Sausage, Fennel, and Bell Pepper Gnocchi

Last weekend at the North Market, Jaime of Wayward Seed Farms convinced my wife to buy a small fennel bulb.

I’m NOT a fan of licorice. I’m not particularly fond of fennel seed, and the stink of a fennel bulb pretty much turns my stomach.

So, naturally, Becke came up with a recipe for me to make for dinner one night this week which used copious quantities of thinly sliced fennel bulb (the better to drown the dish in an overabundance of fennel stank, no doubt) along with a decent quantity (1 cup each) of onion and sweet red pepper.

The result? A dish that, surprisingly, tasted not at all as I’d expected. The fennel no longer tasted of anise — instead, it reminded me of nothing so much as slightly sweet cabbage. Since I’d had the presence of mind to avoid sauteing the vegetables into a sodden mess, the fennel/pepper/onion mixture was decently firm while not being crunchy. The final step of the recipe, when I melted the asiago cheese and coated the gnocchi and other ingredients with it, added a lovely glaze and salty cheesiness to the gnocchi, which had been prepared without the use of salt or oil per the recipe and were therefore quite bland.

My opinion? This one’s a keeper. The only change I’d like to make to it is to replace the Trader Joe’s Sundried Tomato and Basil sausages (we doubled the sausage quantity from six to twelve ounces, BTW) to something more to my liking, like a roasted garlic sausage. That’s purely a matter of personal taste, of course.

Isn’t it lovely? It tastes as good as it looks.

Sausage Gnocchi

Gnocchi With Chicken Sausage, Bell Pepper, and Fennel
(Reprinted from RecipeZaar with several minor changes)
Recipe #299121
From Cooking Light, April 2008.
by dicentra
25 min | 10 min prep

SERVES 4

16 ounces gnocchi
2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
12 ounces fully cooked chicken sausage, sliced (Trader Joe’s Sundried Tomato & Basil works well)
1 cup thinly sliced fennel
1 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
1 cup thinly sliced onion
1/2 cup freshly grated asiago cheese
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Cook the gnocchi according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain the gnocchi in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid. Keep gnocchi warm.
Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring frequently. Remove sausage from skillet using a slotted spoon.
Heat remaining 1 teaspoon oil in pan. Add fennel, bell pepper, and onion to pan; cook 13 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.
Add sausage, gnocchi, cheese, black pepper, and reserved cooking liquid to pan; cook 1 minute or until cheese melts, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in parsley.

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Published in: on August 30, 2009 at 12:57 am  Leave a Comment  
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Veal Marsala

I’ve got a confession to make.

I’m a sucker for good sauces.  There’s nothing better in my world than a simple yet comforting bechamel.  From that mother sauce, I can prepare a number of other sauces (bearnaise and hollandaise coming immediately to mind, of course).  I’m also a huge fan of wine-based sauces — one of my favorites is a merlot reduction that I’ve made in the past paired with a duxelle-filled pork tenderloin.

It’s a good thing, then, that I’m quite adept at making sauces.  Just ask Becke.  She’ll admit that she doesn’t have the patience, most of the time, to make good sauces.  This is why she usually leaves any recipe which requires the care and feeding of a sauce up to me.

On the subject of wine sauces, one of my favorites is marsala sauce.  While searching through the freezer a couple of days ago, I discovered several pounds of vacuum-packed veal scaloppine fillets.  Immediately realizing the possibilities, I thawed them in the fridge overnight.  I knew exactly what I *had* to make — since the fillets were already cut 1/4 inch thick, the decision was a no-brainer.

I was going to make Veal Marsala tonight.  And so I did; it’s an atrociously decadent dish, if I do say so myself.  I tripled the sauce, thus requiring nine tablespoons of hand-chopped fresh garlic, nine tablespoons of butter, two cups of Marsala wine, and a full twelve ounces of heavy cream.  Yeee-OW.

Note that I used only twenty ounces of cremini (baby portabella) mushrooms rather than the recommended thirty-six ounces when tripling the sauce.  Believe me, twenty ounces of sliced creminis are PLENTY.

This is the finished dish. My cardiologist would NOT be amused.

Veal Marsala

Veal Scaloppine with Mushroom Marsala Sauce
Time: 30 minutes.

Yield
Serves 4

Ingredients
1/3 cup flour
About 1 tsp. salt, divided
About 1 tsp. black pepper, divided
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 pound veal cutlets, pounded to about 1/4 in. thick
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
12 ounces mushrooms, sliced
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
2/3 cup sweet marsala wine
1/2 cup reduced-sodium beef broth
1/2 cup whipping cream

Preparation
1. In a bowl, combine flour, 1 tsp. each salt and pepper, and the oregano. Lightly dust veal with flour mixture and set on a plate.

2. Heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, brown veal in oil, turning once, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a platter.

3. In the same pan, melt butter, then add mushrooms and garlic; sauté 5 minutes. Add marsala and broth. Cook over high heat until slightly reduced, 5 minutes. Add cream and salt and pepper to taste. Return to a boil. Pour sauce over veal. Serve with sautéed spinach and mashed potatoes.

Published in: on August 28, 2009 at 6:14 am  Leave a Comment  

The Jelly Jam

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a jam (and jelly) makin’ fool. This summer, I made some 20-25 jars of mulberry jelly using mulberries harvested from our backyard as well as from a property adjacent to my mother-in-law’s house a few miles from ours. Last week, shortly after the North Market Jam & Jelly Contest (the next day, in fact), I received a bounty of concord grapes from my mother-in-law’s boyfriend, Joe. Joe is a plumber, more or less, who does a lot of work for a landlady with a number of properties in German Village (among other clients). These grapes came from one of her properties.

Having tasted both the mulberry jelly and the concord grape jelly, I’ve got to say that the trick to consistent, ahem, consistency of one’s jelly is to use liquid, not powdered, pectin. Unfortunately, not realizing this fact when I made the mulberry jelly, I employed powdered pectin in all three batches in varying amounts (but never exceeding the recommended quantity).

Now, to the IMPORTANT questions — how does each taste, and how does each one feel in the mouth”? The grape jelly, while a bit gooey at room temperature, has a nigh-upon-perfect mouthfeel once it’s been chilled slightly (as all good jellies do). Its flavor is surprisingly delicate. The mulberry jelly, while it has a deep, satisfying berry flavor (and a stain-inducing appearance to match) took on too stiff a texture even at room temperature. Once chilled, its texture is best described as “pasty”. Oh well… at least it TASTES fantastic.

This is the raw material from which the mulberry jelly is made:
Mulberries

This is what the finished mulberry jelly looks like. Apparently the pectin tightens up over time, sigh…
Mulberry Jelly

Mulberry Jelly
recipe adapted from National Center for Home Food Preservation

3 1/2 c. mulberry juice (start w/ nearly a gallon of mulberries)
1 box powdered pectin (NOTE: Using one pouch of liquid pectin should result in better texture/mouthfeel. YMMV.)
5 c. sugar

Sort and wash berries. Yield of juice depends on ripeness of berries and how long they’re cooked, so you’ll need a minimum of 3 quarts and more likely a gallon of mulberries. Figure on a cup of mulberry juice yielded per quart, give or take a couple of ounces. Crush berries thoroughly; heat slowly until juice starts to flow. Cover; simmer 20-30 minutes or until it seems that all of the juice has been liberated from the fruit. Be careful – mulberry juice stains just about everything it touches, especially your fingers and clothes. Allow to cool until cool enough to handle with rubber gloves.

Working in small batches, ladle juicy pulp into a jelly bag and squeeze out juice. Measure juice, mix with pectin in saucepan (if you end up with more juice than 3 1/2 cups, scale other ingredients appropriately). Mulberries don’t have much natural pectin, so the amount used with give you a slightly runny but still gelled jelly (see picture above).

Bring quickly to a hard boil, stirring constantly. Add sugar all at once. Bring to a full rolling boil (a boil that cannot be stirred down); boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; skim off foam with a metal spoon.

Pour at once into clean, hot jars, leaving only 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel; adjust two-piece metal canning lids. Process in a boiling water canner (hot pack in half-pints or pints), 10 min for altitudes under 6,000 ft. above sea level.

This is the concord grape jelly in its jar. Pretty, isn’t it?
Concord Grape Jelly

This is the same jelly on a spoon. Believe me, it tastes every bit as good as it looks.
Concord Grape Jelly on a Spoon

Concord Grape Jelly
Modified from the recipe found at the link above.

Serves/Makes: 6 eight-ounce jars

Ingredients:

3 1/2 pounds Concord grapes
1/2 cup Water
4-1/2 cups Sugar
2 T unsalted butter
1 package (3 oz size) liquid pectin

Directions:
Sort and wash grapes; remove stems, and place in a Dutch oven. Crush grapes; add water. Bring mixture to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes.

Press mixture through a jellybag or cheesecloth, extracting 4 cups juice. Cover and let sit overnight in a cool place. Strain juice through a double thickness of damp cheesecloth.

Combine juice and sugar in a large Dutch oven, and stir well. Place over high heat; cook, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a rapid boil. Add butter and pectin, and bring to a full rolling boil; boil 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat, and skim off foam with a metal spoon. Quickly pour hot mixture into hot sterilized jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace; wipe jar rims. Cover at once with metal lids, and screw on bands.

Process in boiling-water bath 5 minutes. Carefully remove jars from water to cool.

Published in: on August 26, 2009 at 4:03 am  Comments (1)  

Chicken Makhani (Indian Butter Chicken)

Let’s get one thing straight — I loooooooooove Indian food.  I can’t get enough of it.  And for the longest time, my favorite source of the aforementioned comestible was a tiny hole-in-the-wall at Kenny Center on (appropriately enough) Kenny Road in Upper Arlington named Sher-E-Punjab, which is apparently Hindi for “The Punjabi Lion”.  They had a daily lunch buffet that I and several co-workers would frequent regularly.  They also had a dinnertime buffet four nights a week, Monday through Thursday, with Tuesday’s being a strictly vegetarian affair.  Of all their offerings, my consistent favorite was their version of Chicken Makhani, a somewhat Americanized tomato butter curry chicken.  It may not have been terribly authentic, but it was quite good.  Please note that almost everything they had was tasty, but the Chicken Makhani was, to me, the stand-out item on their menu.

Sadly, Sher-E-Punjab closed its doors several months ago.  This caused me great consternation and inspired me to find an acceptable recipe with which to make my own Chicken Makhani.  I found one, and I dare say, it’s at least as good as Sher-E-Punjab’s, if not better.  (Editor’s Note:  Sher-E-Punjab has since reopened in its original location; the Korean restaurant which opened in its place went out of business in under six months.  Sher-E-Punjab is once again open for business and is again offering a lunchtime buffet seven days a week, yay!)

 

I prepared the Chicken Makhani for dinner on Sunday night, serving it over basmati rice with some roti paratha picked up at the local Indian grocery.  The finished curry is nothing to look at, but it certainly was every bit as satisfying as that which we’ve enjoyed in better Indian restaurants:

Chicken Makhani

Chicken Makhani
recipe courtesy Recipezaar

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/4 white onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup tomato puree
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste
1 pinch salt
1 pinch black pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite size pieces
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup water

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Saute shallot and onion until soft and translucent. Stir in butter, lemon juice, ginger garlic paste, 1 teaspoon garam masala, chili powder, cumin and bay leaf. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Add tomato puree and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in half-and-half and yogurt. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne. Remove from heat and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Cook chicken until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat and season with 1 teaspoon garam masala and cayenne. Stir in about 1/3 of the sauce and simmer until liquid has reduced and chicken is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Pour the rest of the sauce into the chicken. Mix together cornstarch and water, then stir into the sauce. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, or until thickened.

Published in: on August 23, 2009 at 4:24 pm  Comments (2)  

Ragu Alla Bolognese

Never let it be said that I’m not a good cook — I am, I really am. I am, however, a slave to rule-following when it comes to reproducing recipes. This is both a blessing and a curse.

Where Columbus Foodie is flexible — sometimes to the point of making changes where they’re not needed, just for the sake of “creativity” — I’m the workmanlike technician, able to precisely duplicate a dish, given an accurate recipe.

This last Sunday night, I made a wonderful Ragu Alla Bolognese. I modified the original recipe somewhat to accommodate the ingredients I had available. I also doubled the recipe from the original requirements, which resulted in somewhat longer cooking times throughout. Your mileage will no doubt vary.  I served this delicious ragu over Trader Giotto’s (Trader Joe’s) imported Italian tagliatelle.  It was fantastic.

With no further ado, I present…
Ragu alla Bolognese

Ragu Alla Bolognese
Modified from the original recipe found in La Cucina Italiana, Sept/Oct 2009

1 (14-ounce) or 1/2 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes in juice, preferably San Marzano — I substituted Cento tomato puree
1-1/2 to 2-1/2 cups water
1 T tomato paste, preferably double concentrated
1 t beef base or 1 beef bouillon cube
1 celery rib roughly chopped
1/2 medium onion, roughly chopped
1/2 medium carrot, roughly chopped
3 T unsalted butter
2 oz sweet italian sausage, removed from casing
2 oz pancetta or slab bacon (I used double-smoked bacon), finely chopped
3/4 pound 80/20 ground beef (I used 1-1/4 pound ground beef)
3/4 pound ground pork (I used no ground pork)
1/2 pound ground veal (I used 3/4 pound ground veal)
Fine sea salt
1 cup dry red wine
1 bay leaf
3/4 cup whole milk
Freshly grated nutmeg

Puree tomatoes and their juice in blender until smooth; set aside (if using puree, ignore this step)

In a small saucepan, bring 1-1/2 cups water to a simmer; whisk in tomato paste and beef base/bouillon cube. Remove from heat; set aside.

Make a battuto (the foundation for many Italian soups, stews and sauces) by finely chopping together (by hand) celery, onion and carrot.

Heat butter over medium-low heat in a dutch oven until melted and foaming; add battuto, sausage, and pancetta or bacon. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sausage is broken into small bits, then continue cooking, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened (do not brown), about 25 minutes.

Add beef, (pork) and veal; increase heat to medium. Cook, stirring until meat is broken into small bits, then season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly for 10 minutes more (do not brown).

Add wine; bring to a boil and cook until wine and juices in pot are mostly evaporated, 3 to 5 minutes. Add reserved pureed tomato, reserved beef base mixture and bay leaf.

Cook ragu at the barest simmer, stirring occasionally (making sure to stir into edges of pot), until meat is very tender and sauce is thick (as sauce thickens, add water, bit by bit, if necessary, to keep sauce moist and just barely liquid), about 2-1/2 hours.

Add milk and continue cooking for 30 minutes more. Stir in pinch nutmeg. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Published in: on August 21, 2009 at 12:00 am  Comments (1)  
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Participant’s Report: North Market Jelly & Jam Contest 2009

My wife, Columbus Foodie, will tell anyone willing to listen that for all my faults, I’m one HELL of a cannin’ fool.  I’ve singlehandedly canned all manner of jams, preserves, and now jellies since we’ve gotten into the whole food preservation thing.  Heck, right now I’ve got a tub of stinky little four-inch lovelies — pickling cukes — fermenting on the basement landing, where the temperature remains a comfortable 66 to 70 degrees (perfect to turn cucumbers into tasty tasty garlic dills).

Alas, that’s a story for another day.

Earlier this season, the mulberry tree in our backyard was literally bursting with dark little packages of berrylicious wonderfulness, and Dear Wifey made a point of gathering as many as she could as often as she could.  Additionally, her mother’s boyfriend, whom I will refer to simply as “J”, gathered a boatload of mulberries from a tree near their property for my use.

This provided me with about a gallon to a gallon and a half of fully ripened, plump, juicy, yet seedy mulberries a week for nearly a month.  What’s a man to do with such a bounty?    TURN THEM INTO JELLY!  Over the course of that early summer month, I mashed, boiled, strained, jellified and canned at least 20-25 eight ounce jars of glistening purple bliss and gave away a significant share of them to friends and family.  Thus, it was a no brainer to submit (especially at Columbus Foodie’s insistence) my Mulberry Jelly to the mercy of the judges at the Columbus North Market’s 2009 Jelly and Jam Contest.

I arrived early, and submitted my entry to the first organizer to arrive.  Thus, my mulberry jelly was the first product sampled by the judges.  Whether this hurt my chances of placing high, I’ll never know (I did not win or place).  By the time the judging was ready to begin, a total of fifteen entries had been received.  Here are some of the competitors:

Jelly & Jam Contest Entries at the North Market 8/15/09

Here are the rest (forgive the overlap, it couldn’t be helped):

More Jelly & Jam Contest Entries at the North Market 8/15/09

As you can see, my offering was merely one among many; there were quite a few interesting submissions.  The winning Organic Concord Grape Jelly fully deserved its prize, as it was one of the best grape jellies I’ve ever tasted.  Other notables included a sangria jelly, a lavender black&blue preserve, a hot pepper jelly, several cherry jams, and a blackberry jam which was quite good in my opinion.

All in all, it was an interesting and entertaining competition.  Expect to see me there again next year.

Published in: on August 20, 2009 at 5:47 pm  Comments (1)  
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A brief introduction.

I am Paul, aka Fat Bastard, your humble host.  I hope to inform and entertain you in my exploration of food — and my other interests — here in Columbus, OH.

Paul at Dirty Frank's Hot Dog Palace

What are my other interests?  I’m a dark beer, ale, and stout aficionado.  I also enjoy riding my semi-recumbent bicycle, a Day6 Dream 21.  I’m also an unrepentant nerd… so sue me.

Anyway, that’s enough for now.

Published in: on August 20, 2009 at 5:09 pm  Comments (1)  
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