bistro feasto

sometimes it's fun to pretend you're making dinner in the french countryside: standing over a steaming stovetop, a jaunty apron around your waist, stirring and whisking, humming a little tune, pausing once in awhile to slow dance with someone you love. it really completes the fantasy to be cooking actual french food. creamy vegetable soups, crunchy endive salads, and homey cassoulets are nice, but the frenchie choices for vegetarians, and vegans especially, can be limited. and maybe a little boring.

one of my favorite bistro-inspired dishes, though, is lentils with (vegan) sausages and spinach. there is something about this dish that i will never get bored with. i've made it over and over, and unlike most of my favorite weeknight dishes, i never seem to throw in variations. it is nearly perfect as it is, and just makes you feel wonderful when you eat it. perhaps this is the best definition of french bistro fare: simple but elegant, a sense of refinement but nothing stuffy. after a hard day of work, lauren and i made this along with a lovely composed salad (butter lettuce, feta, pears, cashews and a drizzle of balsamic), and a special beer, brewed with hops grown in philadelphia!

so even while the dingy sidewalks are slick with chilly rain and fallen leaves, you can fluff a tablecloth over your kitchen table, light a few candles, pour a glass of beaujolais nouveau, and and whisper to yourself, "eh, c'est la vie," before taking a bite of this delicious bistro dish.

Lentils w/ Vegan Sausage & Spinach
~makes 4-6 servings~
~takes 30 minutes~

2 tsp oil (olive oil w/ some body is perfect), butter, or margarine
1/2 a large white onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 pound of brussel sprouts, cleaned and quartered (optional)
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
1 stalk of celery, chopped
1 cup of regular brown or fancier de puy lentils, rinsed
2 cups of water or vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 large bunch of spinach or 3 cups of baby spinach
2 vegan sausages, sliced into rounds (if they're homemade, you get a gold star!)

- over a medium flame, heat 1 teaspoon of the oil (or melt the margarine) in a medium pot, throw in the onion and garlic in and sautee til softened, about 5 minutes.

- add the brussels, carrots and celery and sprinkle with salt and pepper. sautee until tender. if the vegetables stick to the bottom of the pot, add a splash of broth (red wine is even better!).

- add the lentils, and stir around with the vegetable mixture for a minute. then add the 2 cups of water/broth, turn the heat to high, and bring to a boil.

- once boiling, lower the heat to medium-low and add the thyme and bay leaf. let this simmer briskly until the lentils are cooked all the way through, about 20 minutes.

- in a separate pan, heat the other teaspoon of oil. fry the sausages until browned.

- once the lentils are done, and the sausages are fried up, add the sausages to the pot. stir the spinach in (you can do this in a few batches if your pot is smaller), until it wilts, which only will take thirty seconds or so.

- stir everything together. taste for salt, pepper, or a bit of spice, if you like. serve piping hot.

- eat with gusto and remember to regret nothing.


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