Italian

Borlotti Beans with Sausage

Borlotti Beans with Sausage

 

I just love beans, any which way, and I’m always trying out new variations just to keep the dialogue evolving. And, of course, it is fall and a perfect time for cooking beans for some hearty cool weather meals.

Borlotti beans may not be as popular as many other bean varieties, but why not try something new. Borlotti beans, also known as cranberry beans, originate from Mesoamerica and first cultivated in Colombia. The Colombian caramauto beans eventually found their way to Italy where they are favored for their thicker skin, creamier texture, and nutty flavor when cooked. Fresh borlotti beans have a pale buff background color streaked with red. Dried borlotti beans vary in color and are popular in Portuguese, Turkish, and Greek, as well as Italian cooking.

Like all common dried beans, Borlotti beans are cooked in a seasoned broth until soft. A flavorful meat is often added to the beans to give them an enticing aroma as well as a tantalizing note to what would otherwise be a pot of rather bland earthy boiled legumes.

All common beans (phaseolus vulgaris) originate from the Americas and were brought from the new world to the old world by European explorers in the 1400’s. Like many other new world indigenous foods, beans were then traded eastward into Asia, and the rest is history.

For this recipe I have used a well seasoned local sausage, but an Italian, Portuguese, Mexican chorizo, or your favorite local well seasoned sausage will do nicely.

When fall rolls around there is nothing quite like a hearty piping hot bowl of well seasoned beans to satisfy the appetite.

 

Borlotti Beans with Sausage   serves 4

A cooks note: I like to make this recipe a day in advance which allows the flavors to develop and meld together.

  • 1 pound well spiced sausage, cut into 6 inch lengths
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil + additional for finishing
  • 1 ½ cups chopped yellow onions
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly slice
  • 3 fresh jalapeno chilies seeded and diced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 quart cooked borlotti beans For cooking beans (click here)  or 3  400 g canned Borlotti
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon toasted cumin seeds, ground
  • a pinch of ground clove
  • 2 quarts stock or water as needed
  • 1 bunch collard greens, leaves only with center ribs removed and leaves chopped
  • sea salt to taste
  • ¾ teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika (optional)

 

Place a medium sized stock pot on the stove top over medium flame. When hot add the oil. When the oil is nearly smoking add the sausage and deeply brown on all sides. Transfer the browned sausage to a plate and set aside.

Add the onions to the pot and saute, stirring continuously, until soft and translucent, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to saute 1 minute. Then add the jalapenos and red peppers and saute, stirring continuously, until the peppers are wilted, about 4 minutes.

Clear a well in the center of the pot, add the tomato paste and press it against the bottom of the pot to caramelize it, about 2 minutes. Then stir in the beans and add the bay leaves, oregano, cumin seeds, and the clove and stir all the ingredients until well combined.

Promptly add enough stock or water to cover the contents with an inch to spare and stir well. Bring the contents to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Meanwhile cut the browned sausage into ½ inch rounds and set aside.

Add the chopped collard greens, the sausage, and additional stock or water if needed. Bring back to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.

Taste and add salt to your liking as well as the paprika if using and stir to combine.

At this point the beans and sausage are ready to serve. That said, as mentioned, you may want to transfer the beans to several containers and refrigerate overnight. Be sure to reserve stock for reheating.

Serving:

slowly reheat the beans and sausage and simmer for several minutes, adding some stock or water if needed. Be sure the beans and sausage are piping hot just before serving.

Ladle the beans, sausage, and broth into individual shallow bowls, stirring in a drizzle of olive oil into each just before serving.

Serve with crusty warmed bread or focaccia.

Greek Green Goddess Salad

Greek Green Goddess Salad

 

There is nothing quite like the crisp fresh flavors that you find in a Greek salad. A classic to be sure and not to be messed with, but trying an alternative to an oil and vinegar dressing wouldn’t be construed as culinary heresy would it? Certainly not my intention.

But I have been playing around with some tried and true good old American salad dressing recipes over the summer. I have to say a green goddess dressing using fresh herbs is about as robust and tantalizing as any salad dressing you will ever make. The original recipe was created at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco in 1923 that was inspired by a recipe created by Louis XIII chef. If that doesn’t give this dressing any pedigree, Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty, surely does.

Cutting to the chase, adding a salty goat’s milk feta cheese into the green goddess dressing mix really ups the flavor quotient and adds a zesty background that accentuates the freshness of the green herbs. A Greek salad dressed with this savory green sauce seemed duly apropos.

Ideally this dressing should be made a day in advance so that there is time for the flavors to meld together and bloom.

 

Greek Green Goddess Dressing:    makes 2 cups

  • 4 oz Greek goat’s milk Feta cheese ( or sheep’s milk feta), at room temperature, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh oregano leaves + whole leaves for garnishing
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh lemon thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh flat leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons buttermilk + more for thinning
  • 4 twists of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup full fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely grated (microplaned), about 2 teaspoons
  • ½ teaspoon anchovy paste (or ¾ teaspoon fish sauce)
  • ½ teaspoon honey
  • sea salt to taste

You may question the use of fish sauce in lieu of anchovy paste in this recipe, but both the Greeks and the Romans developed and used fermented fish sauces to flavor their foods. It is that fifth taste in addition to sweet, salty, sour, and bitter that has brought flavor to life in the Mediterranean and Asian cultures since ancient times. A staple in my kitchen!

I prefer using a food processor for combining the feta with herbs, vinegar, lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons of butter milk for a smoother base for the dressing. That said you may do this by hand, but be sure the herbs are very, very, finely minced.

Place the crumbled feta, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, oregano, lemon thyme, parsley, and chives in the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine the ingredients, stopping from time to time to scrape down the sides of the work bowl. Continue until the mixture holds together into a very thick paste. Scrape the mixture into the bottom of the work bowl and add 2 tablespoons of buttermilk. Process for a minute or two until the mixture is nearly smooth.

Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl and add the freshly ground pepper, the Greek yogurt, grated garlic, anchovy paste (or fish sauce), and the honey and stir until all the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated.

At this point the dressing will be quite thick and may require thinning with some additional buttermilk, stirred into the mixture a tablespoon at a time, until the dressing is the consistency of chilled Greek Yogurt. Keep in mind the consistency of the dressing will firm up when refrigerated as well.

Taste the dressing and add additional salt if needed and stir until completely incorporated into the dressing. Transfer the dressing to a glass jar, close tightly with lid, and refrigerate overnight. The dressing will keep for about a week refrigerated.

For the salad:

  • romaine lettuce leaves, torn
  • head lettuce (iceberg), torn
  • radicchio leaves, torn into thin strips
  • wild arugula leaves, stems removed
  • cherry tomatoes, or sliced vine ripe tomatoes, seeded
  • cucumbers, seeded and cut into bite size pieces
  • red onions, thinly sliced into rings
  • black calamata olives, pitted

Combine the leafy salad greens along with most of the tomatoes, cucumbers, and onion slices in a large salad bowl. Reserve the remaining tomatoes, cucumbers, and onion slices to garnish the salad later.

Spoon some dressing over the contents of the bowl and toss until all the contents are evenly coated with dressing.

Serving:

Transfer the dressed salad to a large platter or to individual salad bowls. Top with the remaining tomatoes, cucumbers, and red onion rings. Add small dollops of dressing over the salad and top with the pitted olives. Garnish with fresh oregano leaves and serve. Serve with additional dressing in a bowl on the table as well as a pepper mill.

Beet Root Salad with Mango and a Cashew Dressing

Beet Root Salad with Mango and a Cashew Dressing

 

This is an unexpected salad pairing that I recently discovered at Pulcinella da Stefano, or Stefano’s as we locals call it here in Chiang Mai. Contrary to what you may think, the earthy flavor of roasted beets paired with the sunny topical flavor of mango is a match made in…well, paradise. Beet root is locally grown here in Thailand and available year round as are many varieties of mango. Adding some locally grown figs, grapes, and dressing this salad with a smooth nutty cashew vinaigrette is the perfect flourish to bring this  salad with a tropical twist to life.

The recipe that follows is my interpretation of Stefano’s salad but open to variations centered around local and seasonal produce available where you live. Mangoes can usually be found in specialty food stores as well as Asian markets.

Pulcinella da Stefano Italian restaurant is a long standing favorite for locals here in Chiang Mai as well as visitors from abroad. Conveniently located near Thaphae Gate and well worth a visit!

 

Beet Root Salad with Mango and a Cashew Vinaigrette 

 

Ingredients:

Prepare in advance:

Suggested selection of salad greens: romaine (cos), red oak leaf, butter head bib lettuce, radicchio , wild arugula (rocket), watercress, and Italian basil leaves as a garnish.

Beets: Roast and prepare the beets in advance.

Fruits: a fresh ripe mango, fresh figs, and seedless red grapes.

Ricotta cheese: (see homemade recipe here)

Cashews: lightly roasted. 

 

Roasted Beets:        Preheat oven to 400F/210C

Wash 4 medium size beets and pat dry, leaving the skin on. Place the beets along with a small sliced red onion in a baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Cover the baking pan with foil and seal tightly around the edges. Place in the oven and roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the beets are tender; testing by inserting a sharp knife easily into the center of the largest beet.

When tender remove the beets from the oven and set aside to cool, leaving the foil on until the beets are cool enough to handle. Then slip the skins off the beets and trim the stem and roots off the top and bottom. Cut the beets in half lengthwise and slice each half into thin slices. Place in a bowl along with the onions. Drizzle with olive oil, lightly season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Assemble your salad greens selection in a bowl and toss. Cover and refrigerate.

Peel the mango, slice into bite size strips, cover and refrigerate.

Cashew Vinaigrette: makes 1 cup

  • ½ cup lightly roasted cashews, divided
  • 2 plump garlic cloves, dry roasted, peeled, and finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons good quality white wine vinegar
  • ¾ teaspoon sea salt + more to taste
  • several twists of ground white pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon red chile powder (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon honey
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 to 3 tablespoons cold water

place 1/3 cup roasted cashews, garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, pepper, chile powder (if using), and honey in a food processor or blender. Process until the mixture relatively smooth. Then, with the machine running add the olive oil in a slow steady stream and continue to process until the dressing is smooth, emulsified, and thick. To thin the dressing, add 1 tablespoon of cold water at a time and pulse until incorporated into the dressing. Repeat this process until the dressing is the consistency of heavy cream. Cover and refrigerate until you are ready to dress the salad greens.

Assembling the salad:

Lightly dress the salad greens and transfer them to individual shallow salad plates.

Place beet slices along with some onions on top or the greens.

Place sliced mango between the beets,

Tuck fresh basil leaves into the salad here and there.

Then add small clusters of ricotta next to the basil leaves.

Place the halved figs and grapes towards the edge of the salad.

Lightly drizzle just a bit more dressing over the salad.

Slice the remaining cashews in half lengthwise and skater over the salads.

Add a light twist of black pepper and serve.

Angel Hair with Asparagus and Lemon

 

In Italian  capelli d’angelo con asparagi e limone  has such a lovely melodic lilt to it that conjures up sun drenched plates of pasta bursting with all the essential fresh flavors of a summery pasta served up in the Italian countryside. Italians have such a lovely way with food that deliciously captures elegance in simplicity.

This is a very simple dish to prepare and an ideal way to take full advantage of summer’s farm to table garden fresh herbs and produce. I have included chicken in this recipe, but is entirely optional. This is a pasta that shines either way.

 

Angel Hair with Asparagus, Lemon, and Fresh Herbs  Serves 4

  • 2 plump chicken breasts, poached (optional)
  • 12 oz organic young asparagus stalks, trimmed, steamed, and cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 6 oz dry angel hair pasta
  • 1/3 cup good quality Italian olive oil
  • 2 lemons, zest and juice
  • ¾ cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled, thinly sliced lengthwise, and again crosswise
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced Italian parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons whole baby mint leaves
  • wild rocket (arugula) leaves

If you plan to include poached chicken in the recipe prepare it in advance. Fill a medium sauce pan three quarters full of water. Bring water to a full boil, add a teaspoon of salt, and put the breasts in the pot. Bring back to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook about 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, cover with a lid, and set aside for 30 minutes. Then transfer breasts to a bowl to cool. When cool enough to handle, pull the meat apart into bite size strips. Place in a bowl, cover with cooking broth, and set aside, or cover and refrigerate for later use.

Likewise steam the asparagus in advance. Place the trimmed asparagus in a steamer tray, cover and steam until the asparagus is tender, but not limp. Allow to cool, then cut into 2 inch pieces and set aside.

Place a stock pot three quarters full of water on the stove over high heat and bring to a full boil. Lower the heat to a low simmer and hold until you are ready to cook the pasta.

While the water is heating combine the olive oil, about three quarters of the lemon juice, and the Parmigiano in a mixing bowl. Whisk until well combined and the cheese is incorporated. Taste and season with salt and pepper, and more lemon juice if needed to taste. Set aside.

When ready to cook the pasta turn the heat back up to high. When the water reaches a rolling boil add a tablespoon of salt. Stir and add  the angel hair. Stir until the pasta separates and floats freely in the boiling water. Cook about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring now and again, until the pasta is al dente.  Drain the pasta in a colander just before you are ready to combine it  with the sauce .

Place a large skillet over medium heat and add the butter. Once the butter is melted and bubbling add the garlic and saute 1 minute. Then add the poached chicken and saute 3 minutes. Add the asparagus and toss. Reduce the heat to low and pour the olive oil lemon juice cheese sauce over all and toss 1 minute. Add the drained pasta and toss until evenly coated with sauce. Add the parsley, mint leaves, about a tablespoon of lemon zest, and toss until well to combined. Taste and season as needed.

Angel Hair with Asparagus and Lemon

Angel Hair with Asparagus and Lemon

Serving:

Transfer the pasta to a large serving bowl or individual pasta plates. Try to arrange most of the asparagus on top of the pasta. Place wild rocket on top in the center, add some lemon zest and serve! The pasta needn’t be piping hot. Warm rather than hot brings out the freshness of the combined flavors.

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