Tuscan Cannellini Beans with Shallots and Pancetta

tarry-marketSeveral weeks ago, Sheila and I enjoyed lunch at Tarry Market in Port Chester. Tarry Market is the brain-child of Mario Batali and Joe Bastianach and is a mini-Eataly for Greenwich residents who detest traveling to New York City.  Tarry Market has undergone a bit of makeover toward the end of last year, when they greatly expanded their dining facilities. I wouldn’t recommend it for dinner, but it is something of a cross between an Italian salumeria and a French Bistro. We go there frequently for lunch and are rarely disappointed. We will normally order one of their delicious sandwiches from the rotisserie (prime rib, porchetta or veal) with the daily soup. One day we were served a very tasty cannellini bean soup with some escarole or kale and Sheila decided to recreate this belly-warming soup at home.

Borrowing inspiration from Delia Smith’s Winter Collection, she prepared a variation of Tuscan White Bean soup with frizzled shallots and pancetta (Sheila’s variations are highlighted in bold). (Note:  The pancetta and shallots add a bit of crunch.  Definitely worthwhile). Enjoy.

Variations on Delia’s Tuscan White Bean Soup with Frizzled Shallots and Pancetta

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 8 oz of cannellini beans
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 fat cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 good sprig each of parsley, thyme and rosemary (Sheila added additional rosemary)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 head of escarole (chopped)
  • A small rind of parmesan cheese (This addition makes any soup taste great!)
  • 2 pints of chicken stock
  • 4 Tbs of extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • Salt and freshly milled pepper

Ingredients for Frizzled Shallots and Pancetta Garnish

  • 4 shallots, peeled and finely sliced into rings
  • 3 oz thinly sliced pancetta or streaky bacon
  • 3 Tbs of olive oil

Preparation of the Tuscan Soup

  • Soak beans overnight in twice their volume of cold water.  Drain before cooking.
  • Heat 2 Tbs of olive oil in a saucepan and sauté onion until is softens (5 minutes)
  • Add escarole and cook down (2 minutes or so)
  • Add garlic and continue to cook for one minute.
  • Add the drained beans, parmesan rind, celery, herbs, ay leaf and black pepper (but no salt).  Pour in the stock and stir well.
  • When soup begins to boil, turn down heat to a gentle simmer and place the lid on the pot.  Cook for 1 1/2 hours stirring occasionally.
  • Check to see if the beans are tender and then gently mush a few of the beans and continue for another 10 to 15 minutes or so.
  • Add lemon juice and 2 Tbs of olive oil shortly before serving.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Remove parmesan rind.  Allow it to cool slightly and then cut in small pieces and return to soup.

Preparation of Frizzled Shallots and Pancetta

  • Roll pancetta into a cigar shape then cut into fine shreds.
  • Heat 2 Tbs olive oil at high temperature and add shallots cooking them for about 3 to 4 minutes.  Remove and allow to drain.
  • Add 1 Tbs olive oil to the same pan and fry the pancetta for 2 minutes or so.  Drain.

When you are ready to serve the soup, sprinkle the shallots and pancetta over the soup.  It doesn’t get much better than this!

 

Quinoa Risotto with Asparagus and Cheese

As readers of Gourmay are aware, there are strong suspicions that quinoa is one of the preferred foods of ETs.  I remain sceptical, but having the USDA certify that heavily processed food of uncertain origin is good for our school children also strikes me as bizarre.    Nevertheless, one thing that aliens and big government can agree upon is that quinoa is good for you – even though the big food conglomerates insist that it not be served in schools.  Fortunately, keeping healthy food out of our school system is something that even Democrats and Republicans can support:  the Democrats need a large and growing “sick” population to feed the new Health Care Program and Republicans need to cater to its special interest groups like the food conglomerates and the chemical companies who make those delightful toxic pesticides and fertilizers. 

While you are unlikely to find quinoa on school lunch programs anytime soon, you can buy quinoa in most any grocery store.  We first came across quinoa in the late ’80s (1980s) while hiking the Inca trail on our way to Machu Picchu.  Miranda “Peace and Joy” was doing research on a school project testing for the efficacy of the coca leaf against altitude sickness.   Those were the days before Porta Potties on the 17 mile Inca trail so you definitely needed to watch your step to avoid falling off a cliff.  In any event, the rushed overnight hike up the trail  to enter Machu Picchu through the Puerta del Sol at dawn gave us an opportunity for family bonding and Miranda some time to find samples of the coca leaf along the trail.  [Note: As parents, we don’t often have an opportunity to brag about our kids, but Miranda went on to win a Connecticut High School science award for demonstrating that the coca leaf actually increases the oxygen flow in gold fish.  Unfortunately, the gold fish are now in rehab, but that is another story.]

Quinoa, an ancient grain, is a natural for Passover by Ronnie Fein as a special to the Hearst Newspapers was published in the Greenwich Times on April 14th.  I quote extensively from Ms. Fein who makes a compelling and accurate case for the benefits of quinoa.  You may find other quinoa recipes in Ms. Fein’s article on this wonder food.

“Quinoa is, indeed, a wonder food. The plant (related to beets and spinach) has flourished throughout the Andes region of South America since ancient times, a staple crop for Native Americans. Until recently it was considered a “poor people’s ingredient.” But when health-conscious folk in the United States became aware of its nutritional benefits in the 1990s, sales took off here and quinoa became the new culinary find.

“But quinoa is not a mere trend, no ordinary ingredient. Its place in the American pantry is assured because the benefits are too hard to ignore: a high protein content that, like soy, is complete, providing all the amino acids we need. Quinoa also contains fiber and respectable amounts of minerals including calcium. There’s no cholesterol and no fat. It’s low-carb and it’s gluten free. It’s easy to digest and it’s filling. Some scientists say quinoa competes with breast milk for building neurons in infants and suggest that breast-feeding mothers consume quinoa to increase their milk supply.”

Quinoa Risotto with Asparagus and Cheese

Ingredients (makes 4 Servings)

1 cup of quinoa
1 Tbs butter
1 Tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/4 cup vegetable stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 pound asparagus, cut diagonally into 3/4 inch chunks
1/2 cup grated Fontina cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup cream

Preparation

  • Place the quinoa in a strainer and rinse thoroughly for a minute with cold water.  Let drain.
  • Place the drained quinoa in a sauté pan over medium heat and cook the grains for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally to toast them slightly.  Spoon the quinoa into a bowl and set aside.
  • Heat the butter and olive oil in the sauté pan.    When the butter has melted and looks foamy, add the onion and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in the quinoa.  Pour in the stock and wine, bring the liquid to a boil and lower the heat.
  • Cook mixture, stirring occasionally for 8 to 10 minutes or until the quinoa is tender but still slightly chewy.  Add the asparagus and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 to 6 minutes.
  • Sir in the Fontina and 1/4 cup of the the Parmesan and cream and cook until the cheese has melted and the mixture is creamy.
  • Serve with the remaining Parmesan sprinkled on top.

Enjoy.

Meatballs for a Rainy Day

MeatballsEvery other or year so, Sheila and I will make a big batch of meatballs and freeze them.   When we are in the mood, we pull a few out, roast them and then cover them in an Italian tomato sauce.  We generally skip the pasta or rice, but will pair them with a nice salad or vegetable and a glass of Chianti.   Last Sunday, we modified (slightly) a recipe from the December, 2010 Cook’s Illustrated and made about 40 meatballs, each of which are about the size of a silver dollar (1 1/2 to 2″ in diameter).  The ingredients are great and we are looking forward to tasting them shortly. 

Cook’s Illustrated Meatballs

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups (6 oz.) panko bread crumbs
1 1/2 cup of buttermilk
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 pounds 85% lean ground beef
1 pound ground pork
6 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto, chopped fine
3 oz Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
6 Tbs minced fresh parsley leaves
3 medium garlic cloves, menced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 tsp).
1 1/2 tsp powdered gelatin
3 Tbs cold water
Salt and ground pepper

We added the following ingredients (optional):

  • 1 Tbs dried Oregano (rub briskly in hands)
  • 2 tbs finely chopped Rosemary
  • 1 tbs + of dried red peppers (peperoncini)

Preparation

  • Combine bread crumbs and buttermilk in large bowl and let sit, mashing occasionally with fork, until smooth paste froms.  About 10 minutes.
  • Add eggs, beef, pork, prosciutto, Parmesan, parsley, garli, gelatin mixture, 1 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp pepper (I recommend 3 times that amount) and the optional spices.
  • Using hands, gently mix until thoroughly combined.   Roll into balls that are about 1 1/2″ to 2″ in diameter.  Should make about 40 or so. 
  • Roast at 450 degrees for 30 minutes or so.

Enjoy!