Thursday, April 27, 2006

Comfort Food for a Bad Day

Today was one of those days where you just know it’s going to be a bad day somehow.

Nothing major. Just a feeling all day long.

A background buzz of low level anxiety – something was about to happen. So every time something happened, a quick evaluation – could that have been it? Is that it? Is it over now? Can we all breath again?

But no. It wasn’t until late evening that the bad thing happened. It’s not really all that bad. Not a catastrophe. Two good things already happened.

But the Los Angeles Clippers lost. Professional Basketball. To the Denver Nuggets. Despite a mediocre performance by the Nuggets. It was close all the way. Plus the Maimi Heat lost to Chicago! Shaq had only 6 points. A bad day all the way around.

The Clippers best of seven series stands at two wins for LA, and now one win for Denver. I think the Clippers will win the series, but I had a feeling all day that this game would not go well.

We wasted all the potential cooking time watching the game.

So I made a quick recipe I’ve made a few times before, from Gourmet magazine (it’s now online as well at Epicurious). They call it ‘Sausage and Bean Cassoulet’. My main change was to basically double all the ingredients, and add a head of spinach. I served it with some fresh hot bread.

This is one of those recipes that almost everyone enjoys, especially on a cold and rainy (again!!!) night when you are feeling a little empty inside (and not just from basketball!).

Adapted slightly to serve 4-6 people

Can be prepared in 45 minutes or less.

15 hot Italian sausage links, skins pricked all over with a fork
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 medium onions, halves and sliced thin lengthwise (about 1 1/2 cups)
4-5 garlic cloves, chopped fine
3 tbsp mixed chopped fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme, and sage
2 bay leaf
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley (wash and dry before chopping)
two14 1/2-ounce cans diced tomatoes including juice
three 15-ounce can white beans such as cannelloni
1 bunch spinach, washed and cut roughly into large pieces
For topping
2 tablespoon olive oil
4 slices firm white sandwich bread, crusts discarded, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 small garlic clove, chopped fine
4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves (wash and dry before chopping)

In a medium skillet cook sausages in oil over moderate heat, turning them, until browned on all sides and cooked through, about 8 minutes, and transfer to paper towels to drain.
In fat remaining in skillet cook onions and garlic, stirring, until golden, and stir in herbs (including bay leaf), scallions or parsley, tomatoes with juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook mixture, stirring, for 15 to 20 minutes. Cut sausage into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Add sausage, beans and spinach to tomato mixture and cook, stirring, until heated through. Discard bay leaf and keep "cassoulet" warm, covered.
Make topping:
In s small skillet heat oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and sauté bread until pale golden. Stir in garlic, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste and sauté, stirring, 1 minute.
Serve Cassoulet in bowls with topping sprinkled on top. Enjoy!

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