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PastaeFagioliMed.

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

ChickenTagineMark

Chicken Tagine with Apricots & Cranberries

In Poultry, Soups and Stews On November 29, 2013 1 Comment

Enough with turkey now. Why not make a delicious chicken tagine which brings to mind all those luscious flavors of Morocco? Tagines are slow-cooked meat stews with dried fruit and/or almonds and lots of exotic spices. Here’s a great recipe. And yes – you can substitute the chicken with turkey breast and thigh pieces.

Accompany this chicken tagine with a side of Couscous with Zucchini, Yellow Squash & Red Chili Peppers (previously published on this website).

Prep time: 20 minutes (to prepare ingredients)
Cook time: 1-1/2 to 2 hours
Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:
1/3 cup olive oil
2-1/2 to 3 pounds chicken breasts (about 3 half-breasts), skinned and cut in half (to make 6 pieces)
1 large yellow or white onion, finely chopped
1/4 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1/4 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2-inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and finely minced
1 cup pureed fresh tomatoes
4 to 5 cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
1 teaspoon freshly ground ginger root
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 cup dried apricots, halved
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt

1. In an 8 to 10-quart stockpot or Dutch oven, heat the oil.

2. Add the chicken breast pieces. Fry the chicken pieces on medium-high heat until they are browned all over, about 6 to 8 minutes.

3. After the chicken pieces are browned, stir in the onion, bell peppers and ginger root.

4. Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 2 minutes.

5. After 2 minutes, stir in the tomatoes and 1-1/2 cups of the broth.

6. Bring the chicken and liquid to a high simmer and cook on medium-high heat for 15 minutes.

7. After 15 minutes, stir in cinnamon, cumin, paprika, chili pepper flakes, ginger, the sugar with 1 cup of the broth.

8. Cook the chicken on medium-high heat for an additional hour or so, stirring occasionally. As the tagine becomes dense, stir in 1/2 to 1 cup broth every 10 to 15 minutes.

9. After one hour, taste the tagine. If the flavors are too concentrated, add 1 cup water and continue cooking, stirring occasionally.

10. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, stir in the apricots and cranberries.

11. After 5 minutes, taste the tagine. If needed, add salt.

12. Serve Chicken Tagine with Apricots and Cranberries and a side of Couscous with Zucchini, Yellow Squash & Red Chili Peppers.

Note: To substitute the chicken with turkey, cook the turkey tagine. for at least one more hour. Add one additional quart of broth in 1-cup increments, every 10 to 15 minutes.

Text and Photograph ©2013 Nancy DeLucia Real

fav.chili

Buzzzin’ Chili

In Meats, Soups and Stews On October 4, 2013 8 Comments

Homemade chili is always so comforting, especially with some freshly baked cornbread and a nice glass of red wine. This one-dish meal gets its “buzzz” from chipotle ahumado powder which will definitely warm you up in autumn weather. The flavors of this dish are enhanced when the chili is made a day ahead. This means that leftover, warmed-up chili tastes great up to three days later – and there’s no need to cook for a while!

Prep time: 10 minutes
Inactive prep time: 30 minutes (for cooking)
Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:
4 large vine-ripened tomatoes, boiled, cooled and peeled
One 14.5-ounce can Muir Glen Organic Fire Roasted Tomatoes with Chipotle
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds extra lean ground beef or organic, grass-fed extra lean ground beef
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon chipotle ahumado powder or regular chili powder
2 cups cooked kidney beans, drained, or one 15-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1. Purée the boiled tomatoes and canned tomatoes together in a blender and set aside.

2. Heat oil in a 4-quart saucepot. Add the ground beef and the onions and, with a wooden spoon, stir fry on medium-high heat until meat is broken up and turns gray, about 8 to 10 minutes.

3. Pour in the puréed tomatoes and stir. Cook on medium-low heat, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Stir in the salt, sugar and the lesser amount of chili powder and cook 2 minutes.

5. Stir in the kidney beans and cook for about 2 more minutes. Taste and adjust the chipotle ahumado powder or chili amounts.

Serve immediately in individual bowls accompanied by Columbus Day Cornbread (previously published on this blog).

Wine suggestion: Pinot Noir – this red wine pairs well with chili.

Note: You can find chipotle ahumado powder online at gourmetsleuth.com.

Text and Photographs ©2013 Nancy DeLucia Real

OnionSoupWatermark1.16.13

Onion Soup Gratinée (Soupe à l’Oignon)

In Soups and Stews On February 23, 2013 0 Comments

I sure miss the onion soup from Au Petit Poucet Restaurant in Quebec (see January 14, 2013 post on this blog). The restaurant’s soup ingredients include Brandy and red wine. Inspired by this fact, I just had to make it that way, too. And I’m so glad I did – Bon Appetit!

Active Prep time: 20 to 25 minutes
Inactive Prep time (cooking): 50 to 60 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil
8 large yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced
3/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
8 cups beef stock
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/4 cup Brandy liqueur
1/4 cup dry red wine
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves
1 sprig fresh thyme leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 to 6 thick slices French baguette (slices should be 1 to 1-1/2 inches thick)
1-1/2 cups (5 to 6 ounces) grated Gruyère cheese
6 to 8 sprigs fresh, Italian flat-leaf parsley

1. Place a large (8-quart) saucepot on stove burner which is set on medium heat.

2. In the saucepot, melt the butter or heat the oil.

3. Stir in the onion slices and sauté the mixture for about 15 minutes or until onions are translucent and wilted. (Note: do not let onions turn brown. If this happens at the start, reduce heat.)

4. Add the sugar and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until onions are caramelized.

5. Stir in the stock, garlic, Brandy, red wine and Worcestershire sauce.

6. Bind the bay and thyme leaves with twine. Add the bundled herbs to the stock mixture in sauce pot. Simmer the soup for about 20 to 30 minutes. Stir in the salt and pepper, to taste.

7. Preheat oven broiler (top grill element).

8. Arrange bread slices on a baking sheet and place about 6 inches away from oven broiler. Broil the bread slices 2 to 3 minutes per side or until golden brown (stand by and watch this process carefully to avoid charring the bread).

9. Place 4 to 6 ovenproof bowls or crocks on a baking sheet. Discard the herb bundle from the soup. Ladle the soup and fill the bowls to 2/3 full.

10. Place a slice of toasted bread on top of each bowl. Sprinkle the soups evenly with the grated Gruyere.

11. Carefully set the baking sheet with the soup bowls 6 inches away from oven broiler element. Broil about 5 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and is golden brown.

12. Garnish each soup with a fresh parsley sprig and serve immediately.

Wine pairing suggestion: Bordeaux or Meursault (both reds).
Text and Photograph ©2013 Nancy DeLucia Real

Stracciatella Soup

Stracciatella Soup

In Soups and Stews On January 8, 2012 0 Comments

In this quick recipe, beaten eggs, cheese, nutmeg and parsley are transformed into a gourmet Roman soup.

One of my favs, Stracciatella Soup derives from the Italian word “stracciato” or torn. It’s made by beating eggs with Pecorino Romano cheese and then whisking the mixture into simmering chicken broth. As the egg mixture cooks, it turns into “stracciatelle” or torn shreds. Together with the cheese’s sharp flavor, these simple ingredients turn into a soup that’s perfect on a cold, winter night.

How’s that for Roman comfort food?

Prep time: 7 to 8 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:
2-1/2 quarts chicken broth (preferably homemade)
5 large eggs
2/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Dash ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons finely chopped, fresh, flat leaf Italian parsley
Crusty Italian bread, sliced

1. In an 8-quart stockpot, bring the chicken broth to a boil and keep it simmering (this is a light boil).

2. Meanwhile, in a 3 or 4-quart mixing bowl, whisk the eggs until mixture is uniform.

3. Gradually whisk in the cheese and mix well.

4. Pour the egg mixture in a thin stream, constantly whisking, into the simmering chicken broth. In minutes, the egg mixture will turn into little torn shreds.

5. Add a dash of nutmeg and the parsley.

Serve immediately with crusty bread and chilled white wine.

Note: We recommend imported Pecorino Romano cheese because of its sharp bite. When purchased by the piece, the flavor of the cheese is sharper, especially when grated just prior to use.

Text & Photograph ©2011 Nancy DeLucia Real