Tuesday, January 2, 2007

"Breakfast with Friends" & "Mario's Via Abruzzi - The Cookbook" -Eggs with Sausage, Peppers and Potatoes and Linguine with Shrimp Tomatoes and Lentils

Date I made these recipes: January 1, 2007

Breakfast with Friends – Seasonal Menus to Celebrate the Morning by Elizabeth Alston
Published by: Wings Books
ISBN: 0-517-14788-2 © 1989
Recipe: Eggs with Sausage, Peppers, and Potatoes – p. 40

Mario’s Via Abruzzi – The Cookbook – Recipes from and inspired by the Abruzzi region of Italy by Paul Maytan; Foreword by Mario Daniele
Printed in Rochester, NY at Mercury Print Productions
ISBN: 0970629605
Mario’s Via Abruzzi Restaurant in Rochester, NY – http://www.mariosviaabruzzi.com/
Recipe: Linguine with Shrimp, Tomatoes and Lentils (Linguine Con Gamberoni, Pomodori E Lenticche) p. 56, plus the sauce recipe p. 50

I never make New Year’s resolutions but this year I did resolve to cook a “holiday” breakfast for me and my husband and this was the perfect dish to make as we had leftover sausage from Christmas Eve’s dinner.

I spotted this book at a friend’s house many years ago but only acquired it within the last year or so. Sometimes the hunt for a book takes longer than you think!

Now, Elizabeth Alston truly anticipated having friends over for breakfast as this recipe serves 10. I cut the amount in half and still had some left over although this is not necessarily a bad thing as the dish was really tasty.

Listed below are the ingredients for 10 servings; you can make your adjustments accordingly.

Eggs with Sausage, Peppers and Potatoes
1 pound red or white thin-skinned potatoes, scrubbed
2 tablespoons pure olive or vegetable oil
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings
1 small red bell pepper
1 small green bell pepper
1 cup sliced onion
20 large eggs (note, I used 5 because 10 eggs for 2 people really would have been overkill!)
1/3 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly-ground pepper

Cut unpeeled potatoes into ½-inch chunks and put into a medium-sized saucepan. (Elizabeth says that this should equal 3 cups, but remember this recipe serves 10). Cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to moderately-low, cover pan, and cook 6 to 8 minutes, until tender. Drain.

Meanwhile, get out a heavy skillet at least 12 inches across the bottom and 2 to 3 inches deep, put over moderate heat, and add oil. Crumble in sausage and cook about 5 minutes, until chunks are nearly cooked through.

Halve peppers and pull out the seeds and stems. Cut peppers into ½-inch pieces. Add to skillet along with onion and drained potatoes. Cook 15 to 18 minutes, stirring several times, until sausage and potatoes are lightly browned. Pan will seem very full at first, but mixture will gradually cook down. Add another tablespoon of oil if pan gets very dry.

A couple of notes: the pan did get dry, so be prepared to add more oil, and to speed things along, I covered by fry pan and set the heat down low (simmer) so that the vegetables would be nice and tender.

Break eggs into a large bowl, then shortly before serving, add Parmesan, salt and peppers. Beat with a wire whisk or electric mixer until well broken up. Pour into skillet and scramble until eggs are creamy soft and almost as firm as you like them.

If you have this book at home, you might want to turn to the author’s notes about Scrambled Eggs and how to make them, found on p. 193. Personally, I always turn my flame way down because I like a creamy scrambled egg but that’s my personal taste. My favorite way to make scrambled eggs is the way my father did them: fry your bacon in a cast iron skillet, drain some (but not all) of the grease, and add your eggs. Yum! (This method is the equivalent of a heart attack on a plate, but yum!).

Later that evening… after getting completely absorbed in the Rose Bowl game between USC and Michigan (Go Blue! -- Michigan is my home state), I finally made another Italian recipe for New Year’s Day dinner. (By the way, Blue blew it but the game was as interesting as it was aggravating).

In many parts of the world, beans of some sort of other are served as a good luck charm for the New Year. In the south, it’s Hoppin’ John and apparently, in Sicily and Italy, it’s lentils. While I have a fantastic recipe for Lentil soup, I wasn’t in a soup mood but I am always in the mood for shrimp and I love lentils so I selected this one and away we went.

But first, let me just say who knew that Triscuits can be a deadly food item? As I was watching the game, I reached inside a box of Triscuit and felt a sharp pain in my finger. It turns out that I had a Triscuit splinter. I am not making this up. I managed to pull the shard out of my fingernail but it left a little tiny blood mark as a souvenir. Only in my kitchen…

Anyway, this recipe turned out great but I made some adjustments along the way, namely in the amount of oil olive called for in the recipe. In my humble, and Sicilian-American opinion, olive oil should be used to coat the pan. Here, the recipe called for 1 ¼ cups of oil which I just couldn’t bring myself to add that much to the recipe. If you want to try it, be my guest, but I’m thinking you will have a greasy result.

The pomodori (tomato) sauce which you will need to make for this dish, also called for 2 cups of olive oil. Again, I coated the pan.

I also forgot to buy shallots for the recipe and since the stores were closed (it was New Year’s Day), I substituted yellow onion instead. And since tomatoes are out of season, I used diced, canned tomatoes instead of fresh ones. So, all right already, put out a contract on me.

Other than that, I made the recipe as listed but cut the recipe in half to serve 3 people instead of 6. Even then, we had a good portion left over for the next day.

The recipe calls for linguine pasta but I thought the pasta was overkill since the sauce was quite heavy. My husband thought if pasta was used, it should be bowtie pasta or some other pasta to better hold the sauce. I agree with that and would use different pasta the next time around.

Pomodori Sauce (ingredients listed for 6 people)
5 pounds of ripe plum tomatoes (or canned, diced tomatoes of the same weight)
***2 cups extra-virgin olive oil. Use this amount at your own risk. I coated the pan
3 tablespoons fresh garlic, chopped
2 shallots, finely chopped
3 ounces fresh basil, torn into small pieces, or chopped
To taste, crushed red pepper or hot pepper pods
To taste, kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Using a paring knife, cut a small x in the top of the tomatoes. Submerge them in boiling water for about one minute or until the skins begin to blister. Remove and cool them down in ice water. Peel and cut in half. Gently squeeze out the seeds and chop. OR – use your handy dandy can opener and open 2 14 ½ ounce cans of diced tomatoes.

Heat the oil in a skillet using high heat add the garlic and fry, stirring often, until the garlic becomes brown, not burned. The garlic should be evenly colored and slightly darker than cardboard or cork. Remove any part of the garlic which is burned. Add the shallots (or in my case, onions), hot pepper, about half of the basil and fry briefly until the shallots begin to soften. The shallots will prevent the garlic from continuing to brown.

Add the tomatoes and continue to fry until the tomatoes are just cooked. Add the remaining basil and extra-virgin oil (or not!) and season to taste with kosher salt and black pepper.

Once you get that going, start the lentil portion of our program...

Linguine with Shrimp, Tomatoes and Lentils (ingredients are for 6 people)
2 ½ pounds linguine pasta (or try using smaller pasta that will hold the sauce)
5 cups salsa di pomodoro all’Abruzzese
2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 pound lentils
**1 ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (again with the oil! I suggest coating the bottom of the pan and calling it a day)
3 bay leaves
6 cloves garlic, whole
¼ pound pancetta, thinly sliced and chopped
1 cup onion chopped 2 quarts water or homemade chicken broth (I used low-sodium canned broth and added a little water to it – about ¼ cup)
To taste, kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat the oil (he suggests ½ cup but again, it’s too much) in a large pan. Add the bay leaves and garlic cloves and fry about one minute or until the garlic begins to brown slightly. Add the pancetta and cook for 4-5 minutes or until fat begins to render. Add the onion and cook, allowing the onion to soften.

Pick through the lentils to remove stones or other debris and wash them. Add them to the pan along with the water or chicken stock. Cook for 20 minutes or until the lentils are just done and then season to taste with salt and pepper. Strain the lentils, reserving the liquid, and remove the bay leaves and whole garlic cloves.

Heat up the remaining oil in a large skillet, sauté the shrimp 3-4 minutes or until they are just done. Add the salsa di pomodoro all’Abruzzese and the lentils to the pan and toss gently.

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water as directed. Add the pasta to the skillet and cook one minute to allow the pasta to absorb the flavors. If the pasta becomes too dry, add some of the reserved liquid to the lentils to loosen it up a bit before serving.

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