Sweet Italian Sausages with Braised White Beans and Kale

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Last month, Joe and I spent a week in Puglia, Italy, the region on the heel of Italy’s “boot.” We ate countless bowls of seafood pasta, almost a whole wheel of the local, firm ricotta, and tried so many varieties of pasticiotto, Puglia’s famous cream-filled cakes, that I went through serious withdrawal when we got home. But for me, one of the most memorable things we ate on the trip was actually in Rome, where we spent a weekend before flying home.

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At Armando Al Pantheon, a restaurant a stone’s throw from the Pantheon that serves traditional Roman cuisine, we ordered the special of the day: braised white beans with sausages. (Along with lots of other things, as it was our last weekend in Italy). Even after all the burrata and cacio e pepe we ate, there was something about this dish in particular I found so satisfying and comforting.

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It was incredibly simple- white beans braised with tomatoes and herbs and served with roasted sausages- but it had so much flavor. It was the kind of thing I could see myself eating fall and winter long, with a big glass of wine and some crusty bread to mop it all up. I couldn’t wait to play around with this idea at home to see if I could come up with my own version.

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One thing I knew from the start is that I wanted to try using canned beans. Cooking the beans from scratch would be more authentic, but there’s no way I am ever going to remember to soak beans overnight. It’s just not happening. I also wanted the dish to be quick, easy, and able to be made last-minute on a weeknight.

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This recipe calls for browning the sausages in a Dutch oven, and then finishing them in the oven. I use the some of fat from the sausage to cook the onions and garlic, which I braise along with the beans, Tuscan kale (my own sneaky addition of something fresh and green), tomatoes, chicken stock, white wine and a big sprig of rosemary. If you want to go lighter, you can make this with chicken or turkey sausage. Just be sure if you’re using chicken sausage that you find a butcher that sells them uncooked. You don’t want the precooked, flavored chicken sausages for this recipe.

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This is the dinner to make when you feel like winding down and stirring something simple and comforting after a long day. The recipe calls for a half cup of white wine, so you might as well just finish the bottle, right?

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Sweet Italian Sausage with Braised White Beans and Kale


Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausages
  • 1 Vidalia onion, cut in half through the stem and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 3 small garlic cloves, smashed
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 2 (15.5-ounce cans) cannellini beans, such as Goya, drained and rinsed
  • 3 cups chopped Tuscan kale, lightly packed (about 1 small bunch), see note
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1 ½ cups low-sodium chicken stock, such as College Inn
  • 1 fresh rosemary sprig
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • freshly ground Parmesan cheese, for serving
  • rustic country bread, for serving

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a medium, heavy pot or Dutch oven. Add the sausages and cook for 10 minutes, turning occasionally to brown them evenly. Transfer to a sheet pan and roast for 10-15 minutes, depending of the size of the sausages, until cooked through and no longer pink inside. Set aside.

Meanwhile, drain any excess fat from the pot, leaving only a thin coating of oil on the bottom. (Or, if the pot looks dry, add a splash of olive oil.) Add the onions and garlic and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until the onions are browned and translucent. Add the wine and cook until reduced by half. Add the beans, kale, tomatoes, chicken stock, rosemary, and 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and cook at a full simmer for 35 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Discard the rosemary sprig and any large pieces of garlic. Using the back of a wooden spoon, press of some of the beans against the side of the pot to lightly mash them. Do this about 4 or 5 times until the sauce has thickened slightly. Add ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper, stir to combine, and then place the cooked sausages on top of the beans. Simmer for 3 more minutes, until the sausages are warmed through.

To serve, spoon some of the beans into the bottom of a shallow bowl or deep plate. Top with a sausage and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Serve hot with bread on the side.

Note: To remove kale leaves from the stems, lay the leaves flat on a cutting board and cut down both sides of the center rib, discarding the rib.


Kale Caesar with Roasted Summer Corn and Cornbread Croutons

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Do you like Caesar salads? Do you like corn on the cob? Do you enjoy the taste of raw kale masked by a delicious, creamy dressing? If so, this salad is for you. Side salads on summer buffets are usually an afterthought- after all, how can a bowl of lettuce hold a candle to baked beans, buttery corn on the cob and big stacks of tomatoes and mozzarella? But this salad earns its spot on the table.

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Local corn at Balsam Farms in East Hampton…even the corn in the Hamptons is famous.

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The kale is cut into thin ribbons so it’s easy to eat and the dressing gets well distributed. Tangled throughout the salad are crunchy corn kernels and chunks of cornbread that soak up all that Caesar dressing as they sit, making this a great recipe to put together in advance.  There’s just something about the lemony  dressing and toasted cornbread  that makes this difficult to stop eating, which is not something I usually say about kale salads.

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Caesar dressing is traditionally made with Parmesan cheese, but I used Pecorino in this recipe because I think the sharper, saltier flavor goes really well with the slightly sweet cornbread and roasted corn. If you’re worried about using raw eggs, you can substitute mayo or Greek yogurt. And if you don’t like anchovies, you could leave them out, but I wouldn’t recommend it (unless you want to make the dish vegetarian.) A very experienced cook recently told me, “Never underestimate the power of an anchovy.” You won’t know it’s there but it gives the dressing its fundamental Caesar-ness.

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This salad is a serious crowd pleaser and an ideal dish for a big summer dinner. The recipe serves 6-8 generously, but you could cut in half if you’re cooking for a smaller group.

Kale Caesar Salad with Roasted Summer Corn and Cornbread Croutons

Ingredients

  1. 3 cups diced cornbread or corn muffins
  2. kernels cut from 4 large ears of fresh corn
  3. 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  4. 3 bunches Tuscan kale
  5. Caesar Dressing, recipe follows
  6. ½ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  7. kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and arrange two evenly spaced oven racks.
  2. Spread the cornbread and the corn onto two separate sheet pans. Drizzle the corn with the olive oil and toss to combine. Sprinkle each sheet pan lightly with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes, tossing the cornbread and corn halfway through. Set aside to cool.
  3. Meanwhile, chiffonade the kale: cut along each side of the rib to remove the leaves on each side. You should end up with two long strips from each rib. Roll the leaves lengthwise into “cigars” and slice them thinly crosswise to cut the kale into ribbons. Wash the kale and dry it using a salad spinner.
  4. To assemble the salad, pour the dressing over the kale and toss well. Add the corn and croutons, and the Pecorino, and toss again. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to several hours, bringing the salad back to room temperature before serving.


Caesar Dressing

  • Servings: Makes about 1 1/3 cups
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tbs Dijon mustard, such as Grey Poupon
  • 1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 anchovy, roughly chopped (optional)
  • 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature (optional)*
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, lightly packed

Directions

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the lemon juice, mustard, garlic, anchovy, egg yolk, salt and pepper. Pulse until combined. With the processor running, add the olive oil in a slow stream. Add the Pecorino, and pulse until just combined. Refrigerate in a sealed container until ready to use.
  2. *If not using the egg yolk, substitute 1 1/2 tbs mayonnaise or whole-milk Greek yogurt