Thursday, July 26, 2012

One Of My Fava Flaves

I have been waiting (and waiting) to share this pasta that I so love, and frequently crave.  The reason I had been waiting is because I was going to have my brother in law make it just to demonstrate the fact that I do my best to share easy recipes that anyone can make (again, no offense Michael!).  BUT, when will this cooking day come?  Apparently not any time soon.  When I picked up my CSA box this week there was a perfect head of radicchio and I took it as a sign.  Forget it, I am making Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Leeks and Hazelnuts TONIGHT.  And was I glad that I did. This fantastically simple yet unique pasta dish is from the Food TV Cookbook.  I hope you like it as much as I do.
There are just a handful of ingredients in this recipe, radicchio, fontina cheese, balsamic vinegar, leeks, hazelnuts, a little sugar and olive oil.  Most likely, you will not just happen to have these on hand, but put them on your next grocery list, you'll be glad you did.
If you are unfamiliar with the leek (as the girl at the grocery store was~ took forever to get checked out because she couldn't find the price and kept saying are you sure there isn't another name for these things?) They have a very mild onion flavor.  Most recipes call for the white and light green parts only.
I'm such a fan of pretty food and this is no exception.  Look how cool they are when you slice them.
You really need to rinse these suckers good.  They always have a ton of sand in them.
Once they are good and rinsed, the leeks get sauteed with some olive oil and a little bit of salt and a little bit of sugar.  Cook until softened, about 10 min.  While that's going you can cook your whole-wheat spaghetti until al dente.
This is also a good time to pop the hazelnuts in the toaster oven for a few minutes until toasty brown.  Keep an eye on them though!  They only take a few min and they will burn if you're not careful.
You will need one small head of radicchio (boy was I glad to see that in the box this week! I have been seriously craving this dish for over a month now!) cored and sliced.
You can cut up some fontina into cubes ahead of time.  I love fontina.  A lot.
Once the pasta is done you put it along with a cup of the cooking liquid in the pan with the leeks.  To that add some olive oil, a teaspoon of sugar and two teaspoons of balsamic vinegar.  Then add the sliced radicchio and cubed cheese and toss until cheese gets melted.
Chop up those toasted nuts for serving.  Be careful no to let them go flying!
And there you have it, one of my faves.  We had this with a little grilled steak, they were perfect together.

Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Leeks and Hazelnuts (Food TV Cookbook)

Kosher salt
12 oz whole-wheat spaghetti
4 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
3 leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 small head of radicchio, halved, cored and thinly sliced
6 oz fontina, cubed
1/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add spaghetti and cook as label directs.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-low heat and add 2 Tbs of olive oil.  Scatter the leeks in the skillet and season with 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp sugar.  Cook, stirring occasionally until tender, about 10 minutes.

Drain pasta, reserving about 1 cup of cooking water.  Add pasta and the water to the pan with the leeks.  Add the remaining 2 Tbs oil, 1 tsp sugar and the balsamic vinegar.  Increase the heat to med-high and add radicchio and cheese. Toss until cheese melts.  Season with salt (to taste) and top with hazelnuts.

I've made a variation on this before, I had some random greens I used inplace of radicchio (can't remember now what it was) and fresh mozzerella in place of the fontina.  That came out good too but I really love the original.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Best Beans Ever!

Getting straight to the point, these beans are no joke.  I made them back at the end of May or early June and totally loved them but realized it made a little too much for a family of four.  We recently had the whole family over for ribs and chicken for Hayden's 8th birthday and figured these beans would make a perfect side dish.  I was a little concerned that the others would not share my braised bean enthusiasm (I swear I haven't always been so beany, this is relatively new for me!) but lo and behold, not a bean left in the pot.  Uncle Brian was going back for more~DENIED.  This is easy so let's get to it.
You will need to plan ahead, because dried beans have to soak overnight.  These are Cannellini beans.
When you're ready to cook them, drain them and transfer to a Dutch oven.
 Add 10 cups of water, two fresh sage leaves, smashed garlic cloves and some salt.  The first time I made these I didn't have any fresh sage so I threw in a dash or two of dried sage.  Bring them to a boil over high heat, then reduce and cook until tender, about an hour.  This is easy, not quick.  Then you drain them and discard the sage and garlic.
At some point while your beans are cooking for an hour, dice up one plum tomato, slice three cloves of garlic and four fresh sage leaves.

Return the beans to the pot along with the tomato, garlic and sage and 1/2 cup olive oil and 1 1/2 cups of the cooking liquid.  Hit it with the salt and pepper and cook in the oven until creamy, about 15-20 min.  This can also be done on a pre-heated grill (but at this stage of the game our poor grill would probably collapse if I put this heavy pot on it!).
Stir in some chopped fresh parsley and salt and pepper to taste and your done.  I wish I had a better picture.  These, are some fine beans.

Braised Beans (Food Network Magazine)

1 lb dried cannellini beans, picked over
6 fresh sage leaves
6 cloves garlic (3 smashed, 3 sliced)
coarse salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 plum tomato, diced
fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup rough chopped fresh parsley

Soak beans in water overnight.  Drain, transfer to a Dutch oven.  Add 10 cups water, 2 sage leaves, the smashed garlic, and 1 Tbs salt.  Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to med-low; cook until beans are tender, about 1 hour.  Drain, reserving cooking liquid.  Discard the garlic and sage.

Meanwhile, preheat a grill to high or an oven to 475.

Return the beans to the Dutch oven.  Add the sliced garlic, olive oil, the remaining 4 sage leaves, the tomato, 1 1/2 cups of the reserved cooking liquid, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.  Place the pot uncovered, on the grill or in the oven; cook until creamy, 15 to 20 min.  Add the parsley and more cooking liquid if needed (I have never needed to).  Season with salt and pepper if needed.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Off To A Great Start

Since summer is in full swing, we are operating on summer hours at our house (of course, we've been on summer hours since early May but that's beside the point).  What does that mean, you ask?  It just means that we're lucky if we're eating dinner by 7pm.  We spend most of the year trying to make time for homework, sports, getting the kids to bed at a decent time, that once summer rolls around we're like "Who cares! It stays light until almost 9:00 so let's just try to eat before dark".  OK, it's not quite that bad but you get the gist.  Since we're operating in super lax summer mode, I decided recently to try out some Eggplant Ricotta Bites as a little appetizer the other night.  It was a major hit.  I posted a (crappy) picture on Facebook and people were ALL OVER IT.  So here you go~
You will need one medium eggplant sliced on the thinnish side.  As it turns out, some people are a little weirded out by eggplant and just assume they don't like it.  I'm thinking it must be the name because visually, they're quite nice.  If you have never tried eggplant, this is the perfect way to give it a shot.
Once sliced, you will dredge (coat both sides shaking off the excess) the eggplant in flour.

Next you will beat up a couple of eggs and give it a quick dunk in there.  I like how you can see me and my helpers in the bowl.
Then a quick coating of Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs.
It's nothing a hungry for something new eight year old can't handle.  Of course you'll want to encourage safety around that hot oil.
You fry the eggplant in batches because otherwise it won't all fit in the pan.  Try not to let those little bits that fall off get too burnt.  You may want to open a window.
As they become browned and cooked through, drain them on a paper towel covered plate to get rid of the excess grease.  Yum, don't they look so good?  While your eight year old is frying eggplant, you might want to chop up some tomatoes and fresh basil.
To the tomatoes, add a little olive oil, red wine vinegar and some salt and pepper.
Before heading out to the patio, top each slice with a dollop of part skim ricotta, a few tomato pieces and some fresh basil.  Next time I will stir some fresh basil (maybe some parsley if I have it) and salt and pepper into the ricotta for a little extra flair. Or another way to snazz them up would be to use balsamic vinegar on the tomatoes instead.  Hmmm.  Might be making these again sooner than I thought!
They taste pretty darned good just sticking to the recipe too.  This kid would have pounded the whole plate if I had let him!

Eggplant Ricotta Bites (Food Network)

1 med eggplant
kosher salt
all-purpose flour for dredging
2 large eggs
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 Tbs plus 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil (plus more as needed)
2 large plum tomatoes diced
1 cup part skim ricotta cheese
fresh basil for topping

Thinly slice the eggplant into rounds and season with salt.  Pour some flour into a shallow dish.  Beat the eggs in another dish.  In a third dish, mix the parm and breadcrumbs.  Dredge eggplant in flour, then dip in eggs and coat with breadcrumb mixture.

Heat 1 Tbs olive oil over medium heat.  Working in batches, cook the eggplant until golden, about 2 min per side adding more oil between batches as needed.  Drain on paper towels and season with salt.

Toss the tomatoes with the remaining 2 tsps olive oil and vinegar in a bowl.  Spoon some ricotta onto each eggplant slice.  Top with tomato mixture and fresh basil.  Try not to eat them all yourself.

Monday, July 9, 2012

BeeGee Tacos

Summer has been so busy thus far that I've got a small overflow of recipes to share but haven't had a chance to do it.  Since I've been looking for ways to use my CSA and garden greens, I've been searching out some new recipes.  Beans-and Greens Tacos with cotija cheese filled both my need to use greens and the ever present need for a taco (or taco related food). 
You will need 1-2 red onions, depending on how much you like.  I had a really big one so I used a small part of it to make pica de gallo (we'll get to that in a minute) and the rest I sliced up for the tacos.
You saute the onions for about 6 min, or until soft and then add 5 cloves of garlic sliced thin.  Cook for one more minute (burnt garlic is no fun at all so you always throw that in a little later).
The recipe calls for 1lb of Swiss chard, stems and ribs removed.  We used 1/2 lb chard and 1/2 lb spinach.
This may look like a ton of greens but once you get them all in the pan they wilt down. A LOT.
Along with the greens you add a cup of rinsed cannellini beans and a 1/2 cup of chicken or vegetable stock. Season with salt and pepper and cook until greens are wilted and beans are cooked through, about 4 min.
I made a nice bowl of fresh pica de gallo to go with the tacos.  Personally I think the beans and greens alone would be a little boring but this was a great addition.  Just chop equal parts tomato, cilantro and red onion.  Season with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lime. Yum.
So you take a stack of corn tortillas out to the grill and brush them lightly with oil and hold over the flame until warmed through (or you can wrap them in foil and warm in a 350 oven).  We had some leftover chicken and pork in the fridge so we got that out too.  I ate mine meatless and was totally satisfied.
Pile on the beans and greens, top with pica and a touch of cotija cheese (recipe called for goat cheese but I'm not a fan).
I though this salty, crumbly cheese was a lovely detail to this fab vegetarian taco.
How good does that look?  I could totally go for a couple of those right about now!

Beans-and-Greens Tacos (a variation of a Martha Stewart recipe)

3 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 red onions, sliced into 1/4/inch thick rounds
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 lb Swiss chard (or 1 lb spinach or combo) washed and coarsely chopped. 
1 cup canned cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup vegetable or chicken stock
Salt and fresh ground pepper
8 white corn tortillas
1/3 cup crumbled cotija cheese (or goat cheese)
Pica de Gallo or fresh cilantro for topping

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Cook onions until soft, about 6 min.  Add garlic, cook one min.  Stir in greens, beans, and stock.  Cook until greens are wilted and beans are warmed through.  Season with salt and pepper.

Pile on to warmed corn tortillas with pica and cheese and enjoy!
 Warning: If your tortillas are too crisp you may have to eat them "open faced"!