Tag Archives: pasta

Sausage Kale Mushroom (Pasta)

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Hey, y’all. Been a while, again.

This is one of those throw-together-and-eat-it kind of meals, which I love for weeknight dinners. Find the right combination of foods, and throw it over some pasta. Or, throw it on something else. One of the beauties of cooking is finding ways to make something you love new again.

Sausage, kale, and mushrooms are a good hearty combination that (with some onions too, in most cases, and perhaps a few other additions as noted) play well in many formats. I also added beans, because I had them and why not; and, it means I need a little less meat to make a full meal—which is always a goal of mine (without sacrificing flavor, of course).

Might I suggest:
-Pizza (put on a little white sauce, or just some olive oil first)
-Tart or galette (add an egg if you need a little more of a filling for a tart)
-Tacos or tostados (add a little hot sauce or salsa and maybe a sprinkle of cheese and you’re all set)
-Over pasta, or in lasagna, ravioli, or tortellini (for filled pastas you may have to mash it up a little more and add an egg to make a real filling)
-Over other starches, like rice or potatoes (or stuffed into squash, as noted here)
-In a sandwich (probably more like a hoagie roll) with onions too. And mustard!
-As a crepe filling (add an egg or some cheese)
-Mixed into risotto (again with the cheese)
-In soup
-In an omelette
-On top of salad (I would suggest not cooking the kale for this one, but massaging it and topping with mushrooms and sausage… and probably some cheese and a nice mustard dressing)

Drumroll: all these base suggestions are viable options for a variety of other combinations too! Once you find some ingredients you like together, you’ve got a bunch of possibilities to spin them into a meal.

You already know some good combos—tomato/basil/mozzarella is probably the most classic. My job here is to try to point you to a few more, or come up with unexpected ones.  If you get bored, try these parternerships, scientifically proven to be… interesting, at least (carrot and violet? Not sure I’ve even eaten violets…).

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I had a couple different people send me an article about how Instagramming your food makes it tastes better (the short of it: because it ups the anticipation), which I can appreciate—although even as one who does fanatically take pictures of food, I’m not sure I totally buy in. I take pictures mostly to share my food remotely with other people (which upon reflection is perhaps not very nice, if it makes you drool). But I do get pretty excited about it.

There are other ways to use Instagram to document food trends too—like looking at the geographic representation of #kale posts, and lining that up with food deserts.

I am lucky enough to not live in a food desert, and to have the means to go outside of it even if I did. Not everyone has that opportunity, although it’d be great if they did.

#kale

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Sausage, kale, and mushroom pasta
Andouille sausage, or another kind if you don't like the heat
Kale
Mushrooms, your favorite kind
A few spices: a little chipotle, cumin, some paprika, salt
Pasta

Boil water for pasta. Make sure to add salt.

Cook the sausage first, either grilled, in a hot oven (rimmed pan), or on the stove (I usually do this because it’s the fastest: start with a hot pan, and add a little water at first, covering the pan to help the inside of the sausage cook. After a few minutes, remove the lid and let the water boil off. The sausage should release some juices and you can sear it in the pan).

When water boils for pasta, add the noodles and cook according to directions (al dente). Get a strainer ready in the sink for when the pasta is ready.

While the sausage is cooking, prepare the other ingredients. De-stem the kale (by sliding your first finger and thumb from the base of the stem up), and chop the stems into tiny pieces. Roughly chop the rest of the kale, and chop up the mushrooms (I like longer pieces, not squares). Remove sausage from pan when cooked and add the mushrooms and kale stem pieces (hopefully there is still sausage juice; if not, add a little oil). Sauté for a few minutes until slightly softened, then add the rest of the kale and stir fry for another few minutes. Kale should be tender and mushrooms cooked, not rubbery. Stir in spices, taste, and adjust seasonings.

When pasta is cooked, mix everything together and serve. Would be good with a sprinkling of parmesan, too.

 

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Creamy Mushroom Sauce

mushroom cream sauce

Have you been finding any mushrooms in the woods lately?

I haven’t. I don’t feel like I know quite enough yet (working on it though, because wandering through a forest + finding food is a dream life), but! I have a few friends who are adept foragers, and I’ve been fortunate enough to reap the benefits of their forays.

Mushrooms are very strange animals (okay, not animals. But, they might be closer to animals than plants). I used to not like them at all, then finally my dad convinced me to try morels (thanks, Dad). Nutty, textured, with a fantastic scent, they’re probably still my favorite, although it’s been a long while.

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(not morels)

Regardless of what else I do with mushrooms, usually the first step is to fry them up in plenty of butter. Some kinds soak it all up immediately, and although others don’t need quite as much, my recommendation is to not skimp on the fat. You don’t want them to burn. Besides, eating more delicious, flavorful foods might prevent you from overeating! How’s that for incentive (we all know that fat is flavor)? In all seriousness, there are some foods that make me feel gross post-consumption (mostly sugary ones), and I have never felt unhappy about this.

Quite the contrary.

This sauce is versatile and can be made with pretty much any mushroom (other vegetables too, for that matter). I sometimes add leeks for extra nuance and spinach to get some greenery in there, but neither are necessary, and if you have spectacular mushrooms I would focus on their flavor instead.

mushroom cream sauce

Creamy mushroom sauce
Butter, plenty of it
2 handfuls of mushrooms, any variety (morels and oyster mushrooms are my favorite)
1/2 to 1 leek, or 1 onion (optional)
A few handfuls of spinach (it will cook down a lot; optional)
Cream: maybe 1/2 cup, depending on how much liquid you want
Salt and pepper

If foraged, check the mushrooms for bugs and brush them off (mushrooms soak up water, so use minimal water). Tear apart with your hands, chop with a sharp knife, or leave whole, depending on the variety and how big they are. Wash and chop leeks, if using—I like mine in thin strips a few inches long. Wash and roughly chop spinach.

If using an onion, thinly slice and caramelize—sauté over high heat stirring frequently, then turn down heat and cook until soft and dark brown. You can add the mushrooms right to this, then continue with the cream.

No onion: melt butter in a pan. Sauté mushrooms over high heat, until they start to brown and soften. Add leeks, and more butter if needed. Stir in salt to taste. When leeks are soft (this will take some time), pour in cream, stirring, then add the spinach and turn off the heat. The spinach will wilt, the cream will thicken and darken from the mushroom coloring, and the whole thing will have this mouth-watering dark rich smell.

Serve over pasta, or whatever else you like eating with creamy deliciousness, and crack some pepper on top. Shave on some parmesan if you’re feeling it. You will be quite happy.

mushroom cream sauce on pasta

P.S. If you’ve been following some of what I write about the overall food system and are upset about it, here’s 5 things you can do right now. 

Fresh Tomato Essence Sauce

fresh tomato sauce

There is something quite magical about a fresh ripe tomato.

Sweet, acidic, juicy, and maybe umami (which I admittedly don’t quite fully understand yet, but tomatoes have it). Occasionally I find dishes missing a certain satisfaction; adding a tomato frequently fills that void.

There’s all sorts of interesting science cropping up in the news lately about grocery store tomatoes, from ripening them in a hot bath before chilling them to developing hardy tomatoes with Actual Flavor (what a concept!). But, I would much rather eat heirloom tomatoes, despite their long and convoluted history. Plus, I can grow those in my own garden (!), collect them from friends when they are perfect, and freeze the ones I can’t use for winter soups and sauces.

Currently, however, it is still summer (yes, I realize it’s September), and I want to be eating fresh tomatoes. But I also want sauce. Something to slurp up with pasta and absorb that rich tomato flavor, but keep some of the freshness.

Friends, there is a solution. It happens to reduce prepwork too, as long as you don’t mind skins and seeds (helpful when you still want to be swimming all day). By flash cooking the tomatoes, you get them to release their juices; then strain out the chunks and put them aside; boil down the juice to get the thick, deep, orangey essence of tomato. Stir back in your barely cooked tomatoes and you are good to go (there’s garlic in there somewhere too).

I would use your medium-grade tomatoes for this. The fresh fresh perfect ones you eat on the spot. The rough and tumbley ones you blanch, peel, and make into freezer sauce or can (or, just freeze whole and when you take them out and start heating them, the skins slip right off). Somewhere in the middle are fresh sauce tomatoes, that require minimal processing but still aren’t quite perfect—maybe a little too soft on some sections, or unevenly ripened. From this you distill your essence.

tomato essence

Fresh tomato essence sauce
1.5 lbs fresh tomatoes, any variety (a mix is good—some juicy ones, some paste, even a few cherry tomatoes)
4-5 cloves garlic
4-5 tablespoons olive oil

Mince garlic; large-ish chunks are fine. Heat oil in a large saucepan over high heat until slightly shimmery, then add garlic and fry briefly, watching carefully so it doesn’t burn. Meanwhile (or ahead of time if you want to make sure to have a proper mise en place), chop the tomatoes into large chunks, removing any areas that are extremely soft, and large cores. When garlic is slightly golden, add your tomato chunks and stew for a very brief minute or two, just enough time for the tomatoes to release most of their juices. With a slotted spoon or a strainer, or most likely a combination of the two, remove the tomato pieces and place in a strainer over a bowl, to catch the rest of the juices. You will probably end up collecting most of the garlic chunks too, that’s good, since you don’t want them to boil too much (although any that you miss won’t be a problem).

On high, boil the tomato juice until you run out of patience, or it gets very thick; add in any additional juice from the draining tomatoes every so often. When thick, turn off the heat, and add back in the tomato chunks.

Stir, and serve. I recommend a few torn basil leaves, and a little cheese if you feel so inclined. Excellent, of course, with pasta, or on toast, or just eaten by the spoonful. It’d be worth making fresh pasta for this—once you have one fresh component, may as well go for the whole meal, right?

fresh tomatoes draining