Aunt Suzy says . . .

Every week Salon.com has what they call Kitchen Challenge, where they pose a type of food or specify ingredients and ask people for their best recipes.   These are often informative, usually lots of fun and provide ideas for new recipes.  Last week was no exception when they asked people to send in “your best combinations of beer and sausage”, asking that people think outside the bun.  The winner was this recipe for sausage and kale braised in dark beer and tossed with pasta.  The author had a sense of humor in that the recipe includes beer, sausage and mustard!  Everything except the bun :-).   We really enjoyed this with the arugula-mint salad that follows, and I thought the Valpolicella I served was a great match.  (sorry the photo is so dark!)

The Sausage-Kale Pasta

1 pound small pasta

EV olive oil for sauteing

4 fresh Italian sausages, meat removed from casings

1 white onion

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound kale, inner stems removed and chopped in 2-inch pieces

1 12-ounce bottle dark beer (we used porter)

1 tablespoon mustard (more or less to taste)

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper

Grated Parmesan for serving

NOTES ON INGREDIENTS: The original recipe called for spaghetti, but I thought it would be easier to eat with small pasta shapes.  We used Strozzapreti, having just gotten some on sale.  We used 2 hot and 2 mild Italian sausages made with turkey – pork would also be delicious.  We used Lacinato kale (also on sale!), but I think the curly would work just as well, although it would take longer to become tender.

DIRECTIONS: Coat the bottom of a large Dutch oven with olive oil.  Heat to medium high and add the sausage meat.  Brown till just done breaking up into pieces.  When done, remove the sausage and set aside.  Wipe out any stray bits of sausage from the pot, but leave all the good brown stuff – the fond – in the bottom.  Put in a little more olive oil and add the onion.  Saute over medium heat until soft, scraping up the bits off the bottom of the pan.  I found that those bits started burning a little after about 3 minutes, so I added a small amount of the beer to deglaze the pan.  Add the garlic when the onion is soft and stir for a minute till it becomes fragrant.  Add the prepared kale and stir until it’s wilted – you might have to do this in more than one batch.  Add the cooked sausage and the beer, bring to a bubble, reduce heat and simmer for about 15-20 minutes until the kale is tender.

In the meantime, cook the pasta according to directions till al dente.  Drain, saving 1/4 cup of pasta water.  Stir the mustard into the pasta water and then add, along with salt and pepper, to the kale-sausage mixture. Add the Parmesan and stir to blend everything.  Stir in the pasta and heat back to serving temperature.  Serve in bowls and pass the extra Parmesan.

The Arugula-Mint Salad

1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, coarsely ground in a mortar

2 tablespoons EV olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or a mix of the vinegar and lemon juice to equal 1 tablespoon

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper

6-8 cups greens – a mix of baby lettuces and arugula (I found a bagged mix)

20 or so mint leaves

Make the dressing by combining the fennel, olive oil, red wine vinegar and lemon juice, mustard and salt and pepper.  Whisk until slightly emulsified.  Combine the greens and the mint, then wash and dry.  Place in a salad bowl and toss with the dressing.  Garnish each bowl with a couple of mint leaves.  This salad is a refreshing Wow!

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Aunt Suzy says

The heat that has been plaguing the rest of the country has finally caught up with us here in the Upper Midwest.   On Sunday it was mid-90’s with bright sun and humidity, so Randy and I decided to make a variety of salads for our main meal.  We split the cooking, which allowed us time to play a cribbage game – one of our favorite things to do on a Sunday afternoon.

 These salads are either no-cook or minimal cooking, like sauteeing a few items.  Two of the salads are from a previous post – Tuna with Roasted Peppers and Pine Nuts, which includes a link to the Morrocan-inspired Carrot Salad with Feta from Smitten Kitchen.  (The carrot salad uses Harissa.)  I am excited to have recently purchsed a new-fangled Julienne Peeler, which I think makes for a crunchier and lighter carrot salad than a box grater.   We also made White Bean and Arugula salad from Mark Bittman’s great 101 Salads N Y Times article from last summer.  (If you need salad ideas, check this out!)  And lastly, we made one of our favorites, Zucchini Carpaccio with Arugula and Shaved Parmesan.  All made more delicious with the refreshing French rose wine we served wtih the meal.  So if it’s hot where you live, stay cool with one or more of these delicious salads!

Zucchini Carpaccio

August 10, 2010

Aunt Suzy says

This recipe is great for this season for two reasons.  First, this time of year provides an (over)abundance of zucchini.  Secondly, it’s a refreshing no-cook salad for these dog days of August and only takes about 15-20 minutes to prepare if you use a mandoline.  We originally saw this recipe  in (where else?) Food & Wine way back in 2002.  It was a regular for many summers, but we had forgotten about it the last couple of summers.  It will be back in rotation as long as it’s hot out and we have zukes!  Thanks to my brother, John, for the OXO mandoline he gave us a few years back!  It made making this a lot easier than when we didn’t have it, although Randy would say that he was able to make the slices much thinner by hand.  But then that took 10 times longer :-).

1/4 cup EV olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

1 pound small green and yellow zucchini

2-3 cups baby arugula

1 ounce parmesan cheese, shaved (1 cup)

In a medium bowl, whisk the olive oil and lemon juice together and add salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside.  Slice the zucchini 1/8-inch thick on the diagonal using a mandoline or by hand with a knife.  Toss the zucchini with the dressing to coat and let stand 3 minutes.  Arrange the zucchini in overlapping slices on a serving platter.  Add the arugula to the bowl and toss wtih the dressing that remains in the bowl.  Mound the dressed arugula on the zucchini and then scatter the parmesan over the top and serve.  What could be simpler?!!

Aunt Suzy says

My favorite new discovery is food writer Francis Lam on Salon.com.  Not all his spots include recipes, but all are interesting. The minute I saw his column last Friday I knew I had to bunny-hop down to the farmer’s market on Saturday to get ingredients.  All I needed was arugula, tomatoes and shallots.  I was thinking that it might be too late in the season for arugula, but the great growers of Burning River Farm came through.  I was shocked to see home grown shallots (from another vendor);  I was fully prepared to have to buy them from a store.  I was able to get all three fresh ingredients required for this simple, elegant and beautiful dish. Randy and I ate the entire recipe, which I think was supposed to serve four!  It paired beautifully with a rich Spanish rose wine.   A note about the pasta – I thought from experience that we should be using small pasta shapes of some sort like fusilli or penne, but I’m glad I followed the recipe and used linguine.  It was perfect and fun to eat.  On another note, I heartily recommend reading the original column – link above – it was fun to read and made my mouth water! (August 2011 addendum – Francis is no longer at Salon, but is now at another food site Gilt Taste, where he posted an article about this recipe.)

Margaux says

Making dinner while entertaining a 19 month old is quite a challenge, so I’m always looking for fast and easy…but I don’t want to compromise on flavor!!  This is another winner for me because it took no time at all to make, and it was delicious.  I agree with Suzy that I was going against what I know about pasta by using spaghetti instead of pasta pieces for this dish, but in the end I was glad I followed the recipe!

2 1/2 pounds ripe summer tomatoes (a variety is nice, but good old red farm-stand or garden tomatoes will be just fine)

2-3 handfuls of baby arugula (we added about 3 cups)

thinly sliced shallot or shaved onion

3/4-1 pound spaghetti or linguine, depending on what pasta to veggies ratio you want (we used 3/4 lb linguine)

1 cup grated Parmegiano (the recipe said optional, but I don’t think so :-))

olive oil, salt and pepper

Seed and chop the tomatoes into chunks.  Place in a large bowl – large enough to hold everything including the cooked pasta and with enough room to toss vigorously.  Sprinkle with some olive oil, then salt and pepper to taste.  Place the arugula on top and then the sliced shallots or shaved onion.  (the shallots were fab!)

In the meantime, the spaghetti or linguine should be cooking away – or at least the water should be at the boiling point when you’ve finished setting up your bowl of vegetables.  Cook the pasta in salted water till al dente according to package directions.  When finished cooking, drain and then dump the drained pasta on top of the vegetables.  Press down a little and dowse with olive oil.  Let sit 3 minutes for the arugula to wilt and the shallots or onions to soften up a bit.  After the 3 minute timer goes off, toss a little to blend and then add the Parmegiano and toss away to thoroughly blend the cheese in and distribute the ingredients throughout the dish.  The recipe said to add some red wine vinegar if you want, but we thought it was perfect without.

Aunt Suzy says

If you’re getting the impression that Margaux and I like potato salad, you are correct!  As I said in my Mediterannean Potato Salad post, I enjoy concocting salads using seasonal ingredients.  Right now we are at peak season for arugula, radishes and spring onions, which inspired this recipe.  We are lucky to have Burning River Farm at Mill City Farmer’s Market here in the Twin Cities – they grow the best baby arugula (and many other delicious produce items)!

Fire up the grill!  This recipe – no eggs, no mayo and no dairy – will go with anything you might be grilling!

The Vegetables

2 pounds small potatoes, red or white or a combo, unpeeled

6-8 radishes

2 cups sugar snap peas

4-6 spring onions

3-4 cups baby arugula

Place whole unpeeled potatoes in a large pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes until just tender.  Place in a single layer on a towel and let cool.

While potatoes are cooling, prepare the other vegetables.  Remove the strings from the sugar snaps and then slice into 1/4-1/2-inch segments.  Thinly slice the radishes – if large, cut in half before slicing.  Thinly slice the spring onions.  Wash the arugula and remove any long or thick stems.  If using regular vs. baby arugula, chop into smaller pieces.  Wrap the arugula in a towel to dry.

When the potatoes are cool, cut into 1/2-3/4-inch pieces.  Place all vegetables except the arugula in large bowl.

The Dressing

1/3 cup EV olive oil

Juice of 1 to 1-1/2 lemons, depending on how juicy

1/2-1 tsp Dijon mustard, to taste

Salt and black pepper to taste

Place all dressing ingredients into a bowl or the cup that comes along with your hand-held blender.  Use the blender to emulsify the dressing, about 2 minutes.  You can make this with a hand whisk, but I think the dressing works better when slightly emulsified.

Pour the dressing over the potatoes and mix to blend.  I like using my hands to do this.  Add the arugula and gently toss to blend in and coat with the dressing.