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My Recipes-of-the-Week are featured here on my Home page. You can find 1000+ of my kitchen-tested recipes using the Recipes tab, watch nearly 100 Kitchen Encounters/WHVL-TV segments using the TV Videos tab, join the discussion about all of my creations using the Facebook tab, or Email your questions and comments directly to me--none go unanswered. "We are all in this food world together." ~Melanie

10/10/2019

~ Sausage & Egg w/Cheddar, Apple & Apple Butter ~

IMG_4983Can one ever have too many breakfast sandwich recipes?  The answer is an unequivocal, hell no. A sweet sausage patty with a fried, poached or scrambled egg and a slice of yellow American cheese served on thick-sliced Texas-type toast, a gnarly bagel, a craggy-edged nook-and-crannied English muffin, or a flaky buttery biscuit is one of my year-round favorite ways to start the day.  It's safe to assume it's a favorite with most of America too, as all breakfast-all-day drive-through fast-food joints and all-night sit-down-at-the-counter diners serve some version of a sausage, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich.  It's hard to compete with its completeness.

That said, as a big fan of sweet and savory combinations, when Fall arrives, I like to change mine up a bit by placing my sausage, egg and cheese on a cinnamon-raisin bagel (sometimes a cinnamon-raisin English muffin) with a slice of cheddar-Jack, sautéed apple slices and a slather of apple butter.  Topped with a few baby arugula leaves, it's downright impressive, gourmet fare. Yes, it does take a little extra-time to "do this sandwich up right".  Tick-tock, yawn and wake up 10-15 minutes earlier on days when you're making them, but, if it's breakfast for dinner you wish to celebrate, this'll take less time than a full-blown meal.  Either way, this is worth the effort.

IMG_4939For 4 sandwiches:

4  high-quality New York-style same-day-baked cinnamon-raisin bagels, or English muffins

1 pound sweet sausage, divided into 4, 4-ounce portions

1  apple, cored and thinly-sliced horizontally

4  jumbo eggs

8 slices yellow cheddar or cheddar-Jack cheese 

4  tablespoons apple butter

40-48  baby arugula leaves

IMG_4940 IMG_4940 IMG_4940 IMG_4940 IMG_4940~Step 1.  Divide the pound of sausage into four equal parts, 4 ounces each.  Pat and press each portion into a 4 1/2" round disc, placing the sausage patties, slightly-overlapping in a 10" nonstick skillet as you form them.  Over medium- medium-high heat, fry the patties until cooked through and golden brown on both sides, turning only once, 5-6 minutes per side.  Using a spatula transfer patties to a paper towel lined plate.  Turn heat off.

IMG_4950 IMG_4950 IMG_4950 IMG_4950 IMG_4950~Step 2.  Using an apple corer, remove core from apple.  Slice a small portion of the top and bottom of the apple off.  Cut the rest into 8 discs, about 1/4" thick.  Over medium- medium-high heat, sauté the apple slices in the sausage drippings, 45-60 seconds per side.  Remove apples from pan drippings and place on a paper-towel lined plate.  Set aside.

IMG_4932 IMG_4932 IMG_4932~Step 3.  Crack eggs into hot skillet of remaining drippings.  Over medium- medium-high heat, fry eggs to desired doneness -- soft and runny centers, or semi-firm centers, your choice.  Cover skillet and remove from heat.

IMG_4962 IMG_4962 IMG_4962 IMG_4962 IMG_4962 IMG_4962 IMG_4962~Step 4.  Lightly-toast the cinnamon-raisin bagels. To assemble the sandwiches, on each of four plates, place two slices of cheese on the bottom half of each bagel.  Slather 1 tablespoon apple butter atop the cheese slices. Place two apple slices atop the apple butter, followed by a sausage patty and an egg.  Loosely cover with plastic wrap and place in microwave to melt the cheese, about 30 seconds.  Remove plastic wrap and garnish each with 10-12 arugula leaves.  Place top on sandwich and serve ASAP.

Place the top on each sandwich & slice it in half:

IMG_4980 2Enjoy each & every apple-buttery applicious bite of Fall: 

 

IMG_4996Got room for the other half?  You can bet I do:

IMG_5001Sausage & Egg w/Cheddar, Apple & Apple Butter:  Recipe yields 4 hearty breakfast sandwiches.

Special Equipment List:  kitchen scale; 10" nonstick skillet w/lid; spatula; paper towels; apple corer; cutting board; chef's knife; toaster or toaster oven; plastic wrap   

IMG_4915Cook's Note: Can one ever have too many grilled cheese-type sandwich recipes?  The answer is an unequivocal no.  High-quality, super-thin-sliced deli-ham on caraway-seeded rye is one of my favorite sandwiches.  Crispy, thin-sliced apples with a chunk of white or yellow cheddar cheese is one of my favorite snacks.  For another one of my perfect-for-Fall sandwiches, try my ~ Grilled Ham-on-Rye w/Cheddar, Apple and Arugula ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

10/07/2019

~ Grilled Ham-on-Rye w/Cheddar, Apple and Arugula ~

IMG_4908Can one ever have too many grilled cheese-type sandwich recipes?  The answer is an unequivocal no.  High-quality, super-thin-sliced deli-ham on caraway-seeded rye is one of my favorite sandwiches.  Crispy, thin-sliced apples with a chunk of white or yellow cheddar cheese is one of my favorite snacks.  As a fan of sweet and savory combinations, when I combine the two with a slather of apple butter and some delicate, slightly-peppery greens in between, magic happens.  It's perfect for Fall.  It's simple, straightforward and uncomplicated 'wichcraft.

It's simple, straightforward & uncomplicated 'witchcraft.

IMG_4844For two sandwiches:

4  tablespoons salted butter

4  slices caraway-seeded rye bread

10  slices cheddar or cheddar-Jack cheese

4-6  tablespoons apple butter

1  thin-sliced unpeeled apple, your favorite type

1/2  pound super-thinly-sliced deli-ham, your favorite type and brand

30-40  baby arugula leaves

sliced, dehydrated apple chips, or regular potato chips, for accompaniment

IMG_4846 IMG_4846 IMG_4846 IMG_4846~Step 1.  To assemble the sandwiches, place three slices of cheese on two slices of the bread (the bottom half, where the remaining ingredients will be layered), and, two slices on the other two (the top half) slices of bread.  Set the two slices of bread with two slices of cheese aside.

IMG_4856 IMG_4856 IMG_4856 IMG_4856~Step 2.  On the two bottom halves, slather the cheese with 1-1 1/2 tablespoons apple butter. It's tempting, but, don't be inclined to slather the bread slices with the apple butter first or bread will become soggy before you can finish assembling the sandwiches -- this is the right order of things. Place a layer of apple slices atop the apple butter on two slices of bread, 8-10 slices on each.

IMG_4867 IMG_4867 IMG_4867 IMG_4867 IMG_4876 IMG_4876~Step 3.  Layer 1/4 pound of ham atop apple slices, followed by baby arugula leaves,15-20 leaves on each.  Invert and place the remaining two cheese-topped slices of bread on top of the arugula and gently press with the palms of hands.

IMG_4879 IMG_4879 IMG_4879 IMG_4879~Step 4.  Wrap sandwiches tightly in plastic wrap and allow to sit on the counter for 15-20 minutes, so all ingredients are at the same temperature when grilled.  Just prior to grilling as directed below, vertically slice the two sandwiches into four halves and secure each half with a toothpick.  Using a pair of kitchen shears, clip each toothpick so it is level with the top of the bread -- this will make the sandwiches super-easy to flip over while cooking in the hot skillet.

IMG_4891 IMG_4891 IMG_4891 IMG_4891 IMG_4891~Step 5.  To grill the sandwiches, melt the butter in a 10" nonstick skillet over low heat.  Remove the plastic wrap from the sandwich halves and place them in the warm skillet.  Increase heat to medium and grill until golden brown on the bottoms and bottom layer of cheese is melted, about 3-4 minutes.  Using a spatula, flip the sandwiches over and grill on the second sides until they too are golden and the cheese is melted, 3-4 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Wait not a moment, serve these sandwiches ASAP...

IMG_4915... & enjoy a taste of Fall in every sweet & savory bite: 

IMG_4926Grilled Ham-on-Rye w/Cheddar, Apple and Arugula:  Recipe yields 2 hearty sandwiches/2-4 servings.

Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; plastic wrap; 4 toothpicks; kitchen shears; 10" nonstick skillet; spatula

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2b2d8b1970cCook's Note: The best apple pie recipes aren't fancy -- they're special.  Just put one in the oven and see what happens.  Word travels fast.  Everyone wants a slice of old-fashioned appleiscious goodness.  ~ Nothing Fancy:  Old-Fashioned Autumn Apple Pie ~

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

10/05/2019

~ Hungarian Gulyás: Beef, Vegetable & Paprika Soup ~

IMG_4837American-style goulash is made with ground beef and macaroni.  It's tasty, it's filling, it's easy to prepare, and, has the added bonus of being kid-friendly.  It's a stewy take on Hungarian goulash, but, aside from containing meat (originally ground beef, but nowadays chicken or turkey are sometimes substituted), a few vegetables (typically green bell pepper, onion and tomato sauce) and pasta (usually elbow-type macaroni or corkscrews), it all-too-often tastes resemblant of Italian-American spaghetti with meat sauce -- the flavor profile is hardly Hungarian.

A not-so-short but informative bit about Hungarian Gulyás: 

Hungarian gulyás (pronounced goulēus and meaning herdsmen) is the national dish of Hungary, and, the most famous Hungarian dish cooked outside of Hungary.  That said, even in Hungary, recipes vary from cook to cook and chef to chef, and, every one will claim theirs authentic. Gulyás dates back to the 9th Century cattle herders and stockmen and began as a basic well-seasoned, sun-dried meat and onion stew prepared in iron cauldrons -- all they needed to do was add water and cook it.  Over time, gulyás evolved, as cooks began adding additional vegetables (cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, parsnips, potatoes etc.).  That said, many Hungarian cooks and experts argue that true gulyás uses no thickening agents and contains no grains (rice, barley, etc.) or starch (potatoes, noodles, dumplings, etc.)   In the 16th Century, the invading Ottoman Turks introduced paprika to Hungary.  The rest of Europe remained indifferent to the spice, but Hungary embraced it, and it eventually became a defining element of their cuisine and their gulyás.

Gulyás contains no starchy thickeners to achieve consistency -- which is why it's considered a soup rather than a stew.

IMG_4836Hungarian gulyás, while usually prepared with beef, can be prepared with veal, pork or lamb, or a combination of meats.  Typical cuts include inexpensive shank, shin or shoulder.  As a result, goulash derives its thickness from tough, well-exercised muscles rich in collagen (which convert to gelatin during the cooking process), instead of a thickening agent like flour or cornstarch. Vegetables (usually red bell pepper, carrot, potato, tomato and onion) are commonly added to the meat and the mixture is cooked in a paprika-laced slightly-thickened "in between" broth that is neither too thin nor too thick -- I describe it as a rich sauce. Some versions of gulyás are very rustic, containing large chunks of meat and vegetables, resemblant of a classic beef stew. Other versions are quite sophisticated, containing small-diced pieces of meat and vegetables.  All versions contain a healthy dose of sweet Hungarian paprika (a copious amount, more than you'd think), and, genuine imported sweet Hungarian paprika paprika is essential.

A bit about gulyás recipes in general & my recipe:

Authentically prepared Hungarian gulyés is like a brilliant star in the sky of soups and stews, meaning: take a taste and allow your taste buds to see the light.  Some versions are thicker, some versions are thinner, all are silky-smooth and sauce-like, but, none contain starchy thickening agents (just stop with the flour and cornstarch concoctions, they just muddy up the flavor).  The consistency control factor is the length of time the mixture simmers on the stovetop -- this is why, in Hungary, this dish is looked upon and referenced as a soup, rather than a stew.  I do add potatoes to my version (which is not uncommon is any modern day version), because my mother added them and I adored it -- that choice is yours.  When properly prepared, this rustic, easier-to-make-than-a-stew is perhaps one of the most refined soups you will ever experience.

IMG_47883  tablespoons salted butter

3  tablespoons vegetable oil

2 1/2-3  pounds 3/4"-1"-cubed beef chuck roast or chuck steak, from 1, 3-3 1/2 pound chuck roast or chuck steak

1  teaspoon sea salt

1  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

1 1/2  pounds peeled and 1/2"-diced yellow or sweet onions

8  large garlic cloves, run through a press

1/2  cup sweet Hungarian paprika, not smoked or hot paprika

1  6-ounce can tomato paste

6  cups beef stock, preferably homemade

2  packets Herb-Ox granulated beef bouillon

2  whole bay leaves

"the seasonings", aka, 1 teaspoon each:  garlic powder, dried parsley flakes, dried rosemary leaves, dried thyme leaves, sea salt and coarse-grind black pepper

6  ounces 1/4"-1/2" diced celery stalks

8  ounces 1/4"-1/2" peeled and diced carrots

12-ounces  1/2"-diced red bell peppers

1 1/2 pounds peeled and 1/2"-3/4" diced gold potatoes (optional)

1/2-3/4  cup minced fresh parsley, for garnishing soup

IMG_4604 IMG_4604Important note before starting:  Achieving the signature saucelike consistency gulyás is famous for, without relying on a thickening agent or adding a starch isn't as tricky as one might think.  Great gulyás starts with homemade beef stock, one that is rich in collagen, one that becomes gelatinous when refrigerated, is important.

IMG_4769 IMG_4769 IMG_4769~ Step 1.  To prep the roast, start by slicing it in half vertically -- this will make it more manageable. Place the flat side of each half down, and slice each half into 6-7 3/4"-1" pieces.  Cut each piece into 3/4"-1" cubes, removing and discarding the large pockets of fat as you continue to work.  

IMG_4465 IMG_4465 IMG_4792 IMG_4792 IMG_4792~Step 2. In a wide-bottomed 8-quart stockpot, over low heat, melt butter into oil.  Increase heat to medium-high.  Add beef cubes, then season with 1 teaspoon each sea salt and coarse-grind black pepper.  Using a large spatula to keep the meat moving, sauté until it has lost its pink color and is swimming around in quite a bit of flavorful beef juices, 6-8 minutes.

IMG_4799 IMG_4799 IMG_4799 IMG_4799~Step 3.  Add the onion and garlic.  Continue to sauté, stirring constantly, until onion is tender, 6-8 minutes.  Stir in the paprika and tomato paste.  Stirring constantly, cook 3 more minutes.

IMG_4808 IMG_4808 IMG_4808Step 4.  Add the beef stock, bay leaves and seasonings.  Stir thoroughly.  Adjust heat to the gentlest of steady simmers and continue to cook, uncovered, for 1 full hour.  If you plan to add potatoes to your gulyás, peel and cube them as directed during the last 30 minutes of simmering time.

IMG_4817 IMG_4817~ Step 5.  Add the celery, carrots, red bell pepper and optional potatoes to the simmering soup. Continue to cook until potatoes and carrots are just cooked through, 15-20 additional minutes.  If you have the time, turn the heat off, cover the pot and allow soup to steep for 30-60 minutes, to allow the flavors time to marry prior to serving.  

Ladle into bowls & garnish w/minced, fresh parsley:

IMG_4825Hungarian Gulyás:  Beef, Vegetable & Paprika Soup:  Recipe yields 5 quarts hearty soup.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; garlic press; vegetable peeler; wide-bottomed 8-quart stockpot; large slotted spoon or spatula; soup ladle

6a0120a8551282970b01bb088aee56970dCook's Note: My encounters with Hungarian cuisine have all been good, and authentic too.  While my family is not Hungarian, we are Eastern European (Slovak), meaning the food of other Eastern European countries is often similar, appealing to our appetites.  Thanks to a recipe mom got from a Hungarian co-worker, she made great gulyás.  As for paprikas, that recipe I got from my neighbor's mom who immigrated here from Hungary in the 1950's.  Try: ~ Mrs. Varga's Hungarian Paprikas Recipe ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

10/03/2019

~ Lemon-Dressed Arugula, Watermelon & Feta Salad ~

IMG_4747Watermelon salad in October?  You betcha.  It's been unseasonably warm here in the Northeast, with unusually mild-to-hot Summer temperatures lasting into our four-seasoned Fall.  While most (but not all) of our garden has indeed met its end-for-this-year (Summer basil, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, etc.), the extra growing time has rendered it a stellar year for watermelon, which, in honesty, doesn't do well when the the days grow short and the temperatures go low.

Twenty-plus years ago, watermelon salad was trendy everywhere.  One of my favorite versions was served in a now defunct high-end French restaurant right here in Happy Valley:  The Victorian Manor.  It appeared on their menu every Summer for several years.  That said, watermelon salad was/is pretty much the same everywhere, meaning, there are no surprises:  A well-balanced, sweet, savory and salty mixture of baby arugula leaves, chunks of watermelon, thin-shaved red onion, crumbled feta cheese and torn mint leaves, tossed in a refreshingly-light citrusy vinaigrette.

I believe my version is better, uh, way-better than "the typical ones".  I know, that's bragging, but, hear me out, as I believe my reasoning to be sound.  Instead of using a combination of orange and lemon juice to make the vinaigrette, mine is full-throttle lemon-flavored.  Orange juice is ok, but lemon-infused olive oil is the bomb, and, when mixed with white balsamic vinegar, it takes my salad over-the-top.  When it comes to this salad, it is all about the dressing, and, this one is spectacular.  On a personal note, I added dried mint flakes to the dressing, instead of minced, fresh mint to the salad, because, while I'm a fan of subtle mint flavor, I am not a fan of fresh mint.

IMG_4756We're celebrating our harvest w/watermelon salad tonight.

IMG_4720 2Watermelon salad -- just in time for Oktoberfest!

6a0120a8551282970b0240a490dbbc200dFor the lemon-infused, white balsamic vinaigrette:

1/2  cup white balsamic vinegar

1/4  cup lemon-infused olive oil

2  tablespoons sugar

1  tablespoon Dijon mustard

1  teaspoon each: dried herbes de Provence & mint flakes

Step 1.  In a 1-cup container with a tight-fitting lid and pourer top, place all ingredients. Vigorously shake until well-combined.  Use as a marinade and/or dress salad and store leftovers in refrigerator.

IMG_4727For two salads:

1  6-ounce bag baby arugula leaves  

1  cup shaved red onion cut into half-moon shapes

1  cup feta cheese crumbles

8-10 tablespoons vinaigrette

4  cups 1" watermelon balls or cubes

freshly-ground peppercorn blend, for garnish

IMG_4731 IMG_4731 IMG_4731 IMG_4731 IMG_4731~Step 1.  Place the arugula, red onion and feta in a large bowl.  Add 6 tablespoons of the lemon vinaigrette.  Toss to coat these ingredients in the dressing.  Add the watermelon and the remaining 2-4 tablespoons vinaigrette.  Toss again and serve immediately*.  I mean ASAP.  Why? Arugula, like spinach, is a tender green, and will begin to wilt quickly.

IMG_4759*Note:  When I'm cutting into one of these big, long watermelons, I like to make and use "rind rings" as natural vessels to hold each portion of salad.  Simply slice the watermelon into 3" lengths, to form 3" tall discs. Cut around the inside perimeter of each disk, and gently remove the fruit from the rind.  Slice the fruit into cubes or use a melon baller to fashion round balls.  Place each "rind ring" on a flat salad-sized plate. Portion the salad into the open-bottomed salad bowls and serve.

Serve the moment this succulent salad gets tossed:

IMG_4761Lemon-Dressed Arugula, Watermelon & Feta Salad:  Recipe yields 3/4 cup vinaigrette and 2 salads.

Special Equipment List:  1-cup measuring container w/tight fitting lid and pourer top; cutting board; chef's knife; melon baller (optional)

6a0120a8551282970b0240a49029ab200dCook's Note:  My lemon-infused white-balsamic vinaigrette is great with vegetables too.  For example: lemon and asparagus go hand-in-hand.  It's a classic combination. My ~ Asparagus Salad with Lemon-Balsamic Vinaigrette ~ is another quick-to-make salad too. A salad without lettuce?  There's no law against it, and, in the case of this salad, lettuce is just in the way.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)