Sausage Stuffing

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When I started following food blogs, I realized some authors had initiated them for the purpose of cataloging family recipes. Therefore the blog was their family cookbook essentially.

I didn’t think much of that concept, because I really didn’t have family recipes. My recipes were those I followed after I got married, when I began cooking seriously, based on saved recipes, those from cookbooks, or these days, recipes online as well.

Every day or two that I cooked, I made a new recipe. Thus my motto – so much food, too little time! There was always something to learn from a recipe, whether a technique or new ingredient.

And then there were holidays, like Thanksgiving. Of course I always made a turkey, but I never made it the same way, which also led to various-tasting gravies. But the side dishes were always different. When my daughters were really young they didn’t take part in the leisurely Thanksgiving meal, so it was an opportunity make new festive dishes – sometimes embracing our favorite global cuisines!


But when my daughters got older, they had Thanksgiving requests. Fine with me, but then I had to figure out what they were requesting. Like their request recently for sausage stuffing. No clue. What kind of sausage? What else is in it? No memory. Was it cornbread? Sourdough? Not sure.

Well great. Now I’m wishing that I’d documented this mysterious Italian sausage stuffing for my own purpose! So this recipe is one I’m (maybe) recreating so that next year I can remember it! I’m pretty sure it’s French-bread-based, and I remember using cognac and cream in the stuffing, inspired by a French recipe ages ago.

And the reason I didn’t post it before Thanksgiving is that I don’t only cook turkeys in November. This stuffing doesn’t have to be stuffed in a bird, either. It makes makes a nice side dish, prepared in a baking dish.

Italian Sausage Stuffing
Serves 4

1 baguette
2 tablespoons butter
16 ounces Italian sausage, crumbled
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup of cream, or more
1 tablespoon cognac
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon white pepper

If you’re baking the stuffing in a baking dish, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and grease an 8 x 8” baking dish; set aside.

Remove the crusts from the baguette and crumble the bread. Measure 2 cups; set aside.


Heat the butter in a large skillet. Cook the sausage over medium heat until no pink shows. Using a slotted spoon, remove to a bowl.

Using the remaining fat, saute the onion for about 5 minutes, now allowing too much caramelization. Stir in the garlic, and place the sautéed vegetables with the sausage.

Stir the bread crumbles into the sausage mixture gently, then pour the cream and cognac over the top. Stir again gently, and check to see if the stuffing is moist. You don’t want it wet, but it also shouldn’t be dry.


Add the remaining ingredients. Spoon the stuffing into the baking dish and bake, uncovered, for approximately 30 minutes.

The top should be golden brown.

If you prefer, any kind of whole-grain bread can be substituted for the French bread, and I’ve even used raisin bread in stuffings.

Plus, pecans and dried cranberries can be included as well.

And as I mentioned, you don’t only have to make stuffing on turkey day. Here I’ve served it with a turkey cutlet, but it’s just as delicious with chicken.

The stuffing is moist but not mushy, which is to my liking.

The Spice Companion

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The Spice Companion, by Lior Lev Sercarz, is a book I recently discovered and ordered from Amazon. It was published in 2016.

Because of the title, I expected some information on spices, being that the author also owns a store in New York City called La Boîte, which specializes in spices and spice mixtures. But it’s seriously an encyclopedia of spices, starting with ajowan, aleppo, allspice, and amchoor, and ending with za’atar, zedoary, and zuta.

A spice, according to Mr. Sercarz, is “any dried ingredient that elevates food or drink,” so that includes coriander seeds, basil leaves, and turmeric root.

Mr. Sercarz was born and raised on a kibbutz in Israel. The history of his exposure to spice markets, and how he eventually traveled the world seeking out spices, all while his interest in cooking grew, is a story worthy of a movie. After adventuring in Columbia to “see firsthand how cardamom was grown,” he ended up at the Institut Paul Bocuse in Lyon, France, then moved to New York City to work at Daniel Boulud’s restaurant, Daniel.

La Boite opened in 2007 in Hell’s Kitchen, and the store has a beautiful website. It was at the website that I discovered that Mr. Sercarz has a 2012-published book called The Art of Blending.

Spice mixtures are what originally intrigued the young author with spices; chefs such as Eric Ripert utilize his custom-designed spice blends at their restaurants.

But first I must tell you about the encyclopedia part, which spans 154 pages – two per spice.

Under the name and latin name of the spice is a drawing of the plant and the part(s) used for the spice.

There is a brief description of what the spice is, its flavor and aroma, its origin, harvest season, parts of the spice/plant used, plus some more details.

On the next page is a photograph of the spice as it’s used – seeds and leaves, for example – its traditional uses, recipe ideas using the spice, and recommended pairings.

Then the author offers a blend utilizing the spice, and what to use it in or on.

This is a lot of information but helpful if you’re a cook, gardener, or just want to start making spice mixtures in your kitchen!

When I was reading through the book, I stopped at Tomato Powder as a spice. Dried tomatoes ground into a spice. Why not? I use ground paprika, which is made from peppers, so why not tomato powder made from its fruit?!!

The author describes tomato powder as “a dry, richly flavored powder made from ripe, sweet tomatoes.”

When I have a glut of ripe tomatoes during the hot summer months, I slice them and dry them in my dehydrator, and save them in the refrigerator. That way, they stay fresh, and I reconstitute them in soups and stews as needed throughout the cold months.

I happened to have a bag of dried tomatoes from last summer.

So for fun, I got out my bag and blended the tomatoes in a dry blender.

One recipe suggestion from the author is to stir tomato powder into orange juice and use it as a base for a vinaigrette with honey and olive oil. And that’s just what I did!


I used 8 ounces of orange juice, 1 heaping tablespoon of tomato powder, 1 tablespoon of honey, and 8 ounces of olive oil.

I drizzled the lettuce leaves with the dressing, and added goat cheese and walnuts.

To say it was magnificent is an understatement. Barely four hours later, I had the same salad for dinner, including a ripe avocado. I added a little white balsamic vinegar to the dressing.

There are certainly other, more exotic spices I could have experimented with from Mr. Sercarz’s book, assuming I could have even gotten my hands on some of them, but I’m really excited about tomato powder.

And the book will be a great reference for the spices I can purchase. I especially love how he makes recommendations on unique ways in which to use the spices, even common ones.

My only complaint with the book is that the photo pages are not labeled.

Pom Cider Vin

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I happened to have some pomegranate juice left over in my refrigerator from making festive cocktails in December, as well as some apple cider that I’d used for hot buttered apple cider over the holidays, so I had an idea. No, not more drinks, but instead – a flavorful and pretty vinaigrette.

If you read my fresh pear vinaigrette post, you know I like to make my own vinaigrettes. To me, there’s no need to buy them. Ever!

At home you can control the ingredients, and make the vinaigrettes customized to your liking. And the list of possibilities are endless.

So with the leftover juice and cider, I created this vinaigrette. Some people prefer a more oily vinaigrette than I do; I like the flavor of the vinegar, so I like a 50-50 ratio of oil to juice and vinegar. It’s a personal choice.

But this recipe is a place to start, if you’ve never made a vinaigrette from scratch.

Pomegranate Apple Cider Vinegar

1/4 cup pomegranate juice
1/4 cup apple cider
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

Firstly, place the pomegranate juice and apple cider in a small pot. Begin the reduction process. Which means do not leave the kitchen for a good hour. It’s a slow procedure, but an important one.
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Towards the end you will have created a pomegranate cider syrup.

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While the syrup is still warm, pour it in to a heat-proof jar and let it cool for a little bit.
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Add the red wine vinegar. I’m using approximately an equal volume as the syrup.
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Then add the olive oil. I’m adding approximately an equal volume as the syrup and vinegar mixture.
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Add the salt, then close the jar and give the dressing a good shake.
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If you don’t like the brownish color of the dressing, omit the apple cider and stick with pomegranate and cranberry juices only.

The slight fruitiness of this vinaigrette pairs beautiful with all kinds of salad ingredients.
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Today I prepared a green salad with beets, orange slices, garbanzo beans, goat cheese, and pine nuts. I kept this salad light, but grilled chicken or salmon could easily have been added; both would also compliment the dressing.
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Because of the sweetness of the dressing, it would also be good on spicy greens like arugula, plus the addition of fresh pears or apples.

Get creative with these dressings. You can use just about anything that you have leftover – even champagne – for a wonderful and unique vinaigrette. I very often use leftover beet juice as well, as I did here, using a combination of the beet juice and apple juice for a little sweetness. Beet juice adds a wonderful earthiness that pairs with carrots, cabbage, mushrooms, and many other salad ingredients as well.

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note: Pomegranate and cranberry juices both make red vinaigrettes if you use the juices by themselves, without the addition of apple cider. So they’re really pretty to serve over the Christmas holiday season, or even for a special Valentine’s meal! !

Curried Lentil Salad

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You all know that I love lentils. They’re delicious and healthy, but they’re also versatile. Once they’re cooked, you can serve them as a side dish, as an entrée, a soup, a dip, or a salad!

Well this salad I’m posting on today is delicious year ’round. It’s equally good in the winter as the summer months, and every month in between. It’s a lentil salad tossed with a curried garlic-citrus dressing. The dressing I made is as important as the salad itself.

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I feel it’s very important to match dressings or vinaigrettes to salad ingredients, which is why I prefer to make my own dressings from scratch. And when it comes to salads made predominantly, if not exclusively with legumes, I find that lemon- or lime-based dressings are preferable over vinegar. And I love vinegar, don’t get me wrong. There’s just something about that acidity that pairs well with the legumes. I find it true with grain salads as well.

So today’s salad is a combination of cooked lentils, with some celery, carrots, and dried pomegranate seeds. Good, but not great. In addition, I’ve made a fabulous lemon juice-based dressing with a little twist. I hope you enjoy it.

I am not posting an exact recipe, because none is needed. Just go with what you like in the salad as well as with the dressing. Remember – no rules. It’s your food, you make it how you like it!

Lentil Salad

For the salad, I simply borrowed some lentils that I’d cooked the day before. Make sure the lentils are well-drained for the salad, if there’s an abundance of cooking liquid with the lentils. Alternatively, or use a slotted spoon to collect them. Then place the lentils in a medium-sized serving bowl, depending how big your salad is going to be.

To the lentils add thinly sliced celery and carrots. You could also add shallots or purple onions as well.

At this point, taste the lentil salad and make sure it is well seasoned. There’s no need going forward if the lentils aren’t seasoned to your liking. Salt and pepper should do the trick.

I cook my lentils, typically, in water with a chicken broth powder added. It’s a wonderful product I’ve talked about before, that I buy in 1 lb. packages online. The chicken flavor of the broth adds enough seasoning to the lentils so that for me, no more is required. It “rounds” out the lentil flavor nicely.

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Toss the salad gently, and then make the dressing.

Curried Garlic Citrus Dressing

Juice of 3 lemons, strained, about 1/3 cup
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons orange-infused oil
2 small cloves garlic, minced
3/4 teaspoon curry powder*
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric

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In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, and oils. Then add the garlic and seasoning.
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Give everything a good stir, and you’re ready to go.
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Place the lentil salad in bowls for serving, and top with the dried pomegranate seeds. Raisins or currants would work just as well.
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Add as much of the dressing you want to each salad; I like a generous amount.
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Toss gently to get the lentils coated with the dressing, and enjoy.

This salad is best at room temperature.

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* I use a Penzey’s curry powder called sweet curry powder that I like. I wrote about this product in a post before, albeit a very short post, because I find this curry powder a decent blend if you don’t make your own from scratch. If you’re not too fond of curry, which is actually many, many different spices all mixed together, I would start out with a very small amount and work your way up. But I would try it. The lemon juice, the orange oil, the curry, plus the lentils and dried pomegranate seeds go so well together, it would be a shame to not experience these flavors!

note: If you don’t like the sharp bite of fresh garlic, place all of your ingredients in a mini blender and purée the dressing before using. Also, if you don’t have an orange-infused oil, a good olive oil will work well.

Chimichurri

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I’ve made chimichurri a few times over the years when I’ve prepared South American*-inspired meals for company. For one meal, I grilled skirt steaks and served both green and red chimichurri sauces. I preferred the green.

But other than that I haven’t paid much attention to chimichurri, which originated in Argentina. I only see it associated with meat, which is so quintessentially South American. Grilled meat. Lots of meat.

I decided to make chimichurri again and really focus on its goodness and, of course, I decided to use it on steaks. I don’t want to rock the South American boat here.

So what exactly is chimichurri? It’s basically like an oil and vinegar mixture that includes chopped green herbs and garlic.

So I’m not being very creative here using chimichurri, but it doesn’t really matter. Once you’ve made it, you don’t care if you ever have it any other way other than schmeared on a steak. It’s that good.

But I can definitely see it on shrimp as well. Or poultry. Or toast. For breakfast.

Chimichurri

1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
Few grindings black pepper

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Combine all of these in a small bowl, then add:

1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

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Then stir in:

1/2 chopped parsley, loosely packed
1/3 cup chopped cilantro, loosely packed

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Mix everything together well.

Today I wanted to use the chimichurri for a marinade as well as a “finishing” sauce so to speak, so I placed two filets on a plate, and covered them with a generous amount of chimichurri.

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After about 30 minutes, I turned the steaks over and added more chimichurri.

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Before cooking the steaks, I wiped off the chimichurri sauce. The tops and bottoms of the steaks were oily, so I didn’t have to pat them dry. But I did add a little oil to the skillet first before searing the steaks.

After cooking to medium rare and letting them rest, I sliced the steaks, and placed them on a bed of sauteed spinach with tomatoes and onions.
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Then I drizzled some of the chimichurri sauce over the steaks.
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The freshness of the chimichurri sauce, from the cilantro and parsley, plus the garlic, is a perfect foil against the mellow, sweet steak. It’s a marriage made in food heaven!
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* I know, South American inspiration for a meal is a bit all-consuming since it’s a continent, but there are aspects to South America that stand out from a culinary perspective. And those typically are more Argentinian and Brazilian in origin. The meals revolve around meat, but there are also beans and grains and lots of green. If you’ve never delved into the cuisines of South america, I suggest you look into them. I’ve just barely broken the surface…

note: This recipe is perfect to me. I love the addition of the dried oregano and crushed red pepper. If you want a thicker sauce, whether for use as a marinade or for serving, purée it. I know that goes against the tradition of the fresh herbs and garlic in the oil and vinegar mixture, but then at least the parsley and cilantro leaves don’t get stuck in your teeth. I think it’s a reasonable option. You can also cut back on the volume of vinegar as well. It’s personal choice, as long as you don’t change what the chimichurri is all about.

Beet-Apple Vinaigrette

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I have never purchased a vinaigrette or salad dressing. And nobody else needs to, either. They’re just so easy to make from scratch!

If you have a favorite you always purchase, just read the ingredients on the bottle, and use those ingredients to make your own! It’s pretty incredible how much less expensive dressings are when made at home… Plus, you’re spared the preserving chemicals!!!

During the fall-winter months, I like deep-flavored and earthy dressings, like this vinaigrette based on beet and apple juices. I never throw beet juice away – mostly because I love this vinaigrette. (I collect it year round because I love sliced beets in salads!)

During these months, I also have apple juice or cider around. Beets and apples are a perfect flavor combination. So here’s what I did:

Beet-Apple Vinaigrette

Juice from 1 – 15 ounce can of sliced beets, strained
1/4 cup apple juice or cider
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Reduce the beet and apple juices in a small saucepan until a thick syrup has formed. Do not leave the kitchen while you’re doing this. It can happen quickly!

Let cool, then add the remaining ingredients and stir until the salt has dissolved. Using a funnel, pour the dressing into a serving carafe and store in the fridge. Let warm up before using.

This earthy vinaigrette is really good on a chopped salad with endives, pear, and mozzarella, or a simple garden salad with carrots, tomatoes, and cucumbers. It also pairs beautifully with both bleu cheese and goat cheese.

note: You can sweeten the flavor if you like, with Boiled Cider, or add a little balsamic vinegar. (Boiled cider is actually a product you can purchase – it is simple reduced apple cider.)