Fresh, fast and frugal!

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Mark's Summertime Woodfired Baked Chicken with Vermicelli Pasta...

Though the hot summer weather is upon us, you can still enjoy good oven baked chicken. In some regions of Europe, the summer kitchen is still used. It is the kitchen that is either in the basement of the main house or a small outdoor building near the main house.

The summer kitchen was and is still used during the hotter months so that the main house was/is not unnecessarily heated from the daily cooking/baking. Now, if you have central air conditioning, using the oven may generate some extra heat in the kitchen but it will not over heat the rest of the house...or just cook outdoors. We can recognize today's modern outdoor patio kitchen as yesterday's summer kitchen since it serves the same purpose.

Now, for this dish you will need to have: as many chicken breasts (bone in/skin on) per dinner guest. Garden fresh zucchini, basil pesto and vermicelli 'angel hair' pasta. Getting started: pre-heat your oven to 375f. Take a glass baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. Lay the breasts in skin side up.

Sprinkle over the top your favorite spices/seasoning. As for Mark's summertime preferences: any fruit infused cooking sherry/vinegar, garlic powder, ground  coriander, sea salt, paprika and dried herbs.

Drizzle over the top of the chicken a bit more olive oil, garnish with rosemary and or lavender and bake on 350f until the chicken is fully cooked (if you have/can use an outdoor wood fired oven then follow the instructions for that type of oven). In that cooking time, prepare any side you like. Mark's choice is garden fresh fried zucchini in butter and olive oil with a tsp of basil pesto served with a delicate vermicelli pasta.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Friday, July 24, 2020

Mark's 'well' Seasoned Pork Loin....

Dinner at home please...Mark says whatever you cook, its going to be good!

Good pork loin is not too hard to find these days even given the current crisis event. Our health and well being requires that we eat good food and its still readily available. Some one said that to me once not so long ago that they don't have any good food near them; there's only an Aldi. I told them that I shop there for most of my groceries.

Here in the US, we can count on our food products being of good quality. And, good food is not expensive. Sometimes, we just don't consider that a package of chicken, pork or beef is as much or less at times than a big bag of chips ... Doritos i.e.  Another problem is that a lot of folks just don't want to cook, don't have time or don't know how.

Cooking at home is a pleasure and relaxing and you get what you 'ordered' just the way you like it. At least that's what I appreciate about home cooking and Mark does too.

Mark's pork loin is just two ordinary 'good' ole pork loins seasoned the way Mark likes it... spicy! Mark first drenches the loin in olive oil and an apricot infused vinegar which is quite thick. If you don't have such an item then use any balsamic vinegar and a drizzle of honey.

Next, the spices. Mark uses: 1 tsp. garlic powder, 1 tsp paprika, a dash of cayenne pepper and sea salt along with dried herbs: rosemary, oregano, mint with a hint of lavender. Then pop into the oven and cook until tender and juicy... finish in the broiler for a slightly crispy top.

Prepare any side you like and prepare to enjoy!

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

From the Cajun Cafe... Brainy Fried Chicken!

Southern fried chicken is made and sold just about anywhere; but, some places have the upper hand and that especially includes homemade. 

To begin, select as many fresh chicken thighs (skin on bone in) as you will need per dinner guest. Prepare a pure buttermilk bath in a low lipped bowl and in another low lipped bowl prepare a mix of white flour along with fresh dried herbs, garlic powder, sea salt, black or white pepper and paprika... always to your taste. Some like it hot and in that regards substitute the paprika for cayenne pepper. 

Dip each piece into the buttermilk and then into the dry flour/herb/spice mix. Shake and move each coated piece to a deep 'hot' skillet of vegetable oil with a little bacon lard melted in. Fry until slightly golden brown on both sides. Continue this process until all thighs are fried.

Preheat your oven to 350. Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Place each fried piece on the cookie sheet ... fill up the sheet and place in the oven (uncovered for crispy). Lastly, prepare any side you like... maybe French fries and sun ripened garden tomatoes.

What makes this dish so Cajun? Only when you take a hot piece of fried chicken to your mouth drenched in Louisiana hot sauce. 

~ Tutti a Tavola!

From the Cajun Cafe...Brainy Style!

Once in a while, the brainy gourmet likes to go Cajun crazy in a kinda crazy way...

Cajun craziness starts like this... taking a few left overs while adding something fresh and zesty. From this week's leftovers of: angel hair pasta with tomatoes, stir fry veggies and coconut chicken, I added fresh shrimp for a dish that turned out lip smacking good... topped with crushed jalapeno and lime chips not to mention some cayenne hot sauce.

It came together rather quickly. The pasta with tomatoes was microwaved while I stir fried the shrimp in red pepper infused olive oil, garlic powder and chili powder. To that, I added the left over stir fried veggies and diced up leftover coconut chicken breasts. Once, the pasta was done, all I had to do was wait for the shrimp, chicken and veggies to get a little black crispiness gathering around the edges.

The pasta was ladled onto a low lipped serving plate and topped with the Cajun 'ratatouille'. Lastly,  crushed chips were tossed on top and a good dash of Louisiana hot sauce.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Favorite Foods in the Good ole USA...

Americans love food and they have their favorites...

We got hamburgers, pizza, fried chicken, tacos, ribs, egg rolls, sushi, and we got wings. We've even got salad as in 'salad bar'. Have you got the appetite?
What is interesting as you scroll down the list is the diversity of food in America (see link below). We notice some ethnic foods, some healthy foods (Alaskan Salmon), some quirky foods (Twinkies) and some basic foods (bread) traditional American foods (cheeseburger, apple pie and chocolate chip cookies) all of which bring us to the number one ~ Thanksgiving dinner.

...the quintessential all-American meal of turkey (roasted or deep-fried bird, or tofurkey, or that weirdly popular Louisiana contribution turducken), dressing (old loaf bread or cornbread, onion and celery, sausage, fruit, chestnuts, oysters -- whatever your mom did, the sage was the thing), cranberry sauce, mashed and sweet potatoes, that funky green bean casserole with the French-fried onion rings on top, and pumpkin pie. Almost as iconic (and if you ask most kids, as delicious) is the turkey TV dinner, the 1953 brainchild of a Swanson salesman looking to use up 260 overestimated tons of frozen birds. No joke: He got the idea, he said, from tidily packaged airplane food. We do love those leftovers.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Brainy Italian Style Steak with Linguine...

Sit down to a summer dish with perfect social distancing outdoors... your own backyard if you imagine

Italian cooking whether in the high mountains or by the sea should never be an all day long cooking process. It should always be spontaneous, fresh and full of flavor. This dish is just that.

For this dish, you will need either round steak or flank steak cut into strips marinated with a  squeeze of lemon juice, meat tenderizer or use a dash of sea salt. As for the rest of the ingredients, you may want to stop off and pick up some young asparagus spears or green beans, a jar of dried sun tomatoes, Kalamata olives and a box of linguine pasta or potatoes.

Start the water to boil for the pasta. Then, sear on high to med heat the marinated steak in 3 tbs of olive oil and some oil dregs from the jar of sun dried tomatoes, sprinkle in some garlic powder, red pepper flakes and dried herbs: rosemary, mint and oregano. Do not over cook.

Next, push the steak aside or remove (if you prefer your meat med. rare) and sear the asparagus or green beans in the same oils, toss in several sun dried tomatoes and olives. You can bring back the steak (or leave out preferring med. rare) and drizzle on a splash of hazelnut balsamic vinegar and 2 tbs of beef stock for a clean finish.

When the pasta is tender, drain and ladle onto a low lipped serving dish so you can top the linguine pasta with the steak, asparagus, sun dried tomatoes and olives.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Italian Sausage... So many Brainy Meals!

 Italian Sausage with Ravioli...
 Italian Sausage with Penne...
and penne...
and more penne...
 Italian Sausage with eggplant...
 Italian Sausage with stuffed shells...
Italian Sausage Minestrone...
Italian Sausage any way you like em...

*When selecting Italian Sausage, look for lean meaty sausages without fennel.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Cheese Ravioli paired with Finglering Potatoes and Greens...

So, sometimes dinner gets thrown together but that does not mean it can't be brainy...

Summer vegetables are on the horizon. So, why wait... just gather some fresh veggies now from the grocer and pair them with pillows of cheese stuffed ravioli topped with diced red ripe tomatoes; include a side of steamed fingerling potatoes and a green salad.

The French fingerling variety of potato about 6 inches long is creamy, earthy and rich with a hint of nut flavor... a culinary treat that's simple to grow and or easy to find in the grocery store.

Boil the ravioli, steam or bake/roast the fingerlings and toss a green salad...

 ~Tutti a Tavola!

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Brainy Stew or Poor Man's Goulash...

Ahh, stew ~ it can be whatever you want it to be...even poor man's goulash!

Goulash is not just Hungarian though originating from medieval Hungary. Goulash is a popular meal predominantly eaten in Central Europe, a 'poor/peasant man's stew'. And, why is that? Because, its hearty and frugal.

Stew, goulash or the French version, Ratatouille, is in most cultures - meat and veggies stewed in a gravy or heavy sauce. 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!

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Brainy Delicious Blackbean Meatloaf...

The last time I made this Tex Mex 'family' cuisine, black bean meatloaf, I served it with french fries and a savory gravy. Today, I made a creamy thick black bean gravy to top off mashed potatoes.

For this dish you will need: ground beef and or ground lamb (mix them if you like), one med.can of black beans, bread crumbs, dried herbs, Worcestershire (in the mix) and hot sauce(on the table) and potatoes as a side dish.

To begin, heat the oven to 350f. While it warms up to temp, mix 1 lb of ground beef with half the can of black beans (drained). Add to that 1/2 cup of dried bread crumbs, 2 -3 tbs of Worcestershire sauce, dried herbs to taste, a dash of garlic powder and sea salt. Mix and form into a football sized meatloaf. Place in a glass baking drizzled with olive oil and set in pre-heated (350f) oven with convection on.

If you like, add to the meatloaf baking dish small red potatoes and young carrots or sauteed spinach; be creative. Today, I am serving with a little of both. So, while the meatloaf bakes, wash, peel and boil as many red potatoes as you would like mashed.

Check the meatloaf from time to time, gently drip over the top of the meatloaf Worcestershire sauce and pour in 1/4/ cup of warmed beef stock to the glass dish with the meatloaf to start the gravy process. Pop back in the oven. When the loaf is crisp on top and the carrots and potatoes tender, if you included them, its time to serve. Mash the potatoes with milk and butter and prepare the table.

Don't forget the gravy... use the remaining half can of black beans, brown in a sauce pan with drippings from the meatloaf adding a 1/4 cup beef stock mixed with either 2tbs of flour or corn starch to make the gravy.  Once it is creamy and bubbling, pour the either over the top of the meatloaf or into a gravy boat and set it out on the table.

~ Tutti a Tavola!

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Brainy Superb Beef Bourguignon...

Beef bourguignon or known as "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 some garden fresh carrots, asparagus and tiny new 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.  

Personally, 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!

*As for desert... a crepe Suzette is the perfect end to a delicious meal. If you want to be Brainy frugal about it you can use leftover pancakes fried in butter with splash of brandy. Serve on a plate with heavy cream and homemade raspberry jam or halved ripe red plums or cherries. 

Monday, May 11, 2020

Brainy Multicultural Dinners to make at Home...

Go to the Brainy Gourmet Blog and type in the search box any of these dishes to find your international favorite...

Butter Chicken, Murgh Makhani...

Irish Stew with Bread and gravy...

Spicy African Red Chicken...

Beef Stroganoff or Chicken Cacciatore...

Dovi Chicken...
or a Tangier Stew...
and Asian pork...

~ Tutti a Tavola

* You can also type in key words used in Brainy Dish Titles and be surprised or find exactly what you are looking for!