We are all still basking in the fading glow of summer. Grills are still being called into service on a regular basis. Chicken, pork, fish, and beef proudly take to the grill. We all know that grilled protein is delicious, but sometimes it can feel a bit under-dressed on the plate.
There are lots of ways to make them feel a little more complete and this relish is one colorful alternative. It can be viewed as the bright colors of summer or the tones of the changing leaves of fall. Whatever your perspective it is a tasty addition to a meal.
I must confess that this came about as a result of a refrigerator clean-out mission. Mini bell peppers, and started red and sweet onions were all languishing in the crisper. The slow and aromatic caramelizing process came to mind. This does take some time ; 40 minutes give or take, but the depth of flavor is definitely worth it.
I brought some other bold flavors to the mix in the form of garlic, red pepper flakes, thyme, and sherry vinegar. I also added several serious glugs of dry sherry and a dollop of honey. Salt and pepper were added throughout the process. The acidity created by the vinegar gave it enough bite to qualify as a relish in my book and the petite sirloin it topped was very happy indeed.
I am a firm believer that a slow cooker has a specific place in the kitchen of love. That is in the realm of soups and chili and now gravy. While I am not overly fond of large (or small)pieces pf meat prepared this way, I do find that soups, chili and other “liquidy” recipes work well. I do also like the convenience of setting and then forgetting these long cooking recipes.
Soups and chilies benefit from long slow cooking. With a slow cooker to keep an eye on things, the cook is able to go about life without the burden of being constantly available to stir and adjust the heat. At times that can feel like a life changing occurrence.
I had never thought to make Sunday Gravy in the slow cooker. I rather enjoy the process of stirring and tasting and adjusting. It brings back wonderful memories of my father making his gravy, meatballs, and sausage. Please, journey back with me by clicking on this link:
Back to the present and the slow cooker. This recipe takes the heart of my father’s recipe and introduces it to elements of the classic Bolognese Sauce. San Marzano tomatoes replaced my father’s Tomato paste and puree, though a good amount of tomato paste was needed to pay respect to the bolgonese.
I used meat that I had in the freezer; in this case two spicy Italian sausage links and a bag of “meat bits”. The bits were mostly chicken, remnants of trimmed thighs and breasts, but there were a few pork scraps as well.
I browned the meat and onions before adding them to the cooker. We all know that a slow cooker can’t brown things. Which in my opinion is one of the factors that contribute to the watered down taste. In this case it was worth the time because the flavors were really there. The tomato paste also had a chance to cook out a bit before jumping into the “hot tub”.
I originally planned to let the sauce cook 6 – 8 hours. It wound up going closer to 10. That was a good thing. It resulted in a thick rich sauce that was wonderful. I strongly suggest waiting until the next day to eat this. The aroma that is created in the house will make that difficult but be strong, I guarantee that the wait will be worth it. You have my permission however, to dip a chunk of bread into the pot to check for proper seasoning. That’s where the salt, pepper and perhaps a bit of sugar listed in the recipe come in.
Serve this over your favorite pasta. I chose spaghetti (Papa D’s favorite). I also used my mother’s technique of serving. A ladle of gravy in the bottom of the bowl with a sprinkle of cheese. Half of the pasta and another ladle of gravy, a quick toss, then repeat. Top with two generous ladles of gravy and a generous sprinkle of cheese and bring it to the table.
I don’t know if my father would have embraced the slow cooker. Back then I think he was as concerned about the process as the product. I do believe that if he were around now he would approve of this take on his prized recipe.
Quinoa is a favorite of many with good reason. It’s a grain (actually a seed) that is loaded with protein and is gluten-free. It is easy to prepare and is the perfect blank canvas for many creative additions.
I love it in a salad because it can stand up to big tastes like the ones in this recipe. There is an explosion of tastes and textures, yet there is also a pleasant balance of flavors. Grilling the corn and mushrooms gave them both a flavor boost. The chewiness of the mushrooms gave the dish a “meaty” feel and the tomatoes and onions gave it just the right amount of crunch. Quinoa is innately toothsome and was a perfect counterbalance.
I opted for a vinaigrette liberally laced with lemon and rosemary and a big hint of garlic to keep with the Mediterranean theme. You could use another bean, maybe cannellini if you were so inclined. The addition of a little cheese, perhaps feta, wouldn’t be a sin either. As with all of my recipes, I want you to make it your own.
This would make a wonderful side dish at a cookout, but it would be equally at home starring as they main attraction.