Smoky Beans

Pin It
It's been a while since I've contributed to the fancy beans series. And to tell you the truth, I've missed it. There isn't a cheaper, quicker meal around. I guess there could be. But this is it for me.

The husband made an experimental sauce with dried chiles, and instead of tomato sauce, he added tomato paste. It was pretty concentrated. We used it for tacos the previous night, and had tons left over. I decided to add it to my can of chili beans. And it was delicious. I basically used a lot of toppings left over from taco night to dress up my beans, onions and cilantro, sour cream and crumbly cotija cheese.
I warmed up tortillas and had myself a comforting, humble meal in minutes. Then I felt really full.


Couscous Salad

Pin It
Couscous is a direct reflection of its maker. On its own, it's a blank slate, fairly flavorless, simple tasting, ready for your touch. I always find it odd when people don't like couscous. I can see how you might not like a certain recipe, but to dislike all couscous seems ridiculous. Because by changing up the spices and ingredients, you can make it taste however you'd like.

In the early days, I was shy about adding spices, herbs and oils to my couscous. But I soon realized you need a lot of flavor to make wheat tasty.

This recipe was made up based on the ingredients in my pantry. Garbanzo beans, black olives, sun dried tomatoes and parsley. For my spices, I added cumin, paprika, a tiny bit of curry powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. I also added a healthy amount of olive oil and a few squeezes of lemon juice.
This recipe was definitely the best spiced couscous I've made. I was liberal with the spices and let the flavors develop over night. It made for a delicious and light lunch.


Oktoberfest Brats (and salad too)

Pin It
My brother-in-law likes to throw parties. But, he's kind of helpless when it comes to the details. A month or so ago he announced he was having an Oktoberfest party, and he wanted us to make bratwurst. It took me some time to convince him we could not make 25 lbs of sausage the day before the party. So, we made the brats the weekend before. Pictures and recipe below.

However, there was still enough last minute panic the day of the party, when he showed up at his parents house looking disheveled to pick up the grill, 20 minutes after his party started. But, despite his lack of foresight, his parties always come together, mostly because he recruits a lot of helpers, like everyone in attendance. Which I must admit is rather smart.
The sausage-making took a long time, and many beers. The boys did the hard work of shopping and grinding. I was there to spice and advise.
The day of the party, I also made a red cabbage slaw. I threw together a vinaigrette with the ingredients in the pantry -- shallots, garlic, white wine vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, dill, oil, salt and pepper. The slaw came together surprisingly well, with a hint of Oktoberfestness. It marinaded in the fridge for a couple of hours and was ready to go. Rather simple, but tasty.
(from Great Sausage Recipes and Meat Curing by Rytek Kutas)
for 25 lbs

1 quart of whole milk, ice cold (we used less)
9 whole eggs (you might not need all of them)
12 oz of soy protein concentrate (we did not use this)
1 oz ground white pepper (I pretty much doubled this)
1/4 oz mace
1/4 oz ginger(add more to taste)

1/4 oz nutmeg (add more to taste)
7 oz salt (you will need more)
5 lbs boneless veal
12 1/2 lbs fresh pork shoulder
7 1/2 lean pork trimmings

1) Grind all the meat through a grinder, through a large grinder plate.
2) In a large bowl, add the spices, eggs and milk, and mix until fully incorporated.
3) Using a smaller grinder plate, grind again.
4) Make a little sample and taste. Adjust seasoning as needed.
5) Stuff into hog casings.
6) Refridgerate for 24-48 hours. Then freeze until ready for use.

To cook these brats, we simmered them in beer baths first, then grilled them.

Enjoy with fancy mustard.


Pasta with Sausage, Chard, and Artichoke Hearts

Pin It
The other night I asked the husband what he wanted to make for dinner. He told me to base the meal around swiss chard. Apparently, he had some ready in his garden, and it was harvest time.

I went online and  picked the first recipe I saw with chard, sausage and pasta. I was in the mood for thick, slurpy pasta that day. The recipe from Martha Stewart's Whole Living website (this lady really has too many sites for me to keep track of these days) looked very "whole living", but I decided to give it a try. From the start, I was convinced it would need more tomato paste. I was right, and added a lot more paste to my version.
This recipe also called for penne, but I used pappardelle. It had an interesting mix of ingredients -- everything I like, but wouldn't necessarily think of putting together.

At first taste, the dish seemed bland. Throughout dinner, I thought of how I might improve it, but, by the end of the meal, it had grown on me, and I decided to love it for what it is. It was nice and earthy, with great subtle flavors.

Actually, the husband did suggest one improvement worth mentioning, it would be better to use marinated artichokes, or even canned ones. The frozen chokes are strange tasting; I wouldn't use them again.

I had the leftovers the next day, and it tasted even better.
Pasta with Sausage, Chard, and Artichoke Hearts
(adapted from http://www.wholeliving.com/)
Serves 4
Coarse salt and black pepper
16 ounces pappardelle pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
3-4 links of chicken sausage, removed from casing
1 bunch Swiss chard (about 1 pound) cleaned, stems and leaves separated and chopped
1 (9-ounce) box frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
4 tablespoon tomato paste
3/4 cup grated Parmesan (about 2 ounces), plus more for serving
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1) Set a large pot of salted water to boil for pasta. Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium. Add sausage and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking sausage into pieces, until cooked through and lightly browned, 10 minutes.

2) Add remaining oil, chard stems, artichoke hearts, 2 tbsp of tomato paste and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook until chard stems soften slightly, 3 to 5 minutes. Add sun dried tomatoes and chard leaves and cook, stirring, until wilted, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat. (I had to cover my pan for the chard stems to cook through.)

3) Add pasta to boiling water; cook until al dente. Add sun-dried tomatoes and cook 2 minutes. Reserve 1 cup pasta water and drain pasta; return to pot.

4)Pour half of reserved pasta water into a small bowl. Add tomato paste and whisk to combine. Add tomato paste mixture, sausage mixture, Parmesan, basil, and red pepper flakes to pasta in pot. Toss to combine, adding reserved pasta water if necessary. Season with salt and pepper.


Fall Vegetable Soup

Pin It
This crazy Southern California weather we've been having is really starting to frustrate me. I thought Fall had arrived. We had rain, thunder storms. Thunder storms! I made soups. Now, we're back to high 80s. This is not Fall. This is not soup weather. But last week, when I made this soup, it was cloudy and cold and I enjoyed two bowls on the couch, with two glasses of red wine. 
I like vegetable soups because you can do anything. As long as you season it well, you can't go wrong. This soup started rather simple -- shallots, carrots, celery, potatoes, kale, garbanzo beans, chicken stock. Then, I found the yellow squash in the fridge and added that. Then, I decided it needed color, so I added kidney beans and tomato sauce. After sauteing the shallots and carrots first, I added the rest of the ingredients, except the kale, and simmered the soup for about an hour, tasting and seasoning throughout. I used oregano, a bit of thyme, and lots of salt and pepper. During the last 10 minutes, I added the kale.
The soup turned out hearty, yet light due to the lack of meat. I usually try to sneak in meat into my soups in form of sausage or bacon, but sometimes, it's just nice to give the animals a break. Besides, there's plenty of beans in here for protein.


Weekend Salads: One Fancy and One Humble

Pin It
Last weekend was all about salads. Why? Because I bought lots of romaine lettuce and was determined to use it. And also because I wasn't in the mood to do any real cooking. Salads take minutes to make, so that gave me more time for wine drinking, and HBO watching.
On Saturday, my brother-in-law and I were left home alone. It was a wonderfully quiet day. Very little noise, limited talking (I think we got by with under 200 words over a period of 10 hours), lots of reading, TV watching and snacking. For dinner, we had a bottle of wine, and a salad topped with scallops and crab cakes, with store-bought goddess dressing. I love scallops on my salads. They just look so pretty on top of the lettuce, and make any regular salad look fancy.
Then on Sunday, I made a quick salad of romaine lettuce with garden tomatoes and carrots. I warmed up a can of butter beans in olive oil, and added them to the mix. It was easy, delicious and filling.