We’re entering the time of year when my main food group is sausage.
Off the top of my head I can list three key components to my holiday food traditions: sausage balls, white lasagna made with Italian sausage, and our Christmas morning strata. These are consumed consecutively in a 24-hour period and that’s just how it is. Nevermind all the parties leading up to that 24-hour period, abundant with cheese plates, charcuterie, and if you’re lucky, cocktail sausages. Shockingly, we may actually forgo the Christmas Eve lasagna this year. I can’t remember a different Christmas Eve meal, ever. But this year we might actually have homemade pasta with….sausage ragu. Huge difference there, right?
December is for sausage. Don’t try to fight it. You won’t win.
However, there are ways to give in to it that aren’t always enveloped in puff pastry or layers of creamy bechamel. And do you know who we have to thank for that? Our sweet angel Ina.
In case you live under a rock, you may not know that she came out with her newest cookbook, Cooking for Jeffrey. It’s standard Ina – variations on the same themes as always. Cooking for the ones we love, low-stress entertainment, another recipe for chicken. Hey, if it ain’t broke…
It so ain’t broke that she’s taken a recipe from an earlier cookbook (warm lentil salad from “How Easy Is That?”) and just put some kielbasa in it for Cooking For Jeffrey. Because she’s my idol and can do whatever she wants. I also totally didn’t realize she’d done it before until after I looked to see if the recipe was online already. I don’t know if I’m just not observant or if she’s just that sneaky. OR. Here’s a third option – maybe I just glance past something that doesn’t have sausage in it. That’s probably it.
I noticed this recipe the very night I got the cookbook (which happened to be the night I saw Ina live for the first time when Tina Fey interviewed her at BAM and then at the end there was a “surprise” appearance by Jeffrey and I was in like, the fifth row and I just died). Here’s the thing. I used to dislike lentils because I disliked legumes generally. My parents, on the other hand, love legumes. I’ve come around to them. What really helped me get onboard specifically with lentils was a dish at one of my favorite Mediterranean restaurants. It was lentils with duck or lamb sausage and a yogurt sauce. My parents always ordered it and I was like, “Yesssss, get sausage I’ll deal with the lentils ok thanks.” So when I saw Ina’s recipe on my ride home that night, I knew I had to make it for my parents. Which is exactly what I did a few days after Thanksgiving.
– Sidenote: My parents are in their new house and the kitchen is just lovely. Guys…this is one of two ovens. It’s brilliant. There are lovely surfaces to shoot on, including a beautiful island and a walnut butcher block. The afternoon I made this lentil salad though, was pretty dark and dreary, so natural light wasn’t quite on my side, even though they do have a great big window right behind the sink. You may have noticed the color-changing cutting board…I’m very much looking forward to spending lots of time in here over the Christmas holiday. Making dishes full of sausage, naturally. –
This whole long-winded explanation just comes back to the point that though sausage isn’t very healthy itself, or swaddled by copious amounts of buttery carbohydrates, it can find itself a happy little home in a more nutritionally rounded dish. And as Ina points out, it makes a lovely winter meal with some goat cheese crostinis. So let yourself have all of those December sausages. You can get back to kale in January.
….PS. Kale and sausage go really well together, so…
Lentil Salad with Kielbasa
Adapted slightly from Ina Garten
Serves: 4-6 people as a main, 6-8 people as a side
2 cups medium-diced leeks, white and light green parts
1 cup (1/4-inch-diced) carrots (2 carrots)
1 lb French green lentils, rinsed and drained
1 whole peeled onion stuck with a handful of dried whole cloves
1 small turnip
10 ounces kielbasa (or any other sausage would be nice), sliced diagonally and browned
3-4 scallions, sliced
A great bunch of parsley, chopped well (about ½ cup)
Olive oil (1/2 cup plus two tablespoons)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
5 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan, add the leeks, and cook uncovered over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the carrots and cook for an additional minute or two.
- Add the lentils, onion, turnip, and six cups of water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer uncovered for 20-25 minutes until the lentils are tender.
- While the lentils cook, make the vinaigrette in a small bowl or measuring cup. Whisk together the garlic, mustard, vinegar, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil to emulsify, and set aside.
- Once the lentils are tender, discard the onion and the turnip. Drain the lentils and place in a large bowl.
- Drizzle half of the vinaigrette over the lentils and toss.
- To the lentils, add the kielbasa, scallions, and scallions, and parsley. Toss it all together and add more vinaigrette if necessary. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt or pepper if necessary.
- Serve at room temperature with a goat cheese toastie and a nice green side salad. Then pat yourself on the back for sneaking in sausage to a nice, healthy meal.