A month or so ago when I began to focus on ingredient selection, I was picturing a massive glossary of how to pick out numerous ingredients - staples, meats, produce etc. But I suspect you may not want a glossary all in one go. So I'll begin to shift a little from ingredients to technique, just as the seasons are shifting now around the country.
After many people have a big Easter dinner, these two recipes are so simple that you might want to try them this upcoming week.
I made two dishes last week, for the same meal, each of which had very, very few ingredients. So the importance of ingredient selection was underscored. Yet, the keys to make each dish incredible were very much centered on technique. The first dish was "Barely Cooked Zucchini with Almost No Vinaigrette".
- Technique 1: Sweating zucchinis and squashes in a colander with Kosher salt. You may have run across this technique before. It's counter-intuitive to sweat moisture OUT of a vegetable, then rinse it, but you don't want all that salt. Using very fresh squashes make cooking almost unnecessary.
- Technique 2: Barely, barely cooking the zucchinis. Overcooking vegetables, especially squashes and zucchinis, is a sin to me. I think the quick 60-90 second saute in olive oil helped just seal the vegetable surface with a little oil and heat. I may try this again with no cooking at all.
- Technique 3: Using very, very little vinaigrette. I've mentioned this before, see: Secret Weapons for Great Summer Salads. In this case adding a very tiny dose to the zucchinis was just right. I used a cipollini onion-based vinaigrette recently published in The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion and Cooking Manual, a very attractively produced book about Italian-American home cooking. I don't want to copy their recipe here, so buy the book. It's got a few gems you'll enjoy, and is fun to read.
You can find the zucchini recipe and one for a subtle vinaigrette in separate posts.
The other dish was Sausage with Sage Brown Butter, another offering from The Frankies. Again, I'll not recreate their recipe. However, the key technique was to par-boil good Italian sausages, allow them to cool slightly, then cut them into coins. Saute these sausage coins in a large wide pan, undisturbed, to create a lot of browning. That's the best part of sausage, isn't it? Their technique maximized the crusty parts. Awesome. whether it's sage brown butter sauce, simple tomato sauce, or anything else, this technique is a valuable and simple one to have at your disposal.
For more on Italian ingredient selection, including sausage, see "How to Survive Without An Italian Deli".
Note: If you critically observe this picture, there's not massive browning on the sausage coins and little evidence of sage or brown butter. Several reasons:
- All the authentic hot Italian sausages with sage were long gone by the time I pulled out the camera.
- A parallel batch of this dish was made with Italian-style turkey sausages, a fairly inexpensive, fairly healthy product even the picky kids in my house like.
- The Frankies technique added a good amount of extra flavor to the slightly bland (which is why they like them) turkey sausages.
- There's no way my son would eat sage brown butter, so he got just butter, as depicted.