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August 30, 2009

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Dinner for one

Tonight I was alone and made a quick dinner for one. I had roasted sausage with a cucumber and tomato salad and toast. Very quick, very simple and very delicious. The whole meal took me 23 minutes from opening the fridge to sitting to eat. The sausage cost me about $2. the tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs and bread came from the farmers market and I estimate I used about $3-$4 worth of them. So the whole meal cost me under $6. here is how it broke down.

I roasted the sausage fully on the stove top. It is a little easier to finish the sausage in the oven, but it is August in New York and is way too hot out to justify turning on the oven. I used a pot to roast the sausage, because when you do them on the stove top they tend to splatter a bit and can make a greasy mess of your stove. The high sides of the pot keep the grease splatters to a minimum. Normally to brown a piece of meat you want to heat your pan before adding the meat, but I find that when cooking sausage on my stove top it is better to start the sausage in a cold pan. It gives the sausage time to cook thoroughly while still putting a nice brown on the outside. This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled. here we go:

You will need
– Two fresh sausages
– A handful of fresh cherry tomatoes
– One medium cucumber
– One small bunch of mint
– One shallot
– Olive oil
– Salt
– Bread
– butter

Put a light coating of vegetable oil, about a tablespoon, into an unheated pot then add your sausage. Place your pot over medium low heat. It should take a couple of minutes before the sausage begins to sizzle. While it is heating up, prep your salad.
Get a small handful of cherry tomatoes. Feel free to use more or less depending on how much salad you want to eat. Chop your tomatoes in half and place in a bowl. Add an equal amount of sliced cucumber to your tomatoes. Peel the outer skin from your shallot and, using your knife, slice a couple of paper thin bits off of the shallot. Raw shallot has a pretty strong flavor so you don’t want to add too much, just a couple of slices. Chop a hefty pinch of mint leaves and throw it on top. You can chop it as coarse or as fine as you like. Add all ingredients to your bowl and set aside, but do not mix.
Once your sausage has begun to sizzle you can check it with a pair of tongs or flip it with a fork to see if it has color. When the sausage has turned a dark caramel color you can flip it over. Once it is flipped put the lid of your pot on. put it on crooked so that the heat can escape and you do not end up steaming your sausage. This prevents any further grease splatters from messing up your stove top, but is not a necessary step. If it is cooking/sizzling too fast simply turn the heat down. Depending on how thick your sausage is (that’s what she said!) it will need between 2 and 5 minutes to finish cooking. When the sausage starts to produce a clear liquid under its skin, or if you squeeze it in the middle and it is nice and firm then you can turn the stove off. While it is still in the pan, squeeze a little fresh lemon juice onto each sausage. The acid from the lemon contrasts well with the fat of the sausage and perks it up just a little bit. Let the sausage rest a few minutes and While it rests you can dress your salad. Slowly drizzle olive oil over your salad until you can give it a light coating. Add a pinch or two of salt and a few drops of balsamic vinegar and stir all the ingredients gently. Tomatoes are fairly acidic, as is vinegar so you really only want a few drops of vinegar for flavor. Adding too much will compete with the flavor of the tomato. When you are ready, toast and butter your bread. For a finishing touch, drizzle the lemony pan drippings back over your sausage once it is on your plate. Enjoy!

Notes/Substitutions:

In the salad, tomatoes are key, but for the cucumbers you can easily substitute chopped radishes, celery or shaved raw zucchini. Mint gives this dish a light, vibrant feel, but other soft herbs like basil, tarragon or parsley can easily be substituted. If you do not have shallots, shaved raw onion can easily be substituted, but again, in a small portion.

Though any sausage will work for this recipe, it is much better if you can find a fresh raw sausage. Most butchers will offer a fresh homemade pork sausage, but since butchers are relatively obsolete everywhere except major cities, you may have no choice but to buy a pre-cooked and/or prepacked sausage. They will work for this recipe too, I just don’t like them as well. Sausage is cheap, easy and delicious and you should support any place in your town that is selling fresh homemade sausage. Also, if you can find it and afford it, it is always better to use organic, natural or locally raised meats.

You can also use a frying pan instead of a pot to cook the sausage. It will not affect the taste, but will cause a bigger mess on your stove.

Bread is delicious and good for you. This is a balanced meal and needs a starch to go along with it. Anything you have heard about carbohydrates causing weight gain ala Dr. Atkins only applies to the empty calories of sugary candies and sodas. Buy bread from a bakery over pre-sliced shelf bread anytime possible and don’t buy it pre-sliced because it will go stale faster and bread tastes better when it is cut thick. Keep your bread in a plastic bag in the fridge and it will last for upward of two weeks. Just take it out when you want some toast and slice a piece off accordingly.

Last but not least, under no circumstances should margarine be substituted for butter. Despite what you have heard, butter is good for you and is delicious on toast. Also, calories are not as significant when you cook at home.

This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Mari Allen permalink
    September 24, 2009 4:29 am

    Wow! Great ideas for my end-of-the-season green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers and squash! I’m going to make your side salad #3 tonight and brushetta toppings this weekend. Your recipes with the excellent photos are easy to follow and your writing is original, creative and heartfelt. You are on to something we all need to see more of. I’ll be checking in often. Thanks!

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