Tuesday, February 12, 2013

More soup!

More cold days = more soup!  Have I mentioned before that I love soup?  Yes?  Well, I'll say it again.  I love soup!  So comforting, and so quick and easy to make.  This is a recipe that I found online, and for once I barely changed a thing.  It came out great!  It is from Sarah Moulton, who I sometimes like, sometimes not, but this one was good.  And, I got my dad to eat kale.  He generally doesn't like a lot of green stuff, and if it's on a plate as a side, he'll eat some and leave the rest.  In the soup, he doesn't really have a choice! 

Spanish Style White Bean, Kale, and Chorizo Soup

1/2 pound dried white beans, such as Great Northern, rinsed and picked over
8 1/2 cups chicken stock, (preferably homemade)
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt
saffron threads
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 Spanish chorizo sausages, about 3/4 pound, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 large red bell pepper, finely diced
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 small bunch kale, about 3/4 pound, tough stems removed, washed well, and coarsely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
Sherry vinegar, to taste (I used about a tablespoon)

**She does not mention soaking the beans, which I found odd.  I cooked them in a pressure cooker, so I didn't have to soak, but I imagine that if you didn't, you would need to soak for 8 hours**  Place the beans in a large pot or soup kettle. Pour in 8 cups of the stock and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and add the bay leaf and a pinch of salt. Cook, partially covered, stirring often and adjusting the heat to keep it at a slow steady simmer, until the beans are tender, about 2 hours. Remove and discard the bay leaf.

Soak the saffron in the remaining 1/2 cup chicken (hot) stock.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chorizo and cook, stirring often, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a plate. Add the onion; reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Stir in the red pepper and the paprika. Cook for 2 minutes longer, then transfer the contents of the skillet to the bean pot. Stir in the saffron with the soaking liquid, the chorizo, and the kale. Bring back to a simmer and cook just until the kale is wilted, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, stir in the vinegar, and serve hot in warmed soup bowls.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Polenta Lasagna

If you have been following my posts this year, you know that on the 13th, we had rabbit with polenta.  Of course, there was leftover polenta, because I always make too much on purpose.  There are so many great things to do with the leftovers.  One thing I love to do is to cool it in flat strips, and then fry it in butter till crispy on the outside.  It will still be creamy on the inside.  Great for an appetizer or hors d'oeuvres.  I did save a little bit of the polenta from the rabbit, and had it for lunch the next day with some of the leftover lentils from the previous salmon dinner.  
Fried polenta strips with lentils
Polenta will cool and solidify pretty quickly, so right after you have plated what you will eat, you want to spread the remaining polenta out on a sheet tray into one layer that's about 1/2" thick.  Then you can cut it into sheets that are the size of the pan you will use, and refrigerate or freeze it for later use.  I froze mine in a pie tin, so I had sort of odd shaped pieces, but it worked anyway... and 2 weeks later defrosted it for the "lasagna".  There was already frozen Ragu and tomato sauce from my last visit here in November, so all I had to do was defrost everything, assemble it, and stick it in the oven for a half hour.  I wish all meals were so easy!  

Here are the recipes for all 3 parts, and for the final dish.  All can be done on the same day of course (I would start with the polenta and cool it while doing the rest), but you will need several hours.  If you don't have the Ragu on hand, and you don't have all day, you can always double the amount of the tomato sauce and add some crumbled sausage to half of it for a quick meat sauce - that would still be very tasty!

Polenta lasagna

3 sheets of cooled polenta, cut to fit the size of your pan (recipe follows)
2 cups tomato sauce (recipe follows)
2 cups ragu (recipe follows)
Parmigiano Reggiano (for sprinkling on top)
2 tbsp butter, cut up into small pieces

  • Butter a rectangular or square baking dish and preheat oven to 375.
  • Spread about 1/4 cup of the tomato sauce on the bottom of the pan.
  • Lay down first layer of polenta.
  • Spread tomato sauce over polenta.
  • Put second layer of polenta over sauce.
  • Spread ragu over polenta.
  • Top with remaining polenta, parmigiano, and dot with butter.
  • Bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbling. Let rest for 10 minutes and serve.
Creamy Herb Polenta

1 ½ cups polenta
6 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon salt
½ cup heavy cream
2 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs rosemary
1 bunch sage
1 tablespoon butter
½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

  • Bring stock to a boil in a large pot, then add salt.  Make a whirlpool in center with a whisk and slowly pour polenta into center.  Turn heat down to a low simmer and cook, stirring almost constantly, for about 30 minutes until tender to the bite.
  • While polenta cooks, gently heat cream and herbs in a small pot.
  • When polenta is done, strain herbs out of cream and stir cream into polenta.  Stir in butter and cheese.  Taste and add salt if necessary.

Quick Tomato Sauce:

1 large or 2 small onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsps olive oil
2 - 28 oz. cans San Marzano tomatoes (these are tomatoes that are grown in the south of Italy, but if you can't find them, any canned plum tomatoes will do)
salt & pepper to taste plus any dried Italian herbs on hand such as oregano and basil.

  • Heat oil, add onion and garlic, and saute till soft, about 5 minutes.
  • Put tomatoes through a food mill into the pan (including any liquid from the can).
Season with salt, pepper and herbs and simmer for about 20 minutes. 

Ragu a la Bolognese:

1 onion, very finely diced
1 carrot, very finely diced
1 rib of celery, very finely diced
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 lb. ground beef
1/2 lb. ground pork
3/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup heavy cream
Salt & pepper to taste

  • Melt butter in a large sauce pan, add onion, carrot and celery. Season with a bit of salt and saute till soft, about 5 minutes.
  • Add ground meat to pan and cook till no longer pink, breaking up with a wooden spoon (do not brown).
  • Add wine and cook till evaporated.
  • Stir in tomato paste until well combined, then add about 1/4 cup of the stock.
  • Cook covered for about 1 1/2 hours over a very low heat (just simmering), adding stock a little at a time. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Add cream and heat through (if you are planning to freeze the sauce, omit the cream and add it when you re-heat).

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Spaghetti all'Amatriciana


The original plan was to make quail Saturday night, but after checking the contents of the freezer on Friday, and only finding two birds, more were ordered for delivery Tuesday, and a new plan was made. As usual, when in doubt, make soup or pasta. Soup was the night before, so pasta was the winner. Mom wanted Amatriciana, and since we had (almost) everything on hand, I went with that. Normally, you should have pancetta for this, but we had bacon, and that is a fine substitute. A lot of recipes call for Bucatini pasta, but spaghetti works just as well, and that's what we had.

Spaghetti all'Amatriciana
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 lb pancetta (or bacon), sliced
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 28oz can San Marzano tomatoes, put through a food mill
Salt and pepper to taste
300 grams (about 10.5 oz) spaghetti (or bucatini)

  • Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add pancetta and cook for about 5 minutes, till it's just beginning to brown.
  • Add onion and garlic and cook till soft, about 5-8 minutes
  • Add red pepper flakes and cook another minute or two
  • Meanwhile, put a pot of water on with plenty of salt.
  • Add tomatoes and a bit of their juice, but not the whole can - reserve in case you need to add more. Add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer while you cook the pasta.
  • When your water has come to a boil, add the pasta and cook till just before al dente. About half-way through, take out some of the pasta water and add it to your sauce. The starch in the pasta water will help the sauce adhere to the pasta.
  • When pasta is just before al dente, fish it out of the water with a spider of large slotted spaghetti spoon, and put in into the sauce. Continue cooking in the sauce for another minute, tossing the whole time to completely coat the spaghetti in the sauce.
  • Serve with grated parmigiano reggiano to sprinkle at the table.