Toward the end of summer, when tomato season is waning and the smell of roasted chile fills the air, I feel like a squirrel collecting nuts for the winter, but actually I’m hurrying to make all my favorite end-of-summer foods before the weather changes. I feel the same way now, as I attempt to make all the soups I possibly can, soaking up every second of the generous warmth they so effortlessly bring. This lentil and sausage stew is hearty while also retaining a lightness. It fills you up but doesn’t leave you feeling tired.
If you want to make it vegetarian, skip the sausage. You could also replace the sausage with ground beef or bison, or you could add cooked shredded chicken. There are so many aromatic vegetables here, I love that you don’t have to have broth or stock on hand; you only need to use water. Instead of lentils, beans are an easy replacement. I would suggest using dried beans that have been soaking in cold water overnight, or canned beans that have been drained and rinsed thoroughly.
What you are absolutely not allowed to skip is the sizzling herby-jalapeño-garlic oil as a finish. Drizzled onto the bowls at the last minute, right before a sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, it all comes together in the most delightful way.
Lentil and Sausage Stew
Makes: 6-8 servings; total time: 1.5 hours
For the soup:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound sweet (or spicy) Italian sausage
1 large sweet onion, diced
5 celery heart stalks and leaves, diced
4 carrots, diced
3 medium-sized potatoes, diced (any variety you feel like)
2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 cup brown lentils, rinsed, drained and picked through for any debris
1 28-ounce can of fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
6 cups water
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup fresh basil, sliced
4 cups arugula
For the herby-jalapeño-garlic oil:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon High Desert Herbs
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 jalapeño, seeded and thinly sliced
Piece of Parmesan Reggiano cheese for grating on top
Preparation: Place a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, and once it is hot, break apart the sausage with your hands and transfer to the pot. Cook until browned, continuing to break sausage into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon until all the sausage is cooked through. Using a slotted spoon, transfer sausage to a bowl to reserve. Carefully remove and discard all but a tablespoon of rendered sausage fat.
Add the onion, celery, carrots and potatoes. Stir and cook for around five minutes. Add the garlic and lentils. Stir and cook a few minutes longer. Add the tomatoes and water and bring to a simmer and cook for around 40 minutes, or until the lentils and potatoes are cooked through.
While the stew is cooking, prepare the drizzling oil: In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, add the oil. Once it warms, add the herbs, garlic and jalapeño slices. Let cook just until the garlic begins to turn the lightest shade of gold. Turn off the heat and transfer to a heat-proof bowl. Let cool for a few minutes before serving.
Right before serving the stew, add the basil and arugula. Stir the greens into the soup until they are wilted, around a minute. Check seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed. Spoon stew into bowls, drizzle with a bit of the herby-jalapeño-garlic oil and freshly grate Parmesan cheese over the top.