Fresh, fast and frugal!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Ahh...Toscana ~ Skillet Veal Parmesan!

Veal Parmesan is simple and brainy good. You will need to buy or check the pantry for: balsamic vinegar, dried herbs, bread crumbs and grated parmesan cheese. And, in the fridge: veal cutlets, heavy cream, a fresh tomato and at least one small fresh green young zucchini.

Begin by sprinkling a dash of balsamic vinegar on each cutlet and then submerse the veal cutlets one by one in bowl of heavy cream; next, lay each onto a plate of dried bread crumbs seasoned with dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano.

Prepare a skillet for frying by blending olive oil and melted butter, turn up the heat to high. As the oils in your skillet start to spit, lay in your cutlets and let them sizzle on high heat browning on both sides. When they have... cover and let simmer for 12 min on med-low heat.

While they simmer, dice or slice the zucchini and chop up one tomato adding to the skillet and even a capers if you have/want.  Just push aside some of the cutlets and toss in the veggies. Finish with a final sizzle on med-high heat. Its all so very simple! Top with either fresh grated parmesan or thin slices of parmesan, letting the cheese melt over the top of the cutlets. Serve with pasta or potatoes!

~Tutti a Tavola!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Italian Goulash ~ Linguine with Meatballs and Sausage in Peppers and Tomatoes!

Anything juicy is good... using the last of this summer's tomatoes and peppers, one can't imagine making anything else!

For this dish you will need: ground veal and mild Italian sausage (no fennel) and you will need fresh garden tomatoes and green/red peppers. Blanch about 6 whole tomatoes and remove the skin. Wash and cut up 4-5 peppers. Chop one whole onion and saute together with the peppers in olive oil. Once browned, add the whole skinless tomatoes to the onion and peppers. Simmer this for 3 hours until you have a delicious liquid... sauce.

Prepare meatballs: mix ground 1 lb ground veal with 1/2 cup of bread crumbs, 1/4 cup of heavy cream, 1 tbs of grated parmesan cheese along with dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano, a dash of garlic powder and a pinch of salt.  Drop the meatballs into the tomatoes/pepper sauce which should be at a rolling boil. In the meantime, grill or pan fry 2 links of Italian sausage cut into chunks along with one diced tomato until slightly blackened. Boil the linguine in salted water. Once tender, drain and rinse.
Serve the drained linguine on large plates or even bowls, top with the meatball tomato and pepper sauce and add a few sausage chunks/blackened tomatoes. Top with fresh grated parmesan cheese.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

What's the difference between ~ Goulash, Stew and Ratatouille...?

Ahh, stew ~ it can be whatever you want it to be...

So, you may already know that Goulash is actually a stew of meat and vegetables, seasoned with paprika and other spices. Originating from the medieval Hungary, goulash is a popular meal predominantly eaten in Central Europe but as well as in other parts of Europe.

And, stew is exactly that in most cultures: meat and veggies. Some like it more liquid or fluid or juicy and others may like it more thick as in full of rich gravy.

Now Ratatouille, what's that? Well, its a French stewed vegetable dish, originating in Nice. The word ratatouille comes out of the verb touiller, meaning "to stir up". From the late 18th century, in French, it merely indicated a rough or coarse stew as in chunky and stirred up.

The modern ratatouille has these basic ingredients: tomatoes sautéed garlic, onions, zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, marjoram, fennel and basil, or bay leaf and thyme, or a mix of green herbs.

Serve over pasta, rice and or potatoes!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Sicilian Garlic Chicken... You can only be Happy!

Don't be angry... get happy!

Sicilian garlic chicken with rosemary marinated in lemon juice and served with potatoes mashed with Parmesan cheese and garlic. You will need to buy: a package of chicken thighs with the bone in and skin on. Fresh garlic, one lemon, fresh rosemary sprigs or use dried, yellow gold potatoes (six or seven med. size) and Parmesan cheese.

To begin, marinate the chicken thighs in a glass baking dish using the juice of one lemon, toss over the top 3-4 peeled and diced garlic cloves, drizzle on some olive oil and lay on your rosemary sprigs or sprinkle generously dried rosemary. Heat your oven to 400F.

After 12-15 min. of marinating time, place the chicken in the oven and roast for about 30-40 min uncovered. Check to see if the skin is crisping and if yes, turn over the thighs, return to the oven for 5 min. After five minutes or so turn the thighs back over and consider adding a few fresh washed red cherry tomatoes and a handful of kalamata olives.

Return to the oven covered, reduce heat to 350F and let roast for another 15 -20 min. Take this time now to prepare the potatoes. Wash, peel and halve, the potatoes. Add to boiling salted water and cover. When tender, drain and mash using 3 tbs of butter, the same of sour cream, a dash of olive oil, Parmesan cheese, 1/4 tsp of minced garlic and 1 tsp of dried herbs - Italian blend.

Moroccan Stew ~ Color of the Mediterranean Middle East...

If you know anything about spices, Cumin is a popular ingredient in Middle Eastern, Asian, Mediterranean and Mexican cuisines, and is one of the main ingredients in curry powder. It is an aromatic spice with a distinctive bitter flavor and strong, warm aroma due to its abundant oil content. Cumin "seeds" are actually the small dried fruit of an annual plant in the parsley family and it is native to the Mediterranean.

For this dish, you will need skinless, boneless chicken breasts, one onion, one green pepper and red grape 'cherry' tomatoes, buttermilk and peanut butter. As you now know, a good cook/chef can cook without following a specific recipe... even for this dish. All you have to know is what your taste buds like in terms of combinations of sweet and savory.

Another way to get used to cooking without a recipe is to cook like an artist... using color to guide you. Sometimes, that is exactly how I start out, using color to help decide what spices and how much.  Saute the onion, green pepper and tomatoes on med. heat in coconut oil, adding some red pepper flakes, garlic powder, paprika and cumin as well as either white or black pepper to taste.

Set aside the onion, pepper and tomatoes, and brown the chicken breast meat cut into chunks in the same skillet adding a drizzle of olive oil. Then return the veggies to the same skillet.

To this, add about 1/4 cup of buttermilk and 1/4 cup of heavy cream along with 1 tbs of creamy peanut butter. Stir and let simmer on low heat while you prepare a side of mashed potatoes. Once the potatoes are tender, drain and mash with butter and sour cream until thick and smooth. Ladle onto a low lipped plater, pour the chicken stew over the top and serve.

~ Tutti a Tavola

*Check out older Brainy posts or Brainy Archives for additional stews!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Rustic Italian Sausage in Marinara over Penne!

Italian food stirs the imagination...

This dish is so awesomely delicious that you can imagine never eating anything else for the rest of your life. The key is in the sausage. Quality Italian sausage is best bought from the local deli or butcher and it should be 'rustic' as in meaty... not overly seasoned; no fennel. The other key aspect regarding the sausage is that the casing is excellent quality; you don't want it to be rubbery or chewy.

Besides really good Italian sausage, you will need: black olives, one med. red pepper (roasted) one large onion, and penne pasta.  To get started, saute the onion and pepper 'chopped' in olive oil until browned on the edges. Have your sausage cut into bite sized chunks or crumbled. Add to the skillet with the onion and pepper pushing them aside while you brown the sausage.

Bring back in the onion and pepper covering the sausage while you open a can of crushed Red Gold tomatoes unless of course you have either fresh garden tomatoes to use and one handful of black olives. Generously, sprinkle in dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano. Stir and cover, let this simmer on med heat while you prepare the pasta; simmering the sauce for a good 25 min.

Add the penne pasta to salted boiling water. Once tender, drain and ladle onto a serving plate and or bowl. Pour out the hot bubbly Italian sausage sauce onto the pasta and serve.

Put on the Parmesan... ~ Tutti a Tavola!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Dumplings are a World Food!

Dumplings are simple, filling and frugal... no wonder you can find them everywhere either as mounds of fluff, globs of gooey goodness or as a lazy pierogi, or gnocchi...
For light fluffy dumplings, all one has to do is follow the recipe on a box of Bisquick or make one's own by using 1 cup of any pancake mix to 1/2 cup of regular flour, buttermilk and one egg.  If you want to have them more fluffy, skip the egg; and less fluffy, add more regular flour and another egg.

As for the ole fashioned little stones, the kind that stick to your ribs, here is the recipe: dumpling mixture: 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. Since its consistency that you are after, you may find that your dough is either too creamy or too stiff. If too creamy, then add more flour. If its too thick, dilute with cold water, slowly... even drip by drip!

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. Lastly, the key to good dumplings is to drop the dough into a boiling stew of beef or chicken, cover and let them cook.

Ask your grandmother or neighbor.... everybody has a dumpling recipe somewhere!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

World Foods ~ Beet Root Soup from Poland!

In eastern Europe, cooking frugally with full flavor is an everyday activity inasmuch as it is for special occasion. Beet root soup is a good example because it is hearty and full of flavor that comes from fresh beet root cooked and added to beef stock creating a rich soup that will impress any guest.

Begin by starting with beef stock - 4/5cups poured into a large stock pot. To that, add one whole onion chopped sauteed in butter or olive oil or even beef fat as that would be the traditional means for cooking the chopped onion.

Once the onion is browned on the edges, add it to the beef stock. Next, drop in a pinch of salt along with a mix of dried herbs: rosemary, oregano and mint. 

Lastly, wash and peel two large fresh beet root cut into chunks or shredded to be added directly to the beef stock with onion.  Cover and simmer for 2 hours on low heat. Serve along with a rolled pancake filled with hot ground meat and or a side of blood sausage.

* a richer flavor will come through if you prepare the stock the day before...

~Tutti a Tavola!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Tomato infused Tagliatelle with Creamy Alfredo Sauce and Scalloped Parsnhips

Simple Alfredo, with root veggies... of course! It was my grandfather who showed me how to find parsnips in the wild. They have a nutty flavor when sauteed.

For this dish, you will need: boneless, skinless chicken breasts, one whole onion, tomato infused Fettuccine or Tagliatelle pasta, heavy cream, sour cream, Parmesan cheese and, 2 parsnips.

To begin, saute on med. heat one chopped onion, boneless thin sliced chicken breasts strips in 4-5 tbs olive oil, 2 tbs butter, and seasonings: garlic powder (organic), sea salt, and fresh dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano.*You can crumble up already cooked chicken breasts instead of the uncooked chicken strips; that is, if you have some left over from yesterday's roast chicken i.e.

Once the onion and chicken breasts are fully cooked and a little crispy brown on the edges, add 1/2 cup of heavy cream, and one dollop of sour cream as well as a generous sprinkle of Parmesan or use 1/2 cup of fresh grated. Cover and let simmer on low heat while you prepare the parsnips and pasta.

As for the parsnips, wash and then peel away (using a potato peeler) the skin until you see a nice white root. Next, shave the parsnips with the peeler into thin scallops; then in a separate smaller skillet brown in a drizzle of olive oil and a pat of butter until just slightly tender.

Set, the parsnip shavings aside and start the water for the pasta, once it boils, add a pinch of salt and then the pasta, stirring occasionally.When the pasta is tender, drain and ladle onto a low lipped serving platter. Pour out your creamy chicken Alfredo sauce, top with the sauteed parsnip shavings and call everyone to dinner...and don't forget the Parmesan!

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Cooking for Yourself Relieves Stress...

If you are facing stressful times (or displaced by recent events) then cooking for yourself can help you overcome stress and uncertainty. How? Cooking helps you feel like you have more control of not only your caloric intake but also your general health, as explained by Clay Routledge, Ph.D. of Psychology Today.

And, even if you are not facing stressful times, cooking at home saves money, its healthier... how? Once you begin to cook for yourself you will make better food choices and thus you will use healthy ingredients at home. Soon, you will start to feel better; mentally and physically. 

Routledge describes a greater sense of purpose and energy that people feel once they take control of their diets. Ultimately, when it comes to cooking for yourself, just have fun with it ...that's always been the Brainy Gourmet's advice. You're the product of your habits and that's what life is. So, be Brainy about it!

The best "Brainy Gourmet" way to get cooking, to relieve stress and get healthy, is to fill a large pot of water, drop in a few pieces of chicken, (or whole), one onion, a couple of carrots and a dash of salt and you have ~ Chicken soup that can feed up to ten people!

Source ~

*If you are among those fairing well and considering helping displaced persons wherever they are, pass on this helpful and meaningful information. You will give them more than just a meal for one night! Along with the information above, you might share a bag of groceries so that they can get cooking.

Friday, September 15, 2017

TGIF ~ From Rome with Love!

If you could go to Rome for your Friday night 'eat out'; which would you order?

Eggplant Parmesan...

Or, Chicken with Penne in Creamy tomato sauce...

Or a Creamy Fettuccine Alfredo...

And, the cheese... as much as you like!

~ Tutti a Tavola!

*All dishes can be found on the Brainy Gourmet Webpage in Brainy Archives -!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Being Brainy with Raclette ~ A Visit to the French Swiss Border!

Along the French Swiss border, one can clearly notice the local preference for cooking with Raclette. Though traditionally Swiss, this semi-hard cow's milk cheese is most commonly used for cooking and or melting on both sides of the border and definitely not for slicing .

The smell is pungent, the taste is strong and yet also buttery. It all sounds wildly European. That is why this cheese is great for cooking. Looking into my fridge, there was a small amount left of the Raclette fondue. And, I had left over pasta and cooked chicken breasts as well. On the fresh side, there was a package of crisp green asparagus and some lovely Bavarian mushrooms.

To begin, on med heat I sauteed chopped onion in olive oil and 1 tbs of fresh creamy butter sprinkled with dried herbs. I then pushed the onion aside in the skillet and on high heat seared strips of chicken breasts (skinless/boneless). I reintroduced the onion, reduced the heat and added the left over Raclette along with 1 1/2 cup of heavy cream.

To that... the left over pasta and another tbs of butter then covering to let simmer while I prepared the mushrooms and asparagus... washing and slicing/cutting off ends. A quick stir fry in butter until browning around the edges appeared and then poured in about 2 tbs of chicken stock, turning up the heat to high for 4 min.

 ~ Tutti a Tavola!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Good ole Home Cooking ~ Chicken and Dumplings!

What's with the pic? It is what it is... simple! You don't need a fancy kitchen for good ole home cooking; i.e. chicken and dumplings. You just need a skillet and hot stove!

Start with thawed out or fresh bought 'skin on, bone in' chicken thighs. On high heat, sear the skin side down in olive oil and fresh dried herbs along with a splash of garlic powder, red pepper flakes and black pepper. Turn the thighs over and let the underside brown a bit too. Then cover for 4 min on med heat. Next, add 1/2 cup of chicken stock, cover again and let simmer for 24-30 min on low heat.

As for preparing the dumpling mixture: 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. If you think it is either too creamy or too stiff, then add either more flour or add a tbs or two vinegar diluted with cold water.

It should look like this -

To this add a sprinkle of dried herbs. Remove the chicken from the skillet, leaving all liquid. Turn up the heat until the juices becomes a rolling boil and then drop in your dumpling mixture (a serving spoonful at a time). As they puff and cook, they will absorb the liquid which is good but if they start to stick to the skillet, add a dollop of butter and drop or two of cold water. When they have fluffed up nicely, put the chicken thighs back, cover with the heat off until you are ready to serve!

Prepare the table!

~ Tutti a Tavola!