Chili alla Putanesca

Trust me when I tell you that if I had my balcony window open while this chili was simmering on the burner, I just might have landed me a date!

So the story goes, at least the story I’ve heard, is that the Italian ladies of the night would make a robust and zesty sauce, place it near an open window and the intense aroma would entice male visitors.  Thus, this sauce earned its famous name, Puttanesca, which loosely translates to the ladies of the evening, to put it gently. Continue reading “Chili alla Putanesca”

Artichoke, Sausage and Parmesan Stuffing

I’ve been sharing my favorite recipes for this year’s Thanksgiving. There are so many different stuffing recipes out there using cornbread or wild rice, dried fruits and nuts.  I probably have made just about every recipe there is over the years!  When I choose my stuffing recipe I like it to compliment the seasonings I will use on my turkey and the overall theme of my dinner. Normally, I like Thanksgiving to be very traditional.  And with guests ranging in all ages, I try to please all tastes as best as possible by not being too extreme in any dish.

This year my turkey will be lemon and herb-based; sage, thyme, and oregano with dried herbs de Provence. Therefore, I thought the flavors of Italian sausage, artichoke and parmesan would marry nicely with the turkey.  With all the warnings in past years about the dangers of stuffing a turkey, I no longer stuff mine. Therefore, I suppose this should be called a dressing not a stuffing.   Also, I like the crispiness of the dressing when baked separately.  But I do know that some people like a soft stuffing that has been cooked in the turkey.  Therefore, to stuff safely, the stuffing should be added right before roasting and removed immediately after.

To make this ahead of time, the bread can be made up to 3 days ahead  as it is meant to be stale after all!  The sausage can be made the day before and brought to room temperature before mixing together with the bread and remaining ingredients.

If you’d like to share your favorite stuffing recipe, please follow the Linky Tools directions below. Also, for some very good information on selecting turkeys as well as a bit of humor, check out My Little Corner of Rhode Island  Talking Turkey!  And for a great recipe on a stuffed turkey, check out Greg and Katherine’s Turkey with Herb Butter at Rufus’ Food and Spirit Guide.

Artichoke, Sausage and Parmesan Stuffing

Adapted from Bon Appetite

2 1 lb loaves of sourdough bread, about 15 cups, crust removed and cut into 1-inch cubes

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 pounds Italian sweet sausages, casings removed (about 4 links)

2 cups chopped onions

3/4 cup chopped celery

2 large garlic cloves, minced

2 8-ounce package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed, coarsely chopped

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano

1 teaspoon herbs deProvence

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 cup (or more) turkey stock (or chicken broth)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Divide bread between 2 baking sheets. Bake until cubes are dry but not hard, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and sauté until cooked through, breaking up with back of fork, about 5 minutes. Add onions, celery, and garlic. Sauté until celery is soft, about 10 minutes. Mix in artichokes and thyme, sauté 2 minutes longer. Transfer sausage mixture to large bowl. (Bread and sausage mixture can be made 1 day ahead. Cover separately. Store bread at room temperature and refrigerate sausage mixture.)

When ready to bake:  In a large bowl, combine the bread to sausage mixture; toss to blend well. Mix in cheese and stock adding in extra stock to moisten well.  For stuffing the turkey, add in about ¾ cup more stock; for baking stuffing separately, add up to 1 ¼ cups additional stock.  Season with salt and pepper.

To bake stuffing in turkey:
Loosely fill main cavity and neck cavity of turkey with stuffing. Spoon any remaining stuffing in a buttered baking dish. Cover dish with buttered foil, buttered side down. Bake stuffing in dish — alongside turkey or while turkey is resting until heated through, about 25 minutes. Uncover stuffing in dish. Bake until top of stuffing is slightly crisp and golden, about 15 minutes longer.

To bake stuffing in a dish:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spoon stuffing into a buttered 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Cover with buttered foil, buttered side down. Bake until heated through, about 30-40 minutes. Uncover and bake until top is slightly crisp and golden, about 15 minutes longer.

This stuffing is part of my Thanksgiving Countdown.  If you’d like to share your favorite salad for Thanksgiving, please use Linky Tools below.

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Grilled Polenta with Zucchini and Goat Cheese

The versatility of polenta is endless and why it ends up in so many of my dishes.  Made creamy and soft, it’s a wonderful side to meat or fish, swirling in different herbs, cheeses or veggies to compliment the dish, or as a “pasta” base for topping ratatouille.  Made firm, polenta can be easily substituted for bread and as an appetizer crostini topped with a tapenade.

I really do keep a simple pantry.  My condiments are fairly basic and I can be creative with a variety of oils, vinegars, herbs, salts and spices.  In other posts it may have appeared that “you name it, I have it”, but no, not so!  It’s like gadgets in the kitchen; I keep those to a bare minimum!  Because I cook fairly Mediterranean style my pantry holds just that.  I always keep cornmeal in bulk (no, not an overload, but just enough) for polenta, or as a thickener for soups or stews and in breading and baking.

Preparing the polenta the day before and grilling the next day, I served a light dinner of Italian sausages with peppers and onions, pared with the grilled polenta.  Easy and yummy!

Grilled Polenta with Zucchini and Goat Cheese

3 cups boiling water (or water and chicken or veggie broth), adding additional liquid as needed

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup polenta or yellow cornmeal

1 zucchini, grated and squeezed dry

2 oz goat cheese

Olive oil for grilling

To prepare the polenta:  Simmer water in the bottom pan of a double boiler.  Add 3 cups boiling water to the top pan.  If not using the double boiler, use a large saucepan bring the 3 cups of liquid to a boil.  Add the salt and slowly whisk in the polenta, pouring the polenta like “rain” to prevent any clumping.   Reduce to low and continue to cook and, switching to a wooden spoon, stir occasionally on a double boiler, more frequently in a saucepan for about 45 minutes.  The polenta should be soft and creamy, pulling away from the bottom.  If the polenta appears to cook too fast or less creamy, add in small amounts of hot water or broth.

Meanwhile, sauté the shredded zucchini in a heated skillet with olive oil until lightly cooked.  Remove from heat and set aside.   When the polenta is done, stir in the sautéed zucchini and goat cheese.   Pour into a greased 13 x 9 pan, spreading evenly, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours or overnight.

To grill the polenta:  Heat a clean grill or indoor grill pan, lightly brushing with oil.  Cut the polenta into squares or desired shapes and lightly brush with oil to prevent sticking.  Grill until light marks appear, turn and grill other side.  Plate and serve!

Falling Fall Fruit Platter

A ripe pear, a crisp fall apple, ruby-red grapes and the sensual, delicate fig.  I love to enjoy the fruits of the season and sometimes the most simple ways are the best!  I can be oh so happy and satisfied with a plate of fresh fall fruit, a small piece of white aged cheddar and a glass of Cabernet!

Now my son would not be happy with a plate of fruit for dinner.  So having some Italian sausage on hand, I prepared an Autumn Sausage and Apple dish.  In a large skillet I sautéed a few Italian sausage links until they were nicely browned, but not yet cooked through.  I then added a thinly sliced medium onion, dried oregano, sage and thyme and cooked until the onion became soft and was beginning to brown.  I added one apple, peeled and sliced into wedges.  To deglaze the pan and add some additional liquid, I poured in about 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar and a few tablespoons of chicken stock.  I covered the pan slightly allowing all the ingredients to simmer slowly and finish cooking.  The apples became very tender, the onions caramelized soft and the sausage was crispy, moist and flavorful.

Falling Fall Fruit Platter

Serves 2

1 ripe pear of your choice
1 apple of your choice
1/2 cup seedless red grapes, halved
2 – 3 figs, quartered
2-3 tablespoons walnuts or pecans

For the dressing:
Juice of one orange, about 5 tablespoons
1 tablespoon orange marmalade
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
salt & pepper

Prepare the dressing by heating the orange juice, honey and marmalade until dissolved.  Remove from the heat and add the Grand Marnier and salt and pepper to taste.

Cut up the fruit and combine with the nuts on a plate or bowl.  Drizzle the warm dressing all over.  Serve at once.  Leftovers can be refrigerated and used within a day.

Stuffed Artichokes

Over the weekend I saw these gorgeous artichokes at my Italian deli.  Perfectly round, leaves close, soft green color.  I decide on the dishes I will prepare for the week based on the meats, seafood, poultry and fresh veggies and fruits I find when shopping.  I rarely shop specifically for a recipe as I am more inspired by high quality, fresh ingredients.  When I do have a specific recipe in mind, I will adjust the ingredients based on what is in season, freshly available and looks tempting!

Stuffing these artichokes was my first choice.  My mother served us stuffed artichokes consisting mainly of eggs, bread crumbs and parmesan cheese.  I began including crumbled Italian sausage turning this into more of a main entre.  I lightened it up this time using Italian turkey sausage.

For basic artichoke preparation tips, the California Artichoke Advisory Board provides a detailed, visual at this link,

Sausage Stuffed Artichokes

2 globe artichokes
Juice of 1 lemon
2 Italian Sweet Sausage links (or Turkey sausage) casings removed *
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 egg
2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded fontina cheese (this time a used a Monterey Jack Cheese w/jalapeno!)
salt and pepper to taste

Prepare the artichokes by cutting off the stem and cutting off about 1 inch from the top of the artichoke.  Immediately rub a cut lemon on the cut top.  Use scissors to trim the outer leaves of their prickly tips and remove the lowest leaves.  Place the artichokes in a large saucepan and fill with water to cover.  Artichokes should fit snug in the saucepan so they stay somewhat submerged.  Add a teaspoon of salt.  Cover and bring to boil and reduce to simmer for approximately 25 minutes or until a leaf can be pulled out easily.  Drain in a colander and allow to cool.  (Artichokes can be made ahead at this point and refrigerated until the next day or a few hours).  Once cooled, spread out the leaves and use a small spoon to scoop out the inner leaves and fuzzy part.

To prepare the stuffing, brown the sausage, stirring to break up and crumble the sausage.  Remove from the pan and cool slightly.  Mix in a beaten egg, the parmesan cheese, minced garlic and shredded cheese.  Place the artichokes in a lightly oiled casserole dish and gently fill the leaves with the mixture.  Add about 3 tablespoons water to the bottom of the pan and cover tightly with foil.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.  Uncover and continue baking another 5 minutes to lightly brown up the top.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  Serves 2.

* Use Hot Italian sausage for a spicier version.

Casual Friday Night Grillin’

After a long work week, when Friday finally arrives, I like to relax and enjoy a glass of wine and an easy grilled meal.  Normally it’s pizza night on Fridays, and I actually did make my son his pizza, but for a more adult palate, this quick to pull together salad was perfect.  My favorite Italian deli has delicious chicken or pork sausage rolls.  They are spiraled and skewered together; perfect to throw on the grill.  You could also use Italian sausage grilled and cut into disks for this salad as well, but I do like the presentation of the whole roll.  Having peaches and fresh figs on hand, I wrapped each peach wedge and fig half in proscuitto and lightly grilled them to soften and warm the flavor.  Goat cheese was a perfect compliment to sprinkle on.  The heat of the salad slightly warmed the cheese and the arugula.   I served the salad with roasted garlic bulbs to spread on a pesto rolled bread.  The combinations of flavors and textures were fantastic! 

Arugula & Goat Cheese Salad with Grilled Chicken Sausage and Proscuitto Wrapped Peaches and Figs

1 chicken sausage roll or 2-3 sweet Italian sausage links
2 peaches, peeled (I use a knive) and cut into wedges
3 fresh figs, cut in half
4 Proscuitto slices – cut in half
3-4 cups Arugula
2 oz Goat cheese

1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 thinly sliced green onion
Salt & freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Whisk together lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, onion, salt.  Add in olive oil in a stream, whisking until emulsified.  Set aside.

Wrap each peach wedge and fig half with proscuitto.  Thread the peaches and figs on a skewer for easier handling when grilling.  Heat the grill to medium heat and place on the sausage roll and peach & fig skewers.  Grill until browned well, turning once. 

Plate the sausage on a bed of arugula.  Top with the proscuitto wrapped peaches and figs.  Sprinkle on the goat cheese chunks and drizzle on the vinegrette dressing.  Serve immediately.  Serves 2 as a main dish.