Posts Tagged ‘onion’

Spaghetti with Sicilian Meatballs

January 13, 2013

IMG_9502When we were in Italy, what struck me most is that there truly isn’t “Italian” food. Rather, their food is identified by the region you are in. Spaghetti and clams in the Italian Riviera. Boar in Tuscany. Pizza in Naples. That is why I was so intrigued when I saw a recipe for Sicilian meatballs in Bon Appetit.

The food of Sicily has a Greek and sometimes African influence, making it have more olives, capers and currants than you would find in the “boot.” So when looking at the meatball recipe, at first glance it seemed very traditional. Sausage meat (which was an interesting twist on the typical beef, veal, pork combo), breadcrumbs in milk, garlic, onion, etc. Yet, then they add pine nuts and currants to make it have a bit of nutty sweetness. They are baked, and then smothered in a traditional Italian red sauce.

This dish has that same warm, comforting result as typical Italian meatballs, but they do have an interesting sweetness to them that makes them have a “hmm, what’s that?” factor. It is a great alternative to a typical bowl of spaghetti and meatballs, and will be making its way to our dinner table as a great Sicilian (not Italian!) dish!

SPAGHETTI WITH SICILIAN MEATBALLS
Serves 4-6

Sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes in juice
4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Meatballs:
2/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons milk
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 large egg
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pound sweet Italian sausages, casings removed
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons dried currants

1 pound spaghetti

For Sauce:
Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-low heat. Add onion; sauté until golden, about 10 minutes. Add garlic; stir 1 minute. Add tomatoes with juices and 2 tablespoons basil; bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer until sauce thickens, breaking up tomatoes with fork, about 1 hour. Mix in 2 tablespoons basil. Season with salt and pepper. Set sauce aside.

For Meatballs:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly oil baking sheet. Mix crumbs and milk in medium bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Mix in Parmesan, onion, basil, egg, garlic and pepper. Add sausage, pine nuts and currants; blend well. Using wet hands, form mixture into 1 1/4-inch balls. Place on baking sheet. Bake until meatballs are light brown and cooked through, about 30 minutes. Add to sauce.

Cook spaghetti in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain. Mound in dish. Bring sauce and meatballs to simmer. Mix with and spoon over spaghetti.

Kefta Tagine with Eggs and Roasted Cumin

January 16, 2012

After 2 weeks of not cooking, due to a lack of dishwasher (yes, we were actually so lazy we dirtied as few dishes as possible!), I wanted to try something lengthy, complicated, warm and comforting. Something that could go terribly wrong, but could also go terribly right. So, I broke out my Tagine cookbook, by Ghillie Basan, to find something spicy and filling to warm us on a cold winter night.

This dish caught my eye because even though it was comprised of the traditional lamb that is in many African dishes, it came together as meatballs, with sunny side up eggs, all cooked in the tagine.

The meatballs are called kefta, and they are filled with amazing spices, and are poached in water (which helps them keep their perfect shape), then cooked in spiced liquid that absorbs into the meatballs, and creates a hot, dry bottom of the tagine in which to cook the eggs.

Not only did the dish turn out perfectly, but the combination was nothing we had ever experienced. The spice, ras-el-hanout, is worth seeking out (I found mine at my local spice store, but you can also find it online).

My only caution is to be careful of the spice level. I will write this recipe with the spice level I used so hopefully it will do the trick (vs. the original recipe from the cookbook).

Trust me, it is worth the effort. And, ironically enough, at the end of the day there really weren’t many dishes to speak of – except the tagine itself (which doesn’t go in the dishwasher).

KEFTA TAGINE WITH EGGS AND ROASTED CUMIN
Serves 4

For the Kefta:
16 ounces ground lamb
1 onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons dried mint
3 teaspoons ras-el-hanout
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
a small bunch of fresh flatleaf parsley, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Rest of the Dish:
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
6-8 eggs
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, dry-roasted and ground
a small bunch of fresh flatleaf parsley

To make the kefta, put the ground lamb, onion, mint, ras-el-hanout, cayenne and parsley in a bowl, season with salt and pepper, and mix well together. Using your hands, knead the mixture and mold it into small balls.

Fill a tagine (or dutch oven) with water and bring it to a boil. Carefully drop in the kefta, a few at a time, and poach them for about 10 minutes, turning them so they cook on all sides. Remove them with a slotted spoon and drain them on paper towels. Reserve roughly 2 1/2 cups of cooking liquid.

Add the butter to the tagine with the reserved cooking water and bring to a boil. Stir in the salt and cayenne and drop in the poached kefta. Cook over high heat until almost all of the liquid has evaporated (about 15 or so minutes). Carefully crack the eggs around the kefta, cover the tagine with the lid, and cook and steam until they are just set. Sprinkle the roasted cumin seeds and the chopped parsley over the top of the dish. Serve with pearl couscous and flat bread.

Chili-Baked Ribs

January 3, 2012

For years, my husband has continuously asked me to make “saucy ribs.” But for some reason, every recipe I have tried, although good, never really gave me that sweet, spicy, sticky, lick-your-fingers ribs. Until last night.

Thanks to my parents, a bottle of liquid smoke was in my stocking this year (which is apparently available in many specialty food stores or online and can be used in many dishes!). I had heard of the ingredient and was curious about the depth of flavor it would add to items made in the kitchen vs. the grill. So when I found a saucy rib recipe that required liquid smoke, I knew I had to try it.

You need a weekend day for this one, but it is WELL worth it. I will never make another rib recipe again. The sauce is AMAZING and has such complex flavors – layering the liquid smoke, molasses, coffee and cinnamon. Then, it combines that sauciness with a great dry rub along with slow roasting the ribs until they fall off the bone.

The recipe is from Bon Appetit, but I made a few changes based on user reviews. I changed the recipe for a slower roast, and reduced the sugar for the right balance of sweet and spicy/smoky.

As someone who has tried many rib recipes, take my word that this one will be your favorite. And, if you have any doubts, just ask my rib-requesting husband!

CHILI-BAKED RIBS
Serves 8

Sauce (might want to make extra!)
4 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup minced onion
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup ketchup
2/3 cup packed golden brown sugar
2/3 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup unsulfured (light) molasses (although I used dark and it tasted great!)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons instant coffee powder
2 teaspoons prepared mustard
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Ribs
6 baby back pork rib racks (about 9 pounds total weight)
1/2 cup cider vinegar
4 teaspoons liquid smoke flavoring
6 tablespoons chili powder
3 tablespoons ground cumin
1 1/2 tablespoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons brown sugar

For Sauce:
Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Whisk in remaining ingredients. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer until reduced to 3 cups, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. (Can be prepared 1 week ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

For Ribs:
Score white membrane on underside of ribs. Place ribs in large roasting pan. Mix vinegar and liquid smoke in small bowl; brush over both sides of ribs. Refrigerate 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 300°F. Mix chili powder, cumin, sugar, onion powder and cayenne. Rub over both sides of ribs. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange ribs, meat side up, in single layer on 2 large baking sheets. Roast 3 hours, covering loosely with foil if browning too quickly.

Remove ribs from oven. Brush both sides of ribs with 3/4 cup sauce. Roast 10 minutes. Brush both sides of ribs with additional 3/4 cup sauce. Roast 15 minutes longer. Remove ribs from oven. Cover with foil; let stand 15 minutes.

Cut ribs between bones into 3- to 4- rib sections. Serve with remaining sauce.

Poblano Albóndigas with Ancho Chile Soup

March 12, 2011

Our soup season is slowly coming to an end, so I was hoping to crank out a few batches of this warming comfort food before spring and the grill take over. This recipe was in Bon Appetit and the moment I saw it, I knew I had to try it.

Soup itself can sometimes not be considered a meal (a la Seinfeld) but this hearty soup has meatballs, rice and fried tortilla strips. Sounds like a meal to me!

It is work, so I would do it when you have a little time (like the weekend) but it is well worth the effort. The smoky flavor of the poblanos and ancho chile powder with the tangy punch of the lime and cilantro make this dish layered in its flavors. And – hint – make extra of the fried tortilla strips because they are fantastic! (also, I sprinkled some salt on them after I took them out of the oil for extra flavor).

The wonderful thing about this dish is not only is it amazing the first time around, but it makes fantastic leftovers. Go ahead and make the full batch, and give yourself lunch for the next few days.

So, as warm, hearty soups start trickling out of your recipe mix as the weather gets warmer, try this one before you put your dutch oven to rest.

POBLANO ALBONDIGAS WITH ANCHO CHILE SOUP
4 servings

Meatballs:
2 large fresh poblano chiles (9 to 10 ounces total)
1 pound ground beef (15% fat)
1/2 cup coarsely grated zucchini
1/4 cup finely grated onion
1/4 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 large egg, beaten to blend
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano (preferably Mexican), crumbled
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

Soup:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 small onion, coarsely grated
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons pure ancho chile powder or pasilla chile powder* (do not use blended chile powder)
9 cups low-salt beef broth
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
1 cup coarsely grated zucchini
1/4 cup long-grain white rice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon (or more) fresh lime juice

Toppings:
3 tablespoons (or more) vegetable oil
4 corn tortillas, cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips
Chopped fresh cilantro

Meatballs:
Line large rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap. Char chiles over direct flame or in broiler until blackened on all sides. Enclose in paper bag and steam 10 minutes. Stem, seed, and peel chiles, then chop finely (should yield about 3/4 cup).

Place chiles in large bowl. Gently mix in beef and all remaining ingredients. Using moistened hands and scant tablespoonful for each, roll meat mixture into 1-inch meatballs. Arrange meatballs on sheet.

Soup:
Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onion with any juices and garlic. Sauté until onion is tender, about 3 minutes. Add chile powder and cumin; stir 1 minute. Add broth and oregano; bring to rolling boil. Reduce heat to very low, just below bare simmer, and cook 10 minutes.

Stir zucchini and rice into broth. Increase heat to medium and drop in meatballs, 1 at a time. Return soup to simmer. Cover and cook gently until meatballs and rice are cooked through, stirring occasionally and adjusting heat to avoid boiling, about 20 minutes. Add 1/4 cup cilantro and 1 tablespoon lime juice. Season soup with salt and add more lime juice by teaspoonfuls, if desired.

Toppings:
Heat 3 tablespoons oil in heavy medium skillet over medium heat 1 minute. Add half of tortilla strips. Cook until crisp, gently separating strips with tongs, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer strips to paper towels to drain. Repeat with remaining tortilla strips, adding more oil if needed.

Ladle soup and meatballs into bowls. Top with tortilla strips and cilantro.

Brazilian Feijoada

February 26, 2011

Due to an upcoming trip to a land of spit- roasted pig and beans, this Brazilian dish felt like a good precursor. It is pronounced fay-zwah-da (my Brazilian friend says it MUCH better than I do!) and is traditionally served on special occasions. Thanks to the lovely invention of the slow cooker, this dish was possible with little hands-on time on a weekend.

At first I was a bit skeptical. There were no spices other than salt and pepper – and just onions, chicken broth, garlic and meat/beans. I felt like it had the potential to be bland, until I realized you sear all the meat in bacon grease before putting it in the slow cooker, add a ham hock for flavor, and let them slow cook for a full 8 hours.

I am still unsure how this dish came from Cooking Light, but I will turn my head in denial because it is AMAZING. The flavor is so rich and comforting. I put orange juice in my rice (since you serve the dish with orange wedges) and it gave a good light citrus flavor to balance out the heaviness of the dish.

I have never been to Brazil, but this dish alone makes me want to take a trip immediately and have this dish in the land in which it was invented. If my slow cooker attempt was this good, I can only imagine what the real thing tastes like!

Bon Appetit!

BRAZILIAN FEIJOADA
Serves 8

2 cups dried black beans
4 slices applewood-smoked bacon
1 pound boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt), trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
3 bone-in beef short ribs, trimmed (about 2 pounds)
3 cups finely chopped onion (about 2 medium)
1 1/4 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (9-ounce) smoked ham hock
1 tablespoon white vinegar
8 orange wedges

Place beans in a small saucepan; cover with cold water. Bring to a boil; cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 1 hour. Drain.

Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan; crumble. Sprinkle pork evenly with 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Increase heat to medium-high. Add pork to drippings in skillet; sauté 8 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Transfer pork to a 6-quart electric slow cooker. Sprinkle ribs evenly with 1/8 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add ribs to skillet; cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned. Place ribs in slow cooker. Add drained beans, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, onion, and next 3 ingredients (through ham hock) to slow cooker, stirring to combine. Cover and cook on LOW 8 hours or until beans and meat are tender.

Remove ribs from slow cooker; let stand 15 minutes. Remove meat from bones; shred meat with 2 forks. Discard bones. Discard ham hock. Return beef to slow cooker. (if your dish is like mine, the meat had already fallen off the bone and I could just shred in the slow cooker!).

Stir in vinegar and crumbled bacon. Serve with orange wedges and rice.

Lamb Tagine with Dates, Almonds and Pistachios

February 4, 2011

I first discovered tagines last year when I was on the search for rich, winter comfort food. I found a lamb tagine that warmed your whole body, and paired perfectly with a glass of full-bodied red wine. I knew Moroccans were on to something…

A tagine is a spicy, rich stew from northern Africa. The name tagine is also given to the vessel it is cooked in – a shallow, round pot with a unique conical lid designed to lock in moisture and flavors, cooking the food gently in a small amount of liquid. My first few tangines I used my go to – my dutch oven. But as my love for the rich dish grew, I realized I needed to do it right. So, I bought a tagine at Sur la Table. And, of course, I couldn’t buy the tagine without a Tagine cookbook as well.

Although the tagine is big, bulky, and really doesn’t have a convenient storage location, it is well worth the purchase. The meat, when cooked in this vessel, is so tender and moist – despite being on a stove for so long (a testament to the cone-shaped lid). This particular tagine was my first in the authentic cookware and has a wonderful sweetness from the dates.

So, if you have a few hours to cook on a Sunday night (keep in mind about 2 hours is completely inactive cooking time), I would give this tagine a try. Cook it in any pot you use for long cooking, but if you get hooked on tagines like me, it is well worth the investment of an actual tagine. Plus, it is just plain cool to look at!

Thanks to Tagine: Spicy Stews from Morocco by Ghillie Basan for this fantastic recipe!

LAMB TAGINE WITH DATES ALMONDS AND PISTACHIOS
Serves 4

2-3 tablespoons ghee (or olive oil plus a pat of butter)
2 onions, finely chopped (I just used one)
1-2 teaspoons ground tumeric
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 1/4 lb lean lamb, from the shoulder, neck or leg, cut into bite-size pieces
8 oz moist, ready to eat, pitted dates
1 tablespoon honey
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
a pat of butter
2-3 tablespoons blanched almonds
2 tablespoons shelled pistachios
a small bunch of flatleaf parsley, finely chopped

Heat the ghee in a tagine or heavy-based casserole dish. Stir in the onions and saute until golden brown. Stir in the tumeric, ginger and cinnamon. Toss in the meat, making sure it is coated in the spice mixture. Pour in enough water to almost cover the meat and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover with a lid and simmer gently for roughly 1.5 hours.

Add the dates and stir in the honey. Cover with the lid again and simmer for another 30 minutes. Season with salt and lots of black pepper.

Heat the olive oil with the butter in a small pan. Stir in the almonds and pistachios and cook until they begin to turn golden brown. Scatter the nuts over the lamb and dates and sprinkle with the flatleaf parsley. Service with buttery couscous.

Squash Apple Turnovers

December 8, 2010

In my butternut squash risotto recipe, I declared that I can finally and confidently cut a butternut squash. Although after demonstrating my Iron Chef knife skills, I realized that I needed to broaden my squash usage beyond dinner that night because butternut squashes are HUGE. It is such a rich, flavorful and fantastic seasonal ingredient, so I knew I couldn’t let any extra go to waste.

I found this recipe in Cooking Light and thought it was a great alternative to the typical dinner, and also was a great vegetarian option for those who say “no” to meat (like my friend Emily!). Serving with a light salad (and using up the rest of the expensive and yummy goat cheese in it) made a light yet comforting cold weather meal.

So don’t dismay when your butternut squash takes over your Tupperware – this recipe will give you a yummy way to utilize one of my favorite vegetables!

SQUASH-APPLE TURNOVERS
8 Servings

2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup minced onion
2 cups (1/4-inch) diced peeled butternut squash
1 cup (1/4-inch) diced peeled Jonagold apple (about 1/2 pound)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup (1 ounce) crumbled goat cheese
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 (11.3-ounce) can refrigerated dinner roll dough or pie crust dough
1 tablespoon honey mustard
2 teaspoons water
2 tablespoons 1% low-fat milk
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 375°.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté for 3 minutes. Add squash; sauté for 5 minutes. Add apple; cook 6 minutes or until squash and apple are tender. Stir in salt and pepper. Remove from heat, and cool to room temperature. Gently stir in cheese and thyme.

Separate dough into 8 pieces. Roll each portion into a 5-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Combine mustard and 2 teaspoons water in a small bowl. Lightly brush top sides of dough circles with mustard mixture. Spoon about 2 tablespoons squash mixture onto half of each circle, leaving a 1/4-inch border. Fold dough over filling; press edges together with a fork to seal. Brush milk over dough. Place turnovers 1 inch apart on a baking sheet lightly coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 19 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto with Sugared Walnuts

November 24, 2010

There are certain foods out there that scare me. The thought that I could prepare those ingredients, master that technique or turn out a complicated dish will sometimes prohibit me from even trying. My mantra as of late is “we can always get take out,” so I have been trying to go outside my comfort zone a bit more than usual.

I am actually embarrassed to say I have never made risotto. Me. Italian my marriage. A love of Italian food. A carbaholic. It is remarkable, really, that a rice could scare me so much. Until, that is, I saw Moreno in Perledo, Italy make it (still working on the Lake Como cooking class blog post, I promise!).

He made it look easy. Truly, the main ingredient you need is a bit of patience. He said you want to “mantecare,” which apparently means to “make creamy.” Add broth. Stir. Add broth. Stir. Seemed simple enough, as long as I could hold off waiting to eat it until it reached perfection.

So, in my seasonal cooking spirit, I tried a roasted butternut squash risotto with sugared walnuts from Cooking Light. Now that I have mastered how to butcher a butternut squash (if you need help, go here! It sure helped me! http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/how_to_peel_and_cut_a_butternut_squash/), I thought I would try this, and was anxious to taste the soft, rich risotto paired with sweet and crunchy nuts.

Oh. My. Goodness. This recipe alone is a reason to get over my resistance to risotto. Yes, it takes long, well over an hour, but the wait was worth it. It is so rich and creamy, and the nuts cut the richness with a perfect sweet crunch. I almost felt myself transported back to Italy where I truly fell in love with risotto. I could hear Moreno telling us to “mantecare” while we sipped our wine and watched in awe, all the while breathing in the sweet and salty smells of a strawberry balsamic risotto. Nothing could compare to Moreno’s technique and end result, but this risotto came as close as I have ever been since.

So, be brave, carve out some time, eat a snack to tide you over, then stir away. You will be glad you did!

ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH RISOTTO WITH SUGARED WALNUTS
Serves 8

1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
4 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup water
1 ounce pancetta, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 1/4 cups uncooked Arborio rice
1/2 cup chardonnay
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh lemon thyme or 1 1/2 tablespoons thyme plus 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup (1 ounce) shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Preheat oven to 400°.

Arrange nuts in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan. Bake at 400° for 5 minutes or until toasted, stirring twice. Place nuts in a bowl. Drizzle butter over warm nuts; sprinkle with sugar and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Toss well to coat.

Combine squash and 1 tablespoon oil, tossing to coat. Arrange squash in a single layer on jelly-roll pan. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until squash is just tender. Remove from pan; stir in garlic. Set aside.

Bring broth and 1/2 cup water to a simmer in a saucepan (do not boil). Keep warm over low heat.

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add pancetta to saucepan; cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring frequently. Add onion; cook 3 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add rice; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add wine; cook 1 minute or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Add broth mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of broth is absorbed before adding the next. Continue until the risotto is cooked (hint, you may need more chicken broth like I did!). Stir in squash, thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Top with cheese and nuts.

Chicken Sausage, Sweet Onion and Fennel Pizza

September 28, 2010

To me, sausage screams pork. Sure, it isn’t the most nutritious thing for you to put in your mouth, but doesn’t the taste make all of that guilt go away? After a few weeks of being in Italy and experiencing their sausage, I will admit this gluttonous ingredient has made its way into many of my dishes – pasta, pizza, and just about anything I think it could complement.

So, when Cooking Light told me there was a healthier alternative, I pretty must ignored that sentence in the article like it didn’t exist. It isn’t sausage if it isn’t pork, right?

Okay, okay, I am not THAT close-minded, but I had skepticism when I read this pizza recipe with chicken sausage. But, it has apple chicken sausage (sounds interesting!), has sweet onions (yum!) and fennel (so fall!). So, my obsession with seasonal cooking took over my fear of non-pork sausage, and I tried this recipe the other night when the crisp air told me it was officially autumn.

Wow. Now, I will admit, it is not the pork sausage you know, so I would never do a comparison. But, for being something different, it tastes great and is a fantastic change of pace. The flavors meld together to really give that fall sense of warm and spice (especially with the fennel).

By buying a pre-cooked crust and pre-cooked chicken sausage, there really isn’t too much to this one. It was on the table in about 30 minutes. One tip, make sure to really cook those onions so it brings out their sweet flavor (and eliminates most of its bitterness).

Thanks to Cooking Light for broadening my horizons a bit. Pork sausage will not be leaving my cooking repitoire anytime soon, but it is good to know that its cousin, pork sausage, is a relative I need to get to know a bit better! And hey, with a healthier sausage, that means you can have one more slice, right?

CHICKEN SAUSAGE, SWEET ONION AND FENNEL PIZZA
2-4 Servings

3 ounces chicken apple sausage, chopped (such as Gerhard’s)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups vertically sliced Oso Sweet or other sweet onion
1 cup thinly sliced fennel bulb (about 1 small bulb)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (12-ounce) prebaked pizza crust (such as Mama Mary’s)
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded Gouda cheese (I used more like 6 ounces)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

Preheat oven to 450°.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage to pan; sauté 4 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Remove from pan.

Add oil to pan. Add onion, fennel, and salt; cover and cook 10 minutes or until tender and lightly browned, stirring occasionally.

Place pizza crust on a baking sheet. Top evenly with onion mixture; sprinkle with cheese, and top evenly with sausage. Bake at 450° for 12 minutes or until cheese melts. Sprinkle evenly with chives. Cut pizza into 8 wedges.

Spiced Beef Empanadas with Lime Sour Cream

September 26, 2010

Do you ever get into a food rut? You know, when you keep finding new ways to dress up a chicken breast, and keep brainstorming new veggies and nuts to put in your couscous for a different flavor. We have just finished (or are finishing) months of great grilled meats and kebabs and are a bit too early for stews. So, as I put together the menu for last week, I was feeling some culinary restlessness. So, on the menu I put items I have never made before. And not “I have never put those spices on a pork loin before,” but “I have never made that type of food or attempted that culinary technique before.”

It is liberating to throw out what you know and venture into a land of unknown and savory promise. And with my motto being “we can always get take out” I truly figured I had nothing to lose. They all seemed like easy enough recipes, just different. It was exactly what I needed.

So, the first “new” meal was empanadas. It isn’t surprising that other countries have their version of a meat pie. I have made Kibbeh from Lebanon, we have pot pies, there are Russian meat pies, and the Spanish have empanadas. Then, adapted by Latin American countries, they shrunk it a bit and established the same technique.

I got this recipe out of Real Simple, thinking it couldn’t be overly difficult. Like any food where you have to mold each bite, it does take a bit of time, but it isn’t terribly complicated. And, with a store-bought pie crust, the effort is significantly decreased.

The spices in the meat are amazing, but I will note this – the recipe calls for 80/20 meat and I did find it to be a bit greasy. Next time I will be opting for a leaner choice. Also, my biscuit cutter was a bit small, so next time I will be purchasing one that is the size they recommend – providing a better meat to crust ratio. Might even jazz up the sauce a bit with some creme fraiche.

But all and all my culinary experiment was a success. Not only was dinner amazing, but I learned I could do something new, and I expanded my skill set. I suggest you all do the same!

SPICED BEEF EMPANADAS WITH LIME SOUR CREAM

Makes 24

1 tablespoon olive oil
small onion, chopped
1/2 pound ground beef (80 to 85 percent lean)
1/3 cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons ketchup
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
kosher salt and black pepper
2 store-bought refrigerated rolled piecrusts
large egg, beaten
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon lime zest

Heat oven to 375º F. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the beef and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until no longer pink, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the raisins, ketchup, cinnamon, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

Using a 2½-inch round cookie cutter, cut out circles from the piecrusts. Divide the beef mixture among the circles, brush the edges with water, fold in half, and press with a fork to seal. Transfer to a baking sheet and brush with the egg. Bake until golden, 20 to 25 minutes.

Put the sour cream in a small bowl and sprinkle with the lime zest. Serve with the empanadas.


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