Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Pasta with Leeks and Parsley

Ingredients: 4 T extra virgin olive oil or butter 2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed 3 large or 4 medium leeks (at least 1 pound), trimmed, washed, and chopped 1/2 red bell pepper or 1 tomato, chopped (optional) 1 pound spaghetti, linguine, or other long pasta salt and freshly ground black pepper 3/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves Prepare: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Meanwhile, put half the oil or butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot or the butter is melted, add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic browns, about 2 minutes; remove the garlic if you'd like. Add the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the bell pepper, if you’re using it, and lower the heat; continue to cook, stirring once in a while, until the leeks begin to caramelize, about 5 minutes. Cook the pasta in the boiling water until tender but not mushy. When it’s done, drain it, reserving about 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Toss the pasta and leeks together with the remaining oil or butter, a few sprinklings of black pepper, and all but a little of the parsley, adding a bit of the cooking water if the mixture seems dry. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Garnish with the remaining parsley and serve.


Wednesday, April 6, 2005

How To Cook Beans

Use Great Northerns, navy beans, or cannellinis. Under running water, pick over and discard any broken or discolored beans (or stones), and then soak the beans. One way to soak beans is to cover them with water and let them rest overnight (or at least eight hours). A faster way is to bring the beans and water to a boil and cook them for two minutes and remove the pan from the heat. Cover the pan and let it rest for one hour. Whichever method you choose, after the initial soak, drain the beans and cover them with fresh water. Bring to a boil and immediately turn down the flame to a simmer, cooking the beans slowly until they become tender, around 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or longer. Keep the water at a simmer, not a boil, to prevent the skins from splitting and the beans disintegrating. When beans are cooked, toss with a little extra virgin olive oil, season with salt, pepper, freshly chopped sage or whatever else you may have on hand.



Ingredients: 1 pound dry white beans 6 sprigs parsley 4 sprigs fresh thyme 4 cloves garlic 3 whole cloves 1 bay leaf 4 ounces thick bacon, cut into small chunks 4 Italian-style sweet sausages, cut into chunks, or smoky sausage like kielbasa 2 to 3 pounds meat: pork, veal, beef, duck or chicken salt and pepper to taste 1 large onion, cut into small chunks 2 tomatoes, chopped 6 T tomato paste 2 cups beef or chicken stock 1 1/2 cups dry white wine 1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs 2 T butter cut, into bits Prepare: Cook the beans as in the original recipe, but after the soaking, place the parsley, thyme, garlic, cloves and bay leaf in a small muslin or cheesecloth bag, and include it when you cook the beans. When the beans are cooked, remove the herbs, and drain the beans but reserve the cooking water. Set the beans and cooking water aside. In a large saute pan, cook the bacon over moderate heat for 5 to 6 minutes, or until lightly browned and crispy. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the sausage chunks to the pan and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the outside is lightly browned. Remove meat and set aside with bacon. Sprinkle meat with salt and pepper. You may use a mixture of meats. Add meat in small amounts to the saute pan, browning the pieces, then removing them to a dish, until all the meat has been cooked. Note: if you use a duck breast, you may roast it whole, then cut it into chunks. Add the onion to the pan and cook for 2 minutes, then add the tomatoes and the meats, but not the bacon or sausage, to the pan. Add the tomato paste, stock, wine and some salt and pepper. Stir ingredients, cover the pan and simmer for 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the sausage and bacon. Place a layer of beans in a large, deep casserole. Spoon some of the meat mixture on top and continue layering until all the beans and meat have been used. Be sure there is enough liquid in the casserole to cover the beans, using the reserved bean cooking liquid, if necessary. Spoon the bread crumbs on top of the meat and bean mixture. Top with the butter bits. Bake at 375 degrees F for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees F. Bake about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, breaking crust and mixing it with mixture below during first 45 minutes. If mixture below crust seems dry, add stock or bean cooking liquid 1/2 cup at a time when you break the crust. The cassoulet is done when the crust is golden brown. Serves 6


Pasta E Fagioli

Ingredients: 2 cups dried navy or pea beans 4 T olive oil 1 onion, chopped 1 clove garlic, minced 2 carrots, cut into 1/2-inch slices 2 stalks celery, cut into 1/2-inch slices 2 peeled tomatoes, chopped (or use 6 to 8 canned plum tomatoes) 4 cups beef stock 2 T chopped parsley 3 T freshly minced basil salt and pepper to taste 1 cup ditalini or other small tubular pasta parmesan cheese Prepare: Beans cooked and drained (if cooking the beans yourself from dried, reserve 4 cups of the cooking water). Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over moderate heat. Add the chopped onions and saute for 2 to 3 minutes, until the onions soften. Add garlic and cook another half minute. Add carrots and celery; cook another 2 to 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, beans and stock. Measure out 4 cups bean cooking water and add it to soup. (If necessary, add regular water or more beef stock.) Add parsley, basil and some salt and pepper. Bring to simmer; cook, partially covered, about 45 minutes or until beans are very tender. Remove two cups soup; puree it in blender. Return puree to soup; stir to blend it in. Add pasta. Cook 20 minutes or until pasta is tender. Add water or stock, if desired, to make soup thinner. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed. Serve soup sprinkled with freshly grated parmesan cheese.


Venison Stew

Ingredients: 3 to 4 pounds venison, cut in 2-inch cubes Kosher salt Freshly cracked black pepper 3/4 cup red wine vinegar 1 3/4 cup red wine 1 cup all purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon juniper berries, crushed 1/3 cup bacon drippings 1 pound cremini mushrooms, cut in half 1 yellow onion, diced 2 T tomato paste 1/4 cup minced Italian parsley 1 cup oil-cured black olives, pitted 1 cup beef, duck or veal stock Prepare: Put the venison in a glass or ceramic bowl, season it with salt and pepper, and pour the vinegar and 3/4 cup of the red wine over it. Refrigerate overnight. Drain the venison thoroughly and pat it dry with tea towels. Put the flour, juniper berries, 1 tablespoon kosher salt and several turns of black pepper in a small paper bag. Add a handful of venison and shake vigorously to coat the meat with the flour mixture. Use a slotted spoon to remove the venison from the bag, shaking off excess flour. Set the floured meat on a plate. Continue until all the meat is floured. Heat the bacon drippings in a large heavy skillet set over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and saute them, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, until their cut edges begin to brown. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the mushrooms to a bowl. Add the venison and brown the meat on all sides. Add the onion, and saute until the onion is very soft and fragrant, about 15 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, add the parsley and olives and return the mushrooms to the pan. Add the stock and the remaining 1 cup of red wine. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the venison is fork tender, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Taste, and season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and let rest 10 to 15 minutes. Serve 4 to 6


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