Chicken Sausage on Polenta with Asparagus

For vegan or vegetarian version ideas, scroll down to CHANGE IT UP.
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A few weeks back, while doing my monthly Trader Joe’s run, I scored a package of fresh chicken Italian sausage. Upon returning home, I stuck it in the garage freezer and promptly forgot all about it. Ok; it’s my MO. Finding myself with most of a pot of polenta leftover from Friday night’s bœuf bourguignon dinner and wondering what to do with it (there are myriad uses–no worries), I remembered that sausage and easily pictured it with a simple tomato sauce along with a cascade of sautéed mushrooms. A little garlic, of course–but not a lot. How about some fresh asparagus, I thought? It is asparagus season, after all. (Here in Colorado Springs –and I know this because of a longtime faithful reader, thanks–, we have wild asparagus that should just about be coming on. Take a peek around.) While it did dirty a few pans (hello wonderful DACOR dishwasher– ours was made by Asko, the Swedish company–and is still running perfectly without mishap after 9 years/knock on wood), within 45 minutes we had an easy-scrumptious dinner on hand with which to watch a couple of episodes of Netflix’ addictive new series “Transatlantic.”

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Coleslaw Reinvented Or Packing the Kitchen is #*99%%$$

Still naked coleslaw


 I’m awfully stuck-up about this, but I have always liked my coleslaw better than any other.  Better than any deli in NYC and better than any of my friends’ or family’s.   I have made a lot of coleslaw in my day.  It was a go-to as a side for brisket, burgers, you-name-it for my kids.  I made it in the food processor (after I got one) and it contained grated cabbage, a bit of red onion, most of whatever apple was in the frig, mayo, white vinegar, ground cayenne pepper, table salt and freshly-ground pepper.  I love it and it’s mine.

But last week, before I started packing the kitchen for the move,  I just started making it differently and that just went on.  I hope I can document it because it was capital W Wonderful and I want it again.  Dave said it was the best coleslaw he’d ever eaten in his life (ah, gee), but the thing was, the stuff KEPT WELL.  It was crispy and piquant and sweet and hot a day later and then two days later.  It didn’t know it should have wilted.  And that’s worth alot.  I’m thinking it was the brining. To  have a veg salad, dressed, ready to go for three days.  I still liked it better the first day, but that’s me.  I’m picky.



Brined Coleslaw with Apples   serve 3-4

4 c shredded green cabbage
1 apple such as Gala or Honeycrisp, cored and sliced thinly (don’t peel)
1/4 c thinly sliced red onion
2T kosher salt (for brining)
2T white sugar  ”       “
1t freshly-ground black pepper ”     “
1T olive oil
3 t apple cider vinegar
3T olive oil mayo (or your favorite)
1/2 t sugar or more/less to taste
1/4 c raisins
1/2 t kosher salt and 1/4t freshly-ground pepper, or to taste
Pinch of Cayenne pepper

In a very large bowl, place cabbage, apple and onion.  Cover with water and a cup or so of ice cubes.  Add 2T kosher salt, 2T white sugar and 1t freshly-ground black pepper.  Set aside for 15-20 minutes at room temperature. 

Brining the cabbage, apples and onions

Drain cabbage mixture well and remove ice from the colander.  Shake colander repeatedly to remove as much water as possible.  Pat cabbage mixture with paper towels to further dry.  Return to large bowl and drizzle with olive oil and white vinegar.  Mix well.  Add mayonnaise and raisins and mix again.  Season with sugar, salt, pepper and cayenne.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  You may need a bit more vinegar or sugar, etc to suit your taste.

Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood

I’m working on a lemon tart from Dorie Greenspan’s PARIS SWEETS. This is the first try.  It uses a whole lemon-all of it.

  Out to breakfast; out to lunch…

Very watchful as the kitchen gets packed…

 And then again ……………….

View of “new” kitchen

Meantime, if you’re keeping up with or reading more about what’s happening to the Presbyterian Church, USA, you might be interested in Wilson Gunn’s (The Presbyterian Outlook) response to “The Deathly Letter.”  John Huss (Clerk of Session, Central Presbyterian Church in Atlanta) has also responded in The Presbyterian Outlook on behalf of that church. There are, in fact, a few back and forths by now; you might want to read them.  Adam Walker Cleaveland in Pomomusings includes a clip of Jim Singleton (Senior Pastor at First Pres in Co Springs) explaining the new vision…and responds here. I have prayed this church might find its way peacefully and intact through the current (and former) quagmire; other denominations have done it.  Witness the UCC church where Dave and I currently happily worship.  During the last year, another local UCC congregation became open and affirming.  The church we attend went through that process maybe 15 years ago.  Perhaps it isn’t necessary to be all together on everything all the time; some things require years of patient hope, education and loving prayer.  I’ve always found it one of the beauties of being Presbyterian that we do have the latitude for varying ideas, interpretations and beliefs.  I am grateful we aren’t cookie cutter Christians, but it seems to me the unhappy churches ought to acknowledge their unhappiness and……just leave. There is a process within the PCUSA for just that.   Thanks, God for giving so many of us the ability to agree and disagree; I know we all have this in common–You are God of our lives and the love that we so badly need in our world.

Sing a new song,

Grilled Eggplant-Sausage Pasta with Fresh Mozzerella or What to Cook off the Plane

Italian sausage, red peppers, grilled eggplant, onions, garlic…a little fresh mozzerella.  Throw in some pasta and–

Note to readers:  for an updated, totally done on the grill version, please click here

    Coming off a plane, I’m often greeting thoughts like, “Did I leave anything at home that’ll work for dinner?”  I usually stop by the store anyway for fresh produce or something to fix quickly.  Yesterday, as I traveled home from Minneapolis, I remembered a couple of eggplants wilting in the crisper.  Odd phrase, eh?  In other words, they needed to be used.  What else?  Italian sausage in the freezer that I had put in at Christmas, but hadn’t yet cooked.  Sounded like a grilled pasta sauce night to me.  Mid-winter, I often am jonesing for something grilled.  I have two grill pans:  one is a square Calphalon and the other is a large, rectangular cast-iron grill that is flat on one side and ribbed on the other to siphon grease off the food or to provide the ubiquitous grill marks.

  I did run in for veggies for a chopped salad…bibb lettuce, radicchio, cilantro, parsley, red pepper, tomatoes…  I already had a little blue cheese.

Right now, the eggplant is sliced, salted and dribbling its dew (weeping copiously? bawling like a baby?) into a towel.  I’m about to start the pasta water, heat the grill, and start grilling cut pieces of sausage.  Oh, and a Seghesio Barbera’s waiting on the table.  (If you don’t know Seghesio, grab one of their zinfandels next time you’re in the wine shop and try that with grilled sausage and peppers, pizza or anything grilled.)  The recipe isn’t written, but will come together as I cook…and I’ll place it below the pics….  Enjoy!

Slice the eggplant thickly, salt and let drain on toweling.

Ah, California wine.

Ah, Italian tomatoes!

Indoor grilling of cut Italian sausage and eggplant

Sauteed red peppers, onions, mushrooms and tomatoes…a little wine didn’t hurt.

Cook some pasta.

The sauce comes together with the addition of the grilled eggplant and sausage

Adding the mozzerella and fresh basil to the hot pasta.  Mix this with the sauce and…

Vieni a mangiare! (Come and eat!)

Grilled Eggplant-Sausage Pasta with Fresh Mozzerella serves 6  (8-10 for a first course)

  • 1# pasta such as penne, mostaccioli, tortiglione or rigatoni
  • 2 T olive oil, divided
  • 1# Italian sausage (sweet or hot), cut into 2″ pieces
  • 1 large eggplant, peeled, and sliced into 1/2-1″ pieces (salted and drained on toweling)
  • 1 large onion, chopped coarsely
  • 1 red pepper, chopped coarsely
  • 8 oz fresh, whole mushrooms, wiped, trimmed and cut into halves
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 28 oz can tomatoes (I like Italian-canned tomatoes)  or 4 chopped fresh tomatoes-in summer only
  • 1/4 c red wine or water
  • sprinkle ea of salt, pepper and crushed red pepper
  • 1 T honey
  • 1 pint container of fresh mozzerella
  • 1/2 c fresh chiffonade (julienned) basil (or 2t dried basil); save out a little for garnish
  • 1/2 c Parmesan, grated (opt)
  1. Bring pot of well- salted and peppered water (10 qts) to boil, reduce heat and hold.  (Bring it back to boil soon as you get part-way through making sauce.) I like 1 T dried or fresh basil in my water, too.
  2. Heat oven to 250 F and place oven-safe bowls or plates in to warm.
  3. Heat grill to medium (10 min) and wipe with an oiled paper towel.  Add sausage and eggplant.
  4. Meantime, heat saute pan with rest of oil and add onion, red peppers and mushrooms.  Cook until nearly tender and add garlic.  Saute together for 1-2 minutes and add tomatoes, wine, salt, pepper, red pepper and honey.  Stir, bring to a boil, and reduce heat.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  (More salt and/or honey will cut the acidity of the wine and tomatoes.)
  5. Bring water back to boil and add pasta.  Cook 11-13 minutes or til al dente. Drain and place back in pot.    Add mozzerella and most of the basil, saving some for garnish. Cover and hold.
  6. When sausage and eggplant are done, chop eggplant coarsely and add both to sauce. Simmer 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings again.  Add sauce to the pasta mixture and stir gently, breaking up large hunks of mozzerella.  
  7. Serve in warmed pasta bowls.  Garnish with reserved basil.  Pass Parmesan, if using.

Cook’s Note:  If you’re making this in the summertime, why not grill all of the ingredients and just use fresh tomatoes (skip wine/water, honey)  for a very light al fresco meal?  You could cook the pasta in the morning before the temperature rises, store it in the frig, and bring it out in time to let it warm to room temp.

      Two-Dog Kitchen or What’s Goin’ on in the ‘Hood:

      Back from Minnesota trip where we almost froze literally; my skin is still peeling.  The day I left Colorado, it was -20 in St. Paul.  We’re not talking wind-chill.  I was so glad Dave wasn’t coming that day.  A 6 hour delay in our airport first….  Hey, I had a wonderful time reading the NYT cover to cover, getting a good start on a novel, enjoying a long lunch, and–not so fun–listening to my fellow travelers talking on the phone all day.  (There are so many private spots in the airport; why?)

      House hunted for the third time! and this time made an offer on a house:

      The view from what might be my new kitchen window.  Lots of birds!!!

      Still job-seeking…like a million? other Americans.  I’m grateful to our president for his positive, healing speech last night. 

      More travel soon….family birthdays, inspections on new houses… and so on.
      Sunny and warm here.  Ah, Colorado!

      Happy 80th Birthday to Gene Morgan!

      Here’s Dave’s Dad, Gene, and his Mom, Lorna, at Emily’s college graduation–all smiles.   


      Sing a new song,