Mert-Friendly Sausage and Peppers

I have a few friends who don’t eat pork, which can be challenging during the regular family meals that we host for 4-10 porcine-hungry friends.  One of them, Mert, is convinced that he will never be able to turn down pork again if he’s ever tried it, so he has asked us to be extra vigilant in ensuring he doesn’t get any by accident.  I’ve adjusted this recipe from Martha Stewart to meet the needs of my friends who keep kosher/halal and also to provide leftovers that I’m more than willing to snarf up.  We even have sausages in our chest freezer labelled “Mert-friendly” (ie, pork-free) so that we can whip this one up at a moment’s notice.  Serve over rice or egg noodles.

Mert-Friendly Sausage and Peppers

.25 cup extra-virgin olive oil
5 cloves garlic, sliced
1 large onion (red is best, but yellow/white will work), cut on a 2-inch dice
4 bell peppers, mixed colors, cut on a 2-inch dice
4-6 halal sausage links, ideally Italian
1 cup to one 14 oz can of crushed tomatoes, depending on how saucy you want it
1.5 cups red box wine
1 tsp dried oregano
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Basmati rice or egg noodles, for serving

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add whole sausages and cook, turning regularly, until browned. Remove sausage and set aside to cool.

Add onions and peppers to the skillet with a pinch of salt, cooking until the onions are translucent. Meanwhile, slice the sausages into medallions.

Add garlic to the skillet and cook for one minute, stirring constantly. Return sausage to the pot, and add oregano, tomatoes, wine, and another pinch of salt. Stir, bring to a gentle simmer, then reduce heat and cook, covered, for 15-20 minutes until the peppers are very soft. Add salt and pepper to taste, then serve immediately.

Jimmy’s Sautéed Mushrooms

This is my stepdad Jimmy’s flexible, delicious recipe for sautéed mushrooms that I could eat with every meal.  It’s delicious served over wild rice or as a side for any hearty, meaty dish.  All of the measurements are flexible – if you like garlic, add more of that; if you prefer your mushrooms to be saucier, increase the wine and also the Worcestershire sauce.

Jimmy’s Sautéed Mushrooms

3 tbsp butter
1 onion, diced
4-8 cloves garlic, chopped or minced
16 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
One cup red box wine, plus more as needed
2-4 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions and sauté, stirring frequently, until soft, about 5-10 minutes depending on the dice.  Add the garlic and sauté for a minute, stirring constantly.

Add the mushrooms and stir to coat with the butter and onion mixture, letting the mushrooms brown for a few minutes.  Add wine and Worcestershire sauce, stirring again to coat.  Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring regularly, for 20-30 minutes.  Cook until the mushrooms have reduced, and try not to lick the pan once they’re gone.

Chicken and Wine Couscous

This is a relatively quick, filling, and flexible meal that I have developed from a Mark Bittman (pbuh) recipe. Don’t have chicken? Use beef or lamb (which was what the original called for.) Don’t have saffron, or can’t tell the difference if it’s included or not? That’s cool too, just skip it.

Chicken and Wine Couscous


2 tablespoons olive oil
1.5-2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 1‐ to 2‐inch chunks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large onion, chopped
3 tablespoons chopped garlic (5-6 cloves, at least)
2 3‐inch cinnamon sticks or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 cups red box wine, or a mixture of chicken stock and red box wine
.5 cup raisins (optional)
Large pinch saffron (optional)
1 cup couscous, regular or pearled
¼ cup chopped fresh mint leaves or 1 tablespoon dried mint (optional)

If you’re using saffron, bloom it in a few ounces of wine or water as you prepare the other ingredients. If you’re using raisins, soak them in a half-cup of wine at the same time, and have more wine on hand if needed to ensure there’s enough braising liquid.

Heat the oil in a large skillet with a lid over medium‐high heat. When hot, add the chicken, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 10 minutes.

Add the onion, and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic, cinnamon, coriander, and cumin and cook for another minute, stirring constantly.

Pour in the wine (or wine/stock mixture if that’s what you’re doing), and add the raisins and the saffron if you’re using them, along with their soaking liquid. Add another sprinkle of salt, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low so it bubbles steadily but not violently; cook, stirring once or twice, until the meat is tender, about 20-30 minutes. (At this point, you may refrigerate the meat mixture for a day or two; reheat gently before proceeding.)

Stir in the mint (if you’re using it) and couscous. If you’re using regular couscous, cover the pan and turn off the heat; let sit for 5 to 7 minutes without disturbing. If you’re using pearled couscous, keep heat on low and stir regularly as the couscous cooks, about 5-7 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings, then serve hot, with torn fresh mint on top if you have any.

Simple vegan red sauce (with red box wine)

This is a meatless sauce that is hearty, earthy and satisfying. Five ingredients, and no spices except a pinch of salt. The objective here is to taste (and enjoy) tomatoes and mushrooms.


1 28 oz can whole tomatoes
4 oz (by weight) white mushrooms, sliced thick
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 oz (fl) red wine

Add olive oil to a pan over low-medium heat. Add sliced mushrooms and salt and cook uncovered for about five minutes (you’re making mushroom-flavored oil, y’all.) Add red wine and bring to a simmer.

Crush up the canned tomatoes in your fingers as you drop them into the pot, and add the liquid from the can. Simmer low, uncovered, for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Whisk, sieve or stick-blend the sauce before serving.