Tag Archives: garlic

Barley and Swiss Chard Soup

It’s supposed to be spring already, but today was a drizzly day after a long and snowy winter… soup was in order. I craved the silky texture of flash-cooked Swiss chard and the toothsome texture of barley, so here is the soup I came up with.  If you have escarole or spinach in the refrigerator, they work well in place of the chard.

Variation: To make this soup creamy in texture and a bit spicy, whisk together 2/3 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt, 1 grated garlic clove, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper, and 1 teaspoon crumbled dried mint, then stir into the soup just before serving.

Serves 2

  • 1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup pearl barley
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • leaves from 1 large bunch rainbow Swiss chard, thinly sliced (4 cups packed)

Place 1 teaspoon of the olive oil in a saucepan and add the onion and garlic. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook over medium-low heat until the onion is soft and barely golden, about 8 minutes, stirring once in a while to prevent the garlic from burning.

Add the broth, and bring to a gentle boil. Drop in the barley and season with the salt and pepper. Cook, covered, stirring once in a while, until the barley is fully cooked but not mushy, about 30 minutes.

When you are ready to serve, stir in the chard leaves, and cook until they are soft and wilted, about 3 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust as needed.  Serve hot, drizzled with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. For extra richness, sprinkle with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

swiss-chard-and-barley-soup

 

Maccheroni alla Chitarra with Mussels in Tomato Sauce

The sweetness of mussels partners beautifully with the fresh scent of parsley in a simple tomato and white wine sauce. I love this seafood sauce with long pasta, preferably spaghettini, spaghetti, or, my absolute favorite, the square, long noodles known as spaghetti alla chitarra typical of  Abruzzo and Molise.

Be careful of any mussels (or clams, cockles, and other bivalves) that are open before cooking. If they appear open, tap them on the inside of a bowl to see if they close; if they close, they are alive and can safely be cooked, but if they do not close, discard them. Also be sure to discard any mussels that are still closed after cooking.

Serves 4

For the sauce:

  • 3 pounds mussels, scrubbed, beards removed
  • 2 tablespoons plus ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped San Marzano canned tomatoes

For the pasta and to serve:

  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 pound spaghetti alla chitarra
  • 1 tablespoon minced Italian parsley
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

chitarramussels-ingredients

Make the sauce: Rinse the mussels several times to get rid of any surface grit, pull off any beards, then place in a deep bowl and cover with cool water. Add 2 tablespoons of the salt and swirl with your hands to dissolve the salt in the water. Set aside to purge any sediment and grit for 30 minutes at room temperature. Remove the mussels from their soaking water by scooping them out with your hands, thereby avoiding disturbing the sediment at the bottom of the bowl. Rinse the mussels several times in cool water.

Place the mussels in a saucepan large enough to accommodate the pasta later. Add the wine and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Cook over medium-high heat, shaking the pan once in a while, until the mussels yawn open, about 8 minutes. Uncover and cool 10 minutes, or until cool enough to handle.

mussels-pot

Shell the mussels, reserving a few in the shell, and discard any mussels that have not opened. Strain the mussel cooking liquid through a sieve lined with a paper towel (or through a coffee filter) to get rid of any sediment. Set the strained liquid and the mussels aside. Rinse out and dry the saucepan.

straining-liquid

Place the olive oil with the garlic, parsley, and chili in the clean saucepan  and warm gently over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and season with the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt and the pepper. Cook, covered, for 5 minutes, or until the tomatoes take on an orange hue. Stir in the mussels and the strained mussel cooking liquid, and bring to a gentle boil; cook 5 minutes.  Adjust the seasoning and keep warm.

When you are ready to serve, cook the pasta: Bring 5 quarts of water to a boil. Add the salt and the pasta. Cook until al dente, then drain, reserving 2 cups of the pasta cooking water.

Toss the drained pasta and the parsley into the sauce. Sauté 1 minute over high heat to meld the flavors, thinning out the sauce as needed with some of the reserved pasta cooking water. Serve hot, drizzled with the olive oil.

chitarrawithmussels

Creamy Cauliflower Soup with White Truffle Oil & Crispy Bacon

This amazing soup takes little active work, is very low in fat and calories, but delivers incredible depth of flavor. The trick: sweating the vegetables in a covered pot slowly, then adding just a bit of flour to thicken up the base for a velvety mouth-feel. While an immersion blender may be easier to use than a blender, I prefer the latter to obtain a rich, creamy texture.

Feel free to omit the bacon for a completely vegetarian dish;  garnish with a few roasted cauliflower florets instead in this case, to provide visual contrast.

Serves 4

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, minced
  • 1 celery stalk, minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
  • 4 cups (1 medium head) cauliflower florets, tough stems removed
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra to serve
  • 3 cups 2% or whole milk
  • 1 cup water, plus extra as needed
  • 2 slices bacon, cut into tiny dice
  • 2 tablespoons white truffle oil

Place the olive oil, onion, celery, garlic, and thyme in a 3-quart pot with a tight-fitting lid. Cover and set over medium-low heat. Cook until the vegetables soften, about 10 minutes, stirring once in a while as needed to prevent scorching.

Uncover, add the cauliflower, stir well, and cover again. Cook until the cauliflower softens, about 10 minutes, stirring once in a while and adding water if needed to prevent scorching.

Uncover, stir in the flour, and cook for 3 minutes, stirring often; the flour should lose its raw smell and the cauliflower and vegetables should become coated with the flour. It is fine if the cauliflower and vegetables take on a little color; this will only deepen the flavor of the soup.

Season with the salt and pepper. Pour in the milk, stirring to avoid lumps forming. Add the water and cover. Bring to a gentle boil. Simmer for 30 minutes, or until the cauliflower is very soft (it should fall apart when poked with a spoon) and the flavors have melded. Be sure not to cook the soup over too high a flame, as the milk may curdle (even if it does, the soup will be blended later, so it is fine).

Transfer to a blender, being careful as the soup is quite hot. Cover the blender lid with a towel to prevent splashing and puree the soup  until thick and smooth, about 2 minutes. If the soup is too thick for your taste, add as much water as needed to dilute to a consistency you like; the soup should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Return to the pot and keep warm. Adjust the seasoning as needed.

When you are ready to serve, place the diced bacon in a skillet and cook over medium heat until golden and crispy. Drain on paper towels.

Serve the soup hot, drizzled with the truffle oil, garnished with the crispy bacon, and sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper.

 

Escarole and Sausage over Crispy Bread with Melted Cheese

This is a delicious, one-dish meal that my husband and I crave when the weather is cold and our energy is dragging.  Try broccoli raab instead of escarole, or simply omit the sausage for a vegetarian version. But whatever you do, buy really good bread, because the bread’s texture and taste unify all the ingredients into a beguiling whole. We buy flat Turkish bread from the Taskin bakery in New Jersey when we don’t have our own leftover focaccia.

A word on Kashkaval: this is a semi-soft sheep’s milk cheese typical of Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey. I grew up enjoying it thanks to my Romanian-born mother. It is available in most well-stocked cheese shops, and ranges from milky and just  a tad sharp when aged a few months, to salty and almost crumbly when aged longer. For this dish, select the younger Kashkaval, as it will melt better and won’t overwhelm the other flavors. If Kashkaval is not available, use a good quality imported Fontina from Val d’Aosta, or another mild melting cheese of your liking.

Serves 2

For the sausage and escarole:

  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1  teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 1/2 pound  spicy Italian sausages with fennel seeds, casings removed and crumbled
  • 1 pound (1 large bunch) escarole leaves, washed thoroughly and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the bread:

  • 4 cups cubed Italian focaccia or other neutral flatbread
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 pound fresh Mozzarella (preferably bufala), drained and torn into bite-size pieces
  • 2 ounces young Kashkaval or Fontina from Val d’Aosta, rind removed if needed and coarsely grated

sausage-escarole-ingredient

Make the sausage and escarole: Place the olive oil, fennel seeds, garlic, and chili  in a wide pan that has a tight-fitting lid. Warm gently over medium heat until aromatic, about 1 minute.

Add the crumbled sausage and cook 10 minutes,  stirring often, or until the sausage is nicely browned all over. Add the escarole, season with the salt and pepper, and cover.

sausage-escarole-pot

Cook 10 minutes, stirring once in a while, or until the escarole softens and collapses and releases its liquid; the liquid is essential to this dish, so keep the lid on. Remove from the heat until you are ready to serve.

sausage-escarole-top

Make the bread: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (preferably set on convection). On a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper, toss the cubed bread with the olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Toast in the preheated oven for 5 minutes, or until the bread just begins to take on a golden color and starts to get a bit crunchy here and there; do not toast it all the way through, or the dish will be dry,  as the bread has to bake a second time with the cheese.

sausage-escarole-bread

Scatter the Mozzarella and Kashkaval on top of the toasted bread.

sausage-escarole-cheese

Return to the oven for about 5 minutes, or until the bread finishes toasting and browning, and the cheeses melt.

To serve: Reheat the sausage and escarole. Spoon one-quarter of the hot bread and cheese mixture onto each of 2 plates. Top each with one-quarter of the hot escarole and sausage mixture, then another layer of the bread and cheese mixture, and finally the remaining escarole and sausage mixture. Pour any pan juices from the escarole and sausage over the finished plates and serve hot.

Garganelli with Red Wine and Two-Meat Ragu

This simple, savory ragu combines my favorite elements of a classic Bolognese ragu (the milk and red wine) with my favorite elements of a southern Italian-style ragu (the spicy sausage and garlic).

If you have a rind from a hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano on hand, throw it into the ragu pot to lend additional richness, then remove it before tossing with the pasta.

See our recipe for handmade garganelli

Serves 4

For the sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, minced  (1/4 cup)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 12 basil leaves or 2 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
  • ¾ pound spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
  • ¾ pound ground beef chuck
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 2 cups chopped canned Italian plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
  • 1 cup whole or 2% milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Rind from Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano (optional)

For the pasta and to serve:

  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 pound garganelli (see recipe below)
  • ¼ pound freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano

Make the ragù: Place the olive oil, onion, garlic, and basil in a 10-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat. Cook 5 minutes, or until softened. Stir in the sausage and beef, and cook until browned all over, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Be sure to let the meat develop a deep brown color at this stage, or the ragu will taste flabby instead of rich.

Add the wine and then, after 5 minutes, the broth, tomatoes, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. If you have a cheese rind, add it at this point and make sure it is fully submerged in the liquid.

Cover and cook over medium-low heat 1 and ½ hours, making sure the sauce never scorches and adding a bit of water as needed to the pan. Discard the bay leaf and the cheese rind. Adjust the seasoning and keep the sauce warm. (The sauce can be made up to this point 2 days in advance; refrigerate until needed, then warm gently before proceeding.)

Make the pasta: Bring 5 quarts of water to a boil. Add the salt and the pasta, and  cook until al dente; drain, reserving 2 cups of the pasta cooking water.

Add the pasta to the sauce and sauté over high heat for 1 minute. Stir in the Parmigiano, and add some of the reserved pasta cooking water if needed to thin out the sauce. Adjust the seasoning and serve hot.

Pasta Gratin with Swiss Chard, Fontina, and Nutmeg


reginette gratin in plate

Our good friend Bill Bateman just came back from Val d’Aosta, where he goes every winter to ski and enjoy the food and scenery, and we were once again the lucky recipients of some fabulous Fontina cheese he bought while there. What an amazing cheese! It melts incredibly well, and the aroma is subtle, milky, nutty, grassy. Of course I wanted to incorporate the Fontina in as many dishes as I could while it was still fresh from Italy, so here is one recent creation, based on a recipe I found in Gourmet Magazine a few years ago and doctored to my taste.

I used homemade egg pasta cut into curly pappardelle for this dish; but you can certainly use store-bought, as long as the pasta is fresh and thin. And while I made this dish to showcase Bill’s Fontina, you can use Raclette or Gruyere instead, as these are often easier to find.

For ideas of how to use your Swiss chard stems (do not throw them out–they are delicious and nutritious!), see our post on chard stems.

Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as an appetizer

  • 1 large bunch Swiss chard, preferably rainbow, ribs removed and reserved for another use (see note above), leaves coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ pound fresh egg pasta (ideally Pappardelle or tagliatelle)
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing the pan
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced (1 and ½ cups)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup whole or 2% milk
  • 2 ounces Mascarpone (preferably imported Italian)
  • 2 ounces Fontina from Val d’Aosta, rind removed, grated
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

reginettegratin-ingredients3521

Preheat the oven to 350° (preferably set on convection).

Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil. Add the coarsely chopped chard leaves and 2 tablespoons of the salt, and cook 5 minutes, or until soft; remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl of cool water and keep the water boiling. Drain the chard, cool under running water, and squeeze out as much water as possible with your hands. Chop finely and set aside.

reginettegratinboilchard3528

Add the fresh pasta to the pot of boiling water and cook, until al dente, about 2 minutes; drain and toss with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil and set aside.

Meanwhile, place the remaining teaspoon of olive oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet. Add the onion and garlic, and sauté over medium heat until golden and lightly caramelized, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the chard and sauté another 5 minutes, or until the chard is warmed through and wilted. Season with ½ teaspoon of the salt and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper. Set aside.

reginettegratin-saute3534

Brush an oven-to-table roasting pan with olive oil; I find an 8-inch square or 9-inch x 4-inch pan works well.

Place the drained pasta and chard mixture in the pan and mix with your hands or tongs.

reginettegratin-precheese3547

In a bowl, beat the eggs with the milk and Mascarpone; add the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt and 1/8 teaspoon of pepper. The mixture will be lumpy, which is fine; the lumps will dissolve once the pasta is placed in the hot oven. Stir the egg mixture into the pasta and chard.

Scatter the Fontina on top of the pasta, and sprinkle with the Parmigiano.

reginettegratin-precook3556

Bake in the preheated oven 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown on top. You can slip the pasta under the broiler for 5 minutes for extra crunch on top. Serve hot.