It’s snowing again in the Umbrian hills but the house is warm, the pantry and refrigerator are full of food and I have the sun in my kitchen.
Like every year, a huge crate of organic oranges from Sicily has arrived. As a consequence, I have spent the last few days slightly dazed by the intense aroma of orange peels simmering in sugar syrup. As you know, making candied orange peels is a yearly tradition in this house.
Even if we can’t go anywhere, I am blessed because I connect every week with so many of you who want to join my online cooking classes or who are attending events I have been invited to.
Recently, I have represented Umbria for a wonderful event with the US-based National Tourist Board of Italy (ENIT). We had a zoom meeting with over 150 travel professionals from all over the world. We were connected with several US based ENIT offices plus the Canada, Portorico, and Mexico offices. It’s been exciting to see the interest in our little region and heart warming thinking of the wild possibility that travelers might be able to come and see us again. Do we dare to hope?
I know, it’s impossible to make plans right now. When the day gets long and dark, I channel my inner self and go to the kitchen to make some food for body and soul. Since Tea is away at University, I tend to cook too much for myself and Ruurd. However, I have learned to cook in batches and prefer recipes which freeze well so I don’t waste.
All the components of this recipe can be made in advance, but I generally roast the sausages just before dinner. On the other hand I often have in the freezer boxes of blanched greens and beans I cook from scratch.
Note that the recipe is vegetarian until you add the sausages at the end. This means that you can make the beans and chard and put some away for the vegetarians in the family, then add the sausages to the rest and everyone is happy.
8 fresh Italian pork sausages or other sweet sausage of your choice
250 g (1/2 lb) White beans like cannellini or tondini, or 1/2 kg (1 lb) cooked beans
1 stalk celery
1 small onion
1 small tomato
Leaves from 1 sprig rosemary
2 Large garlic cloves, finely minced
About 500 to 750 g (1 to 1 and 1/2 lb )vegetables like kale, spinach or Swiss chard, cleaned, steamed and chopped after removing the excess moisture.
I like to cook beans from scratch, which is more economical. Besides, they have a better flavor and no added chemicals. You can cook a large batch of beans and freeze them in portions with their broth for a ready meal.
To cook the beans:
Soak beans overnight in room temperature water, rinse and transfer to a tall saucepan. Add a whole onion, carrot, tomato and celery, and cover again with plenty of water. Cover the pot and simmer slowly until the beans are tender but not falling apart, 1 to 2 hours.
To cook the sausages:
Preheat oven at 200 °C (390 °F). Roast sausages in a pan with 1/4 inch water and one tablespoon olive oil until lightly brown on all sides. Remove the sausages from the pan, cut in bite size chunks, transfer them back into the pan and cover to keep them warm.
Flavor and assemble the dish:
When ready to serve, chop rosemary very finely, almost to a powder. Don’t do this in advance, as the rosemary will oxidize and loose flavor. Sauté the rosemary and garlic in 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil until fragrant.
Drain beans, season with salt and pepper, and stir to incorporate until heated through.
Stir in the steamed vegetables and if needed, reserve some for the vegetarian option. Transfer the rest of beans and vegetables into the pan with sausages to soak in the meat juices. Serve immediately.