Recipe Redux: Martha’s Pasta with Sausage and Fennel

I’ve been wanting to try this recipe from Martha ever since my chef-alicious sister posted it during her guest blog.  Sausage + fennel = one happy stomach.

prep work requires wine.
prep work requires wine.

The ingredients and the instructions for Rigatoni (well, Farfalle) with Sausage and Fennel are all on Kathryn’s post.  A few editorial comments:

  • Use less pasta (maybe half a box, especially if you’re only serving for two people), more fennel (the full bulb) and more carrots (one or two more).  The veggies get a bit lost in the pound of pasta.
  • Add a clove or two of minced garlic while you’re browning the sausage, and season the mixture with black pepper.
  • In fact, while you’re seasoning the sausage, a handful of crushed reds probably wouldn’t hurt (if you’re into that kind of thing).
  • While the pasta cools, tossing it with arugula will up the healthy quotient and give it a nice peppery taste.
well done, martha!
well done, martha!

The Verdict:

With a few tweaks (sorry, Martha), this is really, really good.  Well worth your while and your wine.

Cape Cod Stew

This is where my parents live.

the harbor
the harbor

After spending about 20 years in the suburbs of Boston, raising my two siblings and me, they moved full time to the very outer reach of the Cape a couple of years ago.  They now spend time going to yoga and planting in their garden.  They oyster.  Yes, that’s actually a verb (or at least it is out here, where folks buy yearly permits – November to March – for the joy of hunting for oysters once a week in their sandy beds).

harvested by my parents.
harvested by my parents.

My dad still works and my mom chases after the dog after birdwatching gets too exciting and she (the dog, not my mom) decides she must.join.them.NOW.

My parents also cook.

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prep everything beforehand.
(Note: This is not a budget friendly meal.  It’s also not an exact recipe – substitute your favorite seafood, vegetables, etc.  Before you get started, make sure your carrots, onions, garlic, zest, basil, tomatoes, etc. are prepped.  Once the stew gets going, it’ll cook quickly.)

Cape Cod Stew

  • olive oil
  • 2 yellow onions, chopped
  • 4 carrots, diced
  • 2 28oz cans plum tomatoes, juices drained and crushed with your hands
  • 3 cups chicken or seafood broth
  • 4-5 cloves garlic
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, cut into strips
  • 2 tablespoons orange zest
  • a dash crushed red pepper
  • 1 pound firm white fish, cut into 1-2 inch cubes
  • 2 pounds mussels, cleaned
  • 1 pound littleneck clams, cleaned
  • 3/4 pound (uncooked) shrimp – in their shells will be tastiest, though the shells are a bit tricky to peel off in your stew
  • 1-2 tablespoons Pernod or ouzo
  1. First, make sure your clams and mussels are clean.  If not, soak them in a large pot of cold water and add a few tablespoons of flour; let sit for 1/2 hour.  Discard any mussels or clams that are not tightly sealed closed.  Remove the beards from the mussels.
  2. In large Dutch oven over medium heat, add a few turns of olive oil (about 1/4 cup).  Heat through and add onions and carrots.  Saute a few minutes, until softened.  Add garlic, tomatoes, broth, wine, basil, orange zest, red pepper flakes and some salt.  Simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Add fish and mussels; simmer three minutes.  Add clams and shrimp – cook another 2-3 minutes, or until the shrimp turns pink.  (NOTE: depending on the size of the mussels/clams, you may need to adjust the cooking times.)  Add tablespoon or two of Pernod or ouzo; taste the broth and adjust the seasonings to taste (salt, basil, zest, pepper, crushed reds).  Serve immediately, garnished with an orange slice – a squeeze or two throughout the meal is delicious.  Goes well with some warm, crusty bread.

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The Verdict:

This stew showcases the best of the Cape.  Each bite = serious, serious love.  Share judiciously.

catch your OWN dinner.
catch your OWN dinner.

Welcome Home Cassoulet

The Husband and I came home to my parents’ last night, where the food feast has already begun.  My parents now live about 2 1/2 hours from the airport, so by the time we got in, we were very, very hungry.  My mom had this cassoulet – really just a rich, white bean-based stew – waiting for us in the fridge.  Add a salad, some crusty bread, a wedge of blue cheese, and a (few) glasses of wine, and this was more than a meal – it was a celebration.

Welcome Home Cassoulet

  • about 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Vidalia onion, diced
  • 4 celery sticks, grated
  • 4 carrots, grated
  • optional: about a pound of chicken or pork sausage, crumbled (my dad pretty much insists it’s not a meal without meat)
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 15 oz cans of cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
  • about a cup of dry white wine
  • vegetable bouillon and 4 cups water OR 4 cups veggie broth
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 4 bay leaves
  • a large handful parsley, chopped
  • large handful basil, chopped
  • a good dash black pepper
  • a good dash red pepper flakes (even though my mom says this is “so not French”)
  1. In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil and saute onions, carrots and celery, until softened.
  2. If using meat, this is a good time to add it, making sure it crumbles all the way through.
  3. Add garlic, saute a minute or two, and then add beans, wine, spices and the veggie broth/bouillon + water.
  4. Bring the stew to a boil and then turn down the heat; cover and simmer for an hour minimum.  NOTE: This is even better reheated, when the different elements have had a chance to come together.
welcome home, love mom.
welcome home, love mom.

The Verdict:

Whether it was the flavors melding together in the fridge, our hunger, or just the fact that it was so nice to taste my mom’s cooking again, the cassoulet was amazing.  Credit for the original recipe goes to one of my dad’s business partners.  YUM.

Ri[ff]ing Off Martha: Hearty, Healthy Winter Vegetable Soup

While most of my kitchen gadgets bow down to Ina, I reserve a few for queen Martha.  Tonight, after a week full of (quite literally) stuffing ourselves with stuffing, pie, casserole, ice cream, turkey, and more pie,  I was ready for something a little more lenient on the arteries.  I’m also feeling a bit run-down, and with a lot going on at work this week, I can’t quite afford to succumb to a cold.  Tonight, inspiration by Martha, substitution by Varina (basically, whatever we had on hand).

Hearty, Healthy Winter Vegetable Soup

  • olive oil
  • 4 leeks (white and green parts only), thoroughly washed, halved lengthwise and then sliced thinly
  • 2-3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2-3 celery stalks, diced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • crushed red pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed and loosely chopped
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into cubes (again, highly recommend the pre-cut box at Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 potato, peeled and diced
  • 4-5 stalks baby bok choy
  • 1/2 bag baby spinach
  • 1 can Northern White beans, rinsed and drained
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 2-3 stalks fresh rosemary (or whatever fresh herbs you have)
  • salt, pepper
  1. Heat 2-3 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat in a large saucepan or Dutch oven.  Cook leeks, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, a good handful of red pepper flakes, and a good dash of salt for about 5-8 minutes, or until the veggies are cooked down and translucent.
  2. Add stock and water.  Mix through and bring to a boil (will take a few minutes).
  3. Add squash and potatoes, mix through, and return to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, partially uncovered for about 15 minutes, or until potatoes and squash are tender.
  4. Stir in bok choy, spinach, and beans; bring back to a boil.  Add the lemon juice and rosemary and cook a few more minutes.
  5. Season with salt and freshly cracked pepper and serve with crusty bread.
veggies to the rescue
veggies to the rescue
straight from the oven
straight from the oven

(Cutting board a gift of the gifted Taylor Mardis Katz of Free Verse Farm.)

The Verdict:

The Husband put it best: “Just what the doctor ordered.”  Only we’re hoping for no doctors around here.  This is a soup for the rotation – really, it just gives me confidence that if you throw all good ingredients into a pot, you’ll get a good meal on your plate (or bowl).  Bonus: plenty of leftovers for the week ahead.