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Entries in vegetarian (32)

Thursday
Sep182008

Tuscan Bean Soup


This is a traditional Tuscan dish made with farro and beans, both staples in Tuscan cooking. This soup is really hearty and paired along with a salad, is a complete meal. The beans, of course, are high in protein but so is the farro, making this dish a great vegetarian meal. Farro is an ancient grain that has been used in Italy forever. It's similar to spelt. It has a great nutty flavor.

The beans I've used are the best beans you can buy. Never heard of Rancho Gordo? You should check them out. This guy lives in Napa Valley and produces heirloom beans that are really outstanding. He has all kinds of beans from yellow beans and pinto beans to hard to find beans such as Christmas lima beans and flageolet beans. And if you think you've had good black beans, try his black turtle beans. You've never tasted such great black beans. I make vegetarian tacos with them and never miss the meat.

Tuscan Bean Soup

 

for a recipe only to print, click here

serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1/3 cup diced carrot
  • 1/3 cup diced onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1.5 cups dried white beans such as cannellini or Great Northern, soaked in water overnight
  • 6 cups Chicken Stock
  • 15 ounce can plum tomatoes, San Marzano preferably
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3/4 cup farro
  • Olive Oil for drizzling
  • Grated Parmiggiano-Reggiano for grating or shaving for garnish

 

 

Instructions:

In a large pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the vegetables and garlic and saute slowly, about 7-8 minutes. Drain the beans and add to the pot with the stock. Break up the tomatoes a little with a spoon (I use my fingers) and add to the pot with the rosemary. Raise the heat a little and bring to a simmer and then reduce the heat to low and cook, covered, until all the beans are tender, about one hour. Discard the rosemary.

Meanwhile, cook the farro in a small saucepan with water to cover and simmer, covered, for about 25 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Take an immersion blender (please get one if you don't have one and save yourself a lot of trouble) and insert into the soup and puree. I like to puree it just until it's thick and you have some small chunks of the bean left, not until it's perfectly smooth. You can puree further if you like. If you do not have an immersion blender, transfer the soup to a blender or food processor, blend and then transfer back to the pot. Add the farro and reheat gently.

Ladle the soup into bowls. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and shave Parmigianno-Reggiano cheese on top. Serve immediately.

You can buy farro here

For my recipe for Farro Salad (one of my favorites) click here

Saturday
Jun282008

Eggplant Parmesan

I have an Italian cousin, Laura, who lives in Turin. Her son Fabio speaks English really well and we correspond via e-mail. He sent me this recipe from his mother (grazie, Laura!) for the way they fix Eggplant Parmesan. It's what I love about Italian cooking - so perfectly simple and fresh.

Don't forget to salt the eggplant - remember my previous Eggplant Rolatini post? I explained the importance of salting the eggplant, not to get rid of bitterness like some people think, but to collapse the tiny air holes in the eggplant itself. If you like to read about stuff like this - the "whys" of cooking and the science of food, you should really pick up a copy of Harold McGee's must have book, "On Food and Cooking".   Lots of professional chefs refer to this book.  McGee has done an unbelievable amount of research on the science of cooking. It's a great reference book to have.

Eggplant Parmesan 

 

Ingredients:

For the tomato sauce

  • About 35 ounces San Marzano tomatoes (or canned if you can't find fresh)
  • 5 Tbsp. olive oil
  • some onion
  • some basil
  • salt
  • some water 
  • 2 eggplants
  • salt
  • canola oil
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Instructions:

Wash the tomatoes and squeeze them to eliminate the seeds. Skip this step if using canned tomatoes. Put the tomatoes in a pot, with the oil oil, salt, some minced onions and some basil leaves and 1/3 cup of water (skip the water if using canned tomatoes).

When the onion is well cooked, put the sauce through a food mill.

Slice the eggplants, put the slices in a bowl or colander and salt them generously. After an hour, wash the slices well and fry them using the canola oil.

Layer the slices in a baking pan, cover with the sauce, some basil leaves and the parmesan cheese. Serve cold.

Note: Laura says if you want you can make more layers and add ham and/or mozzarella cheese, baking it for around 20 minutes.

Tuesday
Jun032008

Stuffed Artichokes


Aren't these beautiful? These are Big Heart artichokes which I found at Papa Joe's, in Birmingham. They're much bigger than the regular globe artichokes in the local grocery store. These are special, but you can certainly make this recipe with globe artichokes, which I usually use.

If you've never prepared an artichoke before, give it a try. Once you've done the first one, it's a cinch. It's not as hard as you would think. This is a great vegetarian dish for lunch or you can serve it as a side dish.  The stuffing is really delicious and has a little zing to it because of the red pepper flakes!


Stuffed Artichokes

 

This recipe will stuff 2 large Big Heart artichokes or 3 regular Globe artichokes.

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups chopped mushrooms (use any kind you like)
  • large pinch of red hot pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs*
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup white wine

*Don't use dried bread crumbs from the grocery store.  Make your own, fresh.  Just take some sourdough bread, or any kind of bakery bread like Italian or French.  It can be stale.  Cut off the crusts and place the bread in a food processor and process until it becomes crumbs. You can keep these in a plastic container in the fridge quite a long time. They're much better than buying them.


Instructions:
First, make sure you have a really sharp knife. Have a lemon, cut in half, ready.

Slice the top inch or so of the artichoke off. These tops of the leaves are inedible.


Slice off the stem of the artichoke, so the artichoke sits flat.


Snap off the small, touch outer leaves near the bottom of the artichoke.


Using scissors, snip off the tops of the remaining leaves.


Squeeze lemon juice all over the cut leaves. This helps prevent the artichoke from turning brown.


Start pulling out the inner, purplish leaves. Keep pulling the inner leaves out until you expose the entire choke at the bottom.



Taking a small spoon, scrape out the hairy choke. Drizzle some more lemon on the inside of the artichoke.  Keep the lemon halves for later.

Make the filling:

Saute the onion in a skillet for a few minutes with a pinch of salt, until the onion is soft. Add the garlic and saute 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and stirring frequently, saute for 5-6 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes. Transfer mixture to a bowl. Add the parsley, bread crumbs and parmesan cheese.



Fill the artichoke with the stuffing mixture. Do not pack.



Place stuffed artichokes in a baking dish. Fill dish with water until the water comes up about an inch around the artichokes. Place cut lemons in the dish. Add the wine in the water. Cover with foil. Bake at 400 degrees for an hour to an hour and a half, depending on the size of the artichokes. To test for doneness, pull out one of the leaves and when the fleshy part is soft, it is done.