Fresh, fast and frugal!

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Brainy Mediterranean Chicken... So good!

The secret to really great Mediterranean chicken is not only the olives in the sauce but in the way you cook the chicken. To begin: use bone in, skin on chicken thighs. Pan fry in a large skillet as many thighs as you need skin side down on high heat in olive oil with garlic powder, red pepper flakes, and fresh dried herbs: rosemary, oregano, sage and mint. Once the skin side is nicely browned, turn over and reduce heat to med.; cover for 5-6 min, adding a bit more olive oil if needed.

Move the chicken aside or remove temporarily while you add one whole chopped onion and one whole chopped roasted red pepper. Brown together, then add one med. can of diced tomatoes or fresh about 2 cups along with either 1-2 cups of diced zucchini or eggplant.

Bring the chicken back in and for extra flavor, toss in fresh sprig of rosemary. Cover and let simmer for about 35 min on low heat. In the meantime, prepare wide egg noodles, linguine or Spinach infused fettuccine pasta.

When that is all that's left... it was really good!

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Beef Stew Today ~ Tomorrow Beef Vegetable Soup!

Who wouldn't love a fresh made pot of beef stew on a snowy evening...

Italians make a delicious beef stew. Maybe its because Italians are frugal cooks. Quite often a stew can become a few kinds of soup by the end of the week.

For instance, you can make a minestrone from leftover 'beef stew' by adding more beef stock 'liquid' to the stew. If you like, boil pasta on the side to serve with the 'newly' created soup.

Or...serve with Focaccia bread.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Monday, November 18, 2019

#1 Basic Brainy Gourmet Cooking Tip!

Use fresh dried herbs...

Long time readers know that my favorite herbs are: rosemary, mint and oregano. Also, from time to time sage is included into that mix and sage makes for a very good tea. The reason for those being my favorite is the blended taste of sweet and savory they provide that is beyond complimentary.

Yes, herbs are relatively hardy and easy to grow and you don't need acres. You can grow them in pots on your deck/patio or in your kitchen window. Just clip fresh (don't wash), lay them on a perforated pizza pan and within 24-48 hours, in an oven on low heat, they are dry. 

For drying herbs at home, use your oven. The temperature of the oven should be around 80+ degrees, a good temperature for slow drying the delicate leaves of mint and oregano. As for the rosemary, a bit higher temp between 90-100 is preferred giving the long sprigs between 24-48 hours. 

So, what you want to do is this: heat up your oven to 200f and then turn the oven off. Wait until the temp drops down a bit before placing your herbs in the oven to dry; use an oven safe thermometer to check the temperature you need.

In a variety of combinations or alone, dried herbs are great for any meat, fish, vegetable or pasta dish. And, best of all, as they dry in your oven... which makes a kind of aromatherapy in the kitchen for brain cells!

*Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is the best aromatherapy in the kitchen. This evergreen herb native to the Mediterranean. It is used as a culinary condiment, to make bodily perfumes, and for its potential health benefits.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Polish Food is Good Comfort Food...

Dumplings = Pierogi and Meatballs = Pulpety! All simple food is good food... filling and full of flavor.

Polish meatballs are called pulpety. Fixed in sour cream with mushrooms and you have Pulpeciki w sosie śmietanowo - grzybowym. The meatballs are made in the same way you make them for spaghetti and meatballs. Just use either ground pork, beef, and veal.

Using ground pork, tonight's meatballs were made the 'basic' brainy way: bread crumbs, herbs, garlic powder, a pinch of salt and heavy cream/sour cream. To begin, first, saute chopped onion and sliced mushrooms in olive oil until browned. 

Next, push aside the onion and mushroom and add the meatballs to brown on all sides. Next, pour in about 1/2 cup of beef stock. Let this bubble away while you prepare the side, potatoes if you like. 

Lastly, as the beef stock has reduced, pour in 1/2 cup of heavy cream or sour cream. To thicken you can add a thickening 'slurry' mix (flour and water -1/4 cup). Once, it is thickened, let simmer on very low while you mash the potatoes or not. Top with fresh green parsley. 

Serve with mashed potatoes or pierogi or wide egg noodle pasta. 

 Try pierogi with pork cutlets and or crumbled sausage...

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Food is for Sharing Life with Others...

Food is more than just a means for survival. With it, we make friends, court lovers, and count our blessings ~ anonymous.  


This holiday season consider this: "Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. Yes, everything is permissible but not everything is constructive or beneficial. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscious; for, the earth is the Lord's and everything in it." 1 COR 10:23-26


We share food at weddings, at baptisms, at holidays, and birthdays and graduations. Eating food is one aspect as a physical activity but its more = food is social. Its share life... and, in sharing we find the meaning of living in a place with others.

There was an old saying that the act of forgiving is bringing someone back to the table. That is what people want, those who have done wrong and seek forgiveness, they want to come back to the table. The table is the surface for social interaction, togetherness. This Holiday Season, think of your table in this way and celebrate Life!

 Tutti a Tavola! = Everyone to the Table!

Monday, November 11, 2019

Dumplings are a cook's best friend...

Dumplings from Tibet to Boston and back... they are simple because they are simple to make. And, they fill you up and they are frugal. No wonder you can find some version just about everywhere in the world either as mounds of fluff, globs of gooey goodness or as lazy pierogi, or gnocchi...

For light fluffy dumplings, all one has to do is follow the recipe on a box of Bisquick or make your own by using 1 cup of any pancake mix to 1/2 cup of regular flour, about 3/4 cup of buttermilk and one egg.  If you want to have them more fluffy, skip the egg in the mix and add a bit of water. For  less than fluffy...keep the egg but add more regular flour and another egg.

Essentially, the dough should look like this for fluffy - it should follow the spoon or whisk up as you pull away...and, for thicker or solid dumplings, the dough should break away rather than follow the whisk/spoon.

As for the ole fashioned little gobs, to be exact... the kind that stick to your ribs, here is the general mix of things: 2 cups of flour, 1/2 tsp of baking soda and 1 tsp baking powder, a pinch of salt, 1/2 cup of cold milk, 1/4 cup of cold buttermilk, add one egg and beat.

Lastly, the key to good dumplings is to drop the dough into a boiling stew of beef or chicken, cover and let them cook. As for lazy pierogi, or gnocchi, they are gently rolled out in a 'rope' and cut... not dropped into stew or soup.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Recipes ~ Who needs em ...?

Most often, when people think of a chef the first thing that pops into their mind is French cuisine made by a 5 star French chef. We imagine that they have some kind of magical talent when it comes to food and cooking it. 

Borrowing from Michael Booth, English food and travel writer, one has to ask what is that the French know about cooking? They know that you don't need a recipe. Because, every step-by-step recipe is likely doomed to failure.

Why failure? Because, following a recipe is not following your own taste preferences. Largely, failing when following a recipe is likely due to human error which means that recipes can be badly written, improperly explained, or not properly tested; especially, those found in magazines and even in some cookbooks.

Wouldn't it be nice if we could be free from the tyranny of recipe 'pros' and 'promoters' and just cook by ourselves without their help. We could skip gaily through our local farmers' markets or favorite supermarkets choosing whatever is in season or just tickles our fancy. Then once at home, create our own meals using our own taste bud preferences.

This is exactly what it means to be a brainy gourmet. Since day one, the Brainy Gourmet has advocated cooking without a recipe. Now, this does come by trial and error. You first need to understand your taste bud preferences for sweet and savory and start simple.

Once you understand what you like to eat and how you want it to taste, you will be successful and enjoy cooking at home. And, moreover, you won't waste time and money on expensive ingredients. You can buy the ingredients you like to work with and that's being a Brainy Gourmet and its being frugal...saving you time and money. 

Check out the recommended basic pantry list on the side margin of this blog as well as previous blog posts and get cooking.  Of course, you can put together your own basic pantry and take off from there.

~ Tutti a Tavola!