Fresh, fast and frugal!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Brainy Gourmet's Tikka Masala with Pork!

Glasgow's finest...

Tikka Masala often thought of as a strictly Indian dish originated in Glasgow. There are some who say it likely began in the British Bangladesh community and yet another version claims it came from a Pakistani chef living and cooking in the west end of Glasgow which brings us back to Scotland, full circle, right?

Whatever the original location: the U.K. the Middle East or far Middle East does not matter as much as the delicious taste and easy preparation for any brainy home chef.

This dish is like most simple dishes prepared by the Brainy Gourmet. It can feed a lot of people on very little. The secret is in the sauce. On a past blog, I made it using chicken and tonight using pork loin. The preparation is the same as it was using chicken.

Saute onion and green pepper in coconut oil until browned; then, push aside adding some olive oil to the same skillet and sear about 8 tender boneless pork medallions. Bring back the onion and green pepper, cover for 6 min on med. heat and then add 1 small can of tomato paste, 1/2 cup of yogurt, 1/4 cup of heavy cream, one tsp of either lemon juice or apple cider vinegar along with garlic, spices and fresh dried herbs.

Cover and simmer for 10-15 min on low heat stirring occasionally. In that time, prepare a side of rice. Once tender, drain and ladle onto a low lipped serving plate, place a dollop of butter in the middle. Then pour out the sauce and pork 'Tikka Masala'.

~Tutti a Tavola!

ps. unique flavor and color come from turmeric and a hint of coriander

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Mediterranean this Weekend ~ Dinner at Home!

Brainy Gourmet ~ Mediterranean Selections for this Weekend!

Mediterranean Chicken

Ravioli with Blackened Asparagus
Spaghetti and Herb Infused Meatballs
Fried Cheese with Yogurt
Risotto and Greek Fish

*Check Brainy Archives for meal ingredients and preparation

Friday, August 26, 2016

Hawaiian Meatballs with Garden Green Pepper!

Dinner in Hawaii...tonight???

So simple and yet so island exotic. Hawaii brings thoughts of beaches and coconuts. Exactly, why this dish is called 'Hawaiian' meatballs. You will need: Apricot/Ginger Teriyaki, ground beef (or turkey), grated organic coconut, bread crumbs, one large garden fresh green pepper and one whole onion. Also, you should have on hand heavy cream and dried herbs; all of this is to be mixed into the ground meat and shaped into meatballs. As a side, best for this dish is brown rice. Prepare immediately, before making and cooking the meatballs.

To begin, make the meatballs mixing 1 pound of ground meat, about 1/2 cup of grated coconut and 1/4 cup dried bread crumbs along with 1/4 cup of heavy cream and fresh dried herbs. Fry in a large skillet in olive oil and coconut oil on high heat.  Once browned, turn down the heat and add 3/4 of beef stock. Let the meatballs simmer on med. heat for 6-8 min covered.

Next, add 1/4 cup of Apricot/Ginger Teriyaki sauce, this is a thick glaze which will caramelize as it bubbles up around the meatballs... cooking uncovered on high/med heat for no more than 4 min. Remove this mixture (meatballs too) from the skillet and set aside. In the same skillet (not wiping it out) saute the green pepper and onion. Let them sizzle away as you check on the side of brown rice.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

stroll the beach after dinner... even if you can only imagine it...

Thursday, August 25, 2016

What Can You Do With Lavender?

Did you know that not only does lavender smell good it tastes good as a flavor enhancer. Here are some delicious treats: Lavender rub, lavender butter, lavender sugar and lavender syrup. You can also dry lavender for tea infusion as well as infusion for homemade soap and not to mention small pillow sachets for your undergarment drawer.

Lavender Rub: Mix 1 tbs of either fresh or dried lavender buds with 1 tsp of salt and pepper, along with 1/2 tsp of thyme and basil and 1/4 tsp garlic powder. This is a super tasty rub for grilling meats or roasting.

Lavender Butter: Mash together a stick of softened butter with a quarter sized handful of minced fresh or dried lavender buds. Smear the butter on warm biscuits or scones or toasted bread.

Lavender Sugar:  Pour sugar in a pint or quart glass jar. Toss in fresh or dried lavender buds; cover and shake. Let sit on the counter a few weeks shaking occasionally. Sprinkle over fresh fruit or use in your favorite shortbread cookie recipe.

Lavender Syrup: Heat 2 ups of sugar and water, stirring to dissolve. Add a small handful of fresh or dried lavender buds. Pour into a bowl; cover. Let stand 2 to 24 hrs. stain off lavender. Chill up to 2 wks. Swirl syrup in either hot or iced tea.

A few buds in a glass of champagne is lovely on a late summer evening...

*Check out additional uses of Lavender at ~

* above source of info coming from: Better Homes and Garden May 2016

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Brainy Gourmet Chicken Pad Thai with Linguine

Anyone up for an evening at the Pad Thai Outdoor Cafe...

Being authentic is not always possible or affordable. Being brainy is always about frugality as much as it is about taste. This Thai dish made the brainy way is simple and really good. Pad Thai was made popular in Thailand during World War II. Pad Thai has since become one of Thailand's national dishes. Today, some food vendors add pork-chops to enhance the taste. The most important item is of course stir fried rice noodles.  In its original form, Pad Thai is made with soaked dried rice noodles, which are stir-fried with eggs and chopped firm tofu, and flavored with tamarind pulp, fish sauce along with dried shrimp, garlic or shallots, red chili pepper and palm sugar, and served with lime wedges and often chopped roast peanuts.

Sounds pretty intensive. But, you can make a simple detour and it will be brainy. To begin, using either chicken or pork, cut meat into strips. Set aside and in a large skillet saute on med heat in olive oil one whole onion and one large green pepper cut into long slivers. Brown until the edges begin to blacken. Push aside the onion and green pepper and lay in the chicken. Turn up the heat so that the meat sears. As long as you pushed the onion and green pepper to the farther side of the skillet, they will be out of the way to sear the meat.Sprinkle in a dash of salt, garlic powder, red pepper flakes and dried herbs.

At this time, add 3-4 tbs of organic peanut butter and stir until the chicken and veggies are coated. Next, add 1/2 cup heavy cream, cover and let simmer on low heat for as long as it takes to prepare the rice noodles or in this case- linguine pasta. Either will work and as they become tender, drain and quickly fry in another skillet with a bit of sesame oil.  For an additional side, saute cubed eggplant in olive oil. Once it is cooked, nearly translucent, spoon in 3 tbs of apricot ginger glaze and return to heat to let it caramelize.

Pour out the noodles onto a low lipped serving dish and top with the incredible peanut sauce with chicken.
Add a squeeze of fresh lime juice and dig in.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Quick Veal Parm with Mashed Potatoes or Polenta

Veal is as expensive a meat as you might think. It is usually sold ground and often in the form of cutlets. It is very tender. It cooks quickly and has wonderful flavor.

Veal is the meat of calves; most veal comes from young males of dairy breeds because these are surplus to the industry's requirements. Veal has been an important ingredient in Italian and French cuisine from ancient times.

I totally understand that such meat may present a dietary problem for some people and in that case one can substitute using soy patties.

Believe me when you are cooking veal parmesan... Oh, the anticipation when the family knows that's what's for dinner. Begin by preparing a liquid coating of egg and milk whisked together in a bowl. Take a plate and cover with dried bread crumbs, adding dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano and some basil. The procedure is thus: bath the cutlets in the liquid coating and then gently pressed into the bread crumbs (both sides).

Before you start to cook the cutlets, prepare either a side of boiled potatoes to be mashed or polenta (see brainy archives for polenta recipe). Take a skillet and drizzle in olive oil and a dollop of fresh creamy butter. Once it starts to melt and bubble, lay in the cutlets, adding a bit more olive oil as needed to keep them from burning. On med heat, brown both sides and then cover for 6-8 min. on low heat. Uncover and add fresh homemade tomato juice which I happened to make just the other day about 1/2 cup. Cover again for 4 min. and then uncover to lay over the top large slices of mozzarella cheese. Cover again to melt the cheese.

Get ready to serve! Placing the cutlets on a serving plate and leave the potatoes (hand mashed) or polenta in the pot -homestyle!

 *extra side- butter pan fried yellow squash...

~ Tutti a Tavola! ...Feast as if you are abroad!

Monday, August 22, 2016

A Brainy Gourmet Always Has Stock!

The one thing many food bloggers won't or just don't tell you is that the best way to be brainy in the kitchen is to always have stock. Homemade stock is of course preferred and easy to do, but store bought is quite acceptable. However, homemade has more deliciously rich fat in it than store bought.

Fat...what? Today, many home chefs are led to 'fear' the fat in food stuffs (in their diet) but its not fat as much as it is sugar that is the culprit in our diet. Certainly, we watch our fat in take, but fat is necessary aspect of a healthy balanced diet while sugar is certainly not.

There is no mysterious means or recipe when it comes to making a delicious rich stock. Chicken stock is highly recommended as the most versatile... in the meaning that whatever dish you are preparing, a little chicken stock can be added to wake it up and keep it liquid in context of making: soup, sauce, stew, gravy and even for stir fry to retain moisture.

Start with a large stock pot, add water, a dash or two of salt depending your dietary requirements, and one whole chicken, skin on and bone in. You can also use separate pieces rather than a whole chicken... again with skin on and bone in which make that rich taste. I like to add dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano. Cooking time - 1hr+ depending on size of whole chicken or pieces used. Drop the chicken into your pot of water which has started to boil, reduce heat and simmer.

I am not talking about making soup, I am talking about making stock which can become soup, or a stew, or sauce etc. The stock is your base to be used as you need. For vegetarians, just use your favorite vegetables in the same way, straining them off for a tasty vegetable stock.

Helpful as in  'brainy' kitchen product!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Do you have a tomato bounty ready to harvest?

Tomatoes Galore!

What to do with a bounty of tomatoes? Make juice! It is a tedious job but somebody oughta do it. Even though tedious, it is easy to do in your own kitchen. When we consider today's call for better life styles and eating habits, certainly that includes what we eat, then taking advantage of the backyard garden harvest seems like the right thing to do.

The simplest thing to do with a basket of fresh picked tomatoes is to make a deliciously good for you homemade tomato juice. To begin, blanch in very hot water (near boiling) the amount of tomatoes you want to use up. When the skins start to break, drain from the hot water and let them cool; then peel and mash through a strainer held over a clean pot or large stainless mixing bowl.

Lastly, pour the juice into clean glass jars (lid them) with a pinch of salt and pour a glass for immediate gratification! Store the jars in the Kitchen fridge (or Garage fridge) or dark cold cellar, marking the date you prepared the juice. Don't let it go to waste...drink up and celebrate the harvest season.

*Kept in this way (described above), the juice will last only several days since it was a quick fix and was not warm bath processed to assure long term storage. Of course, if you want to keep the juice longer, then the warm bath process is necessary.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Chicken Breasts in Creamy Almond Mushroom Sauce ...

When I pull something out of the freezer in the morning, its like pulling something out of a hat. Why? Because, I usually have no clue what it will be by the time dinner comes round. Really??? Yes, really. Its part of being brainy or what I call the brainy no- brainer strategy. Its about having a good stock in your pantry and freezer. You can of course pop by the grocer on your way home in case your low in food stuffs. But, a brainy gourmet knows what is in the pantry and what can be done with it (Check the side bar on the blog for basic pantry list).

This evening, having thawed out a package of skinless, boneless chicken breasts, I wanted the cooking to be as simple and as fast as possible since I spent most of the day push mowing 3/4 of an acre of grass and then ironing my sweetie's shirts and some of my own clothes as well.

To begin, chop one whole onion and slice as many champion mushrooms as you like then get them sauteing on med. heat in a skillet drizzled with olive oil and a large dollop of fresh creamy butter... don't forget the fresh dried herbs: rosemary, mint, lavender and sage. As they finished browning, add three drops of almond extract; stir and move to the side the onion and mushrooms so that you can lay in the chicken breasts sliced into strips. Turn up the heat so that the chicken can sear a bit. Once that has happened, move the onion and mushroom back over and add 3/4 cup of heavy cream. Stir again, making sure the chicken is covered in the delicious sauce, put the lid on, turn down the heat to low and let simmer for 20 min. In this time, prepare a  linguine pasta side.

Put out the cherry tomatoes and pretend you're at a French Bistro...

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Quick Garden Zucchini and Green Pepper Goulash

 Goulash anyone?

Anytime you haven't a clue what to put on the table, make it goulash. What is 'goulash'? Goulash is a soup or stew of meat and vegetables, seasoned with spices and dried herbs. This dish originated from the medieval Kingdom of Hungary. So, if you want to make it authentic, better add the paprika. Since, I am still harvesting zucchini from the garden as well as tomatoes and green peppers, then a goulash seemed like the right thing to do.

Meat is essential but of course not necessary. To begin, take 1 pound of ground turkey, add about 3/4 cup of dried bread crumbs, 1/3 cup of heavy cream, a dash of salt, garlic powder and dried herbs: rosemary, mint, oregano to mix and shape into meatballs. Pan fry the meatballs until brown in 3 tbs of olive oil and the same of coconut oil.

While the meatballs brown, wash and dice 3 cups of fresh zucchini, slice 2 med green peppers to stir fry in another skillet. Once singed on the edges, add 1/2 cup of chicken stock and also add either 3 med fresh tomatoes or one small can of diced tomatoes (can be fire roasted or plain). To this, add your meatballs and simmer for 35 min on low heat.

Use rice, barley groats or pasta as a simple side. Serve and imagine your at the Budapest Cafe. Can you hear the local musicians?

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Crisp Garden Root Veggies with Steak ~ Glazed with Peaches!

Why not bring in the bounty! Prepare a simple dinner fresh from the garden and orchard.

Begin by preparing all veggies: wash, slice or make into sticks: carrots, parsnips and asparagus. Set aside while you pan fry stripes of steak (or pork, chicken) in olive oil infused with fresh or dried herbs; rosemary especially creates a delicious flavor. Once seared on all sides, cover for 2 min, then remove from the skillet and set aside. To that same skillet, toss in your veggies; adding a bit more olive oil sauteing on med heat. As they become tender, turn up the heat to blackened on the edges.

Remove the veggies, placing them along side the steak strips while you then quick fry and let caramelize ripe slices or chunks of tree picked peaches. Add a drizzle of water, cover and watch a sauce appear. Top your steak and veggies and set the table... on the terrace!

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Monday, August 8, 2016

What's in a good sauce?

Sauces are not difficult. Basically, any sauce is a kind of gravy. Depending on your preferences for thick or thin sauce, you control that either adding more cream/flour or soup stock.

Whenever you are sauteing meat or fish either in butter or olive oil, there is a delicious sauce opportunity waiting. As soon as your meat or fish has finished browning and beginning to crisp on the edges, remove from the skillet (set in warmer) so that you can add heavy cream (1/2 cup), white wine (not necessary though) and fresh dried herbs.

Now, if you want a thicker sauce, add 1 tbs of flour to the heavy cream before you stir it in. For an extra zesty cream sauce, add a tbs or two of Dijon mustard which is perfect for pork or veal.

What kind of sauce is Alfredo? Its a white sauce used over fettuccine pasta or any favorite pasta. For this creamy Italian sauce, begin by sauteing chopped onion and or garlic in butter and olive oil along with fresh dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano. Once the onion/garlic is browned, add 1 cup of heavy cream with one tbs of white flour mixed in.  Continue to stir, if the sauce appears too thick or sticky, add a bit of chicken stock.

As for salt and pepper, you can add to taste... and don't forget the grated Parmesan cheese.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Skillet Eggplant Parmesean

Eggplant ~ just can't get enough and its a bumper crop...

Think that eggplant parmesan is difficult or has to be done in the oven, wrong. You can do this dish on the stove in the skillet. One large eggplant is all you need along with some tomato sauce and grated parmesan cheese.

Begin by soaking (washed and semi-peeled) sliced eggplant in a rich milk bath. Pat down both sides on a plate of seasoned bread crumbs (seasoned with dried herbs). Then gently pan fry til browned on both sides in olive oil. You will be surprised how quickly the eggplant soaks up the olive oil, so you will need to drizzle in some extra as you see it begin to disappear in the pan/skillet.

Once you have finished browning the long slices, remove from the skillet and set aside. Clean the skillet with a moistened paper towel and return to the stove top. Add your tomato sauce, from the jar is fine as long as its your favorite. Lay in your eggplant browned slices. Let them simmer for about 6 -8 min on med heat. Then sprinkle over the top grated Parmesan cheese and simmer for another 10 min.

Prepare a salad to this lusciousness or pasta...So good, you will think you stop off at an Italian roadside "Mom and Pop"!

~Tutti a Tavola!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Tomato Torte ~ For... or With Dinner!

Summer food is so simple, fun and easy to fix. Its about fresh... For instance, take a large tomato, basil, and chive from the garden, some mozzarella from the deli and create a tomato torte which can be eaten as dinner or with dinner.

Slice the tomato and mozzarella, layer them in a dish then top with olive oil, basil and chive.  The family and or guests will think you went to chef school.

For a quick meat entree, try veal or pork medallions in a creamy mustard sauce with sun dried plums (see brainy archives); and for an additional side - buckwheat groats.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Greek Goulash ~ Brainy Gourmet Style!

Eggplant out of the garden couldn't get any more yummy. Check the fridge or freezer for some turkey breast, the pantry for a can of red roasted tomatoes and you will have Greek Goulash in no time.

To begin, chop one whole onion and start 3-4 tbs of olive oil in a large skillet. On med heat, start to saute the onion tossing in some of your favorite dried herbs: rosemary (supposedly sniffing fresh green rosemary is good for the brain), mint, oregano and a bit of sage. Next, cut up the turkey breast into medium sized chunks and add to the onion which is beginning to caramelize in the skillet. Turn the heat to high adding the turkey chunks searing them on all sides. Wait til you see a bit of browning on the edges of the meat before adding a small can of red roasted tomatoes to the same skillet with the turkey and onion. Cover and let simmer while you prepare the eggplant.

In another skillet, pour in 4-5 tbs of olive oil. Peel and cut into chunk sizes the garden ripened eggplant, one large ought to do. Turn the heat to high and add the eggplant. The olive oil will be absorbed rapidly just stir continuously with a wooden spoon so they don't burn. Then, turn the heat down very low, cover and cook for 8-10 min stirring occasionally until the eggplant chunks are tender yet still firm. Finally, add the eggplant to the turkey, tomato and onion, cover and simmer for 25-30 min on med - low heat.

Prepare a side of either rice, potatoes (mashed) or barley groats. Put a few Kalamata olives as a garnish and enjoy! The family will think they traveled to Greece...

~ Tutti a Tavola!