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Sausage Can Kick-Start a Meal

June 27, 1996|BEV BENNETT | Bennett is the author of four cookbooks, including "Dinner for Two" (Barron's)

Ground meat flavored with fennel seed, garlic and hot peppers, packed together and ready to cook--how convenient can it get? That's one of the many reasons you should give Italian sausage a starring role for summer meals and not simply as the base for spaghetti sauce.

For a no-effort dinner, put two sausages on the grill. In the time it takes to finish your favorite brew, your meal is ready. Because you can cook sausages one or two at a time, you don't have a leftovers problem. Uncooked sausages will last a week in the refrigerator or up to a month in the freezer. If you forget to thaw them out, just defrost them according to your microwave's directions.

It's one food that's practically indestructible. Because Italian sausage is so well seasoned, you can make robust stews and ragouts in minutes, not hours.

For a summer feast, make a ragout of seasonally abundant sweet red peppers, Italian sausage, red wine, onions, olives and oregano. To streamline the preparation, brown the sausages first, then slice and cook in the sauce. The casing is edible, and it's less messy than removing raw meat and cooking it. Sausage and pepper ragout is a 40-minute entree that has a long-simmered, mellow flavor, thanks to Italian sausage.

SAUSAGE AND PEPPER RAGOUT

This recipe is adapted from "Simply Stews," by Susan Wyler (Harper Perennial).

2 (1/4-pound) Italian sausages, hot or mild

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup diced onion

1 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper

1 large clove garlic, smashed

1/2 cup dry red wine

1/2 teaspoon crushed dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 cup canned crushed tomatoes

1/4 cup dried Nicoise olives

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Salt

Cooked rice or spaghetti, optional

Pierce sausages in several places and brown in skillet, about 5 minutes total. Pour off any fat, leaving sausages. Add oil to pan and heat. Add onion, red bell pepper and garlic and saute 5 minutes over medium heat. Add red wine. Bring to boil and boil 2 minutes. Add oregano, red pepper flakes, crushed tomatoes, olives and pepper. Cover and simmer 5 minutes.

Slice sausages into 1-inch pieces. Add to ragout and simmer 10 minutes or until heated through and thoroughly cooked. Season to taste with salt. Serve ragout plain, or over pasta or rice.

Makes 2 servings.

Each serving, without pasta or rice, contains about:

430 calories; 1,021 mg sodium; 65 mg cholesterol; 30 grams fat; 13 grams carbohydrates; 19 grams protein; 1.23 grams fiber.

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