Oven-Roasted Sausages, Dinner Parties, and Winter Comfort Foods

I think the new year should start in April… that ways we will start making all these fitness and health resolutions when we are starting to wrap up on cooking the hearty comforting winter foods… I’m on a running kick lately, and it feels great, and I’m trying to follow it up with the diet half (lots of greens, whole grains, etc.) but on these chilly winter weekends, all I want to do is make a stew with giant hunks of bread and stringy cheeses. I want root vegetables all mashed together, brown butter sauce, pastas, and casseroles, and dishes that will warm me from the inside out. This is why last weekend I threw a dinner party and made a wonderfully satisfying dish of sausages apples and pears.


A few friends and I started a supper club, where once a month we have to try a completely new recipe. I volunteered to host the first round, and when I stumbled across this recipe from The Splendid Table, I knew it would be just the thing.

I did my research, and read all of the reader comments before actually cooking the dish. (and yes, I did brown the sausages before putting them in the oven, and I also left the skin on the fruit).  I also added on a side dish of olive oil mashed potatoes.  I’m kind of having a torrid affair with butter lately, but EVOO is my soul mate, especially when it comes to mashed potatoes. I think it adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the dish, that even the highest quality of butters cannot.




I also served the mascarpone meyer lemon gelato that I wrote about here. It was an epically delicious meal. Especially since Jay brought some amazing camembert cheese, local salami, and some caprese bites to start off. Janet brought a yummy salad, and some home-made  madeleines. I’m quite surprised we all didn’t immediately fall into a food coma… especially since we took a break for hot-tubing between dinner and dessert.


The components of the sauce made a face mid-cooking

The components of the sauce made a face mid-cooking

We are still toying with names for the group.  Maybe “Our Splendid Table” or my personal favorite “TB&J” (Tayler, Bulldog ,Jay/Janet). Whatever we decide to call ourselves, I’m sure there will be many amazing culinary adventures in our future.

Simple meals, burnt kale. It happens.

Last night my dinner was really simple. I love taking a few key ingredients, and making a completely simple and satisfying dish.  Some left over sausage, soft boiled eggs, a healthy scoop of quinoa, a handful of roasted or steamed greens, a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkling of salt… these are the meals I eat over and over, my basic fall back meals… They are hearty, and satisfying, and best of all they are easy.  These are the meals that I make when I get home late after teaching, and the meals that will be recycled throughout the rest of the week in some form or another. Call me bizarre but kale and quinoa are my comfort foods… (ok, ok, so is cheese… and pasta… and polenta… and a lot of other things).

From time to time  I do start to feel a little bit bad about my quinoa addiction… someone will post on my facebook wall about how Bolivian natives can no longer afford their one time staple grain because the demand here is so high… I guess you win some and you lose some…

There was going to be a photo or two to accompany this post, but I burnt the kale. I mean really super badly burnt the kale… The once green and thriving leaves were brown… way beyond kale chip, way beyond crunchy, but in a moment of desperation, I threw them on the plate anyway. I was feeling bad that my lunch consisted of a box of mac & cheese, and there was no way that something green (or at least something that had at one time been green) was going on my plate… it actually wasn’t terrible, but it definitely was not photograph-able, and sometimes that is just the way it goes.

Maybe it’s a karma thing.  I was feeling a little defeated when I came home at 8:45, a meal plan already formed in my head, and all the kale in my refrigerator was moldy. I tried for a few minutes to sort through it, maybe find something salvageable… but moldy kale is moldy kale…there were no survivors. But wouldn’t you know it, I just happen to have a raised bed full of kale in my back yard, and I was feeling rather proud of myself for having a winter vegetable supply, so I got out the flashlight and headed out into the darkness, returning with a handful of baby kale. “Look at me, I’m so resourceful, I just saved dinner!” is pretty much what I was thinking to myself as I washed the leaves, drizzled them with oil, and threw them in the oven to get crispy. And crispy they got. I was feeling superior, and on top of things, and oh, so practical… and then I burnt the crap out of the kale. At least it added some texture?  You know what they say, waste not, want not…




Mascarpone Lemon Gelato: Yum-0!

When I graduated from college almost six years ago, the first thing I purchased was an ice cream maker… I mean why not, when you are going out into the world, newly educated and with really no clue about what your future holds, of course all you want/ need in life is an ice cream maker… Sadly in that six years, I think I can count on one had the number of times I have actually made ice cream. That first year I tried a pear avocado sorbet… which was pretty delicious, and the next year I made a strawberry and black pepper sorbet. Also great. I went on an olive oil ice cream kick a few years later, and made a few batches here and there, and this summer I use some of my fresh picked Marion Berries for a batch of ice cream. At least all of my attempts have been successful, and delicious, even if they have been few and far between (and let’s face it, its probably for the best that I’m not making ice cream every week).

This summer I was reminded that the ice cream maker isn’t just for ice cream, and I had a lot of fun making blended mixed drinks. Rum and diet coke, vodka lemonade etc etc… super delicious spin on the adult beverage.

Tonight I decided to make gelato… and it is good. Damn good…. I’m not really sure what possessed me to make gelato on the 1st day of February… its not exactly the most seasonal of desserts, but I stumbled across the recipe about a month ago, and its been lingering in the”I should make that sometime” part of my brain.

A couple of friends and I have started a dinner group under the premise that each month one of us has to make a dish we’ve never made before. Of course we are all busy people, and so we have an understanding that some months it might very well be ” I was too tired to make something new, but I will take you all to the taco truck down the street, and we can all order something we’ve never ordered before.”  Tomorrow night is our first gathering, I volunteered to host, since unemployment has granted me a bit of free time, and also my parents are out of town for the weekend, so they have donated their kitchen (and their hot tub) to the cause. God bless supportive parents who live a mile and a half away… Anyway, I’m going to be making a sausage/apple/pear dish I read about a few weeks ago on The Splendid Table, but I also remembered how delightful that gelato sounded,  so I went back through my mental files, and pulled out the the recipe.
One thing I love about making ice cream/ gelato is that it is crazy, stupid easy, and almost always delicious. I had no doubt this recipe would be amazing, I mean really anything with two cups of mascarpone cheese can’t be bad, right?  I was also excited because the Meyer lemons growing on my back patio were very nearly ripe, so I decided to add a little bit of flair to the recipe.
On a side note, this is the third Meyer Lemon tree I’ve attempted to grow. The first one, Liz Lemon, lived happily in my loft apartment, and I had at least 20 lemons… I made lemon curd… lots of lemon curd. It. Was. Epic.  Until she got spider mites… things quickly went down hill after that.I got Liz Lemon Jr. a year later, and things went well until the winter happened, and I didn’t feel like bringing the tree inside and outside all the time, so I made an attempt to wrap it in towels to protect it from the freezing weather… It didn’t work… Technically the tree is still alive, but it aborted all the fruit and I’m pretty sure it has reverted back to the dragon tree it was grafted onto… The tree itself is thriving… but I’m 99.9% sure it is no longer a lemon tree… at the very least, it hasn’t bloomed or produced fruit in a good long while.

Perhaps the third time is the charm, at least that is what I’m telling myself with the little lemon tree I fondly call Simon.  I figured it was time to try again since I actually have a covered porch that stays relatively warm, and a garage with a south facing window… which is ideal for those few days every winter when you actually need to bring the lemon trees inside. So far so good! And I picked a lovely looking lemon this afternoon to put into my gelato.
Since I am quite proud of said lemon, I decided it was only fair to add a bit more lemon zest and lemon juice to the recipe. Considering that I found the recipe itself on the Culture Magazine facebook page, I’m pretty sure the cheese was supposed to be the star, but I decided it couldn’t hurt to add a bit more lemon. I slaved over this tree, I toted it in and out of the garage countless times… you better believe I wanted to use every last bit of zest and juice that little guy could give me. The original recipe called for 1 tsp lemon zest and 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice. I used the zest from the entire lemon, and all the juice (about 4 tsps… it was a pretty small lemon)
The recipe also called for kosher salt, but I used Jacobsen Sea Salt… a local favorite.

To add a little pizazz to the final dish I candied some additional lemon zest along with some English Thyme to add to the top, along with some crushed pistachios…. Sweet Jesus… it is good. Really Really good. The mascarpone adds this amazing creaminess to it, and I must say, the lemon is just the right amount, not overpowering or underwhelming.