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!


BYO Airline Food

I don’t travel by air as much as I did in the past and I am thankful that I don’t.   Years ago,  the only time you took off your fragrant shoes is when you went to bed or took a shower, but now you have to have them inspected by the Federales  every time you board a plane.    As former President Bush would say, “it is a tough job, but somebody has to do it.”   I’m just happy it’s not me.

airline foodI find it somewhat ironic that the best airlines in the world now come from the Middle East (Air Emirates gets a five star rating), but I still prefer the familiarity of American airlines.  Indeed, most of the US planes are at least thirty years old and even some of the stewardesses (sorry, “cabin attendants”) still remember me.  (Editor’s Note:  I can’t say the same).    All-in-all, airline travel in the US hasn’t changed much in recent years:  the drop-down tray in front still doesn’t work and there is always some kid sitting near you with an earache bawling his or her head off for the duration of the flight.  While this is all bad enough, most airlines have quit serving food to save money.  Granted the food was largely inedible, but it was a convenient way to pass the time and generally distract the cabin staff from counting how many bottles of liquor you had consumed.

As one who is not prepared to chow down on some genetically enhanced “health bar,”  Therese and I decided to bring our own food for the flight to Utah.    Fortunately, the Batali/Bastianich Tarry Market (a miniature Eataly) is located in nearby Port Chester and we stocked up on some delightful snacks:

  • Finnochiona Creminelli
  • Dry Molinari Sweet Coppa
  • Prosciutto
  • Bijou Cheese
  • Jersey Girl Colby Cheese
  • A couple of Ciabatta rolls

I’m now looking forward to the flight on Delta.   As Hannibal Lecter would be prone to request, “I do hope they are serving a nice bottle of Chianti.”

Raising Bees at Tarry Market

Man with BeehiveI have always been intrigued by bees.  Perhaps, it is because I have spent so much time catering to Thérèse, the Queen bee!  Several years ago, I decided to sign up for a one day class on “How to Raise Bees in your Backyard” at the Greenwich Continuing Education Center.  Let’s face it, the dogs had died and I was growing a bit weary of feeding wild birds, whose despicable eating habits simply attracted raccoons,  squirrels, possums and skunks.  Bees seemed like a great idea. At least we would have honey for breakfast.   I could easily see myself meandering about the backyard watching the bees do the heavy lifting in recycling the best that nature has to offer.  I’ve long admired British books in which one of the main protagonists raises bees or leads a sedentary life looking after sheep:  D. H. Lawrence and Patrick O’Brien spring to mind.

Thérèse was not amused.  My fallback project to build a bat shelter – to keep down the number of insects in the backyard – met similar disdain, if not outright derision.

Tarry Lodge HoneySadly, I have had to shelve my pet “pet” projects for quite a few years, but recently become quite animated when I discovered that no less of a culinary authority than Mario Batali was now harvesting honey from apiaries on top of the roof of Tarry Market in downtown Port Chester.  For those not familiar with Port Chester, it is a small town on the New York border adjacent to Greenwich. Presumably, the bees fly to Greenwich to collect their pollen, since I was not aware that Port Chester had any flowers.  (Editor’s Note:  Bees will fly “only as far as they need to” to collect pollen, but some suggest that a range of 5 to 10 miles is about the limit.)

I am not convinced that a thumbs-up from Mario will cut too much slack with Thérèse, but I am hopeful.  If fortunate enough to get the green light from Thérèse, I can envision Mario and myself putzing about the backyard in our orange clogs discussing the lives of bees, Italian cooking and other useful subjects.

Bee happy!

PS:  Thérèse didn’t say no this time, she simply sold the house.