Fresh, fast and frugal!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Fish with Creamy Peanut in Butter Sauce and Your Favorite Side!

Fish, fish and fish ...aahhh, the lake brings memories of delicious tastes!!!!

When you think fish, you don't often think of having it in a creamy peanut sauce topped with pine nuts. Italians are creative cooks when it comes to fish... fresh caught of course. Being brainy, you can stop by your local market and pick some up, fresh caught and on ice just waiting to go home with you. 

Begin by soaking your fish fillets (the fish you prefer and or budget allows) in fresh squeezed lemon juice for about 30 minutes before cooking. When you are ready to cook, take a covered skillet and melt in 3 tbs of coconut oil and the same of olive oil on med. heat and to the oils add dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano with a bit of garlic powder and a shake of red pepper flakes.

Turn up the heat to high and lay in your fillets. Let them sizzle on high heat for 2-4 min browning both sides. Then cover and let simmer for 6 min on med. heat. In the meantime, slice your onion, and julienne one washed zucchini - skin on. Start another skillet with 2 tbs of olive oil. When the oil is hot, toss in the onion and the zucchini -stir fry until richly brown on edges. Next, you will want to check your fish fillets and add 1/4 cup heavy cream along with 2 tbs of organic peanut butter (or mashed pine nuts). Cover and let the heavy cream and peanut butter blend smoothly together, shaking the skillet from side to side without lifting the lid.

Finally, lay the fillets onto a serving plate, drizzle some of the peanut sauce over the top. Take the onion and zucchini from their skillet and lay this vegetable medley next to the fish then garnish the entire plate with with pine nuts, fresh parsley and lemon.

or fish in simple creamy unsalted butter sauce???

white delicate fillets with potatoes???

tuna steaks cooked with the same peanut sauce ....

~Tutti a Tavola!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Fast and Frugal Italian Countryside Chunky Minestrone

For this dish, you will need about one pound of good quality beef, fresh tomatoes, zucchini, onion, pinto beans and pasta noodles. To begin, on high heat saute your onion and beef in a deep enamel pot in a bit of olive oil. Once the beef is browned, add two cups of beef broth and turn down the heat to med. Next add a pinch of salt, black pepper and fresh dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano, one to two large chopped tomato and one small can of pinto beans. Cover and let simmer on the stove on low heat for 40-45 min.

I always recommend cooking your pasta on the side to be added to each dinner guests bowl but if you are in a hurry and know that this chunky minestrone will be eaten at one sitting you can add your pre-cooked pasta to the soup. On the side, in a small skillet sizzle slice zucchini in red pepper seasoned olive oil. They will be a nice topping to the soup/stew.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Serve with toasted garlic bread!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Fast and Frugal in the Italian Countryside

Good food couldn't be quicker. A veal loin thickly sliced into nice small medallions can be sauteed in olive oil with dried herbs and sun dried tomatoes. It takes only about 25 minutes on med to high heat. Add a 1/4 cup of heavy cream and this delicious meat dish can top any rice, potato or pasta side. Also, you can finish off as in garnish with green and black olives straight out of the jar or deli container.

~Tutti a Tavola!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Chicken with Mushrooms and Onions~ Fast and Frugal!

Mountain cooking, means mushrooms!

How can you not follow a recipe, right? Ask a chef and they will tell you. You don't have to follow a recipe if you are brainy. And, being brainy comes from knowing what you foods you can put together and what you cannot. What you like and don't' like taste wise and how much time you want to spend. If you have been a follower and have at least read the brainy tips... then you know what I mean. Chef Eric Damidot is a brainy chef, like the brainy gourmet. You only need a few basic items to get any gourmet meal going and served.

Being fast and frugal cooking, and certainly gourmet cooking is fast and frugal, means using what you have to the best of your knowledge. Most good foods are built on basic items: eggs, butter, cream, cheese, potatoes, and garlic, onions, and of course fresh herbs. To that, you can add any meat or fish and other veggies, including mushrooms.

Tonight, we had onions with mushrooms and chicken breasts with a side of spinach infused pasta and as well it could have been with eggs or potatoes. To get started, saute your onion and mushrooms in a blend of olive oil and coconut oil. How much? I always use the same 3 tbs of each. If I see a little more is needed, I add. To that, add your herbs. How much? As much as you like. I love rosemary, mint and oregano. From time to time, some lavender and coriander. Add slowly, you can always add more. If you dump in a bunch from the get go, you won't be able to take any out.

Push aside your onion and mushrooms after they have browned and lay in your halved chicken breasts. Add a bit more olive oil and turn up the heat. Since, using the same skillet, with the onion and mushroom pushed over to one side, slide your skillet over so that only the one half of the skillet with the breasts is directly on the high heat end. Brown the breasts. If it seems that things are drying up, add some white wine... also a basic on Damidot's list. When the chicken breasts are cooked on both sides, move the onion and mushroom back over and add 1/2 cup of heavy cream.  Cover and simmer on low heat while your prepare the pasta or whatever side you like.

its incredibly juicy...

~ Tutti a Tavola!

ps. How can you be frugal if you don't measure... go easy; remember how much items cost or how much time and effort you put in to get those items whether store bought or homegrown and you'll be frugal about it.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Rosemary, Mint and Oregano ~ My Favorites!

Long time readers know that my favorite herbs are: rosemary, mint and oregano. Its the blended taste of savory and sweet that is beyond delicious. These herbs are very easy to grow. 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, they are dry. 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 of 100 is preferred giving the sprigs between 48-72 hours.

There is no point to pick a lot unless you have a lot to harvest. I pick and dry as I need. Its simple, its fast and frugal!

In a variety of combinations, these herbs are great for any meat, fish, vegetable or pasta dish. The next best thing is that your kitchen will smell like a brainy gourmet is at work.

Rosemary is known for its health benefits... its an aromatherapy for the brain!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Polynesian Chicken with Green Peppers and Zucchini

Being a brainy gourmet is just being.. brainy. Its really about pleasing the people you love. Once in a while, you just want to wow them. Though, I have never been to Polynesia it sounds beautiful from a Midwest perspective. Essentially, the wow factor in any gourmet dish is of course the taste and that can come from the uniqueness of the food item or the sauce that it is served under. This one is all about the sauce.

For this dish, you will need to buy ordinary chicken thighs with the skin on and bone in, there is just more flavor in them. You will also need to have on hand: 1 green pepper, 1 zucchini, 1 onion, apricot jam, and fresh ginger or you can use a ready made ginger and apricot teriyaki sauce. Also, you will need maple smoked bacon, and fresh grated coconut.

To begin, you will prepare your side dish first. Take a large covered skillet and saute on high heat chopped onion, and green pepper in 2 tbs of coconut oil and 3 tbs of red pepper seasoned olive oil, adding to taste - red pepper flakes, garlic powder, chili powder and dried mint as well as rosemary. If you want it hot and spicy, then be generous but not overpowering. Slice your zucchini into wide shavings. Toss them in as well and stir fry. Reduce heat to low covered for 2 min and remove from the skillet.

Using the same skillet, add again coconut oil and the seasoned olive oil, add all the same seasonings to the oils. Take 2 strips of maple smoked bacon and lay them into the skillet, browning on both sides, not letting them crisp up. Remove the bacon (setting the strips aside) and, lay in your chicken thighs skin side down to sear on high heat, 3 min per side. Turn the heat to medium and cover for 6 min.  Finally, pour out 3/4 cup of apricot/ginger teriyaki sauce cover the thighs, return the bacon laying the strips over the thighs, cover and simmer on med/low heat for 25- 30min.

Top with grated coconut just before serving.

 ~ Tutti a Tavola!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Salmon in Creamy Butter Sauce with Fresh Chive!

Yesterday, I was talking about meat and today its fish. As much as I love meat, fish is on equal ground; especially salmon or trout. Its difficult in the Mid-west to get fresh caught salmon or trout unless you live closer to the great lake or upper peninsula if you know your fishing geography.

For this dish, you will need frozen fresh caught salmon which most grocers have in the freezer section. Lemon, fresh chive, heavy cream and as a side... a mixture of buckwheat groats and white or wild rice.

To begin, marinate your salmon in half of a fresh squeezed lemon for 45 min to an hour. If there is a dark vein in the meat, take it out before cooking as tonight we are not eating sushi. Melt into a covered skillet, 3 tbs of butter and 1 tbs of coconut oil. Season with red pepper flakes, garlic powder, white or green pepper fresh ground pepper corn and a bit of coriander. Lay in your salmon and let the fillets sizzle on high heat searing both sides. Cover and steam in the juices for 6 min on low heat adding 1/4 of heavy cream on the end. Turn off heat, toss in a hand full of fresh chopped chive and a pinch of dried mint, keep covered while you prepare the side.

Set 2 cups of water to boil your rice and groats in which should be started at the same time you begin cooking the fish. Once the water rolls, add 1/2 cup of rice first letting it boil for 3 min alone and then the same amount of groats as they tend to cook faster. When both are tender, drain and ladle onto a low lipped serving plate, placing the salmon along side.

~Tutti a Tavola!

Who knew... Raw Meat for Longevity?

In today's news, it was written that Emma Morano is 117 years old.  She has followed the same routine for around 90 years -- three eggs per day (two raw, one cooked), fresh Italian pasta and a dish of raw meat. Morano also holds the record for the world’s oldest living woman and is six years younger than the oldest person to ever live - Jeanne Calment of France, who lived to be122 years and 164 days, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

I love meat and as a kid, I loved to sneak a glob of raw hamburger. Raw meat is not often thought of as healthy or good for you. But, Morano seems to think otherwise. Morano probably eats carpaccio which is a raw beef dish eaten in Italy... a kind of steak tartare considered a delicacy.

In many places, in the world, people eat raw meat or fish.  Its known that Labrador Inuit were "the greatest raw-meat eaters of the whole Eskimo world. And, who doesn't like sushi, right?

Then there is the Atkins diet of mostly meat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. As much as I like meat, the brainy gourmet is not recommending any such diet to anyone; you should eat what you like (a balanced diet is best), and what you can afford and or what your doctor recommends.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Bourbon Street Spare Ribs with Carmlized Cherry Tomatoes and Onions

For this dish, you will need to buy a package of boneless pork spareribs, 1-1/2 inch thick. A package of cherry tomatoes, and some bourbon or not... you can of course make this dish without it. Marinate the pork for at least one hour in a shallow dish covered with 1/4 cup of bourbon along with sea salt, garlic powder and black pepper as well as dried herb seasonings: mint, rosemary and oregano or basil.

In a heavy black iron skillet, sear your marinated pork in 4 tbs of olive oil and coconut oil. Then add some organic honey and fresh grated ginger along with a generous squeeze of lime. Cook on high for 3 min and then reduce heat to low and simmer for 6-8 min, depending on thickness of pork. Remove from heat and move the pork aside or to a serving plate and cover to retain heat. In that same black iron skillet saute onion and cherry tomatoes in a buttery olive oil combination letting them sizzle together with an extra dash of bourbon. As they near a state of caramelizing, prepare another side... potatoes or couscous.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Brainy Gourmet's Fettuccine Alfredo with Parsnips/Carrots

Fettuccine alfredo comes from Rome Italy. It was created by Alfredo di Lelio in about 1914 who ran a restaurant on the Via della Scrofa in Rome. The story goes like this: Alfredo's wife Ines was pregnant with their second child, and the pregnancy caused her terrible nausea. So, Alfredo made Ines a dish of plain pasta, pasta in bianco, and tossed the fresh-made pasta with butter and Parmesan.

Since then, there have been many versions of 'Fettuccine Alfredo'. Just keep in mind, that the original recipe used only butter and Parmesan, that is not only brainy, its fast and frugal as well. Having said that, here's the brainy gourmet's version with root veggies, also fast and frugal.

You you will need to saute chopped onion in 4-5 tablespoons of olive oil, on med. heat; then add 1/4 cup of diced bacon and also dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano. Brown this mixture and then set aside. To this same skillet, add more olive oil and 2 tbs of coconut oil. Toss in peeled julienne cut parsnips and carrots, saute on med heat. Once tender and nicely caramelized, return the onion and bacon mixing in with the root veggies. Turn the heat to low or warm and cover.

Bring salted water to a boil and add your fettuccine pasta. Sometimes, I like to use either tomato or spinach infused pasta for this dish.  At the same time, take out another skillet and melt in 3 tbs of butter and 1 tbs of olive oil on low heat. Then add 1 tbs of flour to make a rue (base for white sauce). As soon as it thickens, add 3/4 cup of heavy cream, a dash of salt and pepper and a bit of garlic powder along with fresh dried parsley. Of course, add 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese, stir until creamy. When the pasta is done, drain and ladle onto a low lipped serving plate and pour out the creamy alfredo sauce over the top. Set out the parsnips and carrots as a side and encourage guests to top their pasta with the savory roots.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

*thinking of my nonno 'grandpa' who picked wild parsnips from the field nearby...

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Ranch Style London Broil with Mushrooms and Apricots

From yesterday's farm to the ranch... 


The secret to this recipe is the quality of the steak and that it has to be marinated in balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic cloves, red pepper flakes and sea salt either for 2-3 hours, longer is always better. Though this is a 'broil', you can also do this recipe in the hot black iron skillet making it 'ranch style'. And, of course, if you were out on the high plains, then over an open fire would be the right thing to do.   

To begin, take one large onion chop and saute on med. heat in 1 tbs of olive oil and coconut oil in a large non stick fry pan until they start to soften. Then push aside the onion and add sliced champion mushrooms and a dollop of butter, brown the mushrooms until tender. Next, move the onion back in with the mushroom on high heat, singing them both until they are just a bit blackened. Move the skillet off the range while you halve about 8 washed and pitted fresh apricots.  

Bring the skillet back onto the range and either remove or push the onion and mushroom over to one side then lay in your apricots. While adding 1/2 tsp of organic honey, singe the apricot halves on both sides and keep stirring the apricots as you move the onion and mushrooms back in and over on top of the apricots. Turn off the heat, cover to keep warm. 

Now, take a large black iron skillet, kept hot in the oven (or next to the fire) and drizzle in roasted red pepper infused olive oil. When the oil starts to spit, you can lay in your steaks, flash fry on high heat for about 4 min on all sides then cover for 3-4 min more on high; then, turn down the heat to low and cover again cooking the steaks for another 2-3 min. The aroma from the sizzling juices produced by the steaks will sweep you away to that far off western ranch. Top with mushrooms, onions and apricots.

~Tutti a tavola!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Pork Medallions in Creamy Mustard Sauce with Stir Fried Zucchini

Heading home for dinner and thinking farm fresh...

When suddenly something quick, juicy, delicious and low in fat comes to mind; one can't help but consider the 'other' white meat - pork. For this dish, I like to use pork loin cut into medallion size. Besides the pork, you will want to get: a few fresh green zucchini along with one whole onion, low fat yogurt or low fat whipping cream, Dijon mustard, and small yellow gold potatoes.

To begin, chop one whole onion and saute in 3 tbs.of olive oil along with the same amount of coconut oil on med. heat. Sprinkle in red pepper flakes, garlic powder and dried herbs: mint, rosemary, and oregano. To that, add your thick cut pork medallions, brown on both sides. At this point, if you have on hand add a dash or two of dry white wine. Turn up the heat to high and sizzle away uncovered for 3 min. Then spoon in 1/4 cup of low fat yogurt or low fat whipping cream, along with 1 tbs of Dijon mustard, cover and let simmer on low heat for 6-8 min. 

Prepare your two sides: stir fried zucchini sticks (cooked in the same skillet as the pork) and a couple of yellow gold potatoes- a quick fix is to microwave.

Potatoes a 'no' brainer... but as for the zucchini sticks a little brainy gourmet approach is necessary. When the pork medallions have simmered for the time recommended and you notice a rich sauce developing, remove from the skillet and ladle onto a low lipped serving plate, cover lightly to retain heat while you use the same skillet to stir fry your zucchini - washed and cut into sticks. Add one dollop of creamy butter and 1 tsp of paprika, stir fry until the sticks are singed reddish brown.

Top your pork with the zucchini, sauce and serve.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

On a Linguine Roll ~ Garlic Chicken Breasts in Lemon and Ginger... with Linguine!

Linguine is an Italian favorite~ Even if you served it yesterday, its still the most desirable pasta!

You will need to buy a package of skinless, boneless chicken breasts. And, if you don't happen to have on hand: linguine pasta, onion, green pepper, fresh lime, garlic and ginger, then make a quick stop by the grocer.

Start by sauteing on med. heat chopped onion, garlic and green pepper in a skillet with 4 tbs of coconut oil and 2 tbs of olive oil. Once the edges of the onion, garlic and green pepper are richly browned, move to one side and lay in your chicken breasts which have been marinating in a glass dish of fresh squeezed lime, turn up the heat to high, sizzle away uncovered to sear.

Quickly, sprinkle in sea salt, red pepper flakes, fresh dried or fresh herbs from the garden if you have handy; rosemary and mint are best used for this dish. Cover and let this cook for 6 min on med. heat. When the breasts have cooked on both sides move to one side of the skillet, add 4 tbs of organic honey, as much fresh grated ginger and or dried ground ginger if you like. To that, stir in 1 tbs of balsamic vinegar and 1 tbs of lime juice. While bringing up the heat to high, as you observe, this will begin to caramelize with the honey; move the chicken into this sauce, reduce heat to low and cover for 3 min.

Prepare a rolling boil of salted water for the linguine. Once tender, drain and pour out onto a low lipped serving dish. Place your chicken breasts on top of the pasta and cover with the luscious sauce. Garnish!

Tutti a Tavola!

Place fresh halved limes out for dinner guests to squeeze for extra zing. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Teriyaki Beef Stir Fry with 2 kinds of Peppers

Teriyaki is actually a cooking technique (which the Brainy Gourmet loves as its fast and frugal) originating in Japan and continues to be used in Japanese cuisine. Here in the US, where fast is important, stir fry means dinner in a pinch. Americans tend to mean that any dish made with a teriyaki-like sauce can be described as 'Teriyaki'. And, that's ok. After all, its all about the sauce.

The sauce used for Teriyaki is generally sweet, although it can also be spicy.  Pineapple juice is sometimes used, as it not only provides sweetness but also acts as a meat tenderizer. Grilling meat first and pouring the sauce on afterwards or using sweet sauce as a marinade are other non-traditional methods of cooking teriyaki.

For this brainy teriyaki dish you will need: cubed beef stew meat or a lean sirloin or round steak cubed along with two kinds of peppers: red and green, and one whole onion. For the side or 'bed' rice or linguine noodles work as good as any rice noodle of the same length and width. Also, take a look in the pantry or fridge to make sure you have teriyaki sauce and low sodium soy sauce.

To begin, chop your peppers and onion and saute on med. heat in 3 tbs of coconut oil and 3 tbs of olive oil. Add seasonings: red pepper flakes, garlic powder, salt (to your taste/dietary limit) and dried herbs: mint, oregano and coriander.

As the peppers and onion finish off, push aside (in the same skillet) and add your beef. Brown on high heat. Once you see the juices begin to flow from the meat, mix in with the peppers/onion and keep stir frying, pour on 3 tbs of teriyaki sauce, continuing stirring uncovered to reduce liquid.

As you prepare to cook the side, rice or noodles, turn the heat to low on the stir fry and pour an extra tbs of teriyaki sauce over the top, cover to keep warm.

As the water begins to boil, toss in your rice/noodles. This evening I used linguine. When the noodles are tender, drain and ladle onto a low lipped serving plate, top with the beef stir fry. Put the soy sauce out...!

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Brainy Moroccan Spiced Coconut Chicken

You may not know that coconut is often used in Moroccan cooking. It is used for flavor; though, not always used in the same way.

For this brainy dish "Spiced Moroccan Coconut Chicken" you do not have to use a traditional cooking vessel called the - tajine. You can use a covered skillet or covered enamel pot.

To begin, in a covered skillet/pot, melt in 4 tbs of coconut oil (or olive oil) and some seasonings: a little paprika and cumin as well as dried herbs: rosemary, mint or tarragon and oregano.

Prior to that, coat thin strips of chicken breasts in a smooth blend of mayonnaise (you can omit if you don't like mayo) and coconut milk; then lay into bread crumbs infused with fresh grated coconut and some extra sprinkles of dried herbs and a couple more dashes of spices: cumin or turmeric (don't need both) paprika and cinnamon.

Lay these strips into the spitting coconut oil. Brown on all sides on med/high heat. Next, push aside the chicken breasts and saute in the same skillet, adding a bit more coconut/olive oil, shaved fresh green zucchini.

Once browned, drizzle a light coat of honey over all (chicken and zucchini), cover the skillet and gently simmer for 15 min. on low heat.

Serve and garnish with red seedless grapes. A dab of yogurt acts as a light and tasty condiment.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Breakfast ~ Give em a stack of cakes!

Looking out this kitchen window this morning admiring the apple blossoms, I was reminded that I still had 4 jars of homemade applesauce to use up. There is nothing more special for breakfast than buttermilk pancakes with homemade applesauce. Any brainy gourmet knows that the best ever pancakes are made with buttermilk and topped with homemade applesauce.

Being brainy means doing the best with what you have and with what you know how to do. Thus, you can either buy a simple pancake mix and follow the directions on the box or try to make pancakes from scratch.

1 14 cups all purpose flour
1 14 cups of buttermilk 
2 tbs of organic cane sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 half teaspoon baking soda
14 cup melted butter
1 pinch salt and 1 egg

give em a stack...

*As for the applesauce, there are a number of good organic brands you can purchase. But for homemade, you have to put in a few hrs, peeling, dicing, cooking and jarring but the results are beyond brainy. Check Brainy Archives for how to make homemade applesauce - titled "Who's the Boss of the Applesauce" dated 9/21/2015.