Recipe: Brussels Sprouts With Bacon & Parmesan Cheese

I have never been a fly by the seat of my pants cook.  I can improvise to a degree but I am still fairly structured in my approach to cooking.  I tend to vary one or two ingredients in a recipe to morph it into something new.  However, I have a family member April who is a whiz in the kitchen and plays fast and loose when it comes to her culinary approach.

A little of this…..a pinch of that…..and alot of bacon tend to be her guiding principles and so far they have yet to fail her.  April was kind enough to forward  me her take on brussels sprouts.  Personally, I have never met a brussels sprout that I didn’t like; shaved in a salad with a citrus vinaigrette , oven roasted and paired with chicken or in this case, pan seared and then braised with garlic, chicken stock and bacon.

April used one of  Giada De Laurentiis’s recipes as her inspiration and then ran with it from there.  Pair this recipe with couscous and you move it from side dish to main dish for a quick and easy dinner…….

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon & Parmesan 

Ingredients
2 pounds fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed, trimmed and cut in half
4-5 slices of thick cut bacon or 4 ounces of pancetta
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup low-salt chicken broth
1 cup parmesan cheese

Directions
1) Partially cook the brussels sprouts in a large pot of boiling salted water, about 4 minutes. Drain.

2) Meanwhile, heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon/pancetta and sauté until beginning to crisp, about 3 minutes.

3) Add the garlic and sauté until pale golden, about 2 minutes.

4) Add the Brussels sprouts to the same skillet and sauté until heated through and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

5) Add the broth and simmer until the broth reduces just enough to coat the Brussels sprouts, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese. Serve.

Thank you April for sharing!!  This may end up on my Christmas dinner menu!  So do you have a favorite dish that you make every year for the holidays?  I am off to wrap presents and do some last-minute shopping!  Have a GREAT weekend.

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Ultimate TV Dinner: Caldo Verde (Portuguese “Green Soup”)

Fall finally has grabbed ahold of the Bay Area.  Goodbye to our Indian Summer and hello to days of grey dampness.  However, always being the optimist (stop laughing…) the beginning of Fall brings with it the promise of hearty home cooked meals snuggled on my sofa as I watch TV.

To me the ultimate “TV dinner” is a nice bowl of soup, crusty bread and a glass of wine.  Honestly, I can’t think of a better way to pass a cold evening…actually I can but for the sake of keeping this PG, I won’t go there.  In any case, one of my favorite soups to make  is a traditional Portuguese soup called Caldo Verde. Literally translated, “Caldo Verde” means green soup, but don’t let the name fool you.  It is a heady mixture of spicy sausage, onions and kale in a thick potato-based broth.  The upside of this soup is that it freezes beautifully, so I tend to double the recipe and freeze a batch for later.

Caldo Verde
Makes 6-8 servings

Ingredients

– 1     tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
– 5     ounces spanish chorizo, sliced in to 1/8-inch coins
– 5     ounces linguica, sliced into 1/8-inch coins
– 1     large white onion, diced
– 4     cloves of garlic, minced
– 1     pound of potatoes (Russet or Idaho), peeled, quartered and sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
– 1/2   pound of potatoes (Golden, Yukon or Creamer), peeled, quartered and sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
– 3     cups chicken broth
– 2     cups vegetable broth
– 1 1/2 bunches kale, hard stems removed and leaves cut into 1/2 inch ribbons
– 1-2   teaspoons of red chili hot oil

Instructions

 1) In a heavy bottomed stock pot, warm the 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.  Add half of each sausage to the pot and spread in a single layer.  Cook for about 3-4 minutes, then flip sausage and cook for another 3-4 minutes until carmelized.  Use a slotted spoon to remove the sausage and set aside in a bowl.

2)  Lower heat to medium-low and add onion to the oil already in pot.  Stir to coat the onions in the sausage and olive oil.  Add garlic to mixture and let sauté until onions are translucent, approximately 5-7 minutes. 

3) Stir in potatoes, seasoning with salt and pepper.  Cover mixture with the vegetable and chicken broth.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer for about 15-20 minutes until potatoes are fork tender.

4)  Using a potato masher, smash potatoes in pot until the soup has thickened but small bits of potato remain.  Stir in kale, carmelized sausage and the remainder of the uncooked sausage and simmer for another 15 minutes until greens have wilted.  Season with salt, pepper and the red chili oil to taste. 

5) Serve immediately with hunks of crusty bread and a drizzle of olive oil.

What to Drink: I love drinking a robust Malbec with this soup as it holds up well to the spices in the soup but doesn’t overpower. 

Notes:

1) I like using a mixture of chorizo and linguica but it is fine to use just one or the other if you can’t find it in your local grocery.

2) In the same vein as the sausage, I like using a mix of the vegetable and chicken broth for the depth of flavor.  However, you can use one or the other based on your personal preference.

3) Unfortunately, there is no way around removing the stems from the kale, so please don’t skip this step.  Otherwise, you end up with mouthfuls of crunchy and bitter greenery.

4) I love the heat that the red chili oil provides as a final note, but if you prefer, you can substitute a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar.  You won’t get the heat but it will round out the finishing note on the soup.

5) I use two different types of potatoes because each have a different starch content.  The creamers/yukon/golden potatoes mash beautifully and help the soup thicken while the russett idaho potatoes create yummy flakes of potato that float throughout the soup.  However, any of the above potatoes will work for this soup.

So grab some groceries, open a bottle of wine and start cooking!  Have a great weekend and stay warm…..

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Easy Peasy Recipe: Arugula Pesto

Ever had a hankering for something that just won’t leave?  This week, I needed pesto in a bad way.  Let me emphasize, I NEEDED pesto like Donald Trump needs a haircut — in the worst way possible.  This is surprising because I normally am not a huge pasta fan.  The occasional bowl of spaghetti and meatballs passes by my table, but for the most part, pasta isn’t a huge component of my rotating menu at the house.  I don’t know if it was the warm weather and sunshine or having a week off from classes, but I felt the need for pesto’s green nutty goodness.

But then upon examination, I think the hankering came from the fact that I had about a ton of arugula in the fridge thanks to a trip to the farmer’s market while I was hungry.  Having tired myself of salads, I remembered this quick and easy recipe for arugula pesto that I had seen in various ways while in culinary school.  While traditional pesto uses basil, this pesto capitalizes on arugula’s spicy qualities and plays then up with a bit of red pepper flakes.

ARUGULA PESTO

INGREDIENTS

– 4 cups (packed) arugula leaves (about 6 ounces)
– 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
– 1/4 cup (packed) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
– 1/4 cup olive oil
– 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes

PREPARATION

Blend arugula, pine nuts and Parmesan cheese in processor until almost smooth. With machine running, gradually add olive oil; process until well blended. Season pesto to taste with salt and pepper.

Notes:

– The pesto can be made ahead of time. Cover and let stand up to 2 hours at room temperature.  If storing in a refrigerator, cover pesto with a layer of olive oil and it will last up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before using.

– Walnuts vs. Pine Nuts:  You can make this pesto with either walnuts or pine nuts.  Personally I find pesto made with walnuts have a grittier texture which I do not like.  However, taste wise, walnuts bring a certain earthiness while pine nuts bring a fresh and you guessed it, “piny” quality to the final dish.  Both are delicious, so test it out and see which you prefer.

Don’t forget to enter the give away to receive the tea set I used in my Mother’s Day tablescape!