Sunday, June 22, 2008

bless these vittles so we can eat!

A sausage is not something to be trifled with. They seem to command center stage wherever they are.

I'll admit to a mild fear of anything sausage related (except with pizza, because come on, if it's smothered in cheese it's got to be good) until I traveled to Munich while on study abroad. Now, this is the place to go for sausage, folks. Even with the carefree, perpetual vacation attitude that accompanies the young while on study abroad, I couldn't extend the same attitude to the realm of the sausage, which runs rampant in Europe. After awhile, I realized I was being a bit silly because after all, those Europeans are still alive and kicking, right?

Still, this was a mighty barrier to cross for an otherwise adventurous girl. I remember the white food car perched right at home on the Munich sidewalk. There were no fancy signs, no music, or any other sensory frills to speak of. I don't speak German and I can't remember how I ordered what I did or what the name of this particular sausage was (the varieties were legion), but somehow I ended up with a piping hot white [yikes!] sausage, cut in chunks and unadorned except for a utilitarian toothpick speared in its side alongside a slop of zingy mustard, all cradled in a stiff red and white paper carton that I could hold with one hand. I felt like I should introduce myself or something, such was the momentousness of the occasion. No one else on that city street could have known what was about to transpire. I remember feeling a little freakish and a little proud of myself all at the same time. But it was still pure grit that made me take the first bite.

And I ate the whole darn thing. I even licked my lips afterward and could have happily gone back for more. Call me converted. Thank you Munich.

Unfortunately, sausages are not well known to be kind to the waistline. Dieters can reserve sausage rites for holidays, binges, or just kiss it off altogether. But that didn't sound like any fun at all. So I was happy to find a chicken sausage that was very flavorful and lacking tons of the fat normally found in the happy sausage, and it wasn't even advertised as a low-fat item. It pays to read lables when on such a hunt. [For those wondering, I got the AmyLu Smoked Andouille Chicken Sausage sold at Costco.] Since sausage is a willing player in almost anything you want to throw together, we thought we'd try pasta this time and tossed in something green and delicious to boot.

Oh, and when eating sausage smiling is required, not to mention licking the old chops.

Riccioli with Sausage
Serves 6 to 8

You can substitute the broccoli and pasta for any like ingredient. As for the pasta, the short, tossable variety works well, especially those with ridges or curves to better capture the sauce. For veggies, you might try zucchini or even spinach, though you may need to alter the amount used. If you choose to use spinach, I would just toss the uncooked leaves in at the same time as the tomato sauce, broth, and nonfat half-and-half since it will wilt just fine with the heat of the other ingredients.

Small amount of olive oil
1 pound riccioli pasta (or penne, rigatoni, etc.), cooked al dente
8 cups broccoli florets, steamed until fork tender
2 medium onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced, or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 cups low-fat sausage sliced on the bias
3/4 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup nonfat half-and-half
Salt and pepper to taste
Shredded parmesan, optional

Drizzle just enough olive oil in the bottom of a frying pan so that the onions won't stick, 1 to 2 teaspoons. Caramelize onions over low to medium heat, stirring occasionally until they are limp, completely tender, and have deepened in color. This takes some time, about 20 to 45 minutes depending on your stove, but it doesn't require much fuss so you can tend to the rest of the dish
while the onions cook. A few minutes before the onions are done, add the garlic. Remove from heat when done.

Meanwhile, spray a frying pan with nonfat cooking spray and over medium high heat quickly sear the sausage (which should be already cooked through) to bring out color and flavor, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Over medium-high heat combine the cooked pasta, cooked broccoli, onion and garlic mixture, and seared sausage. Add the tomato sauce, chicken broth, and nonfat half-and-half, stirring to incorporate and heat through. Season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve with a sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan, if desired.