Well, hello, fall!

September 14, 2015

Lentil and smoked sausage ragu with oven fries. Fit for fall.

Lentil and smoked sausage ragu with oven fries. Fit for fall.

It isn’t, of course, yet. Not according to the calendar. But a gorgeous day with temps barely cracking 70, and a positive nip in the evening and early morning air, can surely make your thoughts turn to fall food.

And where thoughts turn, the kitchen can’t be far behind.

I wanted something fall-ish this weekend. We’d cooked spaghetti at the soup kitchen, and it looked good, but I wasn’t in the notion for the Italian flavor profile. I did, however, have tomatoes that were about to go south and needed to be used.

I also had smoked sausage that had been kicking around in the fridge for a while. I’d seen a recipe for smoked sausage in a tomato sugo, or sauce, or gravy, take your pick, recently. That’s where I started.

But I didn’t much want to put it over anything. I wanted something that would serve as an independent dish, on its own. OK, so I need to thicken it up. How about some lentils?

Lentils are wonderful little critters. They cook relatively quickly, if you haven’t had them in your pantry for two or three years, like I have these. Then they take a little longer. They adapt to any sauce. They’re nutritional powerhouses, full of protein and vitamins and minerals.  OK, let’s see what we can do here.

Standard start: Dice up and saute an onion. For someone who doesn’t care for raw onions, I sure do cook a lot of ’em. While that’s cooking, slice up the smoked sausage link; throw that in with the onion. Add a quarter-cup of garlic confit from the fridge, smushed up. Add a half a can (about 1/4 cup) of frozen tomato paste left over from the last tomatoey thing I cooked. (Out of tomato paste; must get more.)

Pour boiling water over about four medium tomatoes; let them sit a moment or two, pour it off, cool them down with cold water rinses. Slip the peels off, cut away the cores and bad spots, dice them up roughly and throw them in the skillet with everything else.

Seasoning time. I went the Spanish route: Pimenton dulce, pimenton de la vera, allspice. A little red pepper. Two bay leaves. Stirred that up and let it cook until the tomatoes broke down.

Added a cup of dry lentils and about three cups of chicken stock. Clapped a lid on it, let it boil, then cut it back to a simmer and let it go for about an hour, until it was thick and the lentils were soft.

People. This was good stuff. We had it with Yukon Gold oven fries, and it made a most excellent dinner for a just-slightly-fallish weekend.

Aside: Wasn’t it a gorgeous weekend? At least in the Mid-South, it was. Perfect temperatures. Sunny skies. I put on a light jacket to go to the Farmers’ Market Saturday morning. Lord, but I love this time of year.

A word about those oven fries. I made some a few weeks ago. They’re simplicity in themselves — cut the potatoes in wedges, toss them in olive oil, season to your taste, and roast in the oven. The ones I did a few weeks back, I started in the oven with something else at 350 degrees, and then upped the temp to about 450 when I took whatever that was, out. These had the oven  to themselves, so I roasted at 450. They weren’t as toasty/crisp on the outside. I’m wondering if it’s the temp difference, or if there’s something else going on here. I believe it’s time for some semi-scientific investigation.

Much to do here this week, and the fall-ish temperatures are supposed to creep back up all week long. I know bread is on the culinary agenda, as is canning a final batch of tomatoes if I can find a couple of boxes to buy. Found a recipe for homemade tomato paste, although it calls for Romas — wish I could find Romas around here like I did in Georgia last month. I’ll buy two boxes next year. I’m in the notion for pimiento cheese, so that’s on tap as well. There may be beef stew if it doesn’t get too hot.

And then there’s work-work, and a gracious plenty of THAT. If you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em have any extra hours lying around in your days, I’d surely appreciate it if you’d send them on to me.





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