Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Have Sausage, Will Prosper

Try this version of sausage and peppers this BBQ season.

If you ever Google the word frugal and click on Images you might get a picture of my nonna talking with your nonna.  What would they be saying?  I imagine it would be something like this:

(My nonna:) "Take these pepper seeds.  I share them with you.  We grew the best red peppers last year!"

(Your nonna:) "Here are some of our tomato seeds.  I can't believe how big our tomatoes were last year.  And so sweet-- incredible!"

And isn't that the way it was?  They did everything from scratch.  Saved every piece of string and paper bag.  Traded seeds, biscotti,  ciambella, fagiolini and more.  Every day was an occasion, every season marked by a special dish.  They made do with what they had and helped others if they could spare a little.  And they could always spare a little. 

It was the spirit of nonna that helped me create this recipe last summer.  I had planned to make shish kabob for a pot-luck gathering of my usual friends.  I knew I had several packages of veal in the freezer, some of it in the form of stewing cubes.  Nessun problema, right?  Except when I went to the freezer round mid-day, I found myself staring at one package of stewing veal, two roasts, and two packages of sausage. 

Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic. Add salt and pepper. 
Yes... this is me. More often than I care to admit,  I still come home with two or three items missing from my grocery list.  Overestimating whatever I thought I had in the freezer is just a part of it.  After more than two decades of grocery shopping and rough-ideas meal planning... regardless of whether or not company's coming... I'm pretty sure this habit is just about impossible to break.  It used to upset me.  Now I just sigh and mutter to myself: here we go again.  I wonder if this will be the time I finally make a mess of things.

I stared at the insides of my freezer.  My thoughts went something like this:  Hmmm...this freezer could use a little defrosting...O Dio mio, I'm in trouble now.  I'm thinking about defrosting when I've got serious issues going on here.  This is a disaster.  And then: what would nonna do?  Start some yeast for pizza, I don't have time...and my from-scratch pizza is the worst pizza in the family.  That won't do.  And finally, there it was. The answer to my question.  Nonna would have no choice. She would have to figure out a way to make the best of what she had.  She had no car, many mouths to feed and a budget.  I had promised BBQ tonight and I had to deliver.

And so, sausage kabobs it would be. Here's how to make them:

Soak your skewers a minimum of  two hours before grill time to avoid blackening.  An overnight soak produces skewers that are so water-logged, they'll be happy to be on the grill.  And they'll look good, too.

Besides skewers and sausage, you'll need:  
Assorted peppers
Red onion
Olive oil and balsamic vinegar

When cutting your meat, sausage or veggies, keep in mind that all pieces need to be sized equally for even cooking.  I estimate between 3 and 5 kabobs per person when served with potatoes, a green salad and a little dolcetto afterward.

Cut sausage into 1 1/2" to 2" pieces and set aside.  Wash and blanche mushrooms.  A one-minute blanche will keep them tender and tastier.  Set them aside to cool in their own bowl.   Cut up peppers and onions.  Toss in a bowl, along with the cooled-down mushrooms, a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper.   

When loading up your skewers, push veggies snug against the sausage to keep pork from falling out of its casing.  Sear for two minutes on each side at 400 degrees.  Cook for another 12 minutes at 300 degrees turning only twice per side.  Serve with grilled potatoes, rice or bread and a green salad or a platter of tomatoes and sottaceti (pickled vegetables). 

Our pot-luck evening was fun.  My friends were surprised at this new twist on a traditional shish kabob.  Mostly I heard:  "I've never seen this before!"  What could I say?  "It was nonna's idea."

Serve with fresh tomatoes, hot peppers, pickled eggplant, olives and capers or whatever you like best.

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