Substitute. Is it a good word or a bad word? Do you hear it and shudder or jump for joy? I started thinking about that word yesterday. It is kind of interesting that substitute is such a simple word and yet has many connotations. (Yep, that is the kind of stuff I find interesting.)
For example, a substitute teacher could be a good or bad thing. If you love your teacher and would miss her presence, a substitute coming to the class would be enough to make you play sick and go home from school. (I never did that, I swear.)
Or maybe the substitute is one of those fun ones who let you watch movies the whole day and tosses the lesson plan out the window. (This is fun on the first day of your teacher’s absence. After you’ve seen Sound of Music 4 times in 7th grade chorus class, it gets kind of old.)
Another example, if I was offered a pie with a sugar substitute, I wouldn’t be happy. (Partially because I like cake better.) I like real sugar. I eat it in moderation so I feel there is no reason to substitute it in recipes. But on the same note, someone else who is trying to watch his or her weight may want a sugar substitute.
I think especially with food, the word substitute can really have a suspicious undertone. If I go into restaurant and order bacon with my eggs, I am talking good old-fashioned, pork bacon. I do not want turkey bacon. To me that is not a substitute, it is a punishment. (I’ll spare you my real feelings on turkey bacon.)
So yesterday, I got on this thought process when I was planning dinner. I was yearning for an Italian sausage sandwich but didn’t have any nice crusty rolls to serve it on.
I thought to myself, there is no substitute for that rich sweet and spicy taste of that sandwich. You need all the flavors of the tomato sauce, peppers and onions to melt together so it as satisfying as the real thing. It would be impossible to find a substitute for this particular food craving….or maybe not?
I had everything in the house for an Italian sausage sandwich EXCEPT the bread. (For the new cooks out there, bread is an important part of a sandwich.) Now, most people would have run out and just bought some bread. (Most people have already stopped reading this post and have gone down to the recipe. For those of you still reading, there is no substitute for you!)
But I was determined to make a delicious, warm soup that would be a perfect substitute for the opulent flavor I was craving. (Plus now I didn’t have to go out in the rain and make my hair frizzy!)
Italian Sausage Soup
1 pound mild Italian sausage (hot sausage would be too spicy in this recipe, I think)
1 cup yellow onions, chopped
1 cup fennel, chopped
1 cup red pepper, chopped
½ cup celery, chopped
3 tsp garlic, chopped
3 tsp dried basil
2 potatoes, chopped into bite size pieces
1.5 cups red wine
1 14 ounce can whole tomatoes, broken up
4 cups beef broth
1 cup water (you can just add another cup of beef broth but I was trying to cut down the salt a little here)
Olive oil, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes
Cooked Elbow Macaroni
In a large soup pot (5 quart should do), brown Italian sausage. Remove, drain, and set aside.
In same pot, add about 1-2 Tbsp olive oil. Over medium heat, add onion, fennel, red pepper and celery. Give them a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Cook until veggies start to soften. (The veggies will release a lot of liquid.)
Add garlic and basil and cook another minute.
Add potatoes and cover for about 5 minutes. (I can’t stand a raw potato so this helps them steam in some of the liquid that the veggies produced.)
Deglaze the pan with the red wine and allow it to come to a simmer.
Add tomatoes, water and beef broth. Sprinkle with a little pepper. (If you are a spice lover, add a dash or two of red pepper flakes.)
Let simmer on medium low for about 30 minutes. (Check after 30 minutes to make sure potatoes are done.) I have put mine on low and just let it simmer for multiple hours. It made my house smell great!
I served mine with some elbow macaroni, fresh basil and Parmesan cheese. YUM!
On bad weather days, my food desires seem to rule my head but it is nice to know that the uncontrollable winter weather will allow me to experiment with some new food substitutes…except bacon! : )