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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Home-Made Sausage with Mushrooms and Fresh Herbs


Store-bought sausage can contain mystery spices, sweeteners, antibiotic residues, and chemical preservatives that have been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Making your own sausage is a healthy alternative and it's easy to do without any special equipment. Sausage enthusiasts may want to invest in a meat grinder and sausage stuffer, but these tools aren't really necessary.

To make simple and delicious sausage, you just need good quality ground meat and flavorful seasonings. Start with the best quality meat you can afford. I used a combination of pasture-raised pork butt and pork shoulder, freshly ground from my local butcher. If you don't have or don't like pork, you could use other ground meats like chicken, turkey, ostrich, venison, buffalo, beef, or even a combination. If you don't have a local butcher offering pasture-raised meats, find them at your local farmers market or order them online.

The seasoning for this sausage is very basic: fresh herbs, garlic, onion, mushrooms, salt and pepper. The mushrooms and onion ensure that your sausage patties stay moist, even when fully cooked, and they add another layer of flavor. In this recipe they also take the place of fatback that is usually added to sausages, which can be difficult to find. I used fresh sage, thyme, and rosemary, but parsley or tarragon would also work well. If you don't have red onion you can substitute scallions, leeks, or another variety of onion. In addition to black pepper, I used chipotle pepper to give it a smoky heat. You can substitute cayenne or another kind of chili, or omit it if you don't like your sausage spicy.

I made my sausage into patties, but you could make them into links by forming the mixture around metal or wooden skewers (pre-soaked in water to prevent them from burning) or stuffing it inside casings (if you have a sausage stuffer). You can also use the loose sausage as you would any bulk sausage and add it to sauces or soups, or use it to make meatballs and stuff vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, or eggplant.

1 pound ground pork, chilled in the fridge for at least 2 hours
1 cup roughly chopped crimini mushrooms (about 3 large mushrooms)
1/2 cup  roughly chopped red onion
3 garlic cloves
2 tbsp roughly chopped herbs like sage, rosemary, and thyme
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Pinch ground chipotle pepper

Break apart the ground pork as you drop it into a large glass or stainless steel bowl, in a single layer exposing as much surface area as possible. Set it aside.

Add the mushrooms, onion, garlic, herbs, salt, and pepper to a food processor and finely chop. (Alternatively you could finely chop everything by hand.)

Scatter the mushroom mixture evenly over the pork. Handle the meat as little as possible while you gently mix them together. Over-handling the meat can make it tough.

Once the seasonings have been evenly distributed, form a small test patty.  Warm a skillet over medium heat and melt a small amount of ghee or rendered fat.  Sauté the test patty on both sides until fully cooked, then taste it to evaluate the seasoning. If adjustments need to be made, make them, form another test patty, and taste it again.

Once you are happy with the seasoning, form the sausage mixture into patties without making them too thick or compact. Shape the patties loosely and make them about 3/4 inch thick so they will cook evenly and thoroughly. The mixture will yield about five 3-inch patties.

Cook the sausage patties over medium to medium-high heat in a small amount of ghee or rendered animal fat until they are browned on both sides and cooked throughout.

Don't use unsaturated fats like olive oil to cook meats unless you use low heat, in which case they won't brown. Browning meats require cooking temperatures above 300F which will damage the healthy fatty acids in olive oil. (Damaged fats, not saturated fats, are the ones that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.) Never use cooking oils that are liquid at room temperature if they haven't been cold-pressed because they are damaged already.

If you're making these patties ahead, store them inside an air-tight container in the fridge.

If you plan to freeze the sausage patties, wrap them individually in wax paper first and freeze them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Once frozen, transfer them to an air-tight container. If you plan to freeze them for more than a week or two, you may want to cook the mushrooms before adding them because freezing doesn't inactivate the enzymes that will continue to break them down, turning them black.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Roasted Lemon Chutney


This chutney is my take on Molly Steven's Roasted Lemon Chutney.

I add rosemary and use ghee (clarified butter) instead of olive oil to roast the lemons because they require a hot oven and unsaturated fats like olive oil are easily damaged by high temperatures. Eating damaged fats can damage cells and DNA in our bodies.

If you don't have ghee, try making it yourself or substitute coconut oil.

This versatile condiment can be made to order but it's best prepared at least a day ahead, to give the flavors time to develop. Serve it with fish, poultry, pork, or grilled or roasted vegetables.

3 medium organic lemons
3 tbsp ghee
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 cup cold-pressed olive oil
1 tbsp honey
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Trim the ends off two of the lemons, remove any seeds, and cut them into 1/2-inch thick slices.

Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil and place it on the stove top over low heat. Add the ghee and, once it has melted, turn off the heat. Drag the lemon slices through the melted ghee until they are coated on both sides. Arrange them in a single layer on the baking sheet and transfer it to the oven.

Roast the lemon slices for 10 minutes, then flip them over. Roast for 10 minutes more, then flip them over again. Roast them for another 5 to 10 minutes, until they start to caramelize or turn brown. Remove them from the oven and set them aside to cool.

Once cool, add the lemon slices to a food processor along with the onion, ginger, rosemary, honey, salt, and pepper. From the remaining lemon, add two tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Mix until the lemons and onions are finely chopped but it isn't completely smooth.

Transfer the lemon mixture to a bowl. Stir in the rosemary and taste for seasoning. Make any necessary adjustments, adding more salt, lemon juice, or ginger to suit your palate.

Set the lemon chutney aside at room temperature for one hour, stir it again, then transfer it to the fridge until you're ready to eat it. The chutney can solidify in the fridge, so allow it to come to room temperature before you serve it.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Fresh Chick Peas


While fresh chick peas (also known as garbanzo beans) are in season, get them if you can. They are an inexpensive alternative to other spring legumes like fresh fava beans and green peas (I paid $1.69 per pound). The younger they are, the less starchy they'll be.

Buy them in their shell and eat them within a few days (before they dry out). After you remove the shells, use them like you would edamame, favas, or peas. Toss them with vinaigrette, stir them into risottos, or add them to salads, soups, and stir fries.

Because this recipe only has 3 ingredients, use the best you can find: the freshest chick peas, the finest extra virgin olive oil, and the crunchiest sea salt.

Each pound of fresh chick peas in their pods yield about a cup of cooked chick peas. 

2 pounds fresh chick peas in their pods, shelled, or 2 cups freshly shelled chick peas
Extra virgin oil oil
Coarse sea salt

Prepare a bowl of ice water and a large pot of boiling water.

To the boiling water add a generous pinch of sea salt and the shelled green chick peas. Simmer for 2 to 5 minutes, depending on their size, until just tender. Do not over-cook.

Transfer the cooked chick peas to the ice water (remove smaller ones first if sizes vary). Once all the chick peas are cooked and cooled, drain them and roll them in a clean kitchen until dry. Transfer them to a serving dish, drizzle with your best olive oil, and sprinkle with salt. Serve immediately.

Makes about 2 cups

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Salmon Cakes with Ginger and Scallion


Canned wild Alaskan salmon is widely available and more affordable than fresh or frozen varieties, so I always have some in my pantry for recipes like this.

These salmon cakes couldn't be easier to make and the ingredients are easy to come by: canned salmon, leftover mashed potatoes, an egg, and aromatics. I used ginger and scallion but other options would be equally delicious, like lemon zest and fresh dill, or red onion (raw or lightly sautéed) and roasted red pepper. I cooked my cakes with coconut oil, but you can substitute cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil or ghee if you like.

Be sure to buy wild Alaskan salmon (I get mine at Trader Joe's) not farm raised salmon, Atlantic salmon, organic (farmed) salmon, or wild salmon from California, Oregon, or Washington. Avoid boneless and skinless products if you can because the bones are good sources of calcium and the skin is full of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. Once they're all mixed up with the other ingredients, no one will even know they're in there. If you have leftover cooked salmon, you can use that instead of canned salmon, but you won't get the benefit of the bones. If you're using canned salmon, drain it first (you can reserve the liquid for your next fish stew).

14.75 ounces canned wild Alaskan salmon or 2 cups of cooked, flaked salmon
1½ cups mashed potatoes
1 egg, lightly beaten
Sea  salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallion 
2 tsp freshly grated ginger
Cold-pressed coconut oil
Organic whole milk Greek yogurt to garnish (optional)

Separate the salmon with your fingers, dropping the flesh into a large mixing bowl and the bones and skin onto a cutting board. Use a fork to crush the bones (they easily give way) and break the skin up into little pieces, or chop them finely with a sharp knife. Add them to the bowl with the rest of the salmon.

Add the mashed potatoes, egg, salt, pepper, scallion, and ginger to the bowl. Use impeccably clean hands (or a wooden spoon) to mix the ingredients until they are well-combined. Form the mixture into 3 or 4 patties. If you're making them in advance, cover and transfer them to the fridge.

To cook the salmon cakes, preheat a large skillet over medium heat with enough coconut oil to coat the bottom. Once hot, add the salmon cakes and cook until browned, about 4 minutes. Flip them over and brown the other side.

Serve them immediately with a big green salad and dollop of yogurt if you wish.