Monthly Archives: September 2014

Turkey Sausage Cassoulet


It’s a French-cooking standard, made from an  assortment of duck, lamb, and goose sausages and white beans, cooked in a wine and brandy reduction, then baked in the oven until the flavors marry into a wonderful, fragrant stew.

We don’t do exotic sausages; the ingredients here in Lancaster are available but expensive, fatty–much too fatty for our diets–and a little gamy for teen-age girls.  So we’ve adjusted, using turkey sausage, a readily available commodity, and created a hearty Sunday evening meal perfect for the fall season, when temperatures are beginning to drop, the herbs in the garden are mature and full of flavor, the tomatoes are at their zenith, and football is on TV, keeping me company as I cook.

What could be more rib-sticking on an autumn Sunday afternoon than a nice, rich cassoulet.

I took this recipe from an old edition of the Cooking Light cookbook and adjusted it to on-hand ingredients and available time.  One of the interesting things I did, and I would do it again, is to substitute Irish whiskey for cognac, and I did it for two reasons: 1) I wanted to see what it would taste like; and 2) I’m fresh out of cognac.  I could substitute brandy, but the only brandy I have in the house is an incredible Austrian brandy that I don’t have very much of, and is too good for cooking.

Here’s the recipe for tonight’s production, Turkey Sausage Cassoulet:


2 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

2 pounds turkey sausage, cut into 1-inch slices

1 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup chopped carrot

2 cloves fresh garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup Irish whiskey

2 cups chicken stock

1  tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

2 15-oz cans cannellini (white) beans

1 15-oz can black beans

2 bay leaves

2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes

dash ground cloves

1 4-oz piece of French baguette


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees

Heat a large dutch oven over medium heat.  Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, swirl to coat, and add the sausage pieces; cook, stirring constantly for 8 minutes, until the pieces are lightly browned; remove from pan to a bowl and set aside.  Add 1 tablespoons olive oil and add the onions, celery, carrots, garlic, salt, and pepper and cook about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, scraping up the brown bits from the pan as you do.

Add the wine and whiskey, stir to remove the remaining brown bits from the bottom of the pan and cook until the alcohol is mostly evaporated, about 10 minutes.

Add the broth, thyme, beans, bay leaves, tomatoes, and cloves to the vegetable mixture, return the sausage to the pan and stir well to combine all the ingredients.  Remove from heat, discard the bay leaves, and place in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.

Place the baguette in a food processor and whizz to make bread crumbs. Heat a large non-stick pan; add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon olive oil and bread crumbs to the pan and toast, tossing to brown lightly.  Sprinkle over the cassoulet and bake for another 10 minutes.

Serve with a good red wine and the remaining baguette to soak up the sauces.


Orange Teriyaki Flank Steak and Sweet Potato Fries

I wrote once in my column about Ellen’s little tin box.  It’s magical.  flankChock full of recipes from so many years of collecting. She got the box at Hershey Chocolate World when she was in high school (not really that long ago), and in the ensuing years collected recipes from magazines and newspapers and various other sources, including many of her mother’s recipes, which she wrote down on 3×5 cards.  It features recipes like “porcupine meatballs,” and “shake-and-bake chicken,” and “Mrs. Fuller’s soup,” and “Chowning Tavern’s Brunswick stew,” and corn pudding, and…and…and…on and on and on.  As I said, it’s magic!  Many of the recipes have become part of our current dinner rotation, and I fell in love with her over the meat loaf recipe (romantic, huh?).  The meat loaf is so good that I have abandoned my mother’s recipe and my own recipe, and even the Epicure Market’s recipe, because the one in the tin box is perfect.

That said, I’m going to give you a simple one, a favorite around here, one that gets requested over and over again, and now that I’ve discovered the Char-Broil infrared grill, it’s a 10-minute breeze and a serious winner.  I tend to want my beef done simply–salt and pepper and a little garlic and butter–but this one, a large steak grilled and sliced to serve, just wants a wonderful marinade.  This one is it. Simple and elegant, tasty and memorable.  If you crave a beef supper with a little zing, try this one. Serve it with a simple cold salad and some oven roasted sweet-potato fries.  Fantastic!

Grilled Teriyaki Flank Steak (or London Broil)


2- to 3-pound flank steak or London Broil

1/2 cup Teriyaki sauce

1/4 cup dry sherry

1 tablespoon fresh orange zest

1 tablespoons canola oil

2 teaspoons freshly ground ginger



Combine all the ingredients in a pan large and deep enough to allow the steak to lie flat and to hold the marinade and the steak.

Deeply pierce both sides of the steak with a fork,  at 1-inch intervals.  Place the steak in the marinade, allow to rest for 1/2 hour, then turn.  Turn the steak every hour, marinating for at least four hours, but no more than eight.

Prepare a charcoal grill, allowing the charcoal to turn white, and resting under half the cooking grate; or preheat one burner of a gas grill for 10 minutes.

Allow the steak to come to room temperature before grilling.  Place the steak directly over the hot coals or the burner for five minutes, turn and repeat on the other side.  Then move the steak off the direct heat and continue cooking another five to seven minutes for medium-rare steak–or minutes longer if you prefer your steak more done–until the steak reaches 140 degrees internal temperature  measured with an instant-read thermometer.  Remove the steak from the grill, tent loosely with aluminum foil, and allow to rest 10-15 minutes before slicing.

Slice the steak across the grain and serve with small bowls of Teriyaki sauce for dipping.

Perfect Oven-roasted Sweet Potato Fries


1-2 large sweet potatoes

1/2 tablespoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Cut the ends off the potatoes, then slice them into 1/2-inch slices.  Turn the potatoes to stack the slices, then slice them into 1/2-inch slices again, to make half-inch by half-inch potato sticks.  Place them in a mixing bowl, add the salt, pepper, garlic, and olive oil and toss to coat well.

Lay the fries in a single layer on foil-lined baking sheets (use more than one baking sheet if necessary.  Don’t stack the potato fries.

Bake for 15 minutes, remove from the oven, turn over, and bake for 10 – 15 minutes more. They are done when they begin to brown and crisp.  Serve with the steak, and a dipping sauce of your choice or ketchup or ranch dressing.



Eggplant Parmesan. P1000902

Just the mention of this tender, aromatic dish sends Italian-food lovers into spasms of joy, and often, jags of wonderful (or dreadful, I’m afraid) childhood memories.  If your Grandma made this dish, you either loved it or hated it, but there’s no getting around the fact that most adults can’t get enough of this one.  Having grown up in a (mostly) kosher home–some of you know about the time Dad came home, a smoked ham in one hand and a box of gifts from his favorite customers in Chester, PA in the other, and demanded the end to this craziness (his words), and kosher in our house was no more–there was no eggplant Parmesan in our house.  Mom occasionally made spaghetti sauce, but it was about as far from authentic Italian red gravy as salt-water taffy.

I learned my sauce-making skills from the skilled chefs at the Epicure Market in South Beach, and refined them to a honed edge at the feet of an employer named Bud Bruno (the finest Italian chef I ever met) in his little kitchen in Ardmore, Pennsylvania.  What I learned from Bud was the magic of fresh ingredients, really good olive oil, and little else–an authentic red sauce was at the same time simple and complex, with flavors that were meant to go together.  And this one is light as a feather.  Not much oil, no battering and frying of the eggplant, and you can eat as much as you want–it won’t weigh you down.

This recipe doesn’t, however rely on one of those long-simmered, tradition-babied, fussed-over red sauces, but rather all the elements of a perfect red sauce, blended together with love but not with much time or effort.  Just toss the ingredients together in a bowl and let ’em marry in the bowl for a while.  Then go.

Here’s the recipe, and be gentle.  Don’t over think this one.  It can’t really be much simpler.




1 tablespoon good extra-virgin olive oil

6 cloves garlic

1/2 large sweet onion, chopped

2 cups fresh, coarsely chopped plum tomatoes (San Marzano, if you can find them) with their juice

2 tablespoons dry red table wine

2 tablespoons dark balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Olive oil spray

2 egg whites

2 1/2 lbs eggplant, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/2″-thick slices

1/2 cup plain dried bread crumbs or 1 cup Panko

1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (about 4 oz)

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese




About three hours before serving, sauté the onions and garlic with the good olive oil until tender and transparent, 8-10 minutes at medium heat.   In a medium bowl, stir together tomatoes and their juice, basil, parsley, wine, vinegar, salt, pepper, garlic, and onions (from here on I’ll call this the sauce).  Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

An hour later, preheat the oven to 400°F.  Line two or three baking sheets with foil. Spray the foil with olive-oil cooking spray.

In a shallow dish, beat the egg whites and 2 tbsp of water until foamy, and prepare another shallow dish with Panko. Dip eggplant into the egg whites, then into the bread crumbs, pressing crumbs into the eggplant.

Place the eggplant slices on the prepared baking sheets and spray oil lightly over the slices. Bake 30 minutes, turning over after 20 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through.

Spoon 4 tbsp of sauce into bottom of 9″ square glass baking dish that has been sprayed with olive oil. Place half the eggplant over the sauce; spoon half of remaining  sauce over the eggplant; and sprinkle half of mozzarella on top. Repeat with remaining eggplant, sauce, and mozzarella.

Sprinkle Parmesan on top and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until eggplant is piping hot, the sauce is bubbly, and the cheese has to lightly brown.

This dish will serve 4 generously, and leave you with a couple of pieces leftover for lunches the next day.

Or not.

Fresh Fig and Almond Breakfast Cake

So what do you do with fresh figs?  The Lancaster Central Market was literally bursting with fresh fruit, and the figs at Meck’s produce stand were big and beautiful, and hard to resist.P1000898  A while back I made a wonderful chicken dish topped with a beautiful braised fig sauce, and it was as good as it sounds, but this time, E. was craving something sweet.  So to the Internet we cruised and read through numerous cake, pudding, and tart recipes until we stumbled upon one that tickled both our fancies.  And considering that it was a rainy Saturday afternoon with nothing (incredibly!) on the schedule, E. went into a frenzy of baking, making desserts, desserts, desserts!  Out to the garden for a large bunch of rhubarb (her rhubarb crisp is the stuff of legend!), and away she went.  The result, among other things, was this excellent breakfast coffee cake, which dazzled and didn’t make it past nine on Sunday morning.  She made it in a spring form pan, but the original recipe was shown in a cast-iron skillet.  I think the next time we make it I will try it that way.  It took longer than recommended to firm up in the springform pan, so I think the skillet is probably the way to go.  Try this one yourself–do it both ways and see which way you like it better–and report back.  Can’t think of a better way to kill a fig.

Fresh Fig and Almond Breakfast Cake


2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsps baking powder

tsp baking soda

tsp salt

tsp ground cardamom

cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 cups buttermilk

cup unsalted butter (melted and slightly cooled)

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

tsp almond extract (pure)

10 figs (fresh, depending on the size, sliced in half)

cup sliced almonds

3 tbsps turbinado (or granulated sugar for topping)



Place a rack in the center of the oven and heat oven to 375 degrees F.  Butter and flour a 10-inch cast iron skillet.  You can also use a 10-inch cake pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cardamom, and sugar. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs, and butter.  Whisk in the vanilla and almond extract.

Add the buttermilk mixture all at once to the dry ingredients.  Stir until just combined and no lumps remain.  Spoon batter into the prepared pan.  Top batter with fresh figs, gently pressing the figs part-way into the batter.  Sprinkle with sliced almonds and then sprinkle generously with sugar.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.  Allow cake to cool to room temperature before slicing to serve.

Cake will last, well wrapped in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days


From Joy Wilson,

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