Stuffed Zucchine with Riced Cauliflower, Spinach and Sausage

 

Zucchine and cauliflower are two wonderful summer vegetables.  What better way to enjoy both than to stuff one into the other.  This recipe is easy, nutricious, and delicious.

Riced cauliflower makes the perfect base for the stuffing because it easily absorbs the flavors from the ingredients you add to it.

While this recipe is heavy on vegetables, it is also enhanced with flavorful Italian sausage.  You can easily make this a vegetarian dish by substituting the sausage with beans for added protein, and use vegetable stock in place of the chicken stock.

Ingredients:
2 – medium zucchini (approx. 8″ long)
1 – small head cauliflower
1 – cup chicken broth
8 – oz baby spinach
3 – cloves garlic
1 – tsp. Adobo Seasoning
1 – tsp. oregano
1/4 – tsp. salt
1/2 – cup pecorino romano cheese
3 – italian sausage links
Olive oil
Ground black pepper

Directions:
Rinse the zucchini and pat dry.  Cut off the ends and slice it down the middle lengthwise. With a spoon, scrape out the seeds in the center to make a pocket to hold the stuffing.

Place the zucchini halves in a baking dish and drizzle with a little olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt, ground black pepper, and oregano.  Place in a pre-heated 375° oven to pre-cook for 15 minutes while preparing the stuffing. Remove from oven until stuffing is ready.

While the zucchine pre-cooks, remove the leaves from the cauliflower, rinse and cut into small pieces. To turn the cauliflower into rice sized pieces you can either grate it on a box grater or use a food processor with the grating blade.

Once the cauliflower is riced, add it to a pot with one cup of chicken stock, the Adobo, salt, and oregano. Bring to a boil and cook on a medium-low heat for about 10 minutes until tender. Turn off heat and set aside.

While the cauliflower is cooking, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet and sautè the garlic cloves until they start to brown.  Add the spinach and stir to coat all the leaves with the oil. Sprinkle with a little salt and cook until tender, about 2 minutes.

When the spinach is ready, remove it from the skillet and set aside.

Remove the sausage from its casing and add a little olive oil to the same skillet.  Crumble the sausauge and cook until no longer pink.

Now combine the cauliflower, spinach, sausage, and pecorino cheese and mix well.

Stuff the zucchini with the cauliflower mixture. Sprinkle the top with some more pecorino cheese.

Return to the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until the zucchini is fork tender and the top is lightly browned.

You can serve it with a side of marinara sauce, but it is not necessary.

Serve immediately.




Polenta with Tomato Sauce and Sausage

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Polenta con sugo di pomodoro e salsiccia

Polenta is cooked corn meal, and  when cooked properly it is a creamy, delicious accompaniment to many dishes.  It can be used in place of potatoes, rice or noodles.  A creamier, looser consistency can be used to lap up sauces or a firmer consistency can be sliced and fried or grilled.  It can be made plain or with various herbs and cheeses.  All you need to start with is a basic corn meal, whatever brand you prefer.  There is no reason to buy any special polenta mix or the ready made polenta.  Fresh made from corn meal is the best, and it is easy to do.  I am sharing with you the polenta that my family made.  We only ate this once or twice a year, but it was so special to us that it became our tradition for New Year’s Day.  I still carry on the tradition today.

Occasionally my family would make the polenta and invite our friends and neighbors over to join us.  It was a special occasion to make the polenta.  My father cooked the corn meal, and my mother made the tomato sauce with Italian sausage to put on top.  The special thing about our polenta was the way in which we served it.  Once it was ready, Dad spread the polenta onto the pasta board that was placed in the middle of the dining room table.  The board measured about 3’x 4′.  On top of the polenta Mom spread the tomato sauce and in the middle of the board she would place the chunks of Italian sausage.  It was always a race to the middle to get the delicious prize.

Serving the polenta on the board was a tradition that my father’s family brought from Abruzzo.  This is the way he grew up eating it.  The board was the perfect vessel for it because the wood would absorb the moisture of the polenta, which made it set up perfectly to hold the sauce and toppings.  Eating the polenta in this manner was a memorable experience.  Dad was  a stickler for making us try to form the map of Italy out of the polenta (we were not always successful). It was also important to keep the board clean.  He would demonstrate to us how to eat it.  “Take the fork and slice through the polenta like this”, he would say.  “Then pick it up and be sure to get it all.  Use the side of the fork and clean up any remaining polenta.”  It brought the family together (and at times even friends).  As children we thought is was fun eating this way, and I still see the same enthusiasm and excitement in my great nieces and nephews when we serve it today.

Ingredients for polenta:

2 – cups yellow corn meal
7 – cups water
2 – tsp. salt
1 – tbls. olive oil

Ingredients to top the polenta:

Tomato sauce made with Italian sausage (use 2 lbs. of sausage for this recipe)
Pecorino Romano Cheese – to taste

Directions:

Bring the water and olive oil to a boil in a large pot. Once it is boiling, gradually sprinkle in the corn meal while whisking vigorously to avoid lumps until all the corn meal is incorporated. Reduce the heat to medium, add the salt and continue whisking while the corn meal cooks and begins to thicken. This should only take about 5-6 minutes. Continue cooking for about 30 minutes, stirring often so that it does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Add more water if it starts to dry out. Cook until the corn meal is thick and creamy and tender to the bite.

Pour out the polenta onto a large wooden board (you can serve it on individual plates if you prefer),

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and spread it evenly to about 1/3″ thick.

img_0787Spread the tomato sauce on top of the polenta.

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Slice the sausage into bite-sized pieces and add them to the polenta, distributing them evenly. Top off with pecorino-romano cheese.

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Serve immediately.

All you need is a fork to enjoy this delicious meal.  Make a slice with the fork, then slide the fork underneath to lift it up.

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Makes 4-6 servings

Buon appetito!




Stuffed Mushrooms

stuffed-mushrooms, Italian sausageStuffed Mushrooms with Italian Sausage

Stuffed mushrooms are a great appetizer for any dinner party or holiday gathering. They are easy to make and delicious. In this recipe, I use italian sausage to give them that extra special flavor, but it is not necessary. You can leave out the sausage if you want to make them vegetarian.

 

Ingredients:

20 – oz. medium/large white mushrooms
1/2 – cup seasoned bread crumbs (you can also use store bought)
1/8 – cup pecorino romano cheese
1/3 – lb. italian sausage
1/8 – cup olive oil
2 – tbls. fresh parsley, chopped
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
Salt to taste (optional)
Soffritto – make 1/2 the recipe and add 1 clove garlic and half of the mushroom stems. Mince all together in a food processor.
Extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

Wipe the mushrooms clean with a damp cloth, then cut the dry end of the stem off and remove the remaining stem from the mushroom. This leaves a nice cavity for the stuffing.  Add half of the stems to the soffritto.  After you prepare the soffritto, sauté it in 1 tbls. olive oil for about 10 minutes. Sprinkle the soffritto with a little salt and black pepper.

Heat a little canola oil in a small skillet, and in the meantime, remove the sausage from its casing and add to the skillet. Break it up with a fork into crumbles and cook until no longer pink.

Mix together the bread crumbs, cheese, parsley, salt and pepper. Be careful not to add too much salt if you are using store bought bread crumbs.  Add the sautéed soffritto and the cooked sausage.  Drizzle olive oil and mix thoroughly until the breadcrumbs are moist enough to stick together.

Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper, and place the mushrooms on top. Brush a little olive oil over the mushrooms and sprinkle with a little salt.  Over fill the mushrooms with the stuffing so that it forms a rounded peak.

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Over-filled mushrooms

Bake in a pre-heated 400o oven for 20-25 minutes until the mushrooms are tender and the stuffing is golden brown.

Serve immediately.