Hearty Sausage and Lentil Soup

In the aftermath of our epic move (the last few items, sofa included, were schlepped during the only snowstorm before Halloween in recent memory), I wanted nothing more than some easy, delicious, and hearty. I had plenty of lentils and rice, a little bit of duck stock, and with Fairway down the street to pick up a little Italian sausage, we ate healthily and heartily for days.

Hearty Lentil and Sausage Soup

  • 1 lb. sweet Italian sausage
, casing removed
  • Extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped

  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1⁄2 tsp. dried thyme

  • 1 tsp. Aleppo pepper
  • 6 cups broth
1 cup long-grain brown rice, rinsed

  • 3⁄4 cup brown lentils, rinsed

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 package frozen spinach, thawed

Remove sausage from its casings. Heat oil in a 5-quart pot over medium-high heat; add sausage and cook, stirring and breaking it up into small pieces, until browned, about 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer sausage to a plate.

Add carrots and onions, along with spices. Cook, stirring, until lightly browned, 10–15 minutes. Add reserved sausage, chicken broth, rice, and lentils and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Bring to a boil, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until rice and lentils are soft, about 45 minutes. Stir in spinach and cook about 1 minute.

Recipe adapted from SAVEUR.com

Celebrations: Thanksgiving in our new home

November flew by in a hurry, with our apartment coming together bit by bit. Last weekend, we finally bought a dresser so that I could put my clothes away (previously, they’d been stacked throughout, since Toni literally took over all of the shelf space in the closet. He’s European, ’nuff said), but the night before Thanksgiving, we were still frantically shoving things away to assume the semblance of neatness for our guests the next day, all the while prepping a series of serious Thanksgiving dishes (I’d gone to Fairway before work so that I could have everything ready when I got home on Wednesday… Thanksgiving is very serious business to me).

The final spread

To be frank, I’d been a bit bummed about my favorite holiday this year. It was to be my third year in New York. Unlike years past, however, I had wanted to go home; tickets were just too expensive by the time I got around to planning. On top of that, none of the usual suspects were around for me to cook or eat with. That didn’t keep me from putting a little something together with a few friends and my Croatian family. It ended up being such a lovely day, full of good food, great company, hours at the dining table, a few more on the couch, and then finally tucking in for an early night… all in our lovely new home.

Katie, Maya, and me, while the boys were upstairs,
watching the pie in the dormitory oven (Dubi and Ana live six floors up)

I’d been cooking since about 4pm on Wednesday, and when we finally sat down to eat on Thursday (around 3pm), there was plenty to go around. A few of the highlights below:

 Whole Cranberry Sauce and Pan Gravy with Amontillado Sherry

And the coup de grâce:
 Pumpkin Pie (which only the Americans ate)
and my aunt’s Cranberry Apple Crumble,
 which is quite possible my favorite thing ever

I tried to cook most of the meal using recipes from SAVEUR.com, with a few adaptations and personal inflections. The cranberry apple crumble, however, has appeared on my Thanksgiving table for as long as I can remember. It’s the easiest thing to prepare and can be served either with the meal or as dessert, as I did here. It’s also great with yogurt the next day.

Cranberry Apple Crumble

  • 3c tart apples, unpeeled and chopped
  • 2c raw cranberries (may be frozen and thawed)
  • 1c sugar
  • 1/2c butter
  • 1c uncooked oats
  • 1c chopped pecans
  • 1/2c light brown sugar

Alternate cranberries and apples in a 13×9 pan.  Sprinkle white sugar over the fruit. Melt butter in a medium bowl, add the rest of ingredients, and mix.  Spread over apples and cranberries.  Bake uncovered for 45-60 min at 350°F. Serve with vanilla ice cream for best results.

Here to a great day and many more. Cheers!

Txakolí: Summer’s Coolest Wine

Even though I was born and raised in Atlanta, I’ve never tolerated hot weather very well. I kept my childhood room as cold as a meat locker, and now as an adult, I seek out more grown-up ways to stay cool. Nothing snaps me out of my heat-induced stupor like a cold, zippy wine late in the haze of the day. This summer, my perfect refreshing wine has been Txakolí, the effervescent, bone-dry Basque white that makes an ideal toast to the last days of the season.

I discovered Txakolí (pronounced cha-co-lee) a few years ago during a meal at Mercat, a Barcelona-inspired Spanish restaurant in downtown New York City, where the bartender suggested I try it when I asked for something crisp and dry. To enhance its natural effervescence (it’s not quite as bubbly as Champagne, but there’s definitely fizz in there), the wine is traditionally poured with one hand holding the bottle far above your head, and the other hand holding the glass far below. A T-shaped spout helps aerate the wine even more, and brings the bubbles to life. Sitting at the bar at Mercat, I was amazed while watching my bartender pour, impressed that she let not a single drop fall to the floor. Continue reading

Drinking the Wines of Lebanon

To be honest, for a long time I never really thought about Lebanese wines. In the shop where I used to work, we carried a few nominal bottles, but they’d never piqued my interest, and generally when I thought of great wines with deep heritages, my mind didn’t jump to Lebanon. But as it turns out, the country’s vineyards and winemaking have one of the longest-stretching viticultural histories on the planet, through Biblical times, the Roman Empire, and even into the Middle Ages — which is about when historical records began chronicling the practice of winemaking in Burgundy.

The wines of Lebanon are often compared to those of Bordeaux and the Rhône, perhaps due to the country’s political and cultural relations with the French over the past century, but they are something uniquely their own. These so-called “Ancient World” wines are on the rise, and today, about 35 wineries are currently producing wine in and around Lebanon’s fertile Bekaa Valley, whose winter rain and hot, summer sunshine help the grapes ripen easily. Continue reading