Saturday, May 12, 2012

Good Ol' SPO (Sausage, Peppers & Onions)

Growing up in an Italian household, sausage & peppers was a common thing. My mom used to make it and then used it in her scrambled eggs or she would make this incredibly huge omelet and tuck it away inside. It looks like this huge overstuffed pie. I was never a fan of sausage or peppers. I hated both. I developed a taste for it later on in life when I tried it again at a Renaissance Festival. Not sure why I ordered it, but wow it smelled good.

It seemed as though every party, every BBQ or a dish made to bring to somebody's party included sausage and peppers when my mom would prepare for an event. I watched both my dad and mom do a teamwork project on it. Dad would chop everything, even slice the garlic with a razor (a clean one), and mom would could the onions and peppers while either frying or BBQing the sausages. I have taken mom's recipe to almost the exact science, except I like to add a bit of color to mine. The only difference between mine and my mothers is that she only uses green peppers, while I get a little more fancy and doll the dish up with yellow, orange and green. Just more appealing to me. Not sure if there's a major difference, but it's all about the 'culla' and if it looks 'purdy'.

First you want to chop up two medium size onions into ringlets, fresh parsley and finely slice 4 cloves of garlic. I use organic peppers, using all the cutesy colors you see in the photo and I clean them thoroughly. Take out all the pulp and just slice them elongated. Add some fresh mushrooms into the mix and drizzle olive oil on the lovelies.  Spice it up with salt, pepper, red pepper, oregano and then throw some white wine into the mix, giving it a beautiful flavor. Mix it up and put it in the oven at 375. My mother says 350 - but I like to fully cook the garlic so it's not so "PA-DOW" with each bite. Just keep turning and checking it to see if it softens up a bit.

While you're veggies are roasting, start pan searing your sausage. I use sweet Italian sausages like my mom does. I constantly turn them on a medium heat for quite a bit. I don't like undercooked sausages - not feeling that, however, I don't like them burnt to a crisp either.  Slow cooking is much better with this dish because it absorbs all the juices.

I then slice them in half. It not only makes more for the dish, but most people prefer having them sliced up so that they're easier to eat and put into sandwiches if they want to. I leave them on the side for a bit before throwing them into the mix.

After your veggies are not too hard and not too soft, throw the sausages into the mix and then put it in the oven for approximately another 20-30 minutes or so and voila - you'll have a great and easy dish to cook for your friends and family. In fact, this dish is going to my mom's BBQ tomorrow for Mother's Day. Bon appetit!

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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

'Bolo-neeze', 'Bolo-nayze' - Let's Call the Whole Thing Off!

Mom would sometimes make a pasta with a bolognese sauce, usually with shells or rigatonis. She never called it bolognese, she'd call it her meat sauce - and that was that. She'd add a bit of mushrooms to hers and cook it almost all day long. But bolognese wasn't her thing. She believes a true Italian sauce (or gravy) should definitely have some type of pork in it to make it taste delicious. And it always does. When I went out to restaurants, I never knew what the word bolognese was. When I found out and ordered it - it was my favorite dish. I'd ask the waiter, "I'll have the rigatoni bolog-neeze (with the 'g' sound in it) please. And oh, I'll have a glass of merlot (with the 't' sound in it)."  The waiter would cringe as he wrote my order down, grab all the menus and run. Hey, I was only 21 back then and not too polished on my food &  beverage knowledge. Sadly, I stopped pronouncing it "bolog-neeze" not too long ago, until someone (kindly) pointed out that I was botching up that beautiful word. So now I know, even after having cooked it a billion and one times.

I hear people making it much differently than I do - some using vegetables, carrots and other miscellaneous things that I would never throw in there, but every recipe is unique, even if it's the same ingredients. Different tastes, different pots, different ingredients/brands, etc., etc., and etc.  I have almost the same ingredients as mom, but a bit different. Of course, she would throw in 6-7 cans of tomato sauce, where I use only 1 can and it's a lot thinner (and less quantity) since I'm not cooking for an army. The one thing I love about a sauce is my garlic chopped nice and thin, yet big enough so you can actually see the chunks on your fork full of pasta. In my marinara sauce, before the meat dives in, I sauté about five cloves of chopped garlic, a half of a small onion, a handful of fresh parsley, fresh basil leaves, salt, pepper, garlic powder in olive oil, and while it's sizzling in it's little puddle of loveliness, I add two tablespoons of sugar in the raw. It cuts down on the acidity. And God knows how much Prilosec & Zantac I pop after eating a rich marinara. Oof. As that's sautéing - make sure you don't burn your garlic and start dicing up fresh tomatoes. I use 3-4 depending on the size of the pot. With this one, I'm using a medium size sauce pan. That'll take the sizzling away for a moment...let it heat up and then add 1 cup of low sodium chicken broth. This helps the sauce become lighter and not so thick and clumpy. I add one can of crushed tomatoes (to whatever brand you prefer) and a half a cup of parmesan cheese. Stir.

The next step is important. Use whatever leftover red wine you have, or better yet, if you have that cheap Carlo Rossi delight, (any red table wine will do), pour that stuff in.

While you're heating up your sauce, go ahead and put a little olive oil into a frying pan (just to get it greased up a tad) and throw some chopped meat in there. I can't tell you how much to use, but for us, we usually make a bolognese sauce the day after having burgers, so about a half a pound should be good.

Now get the two hot hot hot...Work those burners!

Make sure the meat is nice & brown before you throw it into the lake of fire.

And also make sure your sauce is bubbling over with joy.

Let the two unite in holy matrimony... 

Let that simmer for a coupla' hours and you got yourself a dish ya' can't refuse. Put it on top of your favorite pasta and dine with someone special. Just remember to pronounce it "bola-nayze" and when you're drinking a merlot -- mer-low. Cabernet? Cabber-nay. ...Capisce??

For Deb's main blog, please visit:

Friday, May 4, 2012

How to Make Eggplant Parmesan

Thanks to my mother, she has given me her step by step process of making eggplant parmesan. I have tweaked the recipe just a tad. My mom is old school. She uses things that would send you to the ER for an angioplasty, but from my recipe, you'll probably at worst, get heartburn, (but it'll be so worth it!) It's important for the day before the actual peeling/chopping/frying & stacking the eggplant that you cook your marinara sauce the day before. However you cook marinara sauce is fine, or you can look at this post to see how I cook mine. Cook the sauce for at least 4 or more hours. It's all in the timing.  When you go shopping for eggplant, look for longer (more even) and firm. If you find any soft spots, fuggedaboudit'! Chuck it. Go to another farm market or grocery store.
Redundant as hell, but peel the eggplant until she is bare naked. This is how I prefer it, but if you like the skin, just chop it thin and carefully.
Chop it (the best you could) in round little medallions. The shape may vary, but that doesn't really matter. It's all about thin slices, if you can manage. And believe me, I have a hard time trying to get them at their thinnest, including myself.

Bring out the good ol' egg & batter. Mom always told me to use Italian spiced breadcrumbs - various brands can be used. If you're making a large pan, make sure you have enough eggs to back it up or you're screwed.

After egging & breading, places those puppies into a large pan so you can pluck them out for frying.

This is when I develop a bad case of acne, but my favorite part of the process ----frying. Although Crisco and all those artery clogging oils may be 'better' to cook with, olive oil is not only healthier, but it even tastes better. There is a trick to frying with it. Since olive oil tends to burn faster, make sure that you don't have your fryer on the highest setting. Even keel ~ keep it real. Just watch your medallions and flip em' every so often. You want a golden brown, not too dark.

Even though olive oil is super duper healthy fer' ya, you're gonna still want to sop all that grease off. My mom always told me to place them on a paper towel and layer them up. It really does do the trick and keeps them separated so they don't stick.

Make your "gravy" as we Italian Brooklynites say. If you do it the day of -- you're crazy. Make it the day before you make the eggplant. The eggplant itself takes approximately **3** hours to prepare and cook. By the time you're done cooking, you won't wanna eat for another week or so. Great weight loss plan.

Stacking them is key. My mother said you can overlap and stack about four in a row, then add your gravy, then the mozzarella (mootza-dell) and then do it again. Start stacking. Great for developing muscular forearms so you can look like Popeye.

The finished product should look somewhat like this. Remember, add some nice chunky squared-off mozzarella on top with some fresh parsley flakes for garnish. Bake this at 350 degrees for one hour and voila - you got yourself some good eats!  This is a great dish to make for when you're having a lot of guests over, for BBQs (so you can throw some Italian into the mix) or just parties in general. People who don't even like eggplant will love it. It's the best crowd pleaser. Now get in the galley!

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