Benvenuti in Italia!

Lately I’ve been neglecting my blog and I’ve been called out a bunch for it.  I only have about 4 weeks left in France, so I’ll try to get all my thoughts down (and a few recipes) before then!

One of the coolest parts about being in Nice is that Italy is so close, only about a 45 minute train ride to Ventimiglia!  Over the last couple months I’ve had a lot of Italian influence in my life and I’m definitely not complaining.  When Emily came to visit in March, we took a day trip to Ventimiglia and it started how I think every morning should start—with 2 Italian cappuccinos and a cannoli 🙂  I learned that the hard shell cannolis are actually from Sicily, but we had a cannoli with a soft pastry outside, which is more common in the north of Italy.

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Italian cappuccinos

Italian cannoli

Italian cannoli

After that we walked to the giant food market that had some of the best looking produce I’d ever seen.  We walked around looking at all the fruits and vegetables and flowers and then doubled back to buy some stuff for dinner: a couple artichokes, fresh tomatoes, some buffala mozzarella, and two kinds of ravioli.  I was really tempted to buy a kilo of strawberries but it was only March so Emily convinced me they wouldn’t be very good…

Flowers at the market

Flowers at the market

Mozzarella and tomato salad with our produce from the market

Mozzarella and tomato salad with our produce from the market

Ricotta ravioli and mushroom ravioli

Ricotta ravioli and mushroom ravioli for dinner

Then we wandered down to the flea market, where they literally sell everything.  There are vendors with cheap sunglasses next to huge stacks of kitchen pots and pans next to vendors selling bras and underwear and bathing suits next to tables of men’s and women’s shoes next to gourmet food stands with cheeses and sauces and dried meats.  It’s definitely a one-stop shop.  It’s also right next to the beach.  The view of the sea is nice, but the beaches on the Italian Riviera aren’t as nice as the beaches in Nice and it was really windy, so I think I’ll stick to the French Riviera for that.

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Flea market

And of course it wouldn’t be a trip to Italy without trying some gelato 🙂

YUMMM

YUMMM

 

Now fast-forward to this past weekend—Italy came to Nice!  Every year in June, there’s a big Italian food expo in Nice, right on the Promenade des Anglais, called L’Italie à table.  There are tons of vendors selling cheese, olive oil, meat, and more.  The weather was finally fairly decent so Isabelle and Tanya and I spent Saturday afternoon at the beach and then met Luc and Ursula for an aperitif at L’Italie à table.  It was SO good.  We each bought a glass of wine and just walked around visiting all the booths, most of which were giving out free samples.  Isabelle and Tanya both speak Italian, so they were chatting up the vendors a bit.  Throughout the course of the evening, I tried a LOT: pecorino cheese flavored with pear and one flavored with truffle, dried sausage, the best olive oil I’ve ever had in my life, porchette (a giant roast pork), hazelnut and chocolate spreads like Nutella but better, parmigiano reggiano, sundried tomatoes, artichokes, and the crunchy Italian snack food taralli flavored with fennel and red pepper.  We each bought an arancini, which are rice balls stuffed with meat and peas and coated in bread crumbs and deep fried, and yes, it is as delicious as it sounds.

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Arancini

And guys, we ate olives the size of golf balls!

All kinds of olives

All kinds of olives

At the end of the night, I had to indulge myself in a real Sicilian cannoli before we each bought a glass of Prosecco and sat on the beach to watch the sun set.  It was the perfect ending to the perfect evening 🙂

Sicilian cannoli

Sicilian cannoli

Prosecco and the sunset-- chin chin :)

Prosecco and the sunset– chin chin 🙂

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Luc, Ursula, me, and Tanya

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Tanya, me, Ursula, and Isabelle

 

Ok now rewind a little bit.  When I went to Ventimiglia with Emily, I bought a packet of squid ink pasta to save for another time, so this is where the Sunday Night Dinner recipe comes in.  Squid ink pasta is obviously flavored with squid ink, so it’s black and looks a little bit creepy, but it’s really good.  Two weeks ago, Isabelle and I (well mostly Isabelle) made squid ink pasta with fresh seiche (kind of like squid, but closer to cuttlefish).  So here’s this week’s SND with squid/seiche (from http://ricette.giallozafferano.it/Tagliolini-al-doppio-nero-di-seppia.html, but good luck reading it since it’s in Italian) 🙂

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Tagliolini al nero di sepia (Squid Ink Pasta)

Ingredients:
250 g squid
4 g squid ink
2 cloves garlic
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp tomato paste
Pepper
½ glass white wine

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

Instructions:

1. Wash and clean the squid – don’t forget to take out the bone inside if there is one.  Cut into thin strips.

Trying to get the ink out of the ink sack...

Trying to get the ink out of the ink sack…

2. In a medium sauce pan brown two whole cloves of garlic in four tablespoons of olive oil.

3. Remove the garlic from the pan and add the squid. Cook for a few minutes.

4. As soon as the squid has lost its moisture, add the white wine and cook for a few more minutes before adding ground pepper, the tomato paste, and the squid ink.

5. Cook until the squid is tender, which will change depending on what size squid you have used (max. 5-6 mins of cooking in total).

6. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil, and add the squid ink pasta.  Cook until al dente.

7. Drain the pasta, but keep some of the cooking water, and add the pasta to the sauce and stir.  Add some of the cooking water if the sauce is too dry.

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8. Cook for 1-2 minutes more to combine the ingredients.

9. Serve with a generous garnish of chopped parsley.

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When I leave France, I’m definitely going to miss the warm baguettes, delicious cheese, and good wine, but there’s now a special place in my heart (and stomach) for Italian food 🙂

 

French word of the day:
fourrer (foo-RAY)– to stuff
J’espère que je peux fourrer tous mes vêtements dans ma valise quand je retourne aux États-Unis!
I hope I can stuff all my clothes in my suitcase when I return to the US!

Sunday Night Dinner: Mango

One of my favorite fruits is mango (la mangue).  Unfortunately, some knife work is required to get at the sweet, delicious, juicy flesh.  When I lived in Chicago, my roommate Manisha used to cut up and share a mango every so often, and when I finally learned how to cut one up myself, I saved the seed for her (if Emily didn’t get to it first) 🙂  I recently received an awesome care package of cookies and mint M&Ms from Manisha.  Between that and this week’s SND with mango, I found myself remembering some great times in 2A 🙂  This recipe is very easy, very healthy, and very summer-y!

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This week, I used that leftover salmon fillet from a few weeks ago and adapted a recipe from here.

Baked Salmon with Mango Salsa

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

2 salmon fillets
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/3 ripe mango, peeled, seeded, and diced small (about ½ cup)
1 tbsp red bell pepper, finely diced
1 tbsp onion, finely diced
1 tbsp cucumber, finely diced
1 tsp jalapeño,  finely diced
1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp olive oil
Pinch of cumin
Pinch of cayenne, optional
Salt to taste

Instructions:

1. If you’ve never cut up a mango before, here is a pretty good tutorial.

2. In a mixing bowl, combine the mango, red bell pepper, onion, cucumber, jalapeno, lime juice, cilantro, vinegar, olive oil, and spices and set aside.  Let it sit out at room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving.

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Before

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After

 

3. Pre-heat oven to 450 F (230 C)

4. Place the salmon fillets skin-side down on a piece of foil on a baking sheet.

5. Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

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6. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

7. Top salmon fillets with mango salsa and serve with wild rice and mixed greens.

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Serves 2, but can easily be doubled or tripled (to use the whole mango!)

 

French word for today:
nuageux (nwa-JHE)– cloudy
Le soleil brille encore un peu, mais le ciel devient nuageux.
The sun is still shining a little bit, but the sky is becoming cloudy.

Sunday Night Dinner: Salmon

This week’s Sunday Night Dinner is a double whammy!  Since I’m not going to be making a nice dinner this Sunday night (I’m running a half marathon, so I’ll be treating myself to breakfast for dinner on Sunday night instead!), this week will be a 2 for 1!

Every time I walk into the Old Town in Nice, I walk past a tiny square with about 5 or 6 stands set up selling fresh fish.  It always looks so good (and smells so fishy) and I’ve wanted to try some kind of fish from there for a while, so last week I picked up a really nice salmon fillet.  As I was paying, the man at the stand said “Il faut le manger cru!” meaning “The fish is so good you should eat it raw!” which is what I was planning on doing (at least part of it)…

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Last week was the first time I tried my hand at sushi.  I bought a kit at the store that included nori (the seaweed sheets), sushi rice, rice vinegar, a rolling mat, soy sauce, pickled ginger, and wasabi paste.  All you have to add is the vegetables and/or fish.  After doing a lot of research here on how to make sushi and finding some good recipes, I decided to make 2 rolls: one with imitation crab, cucumber, avocado, and pineapple and one with salmon, cucumber, and cream cheese.

Fillings are ready!

Fillings are ready!

It was actually pretty easy.  You just lay down the nori and spread the rice on top…

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lay down your vegetables and fish…

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Salmon, cream cheese, and cucumber

Imitation crab, avocado, cucumber, and pineapple for the inside out roll

Imitation crab, avocado, cucumber, and pineapple for the inside out roll

and roll it up using the mat to distribute even pressure.

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These rolls were kind of massive so next time I would use less rice per roll than they suggest and I’d like to try a different nori because I wasn’t super impressed with this one.  The homemade sushi was good, and I’d definitely do it again, but I have to say going out to a nice (all you can eat) sushi place is still my favorite 🙂

The next day I used part of the remaining fillet in a brilliant recipe, suggested by Tanya, that involves no cleanup.  It’s literally a no-pot dinner!  I also love this recipe because I can make a single serving for myself, but you can get as many fillets as you want and make it for a family or a dinner party if you wanted.

Salmon and Potatoes en Papillote (in a parcel)

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

1 small potato
1 salmon fillet
2 tbsp sliced sundried tomatoes
¼ cup chopped broccoli florets (you can use frozen, but I used fresh)
Lemon juice
Herbes de Provence (or Italian seasoning)

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 190C (375F)

2. Lay out a piece of foil, 12” x 12” should be good.

3. Slice the potato lengthwise and place the slices on the foil.

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4. Place the broccoli florets on top of the potatoes.

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5. Place the salmon fillet on top of the broccoli.

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6. Place the sliced sundried tomatoes on top of the salmon.

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7. Sprinkle with a little bit of lemon juice and seasoning.

8. Fold the foil over and scrunch to seal the parcel.  Place it on a baking sheet in the hot oven for 20 minutes or until all the ingredients are tender.

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You can turn the parcel onto a plate (or just eat it out of the foil, like I did!) and serve with a green salad.

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Today’s French word:
ampoule (a-POOL)– blister
Ce que j’ai au pied, c’est une ampoule!
I have a blister on my foot!

Sunday Night Dinner: Sun-dried Tomatoes

This week I decided to move away from the fresh produce I’ve been buying at the market to try one of the numerous other products sold there: sun-dried tomatoes.  Sun-dried tomatoes are actually pretty easy to make at home—just cut up a few tomatoes, remove the seeds, toss with salt, and bake the heck out of them!  If you prefer to dry them in the sun, though, it could take 4-10 days…

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I love sun-dried tomatoes, but I wanted to do something different than the typical pasta dish, so I found this delicious meatloaf recipe here—VERY flavorful and definitely a new favorite 🙂  The original recipe makes 2 loaf pans that each serve 6, but that’s way too much for me.  Instead, I halved the recipe and formed the meat into 6 mini-loaves.  I baked 2 and froze 4 to take out for dinner another time, so not only is the recipe tasty, it’s also convenient for me!  I also found the ketchup in France to be surprisingly good…

 Ingredients:
1 egg (lightly beaten)
½ medium onion, chopped
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp dried basil (or 1 tbsp fresh basil leaves)
¼ cup sundried tomatoes, diced
½ cup ketchup plus extra for top
½ cup oatmeal (or seasoned breadcrumbs)
1 pound ground beef

Instructions:

1. Add all of the ingredients except the meat to a large bowl and thoroughly combine with a spoon.

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2. Combine ground beef with the mixture—I used my hands!

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3. Divide the mixture in whichever fashion you prefer—6 mini-loaves, 1 large loaf pan (sprayed lightly with cooking spray), or even meatballs.

Two to bake and four to freeze

Two to bake and four to freeze

4. Spread additional ketchup on top, if desired.

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5. Bake in a 350F (180C) oven—40 minutes for mini-loaves, 1 hour for a large loaf, less for meatballs.

To accompany my mini meatloaf, I made baked fries seasoned with oil, salt, pepper, and paprika (baked in a single layer on a cookie sheet in a 425F oven for about 20-25 minutes) and simple steamed green beans (also from the market) with butter.

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DELICIOUS

I froze my 4 remaining loaves by leaving them on a baking tray in the freezer overnight and then wrapping them in saran wrap and placing them in a Ziploc bag in the freezer.

 

French word for today:
tomber en panne (tom-BAY en PAHN)- to crash (in a computer sense)
Le système est encore tombé en panne. Il faut que je redémarre l’ordinateur.
Windows crashed again.  I have to reboot my computer.

Sunday Night Dinner: Asparagus

Spring has sprung!  Or at least most days it has.  The weather the last few weeks has been on-again-off-again rain, but when it’s not raining, it’s usually a beautiful 60F and sunny.  Sometimes I even take my lunch to the park in Cimiez, or to the beach with Isabelle and Caitlin 🙂

Anyways, spring is here and spring fruits and veggies are in season!  This week I decided to go with asparagus (les asperges, in French) in a pasta dish, since my half-marathon training is getting more intense (finished a 7-mile run yesterday)!  This super easy recipe is straight from here.  It also give some really good suggestions for variations, depending on what veggies are in season.

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 Penne with Roasted Asparagus and Balsamic Butter

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:
½ pound asparagus
1 tbsp olive oil
¼ tsp + 3/4 tsp salt
¼ tsp + ¼ tsp fresh-ground black pepper
5 tbsp balsamic vinegar
½ tsp brown sugar
½ pound penne
4 tbsp butter, cut into pieces
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

Instructions:

1. Heat the oven to 400F (205C). Snap the tough ends off the asparagus and discard them. Cut the spears into 1-inch pieces.

2. Put the asparagus on a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil, ¼ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp pepper. Roast until tender, about 10 minutes.

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3. Meanwhile, put the vinegar in a small saucepan. Simmer until the vinegar is thick/syrup-y and about 2 tablespoons remain.

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4. Stir in the brown sugar and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Remove from the heat.

5. Cook the penne in a large pot of boiling, salted water until just done.

6. Drain the pasta and toss with the butter, balsamic vinegar reduction, roasted asparagus, Parmesan, and the remaining ¾ teaspoons salt. Serve with additional Parmesan.

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Serves 2, but can easily be doubled to serve more!  I ate it as my main dish with a few slices of bread, but it would make a great side, too (maybe to a delicious steak)!

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French word today:
bleu (bluh)– bruise
Après avoir fait du snowboard, j’étais couverte de bleus.
After snowboarding, I was covered in bruises.

Sunday Night Dinner: Fennel

I’ve never had fennel (le fenouil in French) before and really didn’t know what to expect when I picked a bulb up at the market.  Raw fennel has an anise-y scent and flavor, but when you caramelize it the fennel becomes mellow and delicious 🙂  I have a bunch of cans of chick peas in my cupboard, so here’s what I found, adapted from here.

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A little bit funny-lookin’

Citrus Couscous with Fennel, Chickpeas, and Olives

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:
1 large fennel bulb
2 + 1 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (the original recipe calls for coriander, but I don’t have any)
1 1/2 cups (or 1 15-ounce can) cooked and drained chickpeas
12 black olives, halved and pitted
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
Zest and juice of 1 orange
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup instant couscous

Instructions:

1. Trim fennel and cut into 1/4-inch thick wedges.

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2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add fennel and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and caramelized, about 15-20 minutes.

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3. Add cumin, chickpeas, olives, and lemon juice to pan and stir to combine. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

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4. While the fennel and chickpeas are cooking, juice the orange into a liquid measuring cup and top off with water to make 1 1/2 cups of liquid.

5. Add liquid to a small saucepan along with 1 tablespoon olive oil, orange zest, lemon zest, and salt. Bring to a boil.

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6. Stir in couscous, cover, remove from heat, and let stand for at least 5 minutes.

7. To serve, fluff couscous grains with a fork and spread on a dish. Spoon chickpeas and fennel over couscous.

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This recipe is good for Friday nights during Lent– no meat, but the chickpeas add a little bit of protein.  Alternatively, serve alongside a (perhaps) Middle Eastern style meat dish.  Serves 2-3 as a main meal, 4-6 as a side dish.

French word for today:
profiter (pro-fee-TAY)- to take advantage of
À Nice, on profite de beaux temps, mais il neige beaucoup au nord !
In Nice, we’re taking advantage of the beautiful weather, but it’s snowing a lot in the North!

Sunday Night Dinner: Sweet Potato

I had this really good pumpkin curry once at Thai Sookdee, one of my favorite restaurants in Evanston.  When I happened upon this recipe, adapted from here, I thought I’d see how close I could come.  It’s similar to the curry recipe I did before with the cauliflower, but I added chicken this time and switched up the spices and vegetables a bit.  Not too bad! 🙂

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Sweet Potato Curry

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, minced
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
2 large chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 medium-sized sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes, drained
300 ml (1-1/4 cups) chicken or vegetable stock
400 ml (1-3/4 cups) coconut milk
200 g (about 1 cup or so) frozen peas

Instructions:

1. Heat the vegetable oil in a large frying pan or wok over medium-high heat.  Add onions and sauté for 3-4 minutes.

2. Add spices and sauté for 1 minute, stirring frequently.

3. Add chicken, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes.  Cook for 3-4 minutes.

Onions, spices, chicken

Onions, spices, chicken

4. Add the stock and coconut milk.  Bring to a boil, then simmer uncovered for 20 minutes.

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5. Add the frozen peas and simmer for 5 more minutes.

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Serves 6 (I froze half of it for a few quick and easy dinners when I get back from Belgium!)  The great thing about this recipe is that it’s another versatile one.  Try adding chickpeas and spinach right at the end to beef it up a bit more, or eliminate the chicken and substitute vegetable stock for the chicken stock to make a vegetarian/vegan dish.  I want to try adding eggplant, too!  Serve with white or brown rice.

YUM!

YUM!

 

Our French word today is:
admis (ad-MEE/MEEZ)- accepted
Jusqu’à présent, j’ai été admise dans les facultés de médicine à Wake Forest et University of Cincinnati !
So far, I was accepted to the medical schools at Wake Forest and University of Cincinnati!

Sunday Night Dinner: Red Peppers

It’s a freezing, rainy Monday morning and as I’m writing this, I’m sitting at home eating a warm homemade bagel with cream cheese and jam.  Perfect start to the week 🙂

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After 2 and a half weeks city-hopping in the US, I’m finally back in France and settling back in in Nice.  I traveled 13,042 miles (roughly) and satisfied my cravings for sushi, Indian food, bagels, Starbucks coffee, Chipotle, sticky buns, French fries, pancakes, Krispy Kremes, and (really good) grilled cheese.  So what better way to get settled in here than to make another Sunday Night Dinner? 🙂

Truth be told, I wasn’t exactly prepared to be making SND this week, but I had a red pepper from the market in my fridge and all the necessary ingredients for stuffed pepper (which I’ve been wanting to try with red instead of green peppers anyways).

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Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 30 min

(Note: I only made 1 large pepper, but the following recipe is for 4 peppers)

Ingredients:
4 peppers (any color—I really liked the red variety in this one)
½ lb sausage
1 large onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 zucchini (mushrooms would also be good), cubed
2 cups cooked rice
1 cup tomato sauce
½ cup shredded cheese (I used Emmental, but parmesan or mozzarella would be really good too)

Instructions:

1. Wash the peppers, slice the tops off, and remove the seeds.

2. Brown the sausage in a skillet. Break up the bits of sausage as best as possible with a spatula, so you have small pieces.

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3. Remove the sausage from the skillet (I also removed most of the grease/oil).  Add the garlic, onions, and zucchini to the skillet and sauté for 3-4 minutes.

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4. Add the sausage and cooked rice and sauté for a few more minutes.

5. Add half of the tomato sauce and half of the cheese.

6. Spoon the sausage and rice mixture into the peppers, filling them completely.

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7. Place the peppers in a lightly greased baking dish.  Spoon the remaining tomato sauce over the peppers and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

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8. Bake in a 425F (220C) oven for 30-40 minutes.


I think this is my favorite stuffed pepper recipe.  Besides being simple and quick, I like the spice of the sausage and the rice to break up the filling a little bit.  Plus, the red pepper was perfect!  I served it with a salad and a glass of wine 🙂

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French word of the day:
glisser (glee-SAY)- to slip
J’ai glissé sur la glace et me suis fait mal.
I slipped on the ice and hurt myself.

Sunday Night Dinner: Brussel Sprouts

Brussel sprouts are one of those vegetables that get very little love, which seems strange because they can be prepared so many ways, including boiling, steaming, stir frying, and roasting.  These tiny cabbages are also also rich in vitamin K and sulforaphane, a chemical believed to have potent anticancer properties.  I found a recipe that dresses them up a little bit to make a delicious side dish 🙂

Secret ingredient: Brussel sprouts (choux de Bruxelles)

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Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:
2 tbsp butter, divided
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp cider vinegar
3 tsp white sugar
300 g (about 2 cups) brussel sprouts, halved
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 c water
2-3 slices of bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces and cooked until crispy
salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:
1. Melt 1 tbsp butter in medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Sauté until soft and golden, about 10 minutes.
2. Combine the cider vinegar and sugar and add to onions.  Stir until brown and glazed, about 3 minutes. (I would eat these onions alone, they are SO good).

YUM

YUM

3. Heat the olive oil in separate large skillet over medium-high heat. Add in the halved brussels sprouts and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté until brown at edges, about 6 minutes.

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4. Add 1/4 cup water and 1 tbsp butter. Sauté until most of water evaporates and sprouts are tender but still bright green, about 5 minutes.
5. Mix in the cooked, crispy bacon and top with the onions.  Serve warm.

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Serves 2.  I made these brussel sprouts to go along with an easy marinated chicken: marinate 2 chicken breasts for an hour in a mixture of 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp melted butter, 3 tbsp honey, juice of 1 lemon, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground cumin, 1/2 tsp paprika.  Grill or broil for 20 minutes at 400F (205C).

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French word of the day:
tricoter (tree-ko-TAY)- to knit
Je tricote un chapeau parce qu’il fait froid!  Le chapeau et mon écharpe vont bien ensemble.
I’m knitting a hat because it’s cold outside!  It matches my scarf.

New Years Eve Dinner: Leeks

My parents have been here in Nice for the holidays and we’ve been eating out A LOT and enjoying every bite 🙂 (more on that later).  But I’ll start recounting our week backwards because I decided to make my Sunday Night Dinner this week on New Years Eve.  In France, New Years Eve is called la Saint Sylvestre and they celebrate with a feast at night called le Réveillon.  The feast typically includes champagne, some type of sea food, and foie gras (duck or goose liver), so we made do with what we had.  We got a small bottle of champagne, had shrimp and garlic butter sauce as an appetizer, and of course French pastries after dinner 🙂

Made by mom :)

Made by mom 🙂

This is my life :)

This is my life 🙂

This week’s ingredient: leeks (poireaux).  I was inspired by an appetizer my mom and I had on Christmas of mini ravioli on a bed of wilted leeks that was DELICIOUS.  Chicken pot pie is a dish I associate with home and cold weather, so I decided on a chicken and leek pie with mushrooms and potatoes, adapted from here.

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Ingredients:
Pie crust (I used a boxed one since that’s what I had in the cupboard, but any standard pie crust with flour, butter, and water or even a pre-made puff pastry crust will do)
1 large potato, peeled and diced (1/4 inch – 1/2 inch cubes)
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
500 g (about 1/4 pound) boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut in small chunks
2 leeks (just the white parts), thinly sliced
7-8 champignons de Paris OR medium-sized white button mushrooms, sliced
350 mL (about 1.5 c) chicken or vegetable stock
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp cold water
4 tbsp creme fraiche
1 beaten egg for glazing
salt and pepper to taste

Key ingredients: potatoes, chicken, mushrooms, and LEEKS

Key ingredients: potatoes, chicken, mushrooms, and LEEKS

Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 350F (180C).  Prepare the pie crust, cover, chill for 30 minutes.
2. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the potato.  Boil for about 10 minutes, until you can insert a knife easily into a cube of potato (but not so long that the potato starts to become mushy).  Drain.
3. Heat a large pan with the butter and olive oil.  Fry the chicken for 3-4 minutes.  Add the leaks and mushrooms and fry for another 5 minutes, until soft.
4. Add the stock to the pan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.

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5. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken, leeks, and mushrooms from the stock pan to a 1 to 2 liter pie or casserole dish.  Add the potatoes and stir to distribute evenly.
6. In a separate bowl, mix the flour and cold water to make a paste.  Thin with 2 tbsp stock, then add the paste to the stock pan and stir on the heat non-stop until thickened.
7. Remove from the heat, add the creme fraiche, season with salt and pepper.

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8. Pour over the leeks/potatoes/chicken mixture.

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9. Flour your counter and roll out the pastry dough until just larger than the dish.

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10. Carefully lay the pastry over the filling and push the edges of the pastry against the edges of the pie pan.  Make a small hole in the center of the pie.  Brush the pastry with beaten egg.

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9. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden.

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10. Cool slightly before cutting and serving.

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The great part about this recipe is that it’s SO versatile.  If you like more potato, add more potato; if you’re a vegetarian, take out the chicken, if you like more sauce, double the stock.  You could even add more vegetables, like carrots or corn.  Personally, I would probably use more chicken to make it more substantial, more leeks because it’s the star ingredient, and more sauce, and I’d bake it in a smaller, deeper dish to make bigger slices.  This recipe yielded about 4 servings.

So Happy New Year!  Here’s to a happy, healthy 2013, wherever you are 🙂

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French word of the day:
billet (bee-LAY)- ticket
J’ai acheté un billet de train pour aller à Paris!
I bought a train ticket to go to Paris!