Sunday, April 22, 2012

Is This a Red Pasta e Fagioli?

Although I don't think I've ever met a soup I didn't like -- at least, not yet! -- my two all-time favorites are wedding soup and this soup, pasta e fagioli.  When I learned that Mr. Rosemary also loved pasta e fagioli, I was in heaven. I think part of my affection for it is that it just sounds so very authentically Italian!

He told me that it was his favorite lunch at a restaurant he often went to back when he was working in the city.  In Pittsburgh, an Italian restaurant close to his office was (and still is I guess) Costanza's.  He and his friend Rich (always at Rich's initiative, I'm sure; fast food would have kept Mr. Rosemary content)  would often walk the half-block (!) to this cozy little restaurant and always have pasta e fagioli.  I'm sure it was also Rich's suggestion that got Mr. Rosemary to try something like this.

Mr. Rosemary raved about it.  So, of course, I made it at home. The first time I made it, it was too brown and not thick enough.  I tried again.  Still, not the same.  So I'd quiz him.  It was close to an interrogation under a naked light bulb.  I'd fire away:   did it have white beans or red beans, what kind of pasta, did it have meat, any veggies.  I'd try again.  Closer, he'd say, but it wasn't quite "red enough."

Now I ask you -- is the soup in this picture red?  Although he said it was good, very good, it was just not the same.  So I'm torn:  shall I continue on my quest to duplicate his memory?  Or just be satisfied that I had made a very good soup that we both liked?  (Yes, I know the answer.)

I'm especially glad that I made this yesterday, because there's a big spring snow storm coming overnight and this will be ready for us.  And I thought maybe this was too much for spring!

Pasta e Fagioli
adapted from Rachael Ray
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 slices bacon
2 whole sprigs rosemary
1 whole sprigs of thyme
2 sage leaves
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 medium carrot, chopped fine
1 stalk celery, chopped fine
4 cloves garlic, chopped fine
salt and pepper
2 15 ounce cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup tomato sauce
1 quart chicken stock
12 cups cooked small shells
shards of Parmesan and chopped Italian parsley to garnish

Heat olive oil in a deep soup pot over medium high heat and add bacon.  (If I  would have had pancetta, I would have used it.)  Brown the bacon and add the herbs, chopped vegetables and garlic.  Season with salt and pepper.   Cook the vegetables until softened.  Add the beans, tomato sauce and stock and reduce heat to medium low.  Let simmer for about five minutes.  Remove the stems of the herbs and add the cooked pasta.  Ladle into bowls and top servings with cheese and parsley.  Makes about 6 servings.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Pretty in (Sorta) Pink -- Cranberry Cole Slaw

Have you looked at The Food List Challenge?  Just a fun little game to see how adventurous a food enthusiast you really are.  I thought I was, and I guess I am, if you compare my "stats" to the average joe.  I've eaten 64 out of the 100, but I sure never would have put some of them on my personal food bucket list!

Some of my answers were borderline; for instance, I've eaten rabbit, but not rabbit stew.  Some of the foods I wouldn't touch with a 10-foot pole!  Crickets? No, thank you.  Frog Legs? Yes.  There's nothing about urchins that attracts me at all, but I would like to try dandelion wine. Fugu sounds far too risky and haggis  just makes me want to gag, with or without a spoon. (I have, happily, sampled sweetbreads, however.  Go figure.)

All this is a roundabout way to talk about this very simple cole slaw, which I doubt would ever make it to anyone else's Top 100 anything list.  It's everyday fare, jazzed up just a tad.  A simple side that could just as easily go along side -- or in -- a sandwich as a hunk of steak.  It's on my Top 100 "everyday food made a little fancy" list.

It's neither overwhelmingly sweet nor tart.  But it has a nice crunch, both from nuts and cabbage.  And the cranberries provide a nice, sweet change of texture in the midst of that crunching.  

Although you can't tell it from the picture, I prefer to cut cabbage into fine, fine slivers for this slaw with a knife, instead of shredding with a box grater, or a food processor.  (That is, until I use my school teaching extra cash to buy a mandoline; and a new camera!)

The dressing for this is vinegar-based making it ideal for a buffet table or an outdoor picnic -- no mayo to spoil!

Cranberry Cole Slaw
adapted from a Recipe from Nancy Nicholson,
via Penzey's Spring 2012 Catalog
6-8 cups shredded cabbage, preferably a mix of red and green
1/2 large red onion, very thinly sliced
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon whole celery seed

In a large bowl, combine the shredded cabbage, onion, cranberries and almonds.  Whisk together the dressing ingredients.  Pour over the cabbage mixture and refrigerate several hours (or overnight) before serving.  Makes 10-12 servings.