EGGPLANT PARMESAN WITHOUT THE PASTA

IT’S COLUMBUS DAY…..SO I MADE YOURS TRULY STUFFED BELL PEPPERS WITH ITALIAN SAUAGES

I’m always on the fence when it comes to a day as this, (Cristoforo Colombo Day). Is it a holiday? Well, as for yours truly, I’ve no break. Based on some history books, the Italian Explorer made his way to the ‘New World’ approximately four times. Christopher had his way to convince Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand to finance his trips.

Anyway, I won’t get too much in history. But, based on what I’ve grasped in history books, the guy (Columbus) was ratherĀ  sly and conniving. On one of his trips to Jamaica in 1500 where he and his men were supposedly stranded he became desperate for food. The Arawaks, the island’s natives refused to feed Christopher and his men. After all, it seemed like they were always relying on them.

Nature was on Christopher’s side. You see, an astronomer had previously told him that there would be an eclipse. As a result, he used it to his advantage by telling the Arawaks that if he and his men weren’t given food his god would be upset and would send his wrath on the land.

True to his words, later that night, the night skies became darkened and the moon transformed to red. The poor and humble Arawaks asked for mercy and granted the wish of the cunning Christopher and men.

Guys, who knows? All I know, it’s not a holiday for yours truly. However, because I love Italian food, I’ve decided to make myself stuffed bell peppers. I used up four from a pack of six. I cut three of them in halves and chopped off the stem of the remaining. I removed all the veins and seeds and gave a quick three-minute boil in salty water. I then rinsed and dried and set aside.

In my skillet a couple Italian (mild flavor) sausages were browned after I removed meat from the casing and did a quick drop of the pieces. I added diced bell peppers, egg-plant, onions, garlic and fresh tomatoes. I made sure to season along with cracked black pepper, dried basil/oregano and a pinch of salt. I also drizzled a little red wine vinegar because I had it on hand (any other vinegar will do).

STUFFING (INCLUDING ITALIAN SAUSAGE, PEPPERS) FOR PEPPERS
STUFFING (INCLUDING ITALIAN SAUSAGE, PEPPERS) FOR PEPPERS

I removed the Italian sausages and veggies from the heat and added a cup of left-over boiled rice. I combined and stuffed the bell peppers. By the way, I reserved my clipped off stem from the red one. Great for presentation.

BELL PEPPERS READY FOR STUFFING
BELL PEPPERS READY FOR STUFFING

In a baking dish a little water was added to cover the bottom. I then placed the stuffed peppers in the dish and covered with a piece of foil. This was then placed in a heated oven at 350 degrees F. I baked them for 15 minutes and then removed the foil. I sprinkled with light bread crumbs mixed with parmesan cheese and finely chopped parsley. I then drizzled the top with a little olive oil and place it back in the oven to complete another 15 minutes.

Guys, when I cut into my stuffed bell peppers, they were just perfect. The peppers were sweet and still had a ‘bite’. And that’s what I like. I hate mushy. The stuffing of Italian sausages, brown rice, egg-plant, onions, a few bits of olive, garlic and melted parmesan were just a perfect union of flavors.

What do you know? Christopher Columbus would have had a fight for my stuffed peppers. By the way, was he really Italian? Some history books said he was from Spain. But, who cares? It’s all water under the bridge. Guys, thanks to Christopher Columbus, it’s his day, go have some fun.

BRUSSELS SPROUTS……ONCE FORGOTTEN VEGGIES HAVE GOTTEN A REBIRTH

They perch in their little pouch often crammed upon one another. One day they could be vibrant green, and if no shopper decides to claim, they remain there until they become a bit dried up and wilted on their outer leaves.

And, that’s how it is or should I say it was with the cruciferous veggies, brussels sprouts. Their appearances mimic cabbage (‘the big daddy of the clan’). Sadly, over the years, they have been overlooked by many shoppers and even some in the culinary field.

However, thank goodness for the last few years, these little guys have gotten a boost, somewhat of a resurgence. I’ve observed a rebirth….and I’m happy. You see, based on studies, brussels sprouts are loaded with beneficial nutrients like fibers, minerals and many other health properties that are great for the body. And, that’s music to my ears.

Let’s face, these veggies can be a little bland and I guess that’s why they are last in line to be purchased. Some of the ways I’ve been boosting the taste of these sprouts are:

1. Adding them to a succulent pot roast with other veggies. These sprouts come alive by absorbing all the amazing flavors of the roast.

2. I like to chop them in half and drizzle them with a little olive oil or any good oil along with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Roasting brings out their hidden nutty flavors. Also, sometimes, I like to drizzle a little reduced balsamic vinegar for an added sweet/tart taste when I’m serving.

3. Once in a while, I like to indulge them in their raw form. I finely chop and add some slivered almonds (any other nut of choice will do). A toss of dried cranberries and a homemade dressing of fresh citrus juice and a drizzle of olive oil with a pinch of salt/pepper.

Guys, today I choose to execute a quick sautay of these cruciferous goodness. But, first I gave a quick two to three-minute blanche after I sliced them in 3’s length-wise. Blanching is cooking in boiling water and then shocking in an icy bath to stop cooking process. After my sprouts were softened, I dried them and added them to diced onions and garlic with a few drops of olive oil. I made sure to season along with salt and cracked black pepper and a squeeze of lemon and a dash of balsamic vinegar.

I continued with my quick sautay of my sprouts for approximately five minutes making sure that the crispiness was still intact. Yes, it was! I finished my dish with a topping of crumbled bacon. Now that brought my brussels sprouts to another dimension.

Guys, I’m telling you, maybe it’s time to make a trip to the produce section. If you don’t, you’ll be missing out.

HOW TO EXTEND THE SHELF-LIFE OF YOUR ASPARAGUS/GAIN MORE HAPPY TIMES

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JAMAICAN JERK CHICKEN COMINGLES WITH A TOUCH OF LATINO INFLUENCE

I’m no expert; however, when I see a sale I grab and run for it. Well, on my last shopping trip at my neighborhood store I noticed three cans of 15.5 ounce black beans for $2.00. As a matter a fact it was when I also bought the three cans of garbanzo beans (chickpeas) for $2.00 as well. It seems like Publix was on a roll with a 3 for $2 deal. Publix is the supermarket in my region.

Anyway, I hatched the perfect plan for Sunday’s supper and beyond. You see, whenever I cook on Sundays I also prepare for a couple a days in the week. If I don’t, I’m liable to eat anything which includes take out at a fast food joint or any other food establishment. Therefore, it’s very vital that I plan my meals ahead especially for the first few days. Later on in the week, I can always ‘coast’ along and be spontaneous with my choices.

As I was saying, my black beans turned out to be just what I needed. I simmered it with a little coconut milk along with diced onions, bell peppers, garlic, thyme, celery and dried seasoning. I know that my Latino amigos would love my twist on the dish. I further made a tomato, avocado and parsley salad (sorry, I had no cilantro) which I added a squeeze of lime along with a pinch of salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Of course, I added a small sprinkle of sugar for a fine balance to cut the acid from the tomatoes. Then I placed it in the refrigerator to chill.

I marinated my chicken (dark portions) the previous night. I made sure to input less sodium as I know that the jerk sauce has a good proportion of salt included. I added crushed garlic, along with chopped onions, thyme, and black pepper. Jerk sauce is found in the ethnic aisle of many neighborhood stores or West Indian/Latin stores.

Chicken parts were roasted in oven for forty-five minutes at (390 degrees F) turning once. I then basted it with a blend of a squeeze of ketchup, vinegar (any kind will do), a touch of honey and soy sauce and then gave it another five minutes under the broiler.

I served my Jamaican jerk chicken, black beans, avocado/tomato/parsley salad with a serving of rice and fried plantains. The co-mingling of flavors were unbelievable. My taste buds were greatly heightened with the spicy jerk chicken and the corresponding cooling effects of the salad that just exploded in my mouth. Moreover, the creamy black beans and the sweet plantains just about provided a great balance to my meal.

Guys, as always, be kind to your loved ones as well as your good palates.

ANACONDA-LIKE TURKEY BALLS/CHICKPEAS SIMMERED IN A CURRY/COCONUT SAUCE

I know; I know. Clearly, these balls, (turkey balls) aren’t gigantic in size. However, they are super packed with big flavors and mouth-watering taste.

Typically, ground turkey is rather bland in taste especially if the fat content is minimal. As a result, I had to incorporate some intense flavors and spices in order to obtain a succulent finished dish. With a little aid from Caribbean, Mediterranean and Asia’s spices, I nabbed the perfect union of flavors.

Guys, I’m talking about spices and ingredients like curry power, cumin, coconut milk and chickpeas (garbanzo beans). I do think that some of these spices and ingredients are somewhat underused in many western cuisines. Perhaps, it’s because some of us aren’t familiar with the usage of them in regular everyday dishes. As a result, we sometimes buy them with the good intentions of utilizing, but, they end up in the rear of the spice rack gathering dust.

Because these spices are staples in my pantry at home and from my childhood days in Jamaica, I reckoned I could experiment with them in my turkey balls. I took the plunge and added a pinch of cumin and curry powder to my ground turkey and they made a world of difference. The flavors are pungent and bold. A pinch of each goes a far way. Overusing (especially the curry) could result in a bitter taste. However, with just the right amount, it can alter an average dish to an acme one.

So, with the infusion of these amazing spices (old world spices), they brought my turkey balls to another level. Using them will surprise the taste buds in a great way and make you wonder why you’ve not used them in past dishes.

On my recent shopping trip to my neighborhood store (Publix) I purchased three cans of 15.5 ounces chickpeas (garbanzo beans) for $2. They were on sale. So, I made a curry-based/coconut milk sauce with all the similar ingredients from the ground turkey. I then drained and immersed my garbanzo beans. I allowed them to simmer for approximately 30 minutes.

Turkey balls were drizzled with a little olive oil and were baked for 15 minutes at ( 350 degrees F). They were then placed under the broiler for another 5 minutes to acquire a brown exterior. Balls were then added to the curry/coconut chickpeas sauce in order to absorb all the exotic flavors. Dish can be served as is with a green salad or on a bed of brown rice.

Guys, with this dish, even JLo and Nicky Minaj would approve. By the way, I can’t promise that you’ll get a huge derriere, but I can guarantee you gigantic and mouthwatering flavors.

OLE, OLE FOR A SALSA OMELET!

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