- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 9, 2003

My mother’s sausage-and-pepper sandwiches are legendary. For large family gatherings, she cooked the sausage and peppers in two large, deep skillets, which would go directly onto the table. We would gather around with hero rolls opened and ready to fill with strips of charred peppers and glistening links of Italian sausage.

Mom left the sausages whole and browned them carefully in a little olive oil. Then she added a little water to the skillet and cooked them, covered, until they were cooked through.

Not one to worry about too much fat, she allowed the water to be absorbed into the sausages.

I think this was her secret formula for turning out sausages that were plump and juicy, never dry. I think it was the fat.

The peppers of choice for Mom’s dish were the long, pale green ones she called Italian frying peppers. However, I notice that in most markets they are now called Cubano or Cuban peppers.

I’ve taken a few liberties with Mom’s recipes. I use red bell peppers. They always cost a little more than green bell peppers because they are matured green peppers that are allowed to stay on the pepper plants until the heat and sun turn them deep red.

All that extra care by the farmers costs the consumer a little more money — but it’s worth it. I am partial to their deep, sweet taste. They are my favorite peppers.

Rather than make sandwiches, I added the potatoes and greens to Mom’s basic sausage-and-pepper recipe so that it would be a complete meal. It’s easy to make, although it doesn’t qualify as a one-pot meal because the potatoes and greens are cooked separately in boiling water and then added to the skillet with the sausage, peppers and onions.

I prefer the taste of Italian-style fresh pork sausage over any of the other boutique mixtures available.

If you prefer, you can substitute a turkey or chicken sausage. Just make sure the flavors are compatible with the Italian pantry: cheese, fennel, artichokes, olives, basil, garlic, oregano or mushrooms are acceptable. Apples, curry, chili powder and cilantro are not.

For dessert, serve steaming cups of espresso with store-bought biscotti for dunking.

Preparation: Cook sausages. Cook potatoes and greens. Complete the recipe as written. Brew coffee and serve with biscotti.

Italian sausage with red peppers and potatoes and braised greens

The preparation time is 15 minutes, and the cooking time is 40 minutes.

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

8 Italian fennel or cheese sausage links (about 11/2 pounds)

1 pound medium potatoes, unpeeled, halved or quartered

4 cups packed torn escarole, kale, turnip, collard, chard or other dark greens

2 red bell peppers, seeds and stems removed, quartered

1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch wedges

1 garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon dried oregano

Salt, freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Heat a large, deep skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat until hot enough to sizzle a drop of water. Add olive oil and sausages, and cook until golden brown on all sides, turning as needed, about 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup water, and cook, covered, over medium-low heat 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook potatoes in a medium saucepan of boiling salted water until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer potatoes to a side dish.

Add escarole or other greens to boiling potato water, cover and cook over medium heat until wilted, about 5 minutes. Drain.

Add red bell peppers, onion and garlic to sausages and cook, covered, 5 minutes. Uncover and cook, stirring, until onion and peppers are lightly browned.

Add potatoes, greens, oregano, salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring, until blended, about 5 minutes more. Sprinkle with vinegar and serve. Makes 4 servings.


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