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Braised Italian Sausage Stew

Reviewed: Apr. 6, 2013
I followed the recipe exactly as written. I didn't add, omit, or substitute anything, and I used an enameled dutch oven. Overall the stew turned out really well. The vegetables come out al dente after one hour of cooking. It was definitely very different from the types of things I have been cooking lately. We enjoyed eating it and will save the leftovers for later, but I doubt it will become something I make frequently; perhaps when in the mood for something unusual. One reviewer said it "kind of tastes funny," and I can see why someone might say that. This stew definitely has a sharp note that might be a little too much to some people. I thought about it and narrowed it down to 3-4 things. The reviewer suspected the parsnips. They definitely do add a unique flavor to the dish. Second, the sausage itself has various spices in it, the most noticeable being fennel which stands out in the dish. Third, the tomatoes and their juice give the dish an acidic bite that became somewhat taxing by the end of the meal. There are so many similar tomato products at the store, did I pick the right kind? I did my best and used a 28oz can of "plum tomatoes in juice" so I think I got it right. Might be interesting to drain the juice next time and substitute with more chicken stock (or water). Fourth, the wine? One last note, and this is my fault for being a novice: I wish the recipe had said to peel the parsnips. This was my first time cooking with parsnips and I didn't know that. I do now.
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Orzo with Parmesan and Basil

Reviewed: Jun. 27, 2012
Unlike many easy recipes with minimal ingredients that end up tasting like something is missing, this one actually tastes amazing which is very rewarding. The prep is very quick and easy since you can grate your cheese and chop the basil while the pasta is cooking. The pasta tastes very creamy and nutty due to the Parmesan cheese and browning of the orzo in butter, and the flavor from the fresh basil adds a nice refreshing finish. The prepared dish has a dense texture yet manages to look light and fluffy on the plate and fork. I followed the recipe exactly and after 20 minutes the pasta absorbed all the broth and was cooked to a perfect consistency, slightly al dente. It surprises me that so many reviewers said that they make this without the basil. The basil is not overpowering at all yet really adds a dimension of flavor and color that easily makes this recipe worthy of 5 stars. Because the dish is so simple, it can be built upon in many ways if you wish. I might try adding some sun-dried tomatoes next time which should pair very well with the basil. You may want to use this as as side dish with meat as a main course, but you must make sure everything else you cook is also high quality or else the orzo with Parmesan and basil will easily steal the spotlight!
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