Post-Holiday Cooking: Here’s a Quick & Easy Sausage & Egg Pie Recipe

wp-1484173950945.jpgFrom stuffing, basting, patting, pricking, roasting and toasting, most of us foodies who refer to the holiday season as the “Olympics of Family Cooking,” have taken a deep sigh of gratitude for the love and joy that was shared amongst our family and friends.

All the gifts have been opened, clothes tried on (and modeled on the living room runway) and Google Home was streaming music at our demand when I noticed that I was starving! But, I was also tired and didn’t have the energy to create breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  But clearly, we all needed to eat.

So, here is a quick go-to recipe I like to use that comes loaded with the right amount of nutrition, salty savoriness, and warmth.  This pie oozes with comfort and cozy post-holiday sit-around-the-house goodness.  I like to think of it as alinner (lunch and dinner) dish or a classic brunch dish too.

– Don’t worry, you’re not required to make your own pie crust, I promise.

Ingredients:

1 Pie Crust (for the inquiring minds, yes, I used the type you buy and roll out).
1 tablespoon of butter
1 good-sized shallot, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
4-6 sun-dried tomatoes loosely chopped
8 ounces of Italian sausage or chicken sausage (remove the outer skin and crumble)
1 three-finger pinch of sea salt
1 pinch of oregano or thyme (or both)
3 – 4 handfuls of fresh spinach or kale
2 cups of freshly grated California cheddar cheese
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup of heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit

Melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat and saute shallots and garlic until translucent. Add salt, oregano and thyme. Add the crumbled sausage, sundried tomatoes, and cook until browned. Add the spinach or kale and cook until the greens wilt and set aside.

In a pie dish roll out the pie crust and pinch the edges.   Add 1 cup of cheese on the bottom and then add the sausage mixture on top of that.

In a mixing bowl whisk together the eggs and heavy cream and 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese (you can also use almond milk or any other milk/cream variation).  Season with a pinch of sea salt and mix well.  Pour the egg mixture over the sausage mixture.  Top with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese.  I also added a little extra romano in this pie – I mean, can you blame me?  Take a brush and lightly coat the edge of the pie crust with some of your egg mixture for a crispy finish.  (not too much).

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Place your pie on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes or until an inserted toothpick or knife comes out clean.  Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Enjoy!

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Special thanks to Mele Cotte for the inspiration of this recipe.  I use it in many reincarnations.

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Here is one I made with Kale

More Soup Please!

Tonight’s stormy weather calls for this recipe again.

Food to Fiction

White Bean Soup with Kale and Italian Sausage White Bean Soup with Kale and Italian Sausage

What happened to our early summer weather? Just when we New Yorkers were starting to forget about the coldest winter in recent years and beginning to complain about the humidity and heat in crowded elevators, temperatures suddenly drop?  And now we’re pulling out our sweaters again and craving hot bowls of soup?

Okay, fine.  So with my bones a little cold and wishing I’d not worn the linen skirt, I turned for comfort in my kitchen.

In my fridge I grabbed some summer greens, carrots and celery, four or five hot and sweet Italian sausages. Staring into the pantry I grab a can of organic cannelinni beans and a box of organic chicken stock.

Here’s what I came up with.

Ingredients:

1 pound kale, stems (and veins, if desired) removed and leaves washed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 scallion, chopped
2…

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Blackberry Summer

Raspberry-Vanilla Custard Ice Cream with Chocolate Shavings.jpegNow that it finally feels like summer, I’m feeling nostalgic; I’ve just sent my eldest on a trip to visit her Grandmother in Washington.  While we grew up in California, we’d spend a lot of our summers up there; taking long road trips to finally

get there.  I thinks its where my mom always felt most at home and now she’s made it her home.

Memories of being crammed in a car with my mom, grandmother and my two agitating brothers for the long trip from California to Washiington come to mind.  Playing “eye-spy,” finding the alphabet in the road signs, and fighting -mostly with my older brother’s ever-extending air guitar- only to hear him say (with one finger pointing right in my eye), “I’m not touching you.”

These road trips were obviously some of my mother’s favorite things to do with her mom, but for us kids that excitement ran out just passed the wind mills in Tracy.  Mom and Grandma Lee both smoked Terryton Lights and made sure to light one up anytime our fighting in the backseat got to be more than they could handle.  Cracking the window only enough for the smoke to whiffle out and right back in.  I attribute that one-inch crack in the window to my asthma today moreso than the smoke, because maybe if they’d just rolled the windows all the way down, I wouldn’t have lost my appetite on second hand smoke.

While much of those memories are full of rancor and sarcasm, the truth is they’re also some of my most cherished childhood memories.  Although I desperately needed to know how much longer till we get there, my grandmother’s child-like thrill to show us kids the salmon swimming up stream, or an eagle in the sky or the water falls tucked in between a mountain of large trees just off the roadside was utterly contagious once we unmangled our legs, hair and barf bags from the car.  I still remember her story of Donner’s Pass and the people who had to eat one another to stay alive in the freezing snow.  She’d tell us why California was called the gold coast and talk about the history of gold miners, women in covered wagons, farming, Indian Life and loggers.  Later in life when I saw The Grapes of Wrath, I thought that this must’ve been what it was like for my grandmtoher, always moving, looking for work to survive.  A Norwegian father, Cherokee and Belgian mother, fitting in where they could.

She taught us all the old American folk songs like “Old Suzanna,” and “She’ll Be Coming Around That Mountain.” Sometimes I will see something and it will remind me of a time before I was born, her time, but I’d also feel as though it was intrinsically my time too;  I was sitting in her log cabin with her; an invisible witness.

My foot taps. I begin to sing and now I’m completely transported right back to being seven years old, sitting in my mother’s blue Oldsmobile, and the year is 1976.

My grandmother’s sister Anne lived in Washington.  She had a large forest of blackberries along the side of her house and what she did with those was truly American, truly a taste of summer and any pastry chef today would envy her skills in the kitchen.  She baked blackberry pies for us and served them hot with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream and a glass of milk.

I was a tenacious little kid when it came to sweets and my brothers, not being bashful themselves, would clammor around her kitchen until that pie was ready.  The entire room brightened up with the aroma of butter and crisping dough and a sweet scent of blackberries tickling just under our noses.  She’d pull the pie out, set it on a little counter.  The crust brown and flaky with bubles of purple goop stained around the pie-hole.

“Where’s the ice cream?”

“Get the ice cream!”

“Wait children it has to cool.”

Auntie Anne would have to back us up against a playpen and her dark scratchy sofa where we’d wait to grab a seat at large the table. Sewing patterns, knitting needles, yarn and newspapers we’re swooshed aside.

“Plates! Get the plates and forks!”

“We’ve got the plates and the forks and the ice cream.  Have a seat.”

One bite is all it took, All those hours in the car, the fights with Michael and Danny, the long-winded baseball announcers blaring through the speakers, my mother’s cigarette smoke and grandma’s cracked windows suddenly evaporated.

Silence.

This next recipe is dedicated to the Berg women of Washngton and their ability to love us children unconditionally .  I believe Auntie Anne and Grandma Lee would be proud of this ice cream.  I’d call it Blackberry Pie but there is no crust in the cream.  But feel free to serve it over your own favorite pie.

The sweet-tartness of the berries balances out the richness of the vanilla custard.  We loved it here at home and it’s now one of our absolute favorites.

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Blackberry + Vanilla Custard Ice Cream with Chocolate Shavings

Ingredients:

2 pints fresh blackberries
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extra (or vanilla bean)
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1 cup sugar
5 large egg yolks (I saved the egg whites for breakfast)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup dark chocolate shavings (I love the bulk chocolates at Fairway and today I went with one from Spain).

Add blackberries to a medium saucepan with 1/4 cup sugar, vanilla and lemon juice. Cook over low heat, covered, for 20 to 25 minutes. Drain using a fine mesh strainer, pressing berries to extract as much juice as possible.  I do this by pressing the berries firmly into the strainer with a rubber spatula and this takes a good fifteen minutes.  You’ll be surprised how much you can scrape off the underside of the strainer too.  Set aside.

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Heat the half-and-half and 1 cup sugar in a separate saucepan over low heat. Turn off heat when mixture is totally heated and sugar is dissolved.

Add heavy cream to a separate bowl.

Beat egg yolks by hand or with an electric mixer until yolks are pale yellow and slightly thick.

Temper the egg yolks by slowly drizzling in 1 1/2 cups of hot half-and-half mixture, whisking constantly. After that, pour the egg yolk and half-and-half mixture into the pan containing the rest of the half-and-half mixture. Cook over low to medium-low heat (depending on how hot your stove gets) until quite thick, stirring constantly. Drain custard using a fine mesh strainer.

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Then pour into the bowl with the cream. Stir to combine.  Add blackberry juice puree to the custard mixture and stir.

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Chill mixture completely in the refrigerator.

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Pour the mixture into your in an ice cream maker until thick- about 20 – 25 minutes.

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The last few minutes add the chocolate shavings so they get nice and mixed in.

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Place container in freezer to harden for an additional two hours.

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Then serve and enjoy with someone you love.  Create some good memories too!

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More Soup Please!

White Bean Soup with Kale and Italian Sausage

White Bean Soup with Kale and Italian Sausage

What happened to our early summer weather? Just when we New Yorkers were starting to forget about the coldest winter in recent years and beginning to complain about the humidity and heat in crowded elevators, temperatures suddenly drop?  And now we’re pulling out our sweaters again and craving hot bowls of soup?

Okay, fine.  So with my bones a little cold and wishing I’d not worn the linen skirt, I turned for comfort in my kitchen.

In my fridge I grabbed some summer greens, carrots and celery, four or five hot and sweet Italian sausages. Staring into the pantry I grab a can of organic cannelinni beans and a box of organic chicken stock.

Here’s what I came up with.

Ingredients:

1 pound kale, stems (and veins, if desired) removed and leaves washed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 scallion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 large cellery stalk, chopped
1 cans cannellini beans, (29 ounce), drained and rinsed
4-5 Italian sausage (I used two sweet and three spicy) removed from casing
4 cups water
2 cups chicken stock, or reduced-sodium canned broth
Sea aalt and black pepper
4 thick slices country bread
Grated Parmesan cheese, (optional)

Directions:

In a medium saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, scallion, carrot and celery and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add sausage and cook until brown. Break up into smaller bits with a fork.

Add about half of the beans, and lightly mash with a fork. Add water and stock, and bring to a boil. Stir in kale, remaining beans, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Partially cover, reduce heat, and simmer until kale is tender, about 20 minutes.

Ladle soup into bowls and drizzle with remaining tablespoon olive oil. Grate fresh Parmesan and enjoy.

Baked Ziti a la Comfort Food

Baked Ziti

Ingredients
1 pound dried ziti pasta
Sea salt
3 1/2 cups Tomato Sauce, recipe follows
1 pound fresh mozzarella, half cut into 1/2-inch cubes and half thinly sliced
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch red pepper flakes

Directions
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt generously, and boil the pasta until al dente, tender but still slightly firm. Drain.

Baked Ziti

Toss the cooked pasta with the marinara sauce, cubed mozzarella, half the Parmesan cheese, black pepper, and pepper flakes. Transfer the pasta to an oiled baking dish – again, I used my Le Creuset. Cover the top of the pasta with the sliced mozzarella, and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan. Bake until lightly browned and hot, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

Tomato Sauce:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon anchovy paste (optional)
1/2 pound sweet Italian sausages, casing removed and crumbled
1/2 pound spicy Italian sausages, casing removed and crumbled
1/4 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/3 cup Italian bread crumbs
3 1/2 cups whole, peeled, canned tomatoes in puree, (one 28-ounce can), roughly chopped
Sprig fresh thyme
Sprig fresh basil
2 teaspoons sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add anchovy paste and dissolve. Add the sausage and cook until beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the breadcrumbs and mix well.  Add the onion and garlic, stirring, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes more. Add the tomatoes and the herb sprigs and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

Baked Ziti

Need A Snack For Game Night? Ham & Swiss Sliders Are Simply Delish!

Ham & Swiss Cheese Sliders

I totally snagged this recipe off the internet but was short on the poppy seeds, so I made up for it by swapping out the dried onions for shallots and adding a bit more butter.  Butter makes everything better!

These may be small in size but they more than make up for it in taste.  They’re perfect for game night with friends and family!

Ingredients

3/4 cup melted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 tablespoon minced shallots
24 mini potato rolls
1 pound thinly sliced cooked deli ham
1 pound thinly sliced Swiss cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish.
In a bowl, mix together butter, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, poppy seeds, and minced shallots. Separate the tops from bottoms of the rolls, and place the bottom pieces into the prepared baking dish. Layer about half the ham onto the rolls. Arrange the Swiss cheese over the ham, and top with remaining ham slices in a layer. Place the tops of the rolls onto the sandwiches. Pour the mustard mixture evenly over the rolls.
Bake in the preheated oven until the rolls are lightly browned and the cheese has melted, about 20 minutes. Slice into individual rolls through the ham and cheese layers to serve.

What Do You Get When You Cook With a Portuguese Girl Who Loves Italian Food? Chicken Cacciatore with Sweet White Yams!

chicken cacciatore

While Jason and a friend watched movies on Netflix and my sixteen-year-old busied herself in her usual way, texting and taking photos, I sought my own solitude by cooking Chicken Cacciatore in the kitchen.

This dish was absolutely one of our favorites in 2014.  My only regret is that I didn’t make it more.  But hey, better late than never.  I love the colors of fresh green herbs and red bell pepper glistening in the Greek extra virgin olive oil, and their aroma, along with the garlic and Greek Oregano filled the air.  (Jason’s brother-in-law from Greece brought us the oregano and oil.  It is to die for)!

I prepared the Cacciatore in my Le Creuset French Oven – slow cooking it of course; set it on top of the stove and when it was done, family and friends were invited to serve themselves. The chicken was so tender and juicy; no knife was needed.

Ingredients:

6 boneless chicken  breasts, halved crosswise
2 large white yams, halved crosswise then quartered
2 teaspoons sea salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1/2 cup all purpose flour, for dredging
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 celary stock (optional)
8 baby carrots, halved (optional)
3/4 cup dry white wine (or 50/50 water to apple cider vinegar)
1 ( 28-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
3/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon drained capers
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves (I had to substitue flat-leaf parsley this time)
1 sprig of thyme

Directions:

Sprinkle the chicken pieces with 1 teaspoon of salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour to coat lightly. I do this by using a large vegatable plastic bag from the grocery store. Just add the chicken, salt, pepper and flour and shake!

In a large heavy sauté pan, (again I used the 9 1/2 Ct Le Creuset Oval French Oven) heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and sauté just until brown, about 5 minutes per side. If all the chicken does not fit in the pan, sauté it in 2 batches. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.

Add the bell pepper, onion, garlic and white yams to the same pan and sauté over medium heat until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juice, broth, capers and oregano. Return the chicken pieces to the pan, include any juice resting in the plate, and turn them to coat in the sauce. Add the sprig of thyme.  Bring the sauce to a simmer.

Stop.   Wait!  Here is where I change it up.  Because I started cooking in the morning, rather than simmer for 30 minutes as the directions say to do, I turned the oven to 250 degrees and let the stew cook for approximately two hours.

Now, if you need this dish to be ready in 30-40 minutes, just pretend I didn’t say the above and follow accordingly:

Continue simmering over medium-low heat until the chicken is just cooked through, about 30 minutes for the breast pieces, and 20 minutes for the thighs.

Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a platter. If necessary, boil the sauce until it thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Spoon the sauce over the chicken, then sprinkle with the basil and serve.