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
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.