Friday, September 28, 2012

the most wonderful time of the year: tailgating menu

these are the flags that fly 20' above our tailgate:  
Purdue flag with our grad years, Duke Blue Devil flag and pink koi from our days in Tokyo

Tomorrow is the first of three Purdue home games in a row and my tailgate prep is 90% complete before 10:00 pm.  I do believe having really awesome pizza (Hot Box Supreme on skinny crust) delivered while we wrapped up Ryder Cup viewing and started cooking was the key to success this week.  That, and I've had my menu planned for a week.  It's Family Day at our alma mater and since our Purdue girl has graduated we'll be adopting my BFF's son in his first year on campus and bringing Greg's parents (both Boilermakers), sister (another one) and her family (yep, brother-in-law is a Boiler too).  A full house of a different kind.  Still feels funny not to have the Thetas roll in with Kelly and still miss Sara's knack for knowing all the players' numbers and keeping the commentary rolling by my side.  Memories....  All to be reprised when the girls are home for game 3 in this series aka Kelly's first Homecoming as an alumna and Sara's Fall Break.  Not like I'm excited to have them both home or anything.  I'll be taking requests for that menu, but I'm sure they'll text them in with plenty of lead time.

Tomorrow's main dish is barbacoa beef all ready to go after browning and slow braising in the oven almost 6 pounds of beautiful boneless short ribs with 3 large onions, 10 cloves of garlic, 3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, 20 whole cloves, 2 bay leaves, oregano, cumin and chicken broth.  It's a gorgeous pan full of shredded goodness that I'll serve in tortillas or on buns.  I make mine in a big oval Le Creuset French oven which moves easily (well, it's super heavy but I'm strong) from cooktop to oven.  I transferred the finished barbacoa to a smaller pan for ease of transport and reheating on the grill at the tailgate.  I love to use the enameled cast iron because after chilling overnight it will stay cold nicely in the cooler and after heating it will stay warm.  And here's a little hint for you:  clean your enameled cast iron cookware with Bon Ami cleanser and a tiny bit of water or buy the very convenient liquid version.

There will be hungry, growing young people to help us with the queso which along with my guacamole has made me very popular with this age group.  We'd be enjoying breakfast casserole and the sorority girls would roll in and we'd heat up the queso to go with or just be breakfast.  It's that good.   And if after linking back to my very first post (guacamole, the obvious choice) at least12 times in the last two and a half years, you still haven't tried it you really should.  Addictive.

I've also sliced up apples and squeezed a bunch of lemon juice over them (be generous with the juice, apples are so bright and fresh this way), cut up strawberries and squeezed about 2 cups of lime juice for adult beverages.  Oh, and I thought I might actually use the frozen cookie dough nuggets I purchased from one of my nieces, nephew or neighbors and let me tell you the caramel apple cookies are oat-y and tasty.  Tammy came over and sat at my kitchen island while I finished my prep work and we had to be the royal testers on the cookies.  After pizza.  Life is good.

To top it all off tomorrow's kick-off is at 3:15 so I might even get in a yoga class for a little detox before  the tailgate (come to think of it, might need a little detox after my Friday night indulgences).  It's that incredible Fall weather with cool mornings and sunny warm afternoons.  The kind of day that Greg and I always say to each other, "I'd love some of this weather for a tailgate".   The kind of day where in the reciting of "I am an American" as part of the pregame rituals, you will say "this bright September sky".  And for those of you who know exactly what I'm talking about, let the people say, "Amen".


'I Am An American'
A proud tradition of Ross-Ade Stadium pregame ceremonies is the reading of this tribute to freedom by Roy Johnson, voice of the Purdue "All-American" Marching Band.
I am an American. That's the way most of us put it, just matter of factly. They are plain words, those four: you could write them on your thumbnail, or sweep them across this bright autumn sky. But remember too, that they are more than just words. They are a way of life. So whenever you speak them, speak them firmly, speak them proudly, speak them gratefully. I am an American.



Boiler Up!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Trader Joe's love: Southern greens and chicken andouille sausage

Trader Joe's love has been handed down at my house as Kelly in LA and Sara in Durham made shopping trips this past week just like their mama. My BFF has a TJ's under construction within walking distance of her lovely Bloomfield Hills homes so she trumps us all.  That might just be too tempting for any of the Rogers girls. Sara made my favorite red curry tofu for her friends. Kelly made chicken enchilada zucchini boats (Pinterest recipe?). I picked up something new:  washed, cleaned and ready for cooking Southern greens (mustard, turnip and collard greens with spinach) in a bag. The back of the bag's suggested recipe was the clincher:  Louisiana style sausage and greens. 

Among the many delicious things waiting for a chance to get out of my chest freezer and onto a dinner plate I have a Costco size supply of Amy's chicken andouille sausage (magical, it gives the dish all it's flavor) and TJ's brown rice all cooked, frozen and bagged.  Plus I had just stocked up on boxed organic chicken stock at Costco because soup and casserole season is back (give a little cheer).  I love warm and hearty Fall foods and happily warm up my oven instead of firing up the grill. This dish is a one pot stovetop weeknight wonder.   The ready to cook fresh greens are going to be on my permanent TJ's shopping list on my iPhone (love using Notes instead of little pieces of paper:  easy to update and hard to lose). Open up the windows and let the cool Fall air in while you cook!  



Southern Greens with Andouille Chicken Sausage

1 16-oz. bag Trader Joe's Southern greens Blend
2 T olive oil
1 medium or large white or yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound chicken andouille sausage, cut into 1/4 inch rounds
2 C chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
cooked brown rice or baked cornbread for serving

Heat oil over medium heat in a large deep skillet or dutch oven and cook the onion, stirring often for 5 minutes or so until softened.  Add the andouille rounds and cook until brown, about 5 more minutes.  Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about one minute.  Add the greens and the broth and stir to combine.  Reduce heat to medium low and cover to simmer and soften the greens, about 10-15 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  
Serve over cooked brown rice or crumbled cornbread, if desired.
Makes 6 servings.


onions and chicken andouille sausage 

new favorite from TJ's:  Southern Greens Blend

cooking down the greens with broth and seasoning

ta-da!

dinner!




Friday, September 21, 2012

soup is on: baby bella mushroom soup


Still balancing out the shopping and cooking for one or two on the weekdays and shopping for four just out of habit.  Baby bella mushrooms (juvenile portabellos also called cremini mushrooms) looked so tempting at 2 boxes for $4 so I brought them home with no particular plan as to how to use them.  Even in my pretty new fridge they only last so long.  One evening I searched Fine Cooking's website for mushroom recipes because time was almost up on two whole boxes and I'm really trying not to waste food.  I also had some amazing applewood smoked/brown sugar bacon from a local butcher that would be criminal to waste so I decided on making a variation of a wedge salad to go with the soup.  Greg loves butter lettuce and Costco basically gives it away so the salad part of the soup and salad dinner was easy.   I know a wedge is supposed to be iceberg lettuce, but butter lettuce with homegrown chopped tomatoes, sliced avocado, really good bacon and a lovely homemade yogurt-buttermilk ranch dressing is a good twist on a wedge.  I also know a wedge is supposed to feature bleu cheese, but one out of two of us does not like bleu cheese so buttermilk ranch would be another twist.  Penzey's spices makes a perfect buttermilk ranch blend that I add to a little plain Greek yogurt and thin with a little lowfat buttermilk and just a drizzle of olive oil.  But even I can admit the best part of that whole salad was the bacon.  I'm not a bacon person and the bacon trend is a little out of control.  But that bacon from Moody's butcher shop.....mmm.
buttermilk "wedge" salad

I have a bunch of vegetarian friends and before I lose them all with bacon musings, I'll give you my recipe adapted from Fine Cooking for mushroom soup.  I did not add cream to my soup because it was lovely without it, but please feel free to stir in a little!

Baby Bella Mushroom Soup

1 T unsalted butter
1 T olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 (10-ounce) boxes sliced baby bella mushrooms
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves plus 1 tsp dried thyme (or 1 1/2 tsp dried thyme)
freshly ground pepper and kosher salt
4 C chicken or vegetable broth
3 T dry sherry
1 T soy sauce
1/4 C half and half or cream, optional

Heat the butter and olive oil in a 5-qt or larger stockpot over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and cook until it just begins to brown, about 5 minutes, stirring just once or twice.  Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the mushrooms, thyme, 1/2 tsp each of salt and pepper and cook until mushrooms have released most of their juices, 7-10 minutes.  Add the broth and scrape up any brown bits from the pot.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer and cook an additional 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat and cool slightly and process half the soup in a blender until mostly smooth or use an immersion blender to puree the soup in pot.  Mine did not puree all the mushrooms, but the bigger pieces were toothsome and nice in the finished soup so however your texture turns out, don't worry about it.  If you used a blender, return the soup to the pot and stir in the sherry and soy sauce.  Taste for salt and pepper.  Reheat if needed.  Add half and half or cream just before finishing keeping the heat low.


simmering soup

immersion blender working it's magic

finished soup,
a pretty picture of soup in a bowl somehow was never taken
maybe we were hungry!


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

yep, ate the entire dish: zucchini creole

It's the end of the summer harvest season here in the Midwest which might mean you have a few extra zucchini and tomatoes.  This is an adaptation of a baked casserole from a vintage recipe card in my wedding shower era recipe card box.  Definitely have not had the recipe for all of the 28 years I've been married, but I'm guessing it's something I've made off and on for 20 years.  Let's review, I just said twenty years and it just as well could have been almost thirty years.  To be honest, it's not that hard to believe.  I (well, we) have a lot to show for 28 years of marriage, mainly two amazing daughters.  But still writing about the lapsed time between copying that recipe and making it for dinner earlier in September.....it's a long and crazy timeline.

The beginning of this month cat and I held down the fort.  I made a few things and served them to myself in various versions all week.  I had my splurge pasta with an amazing sauce from a jar that was packaged inside a box from Whole Foods and was worth all $7.99.  I made a massive fruit salad because I bought fruit at Costco and since the cat does not eat fruit, that was a lot of fruit for one person.  And I made this zucchini creole because I've always loved it and had not made it in too long.  The original recipe is a baked casserole which is great if you have an hour before you want to eat dinner, but I was just too hungry after work to wait an hour and decided a little adaptation was in order.       I'm sure there is a more sophisticated construction of this dish with a more formal preparation of the roux, but I love this classic from my collection.  Obviously, because in the course of a couple of days I ate all six servings.  No apologies!

 
Zucchini Creole

a pound or so of zucchini (3-4 medium or 1-2 large if you don't mind seeds) sliced in 1/4 inch rounds
one medium or large white or yellow onion, diced
one green pepper, cored and diced
2 T unsalted butter
2 T flour
1 tsp salt
3 large tomatoes, chopped (or one 15-oz. can diced tomatoes)
1 T brown sugar
1/2 bay leaf
2 whole cloves
1/4 C grated or shredded Parmesan

Steam zucchini in a steamer basket fitted inside a covered pot for 5-6 minutes or cook zucchini in a medium saucepan just covered with water, bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer for 5-6 minutes.  Drain zucchini and let sit.  In a large saucepan, melt butter and sauté onion and green pepper until softened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in flour and cook over medium heat until vegetables are well-coated.  Add salt, tomatoes brown sugar, bay leaf and cloves and raise heat to medium high.  Stir mixture until slightly thickened, 5-7 minutes.  Remove bay leaf and cloves.  Add zucchini and cook an additional 10 minutes to blend flavors.  Stir in or top with Parmesan.  Makes 6 servings.



onion and green pepper

adding the flour to make a roux

stirring in tomatoes and seasonings

adding zucchini

adding cheese (I added mine in with the zucchini)

smooshy creole goodness

Thursday, September 13, 2012

post #200: fig and olive oil challah-holla!

Post #200 had to be something a little more special than the zucchini dish I have written and ready to post.  Zucchini?  It's good, but a little boring.  When I saw it would be such a landmark number, I consulted my editor in absentia (Sara) and waited for a day off to bake up something spectacular.  One of the bloggers I follow is publishing her cookbook with Knopf and going on a book tour.  Wow.  She actually celebrates Jewish holidays and made this amazing challah.  Some of my lovely work friends who celebrate Jewish holidays and I were discussing what would likely be on the table this Saturday and of course there will be challah.  

At my house we just have a fine appreciation for challah.  Especially honey challah made into french toast or a bread pudding.  And at my house you can't say "challah" without someone following with, "Holla!".  Duh.  Now that I have made my first loaf of challah I think it will make delicious toast.  I don't have the heart to soak it in milk and eggs and make it into french toast.  It has a fig filling (tastes just like a Fig Newton's middle if it was freshly made in your own kitchen) so I'll serve it with orange marmalade.  Mmmmmm.  It wasn't too much work, it was just too much work for using as day old bread in french toast.  I used my KitchenAid stand mixer to knead the dough and the braiding was a fun challenge.  As always, the hardest part about baking bread is the clean-up.  All the glutinous dough bits that get all sticky and all the flour on the floor.  Maybe that's just me, but I have a little clean-up to do.

If you observe Rosh Hashanah like dear Amanda and Aviva at lululemon, enjoy your holiday with your families.  I will be observing a football game in West Lafayette.  Maybe I'll take some challah for breakfast if it makes it until Saturday. 


Fig and Olive Oil Challah

bread
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 C plus 1 tsp honey
1/3 C olive oil, plus more for oiling bowl
2 large eggs
2 tsp flaky sea salt or 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt (I used King Arthur Flour's bread salt)
4 C all-purpose flour plus more for kneading and rolling

filling
1 C stemmed and coarsely chopped dried figs
1/4 tsp orange zest
1/4 C fresh orange juice
1/8 tsp sea salt
couple of grinds of black pepper

wash
one egg

Stand mixer directions:  In a measuring cup whisk yeast and 1 teaspoon honey into 2/3 C warm water (110-116 degrees) and let stand for about 5 minutes until foamy.  In the mixer bowl combine yeast mixture with remaining honey, 1/3 C olive oil and 2 eggs.  Add the salt and flour and mix until dough starts to hold together.  Switch the paddle for the dough hook and run on low speed for 5-8 minutes checking to see if additional flour is needed (my dough was very sticky, I either missed 1/2 a cup of flour or the humidity or something required more flour to get the ball to come together and stay that way).  Rest the dough briefly on a cutting board and oil your mixer bowl for rising.  Place your dough back in the oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and cover with a tea towel and let rise for about an hour, or until doubled in size.  

Hand mixing directions:  Proof the yeast as directed above.  Mix the wet ingredients with a whisk then add salt and flour.  Mix with a large wooden spoon or spatula until it starts to come together.  Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 5-10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic.  Let rise in oiled bowl as directed above.

While dough is rising, make fig filling.  In a small saucepan, combine figs, orange zest, 1/2 C water, orange juice, salt and a couple grinds of black pepper.  Simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally until figs are soft and tender but mixture is still a little saucy, or about 10 minutes.  Process mixture with stick blender, food processor or blender until it is a fine paste.  Cool.

Line baking sheet with parchment paper.  After dough has risen, turn it out onto a floured surface and divide it in half.  Place one half on the baking sheet to wait.  Roll out the other half to a big more or less rectangular shape (mine was about 12 x 18 inches).  Spread half of filling over the dough leaving edges clean.  My filling was so thick I just distributed it the best I could and it was fine.   Roll up the dough into a long, tight log pressing the edges sealed.  Gently stretch the roll as wide as you think you can into a rope.  Mine got to almost 24 inches, but kept shrinking (again, not glorious but it worked).  Divide rope in half and set aside.  Repeat with remaining dough and filling so you have four ropes.  

Now it's time to weave!  Arrange two ropes in each direction perpendicular to each other, like a tic-tac-toe board.  Weave them so one is over and the other is under where they all meet in the middle.  Now you have something like a linear octopus with 8 legs.  Take the four legs that come from underneath the center and move the legs to the right jumping the leg it crosses.  Take the legs that sat still and originally  were on the right and jump each of them over the leg next to them but this time go to the left.  Repeat if you have extra length.  I got to repeat just once by really stretching my legs as I wove them.  Tuck ends under loaf and form the braided loaf into a round shape.  Transfer the loaf to the prepared baking sheet.  

Beat wash egg until smooth and brush over challah.  Let loaf rise for another hour, but start your oven heating to 375 degrees about 45 minutes into this second rise.  Before baking, brush again with egg wash.  Sprinkle with additional salt or maybe sugar and bake at 375 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes.  Check the loaf for bronzing.  It will get golden brown.  Mine needed a loose foil covering after about 20 minutes.  The internal temperature of the loaf should be 195 degrees, but honestly I've never tested my bread with a thermometer.  If it really starts smelling delicious, it's probably about done.  


ingredients
proofing yeast

dough in oiled bowl

figs, zest, orange juice and etc ready to simmer

fig filling ready to process

my filling which I wish was a bit thinner

dough after first rise

"spreading" the filling

rolling the first rope

this is where we begin the weave
(remember when you could make a chair with your arms
for someone to climb aboard, it looked like this but sturdier)

after second rise and given a second egg wash

holla!




Tuesday, September 4, 2012

redesign, re-boot and post: banana bread granola

Welcome to the newly re-designed pages of blue skies and a squeeze of lime.  I so wanted the beautiful "dynamic" view to be friendly for you, but alas the blogger people have never fixed the search function so you could actually search my blog if you so desired.  So I've gone old-school and it's not as pretty, but now you can search to your heart's (and stomach's) content.  Feel free to send me your thoughts on the looks v functionality debate.  It's easy enough to switch back if you miss the glamorous view.

It's a big week here in our part of the world.  The Western Golf Association's BMW Championship, a PGA Tour event and the second to last stop on the Fed Ex Cup is being hosted by Crooked Stick, a gorgeous Pete Dye course (his home course, he lives just off hole 18) about a mile from our house.  This is my fourth time volunteering for a big-time golf event at "the Stick".  First time I worked security (ha) the year John Daly went from alternate to PGA Champion on the weekend of our 6th wedding anniversary and our Kelly was a baby, so that's going back a ways.  We've moved all over, but somehow we've lived here for all the other big events:  the Solheim Cup, the USGA Senior Open and now the BMW.  So exciting.  I'm a marshal on 18 (!!), so if you come out on Wednesday or Sunday afternoons look for me.  I'll be the one in the cute white polo and khaki shorts (just like everyone else).  I'll be the one grinning inside and all serious outside as my favorite players walk by (just like everyone else).  I won't be the one yelling, "You're the Man!" and if that's you, I'll be the one politely shushhing you with my little "Quiet Please" sign.

I've got a little special event for some of our out of town guests tomorrow at work.  Since I have no idea of the number of attendees, I'm making a few snacks that no one at work will mind if there are leftovers.  If you've been reading, you know of my current obsession with homemade peanut butter.  One of the flavors I sampled at the farmer's market and brought home was banana bread granola.  A couple of weeks ago at the market they sold just the granola.  Naturally, I had to figure out how to make some to share.  Let's be honest that this is a splurge or a treat.  Just a little on your yogurt or in your peanut butter will rock your world.  Eat the whole batch and you'll be cursing me.  But it's addictive, so you've been warned.  The batch from the market used butter which was delicious, but I'm more of a healthy canola oil kind of girl.  Think I got it just about right.  I'll let you know how my morning guests like it with their yogurt and fruit!

And if you're looking for a BMW, there is an unusually high concentration of them within a 5-mile radius of Carmel, Indiana.  Thank goodness I have dibs on our Volkswagen CC and am not driving my 9-year old (and still, thankfully, kicking) Honda van this week.  Not that I'm someone who needs to fit in, but I live in an architecturally very tightly controlled neighborhood, in a city that's tightly controlled and if I was circling all those roundabouts in "black beauty" I might get profiled and pulled over!



Banana Bread Granola

6 C old fashioned oats
1 C unsweetened shredded coconut (bulk from Whole Foods is great)
1/4 C flax seeds
1/2 C light brown sugar, lightly packed
3/4 tsp salt
1/3 C canola or other good neutral vegetable oil
2 T molasses
2 T honey
1 T vanilla
1 heaping cup of dried bananas broken in big pieces (bulk sweetened from Whole Foods worked)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, stir together the oats, coconut, flax, brown sugar and salt.  In a measuring cup measure the oil and add the molasses, honey and vanilla stirring to blend.  Pour wet ingredients over dry and mix in with the bananas until well combined.  Pour granola into a roaster, shallow baking pan and spread evenly.  Bake 20-25 minutes, stirring about every 5 minutes until evenly golden.  Cool completely and store in airtight containers.


ingredients

dry ingredients sans bananas

stirring in the wet mixture

raw banana bread granola

baked banana bread granola

Sunday, September 2, 2012

expanding my "brand": tumblr

Why not?  Let's give tumblr a try!  Decent iPhone app, lovely layouts, easy interface and one more way to get my recipes out there.  One post down and so far have not needed to wake up my bi-coastal tech support staff (i.e. my daughter Kelly in LA and my daughter Sara in NC).  My summer hiatus took a beating on my google analytics and although that's not really why I write, it is motivation to get back to posting two or three times a week.

So if you haven't tried tumblr, create a little account for yourself and start following some feeds.  ALl the cool kids are doing it.  Right?  Search for blueskiesandlime and you'll find mine!


tailgate time!

Since you're here, let's do a quick little food post.  College football season has finally come back around.  Thank goodness.  It's time to tailgate and or hunker down in front of the big screen and watch some football!  Yesterday was our first tailgate at Purdue in forever without having any of our children there.  We bought season tickets in 2001 and the girls would bring their scooters and coast down the cart paths on the golf course where we parked before the game and they'd go into the game and love the whole spectacle of it.  But you can't have a dad so heavily emotionally invested in the outcome and not become the same kind of crazy fan.  The girls were quick students of the game and before long they were sentenced to the life long agony of being a Boiler Football fan, so much promise every year and then somehow you know it will all start to go south.  Maybe this will be the year.  Every first game so excited thinking the analysts could be wrong, we could be good when the competition heats up in the Big Ten.  So much hope.  Despite our middle of the pack, at best, status the girls love their college football and our Boilermakers.  We loved having Kelly on campus and having all of her friends come by the tailgate and we are so looking forward to having them all back as alumni for Homecoming this year.  Plus we have the added bonus of that weekend being Duke's fall break and we're flying Sara home so we'll all be together for one tailgate this year.  Can't wait!

Meanwhile, we welcomed my BFF's son and Purdue freshman, JD to our little tailgate for the season opener.  He saved us from it being a four person tailgate which is just kind of sad.  Whole Foods had a great "bundle" deal on Friday and so I let them make my beef and cheddar burgers, buns, potato salad and an apple pie for $20.  Really, how could I pass that up?  Even someone who loves to cook and bake also appreciates a break.  I did, however, make my adult beverage for the day.  We were battling the remnants of hurricane Isaac and were thankful for our tent for the pre-game.  The rain abated by game time and then the heat and humidity rolled in.  But by the end of a game in which our beloved Boilers rolled, despite some serious errors, a fabulous breeze picked up and we hung out a while and enjoyed it.  In honor of the weather and our mutual love of the island of St. John where Greg first tried this drink, I mixed up some dark and stormies.  My twist is to go heavy on the fresh lime juice.  True to my brand.  You need ginger beer, which is an adult beverage.  Barritt's is available here and the last time I had one was on Jost Van Dyke, so it's a really good memory for me.  Cheers!

Bluesky Dark and Stormy

2 oz. dark rum
3 oz. ginger beer
juice of two medium fresh limes (at least 1/4 cup)
crushed ice or party ice from your tailgate cooler

Stir and enjoy!

on the scenic drive to West Lafayette 

best footwear practices for a rainy day on the golf course
and our family brick at Ross-Ade Stadium
two shoes are missing from this picture, but are happily in
places where the weather is better

Saturday, September 1, 2012

"good" pasta: orecchiette with broccoli and hot Italian sausage

I love my pantry.  Some days I look at it and ponder just when I am going to use everything just hanging out in there waiting to make the big show.  Some days I look in there and am super grateful there's always something to be made from what's on hand in there and in my refrigerators and freezers.
No one is going to go hungry at my house.  Maybe the cat, because he's put on a little weight from all the guilt treats I give him for being gone so much.  He's probably hungry, but he's super fluffy so I am not worried.

Greg was home all week and that's an opportunity to cook every night for an appreciative audience, not that I am not my own appreciative audience but you know what I mean.  He had his choices orzo or orecchiette and wisely chose the orecchiette.  Dinner was all mine from there.  I'd made a dish from Fine Cooking before with broccoli and hot Italian sausage and he must have been traveling because he'd never had it before.  I have a super abundant herb garden, but by-passed it for the quick pasta dish that tastes so much more complicated than it really is.  This is one of those meals that the Barefoot Contessa would say to use "good" olive oil and "good" cheese.  I would tell you to use "good" pasta if you can find it.  Whenever I have the good fortune to shop at Zingermans in Ann Arbor or other specialty food stores when we travel, I always look for pasta from Rustichella d'Abruzzo from Italy (obviously) in paper and cellophane bags.  It is what they call "toothsome".  If it's boiled until al-dente in generously salted water it is just perfection.  Orecchiette, by the way is "pigs ears" cup-shaped pasta.  I just love to say it's name.  I could eat it with just "good" olive oil.  If you make this dish, you might learn a new trick using pasta water as part of the sauce.  The starches in the water from the cooked pasta help to thicken the sauce.  So be mindful and don't drain the pasta until you ladle out a cup or two of pasta water into a measuring cup.  Mindful can be tough after a long day.  A little focus and you've got this dish in about 20-30 minutes.  I use the pre-packaged Jenny-O hot Italian turkey Sausage, just squeezing the sausage out of the casings into the hot pan.  I also like the bulk hot Italian turkey or chicken sausage from Whole Foods.


Orecchiette with Broccoli and Hot Italian Sausage

1 nice head of broccoli or broccoli crowns (about 1 pound)
kosher salt
olive oil
1/2 C bulk hot Italian sausage
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound dried orecchiette pasta
1/2 C freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino

Wash you broccoli and cut off the tough ends of the stems and cut the florets in half if large (keep things bigger than bite size, you have to scoop them out of the water).  Bring a large pot of salted water (1-2T of kosher salt) to a boil over high heat.  Add the broccoli and cook for about 5 minutes until just tender.  With a slotted spoon, scoop out broccoli and drain.

Keep the water boiling and cook the pasta as directed.

Meanwhile, in a large non-stick saute pan, cook the sausage over medium heat in a little olive oil until cooked through and no longer pink (8-10  minutes).  Add the minced garlic and stir to cook for about a minute until fragrant.  Add the cooked broccoli and reduce heat if waiting for the pasta to finish cooking.  When pasta is done, reserve one to two cups of pasta water in a liquid measuring cup and then drain the pasta.  Toss the drained pasta into the sausage and broccoli mixture with the red pepper flakes.  Raise the heat to medium high and pour in a cup of the pasta water, stirring to scrape up bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add pasta water until desired thickness is achieved.  Taste for salt and pepper.  Grate cheese over pasta dish and serve hot.

*sorry there are no process pictures-I was sure I'd posted this already