King Soopers is having a sale on bell peppers — red, yellow and green all 10 for $10. It’s unusual, around here anyway, for the yellow and red to be as inexpensive as the green. I bought a bunch, roasted some and still had a few left over. Having spent my formative years in the Northeast, that Italian-American staple of Sausage and Peppers was the first (and perhaps only) dish that popped into my mind. I’m not sure why I specified “easy” on this post, because this is a dish that is always easy, whether the sausage is cooked whole and then cut into pieces or cut into pieces and then cooked, and whether it is made with one, two or three colors of bell pepper. Here’s the way I prepared them.
Sausage and Peppers
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 1/2 pounds sweet Italian sausage, cut into 1-inch pieces (I used sweet turkey sausage, but pork sausage or hot sausage would work well too)
1 each green, yellow and red pepper bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
1 large onion, peeled and sliced
1 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon dried basil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil in large, heavy skillet (with a lid) over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until golden, about 1 minute. Mix in sausage and cook until browned, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add peppers and onion, and cook until almost tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Stir in in tomatoes, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Turn down the heat to low, cover and simmer 25 minutes. Uncover and cook for another minutes.
I served the Sausage and Peppers with penne (tubular pasta), cooked al dente, with freshly Parmesan on the side. Two of us ate generous portions, and there’s enough left for two more meals.
I’m not one to take issue with the late, great Julia Child — except I’ve never been able to buy into her dictum, “If you do not have a good wine to use, it is far better to omit it, for a poor one can spoil a simple dish and utterly debase a noble one.” I have never had the heart to “waste” a fairly expensive wine by cooking with it, especially for recipes using a substantial quantity of wine. Julia’s own Boeuf Bourguinon and Coq au Vin recipes for four to six people call for three cups of “young, full-bodied red wine such as Burgundy, Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone or Chianti.”
We had friends over yesterday evening to celebrate a pair of birthdays, but when it came to dinner preparation, I really had just about three hours to cook, polish a few pieces of tarnished silver and set the table. Here’s what I made.
Hors d’Oeuvres (with wine or a cocktail)
Crackers and three cheeses
“My Mom’s 15 Minute Tomato and Bean Soup” from 2, 4, 6, 8 – Great Meals for Couples or Crowds by Rachael Ray. The soup indeed cooks in just 15 minutes, though I let it go longer, but that does not count the time necessary to chop or slice the garlic, onions, carrots, celery and zucchini — other ingredients are good-quality canned tomato products and beans.
Entree (with red or white wine)
Coq au Vin – I read several recipes and winged it. Recipe follows.
Saffron Rice made with good-quality prepared stock
Buttered Baby Carrots
Dessert (with champagne and coffee)
Fresh Berry Tart. Recipe follows.
Coq au Vin
Coat six chicken thighs lightly in flour and saute in butter and oil over medium-high heat until well browned. Meanwhile, cook four or five good bacon strips, drain on paper towels and cool. Remove chicken from saute pan. Add frozen pearl onions in an amount to taste. Saute until they begin to brown. Remove onions and drain most of the fat from the pan. Deglaze pan with about 1 1/2 cup red wine. Add about 1 cup chicken stock. Return chicken and onions to pan. Salt, pepper and thyme to taste. Add about 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms or mushroom caps and crumbled bacon. Cover, reduce heat and simmer until chicken is cooked through and sauce thickens. In a heavy saute pan with a tight-fitting lid, this will keep warm for a couple of hours, requiring only a quick reheating.
Fresh Berry Tart
Because I didn’t have time to bake, I bought a Tortenboden, available at King Soopers and labeled Imported Bavarian Sponge Cake. The importer is World Finer Foods. I whipped half a pint of heavy cream, added some confectioner’s sugar and a splash of rum,, then spread it in the prepared cake base and topped it with fresh raspberries and strawberries.
Here’s an oddball fitness note, especially for anyone trying to take the current medical recommendation of at least 10,000 steps a day. I bought a pedometer some months back and wore it while cooking, just for the heck of it. I don’t have a particularly large kitchen (in fact, it is quite modest in size), but preparing the meal, setting the table and making three laundry trips downstairs required just over 4,500 steps — not aerobic by any stretch, but steps nonetheless.
Just two days ago, I noted with dismay and disdain that a tacky Subway sign had been hung directly above the stylish new Vasa Bar & Grill at the corner of 15th Street and the Pearl Street Mall. It has now been removed. I could pretend that I had something to do with its removal, but it’s far more likely to be a coincidence — a happy one, to be sure.
Vasa Bar & Grill, a name that sounds to me as if it should be a Viking ship or Scandinavian flatbread (and in fact is both), is a Japanese-style eatery that finally opened on the prominent corner of 15th Street and the Pearl Street Mall. And when I write “finally,” I mean it, because the place has been under construction since early last summer. Some weeks ago, Vasa opened with discretion bordering on secrecy. In the first days (or maybe weeks) of operations, they kept the bamboo shades lowered outside of serving hours, which made it look like a construction site even after every tasteful object was in place and the “Now Hiring” sign was off the fence. Vasa is still a tad hard to spot, because their own sign is small and tasteful white-on-black, while above a corner of Vasa’s storefront (on the Pearl Street side), the plastic sign for the Subway nextdoor glares. Why did the Downtown Management Commission or other permitting agency even allow that? I haven’t eaten at Vasa yet. I don’t know exactly what they serve nor even their phone number. They don’t seem to have a website either. But remember that you read it here first, even if without details.
In the 1521 Pearl Street space vacated by Allison Espresso and Pastry Boutique, the newspapers have come off the windows and The Cup is now taking shape. Gone are the shabby-chic mismatched tables and chairs. In their place are stylish ash and chrome furniture. The counter is being rebuilt, and the chalkboard propped up in the window promises pastries, bagels, paninis and all sorts of espresso drinks and other beverages. No phone number or opening date yet, but again, remember that you read it here first.
Wok around the clock — and other thoughts about Asian foods and utensils