February 25, 2010

spicy broccoli rabe

The easy way to broccoli rabe nirvana, no blanching required.

That's right, no blanching. Instead of blanching and then briefly sauteing the rabe, I saute it first in garlic- and hot pepper-infused olive oil, followed by a quick steam/braise to cook it through. The result is broccoli rabe that is succulent and tender, its bitter bite mellowed but still intact, with a spicy kick of garlic and pepper.

spicy broccoli rabe

2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 to 1 tsp red pepper flakes (depending on your heat preference)
1 bunch of broccoli rabe, washed, tough stem ends removed, and roughly chopped
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
To finish: good-quality xvoo and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Maldon sea salt
  1. Heat 2 Tbsp xvoo in a large, heavy-bottomed pot with a lid over medium-high heat.
  2. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and saute for about 1 minute, until garlic is fragrant and beginning to take on a golden hue.
  3. Gradually add broccoli rabe, a couple of handfuls at a time, stirring to coat with oil. Once all rabe has been added, toss in a large pinch of salt. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until rabe is wilted.
  4. Add a splash of water (about 2 Tbsp), cover pot, and reduce heat to low. Cook for about 10 minutes, until rabe is tender. If at this point the rabe is too bitter for your taste (some bunches are more bitter than others), add another splash of water and cook 5 to 10 minutes more. Otherwise, uncover pot and cook for another minute or 2 to allow remaining water to evaporate.
  5. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Serve drizzled with good xvoo and sprinkled with grated Parmigiano or Maldon sea salt.

February 23, 2010

gingery aduki bean soup

I first met the aduki bean while studying at the Natural Gourmet Institute. This little red bean is a mainstay of Asian - particularly Japanese - cooking, and features prominently in macrobiotics as well. Azukis aid in detoxification and are considered particularly beneficial for the kidneys; some drink their cooking liquid for its therapeutic properties. They are earthy, slightly sweet, and creamy in texture: wonderful in a variety of dishes, even desserts.

I was looking through my cookbooks for an aduki bean soup recipe, and found an excellent one in Annemarie Colbin's book The Natural Gourmet (Annemarie is also the founder of the Natural Gourmet school), which includes turnips and carrots and is finished with a healthy dose of ginger. I basically followed her recipe, with the additions of garlic and umeboshi vinegar. The soup turned out thick and hearty, and with a warm kick from the grated ginger: perfect for a cold day.

gingery aduki bean and root vegetable soup

1 cup dried aduki beans
5 cups water
1 4 to 6 inch piece dried kombu (kelp)
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large or 2 small shallots, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
1-2 small to medium turnips, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
2 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
1 to 1-1/2 Tbsp umeboshi (ume plum) vinegar, to taste
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Chopped scallions, for garnish
  1. Rinse the beans and place them in a large soup pot. Add the water, kombu, and 1/2 tsp salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium (you want it at a lively boil so the beans move around and cook evenly, but not threatening to boil over), cover, and cook until beans are tender, about 45 minutes.
  2. While beans are cooking, heat oil in a separate pan over medium heat. Cook shallots and garlic for a few minutes, until softened and beginning to take on a golden hue. Add carrots and turnips and cook for a few more minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are lightly caramelized.
  3. When beans are tender, add sauteed vegetables to soup pot. Deglaze the saute pan with a ladleful of bean cooking liquid and return liquid to the pot, scraping up the brown bits. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, until beans and vegetables are tender and soup is thickened.
  4. Turn off heat and add grated ginger, umeboshi vinegar, and black pepper, to taste. Garnish each serving with chopped scallions.
Changes made on 2/24/10 are in italics.

February 22, 2010

a good egg

This is how I like my hard-boiled eggs.

Firm white, yolk cooked through but still moist and just a tad translucent in the very center. Nothing worse than a dry yolk.
I add the eggs to a pot of boiling water, cover the pot, and turn off the heat. Let sit for 15 minutes (for a large egg), drain off the water, and cover with cold water for a few minutes to halt the cooking.
I ate this egg with millet and quickly braised red chard. Drizzled everything with good olive oil after picture taking and before eating.

February 21, 2010

A very humble soup

To tell the truth, I wasn't going to write a post about this soup.

I made it a few nights ago after work, when I had been longing for a simple, comforting bowl of veggie and lentil soup for dinner. The standard onion, garlic, carrot, and celery went into my faux Le Creuset, along with green lentils, and herbes de Provence and red pepper flakes to give it a little zing. Collards and parsley because I love my greens. Fresh lemon juice, just because when does it ever hurt? And this soup completely fit the bill. Quite nice, I thought at the time, but perhaps nothing to write home about.

Then I reheated it for lunch the next day. And, as often happens to me with soups, stews, and braises, I had a delayed-reaction-falling-in-love experience. Overnight in the fridge the flavors had mingled and melded, transforming this very humble soup into something very special. A lesson in patience.

A note: please don't leave out the lemon juice! A bit of acidity really brightens up soups, especially those containing legumes such as lentils. If you don't have a lemon on hand, add a couple of teaspoons of apple cider vinegar or umeboshi vinegar, to taste.

Another note: I think any bowl of soup can benefit greatly from a drizzle of excellent extra-virgin olive oil (I especially love the olive oils at Oliviers & Co., and often visit their Grand Central shop to taste the latest varieties). This time I used a grassy and peppery Italian xvoo, made with frantoio olives, called Azienda Agricola Monte. Adding a sprinkle of Maldon sea salt, the crunchy little pyramidal crystals crushed lightly in my palm, never hurts either.

Lentil Soup with Herbes de Provence

1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 medium carrots, cut into half-moon slices
1 celery rib, chopped
1 (heaping) cup green lentils (I used 1 cup plus a couple of tablespoons that were left in the bag)
1 tsp herbes de Provence (I like the Whole Foods 365 brand, which contains savory, thyme, rosemary, basil, tarragon, and lavender - pretty standard)
1/4 to 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (depending on your heat preference)
1 bay leaf
2 cups roughly chopped collard greens, tough stems removed (I used 1 bunch with 6 or 7 leaves)
1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
Juice of 1/2 lemon
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
an everyday extra-virgin olive oil (for cooking)
a special extra-virgin olive oil and Maldon sea salt (for finishing)
  1. Heat 1 Tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and a pinch of sea salt and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, until translucent. Add garlic, carrot, and celery, and stir for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add lentils, 5 cups of cold water, herbes de Provence, red pepper flakes, bay leaf, and 1/2 tsp sea salt, and a couple of grinds of black pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until lentils are very tender and falling apart.
  3. Stir in collards, cover pot, and cook on low for 10 to 15 minutes until greens are tender.
  4. Turn off heat and stir in parsley and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and finish each bowl with a drizzle of top-quality xvoo and a bit of Maldon sea salt.