Archive for January, 2009


It is about 13:00 in the afternoon and its a balmy -7 degrees according to accuweather.  Earlier this morning it registered -30 below with the wind chill.  Yeah, yeah, I don’t want to hear it from all of you people out there in sunny CA or AL!  The temperature made me think of the song, WHEN IT’S SPRINGTIME IN ALASKA (IT’S FORTY BELOW) by Tillman Franks / Johnny Horton , courtesy of Dad’s Johnny Horton album I heard as a kid.

Since I have no desire to head to the grocery in this temp, dinner is going to be “creative”.   So soup, it’s what’s for dinner.  A quick review of the pantry showed some dried red kidney beans.  The bounty of the fridge showed zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, celery, parsley.  I have some tomato paste and beef  stock for a base.  The freezer reveals a smoked pork shank.  So I’m thinking, a vegetable soup kind of like a pasta e fagioli.  Since it looks like Italian night, I’ll bust out the bay leaf, oregano, thyme, and basil when I saute the fresh veg.  I’ll cook the pork shank with the beans and use the cooking liquid, and shredded pork in lieu of ground beef for the pasta e fagioli.  I probably won’t need all of the beans, so I’ll reserve some for another meal later in the week.

Well, that’s the plan.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  Beans are already soaking, and I’m getting ready to throw them in the dutch oven and put it in the oven on low.

Post dinner update.  Ummm, yum…  burp.  Here’s the recipe for the soup, with preferred and substituted items. 🙂

Pasta e Fagioli


1 bag dried red kidney beans

1 med. shallot dry skin removed, split

2 cloves garlic – skins removed

1 smoked pork shank

2 bay leaves

6 cups water

4 tbsp Olive Oil

1 med. onion – fine dice

6 med cremini (mini-bella) mushrooms

2 carrots – peeled, and diced

2 stalks celery – diced

2 tbsp tomato paste

1 clove garlic – fine dice

2 zucchini – peeled, seeds removed and cut into .25 inch dice

2 yellow squash – peeled, seeds removed and cut into .25 inch dice

1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes

1 Tsp Oregano  *I was out of Oregano! so I substituted dried mint.

1 Tsp Thyme

1 Tsp Basil

2 cups beef stock

3 cups cooked pasta   *cat shaped pasta cool and  yummy, but not necessary!  Use what you have, elbows, farfalle, rotini…

4 cups pork stock – reserved from beans cooking liquid.

4 cups cooked red kidney beans

2 Tbsp Fresh Parsley,  reserving 1 tsp for garnish

Salt – to taste

Pepper – to taste

Sherry or Port to deglaze

Parmesan Cheese to taste for garnish

Place dried beans in a large bowl.  Cover by 2 inches with water.  Allow to soak at least four hours.  Pour off soaking liquid from the beans.  Beans should be rehydrated.  In a dutch oven over medium heat add 2 Tbsp olive oil.  Once oil is warm and fragrant, add shallot and garlic.  Season with salt and pepper.  Allow to cook for 1 – 2 min.  *No need to brown the shallot and garlic.  Add bay leaf and stir.  Add pork shank.  Allow to cook for 1 min.  Add rinsed beans and cover with water.  Place in 225 degree oven.  Allow to cook for 4 – 5 hours.  Beans are ready when the pork falls off the bone and beans are soft, but not mushy.

Remove pork shank to cutting board.  With knife and fork remove meat from bone.  Shred meat and set aside.  Reserve 4 cups cooking liquid and 4 cups cooked beans.

In a large sided pot, fill with water and season with salt until water tastes like sea water.  Bring to a boil.  Add pasta.  Cook until al dente.  Drain and reserve pasta.  Reserve a portion of cooking liquid in case it is needed for soup.

Simultaneously, in another large sided pot over medium heat add 2 tbsp olive oil.  Add onion and saute until translucent.  Add zucchini and yellow squash.   Season with salt, pepper.   Allow to cook for 1 – 2 min.  Add celery, carrot, mushrooms and herbs.  Allow to cook for 1 min stirring occasionally.   Add tomato paste to sauteing vegetables.  Allow paste to brown, then stirring to incorporate.  Add seasonings oregano, thyme, basil, parsley (reserving 1/2 cup for garnish) and garlic.  Cook for 1 min.  De glaze pan with sherry/ port.  Add diced tomato and let cook down for approximately 3 minutes.  Add beef stock and pork stock  and stir.  Add beans and shredded meat.  Stir and allow to come to a simmer.  Add cooked pasta.  Let cook until simmering.

Portion into bowls and garnish with parsley and Parmesan cheese.

Makes 10 servings.  I portioned into 2 medium containers and froze half.  Then put the bean (prepared ingredient) and other soup container into the fridge for later this week.

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Salad daze…

I haven’t posted in some time, so I thought I’d try to throw this one out there.  As quick to prepare as it is to write about.  Inspiration came from the usual… fridge cleaning.  I overbought for the New Years bash, go figure.  So I’m using up the “prepared ingredients” a.k.a leftovers.  I still need to come up with something for the cappicola wrapped dates.  Although, they may not last that long…  Sorry, no pretty picture this time, the salad didn’t last that long. 🙂

Pancetta Shrimp Mache Salad


1/2 container mache blend – mache (lambs leaf lettuce, radiccio, frisee)

6 small cherry tomatoes – halved

4 brown mushrooms (mini-bella)

14 medium shimp – shelled, de-veined, washed and patted dry

1 piece thick sliced pancetta

kosher salt to taste

pepper to taste

In a small non-stick frying pan over medium to high heat render pancetta till crispy.  Pour off rendered oil into a small bowl, leaving about 2 tsp.   Pat dry pancetta and finely cut into small julienne then set aside.

Place shrimp in pan leaving room so they don’t touch.  *if you over-crowd the pan, the shrimp will not brown, instead the excess juices cause the shrimp to boil rather than sear.  After about 3 min or when shrimp are browned on one side, turn and brown the other side.  Remove from pan and reserve.  Proceed with second batch if necessary.

In a large bowl add mache blend, tomatoes, mushrooms.  Season salad greens to taste with kosher salt and pepper.  Toss with fingers to season mix.  Add dressing and toss with fingers untill all leaves are lightly coated.  Plate dressed greens on plate or bowl.   Place reserved shrimp around bowl and top with reserved pancetta as garnish.

Ceasar Dressing


1 anchovy fillet *from anchovy packed in olive oil

1 small garlic clove – fine dice

1 egg yolk

1/2 lemon – juiced

1 small shallot

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

kosher salt to taste

black pepper to taste

sugar to taste

6 drops Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese – finely grated ( I used my micro-plane grater)

In a medium glass bowl add anchovy and garlic .  Add a pinch of salt on top of the anchovy.  Work anchovy fillet and garlic with a fork till a paste is formed.  Add egg yolk.  Using a whisk, mix until egg yolk becomes light yellow.  Add lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, sugar.  Whisk in seasonings.   Continuously whisk dressing as the olive oil is slowly introduced in a small stream.  The oil will begin to emulsify and thicken.  Whisk until desired thickness is attained.  Add Parmesan Cheese.  Taste and adjust seasonings.

For those concerned about uncooked egg yolk – caudle  the egg by placing for 1 min in boiling water, then quickly cooling in an ice bath.

Notes:  adjustments will have to be made based on lemon juice, seasonings and parmesan.  Be sure to taste.  I like my dressing to have a lightly creamy texture and taste with a lemony zing.  The sugar cuts the sourness of the lemon and the parmesan rounds out the flavor and fullness.

*unblushingly ripped from http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/good-eats/hail-caesar-salad-recipe/index.html

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