Fresh, fast and frugal!

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Simple Brainy Good Food...Pierogi


So, simple and so so tasty. I learned to make this dish while I was in Europe. Pierogi is basically a filled dumpling made from flour and generally contains a potato/cheese filling; and very easy to prepare.

To begin, you will need to buy a package of potato/cheese pierogi unless are make your own from scratch. For those who just want to be brainy simple, buy the frozen or fresh made at the deli counter.

To cook, just boil in salted water until tender. Serve with lots of sour cream or if you fried them, top with a few crispy bacon pieces or crumbles and a little sour cream on the side!

Other ways to serve these dumplings are fried or sauteed... 

~ Tutti a Tavola!


*In the above photo, the pierogi are served with cooked and crumbled breakfast sausage; you can also use unseasoned ground pork and or bacon.


Thursday, October 22, 2020

Brainy Poulet a la Bonne Femme...


When you consider the ingredients, Poulet a la Bonne Femme and Chicken Vesuvio are pretty much the same dish. Why not... after all, when it comes to simple home cooked meals, families in Europe used similar ingredients when conditions called for rich sustenance and frugality.

With that said, this dish can be made in a variety of ways including with mushrooms but always with bacon, onion, peas and potatoes.

For this dish you will need: chicken thighs (as many per person as you will serve) with the skin on and bone in, potatoes, onion, bacon, peas and onion. To begin, saute the onion along with the bacon until browned and crispy. Remove the onion and bacon from the skillet, saving the bacon grease.  Add some olive oil to the skillet and fry the chicken thighs skin side down and do the same for the other side.

Remove the thighs from the skillet and place in a glass baking dish to be kept warm in the oven at 275 while you saute the potatoes (washed and diced) in the same skillet; adding, 2 tbs of butter. Next, toss in the peas (frozen or fresh) along with a dash of salt, black or white pepper, garlic powder and dried herbs of your choice.

 Bring back the onion and bacon...

Bring the chicken back into the mix along with 1 cup of beef stock and 1/2 cup of beer...let simmer!

Serve with a good Burgundy or Chianti...

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Early Fall Harvest ~ Brainy Beef Burgundy...

"Beef Burgundy", is a beef stew braised in red wine, often red Burgundy, along with beef stock, generally flavored with carrots, onions, garlic, pearl onions, and mushrooms. Its a traditional countryside but elegant French dish.

The simplest recipe... if you need one is an old Julia Child recipe. She referred to it as the best beef dish ever concocted by man. And, it just so happens to be the one I cook with memorized years ago and simple enough that anyone who loves to cook could come up with it.

3/4 lb boneless beef sirloin steak, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1/4 teaspoon pepper 
2 tablespoons olive oil 
1 cup sliced mushrooms 

You can cook the beef and mushrooms in a skillet on the stove while you roast in a glass dish in the oven delicious fall harvested carrots, asparagus and potatoes.  

Sear the beef cubes in olive oil, add the salt and pepper and dried herbs of your liking... I recommend rosemary, mint, oregano and thyme. Add to that, 1/3 cup of beef stock and 1/4 cup of red wine. You may wish to add a little more of either stock or wine depending on your preferences.  

I like to cook the mushrooms off side in another skillet in butter and cream with a dash of red wine and dried herbs; same as above. Lastly, adding them to the beef just before serving.  

~ Tutti a Tavola!



Monday, September 28, 2020

Brainy Italian Veal Scallopini...


Veal is very young beef; and, for that reason, it is high with vitamin B. This vitamin is essential for energy and healthy metabolism. Other than vitamin B, veal is a rich source of vitamin B-12, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid. People who like to consume beef on regular basis can easily switch to a smarter and healthy choice with veal.

For this dish, you will need: 1-2 lbs of boneless veal (as much as you think your guests will eat), dried bread crumbs, beef stock, jarred roasted red peppers, onion, jarred capers and angel hair pasta.

To begin, pound the veal cutlets with a meat tenderizing hammer. Next, pat the veal with herb infused bread crumbs, sprinkle with garlic powder and saute in a blend of olive oil and creamy butter; browning each cutlet on both sides.

Next, saute in olive oil, diced jarred roasted red pepper (optional) and fresh chopped onion in a separate skillet; once browned add to the veal. Lastly, pour in as much as you like of the jarred capers and 1/2 cup of beef stock. Let this simmer covered on low heat while you prepare an angel hair pasta.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Northern Italians love Polenta... Its Brainy Delicious!

Polenta is made from cornmeal. It can be eaten as a hot mush, or chilled then fried as a thick slice of yumminess. Northern Italians like polenta very much. It is often served with mild Italian sausage or a thin rolled braised beef called Braciole.

For this dish, you will need to have: olive oil, one onion, yellow cornmeal, chicken stock, Parmesan and butter.

Polenta -
2 tbs of olive oil
one whole onion chopped
2-4 cups of chicken stock
2 cups of yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan
4 tbs of butter or 1/2 stick

Heat oven to 350F. On the stove, saute your onion in the olive oil in a deep oven safe pot until browned on all edges; then, add your stock (use 2 for thicker) and 5 cups of water. Heat to boiling on high and slowly whisk in the cornmeal. Then cover and bake for 45-50 min.with an occasional stir - about every 10 min. Remove from the oven, add the butter and Parmesan for one last stir, then let it set covered.


Spoon the creamy polenta onto a plate, making a kind of thick pancake. Let is sit for a min or two. Then top with a sausage and a lite creamy tomato sauce. Or just serve and eat the sausage with the polenta alone... perhaps with only a pat of butter or cheese on the side.

 ~ Tutti a Tavola!  

Saturday, September 19, 2020

French Swiss Border Cusine... Brainy Chicken Raclette!


Along the French Swiss border one can find a blending of culture through language and food; Swiss French is a variety of French spoken in the French-speaking area of Switzerland known as Romandy. As for food, especially cheese, one has to note the preference for cooking with Raclette. Though traditionally Swiss, this semi-hard cow's milk cheese most commonly used for melting is often used by both sides of the border.

The smell is pungent, the taste is strong and yet also buttery. It all sounds wildly European, but this cheese is great for cooking, melting and can be bought here too. This dish like many or any of the brainy gourmet's is frugal as well as delicious. I just so happen to make a raclette fondue the other night using a very good raclette bought just over the border in Wisconsin. Looking into my fridge, there was a small amount left of the raclette fondue. And, I had left over pasta as well. On the fresh side, I had crisp green asparagus and 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!

Monday, September 14, 2020

Brainy Meatball Sandwich... oh sammie!

Stop over for homemade...if you owned your 'own' mom and pop, this is what it would be like!

This dish can be a left over opportunity. So, if you did not eat all the meatballs from yesterday's spaghetti and meatball dinner, then here is your chance to re-invent.  

You will need:
1 package or bag of sub sandwich rolls
1 Can tomato paste
4 cloves of fresh garlic
Dried rosemary
Olive Oil
Sea salt

To begin, in a skillet, pour in 3 tbs of olive oil and add your left over meatballs to warm using med. flame /heat. Take a small can of tomato past from the pantry, open and add. Using that can, fill with water and also add to the skillet. Sprinkle in some dried rosemary. Let this simmer on low heat in the skillet, covered.

Turn on the oven to F350. Slice open (pull apart) your sub sandwich rolls and butter generously both sides of the opened rolls, placing on a perforated pizza pan. Next, top the buttered rolls with peeled and diced garlic cloves. Then, lay over the garlic/buttered sub rolls slices of mozzarella cheese and sprinkle on a bit of sea salt and rosemary to top them off.

When the oven temp is at 350, put the rolls, on the pizza pan, into the oven and toast (this can also be done in a toaster oven). By the time the rolls are ready -toasted, the meatballs should be bubbling along, remove from the stove, ladle in three or four meatballs per sandwich and it is time to serve.  Shake on the Parmesan and Enjoy!

*to make meatballs fresh, from scratch, then follow the meatball instructions from past blogs... just type in the search box - meatballs!

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Chili... some like it hot, hot and hotter

A good pot of chili is a no beaner at the Brainy Gourmet's. When it comes to beans in your chili either you love em or you don't. This recipe is similar to a Tex-Mex but true Tex-Mex chili does not have tomatoes...  

Texas chili is unique from other chilis in that it does not contain beans or tomato sauce, or any tomato product. It is made primarily of meat and a thick and flavor chili paste made from dried peppers. It is more akin to a thick and hearty beef stew that most chilis with a focus on chili pepper flavor.

For this Brainy version you will need: chopped red pepper and onion sauteed in olive oil in a large pot. After the pepper and onion have cooked down, add the ground beef 'chuck' crumbled in. Stir on high heat.

Next, reduce the heat and add 1 full brimming cup of beef stock and one small can of tomato paste. As for spices, use as much chili powder and red chili pepper flakes as anybody in my/your house can stand. Also, add a dash of salt and Italian dried herbs (including mint); and if you  dare, add a dash of garlic powder and cinnamon.

Once you get that all mixed up in the pot, let it simmer.  If it is thicker than you like, add more beef stock or red wine or a little of both. Let it simmer for at least 45 min to an hour.

*Break out the grated cheese, hot sauce and crackers...

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Brainy Moroccan Chicken Stew... in a skillet!

Stews... you can find them just about anywhere and make them in just about any cookware; even a skillet!

As you might well know, the main Moroccan dish most people are familiar with is couscous (tiny pasta made of wheat or barley); beef is the most commonly eaten red meat in Morocco. Chicken is also stewed or roasted.

For this dish, you will need skinless, boneless chicken breasts, one onion, one green pepper and red grape 'cherry' tomatoes, buttermilk and peanut butter.

Begin this dish by sauteing the onion, green pepper and tomatoes on med. heat in coconut oil, adding some red pepper flakes, garlic powder, ginger, paprika and cumin as well as either white or black pepper to taste. A lot of spicy Moroccan recipes make use of a lot of ginger, cumin, and turmeric.

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 couscous or mashed potatoes. Once the couscous is ready and or when the potatoes are tender, drain and mash with butter and sour cream until thick and smooth. Ladle onto a low lipped plate, pour the chicken stew over the top and serve.

~ Tutti a Tavola

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Good wine makes the heart glad...

He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, And vegetation for the labor of man, So that he may bring forth food from the earth, And wine which makes man's heart glad, oil to make his face shine, and bread which sustains man's heart ~ Psalm 104:14

The quaint town of Valtice is located in the Czech Republic. Valtice is also a historic town situated at the border area with Austria; it is a place where history meets wine making traditions.

The family of Lichtensteins made Valtice into their residence and there developed a 'viticulture'.  Viticulture (from the Latin word for vine) or winegrowing (wine growing) is the cultivation and harvesting of grapes. ... Viticulturists are often intimately involved with winemakers, because vineyard management and the resulting grape characteristics provide the basis from which winemaking can begin.

Today vine growing, wine making and the presentation of wine are going through a Renaissance period. Vine growing areas and individual villages compete in attracting the connoisseurs and lovers of wine.

Valtice is no exception and so some time ago the town accepted the title “The Capital of Wine”. Valtice accounts for the second largest area of vineyards in the Czech Republic.

On a beautiful autumn day, you can try all the reds and whites and rose wines your heart desires. Wine, when properly produced... naturally, in good earth by caring and qualified hands, can be considered an important consumption in proper amounts complimenting any 'brainy gourmet' meal. There have been numerous studies confirming that wine has many health benefits. So, have a glass and be glad for it!

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Brainy Sicilian Garlic Chicken with Rosemary...

Don't become an angry Italian... 

Well, the only time any Italian gets angry is when dinner is late to the table! And, a good Italian Momma knows what to do... "Tutti a Tavola!" Just call everyone to the table.

And, who wouldn't become filled with happiness when Momma or Pappa or Nona puts Sicilian Garlic Chicken with Rosemary on the table... marinated in lemon juice served with roasted eggplant and or in this case....served with mashed potatoes infused with Parmesan cheese and garlic. Also, pasta topped with a red sauce can be served with this delicious chicken dish.

For this dish 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.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

The taste of Italy...Pork Tenderloin with Green Olives!

Oh the taste of Italy...Do you know that Tuscany grows four main types of olives: Frantoio, Moraiolo, Leccino, and Pendolino. Frantoio is a Tuscan native, but because of its high demand, it is now grown all over Italy, and in parts of Australia, North Africa, and California.

Now, for a good 'cooking' green olive, the Castelvetranos are very tasty. They are bright-green olives grown in sunny Sicily. 

For this dish you will need: one and half pound pork tenderloin, vermicelli pasta or linguine, beef stock, jarred sun dried tomatoes, green olives, dried plums, heavy cream, garlic, purple onion and dried herbs.

To begin, chop and saute one whole onion in olive oil along with one clove of minced garlic. As the onion browns, thickly slice the pork loin into medallions. Push aside the onion and garlic to lay in the medallions... browning on both sides.

Next, pour in 1/4 cup of beef stock and then add as many sun dried tomatoes and dried plums as you like and 1/4 of green olives. Sprinkle in the dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano. If you are brave, also sprinkle in some red pepper flakes, garlic powder and paprika.

Lastly, spoon in 4 tbs of heavy cream and simmer while you cook the vermicelli...

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Brainy Eggplant 'aubergine' Lasagna...

Did you know that the name "eggplant" was given to the fruit by Europeans sometime in the mid-18th century; originating in Naples? The size and shape of the fruit was similar to that of a goose egg. Back then, the eggplant was more white and yellow than today's purple-skinned fruit giving it a closer comparison to an egg...hence, eggplant!

For this eggplant dish you will need: at least two large ripe eggplant, one purple onion, bread crumbs, canned crushed tomatoes, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.

To begin, chop onion and saute in skillet until browned, then remove and set aside. Next, wash and slice the eggplant length wise. Simmer in shallow amount of soup stock (chicken or beef) in the same skillet used for the onion. Likely, you won't get all the slices in at once so just do three or four at a time. Doing this, softens the eggplant and cuts down baking time in the oven.

Layer in a glass baking dish in this order: olive oil to coat the dish, eggplant slices, olive oil drizzle, sprinkle of bread crumbs, spoon of tomato sauce to each slice, grated cheese and dash of dried herbs (rosemary, mint and oregano). Put only one layer of onion... just before top layer if you like onion.

*The eggplant can be cut into circle medallions instead of length wise and topped with fresh tomatoes... Or top off with sauce and grated cheese... bake on 375 until bubbling!

Serve with your choice of meat or salad... or just by itself!

 ~ Tutti a Tavola!

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