Sunday Minestrone

December 3rd, 2010 · 24 Comments · Dinner, Sides, Salads, Soup, Vegetarian

Let me just start by saying this recipe is not a 30-Minute Meal. Nor is it a One Pot Wonder, a Five Ingredient Dinner, a Fix-it-and-Forget-it Dish or any of the other cute little titles dished up daily in magazines, cookbooks, and, um, blogs exactly like this one. This minestrone, which Pilar first introduced me to in 2004, is not cute. It is messy and demanding and complicated. It involves forethought — you must soak the beans overnight. It involves rinsing and draining and mincing and chopping. It involves immersion blenders and strainers and Dutch Ovens and saucepans. And it involves time. A lot of time. The kind of time you once had on a Sunday afternoon before you had kids to shuttle to birthday parties or basketball games or before you started getting roped into marathon sessions of Monopoly. Which, if you are a certain kind of cook, is what makes the resulting freaking crazy delicious soup all the more special. Because yes, you must spend your entire afternoon in the kitchen making it, but…you get to spend your entire afternoon in the kitchen making it.

Tuscan Minestrone
Adapted from The Fine Art of Italian Cooking
, Giuliano Bugialli

8 ounces dried cannellini beans
1 slice prosciutto or pancetta (vegetarians & vegans: this can be omitted)
1 large red onion, minced
1 celery rib, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 carrot, diced
1/2 cup Italian parsley
½ cup olive oil
½ small head Savoy cabbage, chopped
1 ½ bunches kale, cleaned and chopped into small pieces
1 medium potato, peeled and cut into small squares
1 cup canned tomatoes, drained and seeded
1 small bunch Swiss chard, stems removed and cut into small pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Soak the dried beans overnight in a bowl of cold water. The next day, drain the beans and cook them in a large pot with 2 quarts of salted water and the prosciutto or pancetta. As the beans absorb water, keep adding enough hot water to maintain about 2 quarts of liquid at the end of the cooking time. Cook for one hour, then let sit on stovetop in pot.

Saute onion, celery, garlic, carrot, parsley, salt and pepper in the olive oil in a Dutch Oven or large stockpot for about 12 to 15 minutes. Add the cabbage, kale, and potato to the stockpot. Then add tomatoes, smushing them with your hands as you drop them in the pot. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, adding a little bean liquid every now and then if it’s looking dry. Then add Swiss chard.

Remove the prosciutto from the beans. Scoop out about 1 cup of beans with a strainer or slotted spoon and set aside. With a handheld  mixer, blend the remaining beans in their pot, then pour bean puree into the stockpot with vegetables, stirring to combine. Simmer together for about 15 minutes more until heated through. When you are ready to serve, add the reserved whole beans. Add salt and pepper.

Ladle soup into bowls and serve with crusty bread, freshly grated Parmesan and a healthy drizzle of good quality olive oil.

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Pork Chops with Kale

November 29th, 2010 · 17 Comments · Pork and Beef, Quick

Very few things make me happier than discovering a dinner that:

a) does not require every pot and pan in the kitchen.
b) runs no risk of instigating a whinefest at the table.
c) can be prepared in the same amount of time (or less) that it takes for my second and third graders to do their homework at the kitchen table.

I’m not sure this last point was what Giuliano Bugialli had in mind when he dreamed up the delicate braciole de maiale con cavolo nero (Pork Chops with Kale) in his 1977 classic Fine Art of Italian Cooking. Unless he was cooking for high schoolers who had a full load of AP courses — because his version takes over 60 minutes and this adaptation takes under 30. Is it as good as it would be if I made it the way he instructed? Of course not. Is it a sacrilege to subject the recipe from a master to my compulsive corner-cutting impulse? Definitely. Will I be corner-cutting this recipe again soon on a night when I must get something delicious on the table quickly? Absolutely.

Pork with Kale
Adapted from
Fine Art of Italian Cooking

Wash and cut 1 bunch of kale into 2-inch pieces. Boil for 15 minutes in salted water. Meanwhile, heat a few glugs of olive oil in a deep skillet. Add 1 garlic clove and cook over low heat, just enough to flavor oil without burning, about 2 minutes. Turn heat to medium and add 4-6 pork chops (butterflied, or pounded thin) that have been salted, peppered, and sprinkled with a little fennel seed (optional) and brown for 2 minutes on each side. Using a metal measuring cup, scoop out 1 cup of hot water from the kale pot and pour into a heatproof bowl. Whisk 1 tablespoon tomato paste in the hot water then add tomatoey liquid to the pork chops. Cover skillet and simmer until pork is cooked through, about 15 minutes. In final 5 minutes, add kale to skillet and let it drink in the liquid. Serve with brown rice if you need it. (The Trader Joe’s fully cooked kind to make life easier.)

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