Thursday, April 16, 2015

6 Years and Italian Chickpeas

I’ve heard that if you do something for 21 days it becomes a habit. What if you’ve been doing something for 6 years? Can that be defined as an addiction? A sickness? At least an obsession, right?

Honestly, I’m really not the type of person to develop obsessions, so part of me is quite surprised that I’ve been blogging on The Messy Apron for 6 whole years. The rest of me, the parts that actually pay attention, are not so shocked, however, because I have yet to find a way to become bored with this thing. I’m always learning something new, improving (hopefully), and finding ways to fit blogging into my schedule.

And, of course, best of all, I’m always trying new recipes, searching for the delicious in many, many cookbooks, countless magazine clippings, and all over the wide, wide world of the World Wide Web. There are times when I don’t think I can keep up the photographing, writing and posting, but it’s the recipes that keep me going. Grandpa Vic always said, “You have to eat something,” and here at The Messy Apron, there will always be something to eat.

6 Years ago, I awkwardly introduced myself to cyberspace. I just had to talk about food and recipes (and I really didn’t know how to photograph these things at all!...I think I got a bit better). I started with a simple but delicious recipe that has been a weeknight standby for me for many, many years: something I named Italian Chickpeas. I didn’t get any photos of my Italian Chickpeas all those years ago, so I thought I’d snap a few and re-post the recipe for old time’s sake.

Even with all the new and tasty treats there are to try, my husband, Harry, and I will not stop loving this dish. It’s saucy and savory, redolent with garlic and olive oil, and utterly fabulous and satisfying. And easy! I usually serve it with a green salad and always, always with a chunk of toasted bread. The whole cloves of garlic that simmer in the sauce get so soft and sweet that we must fish them out of the bowl and spread them on the bread. Fabulous!

This dish is also vegetarian, relatively inexpensive (although it contains a good-size glug of olive oil and, here, better is better), makes enough for two very hungry people, and re-heats nicely if you want to save some for later. If you’re new to cooking, make this dish. If you’re looking for ways to eat more vegetarian meals, make this dish. If you need a cheap, easy weeknight standby, make this dish.

Italian Chickpeas, along with other simple favorites like Peanutty Noodles, Soup Beans and Pizza, will be on my table and my apron forever. Luckily for the longevity of this blog, new recipes will keep coming forever, too. Thank you, thank you for stopping by The Messy Apron and special thanks to those of you who stick around to read some more…for 6 whole years!

Italian Chickpeas
The garlic stays whole in this dish, but gets beautifully soft and is great spread on a chunk of bread alongside the pasta and sauce.

1/3 cup good olive oil
6 large (or more to taste) garlic cloves, peeled and cracked
¾ cup chopped fresh parsley
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (16-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), do not drain
Hot cooked pasta, preferably a short, curly shape, such as radiatore, orecchiette, or rotini

1. Heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic cloves and cook, shifting and flipping the cloves often until they just begin to brown all over.

2. Add the parsley and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds. Add the tomato sauce, and the liquid (only the liquid!) from the can of chickpeas. Bring to a gentle boil and simmer for 20 minutes. (After about 10 minutes it’s a good time to start heating the pasta cooking water so the pasta and the sauce will get done at about the same time.) If the sauce is very thick, add a little water.

3. Add the chickpeas and simmer another 10 minutes. Serve with hot pasta.

Makes 2 very generous or 3-4 modest servings.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Sauerkraut and Kielbasa Casserole

I squeezed a really delicious casserole into our dinner menu just before the weather got too nice to think of anything but salads and grilled foods. Actually, I made this recipe twice because I wasn’t quite happy with the way the potatoes turned out the first time around.

Okay, I’ll back up just a second. You see, if this casserole, which is mostly stuffed with sauerkraut and turkey kielbasa, is really a potpie, then thinly-sliced potatoes are its crust. They are shingled in overlapping layers over the top of everything. In the original recipe, they were Yukon gold potatoes and they were supposed to get brown and crispy. I found that, while the potatoes did brown nicely, they didn’t really cook through. A lot of their crunchiness was due to their un-cooked-ed-ness.

And so when I tried this again I covered the dish for the first 45 minutes of cooking and the potatoes did cook. Well, I pulled one of my usual unscientific tricks of changing two variables at once and not only covered the dish the second time around, but also used a different variety of potato. I swapped in russet potatoes for the Yukon golds.

I’m confident in recommending either potato, however, and I’m also confident in recommending covering the baking dish to get the potatoes nicely cooked. Whatever you do with the potatoes, though, the best thing about this casserole is the classic combination of sausage and sauerkraut. There’s also plenty of onion and an apple in the mix, along with flavor boosts from caraway and fennel seeds, spicy brown mustard, white wine, and cider vinegar. 

While casserole season may be at an end, this dish is still a delicious crowd-pleaser no matter the weather. It’s a new take on old-school flavors. And satisfying like old-school comfort food.

Sauerkraut and Kielbasa Casserole
Adapted from Eating Well magazine, Sept/Oct 2012

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large onion, sliced
1 teaspoon caraway seed
½ teaspoon fennel seed
1 large apple, chopped
1 cup dry white wine
13 ounces turkey kielbasa, sliced ½ inch thick
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 ½ cups sauerkraut, drained well
1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1-1 ½ pounds Yukon gold or russet potatoes (peeled if desired)
1 tablespoon butter, melted
½ kosher salt

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray a 3-quart casserole dish with cooking spray or grease it with oil or butter.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook about 5 minutes or until just beginning to brown.

3. Lightly crush the caraway and fennel seeds with a mortar and pestle or a knife. Add them to the onion. Add the apple and wine. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook until most of the wine has evaporated, about 5 minutes.

4. Remove from the heat and stir in the kielbasa, cider vinegar, sauerkraut, mustard and black pepper. Transfer to the prepared baking dish.

5. Thinly slice the potatoes and place them in a large bowl. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, butter and salt. Toss the potatoes to coat well. Arrange the potato slices, tightly overlapping them, over the sauerkraut mixture.

6. Cover and bake at 400 F for 45 minutes. Remove the cover and continue baking 15 minutes more or until the potatoes are very tender and getting brown. Remove from the oven and let stand about 10 minutes before serving.

Makes about 6 servings.

Another recipe like this one: Potato and Sauerkraut Cakes

One year ago: Wheat Sandwich Bread

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Southwest Flavored Egg Bake

Are you in the mood for brunch? It seems like spring does that to us somehow. Maybe it’s the success of Easter celebrations. Who knows? But this baked egg dish is a great one for brunch, or for breakfast, or any meal, really.

This dish is quite simple, involving an easy mixture of eggs and cheese. I gave mine a boost with pickled jalapeno chiles (the original recipe called for canned green chiles, which would also be quite good.) I also added cilantro and what’s pretty much my favorite spice, smoked paprika.

You could change up the flavors however you’d like. I would leave in the cottage cheese and some other cheese in the same proportion as they are here, because the texture is just right. You could substitute a mixture of chili powder and cumin for the smoked paprika. You could also go to a different geographical location by swapping the cheddar for Gruyere or Parmesan, then substituting fresh herbs for the spices. You could even minimalize and make it very plain.

This delicious egg bake goes together quickly, and, while it needs a little over half an hour to bake, you could get some other tasty things together during that time if you do decide to take on brunch. Just serve it with a muffin, scone or toast if you want a quieter breakfast, or go with salad and fried potatoes on the side for lunch or supper. I was a little surprised by how easy, delicious and endlessly adaptable this dish is. I might just adopt a habit of making brunch!

Southwest Flavored Egg Bake
Adapted from Rachel Ray Every Day magazine

Feel free to substitute flavors to your heart’s desire.

5 large eggs
2 tablespoons melted butter
¼ cup flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 cup cottage cheese
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons minced pickled jalapeno chiles
½ cup chopped cilantro

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray an 8-inch square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray or grease it with butter.

2. In a medium-size bowl, whisk the eggs until well-beaten. Whisk in the butter. Whisk in the flour, baking powder, salt, and smoked paprika. Stir in the cottage cheese, cheddar cheese, jalapenos and the cilantro. Pour into the prepared baking dish.

3. Bake at 350 F for about 35 minutes or until the eggs are set.

Makes 4 main dish servings (or 8-12 smaller bites). Leftovers warm nicely in the microwave.

One year ago: Hazelnut Latte Muffins