Admit it, we all do things that make no sense. The grass is greener, that sort of thing. Case and point, drive 16 hours only to get cooped up in a tiny remote cottage (read: no internet), which is okay for the first few days, but after a couple of weeks you go stir crazy. Then all you can do is look at trees and swat those long-legged overgrown mosquito things (those ones) that wobble around drunkenly and land on your face. While you sleep. Let’s not even mention the spiders. Or my data bill.
We’re back. Back, back, back. I rejoice in supermarkets, traffic, and all that stuff that sucks, but you can’t live without in the city. It’s a nice fantasy to think we’d make good islanders, but the reality is so different. Such is my love-hate relationship with Salt Spring.
Anyway. I think we’re on the cusp of crappy weather back home. It’s been sweltering hot, but the wind is blowing and I think it’s bringing in something nasty. Time to get out the old le Creuset pot and cook a stew. I find that it’s always handy to keep some frozen meat on hand — elk sausages in this case. If your pantry and fridge are stocked with basics, you can save a trip and make a one-pot meal in no time. Feel free to substitute italian sausage, or even chorizo in this recipe.
The stew is spicy, earthy and very slightly sweet. It’s worth going the extra mile and roasting the red bell peppers — it will add that smoky aroma you can’t get otherwise. Skip the step if you’re pressed for time.
It goes great with crusty bread and tastes even better after a night in the fridge.
Vegetable Stew with Elk Sausage
2 large red bell peppers, roasted, peeled and sliced
2 tbs olive oil
2 links elk sausage (or substitute what you have on hand)
1 large sweet onion, sliced
4 large garlic cloves, minced
2 red chili peppers, finely chopped
2 jalapeño peppers, thinly sliced
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1 28oz can whole tomatoes (I recommend San Marzano for flavor)
2 – 3 cups chicken stock
1 28oz can of chickpeas, rinsed
1 tbs Old Bay seasoning*
2 tbs brown sugar
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
1 head of spinach, leaves only
Core the peppers and slice in half. Arrange skin-up on a baking sheet and place under the broiler (3 inches away from the heat source is optimal). Broil until the skins char, then use tongs to transfer into a large Ziplock bag. Let cool slightly, then take the bag and, without opening, rub the skins so the charred pieces come off. Open the bag and remove the roasted peppers. Pick off any leftover charred bits. Slice the peppers into 1 inch wide squares.
Pour the olive oil into a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Slice and brown the sausage over medium heat, then add the sliced onion, garlic. Continue cooking until the onion soften, stirring often.
Add the red chilies, jalapeño peppers and carrot. Stir to incorporate, then pour over the tomatoes and chicken stock, so that all ingredients are covered. Mix again, scraping the bottom. Add the chickpeas, roasted peppers, Old Bay seasoning, sugar and bay leaves, salt and pepper.
Bring to a brief boil, then lower to a simmer, cover, and cook for 1.5 hrs.
Add the spinach and cook until just wilted, stirring. Check the seasoning and serve.
*Or make your own Old Bay seasoning:
1 tablespoon celery salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon ground mace
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ginger
Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Transfer to a glass jar. Set aside in a cool, dark place and use within a couple of months for optimal flavor.