Showing posts with label pancetta. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pancetta. Show all posts

Friday, January 23, 2015

Wild Mushroom and Farro Soup

by Sheila Connolly

Here’s another recipe from Ina Garten’s cookbook, Make It Ahead. Let’s start with that farro—what the heck is it? No, we’re not talking about the 17th-century French gambling card game. But nobody seems quite sure what it is. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:

There is some confusion as to what farro is. Spelt (Triticum spelta), Emmer (Triticum dicoccum), and einkorn (Triticum monococcum), are called farro in Italy, sometimes (but not always) distinguished as farro grande, farro medio, and farro piccolo, respectively. Emmer grown in the Garfagnana region of Tuscany is known as farro, and can receive an IGP designation (Indicazione Geografica Protetta), which by law guarantees its geographic origin. Emmer is by far the most common variety grown in Italy, in certain mountain regions of Tuscany and Abruzzo. It is also considered to be of a higher quality for cooking than the other two grains and is sometimes called "true" farro.

Yeah, sure, okay (Ina, what have you gotten me into?). Simple solution for the rest of us cooks: go to your grocery store or health food store and buy a bag of the stuff, or order it on line. Bob’s Red Mill has it. (And I daresay you could substitute any of the other grains mentioned if you can’t find farro.)

Then there are the mushrooms. Ina wanted me to use dried crimini mushrooms. My local grocery lacks imagination, so they had only one kind of dried mushroom, and it was not crimini. So I used porcini mushrooms. They worked fine. Likewise, there was little choice in fresh mushrooms, so I used sliced shitake mushrooms. Use whatever sturdy mushrooms you can find at your own store (but not the more delicate ones like oyster mushrooms).

Dried porcini mushrooms

Mushroom and Farro Soup

1-1/2 oz dried wild mushrooms

3 Tblsp olive oil
4 oz pancetta, diced
3 cups chopped yellow onions
2 cups diced carrots

4 tsp minced garlic
3/4 cup farro (or other grain of the wheat family)
12 oz fresh mushrooms, stems discarded, sliced
4 cups beef broth
3 large sprigs fresh thyme
kosher salt and pepper

Cover the dried mushrooms with 6 cups water in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat, cover, and set aside for at least 20 minutes. Longer is fine.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the pancetta and let the fat render for a few minutes, over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the carrots, coat well with the oil, and continue to cook until the carrots are tender.

Add the garlic and the farro and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the fresh mushrooms and cook for 5-7 minutes, until the mushrooms begin to release some liquid.

Strain the dried/soaked mushrooms through cheesecloth to remove any lingering grit (saving the liquid!). Chop them coarsely and add them to the pot, along with the strained liquid, the beef broth, thyme, 2 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes, until the farro is tender. Discard the thyme.

2 Tblsp flour
2 Tblsp unsalted butter, room temp
4 oz creme fraiche
1/4 cup minced parsley

In a small bowl, mash the flour and butter together to form a paste, then stir by spoonfuls into the hot soup. Simmer for 5 minutes (to cook the flour), then stir in the creme fraiche and taste for seasoning.

Serve hot.

The result is a very tasty soup, hearty but not heavy. Serve with a wholegrain bread and you’ll have a nice meal for a winter’s evening. (And this recipe makes plenty of leftovers!)

All right, I know I've told you more than once that the next book in my County Cork Mystery series is coming out soon (February 3rd! at bookstores everywhere!). I was trying to figure out an appropriate way to go from exotic mushrooms to Ireland--and then I realized that on one trip to West Cork I had taken a lot of mushroom pictures. I was there at the beginning of December, and there were still mushrooms everywhere--and here they are.

Yes, that first one really is purple!

And here's the book. In An Early Wake, Maura brings music back to Sullivan's, and someone dies. But the music lives on!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Guest Rosie Genova's Pasta with Pancetta

 LUCY BURDETTE: I know you will want to meet today's guest, another Jersey girl like Hayley Snow and me! A Jersey girl born and bred, Rosie Genova left her heart at the shore, which serves as the setting for much of her work. Her new series, the Italian Kitchen Mysteries, is informed by her deep appreciation for good food, her pride in her heritage, and her love of classic mysteries, from Nancy Drew to Miss Marple. An English teacher by day and novelist by night, Rosie also writes women’s fiction as Rosemary DiBattista. Take it away Rosie!

I spent ten days in Italy last summer, in a small village in Abruzzi, where I had the great fortune of eating local food. Each morning, we walked to the small grocery store for fruit, fresh eggs and just-delivered bread.  One day I spied a slab of local pancetta, the Italian version of bacon, and knew just what that day’s breakfast would be. Back at our little room, I fried it up to a brown, fragrant crisp. I took two slices of fresh bread and let them soak up the fat in the pan, then made the Abruzzese version of a breakfast sandwich. The first bite transported me to my own paradiso rustico, leaving me with a new appreciation (and weakness) for pork fat.

Yes, pork fat. In the recipe that follows, you have the option of limiting the amount of fat from the cooked pancetta. (Hey, if you’re crazy enough to pour all that salty, fatty goodness into the trash, that’s your problem.) In any case, this isn’t a dish for those counting calories. The good news is that a small portion will suffice.

My new series, The Italian Kitchen Mysteries, features a seaside Italian restaurant that follows the Italian model of dining: you can eat stuff that’s bad for you if you limit it to small tastes, and balance it with lots of vegetables and fruit.  The Casa Lido is not the place you’ll find Americanized Italian food, but instead dishes based upon the seasonal and local ingredients of native Italian cuisine. The recipes included in each book are family favorites that reflect the same sensibility.

This dish, inspired by my pork epiphany, is adored by all the men in my house.  Because it includes greens and a protein, it’s also a good one-dish meal. Best of all, it can be pulled together in under 30 minutes. The following recipe serves four normal people; I double it for my family of five, but four of them are male. Serve with a loaf of good bread and a medium-bodied red wine.  (Italian, naturally.)

Rosie’s Pasta with Pancetta

1/2 lb. of medium sized pasta,  such as penne, farfalle, or gemelli
4-6 oz. of pancetta, cubed
1 tablespoon of olive oil
5 oz. of baby spinach
¼ cup of light cream (or half and half if you must)
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated parmesan cheese for serving

Set the pasta water to boil in a large saucepan. Lightly oil spray another heavy bottomed pan—one large enough to accommodate the pasta— and set the heat to medium high. When sides of pan are hot, brown the pancetta to a crispy golden brown. Set pancetta aside in a bowl.
Pour off excess fat, but leave a nice coating in the pan, as well as any lovely brown bits of bacon that might be left behind. Heat a scant tablespoon of olive oil in the pan, and add spinach. Once spinach is wilted, about two minutes, season with salt and pepper, remove from pan and set aside.

When pasta is cooked (al dente, please—no mushy macaroni!) drain it in a colander, and pour into the pancetta pan, which should be set over low heat.  Add spinach and pancetta. Pour the cream over the mixture and quickly stir it into the pasta until all ingredients are well-coated and cream is heated through.  Serve immediately with freshly grated cheese.

This dish also has many variations; here are a few:
--Substitute regular bacon for pancetta and spring peas for the spinach
--Substitute arugula for the spinach, but before cooking it, caramelize some thinly sliced Vidalia onion in the pancetta fat
--You can make a pink sauce by adding a tablespoon of tomato paste and cooking it in the pancetta fat as a base for the cream, or you can substitute fresh ricotta for the cream for a different “white” sauce
-- Tri-colored pasta also makes a pretty dish, or instead of dried pasta, use a good quality frozen cavatelli or tortellini, or visit your local Italian deli for the real deal. (You could, of course, make the pasta yourself—but that’s a post for another day!)

Please visit Rosie at her website or on Facebook

Murder and Marinara: An Italian Kitchen Mystery

October 1, 2013       NAL/Obsidian     

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Open-faced sandwich appetizer

I don't know about you, but I always like to try something new when I'm entertaining. Changing things up - just a little - makes it fun for me.

Easter Sunday meant dinner for 17 and although I prepared the usual ham, sausage, kraut, potatoes, and vegetables, I decided to have a little fun and try out a few new recipes. My guests have learned that they risk encountering a "Julie's Surprise" when they visit. I've had plenty of disasters - which is how the term "Julie's Surprise" originally came to be. But over the years I like to think I've improved a bit and maybe even gotten a little bit smarter.

This year, for example, I dispensed with the tried-and-true broccoli casserole, and included a tasty Brussels Sprouts dish, and another featuring fresh green beans. I'll share those recipes in the coming weeks.

But today I'll start with an appetizer.

This month's MORE Magazine (April, 2010) has a whole section on sandwiches. Some of them sounded wonderful and I'm eager to try them out. When I was trying to come up with my Easter menu, I knew I needed something new on my appetizer table, and I remembered the MORE article. I pulled it up and realized, belatedly, that although the PLT Sandwich was photographed open-faced, the recipe called for it to be a traditional - 2 bread - sandwich. No problem, I decided. I'd just have to adapt.

I did. And the results were terrific!

I made two versions. One all vegetarian, one with pancetta (the "P" in MORE's PLT). The tomatoes are wonderful when roasted, so do take the time to prepare these. I roasted tomatoes and my mixed vegetables the day before Easter and spread them cold over the toasted bread.

Open Faced Sandwich Appetizers

1 double-pack of fresh mini-loaves, sliced. (Buying fresh-baked bread from the grocery store makes things super-easy. I buy the two-loaf pack and ask the bakers to slice it for me. As you can tell, I got these two loaves at the fabulous price of 99 cents. You can't beat that.)

12 (give or take) plum tomatoes, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 yellow pepper, sliced and cut into bite-size pieces
1 green pepper, same
1 red pepper, same
6 large white mushrooms, sliced into bite-sized pieces
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 purple onion, sliced
2 healthy handfuls of arugula

I roasted my tomatoes separately - drizzling a little olive oil on them, sprinkling them with salt and then baking in a 350 degree oven for about an hour and a half until the tomatoes shriveled and turned a little brown. I used parchment paper to keep them from sticking and this was a really good move (MORE suggested it).

I placed the other, sliced veggies in a shallow roasting pan and drizzled these with olive oil and sprinkled them with salt, as well. I actually use this maneuver fairly often. We love roasted veggies in this house and use them on everything. This time for an appetizer, but sometimes we use them as an easy and delicious side dish. Roast these in the same oven for about an hour and a half as well. They may take a bit longer. When the peppers are soft and the onions begin to brown, they're done.

Toast your bread by placing it in a single layer and baking it in the oven. Here's where I would change my method in the future. I baked these until slightly brown - about 12 minutes. Going forward, I think I would toast them for only about 4 - 6 minutes. Mine were *crispy* - and although that wasn't a bad thing, I think I'd like them a bit better with a little less crunch.

When the bread is toasted, coat with mayo, rip up some arugula, pat into place. Follow up with the roasted tomatoes and vegetables. Return the open-faced sandwiches to the oven and bake for about 6 - 8 minutes (see why I shouldn't have toasted so vigorously earlier?) and when hot, remove from oven and serve immediately.

I made a meat version with pancetta as well. I baked the pancetta separately for about 10 minutes in a 400 degree oven, and also chilled it before using. On the pancetta sandwiches, I didn't use the mixed veggies. I just topped the arugula/tomato sandwich with that tiny piece of "Italian bacon."

These were absolutely great. My guests enjoyed them and my kids told me to definitely make them again!

More next time!


Author of the White House Chef Mysteries and, coming soon, the Manor of Murder Mysteries. First book - GRACE UNDER PRESSURE. Pre-order now for a June 1st release!

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