Category:  Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains)

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Cannellini Bean Soup

In Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains) On January 3, 2015 0 Comments

Now that the holidays are over, I’m thinking about foods that’ll warm up my soul in January, February and March. Here’s an easy but healthy comfort food that has stayed with me since my youth in Italy – Cannellini Bean Soup (BTW, Cannellini beans are white and elongated, as opposed to smaller, rounder beans).

After the beans are cooked, just add olive oil, green onions, tomatoes and oregano, to taste. Served with fresh bread, wine and a fireplace, you’ll stay cozy all night.

Prep time: Soak beans overnight plus 1-1/2 hours cooking time
Makes: 5 cups cooked beans
Serves: 3 to 4

Ingredients:
2 cups dry, uncooked Cannellini beans (one cup of dry beans will yield 2-1/2 cups cooked beans)
1 white or yellow onion, peeled and cut in half
2 bay leaves (optional)
extra virgin olive oil (to taste)
3 to 4 green onions, ends and dark green stems cut and discarded
1 to 2 tomatoes (any variety)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano (this can be substituted with 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves)
salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
French or Italian bread (for serving with beans)

Soak and Cook the Beans:

1. The night before serving the beans, place 2 cups uncooked Cannellini beans in a 3 to 4-quart porcelain or metal bowl on a countertop; cover with cold water.

2. Make sure the water level is one inch above beans; cover the bowl and let beans soak overnight.

3. The next day, drain the beans, discarding the water.

4. Place soaked beans in a 4 to 6-quart sauce pot; add cold water (make sure the water level is two inches above the beans).

5. Add onion and bay leaves to the beans.

6. Bring the beans to a boil.

7. When beans come to a boil, set heat on medium to medium-high.

8. Cook the beans for approximately one hour.

9. After one hour, taste a bean to check doneness. If needed, cook the beans for 20 to 30 more minutes, checking their doneness every 10 minutes.

10. By checking doneness every 10 minutes, the beans will not overcook or break apart.

Prepare Garnish for Beans:

1. Meanwhile, cut the green onions into 1/4-inch pieces; set aside in a glass or porcelain bowl.

2. Remove stems from tomatoes; cut each tomato in half.

3. Remove and discard pulp and seeds from each tomato-half; cut the flesh into 1/4-inch pieces; set aside in a glass or porcelain bowl.

4. If using fresh oregano, remove leaves from stems. Discard stems and finely chop the leaves.

5. Set the chopped oregano leaves aside in a small bowl.

6. When the beans are cooked but still hold their shape, remove and discard the onion and bay leaves.

7. Add salt and black pepper to the beans (to taste).

8. Set the garnish dishes, crushed red pepper flakes and the bread on table.

9. Serve Cannellini Bean Soup in individual bowls.

10. Ask each guest to garnish their own beans.

Wine Pairing Suggestion: Chianti or Cabernet Sauvignon (reds); chilled Chardonnay (white).
Text and Photograph ©2015 Nancy DeLucia Real

Seafood Paella

In Fish & Shellfish, Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains) On October 3, 2014 0 Comments

Paella, a rice dish, was born in Valencia, on the Eastern coast of Spain. The original regional dish, known as Paella Valenciana is made with rice, green vegetables, beans, chicken and/or rabbit, snails and saffron. Seafood paella is a variation that replaces land animals and vegetables with seafood. Paella is made in a paellera or paella skillet with an attached gas heating element or, alternatively, over a barbecue grill. I’ve tried making paella on a grill, but the heating was uneven. This resulted in patches of crunchy or raw rice.

Here I am trying not to look frazzled over my first attempt at making Paella Valenciana:
Image.PaellaNRoutside

You can cook paella in a paellera (just like the one you see in the above photograph); in a 14-inch, nonstick skillet on a stovetop; or in a nonstick, 16-inch electric skillet. After attempting all three cooking methods, I opted for the latter.

Cooking paella in an electric skillet is hassle-free because every time you add ingredients, you set a timer and walk away. Since the paella cooks itself, you can sit, have a glass of wine and converse with your guests. Look at how successful my paella turned out (BTW, this was my third attempt):
Image.SeafoodPaellaNR

Finally, I can relax while making dinner for friends! Here’s the Seafood Paella recipe that I brought back from Spain!

Prep time: 50 to 60 minutes (preparing all ingredients)
Cook time: 50 to 60 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients* [TO MINIMIZE WORK ON THE DAY OF MAKING PAELLA, READ NOTES ON PREPPING INGREDIENTS AT BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE]:

4 to 4-1/2 cups homemade chicken broth
.37 grams ground saffron (to turn the rice bright yellow, use 3 envelopes saffron, each weighing 0.125 grams)
1 cup dry white wine
1 large red onion, finely chopped
12 live mussels, in-shell
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 vine-ripened tomato, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup chopped Spanish chorizo (this resembles Italian pepperoni sausage)
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2-1/2 cups Dacsa® rice (this rice brand is from Valencia, Spain and is a key ingredient)
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
Dash ground black pepper
4 ounces Spanish pimientos, rinsed and cut into 1-inch strips
1/3 cup frozen peas
15 to 18 fresh, medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and rinsed (wild shrimp is preferable, since it has more flavor than the farm-raised variety)
1/2 pound fresh sea scallops, rinsed
4 calamari bodies, cut into 1/4-inch thick circles and then rinsed
8 to 10 calamari tentacles, rinsed
3/4 pound wild salmon, skin discarded and fillet cut into 4-inch pieces (this is an optional ingredient)

Prepare the Broth & Mussels:
1. In a 2-quart sauce pot, heat the chicken broth to just boiling.

2. Stir the saffron into the hot broth; set aside, covered.

3. In a 1-quart sauce pot, bring the wine and half of the chopped red onion to a boil. Reserve the remaining onion for the paella later.

4. Rinse the mussels under cold, running water and then transfer them to the boiling wine mixture.

5. Cook the mussels in the wine mixture, on medium heat, for 5 minutes.

6. After 5 minutes, remove the mussels from the wine mixture and set them aside in a glass or metal bowl, covered with aluminum foil.

7. Strain the wine mixture, discard the onion and reserve the liquid. Set aside.

Start the Paella:
1. In a nonstick skillet (stovetop or electric), heat the olive oil.

2. When the olive oil is hot and shimmering, stir in the remaining chopped red onion, crushed garlic and chopped bell pepper.

3. Stir-fry the mixture over medium-high heat until the onion is translucent, about 2 to 4 minutes.

4. After 2 to 4 minutes, stir in the chopped tomato and Spanish chorizo.

5. Stir-fry the mixture over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes (do not let the chorizo burn).

6. After 2 minutes, add the reserved wine liquid, the cayenne pepper and the rice.

7. Bring the mixture to a boil and stir once.

8. After stirring, carefully pour 4 cups of chicken broth into skillet.

9. Season the rice mixture with salt and black pepper.

10. Cover the rice mixture and cook on medium-low heat (325°F for electric skillet) for 15 minutes – DO NOT STIR THE RICE.

Add Pimientos, Peas & Seafood to the Paella:
1. After 15 minutes, check the rice by inserting a spoon in center of skillet.

2. If the rice is dry and there is no liquid, add the remaining 1/2 cup broth.

3. If the rice is simmering with liquid, do not add the broth.

4. Scatter the pimientos and the rice over top of paella.

5. Next, scatter the shrimp over paella and press it gently into the rice.

6. Repeat this method with the scallops, calamari bodies and tentacles and the salmon pieces.

7. Cover and cook the paella on medium-low heat (325°F for electric skillet) for 10 minutes.

8. After 10 minutes, taste the rice to check doneness – it should be crunchy-tender.

9. If rice is done, cover the paella and remove the skillet from heat. Let it rest for 5 minutes.

10. After 5 minutes, serve the paella in individual dinner plates with a green salad. Alternatively, serve the paella and salad as a buffet and ask guests to help themselves.

*NOTE: One day ahead, prepare the following ingredients:

1. Prepare the chicken broth: in a 3-quart sauce pot, cover 2 chicken thighs, 2 chicken legs and 1 white or brown onion with cold water and bring it to a boil. Cook chicken broth for 40 minutes & add salt, to taste. Transfer chicken to a plate and use for another purpose. Strain the broth and store it in a glass or porcelain bowl, covered & refrigerated.

2. Buy the seafood a day ahead: rinse all raw seafood. Peel and devein the shrimp; cut the calamari bodies into rings. Cut the salmon into 4-inch pieces.

3. Store each seafood variety in separate glass jars or disposable plastic containers, covered & refrigerated, until ready to use.

*NOTE: On the day of making the paella, prepare the following ingredients:

1. Chop the onion; store in an airtight container, refrigerated.
2. Crush the garlic; store in an airtight container, refrigerated.
3. Chop the red bell pepper; store in an airtight container, refrigerated.
4. Chop the tomato; store in an airtight container, refrigerated.
5. Chop the chorizo; store in an airtight container, refrigerated.
6. Rinse and cut the Spanish pimientos; store in an airtight container, refrigerated.

Wine Pairing: Chilled white wine from the Rioja region of Spain; Chardonnay; or Pinot Grigio.
Text and All Photographs ©2014 Nancy DeLucia Real

Refried Beans (Frijoles refritos)

In Holidays, Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains) On May 2, 2014 0 Comments

Last week, I stumbled across these fresh cranberry beans at the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market. These beans really captured my attention. Just look at them!

BeansMar'14

They’re fresh and this means that they take less time to cook than packaged dry beans. In honor of Cinco de Mayo, we’re makin’ some frijoles refritos or refried beans. You can add these creamy beans to tostadas and tacos or serve them as a dip with tortilla chips. I’m sure you won’t forget the Tequila shots and/or the Margaritas… y andale! Or, just go for it!

Inactive Prep Time: Overnight soaking, plus 45 minutes to boil the beans
Prep Time: 15 minutes (for refrying the beans)

Ingredients:
1 pound fresh cranberry beans (if using dried beans, allow 20 to 30 minutes more for cooking)
1 yellow or white onion, peeled and halved
3 bay leaves
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
5 strips of bacon (optional)
3/4 cup peeled and finely chopped yellow or white onion
Half a Serrano chile, finely minced
4 to 6 tablespoons Half n’ Half cream
1 Chipotle chile in adobo sauce, mashed*
Salt, to taste

Soaking & Cooking Directions:

1. Place beans in a 4-quart glass or porcelain bowl; add enough cold water to cover the beans.

2. Cover the bowl and let beans soak overnight.

3. After the beans have soaked overnight, drain them completely.

4. Transfer the beans to a 6-quart sauce pot; add the peeled and halved onion and the bay leaves.

5. Cover the beans with about 2-1/2 to 3 quarts cold water (there should be 3 extra inches of cold over surface of beans).

6. Bring the beans to a boil.

7. After beans come to a boil, set heat on low. Simmer the beans for about 45 minutes or until they are tender, but not broken.

8. Set the sauce pot with beans aside to cool.

9. After the beans have cooled to room temperature, drain them, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

10. Discard onion and bay leaves.

11. Transfer the drained beans to a food processor; process beans into a puree.

Refry the Beans:

1. In an 8-quart sauce pot, heat the oil.

2. When oil is not, add the bacon strips, finely chopped onion and the minced Serrano chile.

3. On medium-high heat, stir-fry the mixture until onion is translucent and bacon turns crisp, about 2 to 3 minutes.

4. After 2 to 3 minutes, remove the bacon strips and discard them.

5. Using a wooden spoon, carefully stir the pureed beans into the stir-fried mixture.

6. Constantly and quickly stir the beans, bringing them to a boil – stand away from stove to avoid hot splatters.

7. Immediately lower the heat setting. If the boil is too strong, cover the sauce pot to avoid hot splatters once more.

8. Constantly stir the beans for about 2 to 3 minutes.

9. After 2 to 3 minutes, add the Half n’ Half cream and the mashed Chipotle chile; continue stirring until the refried bean mixture is uniform.

10. Stir in about 1 teaspoon salt. Taste and adjust seasonings.

11. Serve immediately.

*NOTE: Chipotle chiles in adobo sauce are sold in cans. They can be found in the international foods section of standard supermarkets or in Latin American grocery stores.

Text & Photographs ©2014 Nancy DeLucia Real

Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta with Beans)

In Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains), Soups and Stews On January 3, 2014 0 Comments

Now that the holidays are over, we’re still running around. Whether paying up on our credit cards or returning gifts at department stores, we need to take time to unwind and enjoy some good eats.

From my days in Italy, pasta e fagioli or pasta with beans, has always been comforting during the most stressful times. Since we Italians always have a can of beans and one of tomatoes in our pantries, it takes no time to serve this classic, peasant fare with some robust red wine.

Don’t forget that sprinkle of cheese over your pasta e fagioli. Can a last-minute meal get any better than this?

Prep time: 15 to 20 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic
One 15-ounce (or 1-1/2 cups) whole, peeled tomatoes (puréed in a blender)
3/4 teaspoon salt
Dash ground pepper
Dash ground nutmeg (optional)
One 15-ounce can Cannellini or Great Northern beans
1 pound (16 ounces) small pasta shells
5 to 6 fresh basil leaves, for garnish
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese

1. In a 2 to 3-quart sauce pot, heat the oil.

2. When oil is hot, add the garlic cloves. Stir-fry on medium heat until the cloves are light golden.

3. Add the puréed tomatoes, salt, pepper and nutmeg to the garlic; simmer on medium heat. Stir occasionally and cook for about 15 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, bring a 4-quart sauce pot filled with water to a boil.

5. Stir in the pasta shells into the boiling water. Follow package directions for cooking time.

6. As the pasta cooks for the last 2 to 3 minutes, drain and rinse the beans.

7. Immediately add the rinsed beans to the tomato sauce and warm through.

8. In the meantime, when the pasta has cooked (preferably al dente or crunchy-tender, drain it and reserve 2 cups of the pasta water.

9. Return the cooked and drained pasta to its sauce pot. Add 2 ladles of the sauce and about 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

10. Warm the pasta e fagiolithrough. Adjust sauce level and pasta water, to taste (some people like a more watery soup, while others prefer more tomato sauce).

11. Garnish with basil leaves and serve immediately. Ask guests to add some grated cheese to their individual pasta e fagioli.

Red wine suggestion: Chianti or Aglianico.
Text and Photograph ©2014 Nancy DeLucia Real

Fusilli with Broccolini

In Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains), Vegetables On November 15, 2013 0 Comments

Today, I bought fresh broccolini at a local farmers’ market. After cooking it for a few minutes, I decided to add it to some fusilli (Italian for “corkscrew pasta”). With a little extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, it turned out to be quite good – especially with Hot Calabrese Pepper Preserves (previously published on this website on October 18). This pasta dish is simple but good – enjoy.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:
12 to 16 ounces fresh broccolini, boiled to desired tenderness and drained
Extra virgin olive oil, to taste
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1 pound fusilli or other short pasta variety
1 teaspoon salt

1. Transfer the drained and cooled broccolini to a large serving bowl.

2. Stir in some extra virgin olive oil (about 1/4 cup), salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.

3. Meanwhile, bring a 4-quart sauce pot filled with water to a boil.

4. Add the fusilli or other short pasta variety to the boiling water, 1 teaspoon salt and stir.

5. Cook, uncovered (medium-high heat), stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until pasta is al dente or crunchy-tender. Different types of pasta will vary in cooking times).

6. When pasta is cooked, drain and add it to the serving bowl with broccolini.

7. Toss the pasta and broccolini. Taste and adjust seasonings, including the olive oil level.

8. Serve immediately.

9. Ask guests to add some Hot Calabrese Pepper Preserves and/or some grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese to their individual pasta bowls.

Text and Photograph ©2013 Nancy DeLucia Real