On a recent trip up to Rochester, I had the pleasure of discovering a lovely little Italian place called the Mona Lisa Café. My mother and I stopped in there on a whim one afternoon for a cappuccino, but after entering the café and seeing all the delicious pastries and gelato and enticing smells of amazing food, we decided to stay for lunch instead.
We sat at a table by a large window and enjoyed a glass of wine while perusing the menu. At first we thought we would just split an appetizer, but there were just too many tasty choices on the menu to settle for just one item. We opted for a delicious Italian Panini and their amazing Greens and Beans appetizer made with escarole and cannelloni beans sautéed with heaps of garlic, savory Italian sausage, white wine, olive oil and bread crumbs topped with Parmesan cheese. WOW. Best thing I’ve ever tasted! I loved this dish so much I was inspired to recreate it at home, and my own version of Garlicky Greens and Beans with Sausage I now present to you. Delicioso!
Garlicky Greens and Beans with Sausage
- 2 cups Fingerling potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters or chunks
- 1 1/4 pound sweet Italian sausage (may use chicken or turkey sausage if you prefer)
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 6 garlic cloves, sliced or chopped fine
- 1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
- 1 large bunch of greens (I used collards, but you can use spinach, kale, escarole, or mustard/turnip greens)
- 1 can white cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus extra for garnish
- Crusty bread or garlic bread, for dipping
- Rinse and drain potatoes, cut into quarters or chunks, depending on the size.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook potatoes for about 10-12 minutes until tender. Drain and set aside.
- At the same time, add 1/2 inch of water to a large saute pan over medium heat. Add sausages to and cover with a lid, simmering for 10 minutes (without turning). Remove the lid, turn sausages over, and cook for another 5 minutes until almost cooked through.
- Meanwhile, measure out your liquids and dry seasonings and set aside.
- Chop the garlic.
- Wash the greens well and drain. Remove and discard the veins and stems, cutting leafy green parts off on either side into 1-inch strips.
- Remove sausages from pan and cut into coin-sized chunks. Drain fat from pan and wipe down.
- Add 1 tablespoon of oil into the same pan and return to medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, and saute while stirring often, for about 1 minute being careful not to burn garlic.
- Add additional 3 tablespoons of oil and start sauteing greens by the handful until they are just starting to wilt.
- Add cannellini beans, sausage, potatoes, broth, water and minced onion; bring ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and let simmer on low for 10-15 minutes to let the flavors meld.
- Remove lid, add 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar, and let simmer for another 5 minutes or so until the liquid reduces a little (you can simmer it down longer if you like a thicker stew or add more broth/water if you like a thinner stew).
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve the Greens and Beans in large bowls topped with shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and crusty bread for dipping in the broth.
Substitute sweet Italian sausage with chicken or turkey sausage or omit all together and adjust water/broth down to 2 cups if you prefer a vegetarian dish.
Mona Lisa Cafe uses breadcrumbs and white wine in their dish which I omitted in my version because of the starch from the potatoes and adding a splash of white wine vinegar which gives it a nice tangy flavor to the broth. Feel free to experiment by topping it with toasted breadcrumbs and using some wine in place of the water in my recipe, but you'll need to adjust the amount of liquids down if you omit the potatoes from the dish so it's not too watery/brothy. The consistency should be of a nice light stew with a balance between the meat and vegetables and the broth.
Serve with a dry white Italian wine such as Pinot Grigio and crusty bread for dipping up the broth.
Other recipes you might enjoy:
Italian Sausage and Kale Soup
White Bean and Escarole Soup with Meatballs
Sausage and Bean Soup with Pasta
All photographs, copy and content on this post and website are copyright © 2010-2013 Kristen Hess Styling & Photography and The Artful Gourmet. Please do not use, share or distribute in any way without my expressed permission granted. Thanks!
Parmesan Garlic Shells with Spinach, Zucchini and Ham
This is a super easy and tasty dish that I whipped up one night with some of the ingredients I had on hand. It’s a light and savory pasta dish made with large shell pasta, sauteed spinach, zucchini and ham with garlic and a creamy parmesan alfredo sauce, with a few sprinkles of red pepper flakes, sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Perfect dish for a weeknight dinner, with some crusty French or Italian bread, a green salad and glass of wine. You can also substitute whole wheat pasta in any shape or size you please. Cooked diced bacon or prosciutto are also delicious in place of the cooked ham. If you want to experiment with the veggies, try broccoli or peas or yellow squash, what ever your heart desires!
Parmesan Garlic Shells with Spinach, Zucchini and Ham
- 1 bag of medium-large shell pasta (fresh or dried)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 large zucchini, sliced 1/4 inch thin and halved
- 1 bag of fresh spinach (leaves), chopped
- 1-2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
- 1 cup of cooked Virginia ham, diced (can sub cooked prosciutto or bacon)
- Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
- PARMESAN GARLIC SAUCE:
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons flour
- Sea salt, to taste
- 1 cup low-fat milk
- 2 tablespoons neufchatel or cream cheese
- 1 cup parmesan cheese
- Fresh parsley, chopped for garnish
- 1 green onion, sliced for garnish
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add pasta shells and cook according to package directions until al dente (about 8 minutes dried, 3 minutes fresh). Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of cooking water and set aside.
- Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a medium-large saute pan and add zucchini. Sprinkle with salt and fresh ground pepper to taste and cook for about 8-10 minutes until zucchini is soft. Add 1 tablespoon of garlic and saute for another minute or so until garlic starts to brown. Remove zucchini-garlic mixture from saute pan and set aside in a medium-large mixing bowl.
- Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the saute pan and heat for a minute or so. Add the fresh chopped spinach, salt and pepper to taste, and red pepper flakes, stirring through. Saute spinach about 3-5 minutes until wilted. Add the cooked diced ham and saute another few minutes until browned. Remove spinach and ham from saute pan and add to cooked zucchini in mixing bowl.
- To make the Parmesan Garlic Sauce:
- Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
- Add the garlic and cook until soft and lightly browned, about 1 minute.
- Add in the flour and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, another minute.
- Whisk in the milk, a sprinkle of sea salt and cook, whisking constantly, until just thickened, about 3 minutes.
- Add the Neufchatel and parmesan cheese; whisk until melted, about 1 minute.
- Combine the cooked pasta shells, 1/2 cup cooking water from pasta, sauteed zucchini, spinach and ham to the alfredo garlic sauce, stir thoroughly to mix ingredients for another minute or so.
- Sprinkle additional salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste into the pasta mixture. Remove from saute pan and place in a large serving bowl. Top pasta with chopped fresh parsley and green onions, and top with more parmesan cheese to taste.
- Serve the pasta with some crusty bread, a green salad and glass of wine.
You can also substitute whole wheat pasta in any shape or size you please. Cooked diced bacon or prosciutto are also delicious in place of the cooked ham. If you want to experiment with the veggies, try broccoli or peas or yellow squash, what ever your heart desires!
Other Recipes you may enjoy:
Smitten Kitchen’s Pasta with Garlicky Broccoli Rabe
Spinach and Artichoke Pasta
Pioneer Woman’s Pasta Primavera
What Katie Ate’s Conchiglia with Mushrooms and Parmesan Cream Sauce
Recipe Girl’s Spaghetti with Cremini Mushrooms, Lemon & Thyme
In Jennie’s Kitchen Pasta Carbonara
San Diego Sunset
I recently got back from an amazing trip to San Diego – one so lovely and rejuvenating that the sunsets are burned into my brain, leaving me wishing for more of the bright colorful skies, fresh air, palm trees swaying in the wind and cool sand between my toes.
The San Diego Crew
This is a fun trip that started last year with an amazing group of friends and has now turned into a yearly tradition.
Seven of my friends and I rented a gorgeous beach house on Mission Beach in San Diego -
Beach House Room
Our house had two levels, two kitchens, five bedrooms, a beach front patio, two grills, plus another two patios outside,
all with stunning views of the ocean from every angle and every room.
It all started as a birthday celebration trip for my friend Suzanne last year and now with another birthday girl, my dear friend Linda. Plus five other cool cats I’m proud to be friends with: Paula, Cris, Jackie, Janis and Andrew. What a crew.
Kristen and Paula
enjoying each other’s company with a Corona or two…
taking in the stunning views..
Mission Beach Boardwalk
people watching on the boardwalk..
Seagull at Dusk
and making new friends.
There’s something about California that makes me feel relaxed, happy, and in a totally different world than the one I live in New York City.
No crazy traffic or cars honking, just beautiful beaches and cool, relaxed people up early for morning jogs and bike rides, swaying palm trees,
hazy blue and pink sunrises, and breathtaking bright magenta and orange sunsets that will blow you away.
The boardwalk is lined with colorful pastel houses and bungalows that look like Jordan almonds lined up in the sand.
Sand Volleyball players
We took daily walks down the beach, watching the surfers and volleyball players,
catching some rays down by Crystal Pier while gazing out into the turquoise blue water.
To satisfy our foodie fix, we grabbed a fish taco and a Bloody Mary (or two) at the little beach side cafes and food stands on the boardwalk while soaking in the sunshine.
We took advantage of our gorgeous views and drank plenty of tequila and margaritas out on our beach front patio playing penny can, laughing and telling stories,
Frolicking on the beach
and frolicking on the beach at sunset like fools.
With a large group of eight people that all love to eat and drink, we spent over $1500 on our grocery bill and stocking our bar so we could take advantage of our two kitchens and grills and had massive amounts of cooking and eating (and drinking) going on each day. I swore after this trip I would never eat again – but that didn’t last long.
Jackie’s Famous Eggs
Jackie made her Famous Eggs with Sausage, Mushrooms and Cheese, served with my Spicy Fried Potatoes, toasted bagels and plenty of bacon and mimosas to go around and feed the masses. Best Breakfast EVER.
Sunset Grilled Feast
Cris was our designated grill master, who made us a delicious feast at sunset with heaps of tender grilled steak, shrimp and veggies – love those baby peppers on the grill!
Cooking up a storm
Paula made us a yummy Chicken dish stuffed with Prosciutto, Sage and Provolone which I gladly assisted with while multi-tasking by drinking my Sauv Blanc with a HUGE mitt (just in case that wine glass gets too hot – LOL).
She also made us a Flaky Egg Bake for Suzanne’s birthday breakfast – with layers of buttery phyllo dough filled with sausage, eggs, cheese, peppers, mushrooms, onions and baked into a yummy casserole fit for a Queen (ahem, Suzanne..)
Andrew’s Chicken Marsala
Janice and Andrew made their delicious Italian lunch of Caprese Salad made with fresh tomatoes, garlic, basil, olive oil and balsamic vinegar with prosciutto, olives and fresh Italian bread, accompanied by a few bottles of great wine. They also made a delicious Italian meal of Chicken Marsala over pasta with fresh parmesan cheese, parsley and Sauteed Asparagus and Brussels Sprouts for our last night in town – totally delicious and gone in five seconds FLAT.
My designated meal was to make a feast for Mexican night – when i say feast, i mean FEAST – we had enough food to feed the entire Mission Beach strip and enough leftovers that we seriously thought about donating it to a homeless person so we didn’t have to throw it out if we didn’t finish it all up the next day!
My Mexican menu included fresh Pico de Gallo, fresh Guacamole with lots of cilantro and lime and some jalapeno,
Tequila Lime Shrimp
Grilled Marinated Steak with Lemon and Herbs and Sauteed Lime and Tequila Shrimp to go with the tortillas for tacos and burritos,
Chicken Enchilada Casserole
I also made a cheesy baked Chicken Enchilada Casserole,
Red Mexican Rice, Tortillas, Sour Cream, Warm Queso Cheese Dip, Hot Sauce and PLENTY of Margaritas to go around for at least three more days.
I think we all fell into a serious food coma by Night #3 and decided to kick it up a notch and wake ourselves up with some music and a few games of pool after dinner.
Stunningly Spooky Sunset
After all the eating and feasting, a breathtakingly spooky view appeared when the sun went down. We missed the Green Flash though – which apparently happens for a split second as soon as the sun goes over the horizon line and sinks into the abyss.
Night Out on the Town
Jackie, Cris and I headed out to the bars for some debauchery and drinking activities at the local bars, involving Cinnamon Whiskey shots (ordered by Cris)..FIRE IN THE HOLE!
Breathtaking bask in the glow
My favorite moment of the entire trip was basking in the glow of that big orange fireball in the sky one evening, dreaming of the day I can return to this lovely, lovely place. Until then, I’ve had my fill of tequila and Mexican feasts to last me another year. The sunsets? I never get tired of those – especially when they look like this.
California Guacamole with a Kick
- 6 avocados
- Juice from 2 limes
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 purple onion, minced
- 4 Roma tomatoes, chopped
- 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
- 2 jalapeno peppers, minced fine, stems and seeds removed
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- Kosher Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
- Dash of hot sauce
- Cut avocados in half and remove the pit. Scoop out the flesh into a large mixing bowl and squeeze lime juice on immediately (to prevent the avocado from oxidation and browning). Mash avocado well with a fork until slightly smooth but still a little bit chunky.
- Add garlic, onion, tomatoes, jalapenos, cumin, salt and pepper, and hot sauce. Adjust seasonings to taste.
- Cover with plastic wrap tightly and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or more to let the flavors meld.
- Serve with tortillas, chips, veggies or crackers with fresh made salsa (tomatoes, onion, cilantro, jalapeno, salt and pepper) and plenty of margaritas to go around.
Sauteed Tequila Lime Shrimp
- 2 pounds of shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 cup tequila, divided in half
- Juice from 2 fresh limes (about 1/2 cup)
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 jalapeno pepper, deveined and seeded, minced
- 1/4 cup olive oil for marinade, plus 1 tablespoon for cooking
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Wash and drain shrimp, and place in a medium bowl.
- Mix together 1/2 cup of tequila, lime juice, cayenne pepper, chile flakes, chili powder, jalapeno pepper, and olive oil in a separate bowl and pour over the shrimp. Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour. Drain and discard marinade off shrimp in a colander or with a slotted spoon and set shrimp aside.
- Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and heat for a minute or so. Add additional 1/2 cup of tequila to the saute pan (with pan removed off the burner to avoid flames!).
- Add 1/2 of the marinated shrimp to the heated saute pan and cook for about 2 minutes. Remove shrimp from the pan and set aside. Add the rest of the shrimp to the pan and cook for another 2 minutes until pink.
- Add two tablespoons of butter to the saute pan and return first batch of shrimp, adding it to the shrimp in the pan and saute while tossing the pan for another 2 minutes or so. Sprinkle salt and pepper into the shrimp to taste and mix through for another 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Serve the shrimp on a platter with the tequila-lime-butter sauce on top with a side of tortillas and all the dressings: guacamole, cilantro, hot sauce, sour cream, rice to make tacos or burritos.
Recipe inspired by Oprah.com
Layered Chicken Enchilada Casserole
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 large sweet onion, diced
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
- 8 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds), poached and shredded
- 1 32-ounce container of chicken stock (for poaching chicken)
- 2 cans of red enchilada sauce
- 9 flour tortillas (large burrito size)
- 2 cups of shredded Mexican-blend cheese
- 1 14-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
- Fresh cilantro, chopped for garnish
- Sour cream, for garnish
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, cayenne, salt and pepper and hot sauce. Saute for about 5 minutes until onion is soft and golden. Add minced garlic and saute for another 2 minutes. Remove onion-garlic mixture from heat and set aside in a large mixing bowl.
- To poach chicken breasts, heat chicken stock in a large Dutch oven or high-sided saute pan and cook chicken breasts in the stock, covered, for approximately 10-15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let chicken sit in the pot (still covered) for another 10-15 minutes.
- Remove chicken breasts from the stock on to a platter and let cool for a few minutes. Shred the chicken with 2 forks and add to the onion-garlic mixture in to the mixing bowl.
- Spread 1/2 of the enchilada sauce from one can on the bottom of a rectangular glass casserole dish. Place three tortillas over the sauce, overlapping.
- Top the layer of tortillas with 1/4 of the chicken-onion mixture, spreading evenly over the casserole dish. Top with 1/4 of the crushed tomatoes and 1/4 cup of shredded cheese.
- Repeat 3 times until you have four layers and have used up all the enchilada sauce, tortillas, chicken-onion mixture, crushed tomatoes and shredded cheese. (Like making a Mexican Lasagna!)
- Place casserole dish in the preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes until the cheese on top is bubbly and golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and let cool for about 5-10 minutes. Cut into squares and serve with chopped cilantro and sour cream.
Can also make casserole with ground beef or steak, and it can be made in a circular or oval casserole baking dish rather than rectangular if preferred.
Recipe inspired by Williams-Sonoma.
Spanish Red Rice with Jalapenos and Cilantro
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded, deveined and minced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 sweet yellow onion, diced
- 2 cups of long grain rice
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 1 15-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
- Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
- Cilantro, for garnish
- Heat olive oil over medium-high heat and saute jalapenos, garlic and onion about 5 minutes in a large saute pan.
- Add the rice to the saute pan and cook, stirring often, until rice is browned slightly another 5 minutes.
- Pour water, chicken stock and crushed tomatoes into the pan and season with salt and pepper.
- Cover and cook for about 15-20 minutes until rice has absorbed all the liquid and is cooked through.
- Remove rice from heat, uncover and fluff with a fork. Add rice to a large serving bowl and garnish with fresh cilantro for serving.
Feel free to add some fresh cooked corn, red or green peppers or peas to the rice for additional flavors.
Recipe inspired by Saveur.
All photographs, copy and recipes are copyrighted by Kristen Hess/The Artful Gourmet © 2010-2013. Please do not share, use or distribute this content without granted permission from me. Thanks!
Mushroom, Ham and Cheese Strata
I love waking up in the morning to the smell of fresh brewed coffee and breakfast cooking in the kitchen. This is a delicious brunch casserole that’s perfect for the holidays and feeding a crowd. It’s filled with delicious sauteed ham, onions, baby bella mushrooms, garlic and dill, over a thin layer of torn whole grain bread (I use low carb bread and only 4-5 slices instead of a whole loaf of bread, and you can actually skip the bread all together if you want it to be more of a frittata), then topped with lots of gooey cheddar cheese. Bake the casserole until its light and puffy, let cool and then serve cut into squares with a green salad or fruit salad and whole grain toast. If you want to switch up the herbs, try Herbs de Provence or Fines Herbes instead. Experiment with different cheeses or meats if you like too (Brie, Monterey Jack, Bacon or Sausage), or spice it up with some red pepper flakes or a dash of Tabasco.What’s great is you can reheat it easily and have some yummy brunch/breakfast for a couple of days if you’re only cooking for a few people. Delish!
Mushroom, Ham and Cheese Strata: Best Brunch Casserole. EVER.
Author: Kristen Hess
Recipe type: Breakfast, Brunch
- 8 eggs
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons of milk
- 1 can cream of mushroom soup
- 4-5 slices of whole grain bread
- ½ onion, diced
- 1 teaspoon garlic, chopped (or ½ teaspoon powder)
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
- 2 cups of cubed ham
- 2 cups of baby bella mushrooms, chopped
- 1 teaspoon dill
- 2 cups of shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- Preheat a medium saute pan over medium heat.
- Tear bread into medium size pieces and layer in the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ greased casserole dish.
- Whisk together eggs, milk and cream of mushroom soup in a large mixing bowl.
- Saute onions, garlic, ham, mushrooms and dill until soft and tender about 5-7 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
- Layer the ham, mushroom and onion mixture over the bread in casserole dish.
- Top with egg mixture evenly.
- Sprinkle shredded cheese over the top in an even layer.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes until strata is puffy and cooked through.
- Let cool for 5 minutes, cut into squares for serving.
Recipe adapted from Taste and See, Calvary Chapel Finger Lakes.