Cannellini & Italian sausage supper

One Italian sausage provides seasoning and a bit of meat for two meals.  The starting point gives enough for two servings.  When I’m using the Italian sausage for two separate meals like this, I usually buy sweet instead of hot, since I can readily add the heat I’d like with crushed red pepper flakes at the time I’m preparing the meal.

  • 1 medium onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 1 sweet Italian sausage, meat removed from the casing and crumbled
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups cooked, drained white beans (cannellini or great northern) or 15-ounce can rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoon water

In a 12 inch skillet with a tight-fitting cover, add the olive oil; when the skillet is heated add the sliced onion, and cook until it is beginning to brown. Add the sausage and brown.  Add minced garlic and cook about 2 minutes.  Add the rinsed beans, and cook covered about 5 minutes.

Remove half the bean/onion/sausage mixture to be used for a second meal.  Cool and refrigerate.

Meal 1:

  • Half the bean/onion/sausage mixture
  • about 15 grape/cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup antipasto salad mix (pitted olives, peppers, carrots) from the salad bar, chopped finely.
  • several sprinkles of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2-3 teaspoons chopped fresh sweet marjoram or Turkish/Greek oregano, or 1/2 teaspoon dried herbs.
  • a single-serving size handful of haricots verts
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste (the antipasto salad is salty so taste before you add additional salt.

Add the herbs, the chopped antipasto salad, crushed red pepper flakes and mix well.  Over medium low heat, add the tomatoes, lay the haricots verts on top of the cannellini beans, add the water, cover tightly and continue to cook until  the haricots verts are tender.  Serve with shavings of Pecorino Romano over the canellinni beans, and the haricots verts on the side, drizzled with a few drops of extra-virgin olive oil.

Meal 2:

  • the reserved cannellini bean/onion/sausage mixture
  • about 15 grape/cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 generous handfuls baby spinach
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste

Place the cannellini bean/onion/sausage in sauté pan, add the water, halved tomatoes, and cover.  Heat gently for about 5 minutes (until starts to steam).  Add the spinach, cover, and allow spinach to wilt.  Toss to combine with the bean mixture.

I had this with some steam-sautéed carrots as an additional vegetable.  Add a glass of good friendly red wine and its a very satisfying meal that’s easy and economical.

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That fourth chicken thigh…

As I mentioned in my previous post regarding what to do with a package of four chicken thighs when you are cooking for one (and the cat) and don’t do leftovers, chicken soup was in the making with some leftovers (rice, garbanzo beans) as a start.

The broth from cooking those four chicken thighs was so intense that I was able to add a bit of water to it, so I have two servings of chicken soup.  (Soup being a leftover that I tolerate better than other leftovers.)  To keep the time invested to a minimum, I did use a convenience product:  frozen soup mix vegetables .   I do use those for winter use since it lets me have a lot of variety without purchasing all the individual vegetables;  I can throw a handful or so into something for quick soup.  As you can see there was okra, peas, corn , celery, potatoes, green beans, and onion.Not having any canned tomatoes open, I used some of the grape cherry tomatoes, halved and tossed into the mix.

I boned the chicken thigh and added it to the broth and veggies, popped the whole thing into the microwave for six minutes to cook the veggies.  The broth from cooking the thighs had been seasoned only with a bit  of salt to allow for maximum flexibility in what I could do with the meat, so it was a tad bland. I supplemented the previous seasoning with a dash of herbes de Provence, and some crushed red pepper flakes to add a bit of zing.  Made and great bowl of soup

chicken soupGiven lots of veggies, the rice, and beans, and the very flavorful broth, the fourth chicken thigh provided reasonable portion f meat for the two servings of soup.  When we consider that most of us eat much more meat than we  need nutritionally, I was very pleased with the flavor of this quick meal.   All I added was a green salad with cucumbers, radishes, grape tomatoes, black grapes, fresh herb leaves, with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice.   With the addition of a glass of red wine (from a box) it was a very satisfying meal.  I have no idea of a calorie count–but I do think it was a healthy meal, particularly for evening when I know I’m going to be very sedentary.

Admittedly, there is a snack for later in the evening: some black grapes, grape tomatoes, and a few nuts, maybe pistachio, or Brazil nuts, or hazel nuts, or a mixture (only a tablespoon or two, though).

Lots of flexibility in terms of what you can do when you’re making a small quantity.   I suspect that the remaining serving, which will be used in a day or two, will get some additional “perking” before it becomes a meal, but I know I’m starting with a good base of tasty broth and a bit of meat.  In looking over what’s likely to be available , I suspect that I’ll add a bit of cabbage, and maybe some chile pepper to that last batch–but who knows.

Even though I bought the more expensive, free-range, organic chicken I think it was economical:  essentially five meals from that one package of chicken.  The extra flavor from the chicken paid off.

A son goût!

Take four chicken thighs…

If you are going to cook for one, you need to get away from recipes that specify exact quantities–it’s a step toward learning to improvise as you cook.  I’d urge you to take a look at Kitchen Express by Mark Bittman–you don’t have to buy it, thought it’s a great book to have; go to the library and check it out. (It’s also available for Kindle, too)  Other simple, and simply good recipes can be found at The New York Times, and at Mark Bittman.com.  You will find recipes that are easy to do for one because they are “quantity-less” in the sense of the typical recipes.  They don’t call him “minimalist” without a reason–a very few ingredients can make some wonderful eating.

Now for those four chicken thighs, cooked as described in “The Microwave in my Kitchen”, here’s what has been done with some, and what is intended for that fourth one:

1.  Chicken salad for a sandwich, quickly made by adding some minced red onion, a bit of cutting celery (See Herbs page) leaves and stems, salt, fresh-ground black pepper, a squeeze of lime juice (or lemon juice), and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

2.  A warm meal of chicken with  part of a can of chickpeas left from a previous use.  Sautéed a handful of onion in olive oil until softened, added a big clove of garlic, the chicken cut into bite-sized pieces, added some halved grape tomatoes, about a tablespoon of chopped sun-dried tomatoes, a dash of Syrian oregano (still growing on my deck); finish with salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste.   Add a  single-serving salad of mixed greens and had a quick, satisfying meal.

3.   The third piece went to make some quick chicken hash for Sunday breakfast as follows:  In a 12-inch nonstick skillet sauté a handful of diced onion  in olive oil until just starting to brown.  Add two minced garlic cloves (I like lots of garlic),  and cook for two or three minutes.   Meanwhile, open a can of diced potatoes (I told you this was quick–obviously you can start with raw potatoes and sauté them until tender) and brown them lightly. Rinse and drain the potatoes, add to the skillet and sauté until they start to brown.

Remove half the potato mixture–this is destined for another use.  Remove the meat from the chicken thigh if it was bone-in and dice the meat.  Add this to the potato mixture in the skillet, along with some (about 1/2 teaspoon) fresh thyme (again still growing on my deck) and continue to sauté.  When the potatoes and chicken are slightly browned, remove to a plate and keep warm.  Cook one egg (or two if you are really hungry) to medium, and serve over the chicken hash.

The portion of potatoes that you removed from the skillet can be used in different ways: the are likely to become a kind of quick version of a Spanish tortilla by just  warming and adding a couple of eggs and serving with a salad or vegetable.

4.  With the broth obtained from cooking the thighs in the microwave, I plan make a meaty chicken soup using that fourth chicken thigh, using that bit of  rice left  from another meal.  I’ll add more veggies, perhaps a bay leaf, and some of my “lazy” favorite (and only) herb mix, herbs de Provence. I’ll see when the time comes–since I don’t do leftovers, I probably shouldn’t do predictions either.

There will be a follow-up on that fourth piece of chicken to let you know where my improvisation lead me.  I’ll give you another example, using a recipe from Kitchen Express for a lentil soup that just blew my mind (See An Awesome Lentil Soup).  It was such an unexpected combination of flavors, and it is one that I keep using to improvise with other ingredients, as well as coming back to the original.  It’s a recipe where I could also make use of the last piece of chicken.

Insalata caprese

One of my favorite things during tomato season is caprese salad.  It’s satisfying and easy to do.  I didn’t do mozzarella di bufala, but I did have fresh mozzarella from the Durham Farmers’ Market (Chapel Hill Creamery) and that was splendid.  Sometimes I get a little over-exuberant and I have leftovers from this.  Next day it’s not quite what I’d want just as is.  (There really can be too much of a good thing at times.)  I’d seen a post on Closet Cooking suggesting a caprese sandwich on ciabatta; that looked really sumptuous, but mine was a leftover.  Standing there staring into the refrigerator, I realized that though I did not have ciabatta, I had some good, homemade olive oil bread–how about turning this into a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich?  Lay the slices of seasoned tomato and mozzarella on my hearty bread, brush the outsides lightly with olive oil, and pop it on the cast-iron griddle that lives on top of my gas stove.  Wonderful way to use a leftover thanks to the inspiration of the post on Closet Cooking.

This is not the first time that I’ve gotten carried away with insalata caprese–I’ve also used the leftovers as a filling for an omelette.  I’m sure there must be other ways to use leftovers and I’m always looking for them especially in the summer time because, if not this summer, I’ll need them next summer, or the one after that.