Monthly Archives: October 2017

Brussels Sprout Love

I do believe that Fall is here. Pumpkins are everywhere along with what I consider the essential Fall vegetables. In Mama D’s Kitchen the Love extends to squash, sweet potatoes, and those lovely little green cabbages,

Back in our California Days, we would drive by Brussels Sprout fields.Brussels Sprouts, the stalks standing proudly, perfuming the air with their mild cabbage scent. Driving along highway 1, we would keep a lookout for a beat up old station wagon on the side of the road. Every time we saw it, we would stop and greet a man older and more beat up than his car. His name was Dutch and he sold Brussels Sprouts and artichokes out of the back of that old station wagon. Every visit resulted in a bag of sprouts and a baby artichoke or Brussels sprout (Dutch’s gift) for both of my sons. They would each hold on to these treasured gifts all the way home.

These days, we get our Brussels sprouts from the store and at this time of year they seem to be the sweetest of all. I want to share some of the ways that I love these “little cabbages” in the hope that you will invite them into your kitchen. My very favorite way to prepare them is roasting. All they require is a drizzle of olive oil and whatever seasonings your heart desires. Salt and pepper go without saying, but earthy herbs, smoked paprika, and cumin are always welcome additions.

Brussels Sprouts play well with others. Onions have a strong affinity, as do sweet potatoes, Red and Yukon Gold potatoes. Even peppers and fruits like apples or cranberries can co-mingle . By themselves or with other vegetables they make a wonderful side dish, and in the case of this Panzanella Salad, a one dish side.

Roasted Brussels Sprout Panzanella
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Panzanella salad in the winter? Absolutely! Roast your favorite veggies and toss them with your favorite bread and dressing. Who needs summer?
Servings
4
Servings
4
Roasted Brussels Sprout Panzanella
Print Recipe
Panzanella salad in the winter? Absolutely! Roast your favorite veggies and toss them with your favorite bread and dressing. Who needs summer?
Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Dressing
Salad
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl or shake in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Set aside
  2. Place the bread cubes in a baking pan. Spray lightly with olive oil cooking spray and toss to coat evenly. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 - 15 minutes until the cubes are dry, crisp and just barely browned. Place in a large serving bowl.
  3. Combine the Brussels sprouts, red onion, and bell pepper in a large roasting pan. Add the tablespoon of olive oil and the salt and pepper. Toss to coat evenly.
  4. Roast at 350 degrees for 35 - 40 minutes. The veggies should be tender and lightly browned. Pour the vegetables and any liquid over the bread cubes and toss to combine.
  5. Pour the dressing over the mixture in the serving bowl and toss to coat.
  6. Add the tomato halves and toss once more. Allow to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Toss again and serve at room temperature.
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While roasting brings out the sweetness and imparts color beyond compare, Sprouts are very happy when they meet a hot skillet. I like the results, too. Did I mention that sprouts enjoy a bit of pork love? Here they join forces with bacon, but pancetta is also delightful.

Skillet Brussels Sprouts and Potatoes
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This is an easy side dish that combines a vegetable and starch in one pan. The bacon and onions make this a fabulous side dish for any protein.
Servings
4
Servings
4
Skillet Brussels Sprouts and Potatoes
Print Recipe
This is an easy side dish that combines a vegetable and starch in one pan. The bacon and onions make this a fabulous side dish for any protein.
Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat a large fry pan over medium high heat. Add the bacon and cook stirring occasionally until crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan and drain on paper towels. Pour all but 1 tablespoon of the drippings out of the pan.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the potatoes, sprouts and onion to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally until everything is tender and lightly browned. This should take about 15 -20 minutes, but let your eyes and taste be the judge.
  3. Add the freshly ground pepper and serve.
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As you can tell, I really enjoy cooked brussels sprouts in various forms, but lately I have come to discover their beauty raw. They make a wonderful salad and though the slicing is a bit tedious, the resulting crunchy sensation is worth the effort. Think of it as an earthier cole slaw. This salad is dressed with a warm Shallot Vinaigrette. The shallots ( and there was a good amount of them) are sautéed in olive oil. Sherry Vinegar and honey give it the perfect sweet and sour sensation that makes this salad a perfect counterpoint to rich meat. Why it could even top a burger and be happy.

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Brussels Sprout Salad
Servings: 2
Ingredients
  • 8 Ounces Brussels Sprouts Thinly sliced
  • 1/3 Cup Shallots Chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 1 Tbsp. Sherry Vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. Honey More or less to taste
  • 2 Tsp. Fresh Thyme Or other herb of your choice
  • Salt & Pepper
Instructions
  1. Place a small skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and allow it to heat up for a minute or so. Add the shallots.

  2. Cook the shallots for 5 - 7 minutes. they should be soft, fragrant and slightly golden.  Add the thyme, vinegar, and honey to the skillet. Allow the dressing to cook for a couple of minutes to let everything heat through and blend together.

  3. Give it a taste and add salt, pepper, and more honey to your taste. Pour the dressing over the sliced sprouts and toss to coat evenly. Serve.

So there you have three of my favorite ways to enjoy Brussels Sprouts. There are many other variations on these themes that are waiting to enter your kitchen.

Sprouts have been showing up everywhere. Restaurants as well as social media are jumping on the Brussels Sprout bandwagon. I’ve had a wonderful Brussles Sprout Salad served as a bed for Lamb Pastrami and a frizzled egg for brunch at River Roast in Chicago. I’ve noticed variations on roasted and even fried Brussels Sprouts showing up on more appetizer menus and as a side dish as well.  I just saw a recipe for Bacon Wrapped Brussels Sprouts that would make an awesome Game Day appetizer.

Nobody is putting this “Baby Cabbage” in the corner any more. Let her grace your kitchen and take center stage.

Maybe It’s Fall and Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Well, once again I begin a post with a weather report of sorts. As of yesterday, Fall seems to have returned to the Midwest. Heavy rain has brought the much-anticipated cold front that in turn has brought out long pants and long sleeves and even the occasional sweater. There is no such thing as a sure thing, but this time it feels different. It is also mid October and it’s more than time.

Mama D’s Kitchen has become soup central. Bubbling pots of chicken and vegetable stock have been perfuming the air with savory scents.  The first soup of the season has appeared and it is a beauty. Roasted Butternut Squash Soup. It is anchored by homemade Vegetable Stock (kitchen recycling at its best) and features butternut squash, a true harbinger of Fall. It is almost meatless, the unapologetic inclusion of Pancetta was the perfect salty counterpoint to the sweet squash.

Looking for an excuse to turn on the oven, I decided to roast the squash. I love how the roasted flavor is richer and somehow more satisfying. It changes the color of the finished soup, but it still has beautiful golden tones. I let the carrots roast too, because I am currently in love with the resulting nutty sweet flavor.The pancetta was finely chopped and rendered delicious fat as it crisped up in the soup pot. That fat, along with a little butter gave the leeks and garlic something to sweat in that made their presence well established.I added some ground sage and let it release its earthiness into the leek mixture. Then the stock went in, along with a bundle of thyme sprigs, and a time to simmer began. The fragrance that permeated the house was wonderful. The squash and carrots came into the party fashionably late, but in enough time to become the stars of the show. Once everything was perfectly married, it was time to bring in the immersion blender. What else would a fall soup need to thin it out a bit? Why some heavy cream, of course. This is comfort food after all and it really was a modest amount…

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Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
Servings: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 2Lb. Butternut Squash Peeled and chopped 1" dice
  • 1 Cup Baby Carrots Chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. Olive Oil Divided
  • 4 Oz. Pancetta Finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. Butter
  • 2 Cups Sliced Leeks
  • 4 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 Tsp. Ground Sage
  • 4 Cups Vegetable Stock
  • 4 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
  • Salt & Pepper To Taste
  • 1/2 Cup Heavy Cream More or less as needed
  • 2 Oz. Goat Cheese Crumbled
Instructions
  1. Toss the squash cubes with some of the olive oil. Spread out on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer. Roast for 40 minutes in a 425 degree oven, stirring every 15 minutes. Set Aside.

  2. Toss the carrots with a little of the olive oil and spread on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer. Roast for 20 minutes in a 425 degree oven stirring every 10 minute or so. Set aside

  3. In a large soup pot heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the pancetta and cook until it is brown and crispy 7 - 10 minutes. Remove the pancetta and allow it to drain on paper towels. Spoon out all but 1 tablespoon of the drippings.

  4. Add the butter to the pot and once it is melted, add the leeks and garlic. Toss to coat and cook for 5 minutes. Add the ground sage and cook an additional 5 minutes until the leeks are wilted and just beginning to brown.

  5. Add the stock to the pan. Tie the thyme sprigs together with a long piece of kitchen twine. Drop it into the pot and tie one end of the string to the pot handle. Bring up to a simmer, cover and allow to simmer for 20 - 30 minutes.

  6. Remove the thyme sprigs (they will now be stems) from the pot. Add the reserved squash and  carrots. Return to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes or so to allow the flavors to blend. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

  7. Once the soup has cooled slightly, use an immersion blender to puree the soup. (waiting 10 minutes helps the splatters not sting as much). Once the soup is smooth, return it to the stove.

  8. Stir in the cream and allow the soup to heat gently until it is nice and hot. Use as much cream as your waistline will allow. Check for flavor and add salt and pepper as needed.

  9. To serve, ladle into bowls and top with the crispy pancetta and crumbled goat cheese.

Serving it up only required a sprinkle of goat cheese and those wonderful crispy pancetta bits.

This was wonderful, but it got better with the addition of Skillet Corn Bread. Remember those little boxes of Jiffy Mix that our moms always reached for. Well, I reached for one, too. I embellished the regular directions with corn, green onions, cheddar cheese, and sour cream in place of milk.

It baked up with a golden brown crust on top and crispy goodness on the bottom (the result of heating the skillet in the oven before adding the batter). 

Joined by a simple salad it completed what was indeed a perfect Supper.

We are enjoying a week of mildly cool weather here in the Midwest. Let’s hope that this time it stays.

A Monday Kind of Pasta Frittata

As Summer finally (maybe) comes to an end, leaving a checkerboard path of meatless meals in its wake, I am again moving into “Meatless Mondays.” I am also once again cleaning out the refrigerator, putting ingredients to use before they are useless. That being said this recipe would be wonderful even if it was planned in advance.

I have just returned from a wonderful visit with California friends. While I was living it up in a penthouse suite overlooking the Chicago River and Lake Michigan, Papa D was left to his own devices as far as meals were concerned. One evening he cooked a pound of pasta to go with the container of Sunday Gravy that I had left in the refrigerator. Wisely, he decided to save some of the pasta  to scramble with eggs (his idea).

Liking the idea when I got home, I ran with it. There were a few other leftovers that needed rescuing. Peppers, tomatoes and some cheese all were nearing the end of the road so they gathered together to become a pasta frittata.This dish, and the use of pasta, is popular in many areas of Italy. It can be labeled Neapolitan or Sicilian and is probably claimed by many other regions, but it always seems to use leftover pasta as its base. Techniques can vary, but I like cooking the vegetables first.and adding the pasta second. Olive oil is a driving force in this process as is initial high heat. Once the eggs are added along with some cheese, things need to get low and slow. This is a dense dish that takes time to set. This also allows time to enjoy the fragrance that the garlic and other vegetables create.When the frittata is almost set, it gets crowned with a little more cheese (a hard grating cheese is best. Asiago, Romano or Parmesan are good choices) and heads for the broiler. Lightly golden and ever so slightly crusty it is ready for its close up. A sprinkling of basil or any other available herb gives it a little more color.This makes a lovely weeknight supper, but it is just as at home for a weekend brunch. The format is easy and lends itself to whatever embellishment you want to add. This served two lavishly and could easily serve more with a salad and some crusty bread added.  

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Pasta Frittata
Servings: 2
Ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 3/4 Cup Thinly sliced Onions
  • 3/4 Cup Thinly sliced Sweet Peppers
  • 2 cloves Garlic Chopped
  • 1 Cup Grape Tomatoes Halved
  • 2 Cups Cooked Pasta
  • 4 Eggs Beaten
  • 2 Tbsp. Milk
  • 1 Tsp. Italian Hebs
  • 1/2 Cup Grated Italian Cheese Divided
  • 1/4 Cup Thinly sliced Basil
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in an oven proof skillet. Add the onions and peppers and cook stirring occasionally until softened and beginning to brown. 5-7 minutes.

  2. Add the garlic and tomatoes to the pan and cook another 3 - 4 minutes. The garlic should be fragrant and the tomatoes should begin to soften.

  3. Add the pasta and toss to combine the ingredients. Continue to cook, tossing occasionally until the pasta begins to take on some color, another  5 minutes or so.

  4. Heat the oven to broil. Beat the eggs, milk and half of the cheese together until well blended. Stir in the Italian herbs. Carefully pour the egg mixture into the pan so that it is even.

  5. Lower the heat to medium and cook lifting the edges of the egg to allow the mixture to cook through. Once the eggs are almost set, sprinkle with the remaining cheese and transfer to the oven.

  6. Broil until the top is golden and the cheese has melted. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the basil and serve.

I don’t want to cut anyone’s weekend short, but Monday is just around the corner. If you make pasta over the weekend, make a little extra…a frittata might be just the way to begin the “Meatless Monday” tradition.