November is a very difficult time in the prairie kitchen, and it represents a transition between the late autumn and the early winter pantry. The garden is not quite the distant memory it will be by Christmastime and, for the most part, we turn back to the grocery store for our fresh produce after months of local eating. It is harder to feel enthusiastic about cellophane wrapped cauliflower and root vegetables neatly clipped of their green bushy tops. It does help to have a good organic grocery store that sells produce that more closely relates to that available at the farmers market during the growing season.
The other day I found some good, dark green black Tuscan kale and firm purple topped turnips in the veg aisle at the organic store. There were also woodsy shiitake mushrooms. I had Italian sausage in the freezer from our local Italian Deli. A supper inspired by The Real Food Cookbook unfolded: a substantial early winter supper of good hearty vegetables and spicy Italian sausage.
Sausages Braised with Turnip and Kale
Nina Planck outlines, in The Real Food Cookbook, a somewhat different method than my approach. However, her idea of pairing bitter earthy turnip and kale with a spicy pork sausage is brilliant. The woodsy mushrooms, seared in a hot pan, bring depth and savouryness to the dish.
- 1 onion sliced
- 4 Italian Pork Sausages with fennel
- 4 medium-sized purple topped turnips peeled and cut into wedges
- 1 bunch kale
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- A good glug of olive oil
- Grey sea salt and ground pepper
- A sprig of rosemary
- A grating of nutmeg
- A splash of white wine or vermouth
Heat the olive oil in a heavy cast iron pan. Toss in the rosemary sprig and sear the sausages on all sides until they are nicely browned. Toss in the sliced onion, turnips and 1 or 2 whole garlic cloves and turn in the pan until all coated nicely with the oil. Deglaze with a bit of vermouth or white wine and had a half cup of water. Cover with a lid and move to a 375F oven. When the Turnips are just turning soft, toss in the whole bunch of kale that has been washed, de-stemmed and roughly chopped. Cover and place back in the oven for 10 or 15 minutes until the kale is wilted and the turnips are just at the point of softening.
Meanwhile heat another pan with olive oil. Toss in a bit of garlic and the mushrooms. Don’t stir too much so as to let the mushrooms brown nicely. Season with pepper and salt after they have are finished browning. Remove from the heat.
Once the sausage, turnip and kale is finished, remove the rosemary, fold in the mushrooms, grate over a quarter of a nutmeg, and serve. Finish with a drizzle of good olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper as you serve. A shaving of parmesan cheese would be very nice.
Excellent with a full-bodied red wine.
At this time of year the bitter greens and root vegetables are an excellent seasonal vegetable to consider as you attempt to shape a vegetable forward meal. A small amount of meat goes a long way in a dish like this. It would be a very good vegetarian meal without the sausages. Perhaps a cup of chickpeas that have been roasted in the oven on a shallow pan along side the braise, flavoured with smoked paprika and cumin, would be nice alternative to the pork.