Fresh, fast and frugal!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Two Brainy Ways to Prepare Boneless Pork Chops or Country Style Ribs!

Creamy Lemon Thyme Pork with White Wine!
For this dish you will need to buy: 4 boneless pork chops. You should have on hand: 2 cloves 'crushed' garlic, heavy cream, lemon juice, dry white wine, butter, lemon zest, paprika, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, onion powder, fresh dried thyme and kosher salt.

To begin, pan fry the pork chops in 4 tbs of butter and a bit of olive oil, along with the two cloves of crushed garlic, lemon zest, and seasonings listed, until browned and meat is white no longer pink.  Next, add half a cup of white wine (the wine can be omitted), then a good squeeze of half a small lemon and lastly, half cup of heavy cream- poured in slowly (if you want a 'creamy' version, just leave out the cream). As a finale, toss in a pinch of salt and as much fresh dried thyme as you like.

Country Style Ribs in a Creamy Mint Julep Sauce!

You can begin making this pork dish in the same as as you did for the pork chops in lemon thyme. Basically, all you are really doing regarding this dish is changing the herb from thyme to mint. However, you must omit the lemon juice and zest as it over powers the mint rather than being complimentary. Keep the heavy cream, as it truly makes this dish special.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Easy Skillet Chicken Parmesan with a side of Japanese Eggplant!

Eggplant is a species of nightshade plants. It has been cultivated in southern and eastern Asia since prehistory. And, just maybe Marco Polo had something to do with it coming into Europe, Italy.

For this dish you will need: chicken breasts - boneless, skinless. Canned tomato sauce and or diced tomatoes. Onion, and Japanese eggplant; of course you can use any eggplant. To begin, saute one whole onion in olive oil and dried herbs. Once browned, push aside and lay in filleted chicken breasts which have been dipped in egg wash and laid in dried bread crumbs, adding olive oil as you go when needed.

Brown the chicken breasts on both sides. Add to the skillet, the juice from any leftover olive jar and or liquid from a jar of roasted red pepper. If you don't have either, a squeeze of lemon or some white wine or even some chicken stock with a splash of apple vinegar.

Next, add your small can of either diced tomatoes or tomato sauce. Let this simmer while you prepare the eggplant and angel hair pasta. As for the eggplant, wash, slice in half and score. Squeeze lemon juice over the open halves and sprinkle with dried herbs. Flash fry in olive oil until tender and slightly blackened on edges.

Boil the pasta until tender. Just before serving, top the chicken with grated mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
~ Tutti a Tavola!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Veal Medallions with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Risotto!

Good Italian cooking is fast and frugal. A veal loin can be thickly sliced into nice small medallions. You can saute them in olive oil with dried herbs and sun dried tomatoes. It takes only about 20-25 minutes on med to high heat. Add 2 tbs of butter and once melted, 1/4 cup of white wine. You can also add 1/4 cup of heavy cream (but not necessary) and this delicious meat dish can top any rice 'Risotto' or pasta side. I like to add olives on the end, straight out of the jar or fresh deli container.

 ~Tutti a Tavola!

* for Nonna's fresh tomato risotto recipe ~see brainy archives

Ahh... Chicken Marsala!

For traditional' Chicken Marsala you have to use chicken cutlets (breast), mushrooms, and sweet white 'Marsala' wine.

The chicken cutlets are coated in flour, and then briefly sautéed ~ browned on both sides in a combination of butter and olive oil. Then, you remove the chicken from the pan, and use the juices remaining (adding a bit of chicken stock from earlier this week) in the pan to make a Marsala reduction sauce. The sauce is made by reducing the wine to nearly the consistency of a syrup while adding onions, as well as champion mushrooms and fresh herbs. 

As for the base, I think that a linguine pasta is perfect which should be cooking off to the side in a rolling boil of salted water. When the pasta is tender you are ready. If you want to slightly warm the chicken a bit before serving, then lay the cutlets back in the skillet with the sauce for a couple of minutes. Remove the cutlets and pour the sauce over the pasta and the chicken ... serve immediately.

~ Tutti a Tavola! 

*This dish can be made using inexpensive semi sweet dry white wine; and, if you prefer not to use wine as children will sit to the table, then just don't use any wine. To achieve a 'Marsala like wine' taste without using alcohol, add a good squeeze of fresh lemon/lime juice, 1/4 tsp of dry apple vinegar or Worcestershire sauce and 1/4 tsp of honey or organic cane sugar.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Spaghetti Bolognese ~ Abbondanze!

Bolognese sauce is an Italian meat-based sauce for pasta which originates from Bologna, a city in Northern Italy. A thick, full-bodied meat sauce that's a staple of northern Italy's Bologna. The term alla Bolognese (in French, à la Bolognese) on a menu designates a pasta with ragù, which is a meat based sauce. The words for Italian ragù and French ragout (though for entirely different dishes) are both derived from the verb ragoûter, which means "to stimulate the appetite."

For the best homemade spaghetti bolognese, you will need to buy a small package of ground pork or veal, usually I don't use beef.

Take from your pantry:
1 large can of Red Gold (crushed) tomatoes
1 Clove of garlic and 1 whole Onion
*Dried Herb Seasoning:
  rosemary, mint and oregano
  ...and of course - olive oil

Get a large stock pot of water with a pinch of salt boiling to cook the spaghetti pasta in. Then take out your covered skillet, on med flame add 3-4 tbs of olive oil. Add to that, chopped onion and the garlic. Stir until browned on the edges and semi-transparent. Next, break up the ground pork/veal and crumble into the same skillet having pushed aside the onion /garlic. Brown the ground meat, bring back the onion/garlic, cover and simmer for 3-4 min. on low.

Finally, add the crushed tomato, stir, cover and let simmer for 20 min on low heat while you cook the pasta. When the noodles are tender, drain, gently wash with lukewarm water and quickly spill them out onto a serving platter. Pour out the sauce and shake on the Parmesan cheese.

Gather everyone to the table, say a blessing and enjoy~ 'Abbondanze'!

~ Tutti a Tavola!

* This history of the Italian Bolognese sauce was retrieved from

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Bistro at Home ~ Beef Goulash with Creamy Mashed Potatoes, Asparagus and Cheese stuffed Mushrooms!

Homemade food is sadly becoming a thing of the past. Most people today are too busy to cook at home. Most food blogs are only those that are food art, that show fast prep/cooking in an artistic fashion or the foodie blogs that are just about praising their 'choice of restaurant'.

There is a difference between food out and food in - home cooked. We see that fast food keeps us on the run and that is not healthy. Home cooked food keeps us at home, with family and that is healthy as long as it is real home cookin.  Real home cooking is fast and frugal... which equals - Being A Brainy Gourmet at home.

This dinner is quite simple. You will need cubed beef sirloin or cubed chuck roast... beef for 'stew' by all means. One onion, one  garden green pepper, diced zucchini, as well as diced tomatoes and dried herbs: rosemary, mint, oregano and sage.

Saute the onion and green pepper in olive oil, add the diced zucchini and stir until browned. Then add one can of diced tomatoes. Let this garden 'stew' simmer while you quick sear the beef in a separate skillet. After searing the beef, add directly to the 'stew'.

Peel and half yellow potatoes. Put them to boil in salted water until tender. Sear the tender asparagus, then remove and sear the mushroom caps. Top with grated cheese and fresh chopped chive. In 25 minutes, you have a delicious home cooked brainy meal.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Nonna's Kitchen ~ Risotto and Chicken in Creamy Tomato and Rosemary Sauce

You will need for this dish: boneless skinless chicken thighs or chicken breasts... plan for as many servings as you will need - count number of guests. Check your pantry/fridge for: heavy cream, onion, green pepper, canned diced tomatoes and rice. If you don't like onion or the green pepper, leave them out. The main ingredients are the tomatoes, onion and heavy cream.

This Risotto recipe is just another Nonna version, which means fast and frugal. To begin, boil your rice in left over homemade tomato soup if you have (one cup rice to two cups soup). If not, use 1/2 carton of chicken stock to one cup of rice and half of a small can of tomato paste. Boil the rice until tender (adding more stock only if not yet tender) and all 'soup' has been absorbed. Add 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese and let sit until your chicken is prepared.

To prepare the chicken, saute strips or chunks of chicken breast in onion and green pepper in olive oil and butter along with dried herbs: rosemary and lots of it! Let all of this sizzle together for a few minutes then open a small can of diced tomatoes and pour in along with 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Cover again and simmer for about 15 min.

The last few minutes of cooking should be uncovered with the heat turned up to get it bubbly,  the sauce will begin to reduce and slightly thicken.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Fettuccine Alfredo Roman Style!

Who doesn't like Fettuccine Alfredo? Its so rich and creamy and absolutely delicious! Some of you may think it takes a long time to make it but that is not true. It takes only 20-25 minutes. For this dish, you will need: heavy cream, sour cream, butter, onion, fettuccine noodles or even linguine will do. Also, the secret ingredient which is tuna. Yes, tuna and yes this dish was cooked for me in Rome.

To begin, chop onion and saute in butter and a drizzle of olive oil until browned on edges. Then add two cans of chunk white tuna in oil - do not drain. Stir and add 1/4 cup of sour cream or buttermilk and 1/2 cup of heavy cream more or less. Continue to stir adding fresh dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano and even some dill but not necessary.

Boil your pasta until tender, drain and ladle onto a serving platter. Pour the creamy rich sauce over the top and sprinkle with a generous amount of grated Parmesan cheese. Its that simple.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Roasted Italian Chicken with Risotto!

It's Wednesday, and it means Italian night! Not just food, but music also. Being the Brainy Gourmet rubs off on the offspring - kids. I am sure that your own children want to cook after watching you cook. Tonight, my sixteen year old decided to make his specialty - Roasted Italian Chicken with Risotto. And, if I may so, it came out perfect!

To begin, marinate as many chicken breasts as you need to serve. My son and I recommend using the 'full uncut' version which means don't use chicken strip breast meat. Lay the breasts in a glass bowl or a glass baking dish that you will use to roast in.  Coat the breasts with a generous shake of garlic powder, paprika, Himalayan pink salt and fresh dried herbs: rosemary, mint, oregano, sage and mint. Drizzle with olive oil and let set for 1 hour.

Turn on the oven to 425f. When the hour has passed, pop the chicken into the oven for 25-30 min. While it roasts, prepare the Risotto. You will probably cook up about 2 cups of rice in 1 and half cup of water with a 1/4 cup of chicken stock. When tender, add to the drain rice 1 small can of diced Italian style tomatoes with garlic and basil. Stir and add fresh dried herbs. Sprinkle in some grated mozzarella cheese.

As the chicken finishes, top with grated mozzarella cheese.

Prepare to serve - Tutti a Tavola!

Summer is just getting started!

Hot dogs on the 4th... why not hamburgers on the 5th!

Everyone has either their favorite hamburger joint or favorite homemade hamburger concoction.
The best way to begin when cooking at home is to buy quality ingredients: ground beef/pork or even lamb can be used. Next, decide the method of cooking: grilling outdoors, frying in a pan on the stove, covered baking in the oven or in the broiler.

And, consider the preferred temperature of the burger: well done, medium rare or rare. Of course, if using pork or lamb medium rare or rare is not recommended. Lastly the bread roll or 'bun' and sauce make the burger a food experience to remember.

Check out the Brainy Gourmet webpage for quality products at Dean and Deluca and or Stonewall. Enjoy the summer and summer fun home cooking!