Tag: Parmesan

Risotto with Fava Beans and Corn

Fresh corn and fava beans ready to go into the risotto // Serious Crust by Annie FasslerRisotto with Fava Beans and Corn // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Wowee! What a whirlwind it has been lately. A few weeks ago, Jonah and I were in Chicago for the 4th of July holiday, and it seems like from there, things got crazy. The night we left for Chicago, we applied to rent a house, and the night we got back we found out we got it! We are now living in NE Portland, within walking distance to Porque No?, Tasty n’ Sons, and countless other places. Mississippi and Alberta neighborhoods are a stone’s throw away, and I’m discovering a part of the city of which I had only scratched the surface. It’s pretty sweet. Be on the lookout for reviews of some spots in our new hood.

It has been a while since I gave you guys a recipe. This is one I made a while back, but it is just as perfect for right now. This past weekend, we went out to Sauvie Island to go berry picking – we have blueberries coming out of our ears! As well as raspberries, peaches, and a few ears of corn. The corn reminded me that I STILL hadn’t posted this risotto recipe! I’ve discovered that risotto is such an easy meal to make and you can really throw in anything you have around. Saffron? Sure. Squash? Yup. Mushrooms? Why not. But this was a great spring & summer risotto with fava beans and fresh corn.

Risotto with Fava Beans and Corn

Ingredients

1 1/2 lbs of fava beans, shelled and shelled again (to learn more about shelling favas, go here)
2-3 ears of sweet corn, the kernels cut from the cob
~4 cups of chicken broth (can easily be replaced with vegetable broth to be made a vegetarian dish)
1/2 cup white wine (Alice Waters told me (in her book) that if you don’t have any white wine, you can also use a light beer – I didn’t have any wine or nice beer around, so I used PBR… it worked just fine)
2 Tbl olive oil
1 small white onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

Instructions

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the broth to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low.

In a separate saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil, then add the onion, garlic, and salt. Cook them until the onions are soft but not browned, about three minutes. Add the arborio rice and stir to coat it in olive oil. Add the wine (or in my case, beer, because I’m classy like that) and cook until the liquid has been absorbed and evaporated, stirring constantly.

Now add the broth, one cup at a time (or one ladle full at a time). Stir the rice frequently after each addition, and only add more broth when the previous broth has been absorbed. When you have added half the broth (after about 15 minutes), add the fava beans and corn. Continue adding broth and letting the rice cook and absorb, until the rice is tender but still has some bite to it. You may not need all of the broth. When the texture seems good to you, add about 1/4 cup of broth, remove the pot from the heat, and stir in the parmesan, and salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Stale Bread Soup (Ribollita)

Stale Bread Soup // Serious Crust by Annie FasslerStale Bread Soup // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

I realize that at this point you might be sick and tired of hearing us harp about how great Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal is. But hear me out one more time. Everyone has stale bread. Or at least everyone who has bread at some point and does not eat it all eventually has stale bread lying around. And most of the time it gets thrown away, or responsibly composted. If you are culinarily educated, dear reader, you may already have known of stale bread soup; but as I read Tamar’s book, I was astounded to find out that not only does such a thing exist, but there is a long and ancient tradition of creating soup from leftover bread (Ribollita in Italian).

There are a few things that should be said about stale bread soup. First, it is not a soup in the same way that chicken noodle is a soup; stale bread soup is usually much thicker and feels more like a hearty chili. Second, stale bread soup is more of a general idea and a starting point than a recipe. It is meant to be made with whatever is around, provided you have some stale bread (otherwise, you will be making whatever-is-around soup – which could turn out to be vegetables-in-water “soup” if you don’t have any broth lying around).

The recipe below is adapted slightly from Tamar’s recipe for Ribollita in An Everlasting Meal. In usual Tamar fashion, you will use A LOT of olive oil in this recipe. We have made stale bread soup twice now, so I’ve noted the different things we used.

Stale Bread Soup (Ribollita)

Ingredients

Olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
Celery, if you have it (I did not)
salt
1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs like parsley or rosemary or thyme (if you don’t have fresh, maybe do 1/4 cup dried?)
1/2 teaspoon chile flakes
Tomatoes in some form, if you want (3 peeled fresh tomatoes, or I used 1 can diced. Made it once without tomatoes as well)
1 bunch leafy greens (I used kale once and cauliflower greens once; other ideas are swiss chard, collard greens, radish greens, etc)
1/4 cup water
2 cups cooked beans (I used a can of black beans both times, Tamar suggests chickpeas or cannellini beans)
2 cups broth from beans or chicken/veggie stock or cans of tomatoes (I used a combo of all three, and you can make up any shortfall with water)
1 piece of Parmesan rind (Do this if you can, because it makes the soup soooo tasty and rich. Also, what else are you going to do with your Parmesan rind?)
2 cups stale bread, crusts removed, torn/cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Instructions

Heat 1/4 inch olive oil (this is just the beginning) in a big-ish soup pot. Cook the onion and garlic (and celery if you have it) until they soften. Add the herbs and chile flakes and a little bit of salt. Add the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes over medium heat.

Chop the greens (and remove from the stems) then add to the pot, and add the water. Cover and cook over low heat until the greens are wilted. Put in all your broths/waters/juices and the beans, plus the Parmesan rind.

(If you have a bunch of Parmesan left, make sure to cut the rind from the rest of the Parmesan. Otherwise, just save the Parmesan rind for when you will next make bread soup. Make sure your Parmesan is big enough that you can keep track of it, because you’re going to take it out later.)

Bring to a simmer, then add the bread and more olive oil (Tamar says to add 1/2 cup, but I was not brave enough and probably added about a 1/4 cup at this point). Cover and cook for 1/2 hour on low, stirring occasionally to make sure the bottom doesn’t burn. The bread will soak up the soup and then liquify into it.  Taste it, add more broth or salt or whatever you want, and then take it off the heat.

Add in another 1/2 cup olive oil (Tamar, are you crazy!?!? I probably added 3 tablespoons here) and take out the Parmesan rind. You can grate Parmesan on top and add some pepper to serve.

This soup is perfect for a windy, rainy, cold, or dark winter/fall night.

Polenta Torta with Eggplant Sauce

Polenta Torta with Eggplant Sauce

Polenta Torta with Eggplant Sauce
Polenta Torta with Eggplant Sauce

Polenta Torta with Eggplant Sauce

Polenta Torta with Eggplant Sauce
Jonah, Sophie, Johnny, and Mo at the table and ready to eat!

Last weekend, our friends (and newlyweds) Sophie and Johnny were in town. Sophie and Jonah were housemates senior year of college, along with the lovely Maureen (Mo). So we invited the three of them (Mo, Sophie, and Johnny) over for dinner for a little reunion. Mo is a vegetarian, so I immediately went to “Plenty,” that vegetarian cookbook that we are quickly falling in love with. I found a recipe for some eggplant sauce, to be served on top of sweet corn polenta. Alas, it is not corn season, so I decided to use the eggplant sauce to make a polenta torta (recipe found in Alice Waters’ “The Art of Simple Food”). It was a really simple dish, and while we didn’t execute it to the best of our abilities (our dish was too big which made the layering hard) it was still very good. The mozzarella brought a nice pop to the dish, and was really stringy which I love. The eggplant sauce, as I said above, was nice and creamy. It was kind of like a layered pizza, except no crust, just polenta.

Polenta Torta with Eggplant Sauce

Ingredients

Eggplant Sauce

2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 medium eggplant, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
2 tsp tomato paste
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup chopped peeled tomatoes (we used canned, and I ended up using the whole can just to yield a little more sauce)
6 1/2 Tbl water
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
1 Tbl chopped oregano

Polenta

4 cups water
1 cup corn grits (polenta)
1 tsp salt
3 Tbl olive oil
1/2 cup parmesan cheese (freshly grated)

Polenta Torta

4 cups polenta (hopefully the above recipe yields 4 cups… we didn’t end up measuring)
2 cups tomato sauce (or in this case, Eggplant sauce)
1 cup parmesan cheese (freshly grated)
1/2 pound (2 medium balls) fresh mozzarella

Instructions

Eggplant Sauce

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the eggplant. Cook the eggplant on medium heat for ~15 minutes, or until it’s soft and nicely brown. When the eggplant is cooked, drain as much oil from the pan and discard it. Now add the tomato paste and stir it into the eggplant. Cook for about 2 minutes, then add the wine and cook for another minute or so. Now add everything else (tomatoes, water, salt, sugar, and oregano) and cook for another 5-10 minutes to let the flavors deepen. You probably want to keep the pot covered so the sauce doesn’t cook down too much. On the other hand, if it’s looking a little too liquid for your liking, cook it uncovered so it can cook down a little bit. At this point, you can set this aside until you are ready to use the sauce. I made this sauce the morning of the meal, and actually left it on the stove, covered, for many hours.

The great thing about this sauce is the creaminess that the eggplant brings to it. When eggplant has been cooked this long, it kind of falls apart, and I love it when that happens.

Polenta

Now, I’ll be honest with you: I didn’t cook the polenta. Jonah did while I was getting in my workout at the bouldering gym. So I’ll relay what he did to you, but I don’t have any insider tips because I wasn’t there. But here’s what he did: Boil the 4 cups of water in a saucepan. When it’s boiling, whisk in the corn grits and the salt. Now, turn down the heat and whisk until the polenta is suspended in the water and no longer sitting on the bottom of the pan. Cook for 30 minutes – 1 hour (the longer the better, according to Alice Waters), stirring occasionally. Don’t let the polenta get above a low simmer. If at any point the polenta seems to be getting too dry, add a little water. Once the polenta is all cooked, add the olive oil and parmesan cheese.

Polenta Torta

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Oil a baking dish (like I said, ours was too big, so keep this in mind when picking what dish to use), and spread 1 1/3 cups of polenta out over the bottom of the dish. Over the polenta, spread half of the eggplant tomato sauce, then half the mozzarella cheese, and sprinkle half the parmesan cheese. Repeat: spread 1 1/3 cups polenta, the other half of the sauce, mozzarella, and parmesan cheese over the dish. End with a layer of the polenta. Because our dish was too big, we only did one layer, which was ok, but it didn’t look as nice as it could/would have if we’d done it right.

Once it’s all layered up, you can put it in the oven for 30 minutes, or until it’s hot and bubbling. Allow to cool for a bit before serving and eating. Enjoy!

Pasta with Fresh Pesto

Pasta with Fresh Pesto
Pasta with Fresh Pesto

Pasta with Fresh Pesto

So last week I was in tech and then the run of a show. I had to make really quick dinners because by the time I got done nannying or doing whatever I was doing, I usually had only an hour to cook and eat before heading out to the theater. I pulled out the Alice Waters cookbook and looked for something incredibly quick and delicious. I came across a recipe for fresh pesto (which takes like no time at all to make), and immediately got very excited. Many years ago, a friend of mine named Sierra studied abroad in Italy. When she returned she came over to our house and made us fresh pesto, and man, there is nothing like pasta with fresh pesto. So, with that delicious meal in mind, I set out on my own pesto expedition.

Pasta with Fresh Pesto

Ingredients

1 lb dry pasta
1 garlic clove
salt
1/4 cup lightly toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup (or more) freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 cup lightly packed basil
1/2 cup olive oil

Instructions

First, you’ll want to boil a big old pot of water that has been abundantly salted. While that’s boiling, you can get started on the pesto. Now the cookbook said to use a mortar and pestle but a) who has those anymore and b) why use those when you have a food processor? If you don’t have a food processor, then I suggest you return to the mortar/pestle technique.

In your food processor, combine garlic and salt, pulse. Then add the pine nuts, pulse again until finely minced. Now add in the cheese, pulse again. Ready for the green? Coursely chop your basil, and add it to the food processor, and… you guessed it… pulse! Now add your olive oil and pulse again.

While you’ve been doing all this pesto stuff, hopefully you’ve not forgotten about cooking your pasta. The recipe in the book said to reserve 1 cup of pasta water and add it along with the pesto, but I did not do this… Mostly because I didn’t read the recipe (STUPID ANNIE. You should always ALWAYS read through a recipe completely before you make it). I think I just figured pasta + pesto = delicious, what else could you possibly need to do? Anyway, it all still worked out just fine. As I was saying, cook your pasta, strain it (reserving pasta water if you’d like), and put it back in the pot with the pesto. Mix it up and serve with a light dusting of parmesan cheese.