Gourmet Veggie Mama

Category Archives: Prep

How to Make Perfect Risotto

I love risotto. People tend to think it’s fussy, or hard to pull off, but really, it’s easy to do right. It just requires a lot of attention and stirring. So, in the interest of converting more risotto-phobes to risotto lovers, I’m going to give you a step-by-step on how to make perfect risotto every time.

I made a lovely spring risotto this week, with asparagus, peas, leeks and green garlic, but the basic steps are the same no metter what recipe you’re using. Read to the bottom for the Risotta alla Primavera recipe, but let’s get the technique down first. Are you ready to stir?

1. Bring your broth to a boil , lower the heat, and cover it. It’s essential that you keep the broth warm throughout the process.

2. Melt your butter over medium-low heat in a large sauepan. I usually use equal parts butter and olive oil, but you can switch it up if you like. Stir in your alliums (onions, leeks, garlic) and saute them until softened, about 5-6 minutes.

3. Stir in your rice. Make sure you are using arborio rice (sometimes called risotto rice), since you need all the extra starch to make the risotto really creamy. Stir it around and toast it up for about a minute.

How to Make Perfect Risotto

4. Add the wine. Most recipes call for white wine, but some use red wine, and if you want to mix it up (or you just don’t want to open a bottle for some strange reason), you can substitute dry vermouth. Stir it until it’s evaporated, about a minute.

How to Make Perfect Risotto

5. Add the broth a couple of ladles at a time. At the beginning, I’ll add two ladles (about a cup) at a time, and stir until it’s all absorbed. Once it’s absorbed, add a couple more ladles. Repeat until the rice is about halfway cooked, about 9 minutes. I still set a timer. Stir, stir, stir. Do not leave the stovetop!

How to Make Perfect Risotto

6. Stir some more. If you have any slower-cooking veggies, or if you’re using anything frozen, add them in about halfway through the 9 minutes.

How to Make Perfect Risotto

7. After the rice is halfway cooked, add your veggies. Stir, stir, stir.

How to Make Perfect Risotto

8. At this point, I generally start adding broth just one ladleful at a time (about 1/2 cup), because it keeps me standing right there the whole time, and stirring. Keep stirring.

How to Make Perfect Risotto

9. After about 6 more minutes, test the rice. It should be mostly cooked, but still have a bit of a firm bite to it. Good.

How to Make Perfect Risotto

10. Keep going for a couple minutes more. Test again — the rice should be creamy and perfectly done.

How to Make Perfect Risotto

11. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in your cheese, butter and/or cream.

How to Make Perfect Risotto

12. Add salt and pepper to taste, serve, and enjoy!

Now that we’ve got the technique down, how about that recipe? What a fabulous showcase for spring veggies this risotto is!

How to Make Perfect Risotto

It doubled as a clean-out-the-fridge meal for me, too, since I had leeks, green garlic and parsley hanging out in my crisper just begging to be used. It is also Nora-approved.

Nora-approved

What else can I say? Just try it.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Risotta alla Primavera
Author: 
Recipe type: risotto
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 6½ cups (about) vegetable broth
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 medium leeks (white and light green parts only), sliced crosswise into thin rings
  • 2 stalks green garlic, chopped, or 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup 1-inch pieces thin asparagus
  • 1 cup freshly shelled small peas*
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • ¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional for serving
Instructions
  1. Bring broth to simmer in medium saucepan. Cover and keep warm over low heat.
  2. Melt 1 Tbsp of the butter with the olive oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion, leek, and garlic. Sauté until wilted and almost tender, about 6 minutes.
  3. Add the rice. Cook, stirring, until the rice is translucent at the edges but still opaque in the center, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the wine and stir until almost all the liquid is absorbed, about 1 minute.
  5. Add the broth 1 cup at a time until the rice is about half cooked, allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding next and stirring often. This should take about 9 minutes. If you are using frozen peas, stir them in about halfway through this cooking time.
  6. Stir in the asparagus, peas (if using fresh) and parsley. Continue ladling broth and stirring until the rice is almost tender, about 6 minutes longer.
  7. Cook until the rice is tender but still firm to bite and the mixture is creamy, about 2 minutes longer. Remove from heat.
  8. Add ¾ cup cheese and the remaining 2 Tbsp butter. Stir until the cheese and butter melt. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve, passing additional cheese alongside.
Notes
* I highly recommend using fresh peas if you can get your hands on them, though frozen peas work as well.

 

Cabbage Coming out of my Ears… and the Perfect Brown Rice

I have about four heads of cabbage sitting in my crisper drawer right now. Since my attempt at sauerkraut was a fail (although I may have to try again with Fido jars), I turned to my old clear-out-the-fridge standby — stir fry — to use some of it up. I added some sliced kohlrabi, carrots, spring onions and delicate broccoli crowns from our garden to round it out.

stir fry veggies

Look at all those pretty colors!

For extra protein, I fried up some tofu and cracked an egg in with the veggies. I sauced the whole thing with a mix of soy sauce and toasted sesame oil accented a smidge of ginger and garlic, and the hubby and I doused our servings with Sriracha (which is still a little too spicy for the peanut these days).

stir fry

The real story here, though, is the rice. I have been on what seems like a lifelong hunt for the perfect method of making brown rice. It’s hard to get it just right — that light, fluffy texture is harder to come by than it is with white rice.

Well, I finally found it!

brown rice

Sauver’s method, which involves boiling the rice in a large amount of water, then draining it and allowing it to steam in the pan for a little longer, is a revelation. With the flap surrounding higher arsenic levels in brown rice, too, it turns out that using lots of water makes eating brown rice safer, too. Who knew?

I just love the nutty deliciousness and higher protein content of brown rice, and now I can enjoy it in all of its fluffy glory! I also love that you don’t have to worry about the proper ratio of water to rice and keeping the heat at just the right temperature. Just make sure you use a large pot and at least 6 to 8 cups of water per cup of uncooked rice. I’m never making brown rice another way again!

Perfect Brown Rice
Author: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 8 cups water
Instructions
  1. Rinse the rice in a strainer until the water runs clear.
  2. Bring the water to a boil in a large pot. Add the rice and stir once. Boil uncovered for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove the rice from the heat and drain in a strainer over the sink for 10 seconds. Return to the pot and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Allow to steam for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork before serving. Add salt to taste, if you like.

 

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The Peaceful Mom

Mexican White Bean Soup

A cold front moved in overnight, and, with it being late February and all, I’ll take advantage of soup weather while we still have it! Hop on over to Cooking Planit for my guest post today about some of my favorite soups, including one of my old standbys, a hearty and spicy black bean soup.

But let’s try on a new soup for size today, shall we? We had some rainy weather last week, and Mexican White Bean Soup was just the ticket.

Mexican White Bean Soup

It was hearty, creamy, just a little spicy and absolutely perfect served with the last quarter of Cloverleaf French Bread from the freezer. Man oh man has that bread paid dividends — time to make another batch!

I hadn’t planned ahead far enough to soak the beans overnight, so I did a quick soak instead (cover with water, bring to a boil, and then remove from the heat and cover and let stand for an hour or two). I also happened to have a couple of bags of frozen hatch green chiles ready to use, so I used a couple of them in the soup rather than the canned green chiles called for by the recipe.

4.0 from 1 reviews
Mexican White Bean Soup
Author: 
Recipe type: soup
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups dried white beans
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 can chopped green chiles (or 2-3 fresh roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped green chiles)
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • sour cream, for garnish
Instructions
  1. Cover the beans with water and add the lemon juice. Soak overnight, or do a quick soak (bring to a rapid boil, then remove from heat, cover and let sit for at least an hour or two).
  2. Drain and rinse the beans and cover with fresh water. Bring to a boil and boil rapidly for 5 to 10 minutes, and then turn the heat down to low, cover, and cook until tender, about an hour. Drain the beans in a colander and set aside.
  3. In the same pot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat and sauté the onions and carrots until the onions are translucent and the carrots and tender.
  4. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, then stir in the chopped chiles, cumin, smoked paprika and salt. Sauté for a few more minutes, until the flavors are well blended.
  5. Add the drained beans and the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 10 minutes.
  6. Cool slightly, and then use an immersion blender to blend about half of the soup (or transfer half of the soup to a blender, blend until smooth, and then return to the pot). Taste for seasoning, and serve warm topped with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of smoked paprika, if desired.

 

Chickpeas and Spinach with Garlic Aioli

The headline here is, I made my own mayonnaise! Subhead: It was so simple and delicious I wondered why I don’t do it all the time. Seriously. If you own a blender and typically keep eggs and olive oil around your house, there is no reason you shouldn’t be making your own, too!

But, I’m getting a little ahead of myself. This story starts back when I began soaking a pound of chickpeas. I put them in to soak overnight and figured I’d magically know what to do with the the next morning. Turns out, I didn’t. So, I put them in the fridge and made something else for dinner. The next day came along, and I planned on making Economical Eater’s delicious-looking chickpea curry, but I didn’t get my stuff together in time to make a crockpot meal… so, again, the chickpeas languished in the fridge. Finally, on the third day, I decided I just needed to wing it. I drained the chickpeas from their soaking liquid, covered them with new water, and started cooking them while flipping through my go-to resource for all things bean-related (and more): Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison.

Once again, it did not disappoint. I turned up several delectable chickpea recipes, including one for chickpea and spinach stew. We had just gotten a bunch of fresh spinach and a bunch of fresh parsley in our CSA box, so it was perfect. The recipe called for the spiced chickpeas to be served over a bed of rice or another grain (I used quinoa) and, oddly, a dollop of garlic mayonnaise as a topping.

Chickpeas and Spinach with Garlic Aioli

Apparently, aioli is a common topping for chickpeas in the Middle East, so I guess it’s legit — but somehow, topping your dinner off with a healthy dollop of mayo seems decadent. Decadent, but oh-so-tasty.

This is not the mayonnaise you’re used to, though. It’s lighter and more flavorful and delicious than anything you’ve seen on your grocery store shelves, and, better yet, it’s super-easy to make. I’ve made mayonnaise before, but I did it by hand and it was a tedious process, and not one I’d be likely to undertake often. Using the blender makes it a snap, and I don’t think I’ll ever go back to store-bought!

Chickpeas and Spinach with Garlic Aioli
Author: 
Recipe type: Weeknight Meal
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 2 pinches crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp fresh or dried rosemary (minced if fresh)
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • 1 14.5-oz can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 3 cups cooked chickpeas (or 2 15-oz cans, rinsed well)
  • 1 large bunch fresh spinach, stems removed
  • garlic aioli for topping (optional but highly recommended)
Garlic Aioli
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • pinch salt
  • ¾ cup neutral-flavored olive oil, divided
  • 2-3 tsp lemon juice or white wine vinegar
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, pressed
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, crushed red pepper, paprika, rosemary and half the parsley. Sauté until the onions are translucent, and then lower the heat to medium and cook until the onion is soft, about 10-12 minutes.
  2. Add the diced tomatoes, chickpeas and spinach and stir to combine. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the spinach is wilted and the chickpeas are heated through, about 10-15 minutes.
  3. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve over a bed of quinoa, rice or other grains topped with a dollop of garlic aoili and a sprinkle of parsley.
For the garlic aioli
  1. Crack the egg into a blender. Add the Dijon mustard, salt and ¼ cup olive oil. Turn on the blender and slowly stream the remaining olive oil in while the blender is running. Add 2 tsp lemon juice or white wine vinegar and the garlic. Turn off the blender and test the mixture. Thin with additional lemon juice or vinegar if needed.

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The Peaceful Mom

Best ever veggie chili

I am still settling into the new cooking rhythm around our house, now that the hubby and I are trying to eat dinner with Nora most nights. Yesterday, I planned on making a batch of my crock pot veggie chili for dinner. Nap time is prime meal preparation time nowadays, but once it rolled around, I had gotten tied up in other projects.*

* Yeah, I really needed to start painting the master bedroom. We picked a color more than a month ago, and the paint has just been sitting in the garage, mocking me, since then.

So, I figured I’d pop in a Signing Time and let Nora watch it while I sliced and diced. She was cool with that for the first few minutes, but then she wanted me to come and sit with her (which I happily did while the onions sautéed for a little bit), and she didn’t want me to get up. Then the video was over, and I needed to rescue those onions, but it was nearly impossible with a toddler clamped to my leg. In case you couldn’t tell, she was feeling a little clingy.

In any case, I made it work, but by the time all was said and done, the chili was into the crock pot much later than I had planned, and with a little less prep. That’s okay — we’re flexible around here. I cranked the crock pot to high and hoped for the best.

Fingers crossed.

As it turns out, the best is what I got! By the time dinner rolled around, the chili was perfect. I was so pleasantly surprised with the result that I just may never make it the old way again! Nora heartily approved, too.

Myyyyyyyy chili.

Of course, there is no better way to enjoy a hearty bowl of chili on a brisk fall evening than with a nice cold beer.

Yes, please.

I chose a Sierra Nevada Tumbler, their fall seasonal brew, and it was delicious. Next time, I may even substitute a beer for the water in this chili — I think that could lead to even more greatness!

Vegetarian Chili
Based on this recipe

2 onions, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 Tbs canola oil
1 large or 2-3 small sweet peppers, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
1-3 summer squash (depending on size), chopped
1 to 2 Tbs chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 can of pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 can of refried black beans
1 10-oz can of fire-roasted tomatoes, with liquid
1/2 cup uncooked brown rice
salt to taste

In a large skillet over medium high heat, sauté the onion and garlic in the canola oil until soft and translucent. Add the chopped peppers, squash, chili powder, and cumin. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes.

Transfer to slow cooker. Add the beans, tomatoes, rice, and 2 cups of water. Cover and cook on high for 3 to 4 hours. Season to taste with salt and serve warm topped with cheese and/or sour cream and with plenty of warm tortillas or tortilla chips alongside.

The Peaceful Mom

Roasted Garlic Beet Soup

With our last CSA box, we got several large red beets. Thinking ahead, I wrapped them in foil and roasted them. I used one in a batch of sweet potato hash, but the other three sat in the fridge for a couple of days, waiting to be used.

I have a couple of variations on beet soup that I make regularly, but I wanted to do something a little different this time. I decided to try out a new recipe: Roasted Garlic Beet Soup.

Good stuff.

The whole family enjoyed it. Even better, I was able to prepare everything ahead of time while Nora napped, and then simply reheat it on the stovetop for dinner. Presto — no clingy toddler making things difficult while I tried to chop and sauté!

Good as this soup was, though, I’m getting a little tired of my go-tos for beets (always some form of salad or soup), so I’m looking for new ways to use them. Help me out here: What’s your favorite way to use beets?

Roasted Garlic and Beet Soup
Based on this recipe

3 large beets
2 Tbs olive oil, plus additional for drizzling
1 head of garlic
1 large leek, thinly sliced
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
Sour cream or Greek yogurt for serving

Preheat the oven to 400°. Scrub the beets and wrap them in foil, and roast for about 1 hour. Meanwhile, drizzle the garlic with oil, wrap in foil, and roast for about 30 minutes. Unwrap the beets, let them cool, and then peel, and quarter them. Squeeze the garlic from its skin. Set aside.

Heat 2 Tbs olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the leek and cook, stirring, until tender. Add the beets, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, and 3 cups water. Season with salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaf. Let cool slightly, then puree in a blender (or using an immersion blender) until smooth. Adjust seasoning to taste, and serve with a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt.

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The Peaceful Mom

Fusilli with roasted eggplant and goat cheese

I have had to get really creative with eggplant this summer. We get a big haul of it in each CSA box, and I’m just not used to cooking with it much. For one, the hubby was, until fairly recently, not eggplant’s biggest fan. For another, eggplant does really well in the heat, and heat is something we have a lot more of in Texas that we did in Northern California.

Despite the fact that this is the third eggplant pasta recipe I have posted in recent memory, they are all quite different, and this one was delicious. Plus, as I modified it, it used up some leftover caramelized onions, and a handful of cherry tomatoes that I didn’t have another use for, so that’s always a bonus.

Num num.

It was perfect with a nice glass of 2007 Ridge Buchinani Ranch Carignane. There’s nothing like opening a nice bottle of wine to make a weeknight feel special!

Fusilli with Roasted Eggplant and Goat Cheese
Based on this recipe from Food & Wine, January 2010

1 medium eggplant, cubed
4 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 cup cherry tomatoes (optional)
3/4 lb fusilli
2 Tbs pine nuts
1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced
Pinch of crushed red pepper
4 Tbs caramelized onions (optional)
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice
3 Tbs coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
4 oz goat cheese, crumbled

Preheat the oven to 375°. In a large bowl, toss the eggplant and tomatoes (if using) with 2 Tbs of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread the eggplant and tomatoes (if using) on a large rimmed baking sheet and roast for about 20 minutes, until browned on the bottom. Using a spatula, turn the eggplant, scraping it off the baking sheet (it might break up slightly) and roast for about 5 minutes longer, until very tender.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the fusilli until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.

In a large sauté pan, toast the pine nuts over medium heat, tossing frequently, until lightly golden in spots, about 5 minutes. Transfer the pine nuts to a work surface and coarsely chop them.

Heat the remaining 2 Tbs of olive oil in the sauté pan. Add the garlic and cook over medium heat, stirring, until tender, about 1 minute. Add the crushed red pepper and cook for 30 seconds. Add the fusilli, roasted eggplant and tomatoes, caramelized onion (if using), chopped pine nuts, lemon juice and the reserved pasta water and toss over the heat until the pasta is evenly coated. Season the pasta with salt and pepper and remove from the heat. Add the parsley and toss. Add the goat cheese and toss gently until the cheese is slightly melted. Spoon the fusilli into bowls and serve.

* We had some caramelized onions left over from our latest grilled pizza adventure, so I just threw them in, but they added a really nice touch. You can always caramelize a small onion to add, if you’re not as lucky as I am to have them already on hand. Just slice the onion thinly, sauté it over medium heat in 1 Tbs butter and 1 Tbs olive oil until it’s softened, and then turn the heat down to low and cook it until it’s meltingly soft and golden brown, stirring occasionally. Any leftovers will keep in the fridge for a few days.

Homemade ricotta… and a great summer pasta to boot!

I made ricotta! I’ve wanted to try it for ages, and it really was as easy as people say it is.

Easy and delicious.

It’s also at least twice as good as store-bought ricotta. It actually has flavor — imagine that! The texture is so much lighter and fluffier, too. I used this tutorial, which is a great intro for a cheesemaking novice. I think ricotta may be a stepping stone drug, since I totally want to try something else now. Maybe mozzarella?

In any case, I had to make something that would showcase my beautiful homemade ricotta, and the weather is just plain too hot for lasagna, so I threw together a lovely summer pasta with some of our Sun Gold tomatoes, olives, and parsley from the garden. Simple and delicious!

Yes, please.

It was also fabulous for lunch the next day. Nora gobbled down about as much of it as I did. Everything except the olives, that is; apparently they weren’t to her liking. That’s okay, she has years to cultivate a taste for them!

Rotini with Ricotta, Tomatoes, and Olives

1 lb rotini or other small pasta
1 recipe homemade ricotta
3 Tbs olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 Tbs Italian parsley, chopped
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
zest of one lemon

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and toss with the ricotta, olive oil, garlic, parsley and olives. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Black bean chili… and jalapeno cheddar cornbread!

The other night, I had a yen for a hearty chili, so I put some black beans in to soak and dusted off a recipe from my new copy of The San Francisco Chronicle Cookbook.*

* We’ve had Volume II for ages, but just picked this one up on PaperbackSwap.com, and it has some delicious-looking recipes in it, including this one.

When the hubby got home, I conscripted him into making a pan of jalapeno cheddar cornbread, using a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated. We had all the ingredients, save one: buttermilk. I know you can add a little lemon juice to regular milk and use it in place of buttermilk, but I also had an unused carton of cream in the fridge, and Google told me that I could use it to make not only buttermilk, but butter, too! Worth a shot, right?

I filled a mason jar halfway with the cream, screwed the lid on, and started shaking. A few minutes later, I was the subject of hubby’s ridicule, and starting to doubt that this was going to work, but onward I pressed. All of a sudden, we were through the whipped cream stage, and the contents separated out into a chunk of butter and some lovely buttermilk — huzzah!

It doubles as a workout, too.

We used the butter for the cornbread, too — delicious!

Can you believe I made this??

You just have to press out of excess liquid under some cold water before storing it, though; otherwise it won’t keep for very long.

But anyway, back to the main event: the chili! While the rest of this unplanned drama proceeded, the chili was bubbling away on the stove. I used one of the year’s first CSA tomatoes, plus a couple of sweet peppers (ringo and purple bells) to add a little extra flavor, and I was quite pleased with the result. The beans took quite a lot longer to cook than the recipe recommended, but I’ve corrected for that in my version. As for the end product, it was delicious.

Chow down.

It was hearty, a little spicy, and smoky. We all loved it, even Nora.

Nom nom nom.

Yes, it appears our little Texas transplant has developed a taste for spicy foods — yee haw!

Black Bean Chili
Adapted from The San Francisco Chronicle Cookbook

2 cups dried black beans, rinsed and picked over for stones
2 Tbs olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 colored sweet peppers, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 tsp ground cumin
1-2 tsp chili powder
6 cups water
2-4 dried chipotle chiles, or 2 canned chipotles in adobo
3 Tbs white vinegar
1 Tbs brown sugar
2 tsp salt

Cover the beans with water and soak overnight, or for at least 6 hours.

Heat the oil in a large saute pan. Add the onions and peppers and stir until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and tomato and saute for a couple minutes longer, then stir in the bay leaves, cumin, and chili powder.

Drain the beans and place them in a heavy soup pot. Add 6 cups of fresh water and stir in the onion mixture, the chipotles, the vinegar, and the brown sugar. Simmer the beans over low heat for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until almost tender. Add the salt and simmer for an additional 30 minutes, or until tender to the bite, but not mushy.

Pasta with tomato, basil, and onion confit

When our CSA box arrived this week with a lovely batch of Early Girls, our first tomatoes of the season, I was delighted.

Hello, ladies.

What to make with these beauties? Since early-season tomatoes sometimes need a little flavor help, I decided to forgo my favorite simpler tomato presentations (caprese salad, or just sliced with a little salt and eaten by the forkful) until we see some later-season heirlooms. With this batch, I experimented with tomato confit, since we had a beautiful bunch of basil and an onion to play with, too.

Dinner is served.

Served atop a bed of whole wheat rigatoni and finished with a sprinkle of parmesan, it was delightful, and super-simple to make. Oh, tomato season, how I love you! And it’s only just begun…

Pasta with Tomato, Basil, and Onion Confit
Based on a recipe from Chez Panisse Vegetables by Alice Waters

6 (or more) tomatoes
1 small onion, halved and sliced.
basil leaves
extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Pasta (such as angel hair or spaghetti)**

Preheat the oven to 350. Peel* and core the tomatoes.Arrange a bed of basil leaves in an oven-safe dish just big enough to fit the tomatoes. Spread the onion slices over the basil, and arrange the tomatoes, cored side down, over the onions. Add enough olive oil to come about halfway up the sides of the tomatoes in the dish. Bake for about an hour and a half, or until very fragrant

* Generally, I would do this by scoring the bottom of the tomatoes, immersing them in boiling water for a few seconds, then immersing them in a an ice bath to make them easy to peel. This time, however, I forgot I was supposed to peel the tomatoes until after I had already cored them, so I tried a fruit peeler. It was a little fussier, but worked like a charm!

** Any kind of pasta will work. I had some refrigerated whole wheat rigatoni that had been slated for a different meal that I didn’t end up making, so I used it and it was lovely. A thinner pasta would do a better job of soaking up the sauce, though.

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