Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Italian Sausage with White Beans and Kale

This falls into that category of stew-soup-chili that I like to call “stoupili” … because I’m a silly person. From start to finish this one-pot meal takes less than 30 minutes, yet it's nutritious and gives that stick-to-your rib satisfaction I crave this time of year in particular. Amazingly, it's also a low fat, high fiber and well just all around darned good recipe that's easily modified to please any number of palates.

Using just a cup of stock will yield a hearty stew-chili type of result, but if you want something brothier (is that a word?) and therefore lighter, add more stock.

Use any kind of canned white bean, winter green, and sausage that you like to add texture or flavor, and to control the heat and the fat content. Canned beans bring quick, convenient, heart-healthy fiber to any meal, plus they are a lean source of protein, and if you rinse them you decrease their sodium content.

I use sweet Italian style turkey sausage in this dish because it’s very low in fat and I can control the spice if I’m serving the family – kids and spicy often don’t mix. This particular lean turkey sausage claims to be 71% lower in fat that regular pork sausage.

Also I use kale here because it is one of my favorite greens, but fresh swiss chard would also work, as would spinach thrown in at the last minute (or frozen thrown in earlier). Greens bring calcium, Vitamins A&C, cancer fighting cartenoids (rich plant pigments) and folic acid to the dish.

Italian Sausage with White Beans and Kale

3 sweet Italian-style turkey sausage links, removed from casings
1 small bunch of kale, rinse, stems removed, and chopped
2 cloves garlic. minced
1 medium onion, diced
2 Tsp fresh thyme (or to taste)
1 cup low-fat chicken stock (veg stock, or water will work too)
1 can white or navy beans (rinsed)
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Heat 1 tsp oil and add onion, stirring occasionally until tender. Add garlic, sausage and thyme and stir to break up the sausage. Saute until sausage is browned (there should be virtually no fat in the pan if you’re using turkey sausage, but if there is, strain the fat off and return ingredients to the pan to continue cooking). Add 1 cup of chicken stock, kale and white beans. Add cayenne pepper, stir to incorporate, cover and let simmer over med-low heat for 5 minutes or until kale is tender.

You may add more liquid to make a soup, or you may let simmer longer if you like your kale more on the tender side. Depending on the size and tenderness of the beans, you won’t want to stir this too much b/c you may start to break up the beans. Serve in soup bowls or cups, topped with fresh thyme sprigs and herb-garlic toast.