It was a cold, rainy evening earlier this spring. I had spent the whole day wrapped in a blanket writing. I hadn’t bothered to change the pajamas I wore the night before (no judgment, folks, I’ve reached the deadline). Reluctant to get dressed and run to the store, I had to cook dinner with what I had on hand. Little did I know I was about to stumble upon what would become my new favorite meal starter while raiding the crisper drawer of my fridge for something to boost the pound of local sausage I I always have in my freezer.
The crisper was full of hearty greens — Lacinato kale, rainbow chard, baby spinach — because they’re good for me, they hold up well, and they’re so readily available in Maine. Local farmers produce greens pretty much year-round now, given the high, season-extending tunnels used by many and a growing number of hydroponic operations employed by others.
I coarsely chopped the mixed greens and they were about six cups, loosely packed. I got out my trusty cast iron skillet, smoothed it with a little olive oil and added a pound of defrosted rosemary and lamb sausage from Apple Creek Farm in Bowdoinham, using a pair of wooden spoons to break up the meat as it cooks, then brown over medium-high heat. I tossed in a cup of diced onions and reduced the heat to let them slowly become translucent for about ten minutes before adding a handful of finely minced garlic (yes, that’s a lot of garlic! ).
I prefer steamed tender greens to quick sautéed greens, which are tougher. So once I poured the chopped greens into the pan and tossed to coat them in the tasty fat, I poured in water (about half a cup) and covered the pan for the let steam for a few minutes. Then I seasoned everything with salt, Aleppo pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. The overall yield was about four cups of tasty food.
That night, I topped a cup of sautéed greens and sausage with a fried egg and cleaned the plate with a piece of crusty bread. Completely satisfied, I started planning what I could do with the leftovers over the next few days.
Leftovers can go in a myriad of directions. You can continue with the egg theme to make a frittata, quiche, or quick casserole. Maybe use the greens and sausage as stuffing for freshly baked Maine potatoes for jacket potatoes or cut up a cold baked sweet potato and add it to make hash. Cheese is a natural pairing for greens and sausages. So toss the mixture into a pot of hot parmesan broth with cooked white beans for a flavorful, filling soup. You can mix the stir-fry mix with hot ziti, some of its pasta cooking water, and shredded cheese for a balanced pasta meal, use it as a meat layer in lasagna, or scatter it to top your next pizza. grilled. It’s also great stuffed into ravioli pasta or prepared dumpling wrappers.
Keep a few things in mind when preparing the mix. Start with raw sausages, not fully cooked or smoked. Cooking a sausage too many times can give it a grainy texture. Remember that chicken or turkey sausages may need a little more oil in the pan than fattier pork or lamb sausages. Since sausage usually contains salt, don’t add more salt until you’ve steamed the greens, then taste the mixture first to avoid over-salting. Same goes for adding chili and garlic if your sausage is already spicy with those things. The mix of greens and sausage keeps well in the fridge for about five days, but don’t freeze it as the greens can get a bit slimy when thawed.
Local food advocate Christine Burns Rudalevige is editor of Edible Maine magazine and author of “Green Plate Special,” both a sustainable food column in the Portland Press Herald and the name of her cookbook from 2017. She can be contacted at: [email protected]
Grilled Sausage and Hearty Greens Pizza
Raw dough for 1 pizza (12 inches)
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 cup sautéed sausages and greens
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 ounces fresh mozzarella, torn into strips
1/4 cup grated pecorino cheese
Prepare the grill for high, direct heat. Pour a little olive oil into a small bowl and place it next to the grill.
On a floured surface, shape the pizza dough into a 12-inch circle. Let it sit for 5 minutes, then push the edges in with your fingers as the raised edges will interfere with the cooking process. Slide the dough onto a rimless baking sheet or flour-dusted pizza peel.
Dip a folded paper towel in olive oil and use tongs to grease the grill grates. Gently slide the dough from the baking sheet or peel it onto the hot grill grates. Close the grill lid and cook the pizza for 2 minutes. Check the bottom of the batter to see if it browns evenly. Turn the dough if necessary. Close the lid and cook for 1 more minute.
Slide cookie sheet or peel under dough and remove from grill. Using a spatula, flip the dough over so that the grilled side is up. Close the grill to retain the heat.
Brush the grilled side of the dough with olive oil. Spread the tomato sauce all over the dough. Spread the cooked vegetables and sausages over the sauce. Sprinkle red pepper over greens and sausage. Finish with an even distribution of the cheeses. Slide the pizza onto the grill.
If using a gas grill, reduce the heat to medium. If using a charcoal grill, close the lid vents almost completely. Close the lid and cook until the bottom begins to blacken and the cheese is bubbly. Transfer the pizza to a cutting board and let rest for 2 minutes before slicing.
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