Something is clearly wrong with the gravitational pull or something here in San Diego. We haven't seen many sunny days while other parts of the country are blindingly sunny and blisteringly hot. Our nights have been on the chilly side, I still have flannel sheets on my bed for pete's sake! To keep us warm and use up some knockwurst we had in the freezer, I made a batch of sausage and lentil stew. The ingredients for this dish are pretty inexpensive. Lentils are cheap when buying in bulk - $.99 lb. to be exact and this week bunches of spinach are on sale at Henry's Market. The recipe also includes staples such as celery, carrots and onions. The recipe is based on Tom Fundaro's Lentil and Garlic Sausage Soup recipe from Food and Wine Magazine, 2005, with a few tweaks from me...
Sausage and lentil stew
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1/2 pound knockwurst, cut into 1/2 cubes
2 to 3 slices of thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2 cubes
2 large carrots, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 medium fennel bulb, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup French green lentils (rinsed and picked over)
1 quarts chicken broth
2 cups veggie broth (if you want you can do 6 cups of chicken broth total instead of including a veggie broth)
1 quart water
1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1lb. fresh spinach ( I always add extra veggies. If you're not a big fan of that idea, add a little at a time. Remember that spinach wilts and will greatly reduce in size.)
4 ounces Comte cheese (or any nutty but mild, alpine style cheese, shredded. Chef Fundaro suggested Manchego, which would also be great.)
Heat the 1/4 cup of olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the bacon and cook over moderately low heat until it starts to brown, about 7 minutes. Add the carrots, garlic, onion, fennel and bay leaf and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the wine and boil over moderately high heat until the pan is almost dry, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lentils, broth and water and bring to a boil. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Discard the bay leaf. Add the knockwurst and stir in the chopped spinach and rosemary.
Sausage and lentil stew right after adding the spinach
Turn your broiler on to high heat if the option is available. Ladle stew into oven/broiler safe bowls and top with cheese. Arrange bowls on a cookie sheet and place under the broiler to melt the cheese, about 2 minutes. Serve on plates with toasted baguettes. Even my uber-carnivore husband loved the soup. Enjoy!