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Italian Sausage with Lentils

done

Dear Mother Nature:

ENOUGH!

You’ve had you’re little joke!

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We get it. We live in Maine. Snow is part of the equation … except for, as my friend John Dwyer says, July 18th between 1:00 and 1:15.

We’ve shoveled the walk, and

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and shoveled the walk!

And although it doesn’t look that way, dug the car out! (And, no, Jeannie, that isn’t Jack Nicholson and this isn’t Shiningville)

We’ve spent many a quiet Saturday hanging around the house with no problem. A little puttering here, a little puttering there. But when you CAN’T go out. When your driveway looks like one of the faces of Everest, you’re suddenly bored to tears and pacing the house like a caged cat! Well, at least I am. The Dear one spent the last two days building new cabinets for the kitchen (yay, snow!)

Boredom sets in.

Binge eating is a possible solution, but then when it’s time to go outside, you won’t be able to fit into your clothes or get through the front door.

But cooking, cooking is always an option, and for me a cure to what ails me.

I wanted something warm and filling, simple, yet not too simple. Most importantly, it had to be made with what I had on hand. See, our snow has snow and while we may get a wee reprieve this afternoon, Sunday night we’re getting … what, you may ask? Yes, that’s right SNOW! And then Thursday? SNOW!

Wait, we were talking about what I had on hand … sausage, lentils, red wine? Nigella and Nigella Bites saved me and my frosty Dear One.

  • 3–4 T olive oil (not extra virgin)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • sprinkling of salt
  • 500g Puy lentils
  • 1 fat clove garlic, squished with the side of a knife, and skin removed
  • 8 Italian sausages
  • 100ml red wine
  • 50ml water
  • flat-leaf parsley for sprinkling

NOTE: THIS IS A RIDICULOUS AMOUNT OF LENTILS! I used slightly less than half and still have some in the freezer for soup!

To cook the lentils, put 2–3 tablespoons of the oil into a good-sized saucepan (and one which has a lid that fits) on the heat and when it’s warm add the chopped onion. Sprinkle with salt (which helps prevents it browning) and cook over a low to medium heat till soft (about 5 minutes).

Add the lentils, stir well and then cover generously with cold water. Bring to the boil, then cover and let simmer gently for half an hour or so until cooked and most, if not all, the liquid’s absorbed. I don’t add salt at this stage since the sauce provided by the sausages later (and which will be poured over the lentils) will be pretty salty itself.

NOTE: You can cook the lentils in advance.

When either the lentils are nearly ready or you’re about to reheat them, put a heavy-based frying pan on the stove, add a little olive oiland add the bruised garlic. Cook for a few minutes then add the sausages and brown. When the sausages are brown on both sides add the wine and water and let bubble up.

NOTE: You can add some extra chopped garlic here.

Cover the pan, either with a lid or tin foil, and cook for about 15 minutes. Using a fork, mash the now-soft garlic into the sauce and taste for seasoning, adding a little more water if it’s too strong.

Remove the lentils to a shallow bowl or dish then cover with the sausages and their garlicky, winey sauce. Sprinkle over some flat-leaf parsley.

NOTE: OR … takes sausages out, add the lentils, mix, sausages back on top and sprinkle with parsley!

done 2

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Iron Skillet Roasted Chicken with White Beans and Tomatoes

Ready to serve

After what seemed like forever, I left New York (again) and went home to Maine (again). The next days were filled with errands, getting the house settled before the Dear One’s return, and breakfast and giggling with my girlfriends.

But in the evening, I was home alone, and then suddenly you realize just how big the house is and how empty, and you want to have people around you, so then the conversations went something like this …

Thank you so much for watching the house and picking me up and picking up the mail and packages and turning up the heat. Wanna come for dinner? Sure, but I have a house guest. Bring him. The more the merrier.

Hey, I’m back in town. Wanna come over for dinner? Sure!

Okay, dinner for 2 is now dinner for 4. I can do that. Same recipe, just no leftovers.

Uh, oh, the phone is ringing … we’re going out for dinner, do you want to come. Sorry, can’t, company coming. Oh, well, I’d much rather come to your house. Sure, come on over. GREAT! But I have a house guest. Bring her along.

Dinner for 2 turned into dinner for 4 and then into dinner for 6. Yipes! Now what!? I trolled through the recipes I have been dying to try and found this recipe that I had first seen in Relish Magazine and then in  Y’all Come Over by Patsy Caldwell and Amy Lyles Wilson. One skillet. Perfect. Lots of great ingredients. Fab! Seriously simple and quick to make. Even better! Turned out to be really easy to double, just switching from a 10″ cast iron skillet to a 15″ cast iron skillet.

(Heard around the dinner table … hmmm, yum, this is so good. So glad you’re back home. We missed you. Does M know you’re having 4 men over for dinner while he’s away? Answers: thank you, I am too, and me you, and OF COURSE he knows. HEAVY SIGH!)

As it turns out it was a good thing I fed them all BEFORE the insanity started! See, it seems I live my life like Lucy Riccardo. No, really. Stop giggling, please, I have so little dignity left.

This group of fellows and my dear friend Lisa were my saviors for the week and a half I was home alone. There were locked doors and dog doors (and snow) and pterodactyls (and snow) and more locked doors and broken windows that needed to be removed and replaced (and snow) and lost spare tires and snow and cancelled flights because of snow and more cancelled flights (can you believe more snow in Maine) and yet more cancelled flights (you know the word that fits here) and a wee bit of emotional upheaval.

While I realize I have kept them all VERY entertained (when one of them now hears my voice on the phone, he laughs, asks if I’m okay, and then ‘so what did you do’), they kept me very entertained and feeling loved and cared for during my first time home alone trial by fire.

Give this dish a whirl … you will be making it for company again and again!

  • 1/4 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled (reserve drippings)
  • 1 (3-pound) chicken, cut into serving pieces
  • 1 1/2 t salt, divided
  • 1/2 t black pepper
  • 1/2 C thinly sliced onion
  • 1 can (14-oz) stewed tomatoes
  • 1 t crushed red pepper
  • 2 cans (15-oz) Great Northern beans, drained

NOTE: I sort of increased this to 1 1/2 of the original above recipe, but using 3 cans of beans and two cans of the tomatoes and 4 1/2 pounds of chicken thighs.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Bacon

Place the bacon drippings in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat.

NOTE: I made the bacon in the skillet I used to make the whole dish and just left the drippings in the skillet.

Dry the chicken pieces with a paper towel, and season with 1 teaspoon salt and black pepper. Brown the chicken in the bacon drippings, turning once, until the skin is golden brown. Remove the chicken to a plate and keep warm.

Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat and stir in the onions. Cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes, scraping up any brown bits.

Adding tomatoes

Add the tomatoes, crushed red pepper, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook uncovered for about 4 minutes or until the juices are thickened. Add the reserved bacon and the beans. Top with the browned chicken pieces, skin side up. Place skillet in the oven and bake uncovered for 40 to 45 minutes.

Some bread to sop up the sauce, a salad, and you are done!

Hummus

Done 2

There’s been a lot of dust. There’s been a lot of noise. Beautiful work done, but filthy, dirty, hungry people are standing around and wondering if I have lost my senses by not feeding us soon enough. You know, that look the polar bears give the zoo keepers when they enter their habitats – ‘I hope you brought me food. If you didn’t, I think I may just eat you instead.’

Dinner is still a while off. You wanted help AND you want dinner? Hmmm … I am good, even magical perhaps, but being drafted as a dust and noise making assistant AND making dinner at the same time is a feat even I cannot achieve!

I need something to be munched on while I shower and degrunge myself. Please, sit, relax, munch, have a drink, munch, a smoke, munch …

Fortunately for me, I had the wherewithal to whip up a batch of hummus and pita chips in the morning while tea kettles were whistling and coffee makers were dripping.

So simple! Everything goes into the bowl of a food processor. Whirl. Pulse. Whirl. Pulse. Scrape. Taste. Adjust seasoning. Done.

So, dear polar bear, munch away, you don’t get to eat the zoo keeper! At least not today!

  • 1 15.5 oz. can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained well
  • 1 6 oz. container Greek plain yogurt
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 t pepper
  • 1/4 C olive oil
  • sprinkle of sweet paprika

NOTE: You can use regular, plain yogurt, but then you should drain it. I use a coffee filter in a strainer and let the liquid leach out.

Chick peas draining

Everything goes into the bowl of a food processor, except the olive oil. Pulse until smooth.

Drizzle in olive oil. Pulse until combined and smooth. Adjust lemon, salt and pepper to your liking.

Transfer to a bowl. Drizzle the top with a little olive oil, a sprinkle of paprika, some pita bread or pita chips, maybe olives, a big glass of wine and you’re ready to forget the day!

NOTE: Start with the above measurements and adjust the salt, pepper and lemon to your liking.

Crunchy Bacony Chickpea Salad

As I was reading through the sometimes daunting number of foodie friends’ blog emails I receive, my eye was caught by the words ‘Crispy’ and ‘Bacon’ in an email from Edible Experiments’ blog. This turned out to be Toasty Chickpea Bacon Salad. What could possibly be bad?

I have been trying to work more protein (and bacon) into my husband’s diet and chickpeas (and bacon) are a favorite in our house – and, well, bacon. Did I mention the BACON? So we have healthy chickpeas and somewhat healthy (shh, this is my fantasy) bacon. AmyJo had originally found this recipe over at How Sweet It Is. I thank them both for this recipe from the bottom of my bacon loving heart!

  • 1 (15 oz.) can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 1/4 red onion, chopped
  • 1/4 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 t smoked paprika
  • 1/4 t black pepper
  • 1/4 t red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 C freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • a bunch of freshly chopped parsley

 

Heat a skillet or pan on medium heat and cook bacon until crispy and golden. Remove the bacon with slotted spoon and drain onto a paper towel. Leave the grease in the pan.

Add the chopped onions and peppers to the bacon grease and cook for about 2 minutes.

NOTE: You could, if you were so inclined, drain the bacon grease out and use something healthier, but I promise it won’t taste as good!

Rinse and drain the chickpeas, make sure they are very dry. Toss with the paprika and pepper. 

Add the chickpeas to the pan with the onions and peppers, stir and let toast for about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute.

Turn off the heat and add the parmesan, lemon zest, parsley, and cooked bacon. 

NOTE: I have to admit, at first the cheese scared me. I wasn’t sure the flavors would meld well together, but they really did. The cheese took a back seat here and just added a nice layer of salty mellowness. There’s a little kick, a little bacon, some brightness from the lemon zest. The chickpeas are slightly crisp, still creamy, and wonderful. I couldn’t stop eating it! I had to put some aside so there would be enough for Tom’s dinner!

I can’t wait to make this again!  Hmm…. I wonder, some grilled chicken on top and you have an entire dinner!