Shrimp, Roasted Red Pepper & Basil Hors D’oeurves

June 15, 2018 – Some evenings a complete dinner seems too much.  This was one of those evenings.  A platter of hors d’oeurves sounded more appealing.

The bonus of preparing hors d’oeurves rather than dinner is the snacks can be so simple and easy to  put together.  You don’t have to prove yourself doughty to accomplish the task.

As an example, the hors d’oeurve I offer here.  So simple.  Few ingredients.  Quickly done.  Beautiful presentation.  Best of all, delicious.

Shrimp that are on the large rather than small size are best for this dish.  The ones I used came twenty to a pound.

As to roasted red peppers, roast your own or, as I now most often do, use the ones that come in a jar.  They’re excellent and save a lot of prep time.

The fresh basil I found was probably the best I’ve ever had.  Ever.  The fragrance permeated the entire house as I tore the leaves into proper size.

Here, then, is my offering of a simple and really terrific hors d’oeurve.

Shrimp, Roasted Red Pepper, & Basil Hors D’oeurves

2-3 tablespoons olive oil, depending on how many shrimp are in a pound, plus a little extra

Shrimp, shelled & deveined

Roasted red pepper, cut into enough pieces to cover each shrimp and about the same size

Basil, torn into pieces equal to the number of shrimp and about the same size

1 tablespoon ground sage

Salt & pepper to taste

4 – 6 ounces feta, crumbled

Rounds cut from a baguette equal to the number of shrimp, toasted

Arrange the toasted rounds of bread on a decorative platter.  Dribble a little olive oil over the toasts.

Shrimp, Roasted Red Pepper, & Basil Hors Doeuvres

Heat the remaining olive oil in a heavy skillet.

When the olive oil is hot but not smoking, add the shrimp and roasted red pepper.

Stir in the sage and combine thoroughly.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cook the shrimp until it turns pink.  It should take no more than three to four minutes.  The red pepper will be heated through in that time as well.

Remove the shrimp and roasted red pepper to a plate covered with a paper towel to drain.

Assemble the hors d’oeurves by placing a shrimp on each piece of toasted bread, followed by a piece of roasted red pepper, and, finally, a piece of basil.

Sprinkle the crumbled feta over the hors d’oeurves.

Bon temps!

Pomodoro Sauce

June 9, 2018 – Pomodoro is a common word.  Translated from the Italian, it means “tomato.”  A Pomodoro sauce is simply a tomato sauce.  Easy to prepare but far from common in flavor.

Tomatoes were unknown in Italy until European sailors stumbled onto the Americas.  Since then the Italians, perhaps more than any others, have raised the basic tomato to the level of food royalty.

I have written here about a slow-cooked, tomato-basil sauce with sausage.  That is delicious.  But it’s a different matter all together.

A Pomodoro is a tomato sauce.  Not a meat sauce.  A tomato sauce.  It need not be festooned with sausage or any other ingredients to make it wonderful.  A small supporting cast of onion, red wine, and a few compatible seasonings will do.  In a Pomodoro, the tomato is star.

Both the tomato and onion will offer up a bit of sweetness to a Pomodoro.  I wanted a little more.  I risked sacrilege by adding just a touch of honey.  It was worth the risk.  the honey, it seemed to me, inspired the natural sweetness of the tomato and onion to sparkle and shine.

Pomodoro Sauce

I also decided to again cast basil in the main supporting role.  It is a spice quite compatible with tomatoes.

The consistency of a Pomodoro is a matter of taste.  Some like it smooth, much like a marinara.  I prefer sauces that are chunkier.  It’s strictly a personal preference sort of thing.

Either fresh or good quality canned tomatoes can be used to make a Pomodoro.  I used canned tomatoes because that’s what I had on hand.

Here, then, is my take on a tomato-basil Pomodoro.

Tomato-Basil Sauce

1/4 cup olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 cup red wine

4 cups tomatoes, diced

1 tablespoon honey

4-6 sprigs fresh oregano, chopped

15-20 basil leaves, chopped

8-10 sprigs parsley, chopped

2 bay leaves

Heat the oil in a sauce pan until hot but not smoking.

Saute’ the onion until it begins to soften.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute being careful not to let the garlic burn.

Pour in the wine and bring to a boil.

Add the tomatoes and honey.  If you want a smoother sauce, break the tomatoes up with a potato masher or even with your fingers.

Lower the heat and simmer for half an hour.  If the sauce becomes too thick, add a little more wine, or stock, or even a little water.  But do so a little at a time.  You want the sauce to be neither too thick nor too thin.

Add the basil, oregano, parsley, and bay leaves.  Season to taste with salt and white pepper.  Simmer for another 20 minutes, keeping an eye on the consistency.

Serve with the pasta of your choice.

Bon temps!



Italian Sausage with a Roasted Red Pepper Demi-Glace Sauce

June 2, 2018 – Sausages are wonderful.  And such a variety.  If you can think of a meat, there’s a sausage made from it.

Like many of our favorite foods, sausages were originally created as a way to preserve food and make it stretch as far as possible.  It’s a continual amazement to me to learn how creative hungry people in ancient times could be.

My favorite is andouille, that delectable Louisiana offering.  But I’m happy with kielbasa,  Italian, chorizo, or even just plain old pork.  No, I didn’t mention chicken.  But that’s just me.

Italian sausage with roasted red pepper demi-glace.

She prefers Italian.  So I decided to use some sweet and hot Italian sausages I had on hand.  How about a roasted red pepper demi-glace?  Don’t see how  there could be a better compliment to an Italian sausage than that.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve become more accepting of shortcuts.  But only shortcuts of excellent quality.  Fortunately today there are a few of those.

There are excellent roasted red peppers available at high end grocers.  So much easier than making your own.  And every bit as delicious.

There are also demi-glace sauces available that are of restaurant quality.  Yes, I know.  Truly dedicated chefs might ridicule me for this one.  But let me repeat:  They are the highest quality and, frankly, I’m no longer willing to spend six hours or more making a demi-glace.  In today’s world, how many home cooks really have the time to make their own demi-glace?  So criticize away, if you must.

The trick, of course, is what you do with these shortcuts.  If not used properly, they don’t work.  But then if anything in the kitchen isn’t used properly it won’t work.  So there you are.

My Italian sausage with roasted red pepper demi-glace sauce was perfect.  I’m not bragging.  It was just perfect.

Italian Sausage with Roasted Red Pepper Demi-Glace

6 Italian sausages (hot, sweet, or combination)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 celery rib, chopped

1 roasted red pepper, chopped

2 green onions, chopped

1/4 cup dry red wine

1/2 cup demi-glace

1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped

1 sprig fresh rosemarry

1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped

Salt & white pepper to taste

For the sauce:  Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet.  When the oil is hot but not smoking, put in the onion, celery, and roasted red pepper.  Saute until the onion and celery begin to soften.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two.  Don’t let the garlic burn.

Add the basil, oregano, rosemary, parsley, and thyme.  Stir to combine well.

Pour in the red wine and bring to a boil.  Add the demi-glace.  Bring back to a boil.  Lower the heat and let the sauce simmer for about ten minutes to let the flavors fully combine.  Add a little more wine if the sauce becomes too thick.

Season to taste with salt and white pepper.

For the sausages:

Heat just a little olive oil in another heavy skillet.  When it is hot, add the sausage.  Cook them, turning, until they are browned all around and cooked through.

Serve the sausages with the roasted red pepper demi-glace.

Bon temps!