Monday, September 29, 2008

Sausage stew

A close cousin of the casserole is the stew. I think of it as a free-form casserole. This is another recipe of unclear origins that has been in my rotation for a number of years. Below is the recipe, and like all good members of the casserole family, it makes a lot.



2 lb. Italian sausage (casings removed and rolled into meatballs)
~5 large carrots cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large onion (or 2 medium)
2 garlic cloves (minced)
1 large can stewed tomatoes
1/4 cup of tomato paste
2 cups free-range chicken stock
1.5 tbsp Italian seasoning (or to taste)
1 green pepper cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup flour


Sauté the sausage, garlic and onions until the meatballs have browned. Then, add all of the rest of the ingredients, except the green pepper, bring to a boil and simmer for 1.5 hours (stirring occasionally). Then, mix flour in water, and add this mixture to the pot along with the green pepper.

Cook for another 15 minutes.

Best served with broad egg noodles or crusty bread.  




Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sunday confessional: alternative career paths

I confess, and this is totally true, (you can ask Shawn) — I once entertained starting my own homemade sauce business. (Times were tough.)

But who could compete with this guy?

Monday, September 22, 2008

New York restaurant roundup

The star of the NYC restaurant scene. (According to Shawn.)

I planned our recent trip to New York with food in mind, and, as such, we had some very memorable dining experiences. Among them:

Le Bernardin, which has been touted as the best restaurant in NYC, and even made it onto lists of the 50 best restaurants in the world. (And, it almost destroyed me financially.) I was very impressed with our meals. Their desert selection is truly innovative; I had the chocolate—sweet potato. (It cannot be linked, but the desert menu is on their website.) Unfortunately, I always feel out-of-place in restaurants of that caliber. (Especially with Shawn in tow; he likes to eat off my plate.)

The Spotted Pig in the West Village. In the gastropub tradition, it features fine food in an ultra casual setting. In atmosphere, it is the anti-Bernardin; not surprising since Mario Batali is a partner in the business. (He's so casual he's now endorsed his own line of crocs). And despite its enormous popularity (always packed and they don't take reservations) our meal was not rushed.

I loved this restaurant. It made me want to open a restaurant just like it. And, give up everything I have to move into a tiny apartment in the Meatpacking District. I'd also add that I cannot stop thinking about this burger:

For those of you who don't know: Mario is the one on the right.

(Though I did not order it, I saw several crossing the restaurant.)

The Olive Garden, Times Square, was not on my itinerary, but Shawn insisted we go ever since he first spotted it. He swears there were once Olive Gardens in Canada. I remain doubtful. We arived for dinner around 9:00 pm, and ended up having to wait 20 minutes for a seat, but it was sooo worth it according to Shawn. He couldn't get enough of the bottomless salad and breadsticks. His mushroom ravioli: divine. Me? I had a good time. That's all I have to say about that.

Other notable New York food

Pinkberry. I bought into all the hype. As we approached 82nd and 5th (from 50th), I knew we should be fairly close to one, and I was determined to get to it even though it was out of our way. I had the plain topped with raspberries and white chocolate chips. It was very good, quite low-cal, and apparently very popular with the Upper East Side tween set.

Saratoga water. I am a huge fan of sparkling water, and this one is special. I hear they sell it in Ottawa, and I'm on the hunt.

Let me know if you see any of these bottles.




Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sidekicks® casserole

I am fairly confident that we can trace the origins of this recipe to the back of a Liptons Sidekicks® package. But that was long ago; I've been making this for about 10 years. It's the simply the best faux lasangne there is, and a fixture in my rotation. Here it is:



1 lb lean ground beef
1 pkg Liptons Sidekicks® cheese noodles
1 jar tomato sauce
3 cups grated mozzarella (or cheese blend)


Preheat oven to 350º.

Brown beef in skillet, then add tomato sauce and combine.

Prepare Sidkicks® according to package directions. Layer in an 8x8-inch casserole dish starting with a thin layer of sauce/beef, a layer cheese, and a layer of noodles. Repeat with more sauce/beef, cheese, noodles, the remaining sauce and the rest of the cheese.

Bake for 30 min.




Sunday, September 14, 2008

Tortilla casserole

Fall is a great time of year for casseroles, so, I thought I'd start a series of my favourites, staring with this favourite:



1 10-ounce can green or red enchilada sauce
1/4 cup heavy cream
4 8-inch flour tortillas
2 cups (8 oz) grated Monterey Jack, plus 1/4 cup for the top
1 3 1/2- to 4-lb rotisserie chicken, shredded
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped

Toppings (optional):
1 cup salsa
1 avocado, diced
Sour cream


Heat oven to 400° F.

In a small bowl, combine the enchilada sauce and cream. Spoon 1/4 cup of the sauce mixture into the bottom of a shallow 9-inch. Top with 1 tortilla and a third each of the cheese, chicken, and onion. Repeat twice to form a total of 3 layers. Top with the remaining tortilla, sauce mixture, and cheese.

Cover loosely with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 minutes more.

Serve with the salsa, avocado and sour cream, if desired (but it's great without).

There you have it. This one has many of the elements that make up a great casserole: easy to make, good use of layering, heartiness, quantity, keeps well. Bonus points for healthfulness (provided you omit the sour cream).

More to come in the series.




Viva la vie Boheme!

RENT on Broadway 1996–2008.

On September 2, Shawn and I traversed 10 New York blocks (from Le Bernardin to the Nederlander Theatre) in 10 minutes to catch the 5th last performance of RENT's broadway run. (This was unplanned; I had read earlier this year that it would be closing in the summer, but a surge in ticket sales after the announcement caused it to be extended until September 7th.) Being a RENT fan from way back (since March 1998), I jumped at the opportunity to see the musical one last time at its Broadway home, as did all there that evening (the audience was clearly 90% hard-core fan or "RENT-head"). But, that night, I also had the distinct and unexpected honour of converting Shawn, 12+ years after RENT's Broadway debut and after nearly 9 years together. Yes, RENT is the gift that keeps on giving.

Thank you Jonathan Larson.

I've attached a clip of "Santa Fe" — not the most popular song (that would be that taught us all how many minutes there actually were in a year), but I think it's cute, and the clip reminds me of being in New York (complete with people singing and dancing on the subway; it happens, and I've seen it).

(More on Le Bernardin another day.)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sunday confessional: The President makes a better pizza

My confession: This pizza puts me to shame.

(When I don't cook, I can be found eating gourmet boxed pizza.)

Have a great week!