“Cold, Cold, Cold, Cold, Cold, Cold” – Lowell George, LIttle Feat
I guess I’m showing my advanced age by quoting lyrics from the 70’s, but really, I can’t get it out of my mind. And speaking of my youth, I don’t ever remember it being this cold. I mean it must have been, surely, because however else were we seemingly constantly ice skating round and round the lake at the University of Richmond? I guess it must have been this cold, I just didn’t feel it so much, bursting with the endless joie de vivre and hot internal furnace of youth.
That being said, let me let you in on a little secret. I know how to get it back. No, not ALL of the hot blooded enthusiasms perhaps, but at least the means for a happy, warm glow that will get you scooting through this polar vortex or storm Leon or whatever next week’s version is going to be dubbed.
I think it was my trip to Italy in November. I’m still cruising around with a happy smile slapped on my face and a ready giddy giggle. Yes, I’m suffering from the cold, just like you are, but I’m somehow managing to channel the glorious sun and the sunny disposition of the Solento. I think the key is the food.
The other day, while the snow was swirling, I decided to pay heed to the exhortations of the authorities to stay home. It meant I had to make do with whatever I had on hand to produce dinner. In poking around, since I really was due a visit to the grocery, I found only a few of my usual goodies. Nonetheless, I whipped this simple feast up in no time and barely had to absent myself from my cozy spot beside the raging fire to do it.
It was scrumptious,(and inadvertently gluten-free for those of you who care about such things) and put me in the perfect place to start plotting details for my trip back to Puglia in September. If you want to come with me, let me know. When we’re there, we’ll make our very own sausages–which I didn’t do for this feast–and cook with olive oil from just down the lane, and wander in the garden in the warm Solento sun to pick our herbs.
For now, I have to be content to do that in my heart and in my mind’s eye. I’m happy to report, however, that eating this really helped propel me there. My body may be sitting beside the fire this winter, but you can find my spirit wandering around in the boot of Italy.
Polenta with Spicy Italian Sausage, Peppers, Onions and Kale
2 cups Polenta ( I use Bob’s Red Mill and follow the directions on the package)
I pound Italian sausage, sweet or hot–your choice, chopped into large chunks
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 red pepper, cored and sliced into long strips
2 sweet onions, peeled and cut in half and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 28 ounce can of San Marzano certified tomatoes
1- 5 ounce package of baby Kale
2 teaspoons dried oregano
salt and pepper
grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving
Make the polenta according to the directions on the package. While it’s cooking, start to saute the sausages on medium low heat until the fat starts to render stirring constantly. Once the fat starts to render you may turn it up slightly but stir occasionally and do keep an eye on them so they don’t burn.
Put the olive oil in a separate large skillet and saute the peppers and onions over medium heat, stirring occasionally. When they are soft and translucent add the garlic and cook for one minute, not allowing the garlic to burn. Add the tomatoes and kale and oregano and allow to simmer until the kale has just wilted. By now your sausages should be cooked. Add the pepper, onion and tomato mixture to the sausages and stir with a wooden spoon to scrape up all of the delicious brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Allow to cook together for the flavors to meld about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper as and serve immediately over the hot polenta, with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano to sprinkle on top.