Monday, January 23, 2006

Pasta with Sausage and Frozen Veggies

So my mom uses them all the time, but whenever I buy frozen vegetables they seem to remain in the freezer till they've become one giant lump of veggie ice. You hear chefs and experts saying that frozen veggies might actually be better than fresh because they are frozen at the peak ripeness. But for some reason I couldn't bring myself to use them. No more! I cleaned out my freezer last week and this weekend stocked up on some frozen veggie basics:

- spinach
- peas
- onions
- bell peppers (mixed)
- sugar snap peas

My goal is to find simple recipes using these ingredients and a few basics I keep around the kitchen. I might expand the list soon when I want a different flavor in the dish. Also broccoli and Brussels sprouts are in season right now, so I probably won't by frozen until they go out of season. I bought lots of zip-top freezer bags to hopefully prevent the lump-of-ice scenario I use to have when I was use part of a bag, then twist the bag to "seal" it and place it back into the freezer.

Last night was the first recipe, and it turned out fairly good.

Pasta with sausage and veggies:
- frozen (and pre-cut) onions, bell peppers, peas, spinach
- 2 cloves of garlic (or teaspoons of pre-minced)
- red pepper flakes (adjust to desired heat level)
- 1lb pasta
- 2 Italian sausages
- several tablespoons of Parmesan cheese

Remove the raw sausage meat from the casing and place into a skillet over medium heat with a tiny about of oil. Flatten the meat and break into bite size pieces as it cooks. Once cooked, remove from pan onto paper towel to drain. Leave some oil/fat in the pan to cook the veggies. Add the garlic, onions, bell pepper, some salt and pepper, and the red pepper flakes. Cook until the onions and bell pepper are tender. Add the peas and spinach until just heated through, not any longer. Transfer along with the sausage to a large bowl to wait for the pasta.

Meanwhile heat a large stock pot filled with water to a boil. Once boiling, add the pasta and cook until just slightly underdone. Towards the end of the cooking, remove 1 cup of the pasta water and reserve for later. Drain the pasta, but do not rinse it. Place the pasta in the large bowl with the veggies and add the cheese. Mix to combine. Add the pasta water until the pasta and veggies are moist but not there should be no water pooling in the bottom of the bowl (I added over half a cups worth).


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Brussel sprouts, part 2

So I've bought brussel sprouts again thinking that I wanted to eat them again, but the amount of prep time scared me away from cooking them, that and I've been on a bad food kick recently. But its time to be good again, and when I cooked the sprouts tonight, it wasn't so bad. Instead of trimming the spouts in my hand, I just cut them on a cutting board. Thusly it went faster because I wasn't constantly worried about cutting my fingers. Most of my spouts were small, so I only cut a couple in half. The rest I just trimmed off 1/8 to 1/4 an inch where the stem was. I also removed the outer leaves of a couple which were particularly dirty. Finally I gave them a rinse and steamed them for 10 minutes from a cold pot (wok with water in it, over medium heat, with a bamboo steamer and a single layer of sprouts). This was probably too long as they were a little mushy and not as vibrantly green as when I braised them, so next time I'll try 8 minutes.

My goal for the few weeks: eat more veggies.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

I Made Them Eat Brussel Sprouts

I made my New Years dinner guests eat brussel sprouts, and they liked them! Three of them had never had them before (I'm guess thier parents hated them) and one didn't like them from before. but all seven guests enjoyed them, as did I. How did I do it? Here is my basic guide:

- buy fresh brussel sprouts
- braise them, don't boil them
- don't over cook them
- coat them in cheese and butter (but not too much)... yum

Brussel Sprouts with Parmesan Cheese

~ 2lbs fresh brussel sprouts
- 6 tbls grated (or shredded) parmesan cheese, the good stuff!!
- 2 tbls butter
- 1 cup water
- 1 tsp salt

Wash and trim the sprouts. To trim brussel sprouts, use a small knife. Be careful not to cut yourself while trimming just the very tips of the stem end of the sprout (the dried out bit). Remove any brown/yellow, spotted, or loose leaves. If the sprouts are large or not uniform in size, cut the large ones in half. They should form tight heads.

Add water and salt to a wide skillet or sauce pan, hopefully big enough for most sprouts to be in a single layer. Bring water to a boil and add sprouts. Reduce to low eat and cover for ~ 8-10 minutes until the sprouts are bright green and tender. After 8 minutes remove one and try to insert a knife into the base, it should go in a small amount with little resistance. Remove and drain the sprouts. (btw.. this is call braising)

This can be done up to an hour before your meal is to be ready. Right before serving, melt the butter in a large skillet/sauce pan. Let it get foamy and slighty browned. Add the sprouts and toss them in the butter until heated and some start to brown slightly. Remove and immeadiately toss in the parmesan cheese.