I spotted this wonderful merguez sausage (spicy sausage made with lamb) while shopping online and then went looking for some ideas on what to do with it. I found a lamb merguez tagine recipe but I had no squash, no chickpeas and no couscous (also no tagine, but a saucepan fixed that).Time to adapt and improvise! I’m calling it lamb merguez sausage with rice and vegetables.
First I replaced the couscous with rice.Then, instead of squash or zucchini (which I didn’t have, and didn’t think ideal with the lamb anyway) I used the rest of a white eggplant I already had at hand. I am a firm believer in using what you have whenever possible (especially with all those steps, I’m not going up and down for one can or two items)!
The result was this delicious lamb merguez sausage with rice and vegetables. It only takes about 35 or 40 minutes to cook. Plus, I reduced the original three pots to only two (one for the rice and another for the lamb and veggies). I wasn’t going to clean three pots!Not to mention, the ingredients are now in the order you use them.
If you’re not familiar with merguez sausage, it’s a bit spicy, but not overwhelmingly so. It’s flavored with chili peppers and cumin, but that’s tempered by the cinnamon, coriander, onions, and garlic, which mellow as you simmer them. The richness of the eggplant and the sweet carrots also make an excellent foil for the spicy lamb.
First get the rice started. Boil the water first, then add the rice.
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan on medium heat. Once it’s hot, add the cinnamon, coriander, paprika, cumin, and turmeric. Let the mixture cook for a few seconds.
Add the lemon juice, fennel, garlic, onion, and green olives, and cook on medium, about 10 minutes, until the vegetables start to soften.
Add the sausage to the pot, and cook 5 minutes to brown it. Mix in the flour and then add the chicken broth. Let the mixture cook for a few minutes until it starts to simmer (you’ll see bubbling).
Add the carrots, eggplant, and raisins and cook for 15-20 minutes until the carrots are soft, the eggplant browns, and the sausage is fully cooked through.
Serve over the rice.
If you are using brown rice, it will take about 40 minutes to cook once the water boils. White rice needs about 18 minutes. Stir the rice when you add it to the boiling water, and then again right before serving. This will make it fluffier.
Lamb Merguez Sausage with Rice and Vegetables Substitutions and Variations
If you have the chickpeas, add them to the dish
Or substitute some lentils for the eggplant
Try it with couscous instead of the rice
Or serve it over some pasta
If you can’t find the merguez, you can approximate the flavor by using ground lamb, increasing the garlic, cumin, and coriander and adding some harissa or sriracha or chili garlic sauce for kick
A friend’s mom made this black beans and rice recipe for me many years ago on Thanksgiving. We had the traditional turkey, and also a slow-cooked pork roast that was divine. The beans were so good I asked her to have her mom send me the recipe.
The great thing about this is that you feel you’re eating something rich and luxurious, even though it’s a “budget” meal. This particular recipe is also vegetarian. Of course, if you want, you can add some pork or bacon in with the seasoning mixture and cook that before you combine it all with the beans.
It’s also versatile. Cook it down more and you have black beans and rice. Cook a bit less and you end up with black bean soup.
The recipe here is portioned to be a substantial main dish for dinner (or two lunches). Or, use it for two side dishes.
There are two ingredients in it that are a bit unusual for black beans and rice (at least unusual to me): balsamic vinegar and port. You just use a little of each, but it adds an extra depth of flavor which wouldn’t be there otherwise.
I don’t usually have port, so I used brandy instead.
I nearly always get the dried black beans instead of the canned ones. The canned beans tend to have extra salt and additives to “keep them fresh” (which never made sense to me; canned food should last without preservatives). Besides the dried beans are a better value and will last indefinitely.
It does take a bit of time to make this (not so much because of the cooking as because of soaking the dried beans). However, you can just let them soak overnight or use my quick soak method. Or, if you’re in a big hurry, use canned beans. Half the can should do it.
I used leftover rice that I already had. If you don’t have leftover rice, start the rice while the bean and onion mixture is simmering.
The reports of arsenic in standard rice make me a bit nervous. Also, this rice is just delicious. It isn’t jasmine rice (though they have that too), but it tastes like it. And it’s not expensive either. Actually, sometimes the bags of regular rice in the store cost more!
If you’ve got the space for it, a pressure cooker will make preparing beans a whole lot faster (it’s also good for split pea soup). Pressure cookers used to be tricky to use (my grandpa made a terrible mess once when he opened it too soon – pea soup everywhere!), but they’ve gotten a lot easier. The pressure gauge on this one is marked for high or low pressure, steam release, and off. If you forget to soak your beans you can cook them with this in about 20 minutes, instead of an hour, plus the waiting time. It’s also dishwasher-safe.
I just love stuffed cabbage, but making all those individual rolls is just a big pain in the neck. It looks good, but it’s labor-intensive and all that work is just not worth it (unless you want to impress company). And, most recipes make enough to feed a small army. Great for a crowd, but not so great when you’re cooking for one. What I really wanted was a small batch unstuffed cabbage rolls recipe. Something easy to put together.
I decided there must be an easier way. I saw a recipe for unstuffed cabbage rolls, made with meatballs and shredded cabbage. Make the meatballs, shred the cabbage, and pile the meatballs on the cabbage. It sounded good (and more of a savory, than sweet/sour recipe). That’s still quite a bit of work.
Then, I hit on an easier method. Instead of making individual rolls, or shredding cabbage, I would layer it instead. Like lasagna!
So, that’s what I did. It’s easiest if you cut the core of the cabbage off first. Then the leaves will come off more easily.
I cut off a few cabbage leaves, made the filling and the sauce, and then put the whole thing in a square baking pan. It was enough for several meals, and proved to be a life-saver as I got sick a few days later. Since I had all that unstuffed cabbage, I didn’t have to cook much.
If you don’t want to eat cabbage every day for several days, cut it into individual portions and freeze them in plastic containers.
I used red cabbage because the cabbage I’d ordered to make no mayo cabbage slaw turned out to be huge! You can use green cabbage if you prefer.
Rolling up cabbage rolls is just too much work. So, I layered my cabbage and sauce and made unstuffed cabbage instead. It's much easier, faster, and still tastes great.
8-10 cabbage leaves
3/4 lb. ground beef
1/4 C raw rice
1/2 small onion, chopped
1T neutral oil
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 1/4 C tomato sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp sriracha sauce
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Remove the cabbage leaves (it's easier if you cut out the core first). If it's neat, great, if not don't worry about it.
Mix all the ingredients for the filling together in a medium-size bowl and set aside.
Cook the chopped onion in a saucepan with some neutral oil. Add the tomato sauce, salt and pepper, sriracha, lemon juice, and sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat, and simmer for 15 minutes, covered.
Take an eight inch square baking pan (the kind you would use for brownies). Layer some of the cabbage leaves on the bottom.
Add some of the filling, spreading it out to cover the cabbage.
Now layer the sauce on top.
Add another layer of cabbage leaves.
Repeat this procedure, alternating filling, sauce, and cabbage layers until you run out or the pan is full (stop about an inch from the top).
Cover the pan with foil, put it in the oven, and bake for one hour.
Substitutions and Variations for Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls
This pan is a staple for every kitchen. If you don’t have one, you should. Use it for stuffed cabbage, large batches of brownies, or cakes. It’s heavy-duty, so it won’t warp. The handles make it much easier to take the hot pan out of the oven too.
Cuisinart Mixing Bowls I have had these bowls…forever. They stack neatly inside each other (important in a small kitchen), and the lids mean you can use them for storing leftovers, or for something that has to marinate overnight. And, the lids seal nicely so your food won’t slosh all over the inside of your fridge.
I had a partial bag of lentils leftover from making lentil soup some months ago, and decided they’d make a good fairly last minute dinner. Unlike beans, lentils don’t have to be soaked, so you can make them quickly.
Lentils and rice go together just as well as beans and rice, plus when you put them together you’ve got a complete protein. My mom always stressed this when I was a kid; it makes me laugh now. It’s a fairly quick, tasty dinner and it’s also pretty budget-friendly.
I looked at several other lentils and rice recipes and didn’t like any of them. Some were too bland and simplistic, while others involved way too much work and some hard-to-find ingredients.
I try to keep my recipes tasty, but not complicated (and with ingredients that are readily available). So, I did a bit of fudging, combining, and tweaking to get the results I wanted.
This lentils and rice recipe is fairly easy to prepare, and features a surprise ingredient you may not expect. It is, admittedly, not going to win awards for looks, but it did taste good!
While the rice is cooking, fill a small saucepan with water and add the lentils. Cook for about 10 minutes.
Heat the oil in a small frying pan. Add the onion and saute for a minute or two. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two. Now, add the ketchup and the spices. Cook, stirring until the onion wilts (about 5 minutes or so). Add the chicken stock.
Once the lentils are done, drain them and add them to the spice mixture. Cook five minutes, adding more chicken stock if necessary.
Serve over rice.
Substitutions and Variations for Lentils and Rice Recipe
If you have the time, start by caramelizing the onions first; you’ll get a deeper, richer flavor
Make it Lebanese with the carmelized onions, a fried egg, and cumin (full recipe)
Or, go to Ethiopia with some cardomom, tomatoes, cumin, and red lentils (instead of brown)