Gnocchi with Italian sausage, tomato and herb sauce

In addition to mushroom-cream-white wine sauce, the one I made today with Italian sausage, tomatoes and herbs is my favorite sauce to serve with gnocchi. This sauce is so rich and flavorful. I like to use fresh tomatoes, but canned ones can be used as well. Usually I like to prepare homemade gnocchi, but don’t always have enough time, so this time I used store bought ones. This is how I make the sauce:

Ingredients:

Serves 4-6

  • 2 packs of gnocchi (each 500 g or 1 lb)
  • 2-3 Italian fresh sausages (or any other fresh kind)
  • 500 g or 1 lb tomatoes (blanched, peeled and chopped)
  • 1/4 of a large green pepper (finely sliced)
  • 1/4 of a large red pepper (finely sliced)
  • 3 garlic cloves (smashed and finely chopped)
  • salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • basil
  • oregano
  • parsley

1. Cook gnocchi in lightly salted water until they start coming to the surface. Strain, rinse and set aside.

2. Cut fresh sausage into 1/2 inch pieces and fry in a pan with a little olive oil until done and nicely browned. Remove the sausage pieces from the pan and set aside.

3. In the same frying pan saute garlic and peppers for few minutes on a low temperature. Add chopped tomatoes and 1/4 cup water and simmer for about 10 minutes or until sauce starts thickening. Add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.

4. Now add sausage to the sauce, chopped herbs and gnocchi. Mix until combined and serve.

Yum, Yum, Yum! 🙂

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Mediterranean Potatoes and Swiss Chard

This is a wonderful side dish that goes well with fish or any sea food. I’ve tried it first time when I was just a little girl vacationing with my parents at the Adriatic coast of Croatia. It is very simple and easy to make and so rich in flavor. Couple of years ago when we traveled to Bosnia, we also visited Croatian coast and had some excellent fish and potatoes with swiss chard (Blitva – in Croatian). The other day I was looking through our summer vacation photos and just had the urge to cook blitva with some fish.

Island of Pag, Croatia [ this handsome man in the picture is my husband 🙂 ]

Mediterranean Potatoes and Swiss Chard

Serves about 4 – 6 people (excellent side dish to fish or sea food)

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 lbs (750 g) potatoes
  • 1 lb (500 g) Swiss chard
  • 3 – 4 tbsp olive oil (I use extra virgin olive oil)
  • 3 – 4 garlic cloves
  • salt
  • fresh ground black pepper

Preparation:

1. Peel potatoes and cut them into bite-size cubes. Boil (not too soft) and strain them. Set aside.

2. Clean and wash Swiss chard, remove the stems by folding leaves into half and cutting them out. Cut leaves into 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) ribbons. Boil them for about 5 minutes in salted water. Strain. (If you want a mashed potatoes effect, reserve about 1/2 cup of boiling water and add to sauteed chard)

3. Crush and finelly chop garlic. Lightly heat olive oil, add garlic and sautee just until fragrant. Now add Swiss chard, sautee for few more minutes and add potatoes. Spice with salt and fresh ground black pepper. That is all.

Enjoy with some salt water fish or other sea food!

Turkish Pide Bread

For a few weeks now, my son has been asking me to make Turkish Pide Bread. He calls it Turkish Pizza. In many ways pide is similar to pizza, with a somewhat different taste. Honestly, I like it better than pizza. This recipe yields 6 quite large pide breads. It requires some time to make it, and I got a bit tired, but seeing my son so happy to have one of his favorite foods, it was well worth it! 🙂

Pide dough:

  • 4 1/2 cups (500 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup (250 ml) warm water
  • 1 1/2 TBSP olive oil

Filling:

  • 1/2 lb (250 g) tomatoes
  • 2 medium onions
  • 1/2 long red sweet pepper or red bell pepper
  • 1/2 large green bell pepper
  • 3/4 lb (350 g) ground beef
  • 1 TBSP Vegeta spice (not in original recipe, but I use it)
  • salt, pepper, cumin to taste
  • 3 TBSP olive oil
  • 6 thick slices of Swiss cheese (or any cheese you like)

Preparation:

1. First prepare the dough. Sprinkle yeast and sugar over the warm water, cover and let it rest for 5 – 10 minutes. When bubbly, pour into flour and mix well. Add salt and olive oil and form a ball of dough. Let it raise for about 30 – 45 minutes.

2. While dough is resting, prepare filling. Put 3 tbsp of olive oil into a pan. Place tomatoes in boiling water for a minute, peel them and coarsely chop them. Slice onions into thin rings, chop red and green bell pepper, saute it in olive oil shortly. Add ground beef, add all the spices and tomatoes and saute only until beef gets just brown. Set aside.

3. Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a long oval shape. Fold the sides inward and then twist one end to the right and the other end to the left. Put them onto a greased large baking pan. Place a slice of cheese in each pide.

4. Divide filling into 6 equal amount and put on the top of each pide. Bake at 400 F (200 C) for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Enjoy!

Herbed Butter

It has been unusually warm in the Midwest the past couple of weeks. Somehow we jumped from winter right into summer. Crocuses and daffodils usually bloom in April, but this year they are blooming right now. It is not that I am complaining, I’m really loving it. 🙂 People are out and about, walking their pups, cleaning their yards and just enjoying the outdoors. You can’t miss the inviting smell of grilling either. It is that time of the year when you can get out of the kitchen, fire up your grill and enjoy good food and conversation. As my preparation for the grilling season, I made some herbed butter today. It really goes with any kind of meat, and possibilities (as of which herbs to use) are endless, just depending on your taste.

Herbed Butter               

 Printable recipe

  • 2 sticks (226 g) butter (room temperature)
  • ½ tsp salt (exclude salt if salted butter)
  • ÂĽ tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped Italian parsley
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped basil
  • 1 tbsp chopped thyme

*** Choice of herbs is all yours, You can mix and match what you like the most.

Whip the butter with a hand mixer until fluffy. Add salt, pepper and garlic and mix for about one minute. Add all the herbs and mix them into butter by hand.

I usually store Herbed Butter two ways:

1. I take plastic wrap and form the butter into a log. I freeze it and then when needed take out of the freezer and cut into ÂĽ in slices and top the grilled meat with it.

2. Other way is to fill the butter into a cake decorating bag with the star tip and make individual stars on a flat surface covered with parchment paper. Freeze the stars and then store them in a plastic container in the freezer.

My Boeuf Bourguignon Adventure

For quite some time I’ve been thinking about making the famous Boeuf Bourguignon. This Christmas I received Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” as a present from my husband and kids. I was really delighted to have this book! The first recipe I read was Boeuf Bourguignon! I was ready to take on the challenge and make this delicious dish.

Finally, about four or five weekends ago, I decided I had enough time to make it. On Saurday I only managed to make the beef stock since I was baking and didn’t finish in time to do more. So, I decided that Sunday was The Day! I woke up quite late, but managed to make it to the store, despite the ‘lake effect snow’ and the freezing winds. I bought all the missing ingredients and then I remembered that I only had white wine in the house and the recipe called for a good red wine. My problem was that you can’t buy alcohol on Sundays in Indiana. It really is nonsense, but it is a law and it supposed to be followed I guess… Sooo, determined to make the Boeuf Bourguignon THAT DAY, I got into my car and headed toward Michigan (where you can, as in any other normal place, buy alcohol on Sunday). Luckily, Michigan isn’t too far from here, just a few miles North, but the whirling snow and strong winds were starting to make this a real challenge. Oh my God, this Boeuf Bourguignon better be good!

Finally, I made it to a small liqour store just a few miles accros the Michigan State line. I thought they might not even sell any good red wines… As I was walking toward the door, in a split second my legs went under me in and I fell on my back. Ughh, #@!!& the Bouef Bourguignon! My behind was hurting soooo bad! Well, I thought since I made it this far, I might as well walk in and get the stupid wine! Amazingly, for such a small liquor shop, they had quite a nice selection of imported wines, so I decided to go for Chianti.

The drive back home was just as much fun. I could barely sit on my butt, but I was more than determined to cook this thing! As soon as I came home and started cooking, I was feeling much better ! About 5 hours later we had probably one of the top ten dishes I’ve ever had. The beef was tender, the wine sauce was superb and the whole dish was just very rich and flavorful. No regrets here!

Boeuf Bourguignon printable recipe

Boeuf Bourguignon (By Julia Child)

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 9- to 10-inch, fireproof casserole dish , 3 inches deep
  • Slotted spoon
  • 6 ounces (170 g) bacon
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil or cooking oil
  • 3 pounds (1.4 kg) lean stewing beef , cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 1 sliced carrot
  • 1 sliced onion
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 3 cups (700 ml) full-bodied, young red wine , such as a Chianti
  • 2 to 3 cups (500 – 700 ml) brown beef stock or canned beef bouillon
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 cloves mashed garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme
  • Crumbled bay leaf
  • Blanched bacon rind
  • 18 to 24 small white onions , brown-braised in stock
  • 1 pound quartered fresh mushrooms , sautĂ©ed in butter
  • Parsley sprigs

Directions

Remove rind from bacon, and cut bacon into lardons (sticks, 1/4 inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). Simmer rind and bacon for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts of water. Drain and dry.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Sauté the bacon in the oil over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon. Set casserole aside. Reheat until fat is almost smoking before you sauté the beef.

Dry the stewing beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Sauté it, a few pieces at a time, in the hot oil and bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the bacon.

In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the sautéing fat.

Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with the salt and pepper. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly with the flour. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat and return to oven for 4 minutes more. (This browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust.) Remove casserole, and turn oven down to 325 degrees.

Stir in the wine, and enough stock or bouillon so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs, and bacon rind. Bring to simmer on top of the stove. Then cover the casserole and set in lower third of preheated oven. Regulate heat so liquid simmers
very slowly for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms. Set them aside until needed.

Prepare onions and mushrooms

Braised onions

  • 18 – 24 peeled pearl onions
  • 1 ½ tbsp butter
  • 1 ½ tbsp oil
  • ½ cup beef stock (or bouillon, red wine or water)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 parsley sprigs
  • ½ bay leaf
  • ÂĽ tsp thyme

Directions:

When the butter and oil are bubbling in the skillet, add the onions andd saute over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling the onions about so they will brown evenly. Be careful not to break the skins.

Pour in the liquid and season to taste. Wrap the herbs in cheesecloth and add the herb bouquet.

Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the liquid has evaporated. Remove herb bouquet and serve them as they are or in another recipe.

Sautéed Mushrooms

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1tbsp oil
  • ½ lb fresh mushrooms, washed, well dried, left whole if small or quartered if large

Directions:

Place a non-stick skillet over high heat with the butter and oil. As soon as you see that the butter foam has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add the mushrooms.

Toss and shake the pan for 4 – 5 minutes. During their sauté the mushrooms will at first absorb the fat. In 2 to 3 minutes the fat will reappear on their surface and the mushrooms will begin to brown.

As soon as they have brown lightly remove from the heat.

When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan. Wash out the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms over the meat.

Skim fat off the sauce. Simmer sauce for a minute or two, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons of stock or canned bouillon. Taste carefully for seasoning. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables. Recipe may be completed in advance to this point.

For immediate serving: Covet the casserole and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times. Serve in its casserole, or arrange the stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles, or rice, and decorated with parsley.

For later serving: When cold, cover and refrigerate. About 15 to 20 minutes before serving, bring to the simmer, cover, and simmer very slowly for 10 minutes, occasionally basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce.

Bon Appetite!