Posts tagged Meatlovers

Fancy Fried Delights

Spinach & Prosciutto Croquetas

Every month Williams-Sonoma, in collaboration with Tasting Table, orchestrates an event called the Sous chef Series.  At the Sous Chef Series, a new recipe/food item from a “hot new restaurant” is featured and demonstrated at all Williams-Sonoma locations across the country.  Because I am a closet fried food loving fiend, I decided to chase Chicken Croquetas at the swank Williams-Sonoma in Columbus Circle.

I walked into Williams-Sonoma and thought about how I could spend whole paychecks on any and all items associated with the making of food.  I thought about how I could honestly live in a kitchen.  Forget about the living room and the bedroom, I want wall to wall cabinetry, and island/butcher block fit for a queen, racks for pots and pans, an industrial stove, amazing appliances and a massive table.

Sleep.  I’ll sleep on an air mattress, which will fit snuggly somewhere between my butcher block and my table.  Or if the table is big enough, I’ll slide the mattress under the table so every night is like a camp out, wherein I’m tented and protected by the giant table.

I’m weird.

And so were the people at the demo.  From the super fit, coming straight from the gym for a deep fried delight, having offline conversations about how to make the rue low fat and what steamed vegetables to put in the croqueta (of course it would be baked and not fried) to the older and inquisitive gents that felt the need to tell the Chef giving the demonstration why she should create the croqueta differently from the recipe.  I mean everyone loves a heckler, right?  

Sure, I respect going rogue with a recipe, I mean I did…  
When I got home.
To talk over the instructor while she’s trying to do her job?  Not right.   

Demonstration: an explanation, display, illustration, or experiment showing how something works

Chef Lady Chelsea was showing us what to do.  Of course she was lovely and open to questions and willing to hear our ideas, but the way people went about it.  I felt like it was surrounded by 10 year olds, not adults.  I have my tendencies to act like I’m 10, but there’s a time and a place. And it’s usually in my office.  I respect and listen to anyone enchanting me with their foodie ways.  If I don’t enjoy something, I figure out how to make it better.  If I like something, I try to add my own spin on it.  If I know I’m not capable of doing any better, I copy it and give credit where credit is due.  Thank you for your expertise Ina Garten and Paula Deen.

I went home and made a gooey mess.   I followed the recipe exactly (all steps top to bottom), but replaced the roasted chicken with spinach.  I sauteed fresh spinach (9 oz. bag) in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 cloves of garlic (sliced).  I drained off all excess liquid from the spinach, let the spinach completely cool, then added shredded prosciutto to the mixture.  

The croquetas, as they were demonstrated, appeared to be an easier feat then they really were, as the chef had access to a fancy deep frier.  I wasn’t thinking about this in class.  My eyes were on the deep fried prize. I realized my life would be made simpler and my kitchen less messy, when making quantities of fried treats, if I owned a deep frier.  After hours of rolling and frying, I felt accomplished - but exhausted.  I nommed on two croquetas along the way - then packed the rest for Susana and Nancy - closing my evening with nom drop offs.   

Dare to go rogue and make spinach and prosciutto croquetas, a la nom noms, go your on way and try something new; or use the Chicken Croqueta recipe here.  

Wednesday, May 11, 2011   ()

A Marbled Meat Pie Masterpiece

Pizza Rustica

*Recipe follows story 

If there’s anything that takes me back to the Easter Sunday’s of my past, it’s Pizza Rustica.  

Pizza Rustica is a traditional Italian meat pie.  Imagine quiche lorraine on crack.  Or as Mindy Saraco, pork and cheese aficionado, put it: Pizza Rustica is like Lard Bread on steroids.  Lard Bread is meat and cheese stuffed bread and this is its dirty baked pie counterpart.    

Imagine a cured meat and cheese cornucopia which includes: prosciutto, sopressata, boiled ham, pancetta, provolone, ricotta salata, locatelli, mozzarella and ricotta – all baked into a buttery homemade pastry shell (with 12 eggs to bind all the goodness together– in the pie and to your arteries).  There are variations on the meat combinations (and the cheese too), but I went with what I remembered.  

When I went into my local pork store to buy the ingredients for the pizza rustica, I told the kid behind the counter what I needed and in turn he asked how I knew of the meat and cheese marbled madness.  I told him my grandma used to make it for Easter. His resposnse (in the softest Italian meets Queens accent):  keeping tradition is beautiful.  It’s nice to know.

I don’t really care much for holiday’s anymore, but I do care about memories of my family.  I’m overly sentimental and nostalgic; and I can’t write a card without composing a smallish novella on the inside.  I even cook when I’m not hungry just because I was reminded, at some point during my day, of something or someone.  

I went home and passed the time, quite slowly and with intention.  The Avett Brothers (Live, Volume 3) kept me company and received two rounds of play as I prepared the pastry dough, rolled it out and while I diced the meat and cheese.  Once the pizza rustica was taken to the oven for baking, I went with Wilco Being There.  Discs 1 and 2 were played all the way through the first round of baking, the pause to egg wash, the return to the oven, and the clean up.  Silence rounded out the night, when I was too pooped to stand - and just sat in my couch breathing in the smell of butter, cheese and pork becoming one.  

In years past Easter included Channon and myself, but this year there was a happy addition of Eve and Dikenta.  We four ate with my front door open, exposing ourselves and our meal to people passing by.  The sun shone directly into the apartment and on to our faces and plates.  We watched my landlord’s kids run back and forth.  We exchanged the standard Happy Easter.  I cut firsts and seconds of the pizza rustica.  Eve brought roasted cauliflower I could’ve gobbled on all night and Channon brought the makings for a marvelous salad and dessert. Easter Sunday was the most filled my apartment has felt in a while.  It was the most filled I’d felt in cooking in a while.  Everything about the day and the moments throughout the day felt real and fraught with emotion, reminding me of the good times I spent down in DC with Chris and Stef a few months ago.  I was sharing food with friends that understood where everything was coming from.  I was sharing food with friends that love a well prepared meal equally, if not as much as I do.  

Fourteen pieces of foil wrapped meat pie have invaded my freezer.  A freezer already packed with containers of short rib drippings, sausage swaddled lentils, pancetta packed ribolita, roasted vegetable tortellinis and homemade pappardelle.  

Every week I think about taking a break from cooking and grocery shopping and just eating what’s in my freezer, but cooking and the thought of it - even when I’m tired - makes me feel too complete to ever stop.

I hope you dig the pig as much as my family, friends and I do.

*I referenced a recipe from the NY Times and followed it strictly for the purpose of making a solid pastry and for method.
*After phone calls with my mom and my Aunt Jo, the filling was tweaked to meet the Corrado standards.
*Photos courtesy of Channon Hodge.  I was pooped.  I cooked.  Taking photos was too much to handle.   

Pizza Rustica

For the Dough

6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound chilled salted butter, cut into large pieces
5 large eggs, beaten

For the Filling

12 oz. prosciutto (1/4-inch dice)
8 oz. boiled ham (1/4-inch dice)
8 oz. pancetta (1/4-inch dice)
8 oz. soppressata (1/4-inch dice)
1 lb. fresh mozzarella (1/4-inch dice)
4 oz. provolone (1/4-inch dice)
4 oz. ricotta salata (1/4 inch dice) 
4 oz. Locatelli (grated)
2 lbs. ricotta
12 large eggs, beaten
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 large egg, beaten, for brushing crust

For the Dough

-In a large bowl, whisk together 6 cups flour and the salt
-Using a pastry cutter, large fork, or two knives, cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs
-Add eggs and knead for 1 minute
-Add about 1 1/4 cups ice water, a little at a time, to form a cohesive dough
-Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until it forms a large smooth ball, about 5 minutes
-Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 30 minutes

For the Filling

-Mix the meats, cheeses, the 12 eggs and pepper in a large bowl
-Heat oven to 350 degrees
-Divide the dough into two pieces: two-thirds for the bottom crust and one-third for the top
-On a lightly floured surface, roll out the larger portion of the dough into a rectangle to line the bottom and sides of a 10-by-15-inch glass baking dish, with some overhang
-Add the filling and smooth it lightly
-Moisten the edges of the dough with a little water.
-Roll out the remaining dough to cover the top of the dish with some overhang
-Trim off excess dough and crimp the edges to seal
-Poke several sets of holes across the top with a fork
-Bake for 45 minutes
-Remove from the oven and brush top and edges with the beaten egg, then return to the oven until golden brown, another hour
-Let pie cool completely before serving

Tuesday, April 26, 2011   ()

Get Stuffed, Even When You’re Alone

Gorgonzola Stuffed Olives Wrapped In Prosciutto

*Recipe follows story

Wearing red lipstick has become increasingly popular, but ladies with really red lips are still a rare find.  We’re usually busty, with pin-up-esque shapes and we include the Ru Paul’s of the world. Even when I see a skinny emo chick owning the red, I can’t deny her sassiness and boldness - even though I kind of want her to be a bit fuller figured. When I was down in Savannah, I walked into a consignment shop and was greeted by a cashier who told me it made her happy that I was wearing red lipstick.  She noted: women are afraid to wear red lipstick.  I walked out with a new dress, happy and pouty and completely unafraid.   

The other morning, on my cross-town walk to work, I passed the woman I imagined myself morphing into in 25 years.  The woman I hope I would be bold enough to embody. 5’6”, low cut blouse, open trench coat, black heels, moderately short skirt, silver hair and a perfectly rich red mouth.  She smiled at me.  The best and most flirty street smile I’ve ever received.  I looked straight  at her and returned the red lipped smile.  We even did the look back and the nod.  The nod. You know the one. That slight head movement that’s so fluid, where your eyes speak directly to the person you’re aiming at.  A look that can only be the equivalent to the likes of a military solute.  It was mutual red lipped adoration, without a doubt.  It was the nod of the secret society of red lipped ladies.    

I hoped I’d always wear my red lips that proudly. 
I hoped my bust would always be high. 
I hoped I would always walk fast and refuse to tug my skirt down when it rides up. 

Lady with no name, you made me proud to be big lipped and wearing red paint. 
Sometimes men give my lips creepy looks, and I want to wipe my them clean so they return to a pale shade of pink and become unnoticeable, but lady with no name - told me to be loud.  

When I was a kid, my brother would yell: move it cutlet lips, from across the playground.  Cutlet lips because my lips were so big they reminded him of a chicken cutlet folded in half.  My brother was no wordsmith, but that was pretty funny (or so I think now).  Lady with no name was telling me to remind my brother that I’ve grown into my face.  

In private I resent and embrace my lips.  I resent the fact that I can blow through a tube of a good red in one month, if I wear it daily and reapply during the day. I admire them after they’ve been kissed and they’re sort of swollen.

The other night I embraced my big red lips, and I began by suiting up in my standard after work attire which includes free boobing in a beater and giant pajama bottoms - but, unlike any other night, I did myself the honor of reapplying a strong red.  I wrapped prosciutto around perfectly oval gorgonzola stuffed olives and as I ate and discarded each toothpick, I took notice of the lipstick stain on each little piece of wood I pushed to the side of my plate.  

I then pictured the red halos I left around the mouths of men I’ve kissed.  Halos that extended to the center of a chin, bits of red on the lobe of an ear.  I’ve been wearing red for years.  Upon thinking about it, I like that I’ve had a mark - even if it went unnoticed by the recipient.    

And just the other morning my coworker said it looked like I was making love to my coffee cup. Red lipstick stains lined the rim of the lid.   Who says making love?  Ross says making love.  But he and his wife just made a baby, so that’s adorable and amazing and awesome.  

I then thought of the time Chris (Stef’s husband) let me take a bite out of his fried oyster sandwich. YUM, oysters.  But a fried oyster.  New level.  The imprint of my red lips stretched across the top of a perfectly white, round sourdough bun - and Chris was grossed out.  Yes, I was scolded:  look at that massive lip stain on my bun.  Yes, we all laughed and he nommed on.

And since I’m eating alone, I’ll wrap everything I eat in a stain of red and let my lips claim their very own space.  

Thank you big lipped red lipsticked lady with no name.   

Gorgonzola Stuffed Olives Wrapped In Prosciutto

*the amounts below are based on what I ate since I was snacking alone
*these olives would make a great little appetizer for a small party, if you care to re-se this recipe for company and bump up the salt and pork love

8 Manzanilla olives (pitted and butterflied)
1-2 T. good gorgonzola cheese (good gorgonzola cheese should be creamy and tacky and sticky and soft and NOM)
1-2 slices prosciutto (sliced thin and shredded lengthwise to wrap the olives)
Red lipstick

-Pit and butterfly olives, stuffing (or overstuffing) with gorgonzola
-Wrap in shredded prosciutto and secure with a toothpick
-Place on a plate and snack to your hearts content

*I enjoyed these olives with a side of homemade crostinis and a glass of wine 

Monday, April 25, 2011   ()

Lentils Don’t Die They Multiply

Lentil Soup With Sweet Italian Sausage & Escarole

*Recipe follows story

I love lentils.  I sort of have a weird obsession with them.  I have a lot of personal lentil memories, from school lunches my mom and grandma would pack - to making them for friends on various occasions.  Lentils make a great lunch, dinner and left over. One bag of lentils goes a long way, so it was always my poor college student special and they were equally functional (and tasty) when I was a poor receptionist after college.  

And, as much as I’m yearning for spring time love, picnics, parks, rolling in grass and cooking light and delicious goods, I’m eking the final uses out of my dutch oven.    

I know technically it’s Spring, but a chilly Spring night can still validate a bowl of lentils.

I also enjoy a veggie heavy bowl, so they stick to my tum and have a bit more heft - making them a super satisfying meal.   

Lentil Soup With Sweet Italian Sausage & Escarole

1 lb. sweet Italian sausage (decased)
1/4 c. olive oil (plus more for drizzling)
3 cloves garlic (peeled and minced)
1 lb. bag of carrots (peeled and cut into rounds) 
6 stalks celery (diced)
3 large onions (diced)
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes (PLAIN, no added spices!)
1 lb. lentils (sorted and rinsed)
6-8 c. chicken stock (depends on your own preference for soup thickness - add more if you want your soup a little thinner)
3-4 dried bay leaves
1 head escarole (cleaned, dried, roughly chopped) Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
Locatelli or Parmigiano for serving

-In a large stockpot over medium heat, heat the olive oil and saute the sausage
-Add onions and garlic sauteing for 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are translucent and tender
-Add the celery and carrots and saute for another 10-15 minutes
-Add tomatoes and the chicken stock
-Add drained lentils and bay leaves, cover your pot and bring everything to a boil
-Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 1 hour, or until the lentils are cooked through and tender
-Add in escarole, mixing into the lentil soup in small bunches
-Continue to cook uncovered for an additional 15-20 minutes until escarole is fully incorporated and cooked into the soup
-Check the seasoning, adding additional salt or pepper as needed
-Serve large nommy bowls drizzled with olive oil and heaped with freshly grated cheese

Sunday, April 10, 2011   ()

Sunday Gravy

Sunday Gravy

*No recipe will follow this story.  I can’t give away everything.  Jesus.

To close out the D.C. weekend of noms and friends, we (Stef, Chris, Matt and myself) enjoyed hearty bowls of pasta laden in pork and meat infused gravy.

The epic gravy that was served during my childhood was the dinner request. I was to re-make the gravy my mom prepared, religiously, almost every Sunday (when we didn’t switch it up with a giant roast beef or my other favorite sauce - Genovese - which will be made soon).  Whenever my mom cooked I would hangout at the kitchen table and watch. I used to sit in the same chair every time, the one furthest from the stove, so I could watch my mom prep at the table while still maintaining a well rounded vantage point of the entire kitchen.  As she chopped and cooked, my eyes would examine her hands and all of the veins that were so transparent under her fair skin, her nervously bitten nails, her beautiful gold wedding band.  Then my eyes would travel to her face, where I concentrated on remembering her expressions, her dimples and her smile because I missed her when she wasn’t around. I have these visions of my mom, cooking and wearing my grandma’s housecoat, locked in my head.  We didn’t get to spend a lot of time together when I was growing up, so I always thought watching her and sitting in the kitchen, while figure skating commentary chattered in the background, as our time. Every hour or so Louie would come barreling into the kitchen, ripping apart the leftover bagels from breakfast, and dunk the torn pieces of bagel in to the pot of gravy. But my all time favorite was when he’d put sauce on a giant serving spoon - dollop ricotta and grated cheese on top - then nom. Our kitchen was compact, but my mom made miracles happen in that little space.  

And, so, a chef I had the hots for a while back asked me: what is it with every Italian kid talking about their mom’s sauce?

I love my mom’s gravy because it speaks to tradition. Sunday gravy feels like home.

Sunday gravy with Stef and Chris was the closest I could get to an old feeling. The closest I could get to an old and familiar place.  While the meaty red goodness was cooking, Chris even doused pieces of bread in the pot of gravy. Unlike Louie, Chris left some bits of bread in the pot.  Louie would dunk clean and quick and get out of the kitchen - before my mom had a chance to notice. I love that Chris owned the gravy dunking experience.  

Stef and Chris understand because they’ve experienced Sunday dinner.  Stef grew up on Evie’s sauce.  For years Stef sat with me in the tiny kitchen and watched while my mom cooked.  She also remembered my mom’s love for watching figure skating. And when she and Chris got together he came to Sunday dinner and experienced the meal full throttle.  My mom, to this day, loves Chris (and still talks about him) because he never said no to seconds.

I discussed this post with my friend Oren - before publishing it - and he said it best: some things are just too personal to share.

The recipe can’t be shared.  There’s a recipe, or something like that, but gravy is an experience.  So, enjoy the large meat photos and know there’s some meat and ingredients missing (I didn’t have access to all of the goods in D.C.).

I may be free about my boobs, my emotions, and most of my recipes - but gravy is sacred. 

Stef and Chris watched me cook and, for the first time, I wasn’t even a little bit nervous.  Cooking in their kitchen took me home.  

Friday, March 4, 2011 — 2 notes   ()

Yes, I Said Pesto & Eggs

Fried Potatoes Topped With Pancetta Scramble & Pesto

*Recipe follows story

I had been fantasizing about pesto and eggs.  My coworker, Ross, doubted the delightfulness.  He looked at me skeptically and said: Pesto?  With eggs?  He wasn’t sold.  Um, I could dip my finger in pesto and call it a day.  I slather it on fish, pasta and giant ciabatta bread sandwiches.  Why should the egg be treated any differently?  

I let two days go by and, frankly, I couldn’t stop thinking about smothering pesto all over some creamy egged scramble.

I woke up yesterday morning, hopped in the shower, and thought about breakfast.  I didn’t want bread.  No bread for breakfast.  Eggs and bread, bah. Potatoes definitely, but did I want to bake the potato and stuff it with breakfast love? No.  No, I wanted to fry them.  I wanted fried little rounds of red potato to jump off of my plate and into my mouth once smothered in pesto, of course.

I got a late start.  I never eat breakfast late, I’m a get up and go lady, but lately I’ve been loafing and enjoying my mornings.  I always enjoy my mornings, it’s been my secret to health and happiness for years, but I’ve been a little more relaxed and lazed about it.

And then Nancy called.  My love muffin of a friend was on my side of the neighborhood, so I invited her over for this nom exploration.  It was lovely to share the quietness of my morning with my good friend.  We ate, we chatted, Nancy then napped and I continued to cook.

Awesome Saturday, check.  

I’d also like to tell Ross - buddy, get on the pesto and egg train.
Don’t doubt.  Try it out. 

Fried Potatoes Topped With Pancetta Scramble & Pesto

Pesto Sauce (find the recipe here)
4 eggs (scrambled with 1 T. of half and half)
1 oz. pancetta (diced)
2 small red potatoes (scrubbed, skin on, sliced into rounds)
1 T. olive oil ( + more for drizzling)
Good grating cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

-Once your pesto is made, put it aside
-Heat oil, in a large skillet, over medium flame, and fry potatoes until deep golden brown - about 2-3 minutes on each side 
-As potatoes are done, place on a plate (lined with a paper towel) and drain oil
-Once potato frying is complete, lower flame and add diced pancetta to the skillet
-Allow pancetta to render for two minutes or so, then add eggs
-Eggs should be scrambled on low (so they  do not brown), cooking time should be about 5-7 minutes - pushing eggs around until rich yellow and fully cooked
-Remove eggs from flame
-To serve: place fried potatoes on a plate, layering with pesto and pancetta scramble, topping with slay, pepper, cheese and a drizzle of olive oil

Sunday, February 13, 2011 — 1 note   ()

Pot Of Gold

Polenta With Thyme, Prosciutto & Roasted Tomatoes

*Recipe follows story

Last night I came home from yoga all zen, stretched, belly happily digesting a lovely sushi dinner.

But there was no heat when I got home.  I didn’t bother calling my landlord because I thought the heat would eventually go on.  I was hopeful.  

12:40am came around and I had nothing.

I was reminded of cold winter nights in my old apartment, some 6 years ago, when me and the dude I was having slumber parties with would proceed to get completely dressed after having sex - and then get back in to bed.  Body heat cannot keep one warm, not in an icebox.  There’s absolutely no added body heat in my apartment these days, and I don’t even have Josie to rely on anymore.  I miss the additional heat of my 15 lb. dog.  I made a cup of tea and sat in bed, willing the heat to come on.

I woke up stiff and marginally crabby, but hopeful.  Martin Luther King Jr. Day couldn’t do me wrong.  Could it?  The mere thought of a day-off made me excited.

I jumped in the shower in search of warmth.  The shower started off like a steamy dream, but as I was closing the deal with my Gilette Sensor Xtreme 3 everything went cold.  I stood under the shower head, cold water dousing my body.

I was upset.  And in this time of need I turned to Netflix and cooking.  

The next course of action was to simply sit bundled under blankets watching I Am Love (Lo Sono L’amore).  While watching the movie I felt as though I was on the mend - even if the heat was only in my mind and burning loins.  I thought my tv screen was going to burst from all of the food talk, food shots, and the sex scenes shot in beautiful daylight.    

After the film, I was inspired to cook. I’m also happy I’m one of those people that always has something to cook in the house.  Leftover prosicutto and tomatoes from Saturday’s lunch would go to use as would the polenta I wanted to make and grill for breakfast.  

The polenta was so creamy and warm it was like sex - but in a pot.  I think Tilda Swinton and her young lover would’ve approved. 

Polenta With Thyme, Prosciutto & Roasted Tomatoes
*serves 4 

1/2 bag instant polenta (cook according to instructions) 
1 T. unsalted butter
2 T. olive oil
6 sprigs fresh thyme (remove leaves)
1/4 c. grated cheese (Locatelli or parmigiano)
1 pint cherry roasted cherry tomatoes (instructions below)
4 slices prosciutto

-Preheat oven to 400 degrees
-Place cherry tomatoes in a roasting pan with 1 T. olive oil, kosher salt, and 2 sprigs of thyme
-Let roast for 20 minutes until browned and juicy and then put aside
-Cook polenta according to package instructions
-Keep polenta on a very low flame, adding 1 T. of butter, 1 T. olive oil, 4 sprigs of thyme, grated cheese and mix well
-Remove from heat and prepare to plate
-Place 1/3 c. polenta in a bowl/on a plate, lay prosciutto over polenta and spoon tomatoes over top

Nom and be happy, even if your apartment is cold.  

Sunday, January 16, 2011 — 1 note   ()

The Lingering Taste Of Pork And Love


*Recipe follows story

They looked so content in the pot as they sweat out their scent in an olive oil bath.  As the fat rendered from the pancetta the onions became translucent, oily, glossy, and more beautiful than ever. The combined smell swaddled my apartment.  Pancetta and onions are really quite the perfect pair.

As I stood over the pot and stirred I imagined little speech bubbles emerging, as though the pancetta and the onions were talking to one another in southern accents.  

I can’t live without you.
You’re so salty and good.
Yes, but my saltiness would be nothing without your sweetness.  

It was cold outside, but warm in my apartment.  I let myself swallow the scent whole, and the sentiments that came from the pot.

The marriage of the pancetta and onions was complete, so I added most of the other ingredients.  I turned away from the stove and saw my brother sitting on the couch. He was so quiet I forgot he was there.  I forgot he was there until he said, it smells good in here.  Can I have some of that for breakfast?  I was so lost in the soup that I forgot I had to make him breakfast.  It was comforting to turn around and see him.  Every time someone comes over I take it in and hold on to the moment. Random moments from that morning are stamped in my mind.  

I continued to cook, breakfast on one burner and soup on the other, getting myself lost in this bizarre world of talking ingredients. Not only did I see speech bubbles emerging from the pot, but I devised this whole story wherein the carrots and the celery (French women) were upset because they didn’t meet the pancetta first…

There was so much going on in my head that breakfast seemed like a blur. 
And why were my vegetables Southern and French when I was making a traditional Tuscan soup? 

I listened to The Jackson 5 AnthoIogy while my mind strayed and this fairytale unfolded.  My thoughts went from the food and their voices to the book I had just finished reading.  In the book the main character is a young girl who discovers she can taste the emotions in the food she eats.  While adding the beans to the soup, I wondered if my aunts, uncle and brother would be able to taste notes of smiles, bell bottomed pants, dancing, booty bouncing, and a happier time.  I wondered if it really were possible to taste emotions what would this soup say about me?  

Tina’s a strange woman.
She thinks her food is talking to her.

If tasting real emotions and scenarios were a possibility, things weren’t looking too good for me.     

I’ve always thought about the way I feel when I’m cooking and how that translates into my meals.  No matter what’s wrong, cooking always makes me happy.  It brings me back.  Food, much like our vibe, like our scent, like our swagger - says a lot about us. 

Maybe it says too much.  

I can only hope they at least tasted love.

*adapted from Ina Garten.  Oh, Ina…

1 1 lb. bag of dried Great Northern beans (soaked overnight and cooked) 
2 T. olive oil
1/2 lb. pancetta (cubed) 
7 carrots (chopped)
7 ribs of celery (chopped)
4 medium onions (chopped)
6 cloves of garlic (minced)
1 T. red pepper flakes
1 14 oz. cans diced tomatoes (preferred no salt and definitely NO HERBS)
1 large bunch of basil (clean leaves and keep whole)
1 medium bunch of kale
2 quarts of chicken stock
1 loaf of day old sourdough bread (torn into pieces)
Freshly ground black pepper 
Locatelli cheese for grating

For Beans

-Soak beans, overnight, in a large stock pot
-Cover beans with water (about 8-10 cups)
-Put in the refrigerator overnight
-The following morning, remove pot from the refrigerator and set over a medium low flame
-Let water come to a boil and then lower the flame, salting beans and continuing to cook until tender, about another 40 minutes

For Soup

-Heat oil in a large stock pot over a medium flame, adding pancetta and onions
-Let pancetta and onions sweat for 10-13 minutes
-Add celery and carrots and continue to cook for another 10 minutes, until veggies are tender
-Add garlic, red pepper flakes and very lightly salt - cooking for another 3-4 minutes
-Add diced tomatoes and give your vegetables a few good turns
-Add basil and kale, incorporating little by little and let cook down - about 10-15 minutes
-Add beans and mix
-Add stock and let cook, lower your flame, for another 35-45 minutes
-As the final step you can then add the sourdough bread cubes and mix (I left mine on the side, as I wasn’t sure if all of my guests were into having bread in their soup)
-Ladle into bowls, top with freshly ground black pepper, cheese and olive oil

Sunday, January 16, 2011   ()