30 March 2009

Spicy brownies


Do you know what? Teenagers do not, I repeat, do not, know what is good for them. (I can just see an image of the teenage me pouting and protesting in her dad's old army jacket and rainbow beads in the corner of my brain. Sorry, girl, you just have to deal with it this time.) The last time I made brownies for a bake sale, I made some awesome kick-ass peppermint dark chocolate brownies that no one ate. "We don't like mint!" they declared. "Mint and chocolate is gross!" decried another. No matter, the other teachers and I lapped them up. They were rich with chocolate and butter and mint, and were delicious. Those girls just don't know what they're talking about.

So when it came time for another bake sale, I decided that I was not, under any circumstances, about to waste some high-quality chocolate on them. I determined to buy a box mix. Mom used to make this Ghirardelli box mix with coffee and they were killer. I had something like that in mind when I set out to the store; luckily for my students, I went to Trader Joe's and aquired a box of their truffle brownie mix. I had also just bought a mini-muffin pan, because, really, is there anything cuter than mini-brownies or mini-cupcakes?

No. There is not.

So I swallowed my lofty make-it-from scratch ideals, and you know what? The Trader Joe's Truffle brownies were good. Like, way better than I had expected them to be. Point one, Trader Joe's.

But then, needing to bring something sweet to a party the following night, I decided to make brownies again, though this time they were going towards a more appreciative audience. Now, I know that I keep raving about this cookbook, but seriously, with a little work, the recipes are just about right. The authors have clearly put a lot of effort into making everything just right. I had made their brownies before, but then I saw a spicy version, posted on the Smitten Kitchen, and the nearly perfect brownies became that much better. I love the combination of chiles in chocolate, with the heat and tingle of the chiles ratcheting up the smoothness and depth of the chocolate. Slightly spicy, deep and chocolatey, and pretty darn delicious, I highly recommend them for your next party. I would also recommend using the best chocolate you can find, since there is quite a bit involved, and the flavor really shines through. If you like your brownies in a more traditional style, simply omit the spices.

Spicy Baked Brownies, adapted from Baked: New Frontiers of Baking

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons chipotle powder, or hot smoked paprika
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
11 ounces dark chocolate (60-72% cacao), coarsely chopped
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Either butter the sides and bottom of a 9 x 13-inch class or light colored metal pan, or put small baking cups into mini-muffin pan.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, cocoa powder, and spices together.
3. Put the chocolate and butter in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be room temperature.
4. Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat at this stage, or your brownies will be cakey.
5. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a spatula (not a whisk), fold the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.
6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes (if you're using a pan), and 25 minutes (if you're using the mini pans), rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it. Let the brownies cool completely, then cut into squares and serve (if using pan).

Makes about 38 mini-cupcake brownies.

25 March 2009

Birthday pie

When I was little, I had the same birthday party every year. I would have a sleepover that included my best friends, dinner, games, and cake. Dinner was always and without fail: soy chicken (which I know that I still haven’t told you about, but I’ll get there, I promise) with steamed broccoli and carrots, and rice. Then there was cake. One year my mom made me a Bûche de Noël, a French cake shaped like a log. (Honestly, I don’t remember too many of the other ones. I think there was a Rainbow Brite cake in there somewhere, but my memory of those years is a little shaky.) (Also, Bûche de Noël is a really beautiful cake, something that must be experienced, despite it being shaped like a log.)

Basically, what mattered to me was the soy chicken, and the fact that there was a cake at all. I mean, what’s a birthday without a birthday cake?


So the year that I moved in with Jeff, when March rolled around, it was only natural that I offer to make a birthday cake. Anything you want, I promised. Chocolate? Vanilla? Layers? You got it.

“Pie,” was what he said, not missing a beat. “I want an apple pie. My mom makes the best one. Can I have a pie? We can get her recipe.”

I was not thrilled with this idea. Who ever heard of a birthday pie? But what was I going to say? You can’t deny your best guy his birthday desert (especially after you not-so-subtly try to make him see the error of his ways and he insists on his right to have a birthday pie because it is his birthday after all). So I made a pie. (I also made a cake, to make myself feel better.) It was a perfectly good apple pie. The recipe turned out to be a keeper, even. But I secretly hoped that 2006 would be the year of the birthday pie and then we wouldn't hear anything more about it and could happily go back to cake.

No. No, no, and no. Apple pie is probably Jeff's number one most requested desert. So I took it to myself to learn to make a mean apple pie, and I think it's worked out. Jeff is happy, anyway. If you’re going to have a birthday pie, this one isn’t a bad one to have in your arsenal (Jeff would even argue that it’s really the only one that you need). It bursts with apples, and tastes like them too, unlike so many pies that call for too much sugar and washes them out with cinnamon. It’s quite good. If you make one, think of us.


And wish Jeff a happy birthday, while you’re at it.

Birthday Pie (Lorie’s Apple Pie)

2 pats of pie crust, chilled

6 cups apples, peeled cored, and thinly sliced (anything tart will do)
1 scant cup sugar (I usually cut it by a few tablespoons, but I like a tarter pie)
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ginger
zest of ½ lemon
2 tablespoons butter, diced

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Roll out one pie crust and place in pie pan. Be sure to leave a little overhang. Set aside.
3. Combine sugar, flour, spices, zest, and a dash of salt, and mix with apples. Tumble apples into the waiting pie crust, and dot with butter.
4. Roll the second pie crust and lay it on top of the apples; press crusts together into a pretty pattern.
5. Bake 50 minutes. If crust gets too brown, put some tin foil over it while it’s still baking.

21 March 2009

Cloud cupcakes


I have to admit that I am a late convert to coconut. I think it all stems from the time in 3rd grade when I traded chips for a Kudos bar (which is something that my mom didn’t buy), and I broke out into hives on the way home in the car. After consulting the ingredient list, coconut was the only thing that I didn’t eat with any regularity. So we blamed it for making me itchy, and after that coconut was considered a taboo food.

Looking back on it, it probably wasn’t the coconut, but something else, some preservative or whatever. But from that point on, I avoided all coconut and coconut products like the plague, which is really too bad. It took me a long time to get over the fact that I am not, in fact, allergic to it. (It could also simply be one of those childhood allergies that I grew out of like strawberries and blueberries. Thank god those are over. Seriously.)

As an adult, though, I love coconut stuff—flaked into a toasty granola, baked into a chocolate chip cookie, coconut milk-based Thai curries (man, I could eat those every day), coconut milk dals, coconut macaroons (especially especially especially if they are dipped in chocolate)—you name it. If coconut is a main player, I’m there. So when I saw a recipe for luscious-looking coconut-vanilla cupcakes, I just couldn’t resist. Vanilla and I, particularly if the vanilla is true and comes in a bean, get along like two peas in a pod. So to add it to coconut, and to make a cupcake that would be darling and white, well… I just couldn’t resist.

And you know what? These totally hit the spot. Creamy, fragrant with coconut and flecked with sparkling grains of vanilla, these cupcakes are like a delicious, dreamy cloud. Yes, that’s it. They really should be named Cloud Cupcakes, because that’s what they really are. They are in my book, anyway.


Vanilla Bean-Coconut Cupcakes with Coconut Frosting, adapted from Bon Appétit

reduced coconut milk
1 13-14 ounce can unsweetened coconut milk

cupcakes
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
½ + 3 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs
seeds scraped from ½ split vanilla bean, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup reduced coconut milk, room temperature

frosting
½ cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ¼ cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons reduced coconut milk, room temperature
seeds from ½ split vanilla bean, or ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
¾ cups sweetened flaked coconut, lightly toasted (for garnish)

1. reduced coconut milk Bring coconut milk to a boil in a large, deep saucepan over medium-high heat (coconut milk will boil up high in pan). Reduce heat to medium-low; boil until reduced to ¾ cup, stirring occasionally, about 25-30 minutes. (I had to pour it into a 2 cup measure to check at about 25 minutes, and still had a few minutes to go. I recommend doing this to be sure.) Remove from head and cool completely.
2. cupcakes Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 350 degrees F. Line 9 1/3-cup muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk flour baking powder, and salt in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Add sugar, bead on medium-high speed until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add 1 egg, beating well and occasionally scraping down sides of bowl. Beat in seeds from vanilla bean and remaining egg. Add half of flour mixture, mix on low speed just until blended. Divide batter among muffin cups.
3. Bake cupcakes until tops spring back when gently touched and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer cupcakes from pan and cool on wire rack.
4. frosting Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Add sugar, 3 tablespoons reduced coconut milk, seeds from vanilla bean, and salt. Beat on medium-low speed until blended, scraping down sides ob bowl. Increase to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy.
5. Using pastry bag fitted with large star tip, pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes. (Alternatively, top each cupcake with 2 tablespoons frosting. Using small offset spatula, swirl frosting over top of cupcakes, leaving 1/2-inch plain border.) Sprinkle with coconut.

makes nine lovely cupcakes

Lookee!

{UPDATE: I have also added the recipes from my other blog, which I started before this one became my main focus.}

Hi everyone.
I realized that if you ever wanted to find a recipe, the task may be a little daunting; so for your (and my) perusing convenience, I have made a little recipe list (see over to the left). If you have any thoughts on what I could do to make it better, let me know!

18 March 2009

Things that are a problem

1. When the store you usually get your main ingredient for your weekly fix of goodness says that they won't have any more until next month because they are waiting for a shipment from INDIA

2. When you are sick and tired and hungry, and you and feel like you want to fall over but you're not sure because you are a) sick, and b) hungry, and you're not sure which is the main culprit

3. When it's the first really drop-dead gorgeous day in MONTHS (I mean, MONTHS, here, people) and you are sick (see problem 2) and can't deal with being outside because of noise and sappy teenagers making out every which way you turn

4. When an article comes out in the morning's paper basically telling you that there are no jobs in your intended career and you start to panic on the train first thing in the morning, this of course right after seeing someone throw up all over himself in his sleep (seriously, he didn't even notice) and then to find it sent to you in your email when you get home, too

15 March 2009

Roll me over in my grave


I am normally the most picky person in the world about my mashed potatoes. Mashed potatoes, after all, fall into the category of UNTOUCHABLE, that is, we don't mess with a good thing. Jeff is always lobbying for garlic mashed potatoes, but in vain. (Let it be known that I have made them, twice, even, but you know... I just couldn't stay over on that side.) Also, mashed potatoes have to go with something hearty, like roast pork, or a roast chicken, or you know, lamb. Anything from which drippings you can have a good gravy (or even the pan drippings, who am I kidding?).

But then I saw that Mark Bittman wrote about mashed potatoes, mixed with bitter greens, and then baked into a goodness of potato loveliness. I picked up the article, then turned the page, thinking, "New mashed potatoes? Eh. No thanks." But then I kept turning back. More than a few times. I even saved the article from the recycling bin. So I went to the store, picked up some dandelion greens, made a roast chicken aaaaannnnnddd....

You know what? These are GOOD. I wouldn't take this lightly, if I were you--like I said, I am a complete and utter purist when it comes to mashed potatoes (warmed milk, butter, salt, roll me over in my grave I love mashed potatoes), and these are just good. It's like making a special green just to go with your chicken, but even better, because you don't even have to because your green vegetable is already in with the potatoes.

(Though next time, I'd skip the baking part, and just mash everything together on the stove... delish.)


Green Mashed Potatoes

2 large starchy or all-purpose potatoes (russet or yukon gold), about 1 pound, peeled and cut into quarters
salt
1 pound dandelion or other greens, washed and trimmed of their thick stems
1/4 to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
ground black pepper
1 cup homemade bread crumbs

1. Put potatoes in a large, deep pot and cover them with cold water. Add a large pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Cook until soft but not falling apart; start checking with a fork at 15 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain; meanwhile, add greens to water and cook for about 1 minute. Rinse under cold water. Drain well, then chop.
2. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Rice potatoes, or mash with a fork or potato masher, adding enough olive oil to moisten them well. Mash in the greens, adding more olive oil as needed. Sprinkle with salt and lots of pepper.
3. Put mixture in an ovenproof dish and top with bread crumbs. Drizzle with more olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake until bread crumbs are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Serve hot or warm.

08 March 2009

Close of the season


My kitchen was kind of quiet this weekend. Friday I made a quick dinner out of polenta, chard, and fried eggs (which, though sounding kind of atrocious, is actually fantastic and is definitely in my lineup of favorite quick meals), and then we had a Midnight snack down at SUPER TACOS, because, well, who doesn't want a Midnight snack of perfect, spicy-wonderful tacos de chivo?

And then yesterday was a dream dinner in Flushing: bubble tea, soup dumplings, and oh-so many dreamy things at Spicy and Tasty--pork with bamboo shoots, preserved cucumbers, crispy fish dish, stir-fried beef with hot peppers, pea shoots--which certainly seems like a lot of things, but we were five people, and we handily finished it all. Some of us did a better job than others. But when we're talking Spicy and Tasty, well, what I can I say? Dee-lish.

And then today... with the time change and everything, let's just say that we had a late start to the day, and then had leftover lasagna for lunch, and then, well, it was already time for dinner, but not before heading to Fairway to pick up what is probably the end of the season's Meyer lemons.

I love love love Meyer lemons. They are wonderfully fragrant--more floral, and less harsh, than your standard Eureka's that are available year-round. (For a reasonable explanation, see this article.) If they are in season, I will buy them and use them for pretty much everything that involves lemons. But they shine especially brightly in deserts that are lemon-centric: think lemon bars or lemon cake or lemon curd cake or you know, whatever. I will also use them, rather selfishly, for decoration--their zest is somehow richer, and brighter, than that of regular lemons, and they certainly smell great.

So I used mine in a cake, a lemon (lemon) loaf cake, which I adapted from my cookbook of the year, substituting my gorgeous specimens for the regular, and then making only half of the recipe (since two cakes in one sitting certainly seems excessive, no?), and then doubling the zest and giving a little more juice than specified.

(Meyer) Lemon Lemon Loaf

for the (Meyer) lemon cake
3/4 cups cake flour
3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch baking soda
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
zest of 2 (Meyer) lemons
1/4 cup fresh (Meyer) lemon juice
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
4 tablespoons sour cream, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

for the (Meyer) lemon syrup
3 tablespoons cup fresh (Meyer) lemon juice
3 tablespoons sugar

Make a cake
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heavily butter a standard-sized loaf pan, or line with parchment paper.
2. Sift both flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl.
3. Put the sugar, eggs, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a food processor and pulse until combined. With the motor running, drizzle the butter in through the feed tube. Add the sour cream and vanilla and pulse until combined. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
4. Sprinkle in the flour mixture, one third at a time, folding gently after each addition until just combined. Do not overmix.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 20 minute, reduce the temperature to 325 degrees, and bake for another 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.
6. Let cool in the pans for 15 minutes.

~Meanwhile~ make the (Meyer) lemon syrup.
1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the lemon juice and sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved. Once dissolved, continue to cook for 3 more minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
2. Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper and invert the loaves onto the pan. Use a toothpick to poke holes in the tops and the sides of the loaves.
3. Brush the top and sides of the loaves with the (Meyer) lemon syrup. Let the syrup soak into the cake, and brush again. Let the cakes cool completely, at least 30 minutes.

**Note** These loaves, soaked with syrup, will keep, wrapped in two layers of plastic wrap and frozen, for up to 6 weeks.

Spicy and Tasty
39-07 Prince Street
Flushing, NY 11354

Super Tacos
96th St. & Broadway, Southwest corner
New York, NY 10025

03 March 2009

**Addendum: UNfortunately**

Jeff would like me to add the last, exemplary unfortunate moment of last night (which happened way, way after I wrote that post):

UNFORTUNATELY, while cleaning the pots and pans from the giant mess that I managed to make, a large, blue pyrex bowl fell and smashed (I mean, SMASHED) into only about a bajillion pieces and managed to slice two of Jeff's fingers open, thus causing us to be in the emergency room from approximately 10:30 to 2:00 AM last night getting them stitched back up.

(Fortunately, the hospital is only 10 blocks away from our apartment.)

(He is A-OK. I promise.)

02 March 2009

Un/fortunately


When I was little, one of my favorite books was Fortunately, a story about a boy who spends a day in which both fortunate and unfortunate things happen to him. Each page starts with "Fortunately..." or "unfortunately...". Here is my version, for 2 March 2009.

Fortunately, I got a call last night at about 9:45, telling me that school would be cancelled today! I did a happy dance.
Unfortunately, school was cancelled because a major snow storm rolled into the area, not only bringing a good five/six inches of snow, but also some WICKED wind and slush onto the streets.

Fortunately, I didn't have too many things to do today, and was able to sleep in a little. Also, Jeff made me coffee.
Unfortunately, I did have to run some errands, including one to the library, who claimed to have a book for me and then didn't, and then out to the UPS outpost which was FAR and COLD and there was much WIND in my face.

Fortunately, when I made it home, there was some delicious, restorative soup from last night to warm me up.
Unfortunately, soup only goes so far, and so I've been kind of hungry on and off all day, not wanting to make more soup.

Fortunately, I had a whole stack of recipes that I intended to make today. These included chocolate biscotti, oven roasted tomatoes, and fried chicken (that would be dinner).
Unfortunately, I forgot after I made them that I don't really like chocolate biscotti. I think the recipe comes from the Ghiridelli Chocolate Cookbook (or another one of those cookbooks that my mother has had forever--this is also the recipe that she loves, I think), but I made a batch on the fly a few years ago, and but since I am a disaster at writing down/remembering anything about my improvisational forays, all I remember was that there was chocolate and a hefty splash of Cointreau. And no cocoa powder. This was not the biscotti I made.

Fortunately, I also had another recipe that I've been longing to make: Molly Wizenberg's Pomodori al Forno, from Bon Appétit. I made them once this summer, and have been craving them ever since (along with anything fresh and green; ie anything that's out of season).
Unfortunately, tomatoes are dreadfully out of season, and after this article in Gourmet this month, I cannot bear to buy tomatoes at the supermarket out of season. Read the article. Please read it. You won't want to buy tomatoes, either.

Fortunately, the recipe calls for canned tomatoes, in a pinch. So I get those going, stick them in the oven, and start to shuffle around the house.
Unfortunately, while rummaging in the pantry, a brand-spanking-new jar of brown rice syrup full and broke all over the floor, my just-cleaned jeans, and the kitchen rug (sorry, Jeff). Glass shards also ended up suspended in the syrup. What a pain to clean. Seriously, it was gross.

Fortunately, we will be having fried chicken for dinner, which will make up for any and all mishaps* of the day. I LOVE fried chicken, and even more so when it's made at home. I've had the chicken resting in its salt bath all day, and I am SO PSYCHED.
There is nothing unfortunate about that.

Pomodori al Forno

1 cup olive oil, divided
2 28-oz cans whole peeled tomatoes
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme or oregano
3/4 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoons salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh Italian parsley

1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Pour 1/2 cup oil into a 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Arrange tomatoes in dish, cut side up. Drizzle with remaining 1/2 cup oil. Sprinkle with herbs, sugar, and salt. Bake 1 hour.
2. Using tongs, turn tomatoes over. Bake 1 hour more.
3. Turn tomatoes over again. Bake until deep red and very tender, transferring tomatoes to a plate when soft, anywhere from 15-45 minutes.
4. Layer tomatoes in a medium bowl, sprinkling garlic and parsley over each layer; reserve oil in a baking dish. Drizzle tomatoes with reserved oil, adding more if necessary to cover. Let stand at room temperature, 2 hours.

Serve with baguette and goat cheese. Imagine that it's summer.

*Do you know what I like? Words that have "sh" or "ph" in the middle but that don't make the sound of that specific syllable. Like "mishaps" or "straphanger."

01 March 2009

To the kitchen

It's been a blogarific week. I made this tasty bread, this tasty granola, and this tasty fruit salad.

Unfortunately, that didn't leave too much time for making tasty new things, though I did have some killer leftovers last night, which I had managed to stash away in the freezer for a day when cooking just wasn't an option. (I know you have those days too. Who doesn't? I mean... yesterday we spent most of the day tromping around Brooklyn, starting in Williamsburg and then ending up in Red Hook, which as the crow flies isn't terribly long. But to quote my Uncle P.H., "WE ARE NOT CROW! We must take a longer route.") We did manage to end our day at Baked, though, the namesake of the delicious book I've been telling you about, and we had the a killer Coffee Crisp bar: chocolate brownie bar, smeared with coffee buttercream, and then topped with a chocolate-caramel-coffee ganache layer. KILLER, I tell you.

It was a good walk, even if it was a little cold for my taste. We saw the new, enormous Fairway market in Red Hook (Jeff and I could stand next to each other, an arm-length apart, in an aisle and hold out both arms and not crush products on both sides). And then just missed the ferry from Brooklyn to Manhattan from the Ikea launching pad. Which was a sad, sorry moment, let me tell you. But it was ok after all, since it was fairly easy to boil water for our spaghetti and meatballs.

And then, today, to the kitchen, for a hefty soup. Rumor has it that we are in for winter's last hurrah, at least a foot of snow. SNOW! I mean, come on people, please. Hot soup to have with bread, loaded with vegetables and dimpled with pasta, something hearty to keep out the chill. I mean, there's no snow yet, but... I would like to imagine that putting an offering of hot soup outside would appease the snow furies and they would consequently pass over my spot of the world. Especially since it's a nice, restorative soup, one that is jam packed with vegetables and is tomatoey and nice, and it was *almost* vegetarian-friendly! (Just skip the bacon.) With a dash of hot pepper flakes to round it out, it is a lovely thing when facing a wintry blast. I know that I will enjoy it, and imagine that the furies would, too.

Winter Minestrone, adapted from Gourmet**

1/3 lb sliced bacon (or pancetta), chopped
3 medium red onions, chopped
4 celery ribs, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch swiss chard
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 28-oz can whole tomatoes in juice
3 quarts water
1 head savoy cabbage, coarsely chopped
1 piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (about 3 x 1 1/2 inches)
1 19-oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/3 box ditalini pasta, cooked separately and set aside

1. Cook bacon/pancetta, onions, celery, and carrots in oil in a very large pot, probably the largest that you have. (Unless, of course, you have an enormous stock pot. Even then, it might be a good choice.) Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, while preparing the chard, about 7 minutes.
2. Cut out stems from chard and chop stems, reserving leaves. Stir chard stems into bacon/pancetta mixture with garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, 3/4 teaspoon pepper and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very tender and begin to stick to the bottom of the pot, about 45 minutes total. Hang on to the chard leaves, you'll need them.
3. Push vegetables to one side of the pot. Add tomato paste to cleared area and cook, stirring constantly, until it starts to caramelize, about 2 minutes. Stir paste into vegetables and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. (Paste may stick to pot, but don't let it burn.)
4. Stir in tomatoes with their juice, breaking them up with a spoon, then add water (all 3 quarts), scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pot.
5. Bring to a simmer. Stir in cabbage and parmesan rind. Simmer, covered, until greens are tender, about 40 minutes.
6. Coarsely chop chard leaves. (I find it is best to stack them one on top of the other and roll them into a fat cigar. Slice across into as many pieces as desired.) Stir into soup along with the beans. Simmer partially covered, about 10 minutes. Discard rind. Season soup with salt and pepper. If using pasta, stir in just before serving.
*Note: soup, without pasta, can be made 2 days ahead and chilled.

**PLEASE NOTE: This recipe makes a MASSIVE amount of soup. I would DEFINITELY go with a half recipe next time. You know how I ate some freezer leftovers yesterday? They have been replaced with a few tupperwaresful of soup.