A few years ago, I got in an argument with an anonymous commenter after posting a recipe that involved pan-fried sweet Italian sausages. The gist of the person’s complaint was that cooking any recipe using sausage was not cooking from scratch, and furthermore, if you are someone who makes a living writing recipes, you are breaking all kinds of rules by suggesting this qualifies as a “real” recipe.
It’s cheating, the commenter, wrote. Sausage has so much flavor and so many spices that you don’t need any skill to make a sausage-based dinner taste good.
Exactly, I said.
Because as you know, in addition to being in the business of recipes, I’m in the business of feeding a bunch of ravenous, drowning-in-homework children every night, which means I put a high premium on dinners that practically cook themselves, like this grain bowl made with merguez, a lamb sausage spiked with Middle Eastern spices. Merguez is a little harder to find — a good butcher will usually carry it, or look for D’Artagnan brand in better supermarkets — but it’s also such a special switch-up from the regular old Italian or chorizo links that normally grace the table.
I like using wheat berries in this grain bowl — they’re nutty and firm and hold their own flavor-wise alongside the lamb — but you can also use quinoa or farro if that’s what you’ve got lying around. I toss in the crispy merguez crumbles, add mint, parsley, cucumbers for a cooling crunch, then a punchy yogurt dressing, and the result is a low-effort, high-reward dinner that earns regular rotation status, especially if I’ve been my best self and thought to prepare a batch of wheat berries the day before. (The grain simmers for just about an hour—remembering to do this in advance is the most technically challenging part of the recipe.)
I’ll add here that, in general, the girls aren’t huge proponents of bowl dinners (unless it’s of the sushi or burrito variety) and this recipe can easily be turned into a plate of sausage, cucumbers and pomegranate seeds, with a dollop of yogurt dipping sauce, hold the grains. And if that’s cheating, I’m totally cool with it.