Gimme Lean Ground Sausage Style crumbles. I decided to throw in a bonus recipe for you as well. Here goes…
I had seen a lovely-looking soup recipe on the internet that called for Italian sausage, so I figured this would be perfect, even though it wasn't specifically labeled "Italian" - I knew the nice spiciness would meld with the rest of the ingredients. I heated the oil, and threw in the sausage crumbles, letting them brown a little in the pot so I'd get some nice bits stuck to the bottom (that's called fond by the way, and it's magical) to mix in with the rest of the soup.
Then the recipe said to remove the meat while doing the next parts, so I did. This also gave me a chance to try the cooked crumbles before mixing them with everything else. They were pretty tasty. A little spicy, a little sweet, nicely chewy. I was feeling very confident about the rest of this meal.
One side note, the package suggests forming the fake sausage into patties and frying them up for a breakfast sausage application. Not sure whether I was just in dinner mode or not, but the flavor didn't exactly scream breakfast food. Maybe I'll try it again sometime as a breakfast protein and see if it works.
Back to dinner - I finished up the soup, making sure the flavors had time to meld beautifully and the kale was done cooking, seasoned to taste (gotta have enough salt, or it just tastes blah), and dug in. I had hoped to have some nice crunchy bread to go with it, but the bread was taking too long because I didn't start it soon enough. Oops. This would have been awesome with bread. Keep that in mind if you try it yourself. Even without that, it was truly delicious. The fake meat sausage played very well with the rest of the ingredients. I'd eat this again.
Texture - Nicely chewy
Flavor - Deliciously seasoned, slightly spicy, slightly sweet.
Final grade for this attempt: A+ (at least for this application)
Here's the recipe:
White Bean & Roasted Garlic Soup with Kale, Tomatoes & Italian Sausage
Serves 4 as a main course
2 heads garlic
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for the garlic
4 cups vegetable broth
2 15-ounce cans white beans, drained and rinsed
1 package fake sausage crumbles (or for a real-meat version, 12 oz bulk Italian sausage)
¼ cup white wine (you can just use water, if you don't want to use wine)
1 12-ounce bunch kale, stems cut off and leaves torn or cut into bite-sized chunks
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes, drained
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Cut the top off the heads of garlic to expose the cloves within. Place the garlic in the center of a piece of aluminum foil, drizzle with the olive oil (probably just a teaspoon or so on each head, but you want to cover the surface) and seal the foil tightly. Roast for 40 to 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool to room temperature, then peel.
In a food processor (or blender), combine a cup of the broth (two or three cups if using a blender), all of the white beans, and the roasted garlic, and process until smooth, adding additional broth if it is too thick to process. Once smooth, set aside.
Add 2 tablespoons of oil to a large, heavy pot and swirl to coat the bottom. Heat over medium-high heat until hot and shimmery. Add the sausage and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, tossing about 3 times, until brown in spots. Using a slotted spoon, remove the sausage to a plate and set aside.
Add the wine (or water) to the pot and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan with a heat-proof spatula. Add in the white bean mixture with any broth not currently in the white bean mixture, return to the heat and bring to a boil. Return the sausage to the pot, add the kale and tomatoes, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the kale is tender and flavors have melded. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and serve immediately.