2 cups lentils
6 small or 3 large sausages
2 large onions
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup minced celery
salt and pepper, to taste
1 bay leave
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 lb. spinach, fresh, chopped
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Wash lentils and pick over to discard misshapen beans and small stones. Soak, covered with 3 inches of warm water for an hour before using. Drain.
Choose Italian-Style sausages or brats. Any kind of sausage work well in this recipe, but here is a good opportunity to use hot sausages as the extra flavor will permeate the casserole.
Slice the sausage into bite-size pieces and saute in 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil with 1 of the onions, chopped; add garlic toward the end of the cooking, just as the onions begin to take on color.
When the sausages have browned, add the lentils and cover with boiling water with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add bay leaf and chopped celery.
Simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the lentils are almost tender.
At this point, the first onion will have mostly dissolved. Chop the second onion and add to the simmering pot for another layer of flavor. Add the washed, drained spinach an simmer until wilted.
Using a perforated spoon, transfer the lentil mixture to a buttered casserole dish, leaving the broth behind (you can use this as the starter for a soup). Sprinkle lightly with cumin seed, garlic powder, and finally with Parmesan cheese.
Bake at 350°F until the lentils are tender, 30-45 minutes.
Season to taste, lightly, with salt and pepper. Serve directly from the casserole dish.
Serves 4 to 6, depending upon whether it is being served as a main dish or a side.
This casserole may be prepared the night before and refrigerated until use; allow an extra 15 minutes in the oven. Leave the Parmesan, cumin seed and garlic powder til just before baking.