Fresh, fast and frugal!

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Italian Sausage with Eggplant and Penne...

You can read about numerous recipes for Italian sausage mixes and dishes. And, I can tell you about some and one in particular. When it comes to Italian sausage mixes, I am not a fan of fennel in the mix. Why? Because, I don't like fennel. It has the taste of anise or 'licorice' which for me is too medicinal.

Often, it is not easy to find Italian sausage that does not contain fennel. Also, when it comes to getting good Italian sausage (meaty but not spongy), one has to be careful that the sausage does not have a strong order. Pork that has gone bad will smell funny and be sticky to touch.

Sadly, on occasion, you can get burned buying bad pork even when buying from your favorite supermarket. Best is to buy from a butcher counter where you can ask to smell and ask for sausage that does not contain fennel. You might be frowned at but its better to be a happy shopper than angry Italian.

For this particular dish, saute chopped onion in olive oil until browned. Push aside the onion to add a fresh medium sized diced eggplant; then, brown as well. Remove the onion and eggplant while you brown the sausage in the same skillet.

Return the onion and eggplant, turning up the heat to add 1/2 cup of tomato soup liquid (if you have left over) or a vegetable soup stock. Let simmer while you prepare the pasta or warm up any left over pasta you happen to have.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Brainy Bistro Beef Stroganoff...

When Beef Stroganoff is served, you think: rich and creamy and romantically delicious! You can even imagine that you are at some far off tucked in European bistro...

For this dish you will need: quality cuts of beef (stew meat or thick sirloin cut into chunks), one medium onion, dark brown Bavarian mushrooms, beef stock, heavy cream and wide egg noodle pasta - Tagliatelle.

To begin, marinate the beef in balsamic vinegar and pink Himalayan salt for 30-40 min. When that time is nearly finished, in a large skillet saute the onion in olive oil until dark brown on the edges.

Remove from skillet and in the same skillet, brown the mushrooms, adding 3 tbs of butter. Once the mushrooms are darker and tender, remove from the skillet putting them aside with the onion and sear the beef in chunks (drained) in the same skillet, adding a drizzle of olive oil.

Bring back into the skillet the onion and mushrooms, pour in about 3 tbs of beef stock, a half shot of either white wine or vodka, stirring on high heat. Then turning down the heat, add the heavy cream about 1/2 cup, cover and let simmer while you prepare the pasta and a side of blackened asparagus.

Boil the pasta in a large pot of salted water until tender, drain and ladle onto a low lipped plater. The asparagus should be flash stir fried in olive oil, then cover to simmer on medium high adding 1 tbs of beef stock.

 Serve all together, start the music and pour the wine...

~ Tutti a Tavola

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Can Food look like Art and Still be Delicious?


Spring in Tuscany beckons 'artistic arrangements' and this calls for delicate Broiled Italian Chicken with stewed Italian tomatoes in olive oil and olives served with mushroom stuffed ravioli.

To begin: broil or bake in covered glass baking dish: boneless, skinless chicken breasts (as many per guest), stewed Italian tomatoes with olive oil and black olives sprinkled with garlic powder and topped with dried herbs: rosemary, oregano and mint or thyme. Broil or bake in the oven until chicken is white and juices are bubbling. Last 5 min, broil or bake uncovered.

Serve with mushroom stuffed ravioli and fresh basil pesto on the side.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Brainy Dinner by the Beach...

Tuna steaks are great whether grilled by the beach if you like or seared in the skillet or broiled in your oven broiler at home...

For this dish you will need: as many tuna steaks as guests, heavy cream, butter, fresh dill sprigs, chive and rosemary. To begin, dress your skillet with several drops or more of olive oil or coconut oil depending on your dietary choices. If you are going to sear up to 6-8 steaks, use a bit more oil and a very large skillet.

Once the steaks are seared on both sides, turn down the heat and add 1/4 cup of heavy cream if you like or just 2-3 tbs of butter... either or its your choice.

Add your herbs (try a bit of tarragon, crush coriander along with oregano and rosemary) and let simmer uncovered while you prepare a side dish which can be anything you prefer: pasta, a fresh green salad or stir fried vegetables.*Note, do not let the steaks get dried out as uncovering will reduce juices. You can always remove from heat, set aside as you prepare your sides.

Put fresh lime or lemon halves on the table, a good squeeze over the tuna adds zest and zing.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Friday, April 5, 2019

Friday Night Flank Steak Fajitas...

As quick as a wink...

Chop green, yellow, orange or ripe red pepper (s), red 'purple' onion and green zucchini to brown in a hot skillet of olive oil. Once browned, remove and keep warm. Sear strips of (marinated) flank steak until the juices run. Grate cheddar cheese, put out a lime, an avocado, arugula and sour cream.

Heat a tortilla and serve yourself...

~ Tutti a Tavola!

*flank steak marinate: balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, olive oil, lime juice and sea salt...

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Brainy Tomato Soup with Homemade Polish Sausage...

Well, you might think that the Brainy Guy is cooking tonight since he knows all there is to know about homemade tomato soup with Polish sausage. I can say I taught him everything he knows about tomato soup; the Polish sausage was his idea but it works.

Being frugal is the main aspect of being a Brainy Gourmet or a Brainy Guy (see webpage/blog). Having said that, you should expect I will be starting my tomato soup from a soup stock...using either chicken, turkey, beef or pork. Yes, even pork can make a good stock.

If I do use pork, I like to use the pork 'butt' picnic cut. It has tender meat and tasty fat; but, is really leaner than you imagine. If you have your choice stock, then just add one small tube or can of tomato paste. Its as simple as that.

So, when it comes to tomato soup, again...just stir in one small can of tomato paste, toss in some fresh dried herbs, cover, simmer on med heat for 25 min. As it bubbles away, prepare rice or any pasta that you prefer... adding separately to bowls and not the soup. This way, tonight's tomato soup can become tomorrow's Minestrone.

Oh, the sausage... baste in the oven until fully cooked; then, dice or cube and toss into each bowl. Delicious! * Note, if you like creamy style... add a dollop of sour cream and top with fresh green arugula.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Monday, April 1, 2019

Brainy Bourbon Street Glazed Pork ...

Over the years, the Brainy Gourmet has demonstrated on a number of cooking occasions how to use left over meat juices/gravies; i.e. flavoring rice, pasta, meatloaf, etc.  Today, I just so happen to have left over Swiss Steak gravy to make a delicious spicy pork loin in 'bourbon gravy'.

The braininess is that there was no recipe used, no extra ingredients. What was used? Only what was on hand and or what was left over and in the pantry.

To begin, you need to thaw or use a fresh cut 1 lb pork loin to be marinated in sea salt/olive oil/balsamic vinegar/soy sauce and garlic powder and dried herbs. After 15 min. the pork loin should seared uncovered in the oven on about 400f (using convection) for about 6-7 minutes or on the stove in a hot iron skillet.

Next, remove the loin from the oven and top it off using any left over beef or pork gravy. Then, pop back in the oven for ten min. or more (depending on your heat source: electric/gas/LP) and reduce the heat to 375/350f, cover with foil and if using a skillet cover with a lid.

As for the bourbon taste, that is really easy. Just use a 'bourbon' flavored barbecue sauce or any barbecue sauce you happen... even drizzling some over the top before serving for a final finish.

Prepare a side of baked potato and green beans...

~ Tutti a Tavola!