(THE NEW YORK TIMES) - In a hurry for dinner? Last-minute guests, perhaps, or just no time to dither? You have worked all day and you want something simple and relatively quick to prepare. You are not above ordering in, but given the cost of takeaway and the inevitable soggy-steamy contents of the delivered goods, you would prefer to cook something.
You like to cook, but tonight, it has to be easy. The solution? Head to your nearest Italian deli or butcher shop for sausages - good, tasty pork sausages seasoned with fennel seeds. Alternatively, you could dash to the supermarket and zip through the 10-items-or-fewer express lane.
Delis or butcher shops are more likely to have fresh, housemade sausages. Supermarkets might also have good ones, but many carry those vacuum-packed, pre-cooked sausages or ones containing preservatives and "natural flavourings". If you like spicy sausages, ask for the hot ones; otherwise, get the sweet ones. The only difference is the addition of crushed red pepper.
The classic combination of sausage and peppers needs no introduction. A pan of colourful sliced bell peppers, briskly sauteed in olive oil with onions, is perfectly delicious and takes mere minutes. A hint of garlic and a splash of red wine vinegar added towards the end of cooking are nice enhancements - the goal is big flavour with minimal fuss.
Now, as for how to cook the sausages, there are many methods. Some people prefer to cook them in a frying pan over medium heat, turning them every few minutes and letting them brown slowly, or to roast them in a medium oven. However, to get the meal on the table quickly, I like to simmer them gently for about five minutes, then let them steep in the pot off the heat. This ensures they will be fully cooked. Then, I briefly brown them in a skillet. Whatever way you cook yours, be sure to prick them all over with a skewer first, to prevent them from breaking open. A burst sausage, while edible, always looks sad.
I cannot resist adding a sunny-side-up egg, fried in olive oil, to complement the sausage and peppers and to add richness. It is not necessary, but it is completely welcome. You will not spend more than half an hour on this meal, which is meant for dinner, but you may find it is just the thing for breakfast or lunch as well.
Salt and pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbs red wine vinegar
Pinch of crushed red pepper
Pinch of dried oregano
Basil leaves, for garnish
4 large eggs (optional)
1. Prick each sausage in several places with a skewer or the tip of paring knife to prevent bursting. Put sausages in one layer in a skillet. Add water to cover and bring to a simmer. Cook for five minutes, then cover, turn off heat and let steep.
2. Place a wide skillet over high heat and add two tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the sliced peppers and onions. Season generously with salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and beginning to brown, for about 10 minutes. Adjust heat as necessary if mixture seems to be cooking too quickly. Add garlic just at the end, stir to incorporate and cook for one minute more. Stir in the vinegar.
3. Transfer pepper mixture to a platter. Over medium heat, coat pan with one tablespoon of olive oil, add sausages and cook for two to three minutes a side, to brown. Top pepper mixture with cooked sausages. Sprinkle with crushed red pepper and oregano and garnish with basil leaves.
4. If desired, in the same wide skillet, fry eggs sunny side up in a little olive oil to accompany. Season with salt and pepper.