Asparagus and Mushroom Frittata

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and that may be true… but in my little world, I can honestly say that it takes a village to build a frittata…

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I’ve always avoided making frittatas. I’m not sure why, I just have. Maybe the word “avoided” is a little exaggerative…maybe it’s more like “shied away from”…. But that ended the other day when I made my very first one…It was made up of sautéed mushrooms, onions, asparagus, parmesan cubes, and Italian sausage. I sliced a few potatoes, and made a crust with them in the bottom of the pan by frying them until they were golden brown and crisp. I thought for sure those ingredients would have made a frittata filled with flavor, but instead, I found it to be very bland.

Because I cannot post a recipe unless I’m absolutely confident that others will love it, I brought it to work with me the next day and left a note on it asking my friends, who are also my co-workers, to try it and tell me what it needed…

Yes, I’m comfortable enough to ask them to be my guinea pigs…and yes…they’re comfortable enough to be completely honest with me!  Honestly?  I don’t think they mind..

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All in all, they liked it…The majority said to leave it as is, that it was delicious. But then some of the suggestions were that I sauté the asparagus and potatoes in bacon grease, sharper cheese and more of it…possibly using a couple of different cheeses, more black pepper, and maybe a little more onion and garlic.  Oh, and chives and scallions.  Chives and scallions?  Brilliant!!   So really, I wasn’t really way off track… they only had a couple of suggestions; and maybe it wasn’t as bland as I thought…

You know…sometimes that happens. You spend all that time cooking, and it’s hard to taste the food after a while.. maybe it’s because we smell it so much as we’re cooking, our taste buds are on overload. Kind of like when you go on a wine tour, after the third or fourth winery, all of the wines taste the same!

I was kind of glad that they didn’t suggest green or red peppers, because while I LOVE them, I really don’t care for peppers and eggs together. I mean, I’ll eat it, but I’ve always thought that the peppers overtake the eggs.

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I went home that same night and made another one using their suggestions…I decided to keep the parmesan, but added it to the eggs as I whisked them.  I added some sharp cheddar, too.  Another small onion, a clove of garlic, and a sliced scallion. I sautéed everything (except the scallion, which I added right before I poured the eggs in) in bacon grease, and added more black pepper. I garnished it with raw scallions and chives. It was delicious!  And honestly? I think that the garlic was the main factor that was missing from the first go round.. and the sharpness of the cheddar, and the bite of the scallions and chives gave it that oomph that I was looking for…and I received all thumbs up from my friends, because they got to try it again the next day!!

And now? I’m totally hooked on these things. Who knew that they were this easy? I don’t know why it took me so long to make one.. and I LOVE that the possibilities are endless! And now that we’re heading into asparagus season… we’ll be eating a lot of frittatas!

Life is good…. It’s all about learning how to make frittatas and asparagus coming into season kind of good…

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Asparagus and Mushroom Frittata

1 pound asparagus, woody ends discarded
10 eggs
½ cup heavy cream
Bacon grease (or olive oil)
½ pound bulk Italian sausage
1 large onion, chopped (about 3/4 cup to 1 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced
1-2 scallions, sliced thin
2 large potatoes, thinly sliced
2 cups sliced mushrooms (I used baby bella)
8 oz sharp cheddar, grated
4 oz parmesan, finely grated
Salt and pepper to taste
Scallions and chives for garnish

Just a quick note: I know that it’s the general rule that you use a cast iron skillet to make a frittata. I didn’t. I used my Calphalon pan, and it worked just fine. You want to use a pan that you can take right off of the stovetop to put right into the oven. I have to say that the frittata slid right out of the Calphalon.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

You’ll be sautéing everything separately, so make sure you season it all properly with salt and pepper!
Melt about two tablespoons of bacon grease in a large frying pan (or skillet). Saute the onions and garlic. Remove the onions and garlic from the pan, and set aside. Saute the asparagus until it’s partially cooked. Remove from the pan, and set aside. Saute the mushrooms until they’re golden brown, about five minutes. Remove from pan, and set aside. Add the sausage to the pan, and cook thoroughly.

If you think you need a little more grease for the potatoes, add about another tablespoon to the pan. Begin laying the potatoes in the pan, around the edge, overlapping the potatoes until the bottom of the pan is covered. Season with salt and pepper and cook on medium high, covered, until the bottom of the potatoes are golden brown, and they’re tender. Remove from heat.

Take about one half of the asparagus, and cut into one inch pieces. Save the other half for the top of the frittata.

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Begin layering the ingredients on top of the potatoes (in the pan): sausage,onion mixture, mushrooms, asparagus, cheddar, raw sliced scallions.

Whisk the eggs and heavy cream together in a large bowl until light and fluffy.  Mix in the grated parmesan.  Pour over the layered ingredients in the pan. Season the top with salt and pepper.

Arrange the remaining asparagus stalks on top of the frittata (as pictured). Place in preheated oven, and bake for about 15 minutes, or until the eggs are set.

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Cut into wedges, and enjoy!

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Cannellini Bean and Sausage Stew

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There is something about a big pot of stew simmering on the stove. I guess the only way I can describe it, is that I have a very strong feeling of satisfaction…of accomplishment…of confidence…and that all leads to that wonderful feeling of contentment. And that’s why I love to cook. Sometimes it just isn’t about the food….but it’s about getting yourself lost in the preparation…

And that’s why I love my kitchen tools.
And that’s why I can never have too many of them…

I know that I’ve mentioned my tendency to be an impulse buyer… and I’ve gone and done it again. But in my defense, it doesn’t help that I get emails almost on a daily basis from Williams Sonoma, Crate and Barrel, and Sur la Table. Sometimes they have multiple sales going on..

I mean seriously, how many sales can these stores have in one week?
Apparently a lot.

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One of the emails that I received a while ago was for a 5-quart cast iron braiser from Sur la Table. It was a crazy good sale, along with free shipping, and for some reason, the green color caught my eye, and that, my friends, was the beginning of the end…

I’ve also mentioned that I get caught up in reviews, and everyone seemed to love this pan, so of course, by the time I was finished reading the reviews, I was pushing the “submit payment” button.  And then the major guilt trip set in…

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But the guilt was short-lived..because when I got home and found the box waiting for me on the porch..I was like..”Guilt? What guilt??”!  I have to say, this is a great pan! I’m in love with that color (don’t ask me why, because there is nothing green about my kitchen, except for the pot of basil sitting on my windowsill)… and I cannot believe how heavy it is! I have a feeling that this pan is going to be one of my favorites..

So, when I get a new pan, I think the hardest thing for me is to decide what will be the first thing I prepare. For some reason, I had white beans in my head for this one. Yep, this recipe started with white beans. Cannellini beans to be exact. Spinach was the obvious next ingredient… with tomatoes and Italian sausage a very close third and fourth. The addition of rigatoni made this a wonderful meal..it was very stew-like, very filling, and really delicious! A little shaved Asiago on top gave it the perfect sharpness to go with the sweetness of the sauce, and the spiciness of the sausage.

I used a can of garlic diced tomatoes; which tend to have a very strong garlic flavor to them. If that is too much for you, then regular diced tomatoes would be just fine…and if you don’t like tomatoes floating around in your stew, you could use one large can of sauce instead of a can of tomatoes and a can of sauce.

Oh, and no…I’m not getting paid to advertise for Sur la Table. I’m just sharing a recipe and a story…

And quick note about the wok. I did get it in the mail a couple of weeks ago..and I love it! I’ll be doing a post about seasoning it. I’m waiting for a nice day to to season it properly..because from what I hear I have to open windows because it smells really bad, and I’d like to be able to open all of the window in the house!

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Cannellini Bean and Sausage Stew

1 15.5 oz can cannellini beans
1 pound Italian sausage, removed from casings (or bulk)
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15.5 oz can diced tomatoes with garlic and basil
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
1 6 oz bag fresh baby spinach, stems removed
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 pound rigatoni
Asiago Cheese, shredded

In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute until translucent. Add the Italian sausage and thoroughly cook. Add the diced tomatoes, sauce, and cannellini beans. Simmer for 1/2 hour.

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While the stew is simmering, bring a pot of water to boil, add the rigatoni and cook per directions on the box (about 9 minutes, until al dente). Drain (reserve about 1 cup of the water)

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After the stew has simmered for 1/2 hour, add the spinach to the pan, and stir until wilted. Add the rigatoni and stir until completely coated.  If the sauce is too thick, add the reserved pasta water.

Serve with Asiago cheese.

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Sausage and Bean Soup

This weekend started out with so many plans.  But…I almost want to call this a failed weekend, because the man who invented weekends really didn’t think it through.    He should have realized that the weekend should begin on Friday, with a few more hours added to both Saturday and Sunday.  Therefore, I did not have enough time to get everything done that I wanted to do.

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I wanted to get through this massive pile of laundry that has been building up for the last couple of months.  I don’t know how it piles up, it just does.  I’ve never been able to keep up with laundry, and I’d have to say it’s my biggest weakness.  I guess I’d rather be cooking, shopping, ANYTHING, rather than doing laundry.  I’m not sorry for this weakness….One thing I know for sure, is that when I’m 95, I’ll be sitting on my front porch sipping a glass of lemonade thinking about how I’m glad that I spent my life doing the things that I love….rather than sitting there thinking how happy I am that I had clean clothes throughout my life!  Sometimes my priorities might seem a little off, but it’s all good.  Right?  But in the end, laundry was my priority for the weekend, and I did manage to get through that pile.

Anyway, getting back to my failed weekend.  I also wanted to start baking Christmas cookies. On Friday night, I pulled all of my cookie recipes out, and put them somewhere.  I say put them somewhere, because I can’t remember where. I’m afraid that they might be in the garbage.  Maybe I absent-mindedly threw them in the garbage while I was cleaning the kitchen.  I was in slight panic mode, but they’re pretty much all of my mom’s recipes, so I left a message for my father to scan them and email them to me.  Mom to the rescue once again…and the recipes are now back in my possession!

I thought I had a ton of eggs in the fridge… Nope.  I had six.  I thought I had anise oil in my spice cabinet, but all I had was ½ teaspoon in the bottle.  The rest of the bottles are cinnamon oil.   I swear I bought a brand new bag of sugar.  I had about 2 cups in my container.  I should have read the signs that it just wasn’t the weekend to make cookies…but of course…I didn’t.

Instead, I had a little under what I needed of anise oil to make my first batch of biscotti, and I figured I would at least get them made.  ….And…..I burned them.  You know why?  Because I was downstairs throwing clothes into the washer and dryer; and folding dried clothes.  See what I mean? Laundry is the root of all evil.  I swear to you, it truly is.   As I’m sitting here typing this, I’m looking at a trash bin with burned biscotti.

I was totally unprepared for cookie baking… as a haphazard baker always is!

So, as I stood in my kitchen folding towels, I couldn’t help but feel a little cranky.  That’s when I decided to stop and regroup. But how?  Well, that’s an easy answer! Make myself a pot of Sausage and Bean soup….and…. as my friend Jamison told me…Relax.

The soup was just what the doctor ordered. Just chopping the vegetables, frying the sausage..and then the soup simmering on the stove, along with the gooey bits of cheese with every bite, was the perfect antidote that this girl needed to make everything all right with the world again.

It’s so rich and flavorful, a rustically delicious soup for a cold, and unprepared day. Honestly, if you were serving this soup to your guests, they would never believe that this soup takes only an hour and a half or so from start to finish.  It’s just that good.

I’ll start my cookies tomorrow night…in the meantime, let’s start a petition about those weekend hours…

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Sausage and Bean Soup

½ pound bulk hot Italian sausage
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 – 15.5 oz can Cannellini beans, drained
1 large potato, peeled, and cut into chunks
1 – 32 oz container chicken stock
½ cup grated romano cheese
4 oz pepper jack cheese, shredded
1 – 6 oz bag fresh baby spinach
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
Romano cheese for garnish
Crushed red pepper for garnish

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In a soup pot, sauté the onion and garlic until translucent.  Add the sausage to the pan, breaking it apart into bite size pieces as it cooks. When the sausage is fully cooked, add the chicken stock, cannellini beans, salt and pepper.  Simmer until the potatoes are tender, about one hour. Add the romano and pepper jack cheeses, and stir until melted into the soup.  So the baby spinach doesn’t get all wilted and discolored, it will be the very last ingredient added to the soup.  Once you add it to the pot, it only takes a couple of minutes for the spinach to cook down.

Serve immediately, with romano cheese and crushed red pepper for garnish.

Enjoy!

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