Sausage Gravy

Well, we have a good biscuit recipe. Isn’t this the next logical step? This is not by any stretch of the imagination diet friendly, but it’s absolutely delicious. Plus, it’s enough work that you won’t want to make it that often.

1/2 lb bulk pork sausage, crumbled (or make your own!)
2 T flour
1 1/2 c weak beef broth
1/2 c whipping cream
1/2 t sage
1/2 t black pepper
pinch ground cloves

In a deep skillet over medium heat, brown sausage, breaking up with back of spatula while cooking. Drain off fat except for one tablespoon and stir flour into meat until no lumps remain, then add beef broth, stirring frequently until liquid comes to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to low and add cream in a slow stream while stirring. Add sage, pepper and cloves and stir constantly until mixture thickens and just begins to boil – gravy should well coat the back of spoon. Remove from heat and serve immediately.

Delicious Chickpea Soup

I’ve made this twice and loved it and totally forgotten to post it. The original is here and I don’t think I’ve made that many changes to it. A couple of notes, though: using dried chickpeas never works for me. I soaked those little bastards for about 18 hours and they were still hard when chopped up. When I made it again, I just went with canned and the texture benefited greatly. And use the fresh rosemary. It makes all the difference.

1/2 lb (250 g) dried chickpeas soaked overnight and then simmered for 2 hours until tender *or* 1 can of chickpeas, drained (I used two cans – I like lots of chickpeas)
2 T olive oil
1 medium carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 stick of celery, finely diced
1 onion, finely diced
2 T tomato paste (one small can
1 sprig rosemary
2 cloves crushed garlic
2 c vegetable or chicken stock or water the chickpeas were cooked in, with more plain water added to make up the difference, if necessary
* optional* 500ml extra water or stock for if you cook the pasta in the soup
Parmesan rind
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 lb small dried tubular pasta (ditali)
*optional* olive oil for on top
*optional* shredded Parmesan for on top

Heat the oil to medium-low in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Add the carrot, celery and onion to the oil and sautée until soft and translucent. Stir in tomato paste, rosemary and garlic, then add chickpeas.

Cover everything with stock or water and throw in Parmesan rind. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer for about 20 minutes.

Remove the rind and rosemary and pass everything through a food mill or give it a blast with the stick blender until you achieve the desired texture. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Now, two choices:

1. add some more water or stock to the soup, bring it to the boil and cook your pasta directly in the soup


2. cook your pasta separately, then add it to the soup, letting things rest for about 5 minutes so the flavors mingle. Serve drizzled with oil and some freshly grated Parmesan.

Peach and Crème Fraîche Pie

Fruit pie success! We’ve had a spate of sloppy, overly juicy fruit pies in the past few weeks. Two factors contribute to this: 1) Summer fruit is looking and smelling so gorgeous of late and 2) Cliff is a pie-crust rolling fool. I’ve never been a huge pie nut or fruit fan, so I’m less than driven to perfect the process. However, we will be making this again because it was so lovely. And easy. I found it here and made a couple of small adjustments, plus we used our own pie crust recipe.

1/4 c confectioners’ sugar
1/4 t baking powder
Pinch of salt
3 to 6 T flour
1/4 c cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 1/2 lbs (4 to 5 medium) yellow peaches, ripe, pitted and sliced
4 T granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
5 T crème fraîche

First, put your sliced peaches, sugar and salt in a large bowl and stir to coat. Set aside to sit for about 10 minutes.

Next, make the streusel: combine all ingredients in a deep bowl and cut together with a pastry cutter or two knives. The mixture should be crumbly and coarse – if it isn’t crumbly enough, add more flour one tablespoon at a time. Once you get the right texture, set the streusel aside.

Preheat the oven to 375° F. Roll out your pie crust and place in a 9-inch pie dish (don’t use a deep dish!). Crimp the crust edges as you like and poke the bottom with a fork. At this point in the original recipe, you’re supposed to parbake the crust, but I skipped that step and don’t think it’s necessary. If you prefer to parbake, go look at the original recipe linked above for the instructions.

Take 2 tablespoons of your crème fraîche and spread it on the bottom of the pie crust, then sprinkle about 1/3 of your streusel on the crème fraîche. Arrange the peaches in the pie crust – don’t worry if it looks like there is too little, they will release some juice and fill it out. Now dot the peaches with the remainder of the crème fraîche and top with the rest of the streusel. Bake for about 50 minutes, remove from oven, allow to cool completely to room temperature, then chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.

Mushroom Crostini

This came out of my high school cookbook and it was something special. We were looking for something carby and savory to have with salad for dinner and gave this a try. Turns out, we were nearly licking the plates. These mushrooms would probably be fantastic smothering a steak or chicken breast, folded into an omelet or as a base for a creamy pasta sauce.

1 baguette, day old and sliced into 1/2 inch slices
2 T butter
1 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb mushroom, sliced
1/2 t dried thyme
1 T Madeira wine
1/2 c chicken or vegetable broth
1-2 T fresh parsley or chives, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 400° F (200° C). Arrange baguette slices in one layer on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until golden.

Heat a skillet to medium-low and add olive oil and butter. When butter starts to foam, add onion and cook until transparent. Add garlic and mushrooms to skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid evaporates. Add thyme, wine and chicken broth and bring to simmer, stirring until mixture is reduced by two thirds. Remove from heat and stir in parsley or chives and salt and pepper. Mound a heaping spoonful of mushrooms on top of each crostini.

Curry Chicken Salad

I’m trying to make sure all of my recipes are in one, easy-to-find place, so several of them might be coming up at once. I found this one here and adapted it to our tastes. I generally don’t like creamy ‘salads,’ i.e. chicken salad, potato salad, macaroni salad (*shudder*), but the addition of curry here is really lovely. We like to eat this during the summer on croissant sandwiches.

1/4 c mayonnaise
1/2 c plain yogurt
5 tsp curry powder
1 T lime juice
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 lb skinless, boneless chicken breasts, poached and chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 c red seedless grapes, halved
1/2 c salted roasted cashews, coarsely chopped

Whisk together mayonnaise, yogurt, curry, lime juice, honey, ginger, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add chicken, celery, grapes, and cashews and stir gently to combine.

Sauerkraut Paprikash

I will eat anything that includes sour cream. It is literally my favorite food. Since I’ve come around to sausage and sauerkraut and I have way too much paprika, this looked like the perfect recipe. I’ve made some alterations, so here’s the original and below is what I actually did.

2 T butter
2 medium onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T hot paprika
1 lb Polish sausage, sliced
3 small potatoes, medium dice
2 T fresh chopped dill
1 tsp caraway seeds
2 c chicken broth
2 16 oz cans sauerkraut, drained and rinsed
3/4 c sour cream

1. Melt the butter in a dutch oven and add the onion, garlic, and paprika. Cook over medium heat until the onion is quite soft, 5 to 7 minutes.

2. Add the sausages and potatoes and cook for a minute to begin rendering their fat. Add the dill, caraway seed, broth, and water. Bring to a boil then simmer for 15 minutes.

3. Add the sauerkraut and stir to combine well. Continue simmering, covered, for an additional 15 minutes. Add a little water (no more than 1/2 c) if it looks like there’s not enough liquid or the sauerkraut begins burning to the bottom of the pot.

4. Add the sour cream and simmer just until hot; avoid letting the liquid boil once it’s added. Serve immediately.

Chocolate Cheesecake Squares

It’s too warm for something this heavy, I know. But the weather here was pretty dismal for a couple of weeks running, so I took chance on a recipe I found here and was not disappointed. I made a couple of adjustments and will list the recipe I used. Put this in your back pocket until November.

1 1/2 c graham cracker crumbs (in Germany, you can use crushed Leibniz cookies)
1/3 c melted butter
8 oz (220 g) cream cheese, room temperature
1 c sour cream
1/3 c unsweetened cocoa powder
2 T cornstarch
3/4 c sugar
1 large egg plus one egg white
1 c semisweet chocolate chips (I think I only used 1/2 c)
1/2 t vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 325 F° (163 C°). Mix crumbs and butter together and press into an even crust in the bottom of a 9×9 baking dish. Set aside.
2. Blend cream cheese and sour cream in food processor until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add cocoa, cornstarch, vanilla, sugar, egg, and egg white; process until smooth. Pour into pan; sprinkle with chocolate chips.
3. Bake until just set, 35 to 40 minutes; cool completely in pan. Refrigerate at least 1 hour, but overnight is better. Makes 9 squares.

Chicken Marsala For Reals

I made this a while back and just never got around to posting. Even bad chicken Marsala is still kind of good, but this stuff is on a whole ‘nother level. The sauce was deeply flavored and rich, the chicken tender and we had it over polenta, providing a wonderful texture contrast. Here’s the original recipe. Below is what I actually did when I made it.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c flour
1 tsp dried oregano
1 T olive oil
1 T unsalted butter
4 strips bacon, chopped
1/2 lb cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 shallots, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T dried sage
1 tsp tomato paste
1 c sweet Marsala wine
1 T unsalted butter
Juice of half a lemon

You’re supposed to pound the chicken, but I couldn’t be bothered. I just sliced it into large strips. Mix the salt, pepper, flour and oregano and dredge the chicken in the mixture, shaking off excess. Heat a deep skillet over medium-high and add the olive oil and butter. When the butter is melted and foamy, add the chicken to the skillet. Cook until browned, about 4 minutes each side. Remove chicken to a plate, cover to keep warm and set aside.

Add the chopped bacon to the pan and cook until just crisp, stirring occasionally. Remove the bacon to a plate with a paper towel to soak up the grease. Add the mushrooms to the skillet and cook until golden, making sure to scrape up any bits left in the pan from the chicken or bacon. Feel free to add a little more oil if the pan seems dry.

Add the shallots, garlic, sage and tomato paste and stir to combine. Cook until the shallots are tender – 2 to 3 minutes – then add the Marsala. Turn the heat up and bring the sauce to a hard simmer, cooking until the sauce is slightly thickened and reduced. Add the chicken (and any juices collected on the plate) and bacon to the sauce and heat thoroughly. Add last tablespoon of butter and lemon juice and stir until just combined. Serve with pasta or polenta.

Cheddar Bacon Scallion Scones

Scone success at last! We’ve made scones before – they’ve always been sad and hard. I think the combination of a normally functioning oven and a good recipe made the difference. We might tinker with this in the future to make sweet scones as well.

3 c flour plus extra for dusting
1 T baking powder
1 t salt
1/2 t ground black pepper
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1/2 c butter, cut into small pieces
2/3 c cheddar, grated
3 green onions, chopped
3/4 c buttermilk
8 slices bacon, cooked, drained and crumbled
1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 400°F/204°C.

Combine dry ingredients. Add in butter and work with your hands to combine – make sure to work all lumps of butter into flour mixture. Add cheese, green onions, and buttermilk, and mix together. Add bacon and egg and mix until all the ingredients are incorporated.

Bacon Cheddar Scallion Scones - PC191357Turn dough out onto a floured flat surface and knead a few times to smooth out the dough – it will remain lumpy and sticky. Form dough into a ball, then flatten into a 1/2-inch thick disk. Cut the disk into wedges (we got 8). Spread wedges across a parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving a little room around them. Bake for 16-18 (we went for 20) minutes, or until the bottom of the scones start to brown and the cheese in the scone begins to turn golden. Best served warm.