Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta and Beans)

It is possible to eat too much pizza. For me, at any rate.

On our last jaunt through Italy, I kept meaning to order something that wasn’t pizza and failing spectacularly. Every region has different specialty toppings! I might miss out on something!! But when my body finally said NO MORE, I went for Pasta e Fagioli (pasta and beans) instead. And my goodness, was it ever rewarding. Borlotti beans are the creamiest, most flavor-absorbing beans I’ve ever come across. I plan to try making it sometime with dried beans, but this canned version comes together in a flash.

100 g diced pancetta or bacon
2 T olive oil
1 large or 2 small yellow onions, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, pressed
1/2 c/100 ml white wine
1/4 t red chili flakes
1 large sprig fresh rosemary leaves
4-6 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1/2 t ground black pepper
4-5 c/1-1.25 L weak chicken broth
3 15 oz/400 g cans borlotti (cranberry) beans, drained and rinsed
1 generous c/250 g short pasta
1 c/200 mL boiling water (optional)
1/2 c/100 g grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
1/4 c/50 g chopped parsley

Heat deep soup pot to medium heat. Add pancetta or bacon and cook, stirring frequently, until a little fat renders, then add olive oil. Turn heat to medium-low and add onions and garlic, stirring frequently until tender and translucent, but not browned. Add white wine, chili flakes, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves and black pepper, stirring until wine is mostly evaporated. Add chicken broth and beans and allow mixture to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and turning down heat if necessary.

After 10 minutes, remove bay leaves and strip rosemary and thyme leaves from sprigs, returning the leaves to the pot. Either mash some of the beans with the back of a spoon or briefly use a stick blender, making sure to leave about half of the beans intact. Add the pasta (if there’s not enough liquid to cook the pasta or the soup is already too thick, add the extra water) and cook until almost done. Remove from heat and cover for 5 minutes. Serve with grated Pecorino or Parmesan and chopped parsley.

Garlic Lemon Cream Pasta

I’ve been on the hunt for a creamy lemon sauce for years and have tried a few that just didn’t do it. They either weren’t lemony enough or had way too much cream (Cliff has no gall bladder – too much cream or butter does him in). This one finally has the right balance of flavor and creaminess. Here’s the original, with my version below.

1 T butter
1 T olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 shallot, chopped
Zest of 1 lemon
2 c chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 cup capers
Juice of 1 lemon
1 c artichoke hearts
1/4 cup cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 t herbes des Provence
1 lb broccoli florets (optional)
1 lb pasta

Heat butter and oil to medium in a deep skillet. Sauté garlic, shallots and lemon zest until tender and fragrant. Add broth and simmer until reduced by half and syrupy*. Add capers, lemon juice and artichoke hearts and stir until heated through. Remove from heat and stir in cream and add salt, pepper and herbes. Set aside sauce. Cook pasta and broccoli to desired doneness, drain and toss with sauce.

*I wasn’t happy with the ‘syrupy’ texture and wanted the sauce to be a little thicker, so I added a cornstarch slurry (1 T cornstarch and 1 T water whisked until smooth). Pour the slurry into the simmering sauce and stir well until thickened, then proceed as above.

Egyptian Red Lentil Soup

I just had my wisdom teeth out, so on top of not being so smart anymore, I have to eat soft food. Luckily, I know a few recipes for delicious soft food. The original recipe involves a fried onion topping, which looks wonderful yet chew-intensive. Luckily, lentils and a stick blender yield a gently textured, full flavored product that I’ll happily eat even with teeth.

3 T olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 t ground cumin
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1 sprig fresh thyme (or 1/2 t dried thyme)
1/2 t cayenne pepper or ancho chile
1/2 t sweet smoked paprika
3 large, ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped
2 T tomato paste
8 c beef stock (vegetable stock makes this vegan!)
salt and pepper to taste (how much salt depends on your stock – taste often)
2 c red lentils
1 lemon, juiced

Pick over your lentils for any unwanted debris. Heat oil to medium high in a soup pot or deep dutch oven. Add onions, carrots, celery and garlic and sauté until soft. Add spices and stir well into vegetables, cooking for a couple of minutes until very fragrant. Add tomatoes and cook for a couple of minutes, until they begin to break down. Add tomato paste and stir well. Add stock and reduce heat to medium low – soup should not boil. Season with salt and pepper and add the lentils. Simmer 30-40 minutes (reducing heat to low, if necessary), until lentils and vegetables are very soft.

Remove soup from heat and process with immersion blender (or purée in batches in a heat-safe blender) until desired texture is achieved. Remember, it will thicken as it cools. If soup is still too thin, bring it back to a simmer for a few minutes. Check seasoning and stir in lemon juice. Serve with additional wedges of lemon and yogurt.

Creamy Lemon Asparagus Pasta

SPARGELZEIT!!1!

It’s that time of year again. While the locals are losing it over the white stuff, I’m partial to green asparagus (more flavor). This will definitely make another appearance before the fleeting season ends. Here’s the original, my version is below.

500 g/1 lb pasta (whole wheat pasta would be great here)
500 g/1 lb asparagus, trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces (you could easily double this)
2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk or cream
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 small shallots, minced
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Cook pasta in well salted water. For last 3-4 minutes of cooking time, add asparagus pieces. Drain and reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water.

Whisk together mustard, flour, milk or cream, salt and pepper in a bowl and set aside. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and shallot and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned. Whisk in mustard mixture and bring to a simmer, cooking until thickened. Stir in lemon zest and juice and half of the cheese. If sauce gets too thick, loosen it by stirring in a little pasta water or more milk.

Combine pasta, asparagus and sauce, tossing until well coated. Serve and sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Tuna Noodle Casserole

I love tuna casserole. Unabashedly. My mom’s is stellar, but because she uses cream soups (that I can’t get here) and a special, frozen big thick noodle (which I’ve never seen ANYWHERE outside of Kansas City), I can’t really reproduce it. Every so often, I would trawl the internet for tuna casserole recipes with all ingredients that I could get here. Because it’s a holiday weekend and we’ve got the time, we embarked on a tuna adventure, only to be met with abject SUCCESS! It was stupid good. The original recipe is here, but I made some adjustments.

1 T olive oil
1 T unsalted butter
2 small cloves garlic, minced
3 celery stalks, small dice
1 medium onion, small dice
1 small hot green chili, minced
2 t Old Bay Seasoning (I’ve never had this, so I made my own with this)
3 T flour
1 t salt
1/2 t ground black pepper
750 ml milk
50 g sour cream
1 T Dijon mustard
500 egg noodles (I used schwäbische Landnudeln because they looked pretty rough – they did not disappoint)
2 cans high-quality imported tuna packed in oil, drained and flaked
300 g coarsely grated cheddar cheese
2-3 T finely grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
1 t dried parsley
4 T french-fried onions (Röstzwiebeln)

  1. Heat oven to 350°F/175°C and butter a 9 x 13 baking dish.

  2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm oil and butter. When butter foams, add garlic, celery, diced onion and chili. Cook, stirring frequently, until tender, then add seasoning, flour, salt and pepper. Stir until vegetables are coated and raw smell of flour is gone, then start pouring in milk, stirring all the while, making sure there are no lumps. After it simmers and thickens, remove it from the heat, stir in sour cream and mustard, and adjust seasonings if necessary.

  3. Cook the noodles in well-salted water to just over half of the package-directed cooking time. You want them pretty firm in the middle, as they will continue to cook in the oven. Drain and mix with the sauce, tuna and cheese until everything is well distributed. Pour into buttered casserole and spread evenly. In a small bowl, toss together parsley and fried onions. Sprinkle mixture over top of casserole. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Avgolemono (Greek Egg & Lemon Soup)

I got this one from here and it’s harder to explain than to make. It looks a little intimidating, what with the tempering, but it is quite simple. I suggest you have someone help you with the tempering, but it is possible to do it alone if you have a stick blender w/whisk attachment and a steady hand.

2 T olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 c chicken broth
1 c water
3/4 c rice
salt to taste
2 c chicken, cooked and chopped (I used a rotisserie chicken)
1 t black pepper, coarse grind
1 t dill, dried (or 2 t fresh)
3 eggs
1/2 c lemon juice

In a deep soup pot, heat oil over medium-low heat. Sauté onion and garlic until tender and slightly translucent, 3-5 minutes. Pour in chicken broth and water and turn heat to medium. Bring to a gentle boil and add rice. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 5-7 minutes. Add salt, chicken, pepper and dill and continue simmering 5 minutes.

While the broth is simmering, in a heatproof bowl (I used a large pyrex measuring cup) beat eggs while slowly pouring in lemon juice. Taste a grain of rice; when it’s almost completely cooked, it’s time to temper the eggs. Add hot broth by the ladle (3 will probably be enough) to the eggs while whisking. Once the eggs have warmed up, take the soup pot off the heat and stir the egg mixture into the soup until completely integrated. Serve immediately.

What to eat in Singapore?

ZOMG EVERYTHING.

Seriously, if you can’t find something to nom on in Singapore, you probably shouldn’t leave your house. We are somewhat adventurous eaters with a few broad restrictions:

  • no raw onions
  • no fish or seafood
  • no raw, unseasoned tomatoes

…but they didn’t slow us down one bit. The food in Singapore was one of our favorite aspects of the whole trip. Continue reading What to eat in Singapore?

Radicchio Risotto

How much respect do you give radicchio? Probably not much, but that ought to change.

I never thought much about it before last year. On our last big grocery run to Italy, it refused to be ignored. We were in the major radicchio production region at peak harvest, so it was everywhere. And with good reason! I’d always thought of it as that bitter, purple and white stuff you threw in a salad to brighten it up and nothing more. But it’s a not just any lettuce, it’s a chicory and can be cooked. It takes on a bit more sweetness as it wilts, while retaining some of the characteristic bitterness. And in this recipe from Serious Eats (with the requisite tweaks), it’s paired with pancetta. You could probably use regular bacon, but if you can get your hands on the pancetta, it’s worth it.

4 T olive oil
100 g (1/4 lb) pancetta, chopped into lardons
2 heads Chioggia radicchio, cored and chopped to bite-size
salt & pepper to taste
2 shallots, minced
3 cloves garlic, pressed
500 g (2 c) risotto rice
3/4 c white wine
5 c hot chicken broth
2 T butter
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese

In a deep skillet, heat 2 T olive oil over medium-low heat. Add pancetta and fry until beginning to crisp, about 3-5 minutes. Next add radicchio by the handful, stirring each addition to coat with fat. When all radicchio is in, season lightly with salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until wilted, about 7 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and set aside (or transfer radicchio mixture to a warm bowl and wipe out skillet if you want to use the same pan).

Heat the other 2 T olive oil to medium-low in a deep, wide skillet. Add shallots and garlic and cook until just translucent, then add rice and stir to coat with fat, cooking for about 2-3 minutes. Add wine and stir frequently until mostly absorbed, then start adding your chicken broth (it should be at a gentle simmer) by the ladleful. Stir after each broth addition and when almost completely absorbed, add the next. When you’ve added half the broth, stir the radicchio-pancetta mixture in the risotto.

Finish adding the broth by the ladleful. With the last addition, remove from heat, stir in butter and cheese and cover for 5 minutes. Serve with extra cheese or a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar.

Ginger Cookies

I saw @LivWrites and @Rachel_Munich tossing ideas around about ginger cookies, including this recipe from allrecipes.com: Big Soft Ginger Cookies

I thought to myself, “Self! You have everything you need to make those!”

But I looked more closely at the recipe and decided, mostly out of laziness and efficiency, to swap in ingredients of my own choosing: some coconut oil and butter instead of margarine What follows are the ingredients I used — the steps are the same as the original.

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups (311 g) whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
110 g coconut oil
50 g butter
1 cup (210 g) white sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup (about 100 ml) molasses
2 tablespoons white sugar for rolling

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Sift together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, then stir in the water and molasses. Gradually stir the sifted ingredients into the molasses mixture. Shape dough into walnut sized balls*, and roll them in the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Place the cookies 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet, and flatten slightly.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

They don’t look so great, but the flavor is very good. As usual, I tried to get too many cookies onto one sheet and I totally forgot that step about letting them cool before trying to move them. I like the subtle addition my coconut oil substitution lends.

These will be good eating as an ice cream topping. Next time, I think I’ll try oomphing up the ginger flavor another notch with either even more ground ginger or perhaps some freshly minced ginger root in the dough. Not to mention sticking closely to the sizing guide and making four or more trays worth instead of just two.

*Really, tend toward smaller if you can help it. Walnut-sized must mean “half the edible nut part inside of a walnut shell,” and not the greeny fleshy ball thing containing the shell containing the edible nut parts that falls from the tree. Too literal, I know.

Dijon Braised Brussels Sprouts

I think our oven is on its last legs. Things just aren’t baking or roasting right. This is especially unfortunate, as we’re moving into prime roasty/bakey season. So, our go-to plan for brussels sprouts (olive oil, salt, pepper, roast) is no longer a no-brainer. But steaming is a little…blah.

Enter braising. I’ve never really done this (to my knowledge), so I appreciated the clear instructions in this recipe from Smitten Kitchen. I made a couple of small alterations, and that’s what I’m posting here.

1 T unsalted butter
1 T olive oil
1 lb/500 g brussels sprouts, trimmed
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 to 3 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup broth (chicken or vegetable)
2 T heavy cream
1 T smooth dijon mustard (or more to taste)
2 T chopped flat-leaf parsley (optional)

Heat oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. When it shimmers, add butter and when butter melts, add sprouts and arrange in a single layer, cut-side down (if they don’t all fit, brown in batches, then add all for next steps). Sprinkle with salt and pepper and allow them to cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add shallots and garlic, stir and cook until they soften slightly. Add wine and broth and bring to a simmer, lower heat to medium-low, then cover and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until sprouts are easily pierced with a knife.

When sprouts are cooked, remove them from the skillet with a slotted spoon, leaving the liquid behind. Add cream and simmer for 3 minutes, then whisk in mustard. Adjust seasoning as necessary, add sprouts back to skillet to heat through and coat with sauce.