Spring is a tricky time. You look out the window at the glowing sun and you think that it’s a beautiful, warm day; and yet an hour at the dog park leaves you feeling chilled to the bone! Well Kona and I had such an excursion this week. She’s a good little girl, but has a ton of energy. Whenever time and the weather allows I’ll take her to the dog park so that she can run until her heart’s content. This is amazing for her, but in the still cool days of spring it can get a bit chilly for me. This week while she ran and played, I stood there dreaming of something warm and hearty that would chase my chills away (much like Kona was chasing pigeons). This stew is a cold weather staple in our house. Living in Canada means that you need a very long winter weather recipe repertoire. Even though the snow might be gone, we remain chilly well into spring. I reach for this stew when I am craving something comforting with just a little spice to help warm me from the inside out. I love the way that this makes my house smell while it’s simmering away. Everything about this dish elicits warmth and comfort; like a hug just in delicious stew form.
Side note, I have always found spring advertising frustrating because it is meant for climates warmer than mine. I will be wearing a parka while looking at pictures of asparagus and tulips; but I guess looking at pictures of frozen landscape and snow makes people depressed after 5 months or so.
Back to the recipe. I like this stew because it a good introduction to pulses for regular meat eaters. Pluses are things like beans, chickpeas, lentils and dried peas. I know that a lot of people think of beans as a food for vegetarians, but they are a great way to add texture, fiber and protein to a dish. This recipe is inspired by Italian style peasant food. It takes a more expensive ingredient, meat, and combines it with chickpeas to create a hearty and satisfying meal. The tomatoes, onions and peppers help sneak some veggies into your diet. I must warn you though, the stew is so tasty that even people who don’t like veggies might just reach for a second bowl.
This recipe calls for hot Italian sausages. If you prefer your food a bit less spicy use mild Italian sausages. If you like to kick things up a notch use the hot sausages and add some dried chili flakes while the stew is simmering. I tend to make mine without the chilies, but will leave them on the table so that people can adjust the spice level as they wish. Feel free to use regular pork sausages, but you can also use turkey or chicken versions if pork isn’t part of your diet. You also have the option of using low fat or reduced sodium sausages if you are concerned about those factors.
Peasant Style Sausage & Chickpea Stew with Polenta
$8.29 per recipe or $1.66 per serving
2 ½ cups water
1 chicken bouillon cube
1 cup cornmeal
1 LB Hot Italian Sausages
1 Large Onion, diced
1 Large Red/Yellow/Orange Pepper, diced
1 TBSP Canola Oil
1.5 TBSP Minced Garlic
19 Ounce Canned Diced Tomatoes
1 TBSP Dried Basil
19 Ounce Can of Chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Line a loaf pan with heat safe plastic wrap
Bring water to a boil in a pot
Add bouillon cube and stir until dissolved. If you have chicken/turkey/pork stock, feel free to use that instead of the water and the bouillon cube. You will get the same result in the end.
Take off of heat and slowly pour in cornmeal while stirring constantly. If you dump all the cornmeal in at once your polenta will be lumpy (and no one wants that). Stir until your polenta is moist and smooth.
Turn polenta into the prepared loaf pan and smooth so that it is even.
Let sit until needed.
Once stew is prepared, cut polenta into slices and place a piece on top of each bowl of delicious stew.
Remove the casing from sausages and form the meat into 1 inch balls
Heat oil in a large pot
Add sausage balls, onion and peppers. Sauté until the sausages are slightly browned on the outside but still are uncooked on the inside.
Add garlic to the pot, sauté for about a minute.
Add the canned tomatoes, basil and chickpeas.
Bring to a boil.
Lower to a very gentle simmer for 30 minutes. Have your pot covered during this time. Give the stew an occasional stir while it is cooking.
Taste test your stew, at this point you can add salt if you need it. This will depend on the seasoning levels in the sausages and if your tomatoes have added salt.
Divide stew into bowls and top with a slice of polenta. Feel free to garnish with some grated Parmesan cheese if you have some on hand.
*Inspired by The Beans, Lentils & Tofu Gourmet cookbook.