Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tweaking a classic.

My name is Meg, and I'm addicted to Italian food.

If you are even a casual reader of my blog, you probably already knew that. I mean, I'm an omnivore. I love Vietnamese, Chinese (especially bad, Americanized Chinese - I am half-Jewish, after all), French (obviously), Japanese, Cuban, Mexican (especially taqueria-style eats), Spanish, name it, I probably really enjoy it.

But when it comes to what I'm likely to cook at home, Italian frequently seems to win the day. I think it's likely the result of its emphasis on fresh ingredients (especially vegetables) and my ability to look at pretty much anything and go, "That would be great with some olive oil and garlic." Whatever the reason, Italian - or, at least, Italian-inspired - is often on the menu chez Queenie.

So when I wound up with a package of hot pork sausage a week or so ago, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it: make some sausage and peppers. I turned to my current Italian-American gurus, the Frankies. Yes, I know. You've heard me mention them before. Tough noogies.

The Frankies make their classic sausage and peppers with sweet sausage, and serve it on polenta. I only had hot sausage, but I added some basil from my windowsill garden to sweeten things up. And, since I'm trying to cut back on the processed carbs (which is not easy when you love pasta as much as I do, guys), I ate mine all plain-like. It was still dang good.

Sausage with Onions and Roasted Peppers
Adapted from The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual

2 bell peppers (at least one red; the other red, yellow or orange)
1 small yellow onion
2 tsp. canola oil
Kosher salt
1 pound hot pork sausage, casings removed
14 oz. canned San Marzano tomatoes
1/4 cup loosely packed basil leaves, sliced crosswise into 1/4 inch slices

Roast the peppers:
Using a gas stove, turn two burners on high and lay a pepper on each (Using tongs, please!). Roast the peppers, using the tongs to turn them, until the skins are evenly and completely black and blistered. It should take between 5 and 10 minutes.

(If you don't have gas burners, brush the peppers with a bit of canola oil and roast them under the broiler, following pretty much the same procedure. This method may take a bit longer.)

Once the peppers are roasted, place them in a medium mixing bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. They'll steam a bit before they cool, which will make them easy to peel. Once they're cool, peel away the blackened bits and core and seed them. Slice them lengthwise in 1/4 inch wide slices, and set aside.

Prepare the sausage & onions:
Cut the onion in half lengthwise (through the root), then cut the halves into 1/4 inch wide slices with the grain, meaning lengthwise from the root to the tip.

Heat the canola oil in a wide saute pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion and just a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens and takes on a golden color. If things are browning too quickly, add a splash of water to the pan (but make sure it cooks off before you move on to the next step).

Use a slotted spoon to add the onion to the peppers. Without turning the heat down, add the sausage to the pan. Use a wooden spoon to break it into small clumps and saute for 10-12 minutes, until it's brown but not dry.

Add the canned tomatoes, crushing them one by one as you add them to the pan. Add half the basil. Scrape the bottom of the pan to rescue any delicious browned bits. Simmer the lot for 15-30 minutes, or longer if you have the time. Add the peppers, onions and remaining basil, and cook for a few minutes more.

Serves 2-3.

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