The Weekend Dish – Apple and Sausage Tidbits

apple and sausage tidbitsBy Susan Greene
Beginning a meal with a small bite or two of a flavorful food introducing the rest of the meal, otherwise known as an amuse bouche, is a practice I can embrace. In Europe, it is common to place an order for an apertif which is accompanied by a small portion of a tasty morsel. At home, I have gotten into the habit of enjoying a small bit of something such as a handful of nuts, small plate of cheese with crackers and/or olives or fruit, as I prepare dinner. These apple sausage tidbits are more extensive in their preparation than I use for an everyday meal, but they are an impressive treat for guests or special occasion meals.

apples and sage Start with your favorite sausage. I used hot and sweet Italian sausages. Place the sausage in a large frying pan, add a quarter cup of water and cover. Cook over medium-high heat approximately five minutes, until the sausage is firm enough to cut ( if you are using pre-cooked sausage this step can be skipped). Slice the sausage and return to the pan and continue cooking until browned.

cooking sausage bitsRemove the sausage from the pan and set aside for later. Slice one or two Granny Smith apples, or your favorite tart firm apple, into inch sized cubes. Add to the same pan with one pat of butter, a splash of brandy or sweet wine, to de-glaze the pan, and about a tablespoon or so of brown sugar and cook over medium heat stirring often until softened but still firm in the middle.

sauteeing applesAt this point, you can fry sage leaves until crisped, or not. I like the touch of green it adds to the presentation but flavor-wise they are not essential. To use the sage, add enough olive oil to the pan, after removing the apples, to cover the bottom about 1/8 inch thick. Add the sage leaves cooking for approximately 1 minute or until crisp. This process doesn’t take long. To assemble, place a sausage slice on a plate add a sage leave and top with an apple cube. You can either skewer with toothpicks now or put the toothpicks out for your guests to use. The amounts can be adjusted for the number of people you are feeding. One pound of sausage and one apple make about twenty-four bites, so you would need 24 sage leaves.The final tidbit is a wonderful mix of sweet, salty and spicy.

apple and sausage tidbitsAdd an apertif and your meal is off to a great beginning! Don’t you wonder what comes next?

Cheers~

Susan

The Weekend Dish – Maple Roasted Butternut Squash

There is something about eating seasonally that just makes sense. It’s better for the environment (no shipping produce far distances). The cost of seasonal produce is usually less because there is a relative abundance of it during it’s local season. Since shipping from other parts of the world or hothouse growing are unnecessary it has the added benefit of tasting better too. Even though we are accused of not having seasons here in California, the number of tomatoes in our garden is slowly dwindling and squash are in the markets and community gardens.

_MG_2396I find I crave seasonal foods during their season. It’s fall here and that means squash. This squash dish pairs well with many main dishes: poultry, fish, and beef for a few. The hardest part of this recipe is preparing the squash for the oven.

First, cut open the squash and scrape out the seeds.

_MG_2407Next, peel it.

_MG_2409Finally, cut into about 1-inch sized cubes.

_MG_2415 Place the cut squash on a rimmed baking sheet and add olive oil and maple syrup – I like to incorporate the oil by mixing it with my hands (after washing thoroughly of course).

_MG_2420After adding the seasonings and baking, filling your home with the smells of fall, you will be rewarded with a scrumptious, versatile side dish.

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Maple Roasted Butternut Squash

  • 1 medium butternut squash – seeded, peeled and cubed into 1- inch sized cubes
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 onion cut into small-medium sized pieces
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup, I like the real maple syrup
  • 2 tsp dried sage, I like sage a lot, you can adjust this to your tastes
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350°.  Add squash, onion, olive oil and maple syrup to rimmed baking sheet in a single layer and stir with hands, or spoon, to coat the vegetables with the oil and syrup. Add the seasonings and stir a bit more to distribute evenly. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until squash is soft and beginning to caramelize a bit. Serves 6-8.

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This would make a nice Thanksgiving side also. Here’s another squash recipe from earlier this year if you are feeling like variety in your seasonal vegetables.

Bon Appetit,

~ Susan

The Weekend Dish – Split Pea Soup

_MG_2204There are some food traditions that are shared by many, turkey and stuffing on Thanksgiving and ham on Easter to name a couple, and then there are food traditions shared by families – split pea soup on Halloween is one of those in our family. Our mother began serving the traditional meal when we were little. She had the revelation while trying to come up with something quick to make ( it was usually accompanied with hot dogs), on a night when time flies by with costume preparations. Her ultimate goal: that we would have some “real food” in us before heading out trick-or-treating and eating a bagful of candy. In the early days, I remember the soup being from a can but as we got older, and needing less help from her with our costumes, she began making the soup from scratch. The meal then takes longer to prepare but the flavor boost is well worth it. Also, it can be prepared the day ahead, thus allowing the flavors to “marry”. We began looking forward to the “Halloween dinner” as much as the trick-or-treating. Then, as a young mother myself, I appreciated the relative ease of the split pea soup and hot dog Halloween dinner and have carried on the tradition with my own family. Seems like every year, at this time, I develop a craving for split pea soup. Homemade soup is my idea of warmth and love in a bowl, just the thing to take on the ghouls and goblins.

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Split Pea Soup

  • 1 – 16oz. package of split peas, rinsed and sorted
  • 3 quarts water, chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic chopped
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp pepper (I use hickory smoked pepper to give it a smoky flavor)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 cups roughly chopped carrots
  • 1 C chopped celery
  • 3 medium white potatoes chopped

In a large deep pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and saute the onions and garlic until translucent.

Add the peas, water, or broth, and seasonings. Simmer uncovered for 1 1/2 hours.

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Stir in the carrots, celery and potatoes ( I use my food processor to chop the carrots and celery) and simmer an additional 2 – 2 1/2 hours or until soup reaches desired thickness.

If the soup is getting too thick for your taste you can add more liquid. Adjust seasonings to suit your tastes as well.

Serves 8

_MG_2202I had some potato chips left over from a party and they make a nice garnish for adding a little crunch, or just sprinkle with cracked pepper and serve.

~ Susan

The Weekend Dish – Baked Garlic

_MG_1700Since it is October and we are getting close to Halloween, I have a delicious and vampire repelling dish for your snacking and dining pleasure, baked garlic.  When cooked, garlic mellows and even develops a slight sweetness. It makes a wonderful accompaniment to bread, meats, or use it as a spread on a sandwich or anything else you can think of, get creative. Begin by removing any loose outer skins and cut the top off of the bulbs so the cloves are open on the top.

_MG_1709Place the bulbs in a pie dish or any shallow oven-proof container. Drizzle a generous amount of olive oil over and season with salt, pepper and thyme or another herb of your choice, if you desire.

_MG_1725Cover with a lid, if your dish has one, or foil and bake in a 300° oven for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and continue baking for 45 minutes, basting occasionally with the olive oil, or until the garlic is golden brown and soft.

_MG_1731Baked garlic cloves can be served whole

_MG_1742or removed from the outer skins ( I usually squeeze it out ) and mashed.

_MG_1745It’s disease fighting properties are not to be overlooked as well.

_MG_1755The smell alone will elicit mouth watering responses. Here’s a tip, to keep you socially acceptable, eating a little parsley is an effective post garlic breath freshener.

To your health!

~ Susan

The Weekend Dish – Hot Fudge Pie

_MG_1057In the mood for baking and chocolate? I was recently; and here is something that fits both those desires perfectly. This recipe has been in our family so long I have forgotten where the original came from. It can be made with a store bought pie crust but this time I was really in the mood for baking and made mine from scratch. It has been awhile since I did this and I forgot how fun it can be plus how nice it is knowing exactly what is in the crust you are eating and being able to pronounce all the ingredients ( which isn’t very many).

I will start with the pie crust.

_MG_1028Four ingredients that’s all:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup cold butter, I cut mine and put in freezer a short time
4 to 5 tablespoons cold water
Mix together the flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or fork until it resembles coarse crumbs.
_MG_1031Add water just enough water, with fork, to moisten the flour.
_MG_1043Divide dough in half and wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate for 2 hours to overnight.
_MG_1044Roll out a ball of the dough to fit in a 9-inch pie pan, so roll to about 12 inches.
_MG_1048Trim the edges and press around the edges with a fork, or fold the excess dough up and flute the edges.
Now for the filling:
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2t flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 lg eggs
  • 2t vanilla extract
  • 1 cube butter, melted
  • 1 unbaked 9 inch pie shell

Mix cocoa, flour, and sugar in a medium bowl. Add eggs, vanilla and butter.

_MG_1051Mix well. Pour into the pie shell.

_MG_1055Bake at 350º about 25 minutes.

_MG_1170It is delicious warm, on its own or with ice cream.

_MG_1180After trying it, you will come to realize why our father nicknamed it “good-bye” pie…

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Dare I say it is as “easy as pie”, and sure to impress.

May your chocolate dreams come true.

~ Susan

The Weekend Dish – Jalapeño Lemonade

_MG_0292Want to add a little spice to your life this weekend? It’s quite simple really. By adding a sliced jalapeño pepper to lemonade, you will end up with a refreshing and slightly spicy, hot, yet cold, beverage. It’s an anomaly.

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_MG_0368A backyard daughter had the idea and I am so glad she did.

_MG_0375The amounts of the different ingredients can be adjusted to suit your tastes, so think of this recipe as a suggestion more than a rule.

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Jalapeño Lemonade

  • 6 cups of water
  • 2/3 cups of lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup agave
  • 1 jalapeño pepper sliced

Stir together until incorporated. Taste, and adjust lemon juice and/or agave if you like a sweeter or more sour lemonade. Slice the jalapeño and add to the lemonade. You can add more or less according to your heat preference (remember the longer the jalapeño is in the lemonade the more heat and flavor it imparts.)  Add ice and enjoy!

_MG_0402In southern California the fall can turn hot and this is just the drink for such an occasion, or any time you feel like spicing things up a bit!

Cheers!

~ Susan

The Weekend Dish – Basil Tomatoes

_MG_9857 basil tomatoesHere we are in the midst of tomato season and perhaps, if you’re lucky, your counter has been overrun with a red sea of tomatoes inviting all sorts of possibilities. This Basil Tomatoes recipe enhances the tomato’s natural flavor with basil, garlic and roasting. The result is an elegant tomato which can be served along with bread or added to pasta or as an accompaniment to fish or meat however you choose you can’t go wrong.

_MG_9866 basil tomatoesThe tomatoes are peeled and cored and placed whole on a bed of basil leaves then garlic and olive oil are added. It’s that simple.

_MG_9868 basil tomoatoesPlace the dish in the oven and bake for an hour to an hour and a half. Your home will be filled with the most comforting and inviting aroma as an extra bonus. This recipe came to my attention via the rave reviews of a backyard son after having enjoyed it with Nana and Granddad one late summer night many years ago, and it has been a hit in this backyard house ever since.

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Buon Appetito!

~ Susan

 Basil Tomatoes

  • 8 tomatoes, peeled and cored. To peel the tomatoes, add to boiling water for 2 minutes and remove with a slotted spoon then plunge into ice water for a minute or so and the skin will slide off easily.
  • 1-2 bunches of basil leaves
  • olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic

Place the basil leaves in a bed at the bottom of a pan big enough to hold the 8 tomatoes. Place the tomatoes, core side down, on top of the basil. Add olive oil to come half way up the sides of the tomatoes. Add the garlic to the pan, you can chop it or add more and leave the cloves whole. Bake at 350° for 1 – 1 1/2 hours until the tomatoes caramelize and become infused with the basil perfumed olive oil.Serve with bread, pasta or with fish or meat.