Monday, November 12, 2007

Stew It

As I've mentioned, a new Whole Foods just opened mere blocks from my house. This has meant two things thus far:

1. I spend more money on food. No great surprise here. Tons of gourmet chocolate, the olive bar, cheese, yummy bread--plus there is a large hill between me and WF so I get to count walking there as legitimate exercise. But the upside of all this is that

2. I'm cooking more. I can only consider this to be a good thing.

Tonight as I was driving home I had a craving for a stewy, sausagey, starchy, beany thing. I had everything but the sausage so I swung by WF and bought four sweet Italian sausage: two turkey and two pork. As we all know, the pork tastes a lot better due to my dear friend, pork fat, but isn't so good for you. The turkey is less fatty but also sort of dry and loveless. I split the difference. It's the harm reduction model, remember?

Here's what I did:

Heat a coupla slugs of olive oil in a large, deep skillet. When hot but not smoking, add two cloves chopped garlic.

Add the sausage, whole, to the garlic. Let it cook with the garlic and turn as each side browns. Browning it first helps the sausage be yummier and keep its shape when you cut it, otherwise raw sausage goo comes oozing out the other side of the casing which is sort of yucky. But part of the deal of sausage is that it can be gross but you soldier through and in the end you are rewarded with deliciousness. So hang in there.

(Please note that I have only used two of the four sausages, one pork and one turkey. The other two went into the freezer so I can make this again sometime soon. Unless I forget about them and they become unrecognizably frostbitten only to be tossed out two years from now. A distinct possibility. But you can see my heart's in the right place. Anyway, you can use four and your meal will just be sausagier. I just made up a word.)

Take the sausage out and cut it in bite size chunks. Throw the sausage chunks back in the pan and keep cooking, flip to brown each side. When mostly cooked, i.e. you can still see raw bits, add a can of white beans. Add the liquid too. These are salty, so if you are a low sodium person, you may want to buy some low sodium beans or if not, throw caution to the wind and go for it. I also added a third of a jar of marinara sauce because it was on the verge of knitting itself a fuzzy sweater. It's good either way. That's why I love to make this. Bring this all to a gentle simmer.

Meanwhile, boil up some water for pasta. Cook the pasta of your choosing until it is very al dente--you're going to throw it in the main pot so it will have a chance to cook more and soak up the flavors. For a more soupy consistency, use something tiny like orzo, but for more stewy chunky thing you could use a small penne, or orichiette are always nice, too.

Back at our main skillet, add about half a bunch of chopped, bite-size kale. Spinach does not have the fortitude required for this dish, but I think chard would be fine, too. Collards need more cooking than this, not to mention ham hocks, so I wouldn't use them here.

When you drain the pasta, keep some of the water, because you may need it to adjust the consistency when it's all said and done. You could also conserve a bit of the bean water, too. Some veggie broth would also be fine. Add the al dente pasta to the main skillet and let it all simmer gently until everything gets to its happy place. Add some of the pasta water, bean water or veggie broth to your liking.

Now check for seasoning--mine was fine for salt because of the sausage and beans, but I added some black pepper. I'm a wuss so I don't add red pepper flakes but those that like such a thing would probably like it here. After you dish it up, add a sprinkling of grated cheese. Mine was so moldy and you know what? I used it anyway.

This took about 20 minutes from start to finish and it was so stinkin good. Why on God's green earth would you not make this? I need to know.

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