Saturday, January 24, 2015


I haven’t quite finished with my porky extravaganza (see previous posts on pork loin and chorizo sausage). This week I’m enjoying salchicha, fresh pork link sausage. But, I’m giving equal time and place on the plate to a vegetarian lentil dish that can be served on its own or as a side with the sausages.


Sherry-glazed sausages, lentils and crisp salad--great lunch dish.
Salchicha is a fresh sausage that must be kept refrigerated and cooked before eating. It’s similar to the breakfast links you’re probably familiar with or to sweet Italian sausage.

Salchichas--fresh pork sausage.
The Spanish version consists of pork meat and fat ground together; seasoned with salt, lots of white or black pepper, nutmeg, garlic, oregano and parsley, and stuffed in sausage casings. It’s ready to eat immediately, without curing time. Fresh link sausage is also sometimes called longaniza blanca. Another version, called salchicha criolla or longaniza roja has pimentón (paprika) and hot pimentón or chile as well.

Salchicha can be fried, grilled or simmered in soups.  I’ve prepared an easy version, frying the sausages, then simmering them with fino Sherry, a dish often served in tapa bars. The lentils along with a salad with a sharp citrus dressing make great side dishes. Or, hold the sausages and serve the lentils as the main event.

Sausages with Sherry
Salchichas al Jerez

If the sausage pieces are to be served as a tapa, cut the links into 1 ½ -inch pieces.

Serves 4-6 as part of a meal, or 10-12 as a tapa.

Sausages as tapa.

1 pound fresh pork link sausage
½ tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup dry Sherry
Chopped parsley

Heat the oil in a skillet and brown the sausage pieces on all sides. Add the Sherry and cook on a medium heat for 3 minutes until the sausages are slightly glazed. Serve the sausages with the pan juices, sprinkled with parsley.

Don Quixote’s Friday Lentils
Lentejas Viudas

Vegetarian lentils get flavor from a sofrito of vegetables.

Lentils are what Don Quixote ate on Fridays. Or, so Cervantes tells us in the first paragraph of the novel. Because it was Friday—usually a day of abstinence from meat in the Catholic Church—they were certainly lentils viudas, “widowed,” bereft of meat or sausage. Nevertheless, well flavored with the olive oil of the region, garlic, onions, and spices such as cumin and pepper, they were probably a substantial and tasty meal.
Pardina lentils.

Use the tiny dark brown pardina lentils for this dish, which is served “dry,” not soupy. Small Puy green lentils could be used as well. With a salad and bread, lentils make a fine vegetarian meal. They are also a good side dish with duck, ham or pork. (Another recipe for lentils is here.)

A splash of vinegar or lemon juice at the end of cooking really jacks up the flavor of lentils.


Serves 4 as a main dish or 6 to 8 as a side dish.

1 pound small brown lentils (about 2 ½ cups)
1-inch piece of lemon zest, slivered
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
6 cups water
¼ teaspoon saffron threads, crushed (optional)
3 tablespoons olive oil + additional to serve
1 ½ cup diced carrots
1 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup diced celery
1/3 cup chopped red bell pepper
3 cloves garlic, chopped
¼ teaspoon whole cumin seed
Pinch of ground cloves
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar
1 hard-cooked egg, chopped (optional)
Lemon wedges to serve

Place the lentils in a pot or cazuela and add water, slivered zest, bay leaves and salt. Bring to a boil and cook, covered, for 8 minutes. Drain the lentils, saving the liquid. Discard the bay leaves.

If using saffron, soak it in 2 tablespoons hot water for 15 minutes.

Heat the oil in a pot or cazuela and sauté the carrots, onion, celery and red pepper for 3 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 5 minutes. Add the cumin seed and sauté 1 minute.

Stir in the lentils and 2 cups of the reserved liquid. Add the cloves, pepper, saffron, and additional salt, if necessary. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, or until lentils and carrots are tender. Add additional liquid as needed to keep the lentils from scorching on the bottom. Add vinegar and cook 3 minutes longer. Allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil over the lentils immediately before serving. If desired, serve them garnished with chopped egg. Serve with lemon wedges to squeeze into the lentils.

Lentils make a satisfying meal.

Citrus Salad Dressing

Use this dressing on salad greens, on cooked vegetables such as beets, carrots or asparagus, or on grilled fish fillets.

Oranges add a sweet tang.
1 orange
1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped scallions
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Grate a little orange zest into a small bowl. Peel the orange removing all the white pith. Cut the sections free from membranes and chop the sections. Add to the bowl. Stir in the vinegar, oil, scallions, salt and pepper. 

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