Tag Archives: garlic

WW Chinese Pineapple Chicken

27 Sep

Weight Watchers Pineapple Chicken 015

How many wagons have you fallen off of? Have you fallen off of the sweets wagon? The alcohol wagon? The Friends reruns until 4 a.m. wagon? The “I’m tired of being treated like shit” wagon?

Eventually, we all find ourselves looking at the tread indentations of that friggin’ wagon trailing away from us while mud is kicked up into our faces. We’ve fallen off. A particularly erotic eclair spreads its legs like an elusive crush, or that box o’ See’s candies bares its nickel-shaped nipples like a shameless Brad Pitt seducing Geena Davis; or a bad day requires a friend named Martini and the rest is Absolut history; or a sleepless evening can only be comforted by Ross and Rachel and Phoebe and Janice; or perhaps you don’t know what being treated nicely feels like, so you’ll take shit over nothing.

The expression is an old one (early 1900’s, to be exact), yet we apply it to so many areas in our lives that require restraint, reflection, admission, and determination, at some point. Should you feel misery and self-loathing when you fall off? Fuck no. Get back on when you can and try not to make the same mistake twice, and if you do, get back on and try not to make the same mistake thrice, and if you do, get back on and don’t make the same mistake…..you get it. Keep tryin’, kid. You’ll get there.

I fall off of the Weight Watchers wagon regularly. Do I get pissed at myself? Yeah, but not enough to damage me permanently or make me wallow in a maelstrom of guilt. I’ve learned to enjoy dusting myself off, to be honest. It builds character.

I mention this because this Chinese Pineapple Chicken dish was the first Weight Watchers meal I ever made when finally, at 60 pounds above my “normal” weight, I got on the wagon and actually tried to help myself. I signed up for Weight Watchers, weighed in, went to meetings, stopped being a pussy, started walking a lot, and, fifty pounds later, was healthier.

And I’m glad this dish was the first because it’s excellent. If it sucked, I would have fallen off the wagon within a week. This dish gave me some hope, and it also made me realize that my “cooking” mind was way, way too narrow. There are plenty of ways to enjoy and indulge in good food without feeling after every meal like a goose being prepped for foie gras harvesting.

I got this recipe out of one of the first brochures that I received when I signed up for Weight Watchers. This recipe serves four, and each portion is a 6 on the old WW system (PointPlus and 360° can fuck off non-haltingly).

Note: Asian Black Bean Sauce favors vary, so find one that you dig, and go with it.

Chinese Pineapple Chicken

Serves 4

Ingredients:

Cooking Spray

1 bunch of scallions (green onions), trimmed and sliced thinly

1 tbsp. chopped, fresh ginger (do not substitute for this)

1 tbsp. minced garlic

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1″ cubes

2 cups crushed pineapple or pineapple chunks, packed in juice

1/4 cup Asian black bean sauce

2 cups cooked brown or white rice (I used brown rice in the pictures; it has more fiber, holmes.)

Makin’ It:

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and coat it with cooking spray. Add in the scallions, ginger, and garlic. Saute and stir this for about 4 minutes until it’s nice and pungent. Add in the chicken and saute it until it’s browned and almost cooked through, about 7-8 minutes, stirring regularly.

Add in the pineapple (juice and all) and the Asian black bean sauce. Stir it all together well. Get this to a simmer, lower the heat to medium, and cook it, stirring often, until the chicken is cooked through and tender, about 5 to 8 minutes more.

Put 1/2 cup of rice on each plate, and divide the Chinese Pineapple Chicken amongst the four plates. You might get this:

Weight Watchers Pineapple Chicken 010

I put sriracha on the rice because I like spice to kick me in the nuts a bit.

It’s easy, fantastically tasty, and a good place to learn how to stay on the wagon.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

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Italian Green Beans

28 Aug

 

Italian Green Beans 2

I often find myself paging through my memory for a “good” side dish to whatever I’m making that evening. As Ina Garten has said many times in effect, you have to figure out what the “star” of any given meal is. Is it the main course? Is it that odd potato recipe you had at Chez Sexy that you tried to replicate and for which you want your family to salivate? Is it simply a kick-ass veggie dish that’s good for you AND complements the main dish? What’s the new trick you have up your sleeve?

Most of us aren’t entertaining every night, so it follows that mealtime can be repetitive. I admit, I get bored easily with repetition. It’s a drummer thing, I think, so I’m always looking for variation on least one part of the meal. I could be making a solid main course, one I make every week, in fact. But my curiosity makes me wonder how I can add some oomph to whatever I’m cooking. Does my day revolve around it? No. But, it spices dinnertime up for me. It’s part of being creative. It’s part of living.

I’ve had these green beans regularly since I was a lad, and every member of my family knows how to make them. If I’m making a heavy main dish, often I will forgo the veggie or salad just because I know I’ll be full and, truth be told, I want to scarf more pasta or steak or whatever instead of obligatory greens. These green beans fix that problem. I want to eat these as much as the main course.  They can serve as the “star” of what would have been an ordinary meal. Moreover, they’re good for you. A lot of veggie recipes get their flavor from adding tons o’ fat in the form of cheese or butter, but not so with these guys. A little olive oil is the only indulgence.

Italian Green Beans

Serves 6, I would think

Ingredients:

1 pound green beans, regular or French, trimmed

3 tbsp. olive oil

3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

1 15 oz. can crushed tomatoes, or use diced tomatoes, undrained, and crush them by hand

1 tsp. oregano

1/2 cup water

salt and pepper to taste

Makin’ It:

First you need to parboil the green beans, which means you have to cook them partially before you finish them in the tomato sauce. How long you parboil them depends on how big the green beans are; for example, thin French green beans will be quick to parboil. So, get a pot of salted water boiling, add the green beans, and cook them until they’re fork tender but still retain a crispness to them. Drain them and set them aside.

In a saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the garlic slices. Saute them until they’re golden. Then add the tomatoes, oregano, water, and the drained green beans. Get this to a simmer and cook them for about 10 minutes, until the sauce reduces a bit. Season with salt and pepper and you’re in business.

Italian Green Beans 1

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

Garlic Chicken Stir Fry

24 Jul

Garlic Chicken 022

Somewhere along the line, and I am thinking Emeril had a lot to do with this, people started going crazy with the garlic. I mention Emeril because every time he would add garlic to a recipe he was preparing, people started cheering in a “you shouldn’t do that, but fuck yeah” sort of way. In other words, it seemed that adding excess garlic to a dish became the equivalent of a Jagermeister shot at last call.

About 3 hours north of us in Gilroy, California, there is a garlic festival every year which draws thousands of people who get to sample everything from garlic bread to garlic ice cream. The health benefits of garlic have made headlines throughout the years as well. In an excellent memoir called Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years, the two centenarian African-American women attest to eating a chopped raw garlic clove and cod liver oil every morning, which was one of their secrets to longevity.

The Stinking Rose is a restaurant to which I have been both in San Francisco and Beverly Hills, and they specialize in festooning almost every dish with garlic. When you arrive, a jar of spreadable garlic awaits you on the table and the saturation just mounts from there: 40 Clove Chicken, Gnocchi in a garlic cream sauce, garlic fish and chips, and the obligatory garlic ice cream which, for me, works only as a novelty. When my wife and I went there for dinner some years ago, people nosed us for days afterward and seemed to pirouette away from us when we bid them “HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHIiiiiiii” in an”H” heavy, breathy voice. I chased them and my wife shook her head at me.

This garlic chicken recipe is garlicky, of course, but not to a level leading to the ostacization we experienced. I gleaned this from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook and didn’t really mess with it much because it’s solid.  In fact, a portion of this with a 1/2 cup o’ rice is a 6 on the Old Weight Watchers system (PointsPlus and 360° can fuck off interminably). This is quick-to-make, filling, light, and will give you a garlic fix should you need one.

Garlic Chicken Stir Fry

Makes 4 Servings

Old Weight Watchers Value: 6

Ingredients:

2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

1 cup water

3 tbsp. soy sauce

1 tbsp. rice or white wine vinegar

1 tbsp. cornstarch

2 tbsp. oil

10 green onions, sliced into 1″ pieces

1 cup sliced mushrooms

12 cloves garlic (or more), peeled and finely chopped

1/2 cup sliced water chestnuts (1/2 of a can drained)

2 cups hot cooked rice

Makin’ It:

Cut the chicken breasts into small pieces (1/2″) and put them in a resealable plastic bag. In a small bowl, stir together the water, soy sauce, and vinegar. Pour this over the chicken, seal the bag, and refrigerate it for 30 minutes or more. Drain the chicken and reserve the marinade. Whisk the cornstarch into the reserved marinade and set it aside for later.

In a large nonstick skillet or wok, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the green onions, mushrooms, and garlic and cook them for 2 minutes or so, until they’re tender. Remove these vegetables from the skillet and set them aside.

Now add the chicken to the skillet, cooking and stirring until it’s no longer pink, about 4 minutes or so. Push the chicken to the side of the skillet, give a quick stir to that reserved marinade (so the cornstarch doesn’t settle at the bottom), and pour it into the center of the skillet. Cook this until it’s thickened and bubbly (like Kim Kardashian), and then push the chicken back into the center and mix it all together. Return all of the veggies to the skillet and add the water chestnuts, too. Cook and stir this for a few minutes more and serve with rice.

Garlic Chicken 011

You can add cashews, too, but the WW points value will go up, of course. Piece of cake.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

Sesame Green Beans

4 May

Sesame Green Beans

One of the things I miss most about tending a bar is the clientele that I got to know over the years.  In the U.S., the term “bar” carries a stigma with it, almost like to frequent a bar means that you drink too much or that you haven’t quite grown up yet.  I disagree generally with this.  Most of the people whom I served over the years came there on the way home from work to take the edge off, to meet a friend to catch up, to wait for a table to open up in the restaurant, or to grab a quick meal before the day’s next adventure: not to get hammered.

At T.G.I. Chotchkies where I worked, one of my favorite people was a guy named Chuck.  When I knew him, he was in his eighties.  Like most men of his age, he had served in World War II, and he only would talk about the places he traveled, not what he experienced or did for this country in the war itself. After he retired from the Firestone Tire Company in his 60’s, he became a security guard at the Balboa Yacht Club in Newport Beach, California.  He stood about 5′ 6″ and was rail thin. He had short cut white hair combed neatly, blue eyes, and his original teeth, brownish and a few laced with silver from past dental work.

Chuck was old school. He came from an era where people rocked suits and hats to travel or to attend a baseball game.  He was always put together respectfully. At my bar, he usually donned old guy slacks with the flat front and no belt, leather shoes, and a tucked in button down shirt; he had a pink one that I remember vividly.  He would come in almost every Sunday and we all knew his order by heart: Smirnoff martini up to begin (shaken a certain way, too; he only wanted certain bartenders to make this), a glass of house white zin with dinner, and a green creme de menthe rocks after, maybe a cup of coffee.  Old school.

My favorite part of serving Chuck was when he ordered dinner. We all knew exactly what he would order, but bartending requires dancing the steps perfectly and repeatedly even though you’ve mastered the dance. Bartenders sell an experience, much like teachers, so structure is key.

“Chuck, you ready to order?”

“Yes sir.” Then he would lean over the bar and address me in deep sincerity with concomitant hand gestures: “Now Jon, I want one of those New York Strips. Medium. And I want a baked potato with some butter.”

Even though I knew the answer to my next question, I would ask it anyway because I could never hear it enough:

“You got it. What vegetable would you like?”

“Jon, don’t even put a goddamn veggie near my plate.  I’ve been around 80 years, and I hate vegetables.  I don’t care if you steam ’em, fry ’em, bake ’em, or put all sorts of shit on ’em, I don’t like ’em. I don’t want ’em. I just want a steak and a potato. OK? No goddamn vegetables.   And a glass of house white zinfandel. No vegetables.”

“You got it, kid.”

What could I say to him? If you’ve lived a great life into your 80’s and you hate vegetables, you are more than entitled. I just loved listening to him finally snap about eating something that he probably had to for the first 75 years of his life.

So why ramble on about Chuck? Well, veggies can be tough customers to cook for a variety of reasons.  We all know we’re supposed to eat a ton of them, yet they’re boring unless you pile on tons o’ fatty stuff or you deep fry them. This recipe is an option that will make most people happy, except Chuck, I suppose.

I posted this green bean recipe attached to another recipe before, but I am posting it now on its own. This complements any Asian dish, and it is great the next day. Costco sells a giant bag o’ French green beans for around $5, too.

Sesame Green Beans

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

1 lb. green beans, trimmed

2 tsp. sesame oil

2 tsp. cooking oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (more if you’re hardcore)

3 tbsp. soy sauce

1 tbsp. brown sugar

1/2 tsp. black pepper

3 tbsp. water

1 tbsp. corn starch

salt to taste

toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Makin’ It:

You want to boil the green beans in a pot of salted water until they’re almost done, being careful not to overcook them.  Drain them, rinse with cold water, pat them dry, and set them aside.

In a small bowl or ramekin, stir together the soy sauce, brown sugar, and pepper. Set aside. In another small bowl, whisk together the water and the corn starch. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the oils over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook this for about a minute stirring constantly.  You don’t want the garlic to burn here.

Add the green beans to the skillet and stir fry these babies for about 3 minutes.  Mix the soy sauce mixture again so the sugar doesn’t settle and add it to the green beans in the skillet. Stir it together well and cook for about 3 minutes.  Re-stir the water and corn starch, and add it to the green beans. Cook and stir this until the sauce is thickened, about 3 minutes. Taste for salt. Transfer this to a serving bowl and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Sesame Green Beans 5

So Chuck, wherever you are, I hate veggies too, dude. But these ones are good and you should try them. I’ll have the creme de menthe waiting for you.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

Meatballs and Sauce #2

27 Jan

Meatballs and Sauce #2 006

Nothing says “I love you” like sauce and balls, except maybe when you say “I love you” out loud.  Go figure.

As I have said previously, I have a few versions of Italian sauce with meatballs.  The meatballs in this recipe are mine; I winged it (I wang it? I had wung it?) based on my go-to recipe, and I came up with a keeper.  Like a lot of Italian cooking, it’s a matter of talking to people, trading ideas, yelling to some degree, drinking more wine, and then putting it all together to get a kick-ass meal for which everyone wants to give you a reach around.

The sauce recipe is from a book my brother bought me for XMas called The Meatball Shop Cookbook (http://www.themeatballshop.com/).  Like all of the cookbooks I get from my brother, it’s exceptional.  And today is his 105th birthday, so I figured I’d make it a tribute of sorts.

The wife and I are in the midst of doing Weight Watchers, so most good Italian food is out the window.  But, for tonight, I made a low-carb veggie pasta, and the sauce and balls aren’t bad.  We controlled the portions, so we won’t be too off for indulging a bit.

The Sauce (basically the “Classic Tomato Sauce” from The Meatball Shop Cookbook):

3 tbsp. olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 bay leaf

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

3 garlic cloves, chopped

2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

2 tbsp. tomato paste

2 28 oz. cans whole, peeled tomatoes, chopped with their juices

Makin’ It:

(Note: I have a big-ass cast iron pot/ Dutch oven that I got at T.J. Maxx that does the trick for everything, especially sauce).

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onions.  Cook them for a few minutes, and then add the bay leaf, oregano, garlic, salt, and red pepper.  Cook this for 8 more minutes until the onions are soft and translucent and happy, stirring fairly often.  Add the tomato paste and cook this for a few more minutes, stirring often.  Add the chopped tomatoes and get this to a simmer.  Lower the heat and cook it for another hour, stirring every so often to keep it from sticking to the pot.  If you want to time it right, have the meatballs done after 45 minutes of the sauce cooking, and have the pasta cooked by the time the hour’s up.  Taste the sauce for salt before you serve it.  Pass the parmigiano.

The Balls:

1 lb. ground beef (I even used 90% lean and it was awesome.)

3 cloves garlic, minced well

2 eggs, beaten

1/4 cup milk

1 tsp. dill

1/2 cup parmesan

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

2 tsp. dried parsley

1/2 cup to 2/3 cup dried bread crumbs

a drizzle of olive oil

Makin’ It:

Preheat the oven to 450°.  In a bowl, combine all of the ingredients except the meat and the breadcrumbs.  Add in the meat, and then add in 1/2 cup of the breadcrumbs.  Wash your hands and then mix this with your hand by squishing it all together with reckless abandon.  The key is this:  meatballs need to be wet, to a degree.  If it’s too dry, add some water or milk.  If it’s too wet, add more breadcrumbs.  If it’s right, your hand should be wet a bit after you squish…you’ll know when you feel it.  If it feels paste-y, it’s too dry.

Take a 9″x 9″ baking dish (or something like it),  and spray it with cooking spray or grease it.  Take about a 1/3 cup of the meat mixture and roll it into a ball, about the size in between a golf ball and a baseball.  Keep a glass of water near you to moisten your hands as you do it.  Repeat this until you’ve rolled all of the balls and have them fairly snug in the baking dish.  Drizzle them with olive oil.  Bake this for 20 minutes.

When ’tis done, remove the dish and put the balls in the simmering sauce for another 15+ minutes.  To serve, remove the balls to a separate dish and top with some of the sauce.

These are great for sandwiches or for pasta, so knock yourself out.  Pass the parmigiano.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

Spaghetti Sauce and Meatballs #1

18 Dec

Sauce and Balls 2

The picture above displays a bit of my soul. I have had meatballs and sauce on a weekly basis since I was born, I think.  I remember my mom starting the sauce around noon, and then the house would smell of tomato and garlic for the rest of the day.  As we came in and out of the house while playing, the aroma got stronger the closer we got to dinner.  My brother Chris had (and still has, I would guess) a penchant to take whatever bread was around, drench it in sauce, and then eat it with gusto, maybe even with a meatball on it.  In time, I acquired the same habit.  Simply put, this spaghetti sauce and meatballs is THE representative Italian-American dish.  We all do it in some shape or form.

(On a side note, The Sopranos got the “Sunday Gravy” idiom into the American vernacular when referring to sauce; I myself had never heard it called thus until I watched The Sopranos. Then again, my family emigrated from Naples straight to Los Angeles, so perhaps if I lived in New Jersey or Brooklyn, I might have a different experience of this.)

Any Italian who makes sauce has their own variation (kind of like how everyone has their own version of meatloaf, as I noted a few weeks back).  We might have learned it from our moms or grandmas or pops, but at some point we diverge from them and start playing, as Italians are wont to do.  I have my own recipe for sauce and for meatballs based on the one my mom taught me, which she learned from my nonna.  My brother Andy has his recipe for sauce and meatballs, probably based on my mom’s, and then suffused with his own interpretation.

My brother Chris gave me the recipe below a few weeks ago.  He has a few recipes for sauce and balls, but he told me that I need to make this and then, after I taste it, to try not to play with myself.  Go figure, I changed it a bit when I made it yesterday, and it is quite different from MY sauce (I will post MY sauce sometime in the near future…all good things to those who wait).  Still, I stayed pretty close to what he sent me and, no joke, it’s one of the best I’ve ever made and/or eaten.  What is superior in this recipe compared to mine is that it takes 1/3 of the time, which is a beautiful thing for people who are busy.  He told me that he got it from a New York Times cookbook, and I tried to find it online.  Alas, I found nothing near it, but my mentioning it here will serve as the equivalent of documentation.  If I come across it in the future, I will notate it then.

Spaghetti Sauce and Meatballs

Note:  Start making the balls when the sauce has been cooking for about ten minutes or so.

The Balls

Ingredients:

1 lb. ground veal (you could probably use beef if you’re in a pinch or if you’re anti-veal)

2 tsp. olive oil

1/2 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves minced garlic

1 tablespoon dried dill, crushed, or 1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped

1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsely, or 1 tsp. dried

1/8 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1/4 cup grated parmesan

1 egg, beaten

1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs (use dried if needs be)

1/4 cup flour

2 to 5 tbsp. of oil (veggie or olive) for frying

Makin’ It:

Heat the 2 teaspoons o’ olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat and add the onion and garlic.  Cook this until translucent and soft, about 5 minutes, and then set it aside to cool.

In a large bowl, add the veal, dill, parsely, nutmeg, salt, pepper, cheese, egg, and bread crumbs.  Add the cooled onion and garlic mixture now.  Wash your hands well.  Then, mix this puppy up with your hands (it’s the only way) and don’t be afraid to handle the meat too much.  Just get it all mixed together very well.

Have a glass of cold water next to you for you to keep your hands moist as you roll the balls.  Take about a 1/4 cup of the meat mixture and shape it into a ball.  Repeat until you have roughly 15 to 18 balls of fairly equal size.

In a large skillet, heat about 3 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat.  When it’s ready, a drop of water will sizzle and pop; don’t put in the meatballs until this happens.

Dredge each meatball in the flour and shake off the excess.  Put in half of the meatballs in the hot oil in a single layer, and cook these guys until they’re quite brown on every side.  Use a fork and tongs or some combination like it to move the balls around in the oil.

Shake off any excess oil (or drain them on paper towels) and put them directly into the simmering sauce.  Once they’re all in the sauce, cook them for about 30 minutes longer and they’re ready to go.

To serve, remove the balls to a separate bowl and pass them around the table with a serving spoon.

The Sauce

Ingredients:

1/4 cup olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed with the side of a knife

1/2 cup white wine (or red, if that’s what you have)

2 28oz. cans crushed tomatoes (if you have diced, put them in a bowl and crush them with your hands)

1 tbsp. dried basil

1 tsp. salt (and then to taste as it cooks)

1/2 black pepper (and then some more to taste)

Makin’ It:

In a heavy bottomed sauce pan or pot or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium high heat until hot.  Add the onions and cook them for a few minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium low and add the garlic.  Cook the onions and the garlic slowly for 20 minutes or so until the onion is golden brown (note:  This is KEY!  Browning the onions is where a lot of the flavor comes from, so don’t rush it).

Once they’re golden, raise the heat to medium high again and add the wine.  Scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan if there are any.

Add the tomatoes, basil, salt, and pepper and get it boiling.

Reduce the heat and let it simmer, partly covered, for 30 minutes.  Stir it once in a while. Add the meatballs and cook for another thirty minutes or longer, until the pasta is ready.  If the sauce gets too thick, add some water to it.

Make whatever pasta you want according to the package instructions, drain, and then put it back in the pot.  Immediately add about a ladle or two of sauce and mix it well into the pasta.  It coats the pasta.

Fill a bowl with pasta, top with a ladle of sauce, and pass the parmigiano and the meatballs.  Serve it with some good Italian or French bread, and end it all with a light salad.  Everyone’s happy.

Drinks!  You drink red wine with this.  The chianti with the basket around the bottom of it?  Go for it.  It’s made for this meal.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

p.s.  Thanks to my brother Chris for sharing the love by throwing this recipe our way.

©Jon Marino 2012

Sausage and Beans with Mushrooms, a Favorite Anywhere, Anyhow

1 Dec

Sausage, Beans, and Mushroom

I think that sausage and beans have been around as long as men have been around.  Somewhere along the historical line, some guy (probably Italian or Spanish) looked at his male package and wanted to feed a representation of it to someone, perhaps to share goodness or sexuality, or to laugh inwardly at some gullible heel for a sophomoric prank.  Whatever may be the case, the results have been around for years, and no one is complaining.

Now that I’ve experienced and cooked an array of recipes across the cultural board, I tend to see concepts emerge.  I have written about the bread + meat + egg + sauce concept, or the ground meat + seasoning + starch concept.  The sausage and beans one is all over the place.  In the U.S., we have pork and beans, made popular through camping and through Something About Mary.  English and Irish breakfasts feature baked beans, eggs, and sausage, often.  In the few times I’ve been to Barcelona, Spain, they have a sausage called butifarra, served traditionally with white beans.  Pasta fagioli  in Italy (called “pasta fazool” in my family) is often made with Italian sausage.  Like a lot of Autumn meals, this is meant to warm, comfort, fill, and titillate.

This meal sort of riffs on all of these cultural traditions, and I made it for the first time tonight, kind of.  I have made pieces of it separately, but tonight I put them all together and got a “dish,” so to speak.  Here are the ingredients I had bought to get going on this:

Stuff for Italian Beans, Mushroom, and Sausage

I got a Sicilian chicken sausage from Trader Joe’s (chicken, tomato, and Romano cheese), white beans, a tube of pre-cooked polenta, some mushrooms, onion and garlic, and the means to cook them, like olive oil, butter, and spices.

From start to finish, you’re looking at 30 to 40 minutes, tops.

Sausage and Beans with Mushrooms

Ingredients:

1 tube of precooked polenta (Trader Joe’s: $1.99.  Albertson’s: $5.99.  Do the math.)

6 sausages, grilled, Italian or Sicilian or whatever you’re in the mood for.  Make it mild or earthy sausages, rather than sweet or spicy.

1 package chevre/ goat cheese

1 recipe Mushrooms a la Jonny (https://dinnerwithjonny.com/2012/11/13/sauteed-mushrooms-a-la-jonny/)

1 recipe Italian beans (recipe follows)

Italian beans:

Ingredients:

1 tbsp. olive oil

1/2 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper

1 tbsp. water

1 16 oz. can great northern or cannelini beans, rinsed and drained

1/4 to 1/2 tsp. salt or to taste

1/4 tsp. black pepper

Makin’ the beans:

Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a medium sauce pan or skillet and add the onion.  Saute it until it’s soft, 4 minutes, and then add the garlic and red pepper.  Saute this for 4 more minutes, and then add the water, the beans, and the salt and pepper.  Let it get happy for a few minutes and you’re done.

Putting It All Together:

Preheat the oven to 450°.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, spray it with cooking spray or coat it with olive oil (depending on how sexy you want to get).  Slice the polenta tube into 8 slices.  Lay them on the baking sheet and spray the tops of them with a bit more spray (or drizzle with olive oil, you sexy thing, you).  Bake this for 10 to 14 minutes.  Remove from the oven and get ready to assemble the big shebang.

My wife, Angela, and I put our plates together differently.  For mine, I did this:

Sausage, Beans, and Mushroom

I put three of the polenta slices on the plate.  On one, I smeared some of the goat cheese, which gives it a tartness that’s beautiful.  On one slice, I put beans all around it.  On the last slice, I put the mushrooms all around it.  I lay the sausages in the middle. I ground black pepper all over it, too. For each slice of sausage that I cut, I took a taste of one of the three options.  In other words, I didn’t mix them all up and rather got three distinct tastes in one dish.  Right on, I say to myself.

The wife did this:

Sausage, Beans, and Mushrooms 2

She’s a goat cheese freak, so she slathered it on each polenta slice.  She also sliced the sausage first.  She piled on beans, mushrooms, and sausage, and got a beautiful dish with a rustic flair.

But there’s no green?  The food shows, like Chopped or Iron Chef, always emphasize that colors are important, like textures.  Yeah?  Well they can piss off.  This tasted out of this world, and we were full enough, to be sure.  This looks like home cookin’. Notice that the placemat is an olive green, which is good enough for me on a Friday night two weeks before Christmas vacation.

Drinks!  This is a great Chianti from Trader Joe’s:

Grifone

It goes perfectly with this because although the meal is chicken based, it’s rich, so it needs a good red to break it down, if you will.

And that’s that.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino, 2012