Oh, let’s let the truth come out. I love cooking weeknight dinners. The joy of making the weeknight meal has less to do with food than with competition. There’s a race to see if I can satisfy our appetites with something good before we melt cheese on so many snack crackers that we have no appetites anymore (just like the walk to the subway is also a race, to see how many people, strollers, and puppies I can zig zag past and beat through the turnstile). Go, go, go.
Winning, of course, is eating, and this is what we eat. This humble mass of, well brown. Brown pasta. Brown sausage. Brown lentils. Brown-ish green kale. But it’s so good!
Beneath the brown, some reasoning. Though the ingredient list has nine lines, in fact this is a recipe of four elements: pasta, lentils, sausage, kale. A well-rounded meal of carbs, legumes, protein, and a vegetable. Wonderfully, you need very little else. There’s some lemon, some garlic, some onion, and some cilantro if you like, but at its core, this is so simple. One of those elements does play the leading role, and that’s the sausage. The links contribute all the seasoning Fleisher’s puts in sausages (these were merguez), and so you, as the weeknight cook, don’t have to worry so much about adding little bits of this and that seasoning, a strategic glitch that might slow you down, causing weeknight cooking defeat.
Whole Wheat Spirals with Merguez Sausage, Lentils & Kale
You can use any kind of sausage you please, from spicy Italian to any kind of chicken sausage. You can easily make this ahead, and leftovers are wonderful lunches. If you don’t soak the lentils, cooking time will be more like 30 minutes.
1 cup black lentils, soaked overnight
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 links merguez sausage, casing removed and broken into 1 ½-inch chunks
1 onion, chopped
1 bunch lacinato kale, ribs removed and cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 pound short whole wheat pasta
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Minced cilantro, for garnish
Place the lentils in a small pot and cover 1 inch of water. Bring to a boil. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and the garlic cloves. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and forget about the lentils.
Boil a second, large pot of water.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a big skillet over high heat. Add the merguez and cook til brown, about 12 minutes, tossing a few times. Remove the merguez to a plate, turn the heat to medium-low, and add the onion. Cook until onions are soft, about 20 minutes. Add the kale and a sprinkle of salt and cook til kale has wilted, 5 minutes. Add the lentils with their cooking water and sausage and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, while you cook the pasta.
To the second pot of water, add lots of salt and the pasta. Cook until 1 minute short of al dente.
Now, scoop the cooked pasta right from its pot into the skillet. Bring the whole thing to a boil, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until everything is combined, adding a few tablespoons of pasta water straight from the pot if the mixture seems dry.
Squeeze some lemon and drizzle with a bit more olive oil. Toss. Garnish each portion with cilantro.