Roasted Sausages & Grapes

 

This is actually not a gourmet dish but rather a staple, comfort food example from Tuscany.  Popular at grape harvest, Italians use grapes right from the vineyard. It has a nice balance of richness with sweetness that is pulled together by balsamic vinegar.

My kids loved this dish when I discovered it about 25 years ago and it continues to be a simple go-to for my wife and I, along with a great Tuscan wine. The best way to enjoy this dish is to ensure each forkful has a grape, a slice of sausage, and a dollop of mashed potatoes. When it hits your taste buds for the first time, it is truly astonishing!

INGREDIENTS

2 sausages per serving (mild or hot Italian, honey garlic, English banger). My preference is mild Italian because the flavor mix is tremendous and the meat doesn’t overpower the grape. Serve one of two types in each serving; i.e: one mild and one banger on a plate.

3 tbsn unsalted butter
6 cups red or green seedless grapes, stemmed (I prefer red for rich flavor)
4 tbsn balsamic vinegar

METHOD

  1. reheat oven to 500 degrees. In a large pan, cover sausages with water and parboil for 8 minutes to rid them of excess fat.
  2. Melt butter in large, roasting pan. Add grapes and toss to coat. With tongs, transfer teh sausages to the roasting pan and push them into the grapes so the sausages don’t brown too quickly
  3. Roast, turning the sausages once, for 25 minutes or until the grapes are soft and the sausages have browned.
  4. With a slotted spoon, bring sausages and grapes to a heated serving platter
  5. Place the roasting pan on the stove top over medium-high heat. Add balsamic vinegar, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom the the pan. Allow the vinegar and juices to reduce until they are thick and syrupy.
  6. Pour the sauce over the sausages and grapes and serve immediately.

Serve with garlic mashed potatoes and a good Tuscan wine.

This and other recipes occasionally pop up in the Artichoke Hart series (available here), or the London Cartwright series (available here). Both chefs are fictional… the dishes are not.

 

 

 

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Honey roasted Rhubarb, Walnut, rocket and Feta Salad

When fresh Rhubarb arrives, my cooking brain insists that I make something. Since I’m not much of a dessert eater (I know, hard to believe from a cook), I look for side plates, appetizers, cocktail accompaniments, etc. This one is a true marvel since the honey, thyme and feta offset the sharp tangy taste of the rhubarb.

INGREDIENTS

2 stalks rhubarb
1 tbsp honey
1 tspn fresh thyme (you should have fresh available but 1/2 tspn dried works)
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1 small bag of mixed rocket and spinach leaves (I pull my leaves right of the Arugula plant in the yard)
1 small fennell bulb
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp extra virgin lemon olive oil (or regular extra-virgin with a dash of lemon juice, if you don’t have it)
salt and pepper
2 tbsn feta cheese (the Greek version, not Canadian. As my son-in-law the Greek pointed out: “The difference is like night and day”

METHOD

Preheat oven to 200%
Cut the rhubarb into 3cm batons and lay on an oven tray. Drizzle with honey and thyme, and give it a mix around so the rhubarb is well coated. Bake for 6 minutes or until they are soft enough to bite. Sprinkle with walnuts, place tray back in the oven for 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the balsamic vinegar with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Thinly slice the fennel and toss with the rocket and spinach leaves, add the salad dressing, then toss again.

To plate, place salad on the bottom, crumble feta cheese on top, gently place rhubarb on top and sprinkle withe the toasted walnuts.

This and other recipes occasionally pop up in the Artichoke Hart series (available here), or the London Cartwright series (available here). Both chefs are fictional… the dishes are not.

Grilled steak salad with Arugula, Balsamic-glazed onions, Tomatoes, and Feta

steak-with-feta-and-arugula

 

This is such a simple salad but I think it’s one of the best ways to eat steak.

INGREDIENTS (to serve 4)

6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 small red onion, thinly sliced into half moons
1 tsp balsamic vinegar (good dipping quality)
1 tsp brown sugar
kosher or sea salt
black pepper (grated)
1 lb skirt, sirloin or round steak
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1.5 oz container of baby arugula (about 6 cups)
1/2 pint red grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise (1 cup)
1/2 pint yellow grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise (1 cup)
2 0z feta, crumbled (1/2 cup)

DIRECTIONS

In large skillet, heat 1 tbsn olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute for 5 minutes, until softened. Add balsamic vinegar and brown sugar, and continue to cook for another 2 minuts, until very soft. Season with salt and pepper. REmove to bowl and let cool.

Rub grill pan with 1 tbsn of olive oil and eheat ovaer high heat. Season steak generously with salt and pepper (sometimes, I’ve marinated steak in dark wine for 30 minutes or even overnight to tenderize and flavour, but it’s not necessary). Grill steak for 3 mintues per side (6 minutes total) for medium rare. Longer if a thick steak and if you want more medium. Remove steak to cutting board, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes. (It will continue cooking so don’t overcook on the grill).

In a large bowl, whisk together red wine vinegar with 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Add arugula and tomatoes to vinaigrette and toss gently to combine.

Thinly slice steak diagonally across the grain, removing fat.

Divid sald mixture among 4 plates. Top each with caramelized onions, steak, and crumbled feta. Serve immediately with crusty bread and a good oil/balsamic dip.