Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My Vinegar Heaven

Italian Sub Salad (Click here for recipe)

Italian subs are one of my fave pizza shop staples, and the more heaping/gloppy the toppings, the better, as far as I'm concerned. A tangy vinaigrette and classic shake of oregano are so perfectly complimentary to salty Italian meats and provolone. 

When I came across this recipe claiming to convert such a substantial and delicious sandwich to a salad, my reaction was admittedly mixed: wow-this-sounds-incredible-if-it's-really-possible-to-achieve-the-awesomeness-of-this-sub-in-a-salad  vs. no-chance-a-salad-can-compare-to-the-awesomeness-of-this-sub-and-PS-recipes-like-this-kind-of-annoy-me.  It's probably rather clear since it's landing in this forum, but the former sentiment prevailed.  Hurray!

For me, the treasure of this salad comes from this glorious little jar of Italian pickled veggies.  I have no idea how I've managed to pass over such a gem of an ingredient for so long, as my love of pickled things clearly borders obsession. 

The zesty brine serves as the base for the dressing.  Genius.

A second dose of genius is toasted bread cubes (my theme lately, it seems), which boast the crispy outside and satisfyingly tender inside of a perfectly fresh Italian sub shop roll.  THEN these already tasty little nuggets take it one step further and drink up the dressing for a burst of flavor.

Toss some sweet Peppadews and salty olives from the Mediterranean bar on top, and I am totally in love. 

Win win to find such vinegary goodness (little less 'ode' and a little more, um, 'reverence' in this entry, eh??) in a salad that also just *nearly* satisfies like a sub!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Snowy Weekend - Part 2

I'm not sure any of my ramblings could amplify this classic cold weather feast.  The picture kinda says it all.  It's one of those dishes that challenge you to resist closing your eyes to savor each bite.  I should be moderately embarrassed for that remark, but it's my sad and hungry truth.

Red Wine Braised Short Ribs (Click here for recipe)

I didn't adapt the recipe itself, but I deviated slightly on presentation.  It instructs to strain the sauce entirely, which I did.  But I just couldn't abandon those sweet, tender carrots and celery, so on the plate they went... well, before the kids devoured them.  Also, instead of serving atop mashed potatoes, I opted for buttered egg noodles coated sprinkled with grated Parmesan on the side.  Um, not sure why I haven't had those in about 10 years??  Divine! 

Well, now that temperatures are climbing to over 70 degrees (in February!!) less than week after the snow fell, I'm guessing that these cold weather dishes are not as inspirational as I hoped they'd be. But please tuck this seriously fab and cozy recipe away for if/when winter decides to return!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Snowy Weekend - Part 1

Finally!  It was about darn time for a frosty weekend at home, as our "winter" thus far hasn't offered its typical font of seasonal culinary inspiration.  I almost forgot how much I adore a pot-of-delicious-something bubbling away on the stove, its aromas filling the house while the snow falls quietly outside.  Call me cheesy; you'll be correct.

I owe a debt of gratitude to my dear friend Maura, who provided me with a recipe from Martha Stewart's January issue, which tragically did not make it into my mailbox for reasons unknown.  I've felt the void.  I've mourned.  But I'm moving on now, thanks to February's delivery and, more importantly, this amazingly delicious recipe that makes me feel like I never missed out in the first place.

Pork Sausages with White Beans

What a completely unworthy title.  I know I get pretty enthusiastic about food in general, but trust me that this a stand-out.  Why?  Imagine savory sausage nestled in a divine stew of white beans, diced tomatoes, white wine, chicken stock, onions, herbs, and yup -- bacon.  THEN this goodness is topped with a layer fresh breadcrumbs sauteed until golden.  Two minutes under the broiler puts the exclamation point on this dish.  It's cozy, super tasty, kid-friendly, and makes great leftovers.

Kinda looks like stuffing on top, huh?   Well, thanks to the wee bit of butter in which the bread sautes, I beg you to believe that it's even BETTER. 

Martha and Maura, you are both my heroes!  On to the recipe.

Pork Sausages and White Beans
(courtesy of Martha Stewart)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 ounces diced bacon
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups canned diced tomatoes (from one 14.5 ounce can)
1 1/4 cups chicken stock
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 pounds cooked pork sausages (French garlic or bratwurst,) left whole or sliced 1 inch thick
5 cups homemade breadcrumbs, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (sourdough is delicious!)
1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 325.  Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large braiser or high-sided ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat.  Add bacon; cook until crisp.  Add onion; cook until tender.  Add garlic and thyme; cook for 1 minute.  Add wine; cook for 1 minute.  Add tomatoes; cook until sauce is thickened.  Add stock and beans; bring to a simmer.  Add sausages.  Bake for 30 minutes.  

Toast breadcrumbs in remaining butter in a skillet over medium-high heat, stirring until golden, 8-10 minutes.  Stir in parsley.  Season with coarse salt.  

Remove skillet from oven.  Heat broiler.  Scatter bread-crumbs over top of sausage mixture.  Broil 6 inches from heat source until top is deep golden brown, 1-2 minutes.