Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Spaghetti with Lemon, Chile and Creamy Spinach

Like a lot of people, my diet isn't nearly as good on the weekend as it is during the week, so I usually try to make a healthy, vegetarian, relatively light dinner on Monday night (and it's a bonus when it's quick to prepare). I came across this recipe from one of my favorite sources, Food and Wine, which was especially fortuitious since I already had everything I need on hand. Since spinach is available nearly year-round at the farmer's market (many farmers grow it in unheated hoophouses in Wisconsin), I eat quite a bit of it, usually in salad, so it was nice to enjoy spinach cooked for a change instead.

Although this sauce for this dish is undeniably creamy, using yogurt in place of heavy cream or milk makes this much tangier than your average cream sauce, which is quite refreshing and perfect for summer. This pasta would also work well with a variety of other greens, like arugula, or perhaps even broccoli rabe, and vary from extremely mild to scorchingly hot, depending on what type and amount of pepper you choose to use. I suspect I'll be adapting this dish to the bounty of the farmer's market at least a few times this summer for quick and healthy dinner.

Spaghetti with Lemon, Chile, and Creamy Spinach
from Food and Wine
serves 4

1/2 pound whole wheat spaghetti
1 1/2 cups plain low-fat yogurt
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 red Thai chile, minced
10 ounces baby spinach
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons, plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the spaghetti until al dente. Drain and return to the saucepan.
2. Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk the yogurt with the flour until smooth. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and chile and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the yogurt and bring to a simmer over moderate heat, stirring. Add the spinach by the handful and cook until wilted, stirring. When all of the spinach has been added, stir in the lemon zest and juice and season with salt and pepper.
3. Add the sauce to the spaghetti and toss well to coat. Mound in bowls, sprinkle with the Parmesan and serve right away.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Strawberry and Rhubarb Crumble

Strawberry is definitely my favorite fruit to pair with rhubarb. Raspberries, peaches, and even apples all can make fantastic dishes in combination with rhubarb, but there's something about strawberries that complements the rhubarb particularly well, especially in that fleeting time when both are in season (which has yet to come in this area). My favorite fruit desserts are usually the simplest, using just a few ingredients to accentuate all the best characteristics of the ingredients without taking over the flavor of the dish. With sweet strawberries, tart rhubarb, and a crumbly streusel topping, how can you go wrong? Swirl a bit of rich, vanilla ice cream into warm crisp for a sweet, tart, rich, and crunchy dessert packed with the flavor of early summer.

Strawberry and Rhubarb Crumble
adapted from Tamasin Day-Lewis in Bon Appetit, via Epicurious

3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup turbinado sugar
Large pinch of salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup husked hazelnuts, toasted, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 pound strawberries, hulled, halved (about 4 cups)
12 ounces rhubarb (preferably bright red), ends trimmed, stalks cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick pieces
Vanilla ice cream

1. Combine flour, turbinado sugar, and salt in medium bowl; whisk to blend. Add butter. Rub in with fingertips until mixture sticks together in clumps. Mix in oats and nuts. DO AHEAD: Topping can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

2. Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter 11 x 7 x 2- inch glass baking dish. Place 1/2 cup sugar in large bowl. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; whisk to blend well. Add strawberries and rhubarb to sugar in bowl; toss to coat well. Scrape fruit filling into prepared baking dish. Sprinkle oat topping evenly over filling.

3.Bake crumble until filling bubbles thickly and topping is crisp, about 45 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes. Spoon warm crumble into bowls. Serve with ice cream.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Adobo Marinade

Even though I'm an adventurous and ambitious cook most of the time, I tend to fall into a burgers and brats rut when it comes to grilling. I do make all kinds of different creative burgers, but I thought it was time to tackle another protein for my traditional Sunday grilling. I settled on chicken tacos to satisfy my craving for Mexican food and desire to eat a little lighter after a day of heavy indulgence at a Brewer game, and went my favorite source for Mexican cuisine, Rick Bayless, for this simple and delicious adobo marinade recipe. This marinade gets a tremendous depth of flavor from the ancho chile but isn't too hot to enjoy the flavor of the chiles. It may be a little bit much for those who don't like spicy food, but I think most people will happily enjoy proteins marinaded in this delicious mixture.

To make the tacos pictured above, I marinated 1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts with about 1/4 cup of the marinade for a few hours, then grilled them over charcoal along with three bell peppers and one white onion. I sliced up the chicken, peppers, and onion, and served them in fresh, warm, corn tortillas, topped with salsa for a satisfying and healthy lunch with a side of refried beans.

Adobo Marinade 
from Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless
makes about 3/4 cup

1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped or pressed through a garlic press
1/3 cup ground ancho chile powderr
2 tablespoons (apple cider vinegar is common in Mexico)
1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
1/2 teaspoon sugar

1. In a small saucepan, heat the oil over medium. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, but not browned, about 1 minute, then add the ancho powder, vinegar, oregano, sugar, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 3/4 cup water, whisking to combine thoroughly. Simmer over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes to blend the flavors and eliminate the raw ancho taste. Allow to cool to room temperature, then scrape into a jar and cover. Refrigerate for up to a month or more.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mushroom Pizza with Ramp Pesto

Ramps are one of the culinary delicacies of spring, and I've tried to make the most of this fleeting wild vegetable this year. Recipes for ramps are certainly not as numerous as many other vegetables and I've mostly made pasta dishes using ramps, since that is the most plentiful category of recipes. For what may be my final ramp dish of the year, I adapted a pesto recipe from Bon Appetit for this decadent pizza, although it would also be spectacular on pasta or a panini. The fresh, green flavor of the ramps works perfectly with hearty, earthy mushrooms and rich and salty cheese, all of which I found at my local farmer's market. Although pizza is often a kid-friendly food, this is a quite strongly flavored pesto, and probably not suitable for the pint-size set, or anyone who likes their food mildly-flavored. But for all of you with an adventurous palate, I strongly recommend whipping up a batch of this supremely savory pesto before ramps completely disappear for the season for this unique pizza.

Mushroom Pizza with Ramp Pesto

serves 4

1/2 cup olive oil, divided  
2/3 cup thinly sliced trimmed ramp bulbs and slender stems plus 3 cups thinly sliced green tops (from about 8 ounces ramps)  
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese  
1/3 cup toasted almonds   
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
12-inch whole wheat pizza crust
8 ounces sliced mushrooms (I like shiitake or cremini)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

 1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 2/3 cup ramp bulbs and stems to skillet and sauté just until soft but not browned, reducing heat if necessary to prevent browning, about 5 minutes. Transfer sautéed ramps to processor. Add green tops, cheese, and almonds to processor; process until finely chopped. With machine running, gradually add remaining oil and puree until almost smooth. Transfer pesto to bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  

2. Meanwhile, preheat an oven to 450 degrees. Spread 3/4 to 1 cup of the ramp pesto even over the pizza crust, reserving the rest for later use (you'll have about 1 1/2 cups total). Spread mushrooms evenly over crust and top with mozzarella cheese.

3. Bake until cheese is melted and just starting to brown 8 to 12 minutes. Let stand for a couple of minutes, then slices and serve hot.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Rhubarb Cake

Yes, it's another rhubarb dessert. With rhubarb everywhere I turn at the farmer's market, I can't resist expanding my repertoire of rhubarb dishes (though they tend mostly towards the sweet instead of savory). Since my last rhubarb dessert was a crisp, which is mostly fruit with a little bit of topping (okay, a pretty healthy amount of streusel), I thought I'd try making a cake, where the rhubarb is the primarily flavor, but isn't actually the bulk of the dessert. If you love rhubarb, you'll love this light, delicate, but moist cake. The tart rhubarb is wonderful foil against the nutty whole wheat flour and mild tang from the buttermilk, showcasing the rhubarb flavor instead of masking it with another fruit or burying it in sugar. Serve warm with scoop of vanilla ice cream and relish in the flavor of late spring/early summer.

Rhubarb Cake
makes one 9- by 13-inch cake; serves 8
adapted from Martha Stewart

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for baking dish
2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 cups chopped rhubarb
1/4 cup turbinado sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In a liquid measuring cup, combine buttermilk and vanilla; set aside.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer or using a handheld mixer, beat butter with granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg, and beat to combine. Add the flour mixture, alternating with the buttermilk mixture, and starting and ending with the flour mixture. Stir in rhubarb.

3. Spread batter evenly into prepared baking dish. In a small bowl, stir together remaining 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar evenly over batter. Bake until a cake tester inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 20 to 30 minutes.

4. Let cool on a wire rack in pan for 30 minutes before serving.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sunchoke and Cauliflower Soup

I am always game to try new foods, be it offal or just a vegetable I've never tried. Sadly, at the age of 25, I had never had a sunchoke, so when I saw them at the farmer's market I felt it was imperative that pick some up. There isn't the plethora of recipes out there for sunchokes (also called Jerusalem artichokes), but I was pleased to come across a wonderful soup recipe in Food and Wine, which I tweaked just a little bit. Although the sunchoke isn't the dominant ingredient in this recipe, its presence gives the soup of depth of flavor that it wouldn't have if made with cauliflower alone. This soup is luxuriously creamy with a bit of zestiness from the artichokes and the perfect introduction to this ingredient, inspiring me to try out even more sunchoke recipes.

Sunchoke and Cauliflower Soup
adapted from Food and Wine
serves 4

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small celery rib, minced
1/2 small onion, minced
2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
1 cup whole milk
1 pound cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets
6 ounces sunchokes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 thyme sprig or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and freshly ground white pepper

1. In a large saucepan, melt the 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the celery and onion and cook over low heat until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the stock and milk and bring to a simmer over high heat. Add the cauliflower, sunchokes and thyme and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat until the sunchokes are very tender, about 30 minutes; discard the thyme sprig, if using.

2. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until smooth and slightly frothy. (Alternatively, working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth and return the soup to the saucepan). Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Ladle into bowls.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Rhubarb Raspberry Crisp

Because most of my cooking is driven by seasonal ingredients, you're likely to see a lot of rhubarb recipes on here in the coming weeks. When produce is available at the farmer's market with which I can make a dessert, I feel it is my duty to oblige by making a host of sweet treats to honor those ingredients. Since rhubarb is so tart, it pairs wonderfully with fruit that can temper the tartness, a much better option than simply drowning it in sugar. I was lucky enough to find a vendor at my farmer's market selling frozen raspberries and strawberries from last season, so I got to savor a true bite of Wisconsin summer while maintaining true to buying local and seasonal produce from the farmer's market. While raspberries bring a bit of sweetness to this crisp, they also bring their own different tart flavor, blending beautifully with the rhubarb and orange juice and zest. Who can resist a bowl full of soft, sweet and tart fruit, topped with rich and crunchy topping, with smooth and creamy vanilla ice cream swirling in each bite?

Rhubarb Raspberry Crisp
adapted from Martha Stewart
serves 6

1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Zest and juice of 1 orange
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup hazelnuts, skinned, toasted, and chopped (optional)
1/2 pint fresh raspberries
Vanilla ice cream, for serving (optional)

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine rhubarb, granulated sugar, and orange zest and juice in a large bowl. Stir to combine.

2. In another bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Rub butter into flour mixture with your fingers until it is well incorporated and large crumbs form. Add oats and nuts and combine.

3. Turn rhubarb into a 8- or 9-inch square baking dish, scatter raspberries evenly over surface, and cover with crumb topping. Bake until topping is brown and crisp and juices are bubbling, about 45 minutes, covering with aluminum foil to prevent overbrowning, if necessary. Let cool slightly; serve warm, with ice cream, if desired.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Raspberry Scones

Sunday mornings are one of my favorite times of the week. While my husband is typically still tucked in bed, I go for a refreshing early morning walk, pick up my Sunday paper (which hopefully has been delivered by the time I get back), and make myself a delicious breakfast. Baked steel cut oats and omelets make frequent appearances on my breakfast plate, but I also frequently whip up a batch of muffins or scones, which has the added bonus of providing extras for the work week and to freeze for later. I bought some frozen raspberries at the farmer's market for another recipe, which happened to leave me with the exact right amount to make this simple, delicious scones. If you don't want to seek out spelt flour (available at well-stocked grocery stores, health food stores like Whole Foods, and even at my local Target), I'd recommend using whole-wheat pastry flour, or at the very least a mixture of whole wheat and all-purpose flour. Spelt flour has so much more flavor than regular all-purpose flour that it only takes a bit of sweetness from some honey and fresh, tart flavor from the raspberries to round out the flavor of these delicious, healthy scones. The delicate, crumbly texture is a real treat; take care not to bake these scones too long and dry them out. I'm looking forward to adapting this recipe with other whole grain flours and berries as they come into season at the farmer's market and flooding the house with comforting aroma of fresh-baked scones for many Sundays to come.

Raspberry Scones
adapted from Food and Wine

2 cups spelt flour1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/3 cup canola oil 
1/3 cup honey
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract 
1/3 cup hot water 
1 cup fresh raspberries
1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a bowl, whisk the spelt with the baking powder and salt. Stir in the oil, agave nectar and vanilla. Stir in the hot water, then the raspberries.
2. Divide batter into six even mounds onto the prepared baking sheet and lightly brush the tops with oil. Bake the scones for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden. Let the baking sheet cool completely on top of a rack.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Guacamole Bacon Burgers

I'm a huge fan of routine, from the utterly mundane (my weekly schedule for laundry and cleaning) to the purely delightful and indulgent, like the weekly ritual of grilling out on Sunday night that I've reinstituted now that weather is warm again. I love pretty much anything cooked on a (charcoal) grill and burgers are another great palette for culinary creativity. This recipe certainly isn't my first foray into putting together creative burger toppings, but it may be my favorite (this burger comes in a close second). This burger brings together the creamy freshness of guacamole with savory, salty bacon and melty cheese in an exquisite union of Mexican flavors and traditional American grilling. To accompany these decadent burgers, whip up a batch of spicy black beans in lieu of the traditional baked beans to carry the wonderful Mexican flavors throughout the meal.

Guacamole Bacon Burgers
serves 2

For the guacamole:
1 medium ripe Hass avocado
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1/2 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon minced jalapeno, or to taste
2 tablespoons chopped white onion

2 whole wheat hamburger buns
8-12 ounces ground sirloin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Ground chipotle pepper (optional)
3 ounces bacon, cooked (2-4 strips, depending on the thickness of your bacon)
2 ounce sliced quesadilla or other good melting cheese
Lettuce, greens, or alfalfa sprouts (optional)
Sliced tomato (optional)

1. First, make the guacamole. Cut the avocado in half, remove the pit, and scoop the flesh into a medium bowl. Mash the avocado into a paste using a fork or potato masher, add the remaining ingredients, and stir well to combine. Put 1/4 cup guacamole on each of the top halves of the hamburger buns, reserving any remaining guacamole for another use.

2. Meanwhile, preheat a grill pan, gas grill, or charcoal grill. Divide the ground sirloin into two patties and season each side with salt, pepper, and chipotle pepper (if using). Cook to desired level of doneness using desired method of cooking (I prefer a medium-rare burger, cooked over charcoal). When burgers are just shy of done, place cooked bacon and cheese on top of the burger and cook until the cheese is melted, just a couple of minutes. Place one burger on each of the bottom halves of the buns and add lettuce and tomato, if desired, top with upper halves of buns, and serve.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sun-Dried Tomato, Spinach, and Portobello Melt

Although I do love meat, when I'm feeding just myself I usually go for vegetarian fare. This often means my dishes are centered around eggs (frittatas or omelets with lots of veggies), beans,  or cheese (I'm a connoisseur of all manner of grilled cheese sandwiches), but mushrooms also make a great savory, hearty main course. Portobello mushroom melts are an extremely common vegetarian option on restaurant menus, usually grilled and slathered in cheese, peppers, and onions. Although that most definitely makes for a delicious meal, I went a more Mediterranean direction with my portobello melt. The intensely flavored sun-dried tomatoes are a great foil to robust and hearty mushroom, with a layer of richness from the cheese and freshness from the spinach. If you have the time, this melt would be even more flavorful if the portobello cap is marinated and grilled separately before putting the sandwich together. While the big, meaty bite of a portobello cap is satisfying, you could also prepare this melt with great success using shiitake mushrooms instead. And if you're not in the mood for a sandwich, throw this delicious suite of ingredients into a frittata for a superb breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Sun-Dried Tomato, Spinach, and Portobello Melt
serves 1

2 slices whole grain bread
1 large portobello mushroom capped, stem removed and cleaned
0.5 oz. recipe-ready sun-dried tomatoes (scant 1/4 cup)
0.5 oz. spinach
1.5 oz. mozzarella cheese
Olive oil cooking spray

1. Heat a panini or sandwich press according to manufacturer's instructions until hot. (Alternatively, heat a well-seasoned ridged grill pan over moderate heat.)

2. Place portobello cap on one slice of bread, top with spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, and cheese, and top with the second slice bread.

3. Spray the panini press with olive oil cooking spray (or brush one side of each piece of bread with olive oil). Put sandwiches on press, pull top down and cook until sandwich is browned and crisp, 4 to 8 minutes. (If using a grill pan cook until first side is brown, then flip and continue cooking until opposite side is browned and crisp, placing a heavy pan on top of sandwich during cooking, if desired.)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Carrot-Oat Cake

I love dessert, and any day that includes some sort of indulgence is all the better for it in my opinion. Like the cookies I made last week, this cake is a way to indulge my sweet tooth but still sneak in some quality nutrition along the way. This cake is flavorful, moist, and everything I want in a snack during my morning break at work, but also healthy enough for breakfast or sweet enough for dessert.  If you're concerned about the amount of sugar in this recipe from the 1 cup of maple syrup (or simply don't want to use so much an expensive ingredient), substitute half of the maple syrup with unsweetened applesauce; honey could also be used in lieu of the maple syrup, also in combination with applesauce, if desired. Personally, I'm a sucker for anything with (real) maple syrup so I wouldn't want to subtract any of that wonderful maple flavor and aroma from this cake. Taking a few minutes to savor a cup of tea, this delicious cake, and a bit of calm goes a long way to breaking up the work day and keeping my sanity when things get hectic.

Carrot-Oat Cake
from Whole Foods
makes one 9x9-inch cake

Natural cooking spray
1 cup rolled or quick cooking oats
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups grated carrots
1 cup pure maple syrup
1 cup dried currants
1/2 cup unsweetened finely shredded coconut
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Lightly oil a (9-inch) square baking pan with cooking spray and set it aside.

2. Pulse oats and walnuts in a food processor until coarsely ground. Transfer to a large bowl. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and salt and mix well. In a second large bowl, combine carrots, maple syrup, currants, coconut and vanilla. Add carrot mixture to flour mixture and stir until completely incorporated. Transfer to prepared pan and bake until cooked through and deep golden brown, about 1 hour. Set aside to let cool before cutting into squares.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Brown Rice Couscous with Chickpeas, Cucumbers and Feta

Some time ago, I bought a box of roasted brown rice couscous on sale at Whole Foods. I'd never seen it before and it seemed like a great chance to try a new whole grain. This recipe would work equally as well with whole wheat couscous or brown rice, so feel free to substitute those more readily available whole grains if you can't find brown rice couscous. The roasted flavor really adds and extra dimension of flavor to the rice/couscous, and is well worth a try if you can find it. Luckily for me, I had a host of ingredients in the pantry and fridge to make a Mediterranean inspired dish with this newly discovered grain. Although cooking with dried beans is ideal, you can't beat the convenience of canned beans when short of time trying to make a nutritious dinner. The feta cheese provides saltiness and richness and the chickpeas are a hearty and satisfying protein, but the cucumber, parsley, and lemon juice keep the dish light and refreshing. In addition to making a great, quick weeknight dinner, leftovers are great to pack for the lunch the following day.

Brown Rice Couscous with Chickpeas, Cucumbers and Feta
serves 4 to 6

One 1-ounce box brown rice couscous
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
One 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup chopped cucumber
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley or cilantro

1. Cook the brown rice couscous according to the package directions. Meanwhile, to make the vinaigrette whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, cumin, and coriander in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

2. Once the couscous is cooked, add the the bowl with the vinaigrette and toss well to even coat the couscous with the vinaigrette. Add the chickpeas, cucumber, feta and parsley and mix well to distribute the ingredients evenly. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Italian Sausage and Shiitake Sloppy Joes

Like most people, I loved sloppy joes as a kid, but as an adult, I no longer find the combination of Manwich and ground beef so appealing-Manwich is just way too sweet (not to mention unhealthy) for me to eat now. I've made my own ground beef sloppy joes from scratch before, loading them peppers, onions, and spices, for a delicious and nostalgic dinner, but I thought it would be fun to make a more sophisticated, flavorful, adult version of the sloppy joe. I had some absolutely incredible Italian sausage from Pecatonica Valley Farm and shiitake mushrooms, both acquired at the farmer's market, so I only had to combine them in tomato sauce with just a bit of salt and pepper for some incredible sandwiches. (If you don't have wonderfully flavored Italian sausage, you may want to add some oregano, basil, fennel, Italian seasoning or other spices to punch up the flavor.) This dish is tremendously simple and pays you may times over for your efforts in flavor, so indulge your inner child and sophisticated adult sides with this meal tonight.

Italian Sausage and Shiitake Sloppy Joes
serves 4

8 ounces bulk Italian sausage
1/2 cup diced white or yellow onion
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, destemmed and sliced
8 ounce can tomato sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 whole-grain hamburger buns

1. Preheat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add Italian sausage to pan and break up into small pieces. Once the sausage has started to render some fat, add the onion and cook until onions are just starting to soften, 2 to 3 minutes. Add sliced shiitakes and continue to cook until the Italian sausage has cooked through and mushrooms are tender, but not mushy, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add tomato sauce and continue to cook over low to medium-low heat until mushrooms are cooked to desired tenderness and flavors are blended. Season mixture to taste with salt and black pepper, divide mixture evenly among buns, and serve hot.