experience of late that Aldi is full of surprises. Don’t run out to your local Aldi, these went on closeout recently and very few stores have them. This is sadly the case with many of Aldi’s unique items…here today, gone tomorrow. I have, however, seen colored/flavored pastas in gourmet stores, so check them out if you want that extra festive look, but there is nothing wrong with going with the traditional variety.2015-08-19 19.37.52

I used pre-cooked Chicken Italian Sausage. This has appeared in so many of my recipes that I could become a spokesperson for the product. It’s convenient, quick, and is available in  flavors to match almost any cuisine. It seems that every store carries them and many of the larger stores have their own brand. I’m fickle as to what brand I like best, I honestly often choose by price and what I plan on making.

I cut some broccoli crowns into small florets, tossed them with a little olive oil and threw them in my grill basket. They joined the sausage on the grill. It is still summer after all and you know how Mama D feels about grilling….they turned out lightly charred and perfectly tender crisp.2015-08-19 19.29.42

Now for what held these three ingredients together. Onion and garlic were sautéed in some olive oil…could there be any other beginning? Some Chicken Stock, Lemon Thyme, and Cracked Black Pepper provided some flavor. The zest of a lemon went in along with the juice of said lemon. A little (fat-free) Half and Half added a bit of creaminess. Some freshly grated Romano Cheese added some bite. Everything got well acquainted in the skillet becoming a feast for the eyes, nose and tongue.2015-08-19 19.40.08

Farfalle with Grilled Broccoli and Chicken Sausage
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Farfalle with Grilled Broccoli and Chicken Sausage
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water until it is just shy of "al dente". Drain and set aside. Prepare the sauce while the pasta is cooking.
  2. Toss the broccoli with one teaspoon of the olive oil. and place in a grill basket. Cook 8 - 10 minutes until it is just tender crisp and lightly charred.
  3. Cook the sausages on the grill whole until they are nicely browned. This takes about 10 minutes. Bring them in and allow them to cool slightly. Slice into 1/2 inch thick coins. Set aside.
  4. While the sausage and broccoli cook, heat a large fry pan over medium high heat. Add the remaining olive oil to the pan and swirl to coat the bottom. Add the onions and cook until they begin to wilt and become translucent. Add the garlic and saute another minute or two.
  5. Add the chicken broth and the thyme leaves to the pan. Cook for 3 minutes. Add the lemon zest and juice and allow to cook 2 more minutes.
  6. Add the sausage and broccoli to the pan along with the half & half. Simmer for a few minutes.
  7. Add the Romano Cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until the cheese melts into the sauce. Serve in pasta bowls with a sprinkling of the finely grated cheese.
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My plan is to share more “Suppers” in the coming weeks and I hope that you will use these musings as a jumping off place to create your own perfect evening meal….whatever you choose to call it.

Mama D’s Garden Adventures

It’s harvest time in our community garden. This year won’t be remembered as stellar, but it was an adventure and ongoing learning experience. This isn’t farewell to the garden. I know there will be several more weeks of happy discoveries on each visit, but some of the splendor is gone. Plants that were once lush and full are now a little wispy, putting their strength into bearing fruit instead of leafing profusely. Recent harvests haven’t yielded bushels, but there were enough things to make for some interesting kitchen adventures.

As a tip of the hat to my son, I planted a Cayenne Pepper plant. While there aren’t enough to make vats of hot sauce or even a couple of bottles, there are plenty to liven up a dish with enough left over to dry. Yes, that is dental floss…gotta love the internet. I’m well into my second string now and the plant seems to be producing more peppers every day. Maybe there will be hot sauce in the future.

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On one recent trip to the garden I gathered a lovely cast of characters that would become a roasted vegetable side dish. Generous handfuls of grape tomatoes and green beans were joined by a few carrots, radishes, zucchini, and herbs. The result was a tasty medley that was really homegrown.

2015-08-18 16.44.09A RECIPE FOR ROASTED GARDEN VEGETABLES:               Gather the freshest vegetables and herbs you can find.   Clean and trim them. Toss them in olive oil, using one tablespoon of oil for every two cups of vegetables.Sprinkle with salt and pepper.                              Put them in a baking dish starting with those that will take the longest to cook. Place the dish in a three hundred seventy-five degree oven and roast, stirring occasionally and adding the veggies that take the least time. Check often to avoid burning.                                       When everything is tender crisp and the tomatoes (if you use them) are just beginning to break down, bring it to the table and let it bear testament to your green thumb.

I planted Spaghetti Squash and while the bees and other insects didn’t see fit to pollinate much of the zucchini, they did work their magic on the squash. They also were responsible for what I think is a cross-breed. Along with the lovely pale yellow spaghetti squash there are several green striped varieties on the same vine. I’m not a botanist and I don’t play one on TV, but I think that I grew the love child of a zucchini and a spaghetti squash. Was it good to eat? There was only one way to find out.2015-08-16 14.38.23

2015-08-21 12.24.24I conducted a non-professional experiment. I cut open the striped squash and compared it to its brother. The inside was more zucchini like while the seeds reminded me of other winter squash. It smelled like zucchini, it looked like zucchini, but it had a thicker skin. I decided I had to taste it to resolve the conundrum, but how to cook it? I cut it in half and roasted one side while I sliced and grilled the other. The roasted half tasted a little like zucchini and it didn’t become thread like when I raked across it with a fork. The grilled side tasted  zucchini like as well, but the skin was now hard like winter squash and the seeds fit more of the winter profile as well.2015-08-21 19.42.24 Let’s just say it was interesting. There is one more of these mutants still on the vine so I may give it one more try.

The true spaghetti squash, however, was wonderful.2015-08-16 07.18.05 The flesh was the palest of yellows and once it was roasted and raked it gave forth a mountain of “spaghetti” that was the sweetest I’ve ever tasted. I’ve shared other recipes for this squash that can’t seem to decide what it is. Hard shelled and slow growing like its winter cousins but with flesh that flakes into tender strings tasting a bit like summer squash. What ever it is, it’s fun to play with in the kitchen. Who can ever forget the fabulous Spaghetti Squash Lasagna adventure.DIGITAL CAMERALooking back, it is obvious that I tend to treat this squash like pasta though it has no resemblance in taste or texture to pasta. It is, however a gluten-free choice that packs a bit more fiber in its carbs than the real thing. These are facts that only make me love it more, not to mention that it is quite tasty with an interesting texture.

DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve topped it with lentils and tossed it with spinach and bacon. It alsoDIGITAL CAMERA makes a stunning side dish when combined with other vegetables. For all of these quick cooking dishes, the spaghetti squash must be pre-cooked. My favorite way to prepare it is to roast it in the oven. Okay, it’s also because I don’t have a microwave, which is a slightly quicker technique though I’ve found that squash explosions can be nasty to clean up. Experience has also taught me that boiling a large heavy squash in scalding hot water can cause some pretty serious burns. Kitchen mishaps not withstanding, it looks so pretty after it is roasted.2015-08-16 18.32.10

ROASTED SPAGHETTI SQUASH: Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Drizzle each half with olive oil and season with salt and cracked black pepper.                               Place cut side down on a rimmed baking sheet that has been lined with foil and lightly coated with cooking spray. Bake in a 375 degree oven for  30 – 40 minutes. The squash should give slightly when pressed.  Allow to cool slightly.                                                                                           Using a fork, rake the flesh. It should turn into thread-like ribbons. Use this golden wonder as a pasta alternative or let it be part of a vegetable stir fry. The possibilities are endless. 

Now that I have shared my garden adventures and two non-recipe, recipes, I’ll leave you to check out my earlier squash adventures. Just click on the red links to see where spaghetti squash has taken me. Oh, and do make every effort to enjoy these last few weeks of summer…you know what is just around the corner.

Turkey Burgers Italian Style: Summer Supper on the Grill

The grill is Mama D’s summer kitchen. This is not news to anyone who spends any time here. Grilling recipes have filled many a summer post. My summer kitchen is now quite small, some might call it tiny; almost as tiny as my regular kitchen. I am proving to myself that at least in this, size does not matter. Our little grill has turned out some amazing meals and its location on the balcony offers a room with a view.

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This is a sandwich that was made in burger heaven or at least the heaven inside my mind. It features veggies from our community garden paired with turkey Italian sausage and fresh mozzarella. This turkey burger was moist and juicy thanks to a very hearty dose of grated zucchini. The flavor was elevated by onion, garlic and Pecorino Romano cheese. A dash of Italian bread crumbs and an egg ensured that it retained its shape while it cooked to golden perfection.

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This sounds very much like a meatball and the inspiration came from Turkey Italian Sausage Meatballs that I made not long ago. Those were broiled in the oven and graced a sandwich that was also quite delicious.

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This time, it was a beautiful summer evening and the grill beckoned so I decided to make the leap to burgers and I’m so glad that I did. This recipe is the same for both the meatballs and the burgers and if you wanted to turn it into a meatloaf, I’m sure you will be happy with the results as well.

I started with a package of Turkey Italian Sausage links. It weighed in at around 20 ounces. I removed the casings by squeezing each link in the middle until the filling fell out. A childish method I admit, but I find it cathartic. I grated two heaping cups of zucchini which would be 4 – 5 small squash or about half of a baseball bat sized one. While the grater was out, I used it to grate a small onion and several cloves of garlic.

The sausage that I used was sorely missing fennel and red pepper flakes so I added some of each along with half a cup of each bread crumbs and pecorino romano cheese. The resulting mixture was quite wet so I added an egg. Yes, it initially makes it wetter, but it will help hold it together in the cooking process.

I chilled the bulk mixture for an hour or so (and you could even let it sit in the fridge over night) before I even tried to form the patties. Once I had four thick beautiful patties, I laid them on wax paper and put them back in the refrigerator and let them set up for several hours. If you are strapped for time, 30 minutes or so in the freezer works well. I strongly advise taking these steps. To ignore my directions could result in a mess on the grill and yes, I am speaking from experience.

I used a grill tray to cook the burgers. Once again, experience has taught me that you can never be too careful with turkey burgers. After somewhere near 6 minutes the burgers let me know they were ready to be flipped…they din’t stick to the grill when I went in for the single turn. Soon, thick slices of fresh mozzarella went on top so they could melt slowly as the second side cooked.

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Tomatoes fresh from the garden grilled alongside the burgers in a makeshift foil pan that took advantage of a skinny space.

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I even managed to toast the ciabatta rolls by propping them up against the burgers. If I do say so myself, my use of a small space was nothing short of brilliant. Once the burgers were done, my final flourish was some garden greens tossed lightly in olive oil and mounded on the bun to create a savory bed. The sandwich was a monster of deliciousness. We didn’t even need or want a side dish.

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Italian Turkey and Zucchini Burgers
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Italian Turkey and Zucchini Burgers
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Place the sausage meat and the zucchini in a large bowl. Toss lightly. Grate the onion and garlic directly into the bowl. Add the pepper flakes and fennel seeds and mix lightly again.
  2. Add the bread crumbs and cheese, tossing once again. Add the beaten egg and stir one last time until everything is completely incorporated. Cover the mixture and chill in the refrigerator for 2 - 3 hours or as long as overnight.
  3. Remove the mixture from the refrigerator and form into 4 large patties. Place each patty on a piece of wax paper, cover and chill for 2 hours. You can also put them in the freezer for about 30 minutes.
  4. Heat the grill to high. Spray a grill pan with cooking spray and allow it to heat up on the grill. Place the burgers on the grill and reduce the heat to medium. Cover and allow to cook for 6 minutes or so.
  5. Turn the burgers. If they stick let them cook another minute or two until they flip easily and are golden brown. Top each burger with two thick slices of fresh mozzarella cheese. Put the lid on the grill and cook for another 6 - 7 minutes.
  6. While the burgers continue to cook, place the tomatoes and onions in a foil pan. Season with some Italian herb blend and a drizzle of olive oil. Place the pan on any vacant space on the grill.
  7. Spray the cut sides of the rolls with cooking spray and add them to the grill the last 3 minutes of cooking. In the meantime, toss the lettuce with the remaining olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Assemble the sandwiches: Divide the lettuce mixture between the bottoms of the rolls. Top each with half of the tomatoes. Place the burgers on top of the vegetables. Top with the remaining tomatoes. Add the top part of the roll and serve.
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Summer is here for at least another month, maybe more if the weather continues in its hot and sunny Midwestern pattern. The grill will be taking center stage for many weeks to come. It’s a pretty safe bet that you haven’t heard the last of Mama D’s grill adventures.

Soup For a Summer Evening: Grilled Broccoli and Cauliflower Soup

When I first thought about making this soup, I felt that the season and the veggies didn’t go together. Broccoli and cauliflower are usually part of a rich creamy soup that in Mama D’s Kitchen has bacon and cheese as  mandatory ingredients. It creates a soup that is perfect for crisp autumn days and cold winter nights. I love how the smokey salty flavor of the bacon brings out something special in the vegetables. Full flavored cheese has the same magical powers. We are in the hea(r)t of summer and as delicious as those flavors are, they are just too heavy when the thermometer is tickling the 90’s.

The question then becomes, can there be a summer weight broccoli and cauliflower soup? Why yes, yes, there can, and if I do say so myself, it’s very tasty and there isn’t a bit of bacon or cheese, or even cream for that matter. This could fit into a Vegan meal or star in a Meatless Monday one. I think it is also gluten-free, so whatever your dietary restrictions you can enjoy this soup.

It starts with vegetable stock. I always have bags of it in the freezer for just this kind of occasion. Obviously there was broccoli and cauliflower along with some onion, carrots and garlic. To create a more interesting texture I chopped up half of the broccoli and cauliflower including the stems and ends and let them sweat it out with the onion, carrots and garlic. I reserved the rest of the veggies to cut into bite size florets. More about them later.

I added the stock to the now sweaty veggies and allowed everything to come to a boil. I added a big bunch of lemon thyme as well as the peel of a lemon to the pot. I left the thyme sprigs whole and tied them to the handle of the pot. The leaves fall off during the cooking process and the stems get untied and put into the compost bin. I used a peeler to remove just the yellow part of the lemon peel. I kept it in one long piece that was easy to remove at the end of the simmer. I may have left a little in the pot, but it would soon become one with the soup.

The immersion blender did its magic and my soup base, beautifully thick, was ready. Salt, pepper and a touch of Worcestershire and hot sauce gave it a little more dimension. What to do with the remaining broccoli and cauliflower? Summer and the grill go hand in hand so I popped my reserved veggies in a grill basket along with some sweet onion and a drizzle of olive oil.

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I grilled them covered for maximum smokieness and in about 7 minutes they were ready to plunge into the soup base.

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The resulting soup was a perfect marriage of a hearty main dish soup with the smokey flavor of tender crisp veggies from the grill. We didn’t miss the bacon or the cheese. What could I add? Some sliced green onions were perfect, but a dollop of Greek yogurt or sour cream for the non-vegans would be nice as well.

DIGITAL CAMERAThis recipe would work beautifully with only one or the other of the cruciferous vegetables. As with most any soup, it freezes beautifully and is even tastier re-heated the next day.

Grilled Broccoli and Cauliflower Soup
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Grilled Broccoli and Cauliflower Soup
Print Recipe
Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Chop one of the onions. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a soup pot. Add the chopped onions, garlic and carrots to the pot and sweat over medium heat for 5 - 7 minutes. The vegetables should be softened and fragrant.
  2. Add one cup of each the broccoli and cauliflower to the pot using as many of the stems as possible. Cook for 3 minutes or so.
  3. Pour the vegetable stock into the pot and increase the heat to high. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  4. Tie the bunch of thyme together with kitchen twine. Leave enough string to allow the thyme to be submerged in the soup and the twine to be tied to the pot handle.
  5. Using a potato peeler, cut the yellow skin off the lemon. You want the yellow part, not the white pith. Drop it into the pot.
  6. Reduce the heat to medium and cover the pot. Simmer for 45 minutes. The vegetables should be very soft, the leaves should be off of the thyme sprigs and everything should smell delicious.
  7. Remove the soup from the heat and remove the thyme bundle and the lemon peel.Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until it is almost smooth. Add the Worcestershire and hot sauces and stir. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.
  8. While the soup is simmering, slice the remaining onion lengthwise into the strips. Toss with the rest of the broccoli and cauliflower. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and toss to combine.
  9. Coat a grill basket with cooking spray and heat on the grill. Add the broccoli/cauliflower/onion mixture to the pan. Put the lid down on the grill and cook the vegetables for 7 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Everything should be tender crisp and slightly browned.
  10. Add the grilled vegetables to the pureed soup and cook for a few minutes until everything is heated through.
  11. Ladle into bowls and top with a sprinkling of green onions.
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So another summertime soup is born. Give this a try. I think you’ll find the smokey taste delightful.