Rustic Turkey Ragu

It is the last day of March and, after a fairly mild month, light snow flurries are hinting of a bigger storm passing through the Sierras. We need the snow, desperately. This region is in a severe drought and therefore residents don’t mind if winter chooses to come a bit late. Bring on those April showers.

Even with the mild weather, it has still been challenging to keep those extra winter pounds off. Seems I always pack on about five to seven of them. I’m not always disciplined with my diet and I am partial to a local coffee shop’s vanilla chai lattes. Probably not the leanest things to drink but they sure hit the spot! So now, when my pants feel a bit snug around the waist, I have to think about eating better and getting to the gym (and limiting my chai addiction). Lately, I have been incorporating leaner meats in my dishes, like ground turkey instead of ground beef. Here is a nice rustic skillet dish that is fairly light, but hearty enough to keep you warm on a chilly winterish spring evening. I used pasta that I had in the pantry, but wheat or a gluten-free variety would make an excellent substitute.

IMG_8711Ingredients
12 oz. Ground Turkey
1 tsp oil (olive, Canola)
2 medium Carrots, chopped
1 stalk Celery, chopped
4 oz. Cremini Mushrooms, chopped
1/2 Onion, chopped
1-2 Garlic Cloves, chopped
28-oz can 2 14-oz cans) Diced Tomatoes, undrained
1/2 cup Dry Red Wine
1 – 2 tsps. fennel seeds, crushed
12 oz. Pasta
2 Tbsp Fresh Parsley, chopped, or 1 Tbsp. dried Parsley
Grated Parmesan Cheese

Heat the oil and cook ground turkey...

Heat the oil and cook ground turkey…

...until no longer pink.

…until no longer pink. Remove to a plate.

Cook the carrots, celery and onion over medium heat.

Cook the carrots, celery and onion over medium heat.

Cook for about five minutes until they begin to soften.

Cook for about five minutes until they begin to soften.

Add the mushrooms and garlic and cook through, about three to five minutes.

Add the mushrooms and garlic and cook through, about three to five minutes.

All the veggies cooked through.

All the veggies cooked through.

Add the diced tomatoes.

Add the diced tomatoes and mash with a potato masher or meat pounder.

Incorporate with the veggies for the beginning of a nice ragu.

Incorporate with the veggies for the beginning of a nice ragu.

Add the wine...

Add the wine…

...fennel seeds...

…fennel seeds…

...and cooked turkey.

…and cooked turkey.

Stir together and bring to a simmer.

Stir together and bring to a simmer.

Reduce to low heat; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thickened and the flavors have developed, about 30 minutes.

Reduce to low heat; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thickened and the flavors have developed, about 30 minutes. While your ragu is getting its groove on, cook your pasta as directed on the package.

Serve the ragu over the cooked pasta. Sprinkle with parsley and parmesan. Enjoy!

Serve the ragu over the cooked pasta. Sprinkle with parsley and parmesan. Enjoy!

 

Guest Post: Lessons on finding the best cast iron skillet by Doug Thomas

Doug Thomas

Doug Thomas, my friend and fellow founding member of the Northern Sierra Dutch Oven Group, spends a lot of time researching and collecting cast iron cookware. He is one of Nevada’s reigning State Dutch Oven Champions and recently competed in the 2014 International Dutch Oven Society’s World Championship Cook Off. I asked him awhile ago if he’d be interested in writing some guest posts for my blog as his knowledge on cast iron, both new and vintage, is boundless. Below is a lovely article on what types of cast iron make the best skillet, along with some tips on collecting vintage pieces.

What is the best skillet for cooking and why?

Without a doubt the best skillet for cooking is made of cast iron. Cast iron skillets hold heat more uniformly and for longer periods of time than other types of metals. Additionally, they should be bare cast iron, not coated with enamel or porcelain. They should not have wooden handles so they can be interchanged from stovetop to oven. Bare cast iron cookware, however,  does require seasoning with oil to seal the pores of the metal to prevent rusting and provide a smooth surface. Bare seasoned cast iron also imparts a certain flavor to the food being cooked and many medical personnel proclaim that it adds a certain amount of iron to the cooked food. Some doctors have even proclaimed that iron supplements can be reduced or eliminated with regular cast iron cooking.

What brand is the best?

There are many differences of opinion as to which brand is preferred. Perhaps one of the best skillets is the one grandmother or great-grandmother used.  With proper care, cast iron skillets can last indefinitely. In addition, the early cast iron skillets were manufactured differently than the ones currently made. They were thinner and therefore of lighter weight. The surface of the metal was also very smooth compared to the porous surfaces found today.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Skillet with Griswold markings. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Early manufacture of cast iron skillets began in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  One of the earliest companies was Griswold. Their pans were marked with “ERIE” due to their production in Erie, Pennsylvania. In the early 1900s this was changed to “GRISWOLD.”

Another company, Wagner Ware went into business in 1891 and continued making cast iron for over a century. Today there is a Wagner and Griswold Society that is still quite active. Beware of Wagner skillets currently being sold in cardboard boxes as they are made in Asia. This skillet says “Wagner’s 1891 Original” and was manufactured between 1991 and 1999.

Lodge Skillet with Lid

Lodge Skillet with Lid

Lodge is the only factory still making cast iron skillets in the U.S.A. today. They were founded in 1896, and are manufactured in Tennessee. The current skillets are quite porous and thick-walled compared to the earlier versions.

Skillet with Piqua marking. Photo courtesy of etsy.com.

Skillet with Piqua marking. Photo courtesy of etsy.com.

A lesser-known skillet manufacturer was the Favorite Stove Company. It manufactured pans from the 1910s through the 1930s. These skillets have a very smooth surface and are lightweight. The bottom says “PIQUA” or “FAVORITE PIQUA.” Some have a smiley face under the name. This is an excellent skillet that is often overlooked.

Wapak Hollow Ware Chief Marking. Photo courtesy of ebay.com.

Wapak Hollow Ware Chief Marking. Photo courtesy of ebay.com.

Lastly, the Wapak Hollow Ware Company was formed in Wapakoneta, Ohio in 1903 where it produced several lines of “thin wall” skillets that were lightweight until 1926. These are currently some of the most sought after pans. Some have the word “WAPAK” on the bottom and the most collectable ones have the crest of a Native American chief on the bottom.

Several companies currently import cast iron skillets and include: Bayou Classic, Camp Chef, Coleman, Old Mountain and Texsport.

Choose your cast iron skillet wisely and it will treat you with a lifetime of pleasure.

I NEED YOUR VOTES!

I found out this morning that my Italian Wedding Soup recipe has been nominated as of one of the best Italian Wedding Soup recipes on the net by Easy Italian Recipes. Currently, my soup is ranked at #214, but I’d appreciate your help in seeing if we can elevate its status. The link for voting is below. You only get one vote so be sure to vote for Italian Wedding Soup (The Skillet). To vote, just click on the heart in the upper right corner. Voting ends April 5.

Please visit http://easyitalianrecipes.org/soup-recipes/best-italian-wedding-soup-recipes-on-the-net-vote-for-your-favorite/ to vote. Many Thanks and share with your friends!!!

A new recipe is coming soon, I promise!