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Let's Dish With Linda Lou

Sharing My Recipes, My Life, And The Food Tale Of Two Cities

My Comfortable Place

My Comfortable Place (2)

Spring Flowers

Potting Table (1)

Potting Table (2)

Potting Table

Spathiphyllum

While sitting in my rocking chair, I had a thought. I decided to challenge myself to use each one of my herbs to make really easy and delicious dishes.

Rosemary

My rosemary plant is out back in a different garden. Rosemary. is a much hardier herb and grows to be quite large. Planting the Rosemary in the ground only made sense.

Sweet Basil (2)

Sage

Oregano

English Lavender

Mint

Chives

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Flat Leaf Italian Parsley

Starting soon, I’ll be profiling each of these herbs and incorporate them into a main or side dish. Fresh herbs bring so much flavor and to any recipe. They give the dish a gourmet touch. Well, I better get started on my first dish! Happy Cooking!

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Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili

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During the colder months here in Florida, I love making one pot meals like soups and stews. Chili is definitely one of our favorites. I’ve played around with some recipes for this dish and found this to be the one I like the best. It’s easy to make and doesn’t require a lot of prep. The best part is… everything’s done in the slow cooker!

The night before, pour 1 pound of dried Great Northern beans into a large bowl. Cover the beans by 3 inches with water, cover and place on the counter. The next day, drain and rinse the beans to remove any excess starch.

Total Time: 6-6 1/2 hrs 15 mins
Inactive Prep Time: Soaking beans overnight
Prep Time:15 min
Total Cook Time:  6hrs 45 minutes
Yields: 4-6 servings

Ingredients:
4 boneless-skinless chicken breasts
1-1/2 tablespoons of dried oregano
1-1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon of ground coriander
1 teaspoon of paprika
1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon of white pepper
1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
1 pound of, soaked and rinsed, dried Great Northern beans
2 stalks of celery chopped and cut into half moons
3 cloves of minced garlic
2 cans of chopped green chilies
1 large diced sweet onion
1 died green bell pepper
1 quart of chicken broth
1 cup of whole milk
1/4 cup Masa
1 package of frozen sweet corn
1 lime juiced and 1 lime cut into  wedges for serving
1 cup of grated Monterey Jack cheese, 1/2 reserved for serving
2 avocados, slice for garish
chopped fresh cilantro for serving
corn tortillaschips for serving

Directions:
Place the chicken breasts in the bottom of the slow cooker. In a bowl, mix the cumin, coriander, oregano, paprika, red pepper flakes, white pepper, and Kosher salt. Sprinkle the spices over the chicken. Add the beans, celery, garlic, canned  chilies, onions, and diced bell pepper.

Pour in the chicken broth, put the lid on and cook on low until the beans are cooked, the vegetables are soft and the flavors are combined, about 6-61/2 hrs.

Mix the milk with the Masa in a small bowl then add to the slow cooker. Add the frozen corn right, from the freezer, and continue to cook until the sauce has thickened, about 30 minutes.

Remove the chicken to a board and shred using two forks. Return to the slow cooker, then add the lime juice, sprinkle in the Monterey Jack cheese and stir to melt.

To serve: Ladle the chili into a bowl and garnish with extra cheese, cilantro, avocado slices, and a lime wedge. Place a few tortilla chips in or on the side for garnish.

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Pastitsio

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Lately, I’ve been testing a couple Greek Pastitsio recipes. Pastitsio, Greek style lasagna is so delicious.  Instead of just making one pan, I’ve made three to share with family and friends.

Bucatini is the pasta that’s a little thicker than spaghetti with a hole running through the center. I used Bucatini in this dish because it is readily available at local grocery stores. The traditional Greek pasta used for this dish can be found on line. I recently visited an International market, about 30 minutes from my home, and found that particular pasta.

You’ll see in the picture below that they are large tubes of pasta.

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Pastitsio (3)

This dish is definitely is a labor of love but so well worth it. There are three components to this dish, first the pasta, then the meat sauce, and finally the Bechamel. The one thing I find that different in the making of Pastitsio is the type of pasta that’s used. I have some very dear friends that are Greek and traditionally their parents and grandparents used Bucatini. That’s a thicker style of spaghetti-like pasta with a hole running through the center, so that’s what I’m using today. I’m going to start with the tender and flavorful meat sauce.

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Directions step by step:
In a deep sided pot that been heating up on med heat I’ve added 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil. To the oil, I’m adding some spices. I have oregano, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and ground cumin that I’m adding in to flavor the meat. I let the spices bloom in the hot oil and this is going to flavor the meat.

To the pot, I’m adding in a diced yellow onion that I’m going to saute until soft and translucent. Next,  I’m sprinkling in a pinch of Kosher salt and black pepper, and just stirring the diced onion so it gets really good and coated in the spices.

I have some lean ground beef and lamb that I’m adding to the pot to start browning and getting a hold of those delicious spices. I turn the heat up to med high, and using a wooden utensil I break up the meat. This is when I add in the minced garlic and let that cook for about 10 minutes or until all the meat is nice and brown.

Once the meat is nice and brown I like to drain any excess fat off the meat before returning it to the pot. Next, I’m adding in a good red wine. I’m using a Merlot, 1 cup. I let this come back up to a boil still on med high heat, then reduce the heat to med low, to a simmer, until all the wine has been absorbed. Once that’s happened I add in the whole can of crushed tomatoes.

I go ahead now and turn the heat back up to medium, and let cook for about 40-45 minutes stirring occasionally. Right before the sauce is done I add in some fresh thyme leaves and oregano. I stir the fresh herbs through and set the meat sauce aside before starting on the next phase of the Pastitsio. Next, the pasta.

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Cook the pasta to just under the al dente stage. Drain the pasta really well.  I have some Pecorino Romano cheese, that I’ve coarsely ground up in the food processor. Transfer the drained  pasta into a container. Add 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) of softened unsalted butter. Toss butter through really well. This will ensure the pasta doesn’t stick together while it sits to the side until I’m ready for it. I’m also adding some of the ground up Percorino cheese and tossing that through the Bucatini.

The second component to this dish is finished. Now for the Bechamel sauce.

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To start the Bechamel sauce for the Pastitsio, I have a pot that I have on med heat with some unsalted butter melting in the bottom. To that I’m adding in some flour that I’ve whisked until the flour and butter has made a smooth paste.

Next, I’m adding in some milk and heavy cream that have been heated (on the back burner) right below the boiling point. To the heated milk and cream mixture, add in some Kosher salt, black pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg. Stir that though before slowly adding the milk and cream mixture to the roux. Wisk continuously until everything starts to thicken and coats the back of a spoon.

This is when I add in some grated Pecorino cheese. Next, I ladle in some of the flavorful meat sauce into the Bechamel. Allow the mixute to cool before adding in the beaten eggs, and the room temperature Greek yogurt.

Well, that’ the last of the components for this dish. Now it’s time to put this bad boy together.

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First, I toss the prepared Bucatini in with the meat sauce.

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I have 3- 9 x 9 disposable pans that I’ve lightly butter. Remember I’m sharing with some really good friends of mine who happen to be Greek and to get their opinion on my take on this delicious recipe.

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I transfer a third of the Bucatini, in meat sauce, and divide that equally between the three pans. Next, I spread some of that delicious and creamy Bechamel sauce, equally, over the top so that it covers the pasta with meat sauce completely.

Sprinkle a good helping of the grated Pecorino cheese over the top of each pan. Place them into a 350 degree oven and bake them for 1 hour. The top should have a bubbly golden brown crust.

While it’s still hot, I chop up, very finely some Italian flat leaf parsley to sprinkle over the top for color.

Let this rest for at least 15 minutes to set before cutting.

I wanted to say, that this dish freezes beautifully.  Let cool completely, wrap them in foil, then again in plastic wrap really tightly. Then label and date them so you can have Pastitsio any time you like. When you ready to heat them up, place a pan into the frig to thaw over night.

Next, remove the foil and plastic wrap. Take a new piece of foil and lightly spray, the dull side, with non- stick cooking spray.  This will prevent the cheese topping from sticking to the foil. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and heat for about 30-35 minutes or until hot all the way through.

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Yields: 18 servings
Equipment: 3- 9 x 9 disposable pans
Ingredients For Meat sauce
2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large diced yellow onion
1 pound of lean ground beef
2 pounds of ground lamb
1 cup of Merlot
5 cloves of minced garlic
1-1/2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon of dried oregano
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh oregano leaves
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon of black pepper
1- 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes with their juice
1 stick of unsalted butter, reserve some for greasing the baking dish

Ingredients For Bechamel Sauce:
2 cups of whole milk
1 1/2 cups of heavy cream
1/2 a stick of unsalted butter
4 tablespoons of all- purpose flour
1/2 a teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1/2 a teaspoon of black pepper
3 cups of grated Pecorino cheese (1-1/2 cups for the Bechamel, 1 cup to toss with the pasta, 1/2 a cup for the topping)
2 extra large beaten eggs
1 cup of Greek yogurt
1 pound of Bucatini
Italian flat leaf parsley for garnish

Directions:
Making the sauce. Heat the olive oil over med heat in a large pot. Add in the oregano, cumin, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper to bloom in the oil first. Then add the diced onion seasoning with Kosher salt and pepper. Stir the onion until well coated with the spices and cook for 3-4 minutes until translucent. Add the meat in and break up with a wooden utensil, and also add in the minced garlic. Cook for about 10 minutes. After the meat minture has browned nicely drain off the excess fat and return the meat mixture back into the pot. Turn the pot up to med high heat and add in the wine. Let it come to a boil, reduce the heat to med low and let the wine reduce completely. This takes a couple of minutes. Next, add in the crushed tomatoes. Turn the heat back up to med and let the meat sauce simmer for about 45 minutes. About half way through taste for seasoning. This is the perfect time to add a light sprinkling of Kosher salt and pepper and stir that through.Be sure to stir the sauce occasionally through this process. Once finished set aside

While the sauce is simmering, prepare the pasta. Cook just under the al dente stage because it still has to bake. Once drained really well, add the unsalted butter. Toss the butter through. Then add in  Pecorino cheese and toss that through to coat the pasta. Set aside

Next for the Bechamel. Heat the milk and cram together in a sauce pan. Once just under the boiling point, 2-3 minutes, add in the Kosher salt, black pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg and stir through. In another pan melt the butter add in the flour whisking continuously Once the flour and butter are smooth and thick,add in the milk mixture and continue whisking for about 5 minutes or until the thicken white sauce coats the back of a wooden spoon. Now off the heat add in the grated Percorino cheese, 1 cup of the meat sauce. Stir this though and allow to cool before adding in the beaten eggs and Greek yogurt. Set aside.

Now add the pasta to the meat sauce and toss through so everything is mixed well  Place the pasta and meat sauce mixture divided evenly in the bottom of the pans, To that pour the Bechamel sauce evenly and equally over the three pans covering the pasta completely. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top of each pan.  Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown. Sprinkle some fresh finely chopped Italian flat leaf parsley for garnish over the top of each one. Let rest for about 15 minutes before cutting into.

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Sweet Italian Sausage, Mushroom, And Asparagus Strata

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Strata just mean a layered casserole. They can be sweet or savory. I guess you could say it’s almost like a type of bread pudding. Anytime I’m looking for a recipe that will feed at least six people my Sweet Italian Sausage, Mushroom And Asparagus Strata is perfect. Not to mention, it’s comfort food in every sense of the word. Let’s start from the beginning…

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I like spinach to keep its beautiful green color, so I immediately remove the pan from the heat. Once the spinach wilts, toss in the chopped thawed asparagus. Remember this dish still has to go into the oven.

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Prep Time: 30 to 40 minutes (time includes the cooking of all the ingredients going into the Strata)
Cook Time: 45 to 55 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
Yields: 6 servings
Equipment: 12-inch sautépan, 9 x 13 baking dish, 2 rimmed baking sheet pans,  1 medium-size mixing bowl, large mixing bowl, Chef’s knife

Ingredients:
unsalted butter for greasing the dish
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 Fresno chili, seeded and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves
1 pint of sliced button mushrooms
1 tablespoon plus teaspoon Kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
1 pound of sweet Italian sausage
1 sprig of fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
1 teaspoon of oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 package of fresh spinach leaves
1 package of thawed frozen asparagus cut into 2-inch pieces
1 loaf of Ciabatta bread, cut into 1-1/2 inch cubes and toasted
Dozen large eggs, room temperature
2 cups whole milk, room temperature
1 cup of half-and-half, room temperature
4-ounces grated Gruyere cheese (2 tablespoons for the top)
4-ounces grated Fontina cheese (2 tablespoons for the top)
1/2 cup of Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese (reserve 1/4 cup for the top)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 300-degrees F.
Butter casserole dish for the Strata. Next cut the Ciabatta cubes up into 2-inch cubes, spread them out on sheet pans and bake for 20 minutes or until dry at 300 degrees. While the bread is in the oven start the filling.

On medium heat, add the olive oil to a large sautépan. Next, add the Fresno chili and garlic, sauté until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Next, add the sliced mushrooms and thyme leaves. Sauté mushrooms for 5 minutes or until browned. Season with Kosher salt and pepper to taste.

To the pan, add the sweet Italian sausage. Using a wooden spoon, break the sausage up with a wooden spoon. Add the rosemary, fennel seeds, dried oregano, dried thyme, Kosher salt, and fresh ground pepper. Sauté until all the sausage is brown and cooked through, around 10 minutes. Next, add the fresh spinach leaves. Toss the leaves through until just wilted. Remove the pan from the heat. Add in the thawed chopped asparagus pieces and toss those through. Set the filling aside.

For the bread, I used a Ciabatta. Slice the Ciabatta then cut into 2-inch cubes. Place the cubes onto two rimmed sheet pans. Spread the cubes out into one even layer. Bake for 20 minutes or until bread cubes become dry and style-like. Let the bread cubes cool for 10 minutes.

Adjust oven temperature to 350-degrees F.

Start the custard by adding to medium-size mixing bowl the eggs, milk, grated cheeses, Kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper, whisk until combined.

In another large mixing bowl add the sausage mixture and cooled bread cubes. Gently toss to combine. Pour the custard over the sausage and bread cubes.

Gently fold the ingredients with the custard. Allow the mixture to sit for around 10 minutes giving the bread cubes a chance to absorb the custard, or at least most of it. In the meantime, butter the baking dish really well. This will make it easier for the strata to come out later.

Mix this all through really well and let sit for around 10 minutes so the bread can absorb all that liquid, or at least most of it. In the meantime butter, a 9 x 13 baking dish really well. This will make it easier for the strata to come out later.

Mix this all through really well and let sit for around 10 minutes so the bread can absorb all that liquid, or at least most of it. In the meantime get a deep casserole dish and lightly butter it all over. This will make it easier for the strata to come out later.

After the 10 minutes, pour the mixture into the buttered baking dish and sprinkle the reserved cheese over the top. Drizzle (around a 1/4 cup) of olive oil all over the top to ensure the bread browns evenly.

Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until you can see no more liquid coming up on the sides or up through the center. Once a wooden skewer comes out clean, the dish is done. The Strata should be nice and golden brown on the top.

Allow the Sweet Italian Sausage, Mushroom, And Asparagus Strata to rest for 20 minutes before cutting.

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