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.

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