Sausage, Peppers and Onions

The great thing about sausage, peppers and onions is that everything is cooked in one pot and the only other thing you need to go with the meal is a good, hard roll or two. SPandO is a meal that I consider a “classic” Italian dish (I’m actually not sure if it really is classic or not, but it seems like it should be if it isn’t already). It’s got all of the classic Italian flavors — wine, tomatoes, meat and…wine. What makes it even better is that it’s really simple to make and it doesn’t take much effort at all.

Here’s what you’ll need:
– Olive Oil (for cooking the sausages)
– 1/2 to 1 lb Italian sausage (we like to use hot Italian turkey sausage)
– 1 to 2 bell peppers, sliced
– 1 onion, sliced
– salt and pepper to taste
– red pepper flakes
– 1/2 tsp dried oregano
– 1/2 cup fresh basil (or about 1/4 cup dried)
– 2 to 4 cloves garlic, chopped
– 2 tbsp tomato paste
– 1/2 to 1 cup red wine
– 1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes

The first thing you want to do is cook the sausages. Heat the oil over medium heat in a deep-sided pan large enough to hold everything and cook the sausages until brown on both sides, about 10 minutes. Once they’re cooked through, take them out of the pan and set aside until they cool down. Add the peppers and onions to the same pan (you might need more oil, depending on the kind of sausage you’re using) and cook them until they’re the consistency you like, anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes. Finally, add the salt, pepper, red pepper, garlic and herbs and cook another 2 to 3 minutes (you want the garlic to cook down a little, but still keep a lot of it’s flavor).

Once all the veggies are cooked through, add the tomato paste, stirring to combine, then the wine and tomatoes. Make sure to scrape all the brown bits off the bottom of the pan after you add the liquid. Bring the pan to a simmer. In the mean time, cut the sausages into smaller pieces, about 4 to 6 inches each. We like to cut them in half, then cut the halves in half length-wise (did that make sense?). Assuming the wine and veggies are simmering away, add the sausages back into the pan. Continue to simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened to desired consistency. And…that’s it! Easy enough, right?

My favorite way to make an SPandO sandwich is to cut a tip off of a long roll then hollow it out, leaving a little bit of the middle inside the roll so that you have crust, but also yummy fluffyness inside. Stuff the hollowed out roll with plenty of sausage, peppers, onions and juices. The best part? You can use the bread that you took out to sop up more juice! Y-U-M.

P.S. This is a combination of recipes…my mom’s “famous” sausage, peppers and onions, and Giada de Laurentis. Clck here for Giada’s recipe.

Koussa

For those of you who don’t already know…Billy is half Arabic. As he got older and started taking an interest in cooking, he made a point to learn how to cook his great-grandma’s and grandma’s famous Arabic dishes. Let me tell you…it’s a good thing he did! This particular recipe probably isn’t something you would think of when you think of middle eastern cooking (if you really even think of it at all), but it’s worth trying and it dos have all of the traditional flavors of middle eastern dishes.

Koussa is basically squash stuffed with rice and lamb cooked in boiling water and tomato sauce.
Here’s what you’ll need:
– 2 to 4 Mexican squash (depending on how many people you’re serving — allow for one squash per person)
– 1 12 oz. can of tomato sauce
– 1 cup rice
– 1/2 lb. lamb, cut into small cubes (you can use any cut of lamb you prefer, but we find that the meat from the chop is the most tender)
– salt and pepper to taste
– A pinch each of cinnamon and nutmeg
– 1 tbsp. butter, melted

This is a simple recipe actually, but not something you find every day. The first thing you want to do is hollow out the squash. Billy has a really old “tool” that his great-grandma used to use, but any type of zucchini corer (or even a knife or small spoon) will work fine. First, cut off the tip of the squash, but make sure to save it. Take out all the meat that’s inside, but make sure to keep enough flesh so the squash is stable and you won’t poke a hole through it, and discard. Next, rinse the rice with cold water and mix with lamb, butter, salt, pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stuff the mixture into the squash until it’s about 3/4 of the way full. Make sure not to over-stuff or the rice won’t cook all the way. “Plug” the opening with the tip you cut off using two toothpicks to hold it in place and poke several holes in the body of the squash.

Place the stuffed squash (aka, koussa) in a large pot and cover with tomato sauce and water until completely submerged. Using a glass plate (or something else heavy), cover the squash in order to keep them completely submerged during cooking. Bring to a boil and let simmer, covered, for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, the squash, rice and lamb will all be cooked to perfection! That’s it! Simple, right?

Koussa, like many middle eastern dishes, is traditionally served with plain yogurt as a sort of “dressing.” It took me a long time to try this — it just sounded kind of weird to me — but I was sorry I did. Using yogurt give everything a different texture and really helps it all come together. And contrary to what you might be thinking, you can’t even taste it. So, go ahead, give it a try…I promise you’ll like it!

Rolled Tacos with Mexican Rice

Sunday morning we were going about our weekend morning tradition of relaxing, cooking breakfast and watching Food Network when Paula Dean came on. I’m not usually a fan of Paula Dean (sorry Southerners), but Sunday was an exception. Well, sort of. Paula had a “guest chef,” that I had never heard of, on her show for some odd reason and she couldn’t stop mimicking her Mexican accent. Anyway, I digress. The guest, Patricia Jinich, made rolled tacos, salsa verde and Mexican white rice. Her taco filling was cooked in a red sauce, something I had never had before, and her rice was cooked with onions, celery, chili and lime juice. It all looked so delicious that we made our own that night.

The filling for the tacos called for boiled chicken, tomatoes, cloves, peppercorns, bay leaves, onions, cream, and bread crumbs. Easy enough. While the chicken was boiling, we combined the tomatoes, cloves, peppercorns, and onion and pureed until smooth. Once the chicken was cooked through, we shredded it then combined it with the puree in a pan. The mixture simmered for about 10 minutes before we added the cream and breadcrumbs. Once the cream and breadcrumbs combined with the mixture, it was time to start rolling. Yum!

We heated the corn tortillas in a dry pan for about a minute until they were warm (this prevented them from cracking and falling apart when we rolled them together). We then put some of the chicken mixture (a few tablespoons) in the center of the tortilla, rolled it up, and fastened it with a toothpick. The tacos fried for about three to five minutes each (we did two at a time in our little fryer). And…that’s it! The tacos drained on a paper towel and were best while they were still hot.

The flavor of the sauce that the chicken cooks in is…different. Not bad different — really good different, actually. I’m not sure how to describe it really. It was tomato-y, but also had a lot of flavor from the cloves, bay leaves and peppercorns. It didn’t remind me at all of Mexican food at all, but it was so much better than any other taquitos I’ve ever tasted. We had three dipping “sauces” for them: regular red salsa, queso and guacamole. My personal favorite was the guac.

The rice cooked just like normal white rice except that we sauteed onions and the rice in the pan before adding liquid. Once the onions turned translucent and the rice turned bright white, we added the liquid, celery, chili, lime juice, and parsley. The rice simmered away and cooked to a lovely, fluffy, limy bowl of deliciousness.

Note: Sorry for my not so informative post. I feel odd writing about a recipe that’s not mine or at least a variation on something we learned from someone else. Nevertheless, the tacos was yummy and I hope you try them too!

Recipe Links: Click here for the rolled taco recipe and here for the Mexican rice recipe. (We didn’t do the fried plantains that the rice recipe calls for.)

Nanny’s Macaroni and Peas

Probably since the day I could chew food, my absolute favorite meal in the entire universe is my great-grandma’s macaroni and peas. I know what you’re thinking, “Macaroni and peas? What the hell is that and why is it so good?” Let me explain….

It’s nothing complicated or fancy. It’s basically a soupy pasta dish with some onions, tomato sauce, and peas. Literally. But the deliciousness of this dish is unlike anything I can describe, but I’ll try. It’s tomato-y, pea-y and full of old-fashioned Italian simpleness. The sauce is thin and watery, yet holds a lot of flavor.

I hesitate to give out the (not so) secret recipe, but I insist that everyone try this dish. So, here it is in it’s short entirety.
Here’s what you’ll need:
– 1 pound of some kind of small pasta (small is a must)
– 1 medium onion, chopped
– 1 small can of tomato sauce
– 1 can Le Sueur peas, with juice (it is most certainly important that you use Le Sueur peas — trust me on this one)
– Salt, Pepper and Red Pepper flakes to taste

This will be one of the simplest dishes you ever make. First, saute the onions in a little olive oil until the become soft and translucent. Season them with the salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes (you can omit the red pepper flakes if you prefer). Next, add the can of tomato sauce. Let this simmer away for a few minutes so the sauce has time to heat up and cook down a little. Then, add the peas and all their juices. Stir to combine then remove the pot from the heat and add water. You need enough water to boil the pasta, but not so much that it takes away the flavor of the tomato paste and peas. I usually determine how much water I want by the color of the sauce. My personal preference is for it to remain fairly red, but you can add as much water as you like. (A good way to determine how much water you want is to taste as you’re adding to decide how strong of a flavor you want.) Bring the water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook to al dente and serve right away. (That’s right ladies and gentlemen…no draining of the pasta water here!)

Billy likes to cook some sausage on the side, but I think that’s sabotage. (Secretly I think it’s pretty good, but still not right.) My great-grandma always makes breaded and fried chicken cutlets on the side. Either way, it is imperative that you have bread to dip in the sauce.

I literally could eat a whole pound of this in one sitting, and if you know me that never happens. While I don’t think my mac and peas will ever be as good as Nanny’s, they sure do come in a close second (sorry mom). I think they’d make her proud.

BTW, if you try this recipe, let me know how it turns out and what you thought of it! Since it’s one of my favorites, I’m always interested in other people’s opinions.

P.S. Don’t judge our heart-shaped bowls. 🙂