Food Hunter's Guide to Cuisine: Making the Best in a Non-Foodie Town

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Making the Best in a Non-Foodie Town

When my husband suggested renting a cabin in Flagstaff for a week I was more than a little concerned. All I could think of was: where are we going to eat. Flagstaff is not known to be a dining destination that's for sure. Don't get me wrong there are plenty of restaurants and brew pubs but not anything that would make you want to spend a week there.

I started feeling better about things when my husband suggested that we cook most of our meals instead of eating out. I felt better still when I saw him packing some of our favorite cookbooks.

We arrived in Flagstaff on Sunday afternoon; greeted by lots of rain and temperatures in the mid 60's. This was the perfect weather for making comfort food; an opportunity we don't get often living in Phoenix.

So we made things like creamy tomato soup with grilled fontina cheese sandwiches for lunch and baked pasta for dinner. We also popped homemade popcorn and sipped on foamy mugs of hot chocolate.

If I had to pick two favorite meals from everything we cooked that week it would be:

1. Baked Pasta with Ricotta and Ham from Mario Batalli

2. Sausage with Fennel and Olives from Lidia's Italy by Lidia Bastianich.

Sausages with Fennel and Olives

4 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
12 sweet Italian sausages
1 C dry white wine
6 plump garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1/4 tsp. pepperoncino flakes or to taste
1 C large green olives, squashed to open them and pitted
3 large fennel bulbs (3.5 - 4 lb total), trimmed and cut into 1-inch chunks
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt or kosher salt

Pour 2 Tbs olive oil into a skillet large enough for your sausages and set over medium-high heat. Lay in the sausages and cook for 5 minutes or more, rolling them over occasionally until nicely browned. Pour in the wine and boil until it is reduced by half. Remove the sausages to a platter and pour the remaining wine sauce over them.

Add the remaining 2 Tbs olive oil to the empty skillet. Toss in the garlic cloves and cook for a minute or so over medium heat until they're sizzling. Drop in the pepperoncino then scatter the squashed olives in the pan. Toss and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the fennel chunks and stir. Season with 1/2 tsp salt. Cover the skillet and cook over medium heat for 20 minutes, tossing and stirring now and then until the fennel softens, shrinks, and begins to color. Add a bit of water to the pan if the fennel remains hard and resistant to the bite.

When the fennel is cooked through, return the sausages and wine to the skillet. Turn the meat and vegetables together, cook uncovered for another 5 minutes or so, until everything is deeply caramelized and glazed. Adjust seasoning to taste. Serve hot.

All in all it turned out to be a delicious and fun week.


  1. those both look really good... thanks for sharing :)

  2. Sausage with fennel and olives sounds like a delicious combination. It also sounds like good food for cooler weather which is just around the corner where I am.

  3. We actually stayed in Flagstaff for a couple of days when we visited the Grand Canyon and had some really good food. They were casual restaurants, but served fresh, organic food. Though your dishes sound perfect.

  4. so, i've been dying to get up to flagstaff since we got here...any recommendations on where to stay? From your post I see there won't be much to eat up there...but I like a good brew pub now and again. Thanks!