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Sausages with creamy herbed lentils

Chef's Note: Serve these sausages and lentils with a zesty green salad of arugula, endive or frisee and a fresh loaf of good bread to make a hearty European-style meal.

8 large, good quality fresh sausages, parboiled (try Bockwurst or mild Italian sausage)
2 cups Black (Beluga) lentils, picked through (regular lentils are fine, too)
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 cup carrot, peeled and cut into 1/3-inch cubes
1 cup celery, cleaned and cut into 1/3-inch cubes
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup heavy cream
salt and pepper, to taste
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tbsp. each fresh sage and thyme, trimmed and finely chopped
additional sprigs of herbs, for garnish

Bring 1½ quarts water to the boil in a large saucepan. Add the lentils, reduce to a simmer and cook carefully for 15 to 20 minutes or until just done.  Try to avoid over-cooking the lentils as they are much more appealing when they are still al dente and are not releasing their starch. Drain lentils in a large colander and set aside.

Heat a large, non-stick sauté pan over medium heat and begin slowly browning your sausages, turning them occasionally so they brown evenly. (Sausages can also be grilled for this recipe.) Meanwhile, heat another large non-stick sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and then the onion to the pan and sauté until lightly golden. Add the carrots and celery and sauté until they have browned a little and are softened. Add the garlic, cook a minute or two longer, and then add the cream. Cook vegetables and cream a couple minutes or until cream has thickened a bit. Add the lentils to the vegetable mixture, stirring gently to heat the lentils and coat them with the sauce. Season the lentil mixture with salt and pepper to taste. Add the fresh herbs to the lentils. If sausages are fully heated and nicely browned, quickly slice each one on the diagonal into 3 large slices.

To serve, place large spoonfuls of hot lentils onto heated dinner plates. Place three pieces of sausage on top of each mound of lentils and garnish with herbs. Serve immediately. Makes: 6 to 8 servings.

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