It was cold and damp today – a perfect excuse for me to sit in the office and work on a website for a fun new friend.  And it was a perfect day for Victor to cook dinner!

It’s a bit of self-defense on his part…  he knows how I can get when I’m focused on a new site and if dinner is to be anything more than hot dogs, he probably needs to cook it.

Well… my clever ruse worked and did he ever create a great dish!

The concept comes from Lidia’s Italy cook book.  It’s a really simple dish of sausage, fennel, and olives.  The recipe calls for green olives, but we didn’t have any in the house, so he substituted kalamatas.  He also added some malloreddus that was left from Monday’s dinner to make it a one-pot dish.  And cut it for the two of us.

It worked on every level.  The combination of flavors and textures was perfect.  I broke away from the office long enough to bake a fresh loaf of bread and it was perfect for sopping up every drop of juice on the plate.

If you haven’t cooked fennel in a while – or have never cooked fennel – this is definitely the recipe to try.

Sausages with Fennel and Olives (Salsicci con Finocchi e Olive)

from Lidia’s Italy
Serves 6

Fresh fennel is one of my favorite companions for good Italian sausage. Here meat and vegetables are skillet-cooked, separately and then together, until their flavors are merged and concentrated. It may seem that a lot of fennel is called for, but in cooking it diminishes greatly. Fennel prepared this way is also excellent with any grilled meats; it is even good with grilled fish.

  • Sausages 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 sweet Italian sausages (about 2 pounds)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 6 plump garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • ¼ teaspoon peperoncino flakes, or to taste
  • 1 cup large green olives, squashed to open and pit them
  • 3 large fennel bulbs (3½ to 4 pounds), trimmed and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • ½ teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt

Recommended Equipment
A 13- or 14-inch heavy-bottomed skillet or sauté pan, with a cover

Pour 2 tablespoons of the olive oil into the big skillet, and set over medium-high heat. Lay in all the sausages; cook them for 5 minutes or more, rolling them over occasionally, until they’re nicely browned on all sides. Pour in the wine, and boil until it is reduced by half. Remove the sausages to a platter, and pour over them the wine remaining in the pan.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil to the empty skillet, toss in the garlic cloves, and cook for a minute or so, over medium heat, until they’re sizzling. Drop the peperoncino in a hot spot for a few seconds, then scatter the squashed olives in the pan; toss and cook for a couple of minutes.

Add the fennel chunks, and stir them in with the garlic and olives. Season the vegetables with ½ teaspoon salt, cover the skillet, and cook over medium-high heat for 20 minutes, tossing and stirring now and then, until the fennel softens, shrinks, and begins to color. Add a bit of water to the pan if the fennel remains hard and resistant to the bite.

When the fennel is cooked through, return the sausages and the wine to the skillet. Turn and tumble the meat and vegetables together, and cook uncovered another 5 minutes or so, until everything is deeply caramelized and glazed. Adjust the seasoning to taste; keep cooking and tumbling the sausages and fennel. Serve piping hot.

And fresh-baked bread…

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