Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ribollita

Somehow it slipped my mind. Somehow, I forgot to tell you about this amazing soup that I’ve already made three times this winter. How could that be since I’m absolutely head over heels, crazy in love with this soup? Let’s just chalk it up to moving, a two week vacation, and too many late nights at work. But then Heidi wrote about it and it jogged my memory.

I first encountered Ribollita a few months ago when Ina Garten made it one Sunday afternoon. I had no idea what Ribollita was but was immediately drawn in when Ina reached for her big white soup pot. She spent the next few minutes filling the pot with beans, cabbage, tomatoes, bread….she didn’t stop until the pot was literally filled to the top with vegetable goodness.

Ribollita literally means “reboiled” and is made in the same tradition as other Tuscan food – classic ingredients and simple preparation.

I can’t rave enough about this soup. It is so hearty and filling — a great choice for lunch alongside a salad or for dinner on a chilly night. (Hence its constant presence in my kitchen this winter). On top of that, it’s incredibly easy to make and leaves you with plenty of leftovers! (Great if you’ve been having weeks like I have lately and just don’t feel like cooking too often) You can easily freeze half of it and keep the other half in the fridge for meals throughout the week. And this soup can stand up to substitutions so feel free to sub in Italian parsley for basil (as I did this time), or double the cabbage and omit the kale.

You start with an enormous pot of vegetables.
That will slowly simmer down and thicken. Then add the bread.
And you get this:
Not bad for peasant food.

RibollitaAdapted from Ina Garten

The original recipe calls for bacon and chicken stock. To make this soup vegetarian, swap out the chicken stock for vegetable stock and omit the bacon.

1/2 pound dried white beans or 1 can of white beans, such as Great Northern or cannellini
Kosher salt
1/4 cup good olive oil, plus extra for serving
2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
1 cup chopped carrots (3 carrots)
1 cup chopped celery (3 stalks)
3 tablespoons minced garlic (6 cloves)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes in puree, chopped
4 cups coarsely chopped or shredded savoy cabbage
4 cups coarsely chopped kale
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
6 cups vegetable stock, preferably homemade
4 cups sourdough bread cubes, crusts removed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, for serving

If using dried beans: In a large bowl, cover the beans with cold water by 1-inch and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to soak overnight in the refrigerator. Proceed with directions below.
If using canned beans: Rinse and drain the beans and place them in a large pot with 8 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and continue to simmer for about 15 minutes, until the beans are tender. Set the beans aside to cool in their liquid.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large stockpot. Add onions and cook over medium-low heat for 7 to 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the carrots, celery, garlic, 1 tablespoon of salt, the pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cook over medium-low heat for 7 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Add the tomatoes with their puree, the cabbage, the kale, and basil and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for another 7 to 10 minutes.
Drain the beans, reserving their cooking liquid. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, puree half of the beans with a little of their liquid. Add to the stockpot, along with the remaining whole beans. Pour the bean cooking liquid into a large measuring cup and add enough stock to make 8 cups. Add to the soup and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.
Add the bread to the soup and simmer for 10 more minutes. Taste for seasoning and serve hot in large bowls sprinkled with Parmesan and drizzled with olive oil.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Baked Eggs in Tomato Sauce

No matter how many pancakes or muffins or other sweet brunch items I cook up, I am never quite satisfied. I am either left a little hungry, or on the opposite extreme, in a sugar induced food coma. You know the feeling, one of extreme fullness that induces a special kind of Sunday laziness, leaving you lying on the couch for half the day watching movie re-runs on the cable networks. (Ok, now you know my food coma antidote). This Sunday, my parents were in town lending a hand as NAK and I continued to unpack and set up our new house. There was no time for a fancy brunch (or a food coma at that) so I spent last week scouring the Internet and food magazines for a quick, high protein, healthy brunch that would keep us going throughout the day. I looked at every egg strata, casserole, omelet, soufflĂ©, quiche and every other possible use of eggs in a brunch dish but nothing caught my eye. Then I stumbled on this Food & Wine recipe. I’m new to Food & Wine, I only subscribed at the end of last year after picking up a copy to read at JFK during our overnight delay on the way to Argentina. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s really fabulous- chock full of easy but tasty recipes and this dish was no exception. I was astounded that 15 minutes at the stove and a few more in the oven could produce eggs cooked perfectly nestled in a spicy tomato sauce. And who knew that this deliciousness could be accomplished with all ingredients I had on hand in the pantry using just one pan. Brunch for four, made in a snap and on the cheap – and no food coma. What more could you ask for on a Sunday? Baked Eggs in Tomato Sauce Adapted from Food & Wine 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes 2 garlic cloves, minced 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning or oregano 8 large eggs 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a cast iron pan over medium heat, toss the garlic with the oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook for a few minutes until fragrant. Add tomatoes and stir to combine. Cook for about 5 minutes until the flavors meld. Add herbs. Crack 2 eggs into a small bowl and season with salt and pepper. Using a spoon, create a hole in the tomato sauce and pour the eggs into the hole being careful that the whites don’t run. Repeat three more times until all the eggs are added to the tomato sauce. Sprinkle cheese over the eggs and bake for about 10 minutes until the whites are set. Leave in longer to cook the yolks more. Serve hot.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Moroccan Beef Meatball Tagine

I had a secret New Year's resolution...and it's not what you think. It wasn't to go to the gym more or try to rein in the bag and shoe habit, but rather to consider becoming a vegetarian. I didn't tell anyone about this resolution other than NAK, who gave that cute, crooked smile he usually flashes when he thinks I'm kidding.

I wasn't. I was seriously thinking about becoming a vegetarian. Not for health reasons or animal rights, just more so that I seemed to have lost the taste for meat. I can't remember the last time I cooked meat and it just stopped appealing to me.
But then we spent the last two weeks of December in glorious Argentina where becoming a vegetarian would be viewed as virtually unpatriotic. Meat is such a part of the culture there and we were more than happy (myself included) to partake in the oversized (and by that I mean gigantic!) steaks served at every meal. And with that, out went my vegetarian hope for 2010.
When we arrived home in these frigid temps, we had many a food magazine waiting to greet us. But I delved into Bon Appetit after catching a glimpse of the best meatball recipes of the year that were pictured on the cover. I picked this recipe, Moroccan Beef Meatball Tagine, and was thrilled with the results. Who knows, maybe we've found our next food - I mean vacation - destination.
This recipe looks fairly long and complex. There are several steps to it but if you can prepare the vegetables in advance, you will cut down on the prep time.

Moroccan Beef Meatball Tagine

Adapted from Bon Appetit, January 2010

Meatballs
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1/3 cup coarsely grated onion
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 large egg, beaten to blend
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Stew
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 1/2 cups chopped onions
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cinnamon sticks
1/8 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled – I skipped the saffron
2 cups beef broth
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
1/4 cup golden raisins – I skipped the raisins
2 cups 1/2-inch-thick carrot slices (cut on diagonal)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro plus additional for garnish
1 5-ounce package baby spinach leaves
Couscous with Fresh Cilantro and Lemon Juice (recipe below)
Lemon wedges (for garnish)

Couscous with Fresh Cilantro and Lemon Juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 2/3 cups water
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 1/2 cups plain couscous
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Preparation
Meatballs - Line large rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap. Gently mix all ingredients in large bowl. Using moistened hands and scant 2 tablespoonfuls for each, roll meat mixture into 1 1/2-inch meatballs. Arrange meatballs on sheet.

Stew - Heat oil in heavy large ovenproof pot over medium heat. Add onions; sauté about 15 minutes. Add garlic, cinnamon, turmeric, and saffron; stir 2 minutes. Add broth, tomatoes with juice, and raisins.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bring stew to simmer. Stir in carrots. Carefully add meatballs to stew; gently press into liquid to submerge. Sprinkle 1/4 cup cilantro over. Cover pot; place in oven. Bake until meatballs are cooked through and carrots are tender, about 35 minutes. Sprinkle spinach over stew. Cover and bake until spinach wilts, about 5 minutes longer. Gently stir to mix in spinach, being careful not to break meatballs. Remove cinnamon sticks. Season tagine with salt and pepper.

Couscous - Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and turmeric; stir 1 minute. Add 1 2/3 cups water, lemon peel, and 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt; bring to boil. Remove pan from heat. Stir in couscous. Cover; let stand until liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Fluff with fork; mix in cilantro and lemon juice. Season with pepper and additional coarse salt, if desired.

Spoon couscous into bowls; top with tagine. Garnish with cilantro and lemons.