Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Italian Sausage and Peppers

Last week on my shopping trip to town, I stopped at The Produce House in Clarksburg to see what they had. On their back wall, they have half peck baskets of discounted produce for $1.50 each. If you shop carefully, this can be a real deal.

A couple of weeks ago, I picked up several baskets of green peppers. Peppers are really easy to put up - just wash, cut, bag and into the freezer they go. But they also had some real nice poblano peppers. I bought one basket to try. They were so good, I decided to stop back and see if I could get more. They only had two baskets of the poblanos, but this week they had some large Italian frying peppers. Peppers didn’t do well in our garden this year, so I was happy to pick some up cheap to eat fresh and put by.

I wait until onions are on sale for 3lbs./$1, then buy several bags. This is after I have used up the ones from the garden. We never seem to be able to grow enough onions. I use an onion a day. I have to laugh when writing up my recipes - almost every dinner recipe starts with chopping an onion. I can’t eat them raw at all, so my recipes always use cooked, blanched, dried or frozen onions. BTW, the secret to chopping an onion without crying – keep the onion vapors away from your eyes. Don’t stand over the onions when chopping. Don’t touch your eyes. Stay downwind.

When I run out of fresh cloves of garlic, I use chopped garlic. I just bought a 2lb. jar on clearance at Wal-Mart for about $2.50. It won’t last that long. I use garlic in just about everything also. The old proverb about “eating an apple a day to keep the doctor away” goes just as good or even better for onions and garlic. They have so many health benefits.

You can buy Sweet Italian Sausage at the store. But I like my meat with less fat. I usually buy whole boneless pork loins when they go on sale for under $2.00 per lb. and have the store grind it. But right now, I have a freezer full of FFA pork, thanks to my daughter. The kids did a pretty good job of trimming the meat and their ground pork is surprisingly lean. Thanks kids!

The Sweet Italian Sausage Seasoning is my own recipe from my former herb business. I made it several pounds at a time. I have tried to approximate the quantities for a small amount.

For the pasta, canned tomatoes and olive oil, I shop at a discount store called, Country Roads. Locally it’s often called “The Dented Can Store”. I hate paying more than 50¢/lb. for pasta, but that is becoming impossible to do anymore. If you make this in the summer, you can use a couple of chopped fresh tomatoes instead of canned ones.

I picked up several bags of shredded mozzarella at the IGA a few weeks ago on a BOGO sale. The price came to $3.00/lb. I use Parmesan and Romano interchangeably. It just depends on what I have. I usually buy a large ziplock bag of grated Pecorino Romano at Sam’s Club. They don’t carry the same items at all the stores. I think Clarksburg has it, but Parkersburg does not. Anyway, I’m all out. I am using a nice wedge of Pecorino that my husband brought me for a treat. He likes to stop in at Marino Brothers in Clarksburg for lunch once in a while. They sell a nice line of Italian meats and cheeses.

Italian green beans are so good. They can grow as bush or pole beans. They can get really big and still cook up tender. They don’t get fibrous like regular green beans. I have always grown bush Romanos, but last year my neighbor grew green and yellow pole Romano beans. I think they are heritage beans that she got from my former sister-in-law. I hope to get some seed for this year. Anyway, the beans I served last night came from Kroger. I had bought quite a few bags of Kroger brand frozen vegetables on sale. This is about the last of them. I think there is one bag of snap peas left. I found that the frozen Romanos don’t cook well in the microwave. They need a good long cook on the stovetop, just like frozen limas. But they were so tender and delicious. I have found large cans of Italian green beans at discount stores like BigLots and Deals before. The canned ones cook up quick in the microwave.

I cooked this for dinner last night. I have made it many times for my family, but have never written it down before. Now my daughter will know how to make it.

12 oz. spaghetti or egg noodles
2 Tbsp. Olive oil
1 medium Onion, ½” dice
2 large Italian peppers, 1” dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. lean ground pork
1 Tbsp. Sweet Italian Sausage Seasoning (Recipe follows)
1 (15 oz. can) diced tomatoes
1 cup (4 oz.) Shredded mozzarella
¼ cup grated Parmesan for garnish

Put large pot of water on to boil for your pasta. Cook according to package directions. Drain and toss with olive oil to keep from sticking. Time your pasta to be done about the same time as your sausage and peppers.

Heat a large skillet until hot and dry. Remove from heat and coat lightly with canola oil spray. Return to very low heat, while chopping the vegetables.

Cut ends off onion and peel. Cut in half from top to bottom. Lay onion halves flat and slice crosswise, then lengthwise to dice. Place in skillet.

Trim tops off peppers; discard veins and seeds. Cut in half from top to bottom. Lay pepper halves flat and slice lengthwise, then crosswise to dice. Place in skillet.

Squeeze, twist and rub garlic cloves to loosen skin. Remove skin. Mince in a garlic press or mash with side of large knife on cutting board and then dice finely. Place in skillet.

Turn heat to medium and start sautéing vegetables, stirring frequently. When vegetables are hot, add pork. Sprinkle sausage seasoning over pork. Break up pork and stir constantly until no longer pink.

Stir in tomatoes and their juice. When hot and bubbly, sprinkle mozzarella on top.

Serve when mozzarella starts to melt. Grate or sprinkle parmesan over plates.

This is very good served with Italian green beans or tossed salad and garlic toast.

Serves 5-6

Sweet Italian Sausage Seasoning
By Hilltop Herbs
Yield: 2 ½ Tbsp.

1 tsp. ground sage leaf
1 tsp. ground marjoram
½ tsp. ground fennel seed
½ tsp. whole fennel seed
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. ground paprika
¼ tsp. granulated garlic
¼ tsp. ground bay leaf
2 tsp. sea salt

Mix all ingredients together.
Use 1 Tablespoon to one pound lean ground pork.
Store in tightly sealed glass jar in a cool, dark, dry place.

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