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Mini Timbale

March 11, 2016 Entrees, Menu No Comments

In my last post, I shared with you my updated spin on the classic sausage and peppers, with the addition of rice and seasoned tomato sauce. Today’s post will put that recipe to excellent use, by using it as a stuffing inside of a timbale! For those of you not familiar with timbale, it is a dish that is prepared in a round pan (most often a spring form pan for a large size), that is lined with thin layers of eggplant, then filled with a mixture usually made up of a pasta base. The timbale is baked, then presented whole, which looks like a timbale drum, then is sliced and served. If you are a long-time reader of my food blog, you may recall my less-than-successful attempt a few years back at making timbale for my Mom’s birthday (click here for The Trials of Timbale).

After a few years, I felt that it was time to once again give it a go at making timbale. Learning from my previous mistakes, I decided this time to make individual servings in ramekin dishes to help keep everything contained and not have it fall apart all over my kitchen counter. Because I was planning to use a much smaller container, I thought that it may not allow for much room for a pasta filling. This is why I opted instead for the sausage, peppers and rice filling. By adding the sauce to the filling, it would allow the ingredients to hold together as I packed it into each serving dish. Unlike my last attempt, I was also very careful not to use too much oil when preparing the eggplant slices. Adding oil to eggplant, especially when baking it, can be very deceiving. The eggplant has a tendency to soak up liquids like it were a sponge, but then it releases them as it cooks. My previous attempt failed because I used too much oil on my eggplants, which did not allow it to hold together once removed from the pan.

Thinly sliced seasoned eggplant on a lightly oiled baking sheet, baked at 350˚ for 5-10 minutes until softened.

Thinly sliced seasoned eggplant on a lightly oiled baking sheet, baked at 350˚ for 5-10 minutes until softened.

I started off by thinly slicing one large eggplant length-wise. I lightly sprayed a large baking sheet, and placed the slices on the sheet, lightly seasoning them with salt and pepper. I placed them in the oven at 350˚ for about 5-7 minutes…just long enough to make the slices pliable but not to where they would fall apart. Already I was off to a much better start! This left me with enough slices to line two single-serve ramekin dishes. Unlike a full size timbale, I opted to not add enough eggplant to enclose the filling. While this step is necessary with a full size, I felt that it would work fine with the smaller size, and especially with the tighter packed filling that I was planning to use. If you opt to use a pasta filling, be sure to account for more eggplant. I also suggest preparing the eggplant ahead of time and storing it in the refrigerator. The slices will stay soft enough to work with, but will not fall apart.

My sausage, peppers, rice and tomato sauce filling.

My sausage, peppers, rice and tomato sauce filling.

As I prepared my filling (you can click here for the recipe), I once again preheated the oven to 375˚. I lightly sprayed the ramekin dishes before lining them with the sliced eggplant. Although some pieces of eggplant were longer and larger than others, I put all of the slices to good use, making sure that the entire dish was lined. If you want to fully enclose you timbale, be sure to use larger slices off eggplant and have them overlap the edges of the pan, then simply fold over once the dish is filled. But again, because my filing was more compact that a pasta filling, I went with not completely enclosing the dish.

Ramekin dishes liked with the eggplant slices.

Ramekin dishes lined with the eggplant slices.

 

Tightly packing the ramekins with the filling.

Tightly packing the ramekins with the filling.

Once all of the filling was tightly packed into the ramekins, I placed them into the oven for about 30 minutes, until the outer edge of the eggplants started to brown and slightly crisp. I removed them from the oven, let them cool for a few minutes and very carefully ran a paring knife around the inner edges to separate the timbale from the dish. With a careful flip onto the dish and a few light taps, the timbale fell perfectly onto the dish. I quickly hit them with a drizzle of olive oil and some fresh herbs…and it was a thing of beauty! After years of disappointment, I had finally achieved making timbale. Not only did it look elegant, it tasted just as wonderful. It was a spectacular dish, put together with just a few simple ingredients. But a little bit of extra love took it a long way.

Carefully flipping the timbale onto the dish.

Carefully flipping the timbale onto the dish.

 

Drizzled with olive oil and topped with fresh herbs.

Drizzled with olive oil and topped with fresh herbs.

Regarding the filling – you can get as creative as you like. Pasta, ricotta cheese, various meats, shrimp or even vegetables would make for excellent fillings. You can also top it however you like once it is removed from the baking dish. A nice slice of mozzarella, some fresh tomatoes and basil…the options are endless!

IMG_6770

Perfection!

So there you have my triumphant return to attempting timbale, and I hope it inspires you to give this creative, impressive and filling dish a try!

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Sausage, Peppers and Rice

March 1, 2016 Entrees, Menu No Comments

Sausage and peppers is comfort food at its best. Whether served as a quick sandwich or plated as a meal, there is nothing quite like this classic combination. Today’s recipe takes these two ingredients to a new level by adding rice, tomato sauce and smoked cheddar. Prep time and cooking time are both fairly quick, so this makes for a great weekday meal. And while it no doubt serves well on its own, it makes for an even better filling for another fantastic dish that I’ll be sharing with you in my next post.

My wife and I are both big fans of chicken sausage, which is what I used while preparing this dish. Of course, you can use whatever type of sausage that you prefer. And while I highly recommend a smoked cheddar for this dish, the choice of cheese again is up to you. Regardless of what ingredients you choose to use, you can bet that this dish will be a hit.

 

Sausage, Peppers and Rice

Serves 4

1 lb ground chicken sausage (or your preference), removed from casing
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1″ pieces
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 tbspn olive oil
1 8oz can tomato sauce
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 cup shredded smoked cheddar (or your choice of cheese)
salt and pepper
2 servings of cooked rice (white or brown)

Start by preparing the rice according to the package directions (microwaving it will work fine for this dish). Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the chopped peppers and shallot, cook until crisp tender. Add the ground sausage, stir. Cook until the sausage is fully browned, continuing to stir (this will help break up the sausage as it cooks). Once the sausage is fully browned, add the can of tomato sauce. Add the Italian seasoning, stir together. Let simmer for 10 minutes, until thoroughly heated. Add the cooked rice, stir together. Season with salt and pepper. Add the shredded cheese, stir. Serve and enjoy.

sausage1

sausage2

In my next post, I’ll show you how to incorporate this recipe into an amazing new eggplant dish!

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Crock Pot Sausage, Peppers and Potatoes

September 14, 2013 Menu 1 Comment

As we get ready to nestle into the crisp fall season, I start getting geared up to do some hearty, rustic seasonal cooking. Because our weekends quickly get filled with leaf clean-up, hayrides, football games and back to school activities, it’s often hard to find the time needed to put together a big meal. This is when a crock pot, or a slow cooker, comes in handy.

Last weekend I put together a slow cooker version of an Italian-American favorite, the classic sausage and peppers. By simply adding some key ingredients to the crock pot for about 6 hours (I also added potatoes for extra heartiness), we were able to enjoy one of our favorite meals while still being able to take advantage of the day. This recipe will work well for a small party, game day grub, or a weekday meal.

 

 

Crock Pot Sausage, Peppers and Potatoes

1 lb. sausage (your choice of hot, sweet or gourmet stuffed – I used a chicken sausage stuffed with spinach and feta)
3 small-to-medium potatoes, cubed
3 bell peppers, seeded and sliced into strips (you can use green, red, yellow or orange, or any combination for mixed color)
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup red wine
Salt and Pepper to taste
Optional – 1 bouillon cube (chicken, beef or vegetable) for extra flavor

Cook the sausage by either frying on the stove top or baking in the oven, until browned. Slice the cooked sausage into 1 to 2 inch pieces. Place into the crock pot the diced tomatoes and their juices, the sausage, potatoes, peppers, onion, garlic, Italian seasoning, bouillon cube, water and wine. Any red wine that you have opened will work (although we were fortunate enough to have a bottle of home made red given to us by our good friend Jessica’s dad..NICE!). Stir all of the ingredients together. You can add additional water later on if needed. Place the lid on the crock pot and heat it on the slow setting for 6 to 6-1/2 hours, until the potatoes are tender. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve over, pasta, rice, shredded spaghetti squash, or serve it with crusty bread for dipping.

sausage_peps2

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Baked Sausage and Peppers

November 5, 2011 Entrees, Menu No Comments

Of all the different dishes that I’ve made over the years, it’s the the traditional, simple comfort foods that I still enjoy making the most. Italian soul food – as my good friend Lorraine Ranalli fondly calls it – has been the staple to many Italian-American households for generations. Hearty dishes like pasta and peas, potato and eggs, peppers and eggs, [fill in the blank] and eggs, giambotta…they all bring a smile to my face and a craving to my belly.

This week, I’m sharing a recipe for one of the most famous and versatile Italian comfort foods, Sausage and Peppers. Traditionally, this is a dish that is cooked on the stove top in a frying pan. Although Italian sweet or hot sausage are the most common sausage used, any kind of sausage that you prefer will work well. One of my favorites to use is a chicken sausage  from Tori’s butcher shop. The BEST! Just fry up the sausage links (whole or sliced), add some chopped onions and peppers to the mix halfway through cooking, and voila, peppers and sausage.

I’m gonna put a slightly different spin on this classic dish by baking it in the oven. I prefer the baking method because it’s less oil (pork sausage will create some very tasty juices in the oven), and it frees up some time for you. Because you want the sausage cooked throughout (no pink inside), you’re looking at a good hour of baking in the oven, especially if you’re using a pork sausage. You’re also combining all ingredients at once, so all of the flavors marry together and there is no stirring or mixing needed.

You’re going to have a decent amount of juice in the baking dish once it’s done, and you have a few options on what to do with the juices:
• you can serve the sausage and peppers it in its juices;
• you can drain or extract the juice with a baster;
• you can let the dish bake uncovered for a few extra minutes to allow it to dry out a bit;
• or as I like to do, you can add some Italian seasoning and a few tablespoons of sauce/gravy, mix it in and let it heat for a few minutes.

Once done, you can serve it as a side dish, as a topping on pasta, or my personal favorite…..on a crispy Italian roll with provolone cheese and greens.

Whichever method you prefer, it’ll be a guaranteed delicious and enjoyable meal.

BAKED SAUSAGE AND PEPPERS

1lb sausage, cut into pieces
4 bell peppers (red and green work best, you can mix them up)
1 large white onion, chopped

(optional ingredients)
1 tbspn Italian seasoning
2-3 tbspn red sauce/gravy

Preheat oven to 400˚. Place sausage, peppers and onions in a baking dish, mix, cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 60-65 minutes, until sausage is completely cooked. You can serve in its juices, drain the juices, or add the optional ingredients and allow to cook for another 5-10 minutes.

Serve as a side dish, on top of pasta or in a crispy Italian roll topped with provolone cheese and greens.

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