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Turkey Pear Sausage with Ginger and Sage

8 Nov

There comes a time in every person’s life—that is, if the person in question likes to cook, and by “likes to cook,” I mean “is slightly unreasonable when it comes to wanting to spend time in the kitchen”—when you’ve just resigned yourself to the fact that, sooner or later, you are just going to have to learn how to make sausage. It’s not because you eat a lot of sausage (you don’t), and it’s not because you think that making sausage will be so much more economically sound than buying sausage (I have no idea if it is or not). It’s because, when you really, really like to cook, sooner or later the list of things you have made in the kitchen starts to seem a little barren when you add up the list of things you’ve never attempted to make.

I don’t mean to make it sound as though I am constantly trying to one up myself in the kitchen. I am not. Even the mere thought of that is too exhausting to consider. But I do like cooking, and I do like learning new things, so it seems only natural that, eventually, I was going to learn about how to make sausage. Because why not?

The first thing I learned about sausage is that sausage can be any number of things, but it is, generally speaking, a mixture of tiny bits of ground up meat and fat mixed with seasonings. That’s it. Does anyone else find that totally fascinating? No? Okay. Moving on. Because the relative simplicity of the very description of sausage, I found it the perfect medium for combining flavors and elements of my choice. Not being a fan of pork, I decided to make my sausage out of ground turkey (the higher the fat content the better), and, because I realize that ground turkey can have a tendency to get sort of dry, I added a shredded pear to the mix to stave off dryness. Because pears love ginger so much, it seemed only natural that I should add some ginger to the mix. Sage seemed like a natural progression after that, and by the time I was done, all I could do was wonder why it had taken me so long to make something so delicious. The bite is tender and juicy, the spices are delightful, and the mix of earthy sage and bright ginger are a perfect match. This took my morning scrambled eggs to a whole new dimension of enjoyment, making the morning seem instantly a bit more special.

Turkey Pear Sausage with Ginger and Sage Recipe

As you can see, this is a recipe for bulk sausage. I have never tried to convert this recipe to make sausage links, so, if you are in possession of some casing and a sausage stuffer and you think you might want to try this out as link sausage, please know that I have absolutely no idea if it will work or not. However, if you do try to make linked sausage from this recipe, please do let me know how it turns out!

1 pound of ground turkey, not lean

1 large pear, shredded using the larger shredding holes on a box grater (you should end up with roughly ¾ of a cup of shredded pear), drained of any excess juice

3 tablespoons finely shredded onion (again, use a box grater for this)

1 medium clove finely mashed and minced garlic

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

½ teaspoon finely minced fresh sage (or scant ¼ teaspoon dried sage)

¼ teaspoon dried marjoram

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

½ teaspoon sea salt

pinch of ground nutmeg

pinch of dried coriander

In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients (again, make sure the shredded pear is well drained of any excess juice, or else your sausage mix will end up too loose). Gently mix together using a flexible spatula or your hands. Mix until everything is well combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

To cook sausage, form patties in the size of your choosing. Heat a bit of olive oil in a nonstick pan or cast iron skillet set over medium or medium high heat, then add the sausage patties when the oil is hot. Cook patties, being careful not to crowd the pan, until they are sufficiently browned on each side and cooked all the way through, about 3 to 4 minutes for smallish-sized patties.

Makes a little over 1 pound of bulk sausage.

Baked Brown Butter Oatmeal with Blueberries and Pears

7 Jun

I am, as I write this, eating a plate of what you see above: the most wonderful oatmeal imaginable.  Oatmeal that is almost unrealistically delicious, and oatmeal that, as I mentioned in the previous sentence, is eaten on a plate, not a bowl, and with a fork, not a spoon.  Not that you have to eat it on a plate with a fork, of course.  If you wish, you can most certainly eat it in a bowl, and with a spoon, but my point is that this heavenly oatmeal, warmly spiced, barely sweetened, and studded with big bursts of fresh fruit, is unlike any oatmeal I’ve previously encountered.

But first, a confession: I am not a big fan of oatmeal.  I like oats, and I adore homemade granola, but oatmeal, boiled into a porridge for breakfast, has never appealed to me.  The texture is troublesome, the odd odor is off-putting, and, there just isn’t enough going on, flavor-wise, to entice me into eating it.

But if you take those oats and bake them?  Then you’ve got something.  In Heidi Swanson’s enormously popular (and for good reason) cookbook, Super Natural Every Day, a recipe for baked oatmeal has been calling my name ever since I first laid eyes on it.  With layers of fresh fruit baked into a lightly sweetened bed of oats, milk, and spices, it’s the sort of breakfast dish that perfectly straddles the line between indulgent and healthful.  And though Swanson’s recipe is nearly perfect as is, I fiddled with it here and there—swapping out some spices, reducing the sweetness, changing the fruit selection, browning the butter—and came up with something that might be a slightly different beast than the original, but it’s still quite a sight to behold.  Baked into a toothsome treat, bursting with fruit, and spiked with a shot of brown butter, it’s a whole new kind of oatmeal.

Last Year: Best Pizza Dough–it really is the best, and there is no kneading involved!

Baked Brown Butter Oatmeal with Blueberries and Pears Recipe

Adapted from Super Natural Every Day, by Heidi Swanson

2 cups oats, not quick-cooking

½ cup toasted walnut pieces, coarsely chopped

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

big pinch of cardamom

small pinch of nutmeg

¼ teaspoon fine grain sea salt

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 cups milk

1 large egg

¼ cup pure maple syrup

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 pears, peeled, cored, and cut into ½-inch chunks

1 ½ cups fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Arrange an oven rack in the upper third of the oven.  Butter an 8” by 8” baking dish and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, ¼ cup of walnut pieces, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, and salt.  Whisk to combine.

In a small saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat until it melts, then foams.  When the butter begins to smell quite nutty and develop small brown bits on the bottom of the pan, remove from heat and pour into a separate bowl.  Allow to cool slightly.

In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, egg, maple syrup, vanilla, and half of the browned butter.

Arrange the pear pieces in a single layer in the prepared baking dish.  Cover with 1 cup of the blueberries.  Sprinkle the oat mixture over the fruit.  Drizzle the milk mixture over the oats, then gently tap the baking dish on the counter to make sure the milk mixture settles all the way to the bottom of the dish.  Sprinkle on the remaining blueberries and walnut pieces.

Bake the oatmeal in the upper third of the oven for 40 to 45 minutes, until the top of the oatmeal is dark golden brown.  Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.  Drizzle each serving with the remainder of the brown butter.  Out of this world.

Serves 6-10 people.

Spinach, Fennel, and Pear Salad with Brown Butter Hazelnuts

3 May

Do you ever wonder what makes the perfect salad?  Not really?  Just me?  I’ve thought long and hard about this—because that’s what I do, my friends, I think about salad—and I have to say that the elements that make a perfect salad, though constantly evolving, are almost always related to one magical element: texture.

Sure, flavor counts (obviously), but I think a salad’s texture will make or break it faster than the time it takes to swallow your first bite.  No matter how good a salad might taste, I find that, if the greens are soggy, the vegetables limp, or the various add-ons mushy or pasty, it takes a bit of effort to make each bite go down.  This is, of course, no scientific study I am undertaking here, but just a very personal observation.  And since I eat a lot of salad, I’d like to think that my established findings on the quality of salad-making hold at least a bit of weight.  Even if they don’t, I have good news for you.  I think I just made a salad with the most pleasing texture I have ever encountered.

Crisp spinach paired with crunchy-thin slices of fresh fennel provide a lovely base.  Perfectly ripe pears, so juicy and perfumed, counter the crispness of the spinach and fennel.  Toasted hazlenuts, flavored with a smidge of sea salt and brown butter to make their nuttiness even more forward, accent the crunch of the salad, but also pair perfectly with the pears.  A light vinaigrette drizzled over everything provides a punch of fruity acidity and, though I am aware that I have now started naming attributes that don’t concern texture, I don’t even know how to stop talking about how much I love this salad.  Sure, it’s true that I like almost all salad, but this salad?  This is a salad that everyone will like.

Last Year: Ya Hala’s Hummus This is, hands down, the best hummus you’ll ever eat

Spinach, Fennel, and Pear Salad with Brown Butter Hazelnuts Recipe

½ cup whole hazelnuts

1 large fennel bulb, green fronds and core removed

juice of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

large pinch of coarse sea salt

5 ounces spinach leaves, washed and dried

1 large ripe pear

Apple Cider Vinaigrette

juice of ½ a lemon

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon unfiltered apple cider

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Arrange hazelnuts on a baking sheet, then toast in oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until the skins of the nuts begin to peel loose and the nuts appear dark golden brown.  Remove the nuts to a clean dishtowel, then wrap the towel around the nuts and allow to sit for a couple of minutes.  Then, with your hands, vigorously rub the hazelnuts in the dishtowel to remove the hazelnut skins.  Coarsely chop the de-skinned nuts (cutting them in half is just fine—you want nice big bites here), then set aside.

Slice the fennel to be as thin as possible, using either a mandoline or an extremely sharp knife.  In a medium bowl, combine the fennel slices and the lemon juice, tossing to coat all the fennel in the lemon juice.  Set aside.

In a small pan, heat the butter over medium heat.  Allow the butter to melt, then foam, then begin to sputter.  Stirring and watching the butter the whole time, allow it to turn a nutty dark brown.  Immediately pour the browned butter into a small bowl, then add the hazelnuts and toss to combine.  Add the pinch of sea salt and toss some more.

To make the dressing, whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, and apple cider.  Drizzle in the olive oil, whisking all the while to combine until the dressing is thick and emulsified.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Place the spinach in a large bowl.  Core and slice the pear into thin slices, then add the pears to the spinach.  Pour the fennel, with any lemon juice remaining in the bowl, on top of the pears.  Give the hazelnuts in brown butter a bit of a stir, then add half of the nuts to the salad.  Pour half of the dressing over the salad, then toss to combine evenly.  Taste the salad to see if you desire more dressing.  Add as much dressing as you deem fit (some people like more dressing, some like less, so I am leaving the finished amount up to personal taste).  Serve the salad with the remaining hazelnuts sprinkled over the top of each serving.

Makes 4 very large servings, or 8 side salads.

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