Food, Nutrition and Cooking

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pH(yllo) Balanced

Some of my favorite recipes happen when I am looking to use ingredients I already have on hand. This recipe evolved as I was cooking it.

Phyllo Tart

8 sheets phyllo (filo) dough (buy in the freezer section), thawed

1 large onion, rough chop

8 oz baby bella mushrooms, rough chop

10 oz package, frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained

6 oz sausages (Italian (sweet or spicy), chicken and apple, chicken and broccoli rabe) of your choice. Slice sausages and cut slices into quarters.*

1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano

Olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Filling: In a large skillet, heat about 2 T oil on medium high. Add onions and saute until they wilt, then add mushrooms and sausages and cook until sausage is cooked through and mushrooms and onions are golden. Add spinach and continue cooking just a few minutes more until all of the liquid is evaporated. Stir in 1/8 cup of the cheese.

Lightly oil an 8″ square baking dish or pie plate. Lay 1/2 the phyllo dough on the bottom of the dish. Note: if phyllo cracks when laying it in or on top of the baking dish, no problem, just piece it together. Top with the filling and spread evenly. Place 1 sheet of the remaining dough on top, sprinkle with a bit of the remaining cheese and repeat this until all the dough is used.

Lightly oil a piece of foil large enough to cover the tart. Press the foil oil side down on the tart and compress the tart. Bake for 20 minutes, remove foil and bake another 20 minutes. Cut into slices and serve.

Serves 2-4 as a main dish or 8-10 as an appetizer

*Firm tofu that has been drained of all liquid can be substituted for sausages.

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Whigged out Chicken Cacciatore

Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike will vote for this one!

Chicken Cacciatore is a quintessential winter dish – even good this winter year, when it’s so warm (at least on the east coast). The flavor is very earthy.

For the dish:

10 oz baby bella mushrooms, sliced

3 T olive oil

1 medium chicken cut into pieces, skin removed

1 large onion, chopped

1/2 c dry white wine

1-2 cloves (depending on clove size and taste) garlic, minced

1 T tomato paste (my favorite is getting tomato paste in the tube, easy to measure and easy to save the remainder)

1 large can whole peeled tomatoes include any liquid in the can

1/2 t allspice

1/2 t thyme

freshly ground pepper and salt, to taste

2 bay leaves

For the Garnish:

grated rind of 1 lemon

1/2 clove of garlic, minced

3 T fresh parsley, minced

In a large stockpot (perfect if you have a Le Creuset) heat the oil on medium-high. Cook the chicken on all sides till lightly browned. Add the onion and let it cook a minute or so, then add in the wine. Once the wine boils up, lower the heat, add the garlic, tomatoes, tomato paste, the mushrooms and the seasonings (remember you can always add more salt and pepper at the end, but you can’t remove them if you’ve added too much).

Cover the pot and cook slowly  on medium-low for about 4o minutes. REMOVE THE BAY LEAVES. Taste for seasonings and adjust as necessary. Scatter the mixed garnish on top before serving.

This dish gets better with age, it also freezes well. I like to serve it with ziti but it’s also great with rice or potato. cacciatore


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Perfect Pasta

All credit for this one goes to my fabulous friend and college roommate, Carol, who gave me this recipe when I asked her what she does with truffle oil. My suggestion is to buy the smallest bottle of truffle oil you can find because you only need a very little bit (and it’s pricey) but it’s the truffle oil that really finishes this dish perfectly. If you are lucky enough to have whole truffles, even better but not necessary. The range in amount of mushrooms, pasta and butter relate to each other and to how saucy you want the final product to be. Using olive oil and vegetable broth in place of butter and chicken broth will make this dish vegetarian but the flavor will be a bit different. This is one of the few savory dishes I find merits real butter. 

Pasta with Mushrooms and Truffle Oil

20-24 oz sliced mushrooms, any variety (my favorite – Baby Bellas)

1/2-1 stick lightly salted butter (can substitute olive oil but the dish will not be exactly the same)

1 large onion, sliced or chopped

3-4 cloves garlic (depending on size of cloves and your love of garlic), pressed

1/2 cup chicken broth (or vegetable broth if you prefer)

1/2 cup dry white wine such as chardonnay

salt and pepper to taste (as I recommend salted butter, be sure to taste before you add further salt)

1/2-1 lb. wide pasta such as fettuccine, pappardelle, preferably packaged as “nests”

1/2 tsp-1 tsp (at most!) truffle oil

1 truffle, sliced as thin as possible (optional)

chopped fresh arugula as a garnish (optional)

Melt butter in very large skillet (one large enough to hold the cooked pasta if you have one). Saute onions until they begin to caramelize. Add pressed garlic and saute for <1 minute more. Add sliced mushrooms and continue to cook until the mushrooms have given up all their liquid and begin to caramelize. 

Add wine and broth and lower heat. Cook until a good amount of liquid has evaporate and you are left with a saucy consistency. If you go too far and you no longer have a sauce, just add more wine and or broth. 

Meanwhile cook desired amount of pasta as package directs to “al dente”. Drain pasta and add to skillet combining sauce with pasta. Drizzle truffle oil on top. Garnish with sliced truffle and arugula if desired. If you have a bit of leftover veggies such as broccoli or peas you can throw those into the mix with the mushrooms towards the end of cooking the sauce. 

Serves 4-6 

Serve with an arugula (or other green) salad and crusty bread


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A barley by any other name

Purple Barley Risotto

Risotto is traditionally made with arborio rice. In this version purple barley is substituted. This barley takes longer to cook than the rice. If you don’t want to spend the time over the stove, you can parboil the barley for 30 minutes in plain water before adding it to the recipe. Drain excess water and add barley at the same point as indicated in the recipe. If you do parboil, you will be able to reduce the time you have to “fuss” over the risotto by ~ the the same 30 minutes spent parboiling. Either way the barley will have more of an “al dente” texture than arborio and the overall texture of the dish will not be quite as creamy as arborio rice.

2 T unsalted butter, divided

4 oz mushrooms, sliced (I like baby bellas)

1 small onion, minced

1 small clove garlic, minced

1/3 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup purple or black barley

32 ounces broth (vegetable or chicken), very hot

1 cup water (omit if barley has been parboiled), very hot

~10-15 aspargus, trimmed and cut into small pieces

Melt 1/2 the butter in a heavy skillet over medium/high heat. Add mushrooms and cook for 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove mushrooms from pan.

Lower temperature to low. Melt remaining butter and cook onion and garlic about 4 minutes. Increase heat to medium/high. Add the wine and let it boil up and deglaze the pan. Cook liquid from wine down until the consistency is a bit syrupy.

Reduce heat again to medium/low. Return the mushrooms and add the barley to the pan and coat both with the onion/garlic “syrup.” Add 1 cup of the hot broth. Cook, stirring frequently until liquid has been absorbed, about 15 minutes. It’s important to let the liquid absorb slowly; reduce the heat if the liquid absorbs too quickly.

Add another cup of broth and again cook about 15 minutes, until it has been absorbed.

Continue until all the broth and cup of water is absorbed. At the last addition of liquid, also add the asparagus and continue to cook until almost all the liquid has absorbed. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Serves 2-4

All content of this posting and is the intellectual property of Sari Schlussel-Leeds, MS, RD, CDN

unless otherwise noted.

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OMG! soup

In case you missed this on FB where I posted it originally here is my
OMG! soup (Onions, Mushrooms, Grains)(c) 2013 Chef Up to the Plate
2 medium onions, sliced
1/2 lb white or baby portabello mushrooms, sliced
2 T olive or canola oil
1/2 cup uncooked grains (such as farro, pearl barley, etc)
1-2 large carrots, sliced
64 ounces chicken or vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste

In a large soup pot, saute onions and grain in oil for about 5 minutes till onions have wilted and grain has toasted.
Add mushrooms and saute 5 minutes more or until mushrooms have given up some of their liquid.
Add broth and carrots, S & P to taste. 
Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook covered one hour. Check for seasonings and serve.
Serves 6-8