Fresh, fast and frugal!

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Brainy Szechwan with Rice Noodles...

Who thinks chili peppers when someone mentions Asian food? Some might, but most don't. Szechwan is a style of Chinese cuisine originating from Sichuan Province. It has bold flavors, particularly the pungency and spiciness resulting from liberal use of garlic and chili peppers.

This is certainly a dish to heat of the middle of the week. To prepare, you will need: preferred meat of choice (cut into strips) or ground turkey made into meatballs. One onion, one roasted red chili pepper (alternative-jarred roasted red pepper), one green zucchini or any green veggie. To begin, in a large skillet, saute chop onion and roasted red pepper in olive oil or sesame oil if you have. Toss in julienne sliced zucchini and stir until just browned on all edges; set aside.

Since ground turkey was used, a meatball mixture was made in advance (see meatball ingredients on previous blog posts). In the same skillet, brown the meatballs on all sides. Pour in about 1/2 cup beef or veggie soup stock. Let this bubble up covered.

Once the stock reduces, add 2 tbs of soy sauce, 1/2 half tsp of ground ginger, 1/2 tsp of garlic powder and the same of chili powder. For extra zing, 1 tbs of molasses or honey with a either a squeeze of lime juice or lemon.  An alternative to the citrus is to use apple cider vinegar. Let this simmer while you prepare the rice noodles.

Bring back the sauteed veggies and allow to sizzle until the sides begin to get sticky. Serve on top of the rice noodles...

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

South Asian Cuisine... Brainy Butter Murgh 'Makhani'!

Eat at home as if you just stepped out for an Indian dinner extravaganza....

This dish is a favorite in the Brainy Gourmet kitchen. Why? Because it is so simple and delicious. Basically, all you will need are: skinless/boneless chicken breasts, onion, garlic, heavy cream/plain yogurt, tomato paste, a couple of tasty spices such as cumin, coriander and paprika and also some dried herbs like mint and rosemary.

Melt on med heat in a deep skillet 2 tbs of olive oil and 1/2 stick of butter. Next, saute in the oil and butter whole one chopped onion and one glove garlic until browned, then add cubed chicken breast meat, continue to cook on med heat.

To this add 1 cup of heavy cream, 1/4 cup of yogurt, one small can of tomato paste and your spices/herbs (using as much as you like; recommending 1 tsp of each). Cover and let simmer on low (30-40min) while you prepare sides. My family likes to eat this with potatoes and or buckwheat groats. You can also serve as a side a hearty dark green winter squash which is really nice baked and then mix with mashed potatoes... one way to get the kids to eat a good for them vegetable medley.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Monday, February 25, 2019

Brainy North African Spicy Red Chicken...

North Africa is exotic and full of flavor. That is why, the secret to this dish is to make it spicy! The brainy gourmet follows a recipe that is similar to an Ethiopian chicken dish using the spice mix called Berbere - red pepper, chili powder, cinnamon, garlic, ginger and coriander; though some use cloves and or nutmeg. What should be understood is this - Ethiopian cuisine is known for very spicy meat dishes.

To begin: you will need to buy as many boneless/skinless chicken breasts per guest. Take a glass baking dish and drizzle generously over the breasts: lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil; plus a dash of chili powder, garlic powder, red pepper, cinnamon, ginger and coriander. Marinate for at least 30-40 minutes.

Next, saute chopped onion in olive oil and butter until browned. Then, while stirring, add a tsp of chicken stock paste and 1 tbs of tomato paste along with a splash of dry red wine. You should have a thick tomato onion paste to spread over the chicken breasts.

Turn the oven to 350 and when it is ready, pop in the chicken and bake for 35-40 minutes depending on the number of breasts. When that time is up, remove the chicken and place on a low lipped serving plate. There will be a rich red sauce in the baking dish. You can add to that yogurt or buttermilk to thicken - making a kind of gravy. Serve with couscous or mashed potatoes.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Friday, February 22, 2019

Lean Meat and Potatoes... Eat like a King!

Meat and potatoes... sounds like farmhand food but its not. Its a meal fit for royalty. Treat your family to a royal dinner.

The loin is the best cut and the best loin is lean and boneless with just a little fat on one side. You can spit (1lb to 1lb and half) the loin down the middle and use those pieces cut into medallions for two different meals which you have already seen and read about on the Brainy Gourmet blog. But, for this dish, use the entire loin. Whenever, I make this dish, I relish in the thought of a royal medieval buffet.

To begin, heat the oven to 375 (to be reduced later on to 350). Take the loin and poke holes all around. Shake sea salt on all sides and lay it down into a glass dish of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, top with generously with dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano.

Let it rest like that for about 15 min., while the oven heats up. Cover the loin with foil and pop in the oven at 375 for about 15-18 min. After that time, pour in 3/4 cup of beef stock, and 1/2 cup of teriyaki sauce. Add to that, a few handfuls of dried plums and sun dried tomatoes (from the jar is ok). Remove the foil cover and return to the oven at 350 until the meat thermometer tells you its down, just slightly pink inside, mostly white meat.

Serve with potatoes, green beans and or a salad.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Creamy Asiago Chicken with Sun dried Tomatoes...

Asiago is a marvelous village situated on a high plateau in the Veneto region of Northern Italy. Its knows as the 'Altopiano di Asiago' (the Asiago upland) whereat some locals still speak their own language, the so-called “Cimbro” – similar to the German. The Asiago region is the origin of Asiago cheese; and, its my family's ancestral home as well as being the home to many relatives yet today.

For this dish, you will need: chicken breasts (as many per guest) cut into strips, one red onion, sun dried tomatoes jarred in olive oil (alternative: use packaged variety reconstituted in hot water, drained and left to sit in olive oil for at least 30 min prior to cooking);fettuccine pasta noodles, heavy cream, chicken stock and of course...shaved Asiago parmesan cheese.

To begin, saute chopped red onion in olive oil until browned; push aside the onion so that you can lay in the chicken strips to brown. Next, add to the chicken and onion: diced sun dried tomatoes, dried herbs and 1/2 cup of chicken stock. Allow this to bubble on high heat reducing some of the stock. Then add 1/2 cup of heavy cream while reducing the heat to low. Let simmer on low while you prepare the pasta to boil.

Once the pasta is tender, drain and ladle onto a low lipped serving plate topping with the creamy chicken and tomato sauce. Generously, shave as much Asiago cheese as you like on top and a few sprinkles of dried herbs. 

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Monday, February 18, 2019

Brainy Spiced Moroccan 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 "Brainy 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!

Moroccan Chicken Stew ~ Brainy Gourmet Style...

Stews... you can find them just about anywhere!

If you know anything about spices, then you know that cumin is a popular ingredient in Middle Eastern, Asian, Mediterranean (including Morocco) 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 gourmet 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

Friday, February 15, 2019

A Brainy Gourmet Taste of North Africa...

North African cuisine is as hot as it is hot in the Sahara desert and most always cooked in a tajine. A lot of people don't know that the top of portion of the African Continent is the Sahara desert; and, the fact is... its an area as large as the United States.

Since, I am fascinated by that part of the world, I want to share some history. North African identity is complicated. As far as native Arabic speaking North Africans go (majority of the Maghrebi population) they are linguistically, culturally and politically Arab yes. 

At the same time, one cannot overlook European interests. North Africa had in various regions and countries the presence of Greek, British, Germans, and Italians as well as the strong French influence which introduced the French language as an attempt to reject any other. As far as food influences, it seems the desert prevailed and its hot.

For this dish, you will need to have: skinless, boneless chicken thighs, one glove of garlic, one purple or sweet Spanish onion, jarred roasted red bell pepper, red chili peppers or red pepper flakes, coriander and cumin. Also, you will need: Kalamata olives, diced tomatoes, yogurt and potatoes.

Saute chopped onion in 3 tbs olive oil and 1 tbs coconut oil with a pat of butter. Once browned on the edges, push aside in the skillet and add the chicken thighs (marinated in fresh squeezed lemon juice for 15 min prior to cooking).

Next, add half a jar of roasted red peppers, half a med. can of diced tomatoes, 1/2 cup of plain Greek yogurt, Kalamata olives (as many as you like), 1 tsp of red pepper flakes (or more if you like hot), 1/2 tsp cumin, 1 tsp of coriander and some dried rosemary and mint.

As this mixture simmers, boil several 'whole' potatoes and a few green beans as a side.

*serve with additional yogurt to spoon on...

~ Tutti a Tavola!

*Source ~

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Happy Valentine's Day ~ Stay Home and Dine like Royalty!


Tomato Soup with Meatball and Pasta ~
Lemony Chicken Picata ~
 Malaysian Pork with Linguine ~
 Louisiana Andouille Sausage on Linguine ~
 Mediterranean Chicken ~
 Louisiana Shrimp Jambalaya ~
Spicy Thai Pork on Rice ~

*Check past blogs (see archives) for dinner ideas...

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Thai Chicken in Peanut Sauce on Linguine...

The Brainy Gourmet has never been about brainy ideas when it comes to dinner time. Its about being brainy with what you have and knowing what you like and what you can afford to do; that's frugality which never lacks in flavor!

Anything and everything is good on a bed of linguine. This pasta is not as wide as fettuccine or tagliatelle.  Its something in between.

For this dish, you will need linguine pasta, boneless, skinless chicken thighs, sun dried tomatoes, hand stirred peanut butter and heavy cream or coconut milk if you have. To begin, saute chopped onion in olive oil and a pat of butter until brown on the edges.

Push aside and sear the thighs on all sides. Bring back the onion and simmer adding 1/4 cup of chicken stock. Next, add 1/3 cup of hand stirred peanut butter and 1/4 cup of heavy cream... tossing in several chopped/diced sun dried tomatoes and a handful of dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano.

While this simmers, boil the linguine and prepare any other side you want to serve.  Before you serve, drizzle in a squeeze of lemon juice and a shake of red pepper flakes along with a drop of soy sauce.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Apricots as a side dish... really!

Fresh and dried fruits are great flavor enhancers to any dish. We don't often think of dried apricots or fresh apricots as a side dish... let alone part of the main course.

Whatever main course you prepare, consider a side of apricots or even dried plums. They can be cooked on the side or in the same skillet/dish/pan.

Mark's Asian chicken with apricots and seared flank steak with apricots...

~ Tutti a Tavola!