What to have for dinner tonight? It's a proverbial question those of us who cook or those who love food ask ourselves often.
Readers frequently ask, “How do you think of all that stuff?”
Most of the time, it's something in the freezer or fridge that needs to be used. Other times, it's a craving, but often it's inspiration of fresh, seasonal ingredients.
I was not particularly inspired this week as I headed back to Enid knowing I was on my own for dinner. All one needs these days is to step inside one of our special grocers for some dinner therapy. I made a stop at Whole Foods where it is all too easy to be inspired about what to have for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
I also didn't mention that with my grown children living in New York, Dallas and San Francisco, we are in a sort of food challenge: post-holiday healthy fitness drop the sugar (and most everything that converts to sugar) program. We text, tweet, email and photo our trials and temptations along the way. We are making progress, but it doesn't exactly make that what to have for dinner question go away.
Back to the Whole Foods meat case: Sausage caught my eye: Chicken mixed with sun-dried tomatoes and basil and those generous links were on sale. I bought 3 for $4.99. Not super cheap, but I knew one link would more that satisfy my appetite, it would cook quickly and the dinner question could be put to rest. I'm not saying you have to stop at Whole Foods, but our new markets and several of those that have made wonderful improvements within the last year carry a lovely selection of sausages now.
Having fresh kale, red cabbage and onions would be awesome with it. Most all of our local markets have great seasonal deals on cruciferous vegetables now. That is another means of inspiration: Shopping seasonally affords us a great advantage when it comes to planning menus and finding a bargain. Great timing for post-holidays budget.
When I got home, there was a much-needing-to-be-used yellow bell pepper in my fridge. (I bought it as a market special over a week ago.) No choice there, I would toss it in with the veggies I cooked with the sausage. Originally, I thought about cooking some lentils to go alongside the sausage, but by the time I drove to Enid from Oklahoma City, I just didn't want to wait.
If you've ever cooked those large links, you may already understand how to go about cooking them. These are made of raw chicken, so it is important to cook them thoroughly no matter what method you use.
A meat thermometer is handy for checking the internal temperature of the sausage link. I decided to lightly brown mine whole in a little olive oil while I prepped the vegetables. A medium-size skillet would leave plenty of room for veggies.
There are so many vegetables to choose from to accompany sausage links: Kale, cabbages of all kinds, onions always, sliced potatoes and or carrots, peppers, all kinds of squash, along with a variety of legumes such as lentils or beans. Canned ones cook faster, but dried ones are wonderful and less expensive if you have the time to cook them. I include vegetables alongside the links starting with the ones that take the longest to cook.
What ever vegetable you choose, don't miss out on kale as it is fabulously healthy. Just onions, white beans and kale with the sausage would be amazing.
No need for a green salad to go with dinner tonight, the kale would suffice.
This dinner was perfect and just what I needed after the long drive home on a rainy winter evening. It was easy, fast and satisfying.
Hope the ingredients that inspired this recipe will inspire you for dinner tonight.
Sausage and Seasonal Vegetables
(Allow 1 or 2 links per person with 2 cups any combination of vegetables per person)
1/4 to 1/3 pound each link sausage: raw or smoked (preferably low-fat preservative free)
1 or 2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
Vegetables: (Amounts here are for one person.)
1 handful of red cabbage cut in large slices
1/4 to 1/2 of a yellow or red bell pepper cut in chunks or large slices
1/4 of a medium onion, sliced
1 hand full of torn kale leaves without woody stem
Splash of chicken broth or wine (up to 1/4 cup per person) to finish (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
• Start link or links with a little oil in skillet large enough to include amount of vegetables to cook alongside for a one-pan meal. The link or links, particularly raw ones, should start first, as vegetables won't take as long to cook. Turn them to brown on all sides. While cooking sausage, prepare vegetables.
• Rinse vegetables: Submerge kale in water to remove any debris collect in ruffles and crannies of the leaves. Tear leafy parts away from the prominent center stem. (This woody stem can be composted for next year's garden or sliced and simmered into a long winter soup.)
• Cabbage, Brussels sprouts, potatoes and/or butternut or acorn squash will take a little longer to cook, so if including them, be sure to add them first after browning the sausage. Use a lid to cover and steam cook them for 3 to 5 minutes to soften them a little before adding remaining vegetables.
• What ever vegetables you choose, giving the sausage a head start orchestrates time for preparing the vegetables. Next add the peppers and onions stirring them into the mixture. Leave the mixture uncovered so that vegetables begin to caramelize. Stir them frequently.
• Add the kale leaves at the very end, stirring them in only long enough to brighten their green color. Finish with salt and pepper and a splash of broth or wine according to your taste.
Notes: Check the sausage with a meat thermometer. Poultry should register 180 degrees and pork 145 if using raw sausage links. ... For Southwest style try onions, peppers and butternut squash with drained black or pinto beans; Italian style: Grape tomatoes, onions, peppers with drained cannellini beans. Top with a bit of Parmesan or mozzarella cheese and some fresh basil.
Source: Sherrel Jones