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black bean, chorizo + kale soup

close up

Someday I will get organized and do a series of posts on how one pot of beans can feed you for an entire week. If you play your cards right, beans can be an essential part of a sound weeknight meal preparation strategy. Actually, if it is true that dilettantes talk strategy while professionals talk logistics, then having a good supply of perfectly cooked beans on hand is a professional-grade maneuver. Especially in winter when vegetables are in shortly supply, beans augment fresh vegetables—in this case, dark, leafy greens—and can be combined in any number of dishes throughout the week.

kale leaves

I cooked a pound of Rancho Gordo “Midnight Black” beans on a Sunday and we had tacos one night and this soup on another. On a third night I made a bean side dish with onions, garlic, and a few tomatoes. I used some of the ingredients I had around for the tacos—queso fresco, cilantro—to garnish this soup. These beans, and their broth, are out of this world. I wanted to make a soup to use up the bean juice; I couldn’t bear to imagine pouring it down the drain. I like to keep a few cut-up pieces of chorizo in the freezer for scrounge nights when I might have some beans and some other odds and ends around, but I need something to add flavor and protein to the dish. If you did not cook your own black beans, use canned ones, but rinse them first. This means you’ll have to add some extra stock to the pan. The black bean cooking liquid gives the soup a lot more body, however. If you’re using canned beans and extra stock, you may want to run an immersion blender in the soup for a few seconds just to create a little more thickness. Because beans (and also chicken stock, if you’re using store-bought) have wildly varying levels of saltiness, be sure to taste the soup in its final simmer to determine whether you need to add salt to balance it out at the end.

Be careful; this soup comes together super fast. Supper might even be ready before you’re hungry.

bowl of soup

Black bean, chorizo + kale soup

  • 1 link fresh chorizo sausage (1/3 lb)
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 3 Tb olive oil
  • 1/2 large bunch of lacinato or regular kale (6 ounces), sliced into a chiffonade
  • 3 cups black beans plus 2 cups of their cooking liquid (I use Rancho Gordo “Midnight Black” beans)
  • 1 cup chicken stock (if using canned beans, increase to 2 to 3 cups and rinse and drain beans)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • crumbled queso fresco (optional)
  • chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

1. In your favorite heavy soup pot, crumble the chorizo and cook until browned and no longer pink. Add onion and garlic, and add a little olive oil if needed to saute these with the chorizo. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes to allow flavors to develop. Add the rest of the olive oil and crushed red pepper, cook for 1 more minute, and add kale. Saute for 3 minutes.

2. Add beans and 3 cups of liquid (either 2 cups of bean cooking liquid, if you cooked your own dried beans, or use 2 additional cups of chicken stock) and salt. Stir and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 15 minutes. Taste and add salt if needed. (This depends entirely on whether your beans were already salted.) Dish into warm bowls and garnish as you wish.


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pasta w cauliflower + sausages

Cauliflower may be one of my desert-island vegetables. To me, it is the darling of the cruciferous kingdom. Unlike its cousins—cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi—cauliflower has a certain irresistible charm. I never understood why babies were said to come from the cabbage patch. The cauliflower patch is the real home of adorable beauties, florets folding in on themselves, worlds within worlds.

It’s versatile, too, and can be worked into tarts, eggy casseroles, gratins, or just roasted, steamed, or pickled, or eaten raw. I had spotted a vegetarian version of this recipe in my trusty Marcella Hazan and wanted to make it into a one-dish meal by increasing the proportion of cauliflower to pasta (I made the version for two noted below, with just one-half pound of pasta to about 2 pounds of cauliflower) and adding a bit of sausage. I also added crunchy bread crumbs, and salty olives. (I find that it is never wrong to pair olives or capers with cauliflower.)

The key to the recipe is timing. If you play your cards just right, you can cook the sausage first while your water is coming to a boil and the cauliflower cooks in the boiling water. Then, as the sausage vacate the pan to make way for the garlic and anchovies (and what have you), the cauliflower will be just finishing up and available to be drained and scooped right into the skillet for a second tour of cooking. Keep your water boiling and dump the pasta in right away—it should finish cooking just in time to be drained and scooped right into the same skillet (with a bit of cooking water to get the sauce sorted out) to finish the dish. While all of this is going on, you can brown the bread crumbs in a smaller skillet on the side. I know it probably seems strange to imagine cauliflower florets combined with pasta. But trust me, it works. The cauliflower is fairly velvety, and clings beautifully to the penne.

Pasta w cauliflower + sausages

Adapted from Marcella Hazan Essentials of Italian Cooking

  • 1 lb. hot Italian sausage links
  • 1 head cauliflower, about 1.5 to 2 lbs., broken into florets
  • about 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
  • 3 anchovies, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 cup pitted green olives (I used Lucques olives)
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 1 lb. small penne pasta (or 1/2 lb. if preparing for two people)

1. In a large skillet, cook sausage until cooked all the way through, and center registers 170 F on a meat thermometer. Set aside. Meanwhile, set a large pot of salted water to boil. When boiling, add cauliflower florets and cook at least 15 minutes, until very soft, but not disintegrating. If you time this properly, you’ll be able to take cauliflower straight out of the boiling water and into the saute pan. If not, then remove cauliflower from boiling water and set it aside. And in any case, keep the boiling water simmering and add the pasta to cook while sauce finishes.

2. Add some olive oil to the sausage pan and keep at medium heat. To the warm olive oil, add garlic and cook until light gold in color. Add anchovies and crushed red pepper, and cook until anchovies dissolve. Now, if it is cooked and tender, scoop cauliflower out of boiling water and add to pan. (Or if cauliflower finished too early, simply add the cauliflower.) Break up the cauliflower florets with the back of a spoon, leaving none larger than a walnut. Some of the florets should mash into bits that are quite small. Add the olives as well. Cook and stir over medium heat for about 5 to 7 minutes, until flavors combine and cauliflower is sauteed and browning.

3. At the same time, heat a glug of olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bread crumbs to the hot oil. Stir frequently for about 3 to 4 minutes, until bread crumbs are well toasted. When they are a deep golden brown, set them aside in a bowl.

4. Assemble the dish: when pasta is through cooking, scoop the pasta from the boiling water, reserving at least 1/2 cup water to make the sauce. Put the pasta in the skillet with the cauliflower, tossing very well to combine. Add the reserved pasta water a bit at a time to get the sauce to coat all of the penne. Garnish each plate with bread crumbs, chopped parsley, and serve with sausage along side.

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shrimp, collards + grits

While Delaware, the place I grew up, is in many ways a southern place, shrimp and grits is not the sort of thing we ever would have eaten at home. Let’s face it, “southern” cooking cuts a wide swath through the American culinary repertoire, and while you would probably recognize much of what we cooked at home as “southern”—biscuits, cornbread, fried chicken, homestyle (i.e. well boiled and usually with a pork product) vegetables all played a leading role—taken as a whole, it bore no resemblance to the cooking of the Piedmont, or the Gulf Coast, or southern Appalachia. Nor does the cooking of any of those places bear much resemblance to the cooking of each of the others.

On our family vacations, which were always taken in a vehicle, and never in an airplane, we visited Appalachia, the lower Eastern Shore, the Delaware Water Gap (to the north), and most places in between. I never got to North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, or Florida until I was much older. Ty, though, has traveled throughout the south much more than I have, and has always had a taste for deep-South dishes like shrimp and grits. (Ty points out that he has traveled the SEC East thoroughly, but not the SEC West. I don’t know what this means, but suspect others might.) I never even tasted shrimp and grits until last year, in South Carolina. And let me just say up front—or you can tell me again in the comments—that this dish would absolutely not pass for shrimp and grits in Charleston or anywhere in the low country. In fact, I am pretty sure it would count as heresy. In order to make this into a relatively quick, one-dish meal, I have added fresh chorizo sausage in place of the traditional tasso ham, and I have added a lot of chopped collard greens as well. Instead of using shrimp broth, I have substituted chicken or vegetable, the two kinds I always have on hand.

However, one place where I have not and will not scrimp is when it comes to the grits. I use Anson Mills’ stoneground white grits, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. However, if you can’t find stoneground grits, please feel free to substitute whatever grits you have available where you are. (Since I’m busy confessing, I will admit that I once made this dish and served it over a nice, soft polenta. What?! Polenta is also made of corn!) The chunky stoneground grits, if soaked overnight, cook in about 50 minutes (with a little tending), which is about what it takes to prep and cook the rest of the dish. If you want the legitimate low-country version of shrimp and grits, make the delicious rendition available here at the Anson Mills site. Those folks know what they’re doing. This version, though, is pretty darned good.

Shrimp, collards + grits

4 servings as a main course

  • 1 cup stone ground white grits, such as Anson Mills
  • 4 and 1/2 cups water, divided
  • 1 lb fresh chorizo sausage links
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb collards, ribs removed, leaves cut into fine chiffonade
  • 1 large or 2 small bay leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 and 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 lb large shrimp, peeled (fresh or thawed frozen)
  • kosher salt

1. Starting 12 – 24 hours before you make the grits, place the grits into a covered saucepan of at least 3 quarts. Add 2 and 1/2 cups of the water. Stir once, and let grits soak for 12 – 24 hours.

2. After the grits have soaked, place saucepan on burner at medium heat. Bring to a simmer and stir constantly for 8 to 10 minutes. Add the lid and turn heat to very low. Meanwhile, bring the other 2 cups of water to a simmer and keep nearby on the stove. As grits thicken, add simmering water 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. Cook grits for 45 to 50 minutes, adding simmering water as needed and stirring, replacing the lid after each addition.

3. While the grits are cooking, start the shrimp and collards. Select a heavy, large, lidded skillet or casserole. Add chorizo sausage to the pan and brown very well over medium to medium-high heat. When sausages are well browned on all sides, set them aside. If only a small amount of fat has rendered from the sausages, add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Over medium heat, add the onion, and stir and cook until softened. Add collards and stir until coated with oil and wilted. Saute for about 10 minutes. Then add the bay leaf, crushed red pepper, and paprika. Stir well and add tomato paste. Mix well again. (Don’t forget to check and stir your grits, adding more water as needed.)

4. Add white wine to the skillet and simmer until reduced by about half, stirring well. Then add broth and zest and bring to a simmer. Return sausage to the pan and cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove lid, stir well, and add shrimp, tossing well. Replace lid and cook for 5 minutes, until shrimp are pink and cooked through. Taste mixture for salt, and add more, 1/4 teaspoon at a time, as needed.

5. Spoon grits onto warmed dishes and top with shrimp, sausage, and collards mixture. Spoon plenty of the pan gravy over, and serve piping hot.

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clams w sausage + potatoes

Maybe I am the last person to get on this bandwagon, but I don’t think I realized until pretty recently what great partners sausage and clams are. I was first tipped off to this duo when I was in Portugal two summers ago. Near the coast in Portugal, you often see cataplana on the menu—this being a dish that combines chouriço (Portuguese chorizo), fresh sausage or ham, garlic, wine, and clams. You see lots of variations on the theme, and oftentimes another popular pork, clam, and potato dish, porco com amêijoas à alentejana. Pork and clams are everywhere—so at some point during the vacation, I started to pay attention.

[N.B.: To my mind, there are few culinary destinations as great as Portugal. For starters, they serve you rice and fried potatoes and bread with every meal. And for my money, there is nothing better than a carb wrapped inside a carb, topped with a carb. (See: mashed-potato pizza, knishes, pierogis, potato kati rolls; I could go on.)]

We received our CSF delivery a couple of weeks ago, and the cupboard was otherwise bare. Like, super bare. But I had part of a package of sausage from our friends at Four Mile River Farm, and a small bag of potatoes from Rose’s Berry Farm. Potatoes are in season here in Connecticut. If you are based here, do yourself a favor and grab a box or a bag at the CitySeed Wooster Square market this weekend. I realize this may be my Irish blood in action, but there are seriously few pleasures in life as fantastic as a freshly dug potato. (I swear; you don’t even have to wrap them in another carb or anything if you don’t want to.) In any case, between the clams from Bren Smith’s beds off of Branford, the potatoes, and the sausage, the theory of many meals we had in Portugal came to mind. There are really authentic recipes for pork-and-clam dishes, especially at Leite’s Culinaria, but this was pretty darned delicious and very little work. Grab your vinho verde and enjoy.

Clams w sausage + potatoes

Serves 4 as part of a meal with a hearty salad, or 2 very hungry people.

  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage, bulk or links cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 6 small potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch halves, wedges, or slices
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 and 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 2 dozen clams, scrubbed

1. In a large Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid, brown the sausage over medium heat. Add the potatoes, garlic, olive oil (if the sausage did not render a lot of fat), and crushed red pepper. Stir well to ensure the potatoes are well coated with oil and will not stick to the pan. (Don’t worry if the sausage left a lot of brown bits on the bottom of the pan. We will deglaze that later.) Add the lid and leave the pan over medium to medium-low heat until the potatoes are cooked through, about 20 minutes. Remove the lid to stir at least twice during that time period.

2. Open the pan and stir, adding the white wine and scraping up all the brown bits from the bottom. Bring this to a simmer over medium-high to high heat, and then add the clams, and quickly add the lid. Set a timer for 9 minutes. Reduce heat to medium (once the lid is on) so that the pan does not boil over. Shake the pan, gently, occasionally.

3. When the timer sounds, remove the lid and see if all the clams have opened. If they have not, replace the lid for 2 more minutes. At that point, the clams that have not opened are no good; toss them.

4. Divide the clams, sausage, and potatoes among four large dishes. Serve piping hot with lots of bread for collecting the juices.

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bean + chorizo cassoulet

In general I would say that there are very few ways of getting ahead in life. But one of them is cooking a big pot of beans over the weekend. When I have a ridiculously busy week coming up, I grab a pound of dried beans (I use beans from Rancho Gordo because of their freshness and amazing variety) and simmer them on Sunday. I dip into those beans for dishes throughout the week. I’m only cooking for two here, so if you have a larger family, cook a couple of pounds one Sunday and see what I mean. Once the beans are cooked, the rest of most bean recipes (soup, chili, pot pie, hearty salads, you name it) come together with just about 30 to 45 minutes of simmering.

Beans play well with all sorts of flavors, as evidenced in this recipe. Instead of a traditional cassoulet, which is a major, time-consuming work of art (one not to be missed; probably not one to be made from scratch on a school night if you’d like to maintain your sanity), this takes advantage of the basic beans-and-sausage concept of the original, while adding a little bit of a Latin twist. Pair this with a simple salad of avocado and spinach (dressed with the juice of that lemon you zested and some olive oil and salt), and you’ll have dinner on in less than an hour.

I removed a number of steps (and the use of the oven) from the original recipe from Bon Appetit. It seemed like there was a bit of extra fuss in the original recipe. My guess is the original does cook up thicker in the oven, and perhaps the bread crumbs are a bit more incorporated into the dish, but, after all, we are talking about getting ahead here. All I can tell you is that this is pretty delicious. So grab a pound or two of dried beans this weekend, slowly simmer them on Sunday until they are nice and soft, and set yourself up for a week of great meals.

Bean + chorizo cassoulet

Based on this recipe from Bon Appetit

  • 1 to 1.5 pounds fresh chorizo sausage in 1-inch chunks or balls
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3 anchovy fillets packed in oil, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 4 cups cooked beans (I used Eye of the Goat, about 1/2 pound dried beans)
  • 2 cups bean cooking liquid
  • 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1.5 cups fresh breadcrumbs
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced

1. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add sausage and cook until browned. Add onion into the pan and cook until soft, about 5 more minutes. Add garlic and anchovies; cook and stir 1 minute more until anchovies dissolve. Add tomato paste and paprika–smear the tomato paste on the bottom of the pan–until paste is caramelized, about 2 minutes. Add reserved 1 cup bean broth, beans, chicken broth, tomatoes, thyme, bay leaves, and rosemary; stir thoroughly and bring to a simmer.

2. Cover and simmer over low heat until beans are very tender and flavors have blended, about 45 minutes. Check occasionally, stir, and add more bean cooking liquid or chicken broth as needed.

3. Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons oil in a medium skillet. Add breadcrumbs and cook, stirring to mix in oil thoroughly. Cook until golden and crisp. Be careful because at the end they burn quickly, and will continue to brown off the heat, especially in a heavy skillet like cast iron. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, stir in lemon zest and cilantro, and set aside.

4. When cassoulet has simmered, remove lid and stir thoroughly. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over beans. Let cassoulet sit for 15 minutes before serving.

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tortellini soup

Posts have been a little sluggish this week due to a nasty head cold, which has sent me to bed for the majority of the week. However, the upside of being sick is having soup, in my opinion. This recipe is a good one, hearty enough for a meal, easy to adapt, great for leftovers. Without the sausage, it is an equally good vegetarian soup. We are lucky here that we can get lovely little handmade tortellini. Look for those in your Italian market and serve them for supper one night. If a handful of the little dumplings are leftover, throw them into your soup pot the next day. They remind me of kreplach, and what is more comforting than a bowl of soup with a few kreplach floating in it? Nothing!

Instead of zucchini, you could tear up some kale and add it at the last. Or some other vegetable you like—I think winter squash cut into small dice would also be wonderful with the beans and the pasta. And if you don’t have tortellini, you could easily add some tiny dried pasta to the pot. It is snowing outside here today, and I truly wish I still had some of this soup leftover. But even for a sick person, it is easy enough to make. I hope you try it.

Tortellini soup

  • 1/2 lb. Italian link sausage, cut into 1-inch balls
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
  • 2 stalks celery, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 5 small or 3 large cloves garlic
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups chopped plum tomatoes from a can, drained
  • 2 small zucchini, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 cups frozen or freshly made cheese tortellini
  • 2 cups canellini beans, cooked and drained
  • salt to taste

1. Brown the sausage balls in a large soup pot over medium heat. Let them get really brown. Then add the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic. Saute until onion is translucent, 5 to 6 minutes.

3. Add the stock and water to the pot, stir really well, and simmer until carrots are cooked through, about 15 minutes. Taste a carrot. If they are cooked, add the chopped drained tomatoes, zucchini, tortellini and canellini beans. Bring back to a bare simmer, stirring well so that pasta doesn’t stick. Add salt to taste at this point. (My soup took about a teaspoon of coarse salt, but it depends on whether your stock, beans, and tomatoes are salted already.) Cook just until tortellini are cooked through, about 5 minutes for fresh.

4. Serve in warm soup bowls. You can add some grated cheese to each bowl if you like.


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sausage “meatballs” with tomatoes + braised cabbage

Something magical happened to the cabbage in this dish. Only Marcella Hazan could have scolded me into exhibiting the kind of patience required to make something like this out of cabbage. For some time I had been intrigued by her recipe, in Essentials of Italian Cooking, for “Winter Meatballs with Savoy Cabbage.” This week, though, while I had a cabbage (not Savoy) in the refrigerator, I did not, by any means, have time to make meatballs. Lots of food bloggers say things like, “these meatballs came together in a snap!” I am not one of those food bloggers. I know how much time it takes to make a proper meatball.

And let me also say that I am highly experienced in braising cabbage. We eat it every week during the winter. Right now we are getting excellent stored specimens from our friends at Stone Gardens at the CitySeed Farmers’ Market in Wooster Square. I also noted an organic farm at last week’s market that had a variety I hadn’t heard of, “Storage #4” from Johnny’s seeds. I may be going back for one of those beauties. When I saw it I was with my dad. We are the type of people who ask people where they got their cabbage seeds. In any case, I love braised cabbage, and it always turns out delicious and satisfying. However, the method below, ripped off from Marcella Hazan, is more than just braised cabbage.

Her original recipe features meatballs (I will get around to making this properly someday), but I simply took Italian sausage and removed the casings, forming it into slightly flattened balls. These I fried in a separate pan until they were very, very brown. You cook the cabbage forever, in just a bit of olive oil and garlic, first uncovered, then covered, for a long time, then uncovered again. Then you add a few chopped tomatoes from a can, very well drained (you want this very dry), and cook for a while more. Then you add your meatballs, or in my case, sausage, and cook even more, this time with the lid on again. This all takes quite a bit of time, but you don’t really have to do very much. You can read your mail, or watch an entire episode of a TV show.

When everything is done, this is a great one-dish meal. You just scoop it onto the plates and enjoy it. This recipe feeds about four people if you are making a separate, small pasta course, or a substantial salad. The cabbage, by the end, has transformed into a sweet, mellow, delicacy, but it has lost none of its substance. It is still very much like cabbage. Just cabbage that took a little detour to heaven. Which is very much the way I like it.

Sausage “meatballs” with tomatoes + braised cabbage

Adapted dramatically from Marcella Hazan, Essentials of Italian Cooking

Serves 4 as a main course

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 – 1 1/2 lb. cabbage (Savoy or regular), cut into quarters, cored, sliced in 1/4″ strips
  • 1 lb. sweet Italian sausage, casings removed and cut into 1″ balls
  • 2/3 cup canned plum tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

1. In a large, shallow, lidded casserole or saute pan, heat the olive oil and garlic over medium heat. Cook and stir until pale gold in color, then add the strips of cabbage. Toss very well, six or seven times, to coat with oil. Add the lid and reduce the heat to the lowest setting. Cook for 45 minutes or so, until it is very soft and reduced to one-third its original volume.

2. Meanwhile, in a frying pan, cook the sausage “meatballs” until they are very well browned on all sides and cooked thoroughly to the middle. This will take 15 minutes or so.

3. When the cabbage has cooked for 45 minutes to an hour, remove lid, sprinkle with salt and, generously, with pepper. Taste and correct the seasoning. Then turn heat to medium, and cook for 15 minutes uncovered until cabbage is a light and nutty brown color.

4. Add the tomatoes and, turning occasionally, cook for 15 more minutes. Return the meatballs to the pan, toss thoroughly four or five times and cover the pan again. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the lid three or four times and give everything a good stir.

5. Serve immediately from a warm platter, or directly into diners’ dishes.


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italian wedding ribollita

One of the upsides of watching your life speed by at an alarming pace becoming more experienced in the kitchen is that certain dishes come back into focus as the seasons change. These dishes are like old friends. Oh yes, you say to yourself, I remember you, and all the nice times we had together last year. I always see you in this place, or with this set of people; we always do this or talk of that.

The nights are cooling off and I’m seeing fall produce like kale and carrots in the market. And in a case of life imitating art, friends who  moved to San Francisco last year were passing through last week. I promised them a simple supper, and this is what we had. Ribollita, I think, does not usually have meat in it, but I had some nice sausage from Four Mile River, so in it went. I think this makes the soup kind of a merger between Italian wedding soup, which has meatballs, and ribollita, which does not. You could very easily leave the sausage or meatballs out and you’d be none the worse off.

This recipe makes a gigantic pot of soup, one large enough to share with friends. It’s the sort of meal that gives you plenty of time to talk and catch up, maybe have a second helping, another bottle of wine, and a good laugh. And the next night, when you heat up the leftovers, you’ll remember how good it is to welcome back old friends.

Italian wedding ribollita

  • 1 lb. Italian or regular sausage
  • 1 glug of olive oil
  • 4 carrots, chopped finely
  • 4 ribs of celery, chopped finely
  • 1 turnip or potato, chopped into 1/4″ dice (optional)
  • 1 small to medium onion, chopped finely
  • 2 cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper, or less, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 large bunch (about 1 lb.) kale of any type, cut into 1/2″ or thinner ribbons
  • 3 – 4 cups of cooked borlotti, canellini, or other soup beans
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 28 oz. can whole plum tomatoes, with juice
  • water, as needed
  • salt, as needed
  • ciabatta or soft Italian bread, sliced thickly
  • hard Italian cheese, such as grana padano or parmesan, for grating

1. If your sausage is bulk sausage, pat it out into a 1″ thick rectangle and use a sharp knife to cut it into 1″ cubes. These will resemble meatballs. If your sausage is in casings, cut into 1″ slices. In your largest, heaviest soup pot, on medium-high heat, put a glug of olive oil and add sausage meatballs. Brown them well on all sides and remove from pan. (The sausage may not be fully cooked at this point so it is best not to snack on it.)

2. Add carrots, celery, turnip or potato (if using), onion, to pan. Saute until onion is translucent, and add garlic, pepper, thyme and oregano. Stir until garlic is fragrant. Add kale ribbons and stir until kale is coated and has turned bright green. Add beans, stock, and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and break up the tomatoes with the back of a spoon. Add water as needed to bring to a soup-like consistency. You do not want this soup too thick as the bread is meant to soak up much of the broth.

3. Return the sausage to the pan and bring to a simmer. Cook for at least 20 minutes until sausage and potatoes are cooked through. Taste for salt, and add salt as needed. At this point the soup can be cooled and reheated later, or left to perk on the back of the stove until it is wanted.

4. Place ciabatta slices in large soup bowls. Ladle soup over. Pass hard Italian cheese such as parmesan or grana padano with a grater.


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stuffed summer vegetables

I found myself with a kitchen full of vegetables the other night, and no idea what to make for supper. Baskets around the kitchen were exploding with squash, tomatoes, peppers of all kinds, and onions, as well as herbs that a colleague had generously brought to work. I thought of the dish that we were served near the Douro in Portugal earlier this summer, when another guest at the inn demanded a meal on short notice. The cook of the house gathered a pumpkin (which is really a big, spherical squash) from the garden, along with everything else she could find, and made something like these stuffed vegetables. Served outdoors with a bowl of fresh soup and a big salad, the meal was perfection.

I have made big pans of stuffed tomatoes, stuffed peppers, and stuffed squash in the past, but I only had one or two of each, so I decided that I would stuff a variety of vegetables, using all the trimmings for the filling. You could easily choose one of the vegetables to stuff and use the others to make up the rest of the filling. A couple of handfuls of herbs went into the food processor with a couple of chunks of stale bread, and next thing I knew, supper was on the table.

This dish is easy to make ahead. I note in the recipe below where you can hit pause for, I reckon, up to two days or so. When you bake the dish of vegetables, they sort of roast and slump beautifully into the pan. With cooler nights here now, this is a perfect note for the end of summer.

Stuffed summer vegetables

  • 1 medium summer squash or zucchini
  • 5 small to medium tomatoes
  • 1 large pepper (bell pepper or frying pepper)
  • 2 medium-hot peppers, such as Anaheim, Hungarian hot wax or ancho, or to taste, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 lb ground meat such as veal, lamb, beef, pork or sausage
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups fresh bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh oregano, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. (If you are baking this later, skip this step for now.)

2. Slice squash in half lengthwise and scoop out flesh with a spoon into a large bowl. Core tomatoes with a sharp paring knife and scoop out seeds into the bowl. Cut pepper in half lengthwise and trim out white pith, discarding it. Arrange these vegetable shells in a 13 x 9 inch baking pan.

3. In a large skillet with sides, cook ground meat over medium-high heat until no pink is showing. (Add olive oil as necessary depending on the meat you are using.) Add onion and medium-hot peppers and saute until soft. Add reserved flesh from zucchini or squash and pulp of tomatoes. Bring to a simmer, taste, and correct for salt. Cook for 10 minutes at a simmer. Remove from heat and add breadcrumbs and herbs and mix well. Taste again and correct for salt.

4. Spoon the stuffing into the vegetable shells, piling it up high and letting some fall around the vegetables. [At this point you can let everything cool, cover it, and hold in the refrigerator for up to two days to bake later.] Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 15 minutes more.

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stuffed cabbage

I think when I was a kid someone brought us a German cookbook and there was a recipe for stuffed cabbage rolls in them. My mom made them a couple times each year when there were cabbages around in abundance. I loved them. They were so different from anything else we ever ate. Admit it, when you look at the picture it’s hard to resist those adorable little bundles all rolled up and snuggled into their pans, isn’t it?

I made these before I went on vacation so that Ty would be able to eat the half batch that I stowed in the freezer. These are marvelous, because they can both be made ahead and reheated, and they freeze gorgeously. So if you can’t eat this many cabbage rolls, bake both pans and then freeze the pan you’re not eating to have for supper later. This is also a sensible approach because it is a bit of work to make these, so you may as well make the most of the process and get some longevity out of these.

I just make these the way I remember my mom making them—I’ve never had a recipe, and I’m sure this is not at all the proper way to make them. (I don’t believe she ever used that German cookbook once, but I remember it being on the cookbook shelf.) I use the outer leaves of the cabbage for the wrappers after a quick boil, and I chop up some of the center of the head for the filling, to saute with the cabbage and other components. If you have a large head of cabbage, this will use most of it, but may leave some behind for slaw or other purposes. (Rarely have I come across a recipe that will use a whole head of cabbage—unless you’re making cole slaw for my entire family, in which case I hope your cabbages were delivered in a flat-bed truck.)

I know that once you have those cabbage leaves par-boiled and sitting on your counter, it’s hard to imagine how you will transform them into those little stuffed bundles. I can’t really help you there. Just place the filling on the leaf and start wrapping. I am really challenged when it comes to visualizing such things, but eventually even I figure it out. I know you’ll do better. When you’re tucking into a piping hot cabbage roll, it will all have been worthwhile.

Stuffed cabbage

Makes 12 rolls to fit in 2 square 9″ baking pans

  • 1 large head of cabbage (I use savoy)
  • 1 pound of ground meat of any kind (I use sausage made from pork, veal or lamb, but you could use turkey or ground beef as well)
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 plum tomatoes, from a can of plum tomatoes
  • 3 cups brown or white rice, cooked
  • 4 cups of tomato sauce (see notes below)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or fleur de sel
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1. Oil baking pans lightly. Prepare cabbage: Start a large soup pot of water to boil. Remove 12 largest outer leaves. These are your wrappers. Wash and remove the toughest part of the lower rib (maybe 2″ or so, cut out with a small paring knife). Cut the remaining small, pale inner head of cabbage in half. Chop half of it finely and measure 3 cups of chopped cabbage and set aside. When water boils, place the outer 12 leaves in the boiling water, cover, and return to boil. Boil about 4 to 5 minutes after the pot returns to boil. Leaves should be soft and pliable. Drain.

2. In the same soup pot, which is now empty, place olive oil, onions and garlic. Saute over medium heat until onions are soft. Add the chopped cabbage you set aside, and stir until soft. Add the chopped plum tomatoes, and crushed red pepper. Crumble the sausage into the pot and break it up with the back of a wooden spoon. Stir occasionally until sausage is no longer pink, is thoroughly cooked, and is crumbled throughout the mixture.

3. Add salt and rice to the pot. Stir well and let it return to the simmer. Taste and adjust salt as needed. Remove from heat to a counter with the two oiled pans and a baking sheet nearby for a work surface. Preheat oven to 400 F.

4. Place one wrapper leaf on the baking sheet. Using a half-cup measure, scoop filling mixture onto the leaf. Bend the two flaps created where you trimmed out the rib on the leaf over the filling, covering it. Tuck the other edges in and make a nice rectangular roll. Place the roll in one of the prepared pans, seam side down.

5. Repeat with the remaining wrapper leaves, placing six rolls in each pan. When all the rolls are tucked into the pans, pour half the tomato sauce into each pan, covering the rolls. Cover each pan with aluminum foil and place in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove foil for 15 more minutes of cooking.

Note on tomato sauce:  In this recipe, we don’t mean spaghetti sauce or marinara, but pureed tomato sauce. You can purchase this in cans. But what I did with this recipe, which is flexible, is scooped 1/2 cup of cooked onions out of the pan when they were through sauteeing. I put them in the blender with a large can of crushed tomatoes. Tasted and corrected for salt. Voila! Tomato sauce.

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