“What’s your house like?” asked a little girl Lilli was on a playdate with. “It’s…messy. Really messy.” I’d actually found myself in a similar conversation with a rabbi I’m working with days before. There are always projects going on — not renovations, more like this morning’s empty milk carton is about to become a robot’s head. And used toilet paper and paper towel rolls are clearly supposed to be arms and legs of figurines waiting to be made. Empty pizza boxes are dragons’ mouths; close your eyes and you can practically already see their teeth.
And then, of course, are the kitchen projects. Nowadays Lilli is always by my side, armed with a butter knife, ready to cut anything soft enough. Ripe stone fruit work. So do tomatoes and some cheeses. And then there is the veggie sausage she cut for the vegan jambalaya, made with the okra Lilli and I would hand pick at the farm each week. That sausage came from a Western Mass company called LightLife, which invited me to enjoy some of their vegan sausages and hot dogs this summer.
They also sent us a cute little portable grill, with a case that doubles as a cooler; a very handsome set of grilling tools, and Sir Kensington condiments. Beatrix, as it turned out, is a Lightlife hot dog fanatic. She gobbles them up, then asks for more while smashing her hands to sign “more” to hammer home the message. I ended up sending cut up pieces of the fake dogs in her lunch box this summer.
I can report that Rich grilled the hot dogs successfully on the tiny grill, though he felt slight ridiculous with his Weber kettle standing at the ready. But let’s talk about this jambalaya recipe I developed this summer and love making. It starts with New Orleans Holy Trinity flavor base of onions, green peppers and celery. I add a healthy dose of tomato paste, which I keep flattened in a plastic Zip Loc in the freezer, to bolster the flavor.
Once the veggies are softened, I browned the sausage, then added the okra, a small can of tomato sauce, then stock or water. My personal choice is water and the vegetarian Better Than Bouillon. To keep things simple, I use a can of black beans, drained. And instead of rice, which is totally fine to use, I tend to reach for the 10 Minute Farro from Trader Joe’s. That really cuts down on the prep time, making this an easy weeknight dinner. Because there is always squash in the fridge, I’ll sometimes quarter one and add it to the pot when I add the okra.
This makes an immense amount of food. It can serve four adults as a main, with leftovers for days. It also freezes well; I have some in the freezer now.
1 package Lightlife sausages, cut into ½ inch pieces
1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
1 small white onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
8 fresh okra, chopped or 1 cup frozen
1 small yellow summer squash, quartered
1 8 oz. can of tomato sauce
1 14.5 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup Trader Joe’s 10 minute farro or 1 cup brown rice
2 cups vegetable stock (I use Better Than Bouillon)
In a very large, lidded skillet with sides, soften the pepper, onion and celery in the tomato paste. Sprinkle liberally with Kosher salt.
Once softened, add the chopped sausage; brown it. Add the okra and summer squash; cook until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, black beans, farro and stock. Stir and salt. Bring to boil. Reduce to simmer.
Cook the stew until the farro or brown rice has softened. If you’re using the Farro, check it in 15 minutes. If you’re using the brown rice, it will be closer to an hour.
Check to see if the farro has cooked. Serve.
This post was sponsored by Lightlife. Opinions are my own.