Thursday, August 15, 2019

Sausage Primavera

Recently YouTube TV added several channels, including the Food Network. I watch a few shows on there (how could I resist?) and have been taking inspiration from it. Watching Beat Bobby Flay I was surprised to see the contestant add butter poached lobster to his pasta primavera. I had always thought of it as a strictly vegetarian dish, but why not add seafood, or even meat? Sausage is a much more practical choice for my family. My toddler loves it, it is much more budget friendly and the fat would add a ton of luscious flavor to the sauce. This dish is a combination of my sausage and broccolini pasta (although with different veggies) and Jamie Oliver’s excellent sausage zucchini carbonara. Next time I make it I plan on trying to find some fresh marjoram and using it in place of the dried herbs (see notes). With an extra bit of prepwork this dish comes together pretty quickly, so it’s a nice spring and summertime meal. Think of this dish as a starting point and use whatever veggies you have in the fridge and whatever kind of pasta your family enjoys. Just be sure to adjust cooking times as needed for each.

Sausage Primavera

Serves 6

1 lb sweet Italian pork sausage, casing removed
1 lb whole wheat penne
1 small yellow onion
8 ounces mushrooms
1 large zucchini
1 large summer squash
8 ounces grape tomatoes, whole
1/2 cup dry white wine
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano*
1/2 teaspoon dried basil*
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Salt, to taste
Fresh pepper, to taste


Preheat the oven to 450. Rub the tomatoes with a bit of olive oil or spray oil, season with salt and pepper and lay on a baking sheet in a single layer. Chop all vegetables (except tomatoes) into roughly similar bite sized pieces. Roast tomatoes in oven for 12 minutes, or until they brown slightly on the bottom. Set aside. In a large heavy bottomed pan over medium heat, add olive oil, then sausage meat. Break up the sausage roughly. Cook sausage until it has no traces of pink. Scoop meat out of pan, leaving fat. Boil pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water, according to package directions. Meanwhile, in the pan with the sausage fat saute onions, mushrooms and squash in the fat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add dried herbs and crushed red pepper. Deglaze the pan with the wine and cook until vegetables are all cooked through. Turn off heat and add cream and tomatoes. Toss with pasta and serve with grated Parmesan cheese and minced Italian parsley.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Red Beans and Rice

Walk with me down Frenchmen Street in New Orleans’ French Quarter. Soulful, amazing Jazz music pours out of the open doors of most of the bars; some of the best Jazz music in the world. Here and there you can catch delicious, elusive smells, fabulous odors that are different from any other place on Earth. New Orleans cuisine is based on French cuisine, brought there by the Acadian settlers when they migrated from French Canada and suffused with the influences of Spanish, African American and Southern American cuisines. The Acadian settlers based their diets on the tradition in the French countryside of using whatever ingredients were available to make dishes often resembling stews with rich sauces. Many dishes have a mirépoix base (called the holy Trinity in Louisiana, their mirépoix consists of bell peppers, celery and onions) and a roux as the base of the sauce. As it is easy to grow in Louisiana's hot, wet climate, rice replaced potatoes as the staple starch in the Acadian transplants' diets.

Red beans and rice is a classic Louisiana dish and can be found on many New Orleans menus. Slightly sweet, slightly spicy, intensely comforting, it is a combination of rice with sausage, red kidney beans and a spice blend unique to Louisiana's melting pot cuisine. The beans are often cooked with leftover pork bones from another meal. This filling meal can be served on its own or with steamed corn on the cob or cornbread.

I've made my own Cajun seasoning, which I will share in another post.

Red Beans and Rice

Makes 10 servings

4 cups red kidney beans in their liquid (see notes)

1.5 lbs fully cooked bratwurst, sliced

1/ 4 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon mild chili powder

1 Tablespoon Cajun seasoning

1 green bell pepper, diced

1 small yellow onion, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 jalapeño, seeds and ribs removed, diced (see notes)

5 garlic cloves, minced

1 - 2 bay leaves (see notes)

Salt, to taste

For the rice:

1.5 cups long grain white rice

1 Tablespoon butter

3 spice cloves

1 bay leaf

Salt, generously to taste


In a large skillet heat olive oil and saute onion, celery, green pepper and jalapeño in a pinch of salt until they begin to soften. Add sausages and sear for a couple of minutes, until veggies begin to brown. Add garlic, bay leaf, Cajun seasoning, paprika, oregano, thyme, tomato paste, chili powder salt and pepper and cook for 90 seconds, stirring frequently. Add beans and 8 ounces of water and bring to a simmer. Let it simmer while you prepare the rice. In a medium pan saute rice in butter for 90 seconds to toast it. Add cloves, bay leaf and 3 cups of water. Generously salt. Bring to a boil, then cover and turn it to the lowest heat setting. Cook for 15 minutes, then fluff rice and fold rice into beans.

Serve as is or with cornbread or corn on the cob.

Notes: you can use canned beans or soak and boil your own. I made my own beans and boiled them with a very generous pinch of salt and a bay leaf. Traditionally you can also use leftover pork bones to season the beans. If you like it spicy (this version is fairly mild), leave in the seeds and ribs of the jalapeńo, or use a hotter pepper altogether. Scotch bonnet might work well here.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Mini Chocolate Cheesecake with Earl Grey Chocolate Ganache

This is a combination of two recipes I've blogged about that I really love: chai spiced chocolate cheesecake and Earl Grey truffles. I used the chai cheesecake post only as a guide for a mini chocolate cheesecake and omitted the spices because I was planning to make the Earl Grey tea in the ganache the stand out flavor. Why use Earl Grey with chocolate? It has a light bitterness that enhances the richness of the chocolate. As teas go, Earl Grey is used in particular in chocolate because it's flavored with a citrus extract (bergamot) which is lovely with chocolate.

I made a mini cheesecake so you can enjoy it by yourself. With a chocolate crust and a chocolate filling as well as a chocolate ganache topping, this is definitely a chocolate lover's decadent dessert. The size means this is perfect to treat yourself.

Mini Chocolate Cheesecake with Earl Grey Chocolate Ganache

Makes 4” cheesecake

1 Tablespoon butter, melted
1 1/2 Tablespoons sugar
2 (full sheet) chocolate graham crackers, crushed

4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 ounces quality chocolate, chopped
1/4 teaspoon vanilla paste
1/4 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 egg
1 Tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 ounces quality chocolate, chopped
2 Tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 Tablespoon clarified butter
1 Earl Grey tea bag

Assemble the crust: mix together chocolate cracker crumbs and sugar, then add melted butter. Toss until thoroughly combined. Press mixture into the bottom and slightly up the sides of a 4” springform pan. Cover with plastic wrap and set in fridge for one hour.

Use a mixer to cream together eggs, cream cheese, cream, sugar and vanilla.
Preheat the oven to 300F. Fill a roasting pan or large baking dish with 1/2 inch boiling water and place on the lower rack of the oven.

In the microwave in a microwave safe container heat chocolate in 15 second blasts until it is thoroughly melted.
Fold chocolate and cornstarch into cream cheese mixture. Pour mixture over crust in springform. Spread evenly.
Bake for 30 minutes at 300.
Allow the cheesecake to chill in the fridge at least one hour before making the ganache topping.
To make the topping: In a tiny saucepan heat cream and steep tea bag for five minutes, or until the taste is noticeable in the cream.

Add hot cream and butter to chopped chocolate and stir until chocolate is thoroughly melted and ganache is smooth and shiny. Pour over cheesecake, spreading with a spatula over the entire surface. Chill in the fridge covered for one hour to set.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Kale and Quinoa with Tahini

Many of us have resolved to eat healthier this year. Protein packed quinoa and kale, which is high in potassium and vitamin c is certainly healthy. Not to mention this dish is under 140 calories per serving. But you shouldn't just try this for a resolution. You should try it because it's exceptionally delicious. Earthy, lightly bitter kale is mellowed and complimented by nutty, rich, creamy tahini. Soy sauce adds a perfect salty and slightly sweet element, while quinoa is a delicate, softly crunchy starch base. The amazing smell of soy sauce caramelized onions lingers in the air for hours after.

This is a great way to make kale appealing and it has become a weeknight favorite in my house. It's a great weeknight dish because it comes together quickly--only 25 minutes start to finish!--and, apart from the kale, is mostly shelf stable ingredients.

There are two adults and one toddler, so I make enough to enjoy it for two nights running. The first night we enjoy it on its own (and then indulge in some guilt free dessert after) and the second night we enjoy the leftovers topped with fried eggs. 

Kale and Quinoa with Tahini and Soy Sauce Caramelized Onions

10 ounces kale, trimmed and chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dry quinoa
1 cup vegetable stock
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons tahini
2 teaspoons soy sauce
Pepper, to taste

Rinse quinoa. Combine it with 8 ounces water, stock, 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce and 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil and bring to a boil. Once it has come to a boil, cover and reduce heat to lowest setting and set timer for 15 minutes. When the timer goes off take quinoa off of the heat. In a large heavy bottomed pan, heat olive oil and remaining sesame oil over medium heat. Add onions and saute until they soften and begin to brown. Add garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of soy sauce and cook for another minute. Add kale in large batches and saute for about 5 minutes. When kale has started to cook through, add another 1/2 teaspoon of soy sauce and 5 ounces water to cook kale stems through. When all of the water has evaporated (5 to 7 minutes), turn off heat. Drizzle kale with tahini, then add quinoa over top in an even layer. Season quinoa with remaining soy sauce and mix everything together. Serve hot.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Eggnog Bread Pudding with Rum Caramel Sauce

If you've been looking for an easy-yet-impressive, decadent holiday themed dessert, Eggnog Bread Pudding is perfect for you! A rich, custardy bread pudding with a hint of spice. The boozy rum caramel sauce makes this an extra decadent holiday treat! It makes a fabulous dessert, but it would also be a great fit to serve at a Christmas brunch.

I just learned the other day that eggnog isn't a thing in the UK. In fact, it's mainly an American Christmas tradition, although it is widely available I'm Canada as well. Many of you may be wondering what it is. Well, it's a light, chilled custard redolent of nutmeg. It's also a vehicle for lots of delicious rum or bourbon. A fabulous starting point for a Christmas twist on bread pudding!

I based my pudding recipe on this recipe (, because I wanted a pudding with the same consistency as the ones I've eaten in New Orleans--not to mention a bread pudding that seems absolutely made to pair with booze--and made my own sauce.

Eggnog Bread Pudding with Rum Caramel Sauce

For the pudding:
8 ounces french bread, cubed
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 jumbo eggs
1 jumbo egg yolk
2 Tablespoons rum
1/2 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

For the sauce:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons rum, divided

Grease an 8 x 8” baking dish. Mix all pudding ingredients except for bread. Lay bread in baking dish and pour mix evenly over bread. Toss to coat. Press bread down into an even layer. Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes and up to four hours. Preheat the oven to 350f. Fill a larger baking dish (13 x 9 or larger) with an inch of water. Place bread pudding in water bath and place both baking dishes in the oven. Bake covered for about 30 minutes, then uncovered for another 15 minutes.
In the last 15 minutes of bake time, make the sauce. In a small, heavy bottomed saucepan, combine sugars with 1/ 4 cup of the rum over low heat. Stir constantly until sugar has melted. Whisk in butter, then cream. Take sauce off of heat and whisk in vanilla, salt and remaining rum. Serve pudding warm topped with sauce, a sprinkling of cinnamon and whipped cream.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Southwestern Breakfast Skillet

Have you ever craved a fancy breakfast but thought it was beyond your abilities or required special kitchen equipment? Well, if you have a medium sized pan that can go from stovetop to oven (cast iron or enameled cast iron is great for this, but copper and stainless steel can often go into the oven at lower temperatures), you can have your fancy breakfast, and eat it, too!

This southwestern breakfast skillet is hearty and flavorful and very easy to throw together. It is a riff on the filling for the breakfast burritos I make with my foodie best friend Justine and even though it makes a great burrito filling with scrambled eggs, it tastes next level decadent topped with a fried egg and accompanied by some ripe avocado. The rich, runny yolk is cut deliciously by the spice and acid in the salsa and the veggies really complete the flavor. In fact, it was in discussing how much we would love to top our burrito filling with a runny yolk egg that this breakfast skillet was conceived.

Southwestern Breakfast Skillet

Serves 4

1 large russet potato, diced

1 large zucchini, cut into 1/4” rounds

4 ounces chipotle salsa (see notes)

1/2 onion, chopped

1/2 cup fire roasted corn kernels

1 ounce sharp cheddar, grated

3 Tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained

1/2 teaspoon + 1 pinch cumin powder

1/2 teaspoon + 1 pinch chili powder

Salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste


8 eggs, fried (see notes)

1 avocado, sliced (1/4 per serving)

1/2 ounce cotija cheese, crumbled


Chopped cilantro

Warm corn tortillas

1. Preheat the oven to 425f. Toss diced potatoes with 1 Tablespoon olive oil, a small pinch of salt, pepper, cumin and chili powder. Mix thoroughly. Arrange in a single layer on a greased baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.

2. While potatoes are cooking add remaining oil to a cast iron skillet. Saute onions over medium heat until they begin to soften, then add zucchini, remaining cumin and chilli powder. Continue to saute until zucchini is almost cooked through.

3. Add salsa and beans. Bring the heat down to medium low and turn the oven down to 350f. Cook beans, salsa and zucchini for 5 minutes, then top with potatoes and cheese.

4. Transfer skillet to the oven and bake until cheese melts.

Serve topped with two fried eggs, 1/4 avocado and sprinkled with cotija cheese. Optional: sprinkled also with chopped cilantro and warm corn tortillas.

Notes: any medium heat salsa will work, but I absolutely love the strong, zesty flavors in the chipotle garlic salsa I've been able to find here. This skillet is best with an over medium, over easy or sunny side up fried egg; in other words an egg with a liquid yolk. Unless liquid egg yolk really squicks you out I highly recommend it. It really makes a world of difference.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Aji de Gallina (Peruvian Chicken Stew)

I’ve been meaning to write up this recipe for quite some time. Probably because it is one of our favorites and because this dish is the first Peruvian dish I’ve ever made for my husband, I’ve taken it for granted. But Ají de Gallina, or “Hen Chili” with its spicy, creamy yellow gravy, should never be taken for granted. It’s just that delicious and remarkable. Not to mention unlike other chicken in gravy dishes, in that the gravy is thinner yet rich and satisfying.

This is an excellent dish to add to your menu as we head into fall. It is hearty, warming and easy to throw together. The key ingredient, Aji Amarillo paste can be obtained online and one jar will last through at least 20 preparations of this delicious stew (link included below). Although this isn’t a difficult dish it is nevertheless a dish you make for someone you love. Give it a try. It is sure to become a family favorite.

This recipe has been adapted from my husband's Aunt's excellent dish.

Ají de Gallina

Serves 8 (or 4 with leftovers)

3 1/4 lbs bone in skin on chicken legs & thighs
3 Tbsp Aji Amarillo Paste
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 large yellow onion, quartered
10 whole black peppercorns
10 oz potatoes, peeled & cut into large chunks
1 cup milk
2 slices stale white bread
4 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt to taste

8 hard boiled eggs, sliced
Minced green olives
Whole cilantro leaves


In a dutch oven or other heavy bottom large pot, place onions, potatoes & garlic in a single layer. Place chicken over it in a single layer. Add stock, then (if needed) up to 2 cups water to cover. Sprinkle peppercorns and add aji paste, bay leaf and a small pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and simmer uncovered for 90 minutes, or until chicken is fall off the bone tender.

Meanwhile, cut crusts off of bread and pulse in the food processor until the consistency is fine.

When the chicken has about 30 minutes left, combine milk and bread crumbs in a bowl and set aside to soak.

When the 90 minutes’ simmer time is up, take chicken off of the heat and strain 3 - 4 cups of the resulting broth and add to a heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring to a gentle simmer. Slowly incorporate milk/bread crumb mixture until sauce begins to thicken. Remove from heat. To serve, scoop chicken and potatoes out of broth and ladle generously with sauce. Top with boiled egg slices (approx 3/4 egg per serving) and sprinkle with minced olives and whole cilantro. Serve with rice.

Aji paste can be purchased here: