The countdown to my departure has been ramping up and with every passing minute, I am starting to increasingly waffle between states of panic, excitement, anxiety and sentimentality—panic because there are literally like one million things that I have to do between now and Monday; excitement because I'm going to travel for four months, huzzah; anxiety because I don't know what to expect (although that's also one reason I'm excited) and sentimentality because knowing I won't be in my pretty little apartment for a while makes me appreciate it all the more.
So I've been savoring the time I'm here, relishing the simple acts of watching the sun rise up over Russian Hill, or sleeping soundly in my comfortable marshmallow bed, or just laying around in my pajamas watching television for hours on end, knowing that for a few months I don't really know what life holds in store as I'm free from routine and repetition.
Of course, this is one of the main reasons people are so drawn to travel. The disruption from normal, the sights unseen, the people not-yet-encountered. And it's definitely one of the reasons I'm looking forward to abandoning a lot of the security of my life in search of what's next and what's new.
One thing I am going to miss is standing around in my kitchen, laboring over some new dish for a few hours. I could probably write several posts on how much cooking has been woven into the routine of my life over the years, and how it's probably the discipline that's enabled me to even embark on this upcoming sojourn. After all, without making all those soups and stews and salads, and especially without toting them into my offices over the years in New York, Boston and San Francisco, it's unlikely I would have been able to get by financially (let alone pay off student loans).
It dawned on me tonight that with only a week before leaving, tonight might be one of the last nights I have to cook in my kitchen for a while. And when my co-worker Reggie* let me try a bite of a dish he's always bringing in for lunch -- a tomato-y stew filled with meat and beans -- and then informed me that it called for hot Italian sausage, I knew it was the dish to prepare. (This is because I am terribly frugal and knew that I had a half pound of hot Italian sausage in my freezer that needed to get used up.)
The best thing about this recipe? I think it could be made and altered in so many ways. I deviated from the Bon Appétit original in a few places, swapping canned beans and opting for crushed tomatoes since I had almost an entire 28 oz. jar's worth in my fridge to use up as well. The end result is a hearty, savory and ever-so-spicy stew. I mixed mine with a bit of whole wheat angel hair pasta, but I think it would taste delicious with sour dough bread, too.
Hot Italian Sausage with White Beans in Tomato Sauce
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 4 hot Italian sausages, removed from their casings and crumbled
- 1 12-oz. can cannellini beans
- 28 oz. crushed tomatoes (Bon Appétit's original calls for 14-oz can of plum tomatoes; my version obviously was heavy on the tomatoes so it was a bit more like a tomato sauce than stew)
- 1/4 tsp. dried, ground sage
- 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
- dashes of marjoram and thyme
- salt & pepper
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic. Sauté garlic until golden, about 2 minutes. Add sausges and sauté until browned, about 5 minutes. Drain cannellini beans, reserving 1/2 cup liquid. Add the bean liquid, tomatoes and sage to sausages. Simmer 5 minutes. Add beans. Add additional herbs to taste. Cover and simmer until sausages are cooked thoroughly, adding more water if dry, about 30 minutes. Uncover and simmer until sauce thickens.
Serve with fresh sour dough bread or pasta or just eat it with a giant spoon because you are hungry and it is delicious.
*While we're on the subject of food, check out this awesome site my co-worker put together: Flavortown. It pays hommage to America's most-outrageous chef, Guy Fieri, and a list of quotes from him that we found in a Food Network magazine.