Fall-apart Pot Roast


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Who doesn’t love pot roast? Well, I suppose some of my vegetarian friends are not fans, but most everyone else I know deems pot roast as the ultimate comfort food. However, I have heard many friends complain that they have not been successful… that often the meat comes out tough!

Contrary to belief, tough pot roast is not a result of over-cooking… but of UNDER-cooking! And the science of that is not always consistent. For example, the rule of thumb is to cook low and slow, about 1 hour per pound of meat. But temperatures in ovens vary and sometimes the weather can throw everything off… so shoot for an hour per pound, but if it’s not falling apart tender then put it back in and check it every 20 minutes. I had a small 2lb roast this time, yet it took 3 hours. You just never know. But the longer in the oven the more the connective tissues break down and turn into succulent deliciousness.

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Blueberry Rosemary Scones


Admittedly, I’m not much of a baker… but these are so simple and take no time at all.  I’m also not much of a “sweets” person…. but I think the savory rosemary and the tartness of the lemon drizzle combined with the sweetness of the blueberry preserves… just may be perfection on the taste-buds.

Adapted from several similar recipes I’ve seen online, I’ve made it my own . They’re technically not scones… but more a cross between scone, cookie and biscuit. Call them what you will…. but I call them delicious.

Try your favorite jam with your favorite fresh herb… maybe sage and orange marmalade; or thyme and apricot jam. And try orange or lime for the glaze. I think my next attempt will be fresh mint, with a chocolate ganache center and an orange glaze drizzle. Yum – I want that now!

Ingredients

Scones:
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
6 tablespoons cold Vegan margarine, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup full fat coconut cream
1/3 cup Wild Blueberry Preserves (I use Bonne Maman)
1/4 cup of non-dairy milk (soy, almond, rice – your choice)

Glaze:
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, from 2-3 medium lemons
2 cups powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons water

For the scones: Place an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, baking powder, rosemary, salt and margarine until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl. Gradually stir in the cup of coconut cream and the non-dairy milk until the mixture forms a dough. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into until it’s a 1/2-inch thick. Using a 3-inch cookie cutter (I used a scalloped-edge rectangle shape), cut out pieces of dough and put on the prepared baking sheet. Gently knead together any leftover pieces of dough and roll out to additional 1/2-inch sheets. Continue cutting more 3 inch shapes until all dough is used. Makes roughly 12-16 scones.

For the glaze: In a medium bowl, mix together the lemon juice and powdered sugar until smooth. Gradually add the water until the mixture is thin enough to spread. Using a spoon, drizzle the glaze over the scones. Let the glaze set for about 30 minutes.

Ready to Cook?
Using your index finger or thumb, gently make an indentation in the center of each pastry. Spoon a 1/2 teaspoon of preserves into each indentation. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. Transfer the cooked scones onto a wire rack and cool for 30 minutes, before glazing. Serve or store in an airtight plastic container for 2 days.

The Perfect Bite
Now, it’s important to let these cool enough to drizzle the glaze on them without it completely melting right into the scone. However, that said… they are best served fairly warm within at least 3o minutes of coming out of the oven. If you want them to look perfect wait the suggested time. If you want them to taste perfect… feel free to rush the wait time. It’s your prerogative!

The Perfect Pairing
If you’re feeling a little British after making these… enjoy them with a steamy hot cup of your favorite breakfast tea. I, on the other hand, was just given a bag of Kona coffee beans – sent straight from the Big Island. So I was feeling a little like a Euro Haole… or something like that.

The Perfect Health
Did you know that Rosemary Aids in Alzheimer’s Prevention? Read more here

KITCHEN TIP: Infusing Olive Oil


This is the first of hopefully many kitchen tips I’m going to start offering on this site.  Many of these are a result my “MacGyver” attempts of making-do in a less-than-desirable kitchen and trying to figure out how to be a brilliant gourmet cook on a pauper’s budget. But sometimes, they’re just going to be little tricks of the trade that if you’re not obsessively watching the Food Network,  pouring over Gourmet or Food & Wine Magazines, or questioning every chef you come across as I am… you may just have missed out on some information.

My first Kitchen Tip is about infusing your Extra Virgin Olive Oil. You can buy many “flavored” olive oils these days… but there are two down-sides to that. They’re usually not made from Extra Virgin Cold Pressed Olive Oil – which is what you should use instead of plain Olive Oil or Light Olive Oil  (there are no health benefits otherwise because the harsh processing has destroyed them). And often, the “flavoring” is chemically added and not naturally infused into the oil.

Being the bargain hunter that I am, I love buying the big net-sock of garlic heads at places like Costco or Sam’s. You get about 20 heads of garlic for $3-4.00. Which means you’ll have to chop, press or roast it all yourself. Which I’m okay with. But what do you do with all that garlic before it goes bad? Time to think outside the box…

As we speak I am infusing a quart of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I use quite a bit of EVOO so I buy it by the gallon at the International Market for close to half the price I would in a chain grocery) with whole garlic and fresh rosemary from my garden. I peeled about 5 heads of garlic (heads are the whole bulb, cloves are the individual pieces you break off). I dropped them into a quart-size canning jar, cut 4 twigs of rosemary from my garden and put them in the jar as well, then poured in the extra virgin olive oil over leaving about an inch from the top. After all, it’s gonna need to breath.

I’m going to leave it all in there for about 48 hours, then I’ll scoop out the garlic and toss it out. But I’ll leave the rosemary in the for another couple of weeks. Be sure to remove the garlic cloves after a couple of days so as to not overpower the flavor of the herbs. If you choose to leave the garlic cloves in the oil, be sure to refrigerate the oil to avoid the threat of botulism

The olive oil should have rich flavors that will naturally season whatever you use your olive oil in… salads, sauteing meat, drizzled on baguettes.  I personally love garlic and rosemary – two of my favorite flavors. But if you prefer thyme and sage; or spicy red peppers; or red onion and oregano… then go for it! Keep in mind you need to use fresh products. Fresh herbs, onion, garlic, etc. Powdered spices or herbs will not infuse and will just make a mess of the oil.

What are your favorite spice and herb combos? Let me know if you have tried this and if you have any further tips!

PS…
the question has been asked… do you actually throw away the garlic when you’re done?
My Answer: you are “allowed” to throw it out of you like… I mean, it’s served a great purpose already, had a good life, and so on. But, if you want to hold onto it there are a few options. Run it through your food processor and make a garlic paste or chop it finely and make minced garlic – you should get another few weeks of life out of it. Or, if you’re not a Twilight fan and would like to keep both Edward AND Jacob away…. make a necklace and wear it to bed. :o)

Italian Pork Tenderloin


It’s not often that my first attempt at a new dish is successful. It usually takes some tweaking and experimenting until the flavor profile is just right. But after doing some online research and looking at all the ways people make pork tenderloin… I decided to go with Italian… and got right to work. The one consistent piece of advice I read regardless of the recipe… was that I should brine the tenderloin first. I’ve also never attempted to brine something before so it was quite a day of firsts!

So here we go!

Start with brining which enhances juiciness and is simpler than you think. Just mix a quart of cold water, ½ cup sugar and ¼ cup table salt in a large resealable plastic bag (include other spices, aromatics and lemon or lime zest for more flavor). Even 30 minutes will make a difference, but you can brine it up to 8 hours in the fridge. Be sure not to add any vinegar products or it will dry out the meat.

Ingredients
1-1.5lbs pork tenderloin
¼ cup mascarpone cheese
¼ cup pesto
2 tablespoons each of the Italian Big Five (thyme, rosemary, oregano, sage, basil)
1 pinch of salt (remember the brine already adds a lot of salt)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Preparation
Remove any excess fat from the outside of the tenderloin. Then take a sharp knife (do you have a sharpening steel? A sharpened knife makes all the difference! Never sharpened a knife before? Check this out)… and slice through the tenderloin lengthwise but not all the way through… this is called a butterfly cut.

Stir together pesto (either store bought or homemade) and room temperature mascarpone until creamy and thoroughly mixed. Then take the pesto mixture and spread it across the meat interior. Fold meat back together and either tie together with kitchen string or seal edges with toothpicks.

On a flat plate… mix together all the dry herbs (thyme, sage, rosemary, oregano, salt & pepper) and roll sealed tenderloin until covered with seasoning. The rub will stick best if meat is dry.

Ready to Cook?
In a stove-to-oven pan heat the olive oil. Use just enough to coat the bottom or you won’t get a good sear on your meat. Sear meat for a good 3-4 minutes on each side. And don’t forget the ends of your meat! Once you see a good darkened layer transfer the pan to a 425 degree oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until internal temperature is 145 degrees. I prefer my pork to be slightly pick in the center – if you prefer yours more well-done… let it get to 155 degrees. Remove from the oven and place the tenderloins on a plate. Tent the pork with foil and let it rest about 5 minutes before serving.

Cut your tenderloin into 1/4-1/2 inch slices and fan out on your serving platter. Make a quick pan sauce by de-glazing the skillet with chicken broth or white wine. Add a spoonful of mascarpone to thicken the sauce. Drizzle over your pork medallions and garnish with rosemary sprigs.

The Perfect Bite
Be sure to swirl your bite of pork in the herb and mascarpone sauce that you just made and drizzled over our dish. If serving with pasta or a couscous… be sure to scoop some of that as well.

The Perfect Pairing
A great wine to go with just about any pork dish… but especially this one’s Italian flavor profile… is the A to Z Pinot Noir. This wonderful little 2008 Oregon wine is heartier than most pinot noirs and its peppery tannins bring a great balance to the sweetness of the mascarpone filled pork. You can find in in most wine stores for about $20.00 a bottle.

The Perfect Health

It’s true: Pork really is the other white meat. Ounce for ounce, pork tenderloin has less fat than a chicken breast. And food scientists are finding ways to make it leaner and leaner every year. Best Tip: Avoid cured meats.  Read more here.

Garden Vegetable Pasta Bake


This is one of my favorite go-to meals, especially if unexpected company stops by… which happens frequently at my house. If your pantry is regularly stocked with an assortment of dried pastas and a few fresh garden vegetables (or even better – you have a vegetable garden in your yard!) you can whip this up on the spot… an hour’s time max!

Yields: 4-6 main course servings / 8-10 side dish servings

Ingredients
1 lb Fusilli or Rotini noodles (uncooked – I use Barilla Plus)
1/2 cup Vegan Parmesan
1 medium zucchini squash
1 medium yellow squash
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 cup asparagus tips
1 small sweet onion
1 medium red tomato (seeded – rind only)
1 tablespoon of minced garlic
1 pinch each of what I call The Italian Big 5 (dried): thyme, basil, sage, oregano, rosemary
1.5 tablespoon kosher salt (divided)
1 teaspoon pepper as needed
2-3 tablespoons cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine (you can you veggie stock if you prefer)
2 tablespoons vegan butter

Preparation
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

This is where your veggie chopping skills come in. I’m going to list how I chop my vegetables for this dish, but change it up to your own preference!
Zucchini – trim ends and then chop whole zucchini into three 1.5″-2″ rounds. Then take each round and quarter length-wise.
Yellow Squash – slice into 1/8″ dials. If the squash is fairly fat at the end (more than 1.5″) cut dials in half. The goal is bite-size.
Red & Green Bell Peppers – I cut them julienne. Which is a fancy word for skinny strips. Simply trim top and bottom off pepper and discard. Core and remove seeds and spines. Then slices in 1/4″ slivers about 1.5″ long.
Asparagus – I use just the tips because often the center can be a little woody if not cooked long enough. I cut the tips off about 2″ in. Then I reserve the remainder of the stalk for making soups or purees.
Sweet Onion – peel and dice finely… this should be for flavor and not something you want bite-size.
Garlic – same as the onion above.
Tomato – Slice in half and core out seeds and spines. We just want the fleshy part. Cut into 1″ chunks.

Ready To Cook?
Put a large pot of water on medium heat. Drizzle olive oil and add a tablespoon of salt to the water. I use a good amount of salt when cooking pasta… I’ve heard your water should taste like the ocean when you’re done. Infusing your pasta water with salt is better than adding salt to your meal later.

Once your water comes to a boil add your pasta and continue cooking until it’s just shy of al dente.  Remember, it’s going to cook a little more in the oven so we don’t want to overdo it. I prefer to use the fasilli or rotini noodles because the corkscrew shape holds the seasonings best… but feel free to use whatever your favorite pasta is – I’ve used to bowtie with this as well, which makes for a festive looking dish.

Using as cast iron skillet (or any nonstick), pour in 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil. While bringing it to a medium heat toss in The Italian Big 5 (dried thyme, basil, sage, oregano, rosemary). Once your oil is ready (it sizzles with a drop of water), gently add in your onion and garlic first. Stir well so that the dried herbs are worked through the oil, onions and garlic. Saute for 3 minutes then slowly add the veggies in this order (based on cooking time): Peppers, asparagus, zucchini, squash. Reserve the tomato, which won’t be added until ready to bake. Pour the 1/4 cup of white wine over veggies and continue sauteing for 5-6 minutes or until the zucchini has become tender and can easily be stabbed with a fork.

Drain pasta and transfer to a large baking dish (a lasagna dish works best). Add diced tomatoes. Then pour all the contents from your skillet over the pasta including olive oil/wine reduction that’s happened in the pan while sauteing. This is going to be the sauce. TIP: If your pan has become too dry while sauteing, you may have overcooked your veggies. Just add more olive oil and a splash of white wine (or veggie stock) and de-glaze the bottom of your pan. Add that to your pasta-veggie mix.

Immediately add 2 tablespoons of Vegan margarine so it can melt. Add half of your Vegan Parmesan cheese and mix thoroughly until everything is coated and you can see that the herbs are distributed evenly.

Taste your dish to see if additional salt and pepper is needed. TIP: Don’t assume it needs salt – salted pasta may have added plenty. Always taste your food before seasoning!

Sprinkle top with remaining Parmesan and bake uncovered on middle rack for 20 minutes (or until cheese starts to brown at edges).

TIP: If making extra to freeze for later, do not bake the portion you want freeze. Freeze after it’s cooled. Should last in freezer up to a month.

The Perfect Bite
This is one of my favorite kind of dishes to get a perfect bite from. I love stacking my fork with a twirly little noodle, a juicy piece of sausage, a buttery bite of zucchini and sweet sliver of red pepper. Oh, my mouth is watering just thinking about it! I love the nutty Parmesan and lightness of this invisible sauce.

The Perfect Pairing
This is a great summer dish so I prefer to pair it with a chilled glass of wine. Now, I’ve long since been a rosé snob. Pink wine? Really? My mind immediately goes to that giant box of Almaden Pink Blush Chablis that sits warm on the edge of my mom’s kitchen counter. Sorry Mom, but really?

However, rosé has come a long way… and I’m starting to warm up to them… well, at least when they’re chilled (again Mom, really?). Try pairing this dish with this French Rosé Note Bleue Cotôs De Provence Rosé 2009 – it’s sweet and earthy. A perfect compliment to the buttery pasta and veggies and peppery sausage. Served chilled, about 47 degrees.

The Perfect Health
Using Barilla Plus, reduces carbs and adds protein to any meal.  It’s made from legumes such as Chickpeas and Lentils as well as Egg Whites, Spelt, Barley, Flaxseed, Oat Fiber, and Oats.  Be sure check the box for cooking instructions – Barilla Plus can take longer to boil. Unlike many wheat or whole grain pastas that taste a little, well, cardboardy. This one is delicious! And I’ve found it holds up better in soups (as in, doesn’t swell and get mushy).  Read more here about its nutritional value.

Rosemary, Sage & Shiraz Beef Tips w/Herbed Goat Cheese Dumplings


The secret to cooking with wine, especially red wine, is to use one that you think tastes good when drinking it by the glass. Many people make the mistake of cooking with a wine that’s been open too long and has become a little bitter. I appreciate not wanting to waste it.. but if it tastes bad in the glass… it’s going to taste bad in your food. So, please – toss that sour stuff out.  You don’t have to buy anything super expensive… the little Shiraz I used for this stew was only $7.99 a bottle!

INGREDIENTS

For the Stew
(serves 4-6)

2 pounds beef, cubed (I use locally-grown grass-fed beef from Whole Foods – Stew cut)
1-2 cups flour
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1/2 cup butter or olive oil
2 cups wine – I used a Shiraz (wait, make it 3 cups – 1 for drinking while cooking)
5 cups beef stock
5 stalks celery, sliced
1 medium fennel bulb – cored & sliced
1 medium sweet onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
5 medium red potatoes, cubed
2 bay leaves – whole
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
1 sprig fresh rosemary – whole
4-5 fresh sage leaves – whole
pepper – a pinch to taste

For the Dumplings:
2.5 cups flour
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup soft goat cheese
2 teaspoons each of fresh parsley, sage and thyme – finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
3-4 cups chicken stock (you can use beef stock if you have leftover, but chicken is lighter and doesn’t discolor the dumplings).

Preparation
There is a lot of chopping and mixing required to prepare this dish. So it’s a perfect example of when Mise en Place would be a necessary discipline. 

Ready To Cook?

Dumplings
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt and mix well. In a small bowl, beat the eggs. Add the milk to the eggs. Add the egg/milk mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well. Stir in the goat cheese and the herbs. Season with freshly ground black pepper. Have the stock boiling in a small saucepan. Make sure the sauce pan is small enough that the dumplings will have room to float. Using 2 tablespoons, drop the dumpling batter into the boiling stock. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the dumplings float to the surface. Remove the dumplings from the stock and place on a plate. To finish: Place the dumplings into the stew.

*Note: This is a fairly messy process. Do not be discouraged if your chicken stock is full of goo and looks disgusting. It will. The key is to leave the dumplings alone for 5 minutes so they can cook. The more you mess with them the more they’ll fall apart. I suggest reserving some of the stock to add after each batch. It’s probably best not to cook more than 3 at a time. Give them room in the pot.

Stew
In a large frying pan, heat 1/2 the butter or olive oil and sauté the celery, onion, potatoes and garlic until slightly browned. Set aside.

Combine flour, paprika, parsley and some pepper in a shallow bowl –  roll the beef in it until well coated on all sides. (TIP: Pat the beef dry with a paper towel and the flour mixture will stick better and your meat will brown. Meat will not brown if it is too wet. Julia Child was right!). Melt remaining butter or pour oil into in a large stew pot, and then add meat.

Sauté the meat until well browned. Make sure to have your pan well-heated – the key to a good sear is high heat. You only want the outside browned… not cooked all the way through. Add the previously prepared vegetables and sauté for about two minutes with the beef in the stew pot.

Add the wine, and sauté another three or four minutes.*

*This is when you would transfer the contents of your pot to a slow cooker if that is the method you’re using to make this stew. Otherwise, leave everything in your soup pot.

While the pot is hot, pour in the beef stock and the Bay Leaves, rosemary and sage and allow to simmer covered for about 2-3 hours in a preheated 300 degree oven. After this time the vegetables and beef should be very tender. You should be able to easily cut the meat using only a fork when it’s ready. TIP: I always thought I was cooking the meat too long which is why it was coming out tough – but actually I wasn’t cooking it long enough! It needs time for all those connective tissues to break down… so be patient!

At this point remove the lid, sift in any additional flour required to thicken to a desired consistency (use fresh flour – not from bowl), and allow the liquid to simmer roughly 30 minutes.

You may add pepper and salt to taste. But you shouldn’t have to if seasoned well. ;o) Serve with one dumpling per bowl of stew.

The Perfect Bite
The perfect bite for this stew consists of stacking your fork (yes, your fork… it’s thick enough to for-go the spoon if you’d like) with a piece of juicy meat, rich red potato, a bit of tangy celery and of course, be sure to include a chunk of the dumpling… so you can swirl it all around in the gravied-juices. I’m just sayin’… this may change your life a little.

The Perfect Pairing
There’s a fun little wine I recently came across called Luna Di Luna… it’s fun because none of their dual varietals are too overpowering or too weak. It’s kind of a wine you don’t have to worry about. Be sure to click on the link to their site and enjoy some groovy tunes.  Each varietal blend comes in solid colored bottles that take people by surprise and look great on the table. I paired this stew with the Merlot/Cab blend… which went perfectly with the hearty roasted beef and tangy goat cheese dumplings. Here in East Nashville I can find it for about $8.99 a bottle.

The Perfect Health
Did you know that a 6-ounce steak from a grass-fed steer can have 100 fewer calories than a 6-ounce steak from a grain-fed steer?  If you eat a typical amount of beef (66.5 pounds a year), switching to lean grass-fed beef will save you 17,733 calories a year! Read more here about the health benefits of eating grass-fed livestock. Also, I highly recommend seeing the movie Food, Inc. I can no longer just buy a hamburger at the drive-thru or pick up the cheapest chicken at WalMart or Kroger. It may be more expensive to get the grass-fed beef but it’s worth it and you can actually taste the difference!   Keep in mind that when buying free range chicken this is not what you think it means in the U.S. The only way to know how the chicken was raised is to buy from local farmers that you can get to know and trust.  That may not be an option for you… but just don’t be fooled into paying more by misleading labels and claims.

Sage Sausage & Garlic Lentil Soup


It’s Fall!!! Well, almost… the official autumnal equinox is in T-2 days! It’s one of the loveliest times of the year… soup time!

One of my favorite soups to make each season is this Sage Sausage and Garlic Lentil Soup. It’s hearty like stew and plenty enough for an entrée. Especially when I make it with sausage and served with a toasted baguette.

The secret ingredient to making any soup, I believe, is in the stock you use. Starting with a flavorful and fresh base will not only enhance the taste of all your ingredients… it will lengthen the life of your soup… whether you’re having it for leftovers the next day or freezing it for a later time.

I recommend… for just about any soup… my *vegetable garlic broth. Not only is it a healthy anti-oxidant added to your soups… but it’s delicious all by itself. I like to sip a cup of it when I’m not feeling well. You won’t have the best breath… but you’ll feel a lot better! Also, so many people make the mistake of using chicken stock in vegetable soups… including tomato, potato and butternut squash soups. This not only changes the health benefits of your soups, but keeps our vegetarian friends from enjoying a purely vegetarian dish. If you’ve ever had soup at my house and wondered what that “oh my gosh!” taste was – it’s the garlic broth. There… my secret is out!

Start Here: *Vegetable Garlic Broth
you can make as much or as little as you like… I prefer to make the largest batch I can manage so I can freeze small containers worth and have this ready to add to any soup, any time. This recipe is based off of 2.5 quarts. (More recipes to come using this tasty broth!)

2.5 qts vegetable stock preferably from scratch but try to use organic if purchasing cans or boxes of broth (it’s roughly six 14oz cans).
4-5 tablespoons (heaping) coursely diced garlic (roughly 2 bulbs)
2 bay leaves
3 tbsp olive oil
3 pinches dried sage
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1 pinch salt

Add all ingredients to the stock, bring to a boil, reduce heat… cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain through cheesecloth. Use immediately for soup or freeze in individual portions. TIP: freezing broth in ice cube trays allows you to use small portions at a time.

Nutritional info per serving:
110 calories
6 g total fat (1 g sat)11 g carbohydrates
5 g protein
0 g fiber
150 mg sodium

Now… onto the Lentil Soup!

Ingredients
4 cups dried lentils
1 med fennel bulbs, diced (substitute celery or leeks if not in season, 1.5 cups)
1 lb sage sausage (*feel free to eliminate this if you want a vegetarian dish)
1 med sweet onion, diced
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 cup dry white wine
1/4 extra virgin olive oil
1 quart garlic broth
1/2 quart water

Preparation
Dice onion, and fennel. Remove fern and stalks from fennel (this can be done a head of time and can be used for the vegetable stock). Wash lentils and remove any pebbles or rocks. Leave springs of Rosemary whole.

Ready to Cook?
Brown sausage in olive oil in bottom of large stock pot, 5-7 minutes. Add onion & fennel, cooking for an additional 3-5 minutes until tender. Add white wine and cook until mixture is almost dry. Add garlic broth and water, lentils and rosemary sprigs, bring to a boil; then reduce to a low simmer and cover. Should simmer for 45-60 minutes. Be sure to stir occasionally as lentils will stick to bottom of pot. Remove from heat and let rest. Test to make sure lentils are tender. If soup thickens too much, add broth until you achieve desired consistency. Should be thick like stew but not solid, broth should be evident.

Serve with shaved Parmesan or Manchengo cheese on top.

The Perfect Bite
Be sure your first mouthful includes a chunky piece of sage sausage! This is also great served with toasted French baguettes or and warm flour tortilla. Scoop some up on the bread and enjoy!

The Perfect Pairing
Lentil soup is an “Old World” kind of dish… digging deep into a hearty bowl of these earthy legumes makes me feel like I should be sitting at a rustic and gnarly wooden farm table, seated outside under an old equally gnarly oak that over looks the expanse of a ripe vineyard. So this calls for a pairing like Bogle Old Vine Zinfandel. Its smooth yet peppery tones perfectly compliment the spicy sausage and garlicky lentils. Enjoy!

Did You Know?
Whole books have been written about garlic, an herb affectionately called “the stinking rose” in light of its numerous therapeutic benefits. Did you know that garlic is a member of the Lily Family? Just like Allium Lilies (which I’m growing in pots in my front yard), garlic is rich in a variety of powerful sulfur-containing compounds. While these compounds are responsible for garlic’s characteristically pungent odor, they are also the source of many of its health-promoting effects. All of which help promote a healthy heart and act as a anti-inflammatory agent. Read here for more benefits of garlic!

Red & Orange Roughy


This is one of my favorite dinners, and probably one the most healthy entrees I’ve created so far.

Orange Roughy are a deliciously light and ‘non-fishy’ deep sea fish that’s a little pricier than the more common Tilapia… but worth every penny.

Ingredients (per filet)
Orange Roughy filets
Fresh Rosemary, 2-3 sprigs
Sweet roasted red bell peppers from jar, 2-3 strips
Butter, 1 tsp
White wine, 1/4 cup (*see pairing below)
Course salt, pinch
Black & red pepper, pinch
Panko bread crumbs, pinch
Asparagus, 5-7 spears
Olive oil, 1/2 tsp

Preparation

Fish

  • Preheat over to 375 degrees.
  • Tear off a large enough piece of tinfoil to form a boat-like baking dish (see photo), crimping edges up enough to hold liquid.
  • Place filet in boat (be sure it’s thawed if you’re using frozen Roughy).
  • Wedge a couple of rosemary sprigs under and around the filet.
  • Pour wine evenly over fish. It shouldn’t cover the fish completely… only about 1/4 to 1/2 way.
  • Take the tsp of butter and divide into tiny pats and place evenly throughout fish.
  • Pull 2-3 strips of the sweet roasted peppers out of the jar and lay atop the filet.
  • Sprinkle pinches of salt & peppers across fish
  • Sprinkle Panko crumbs across fish. Make sure this is the last step so they don’t get soggy.

Asparagus

  • On a non-stick baking tray, lightly drizzle olive oil over asparagus spears. Roll spears to completely cover with the small amount of olive oil
  • Sprinkle with course salt

Ready To Cook?
Put tinfoil fish boat(s) on a baking tray or right on to the middle rack. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes. The narrow end of the filet will start to brown and curl up when fish is done. Move your second rack to the very top rung. Place baking tray of asparagus spears there and bake simultaneously with the Orange Roughy. Asparagus will be done in 15-20 minutes. If you do not have a 2nd rack you can use the broiler. But only cook spears for 5 minutes under the 500 degree broiler.

When both fish and asparagus are done, place asparagus in center of plate, then place filet on top of the asparagus. Drizzle leftover juices from the tinfoil boat across both.

The Perfect Bite
Stack your fork with an inch of rich, green asparagus spear, a flaky bite of buttery roughy and be sure to include a little of the sweet roasted red pepper. Enjoy!

The Perfect Pairing
Now, I’m not against pairing red wine with fish. But… I also wear white shoes after Labor Day. So, perhaps you shouldn’t trust me. Regardless, if you have a red-wine-only policy… please, feel free. Just find a gentle red with light tannins like Washington’s Red Diamond Cabernet. However, even though I prefer reds over whites on any given day, with this particular dish… I wanted to find something crisp and fresh that wouldn’t over-power the entree’s delicate flavors… yet wouldn’t be wimpy standing all on its own. Meet<!–DOMAINE LAPORTE –> Henri Bourgeois’s Pouilly Fume La Porte de L’Abbaye 2007. The light, yet smoky French Pouilly Fume perfectly compliments the earthiness of the roasted red peppers and rosemary, all the while balancing the buttery-ness of the roughy. *I would recommend using this same wine for the 1/4 cup in the ingredients above).

Did You Know?
Fish and seafood is one of the “power foods” that have a multitude of health benefits that include inproving physical, emotional and mental health levels. And Did You Know that Rosemary, beyond being a flavouring-enhancer for certain foods and its use in cosmetics, has been used as an extract with a long history of medicinal uses too. It has been used to treat a wide range of ailments, including stomach upsets, digestive disorders and headaches.