Tag Archives: beans

Gnocchi + goulash + fried fish = white bean dip with spinach pesto

Last week was a gnocchi with goulash kind of week. It was also the week that I graduated from illy Café University so let’s just go ahead and say, it was a pretty big week. The gnocchi and the degree are part of study trip number three, a week in the Friuli-Venezia Guilia region of Italy.

As one of the five autonomous regions in Italy, Friuli-Venezia Guilia is under administrative autonomy according to the Italian Constitution (Sardinia, Sicily, Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol and Aosta Valley are the other four). As a result of their constitutional distinction, these regions are governed by their own economies. In fact, Friuli-Venezia Guilia has one of the strongest in Italy, based primarily on specialized farming and exports like Prosciutto di San Daniele–basically Proscuitto di Parma cured in Northern Italy. Friulian is the primarily language of the area although it has slowly been phased out and replaced with Italian.

The region is also famous for its coffee, which means if you’re a student at UNISG, you spend the day at the illy headquarters earning your coffee degree. While it may sound like caffeine-laced fun and games, it was an action packed day. By the end my friends and I were in desperate need of a beer and sustenance to help settle the six-ten espressos we’d consumed throughout our day of coffee school (we had to, it was like homework).

At coffee school, each student naturally has their own illy computer and microphone.*

What we found for dinner was nothing less than an Italian/German/Austrian extravaganza of a meal. Looking back, I’m not totally sure how I’ve survived this far without a hefty helping of goulash with my gnocchi. The sausages, sauerkraut and mustard also tasted like long lost friends I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed. It was one of those meals where you’re unsure where you are (I’m eating spicy mustard and goulash two hours from Parma?), but frankly you just don’t really care.

Throughout the rest of the week we hit a bunch of regional hot spots including a Prosciutto di San Daniele producer, an alpine cheese maker a two hours hike up into the Alps and a 100-year-old flour mill. But the real show stopper was the morning we spent harvesting mussels from a farm off the coast of Trieste.

Our host, an ex-lawyer turned alpine cow farmer/cheese maker, makes ricotta by heating and straining the curds produced from his last batch of cheese.

Simultaneously delicious, disgusting to look at and also one of the most sustainable forms of seafood farming, there is a lot to say about mussels. That morning we watched as the mussel farmers harvested suspended ropes that the mussels attach to through sticky semen secretions. They grow, suspended on the ropes attached to opposite ends of buoys for about one year. Then the fishermen hoist up the ropes, pull off the mussels and pack them into tubes  of plastic netting ready to be sold to local restaurants or markets. For lunch we were treated to mussels, fried, calamari, shrimp, and whole sardines. Holy seafood.

The bones of the sardines were so soft that we ate the entire fish--bones, head and tail.

By the end of the week I really felt like a giant gnocchi battered and fried. Since arriving home I’ve craved nothing more than raw vegetables, fruit and riding Pickles (my bike). I had a bunch of spinach on hand so I came up with this spiffy number, which I hope you enjoy.

White  Bean dip with Spinach Pesto

Serves three

For the pesto:

3 cups fresh spinach

2 cloves garlic

¼ cup almonds

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

¼ cup olive oil

Salt and pepper

Finely mince the spinach, garlic and almonds. Scrape into a small bowl and stir in the cheese. Slowly drizzle in the oil while stirring and test for salt and pepper.

For the dip:

1 28 ounce can white beans, rinsed and drained

¼ cup lemon juice

Salt and pepper

Dump the beans into a small bowl and mash against the sides of the bowl until smooth. Pour in the lemon juice, stir and test for salt and pepper.

Drizzle the pesto over the dip and serve with seasonal vegetables.

If you haven't already noticed, I really like dips.

*All of the photos from the trip are courtesy of Lindsay Anderson http://linds-eats.blogspot.com/

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Father’s Day soup

People who know me know I really love my dad, I mean really love him. Some might even say I take it a little too far when I say I picture myself marrying the 30-year-old, hairy (read: not bald) version of my dad. I just say I’m lucky because I think he likes me too.

There have been many times in my life that stick out as times when I knew my dad was a keeper/future husband material. One of those times  was junior year of high school. I mean all of junior year–the year when my attitude was as ugly as my acne. Looking back, I thank my dad often for not locking me in a cage mostly because I think my mom was more open to the idea since it was mostly her fault that the world was so unfair.

Another time was junior year of college when my right lung spontaneously collapsed. I was in so much pain that all I could muster was a voicemail to my parents explaining I was having an emergency. I use the terms “voicemail” and “explaining” very loosely as the message mostly involved me shrieking into the phone about how neither parent was available in my time of need.

Dad drove six hours to Oxford with only a briefcase to his name so that he would be there when I woke up after surgery. He stayed with me in McCullough Hyde/Mc-kill-em-and-hide-em Hospital for four days sleeping in a chair, navigating the wilds of a small town hospital and most difficult of all: reminding me that everything is going to be OK.

The most recent time is another instance when my dad had to remind me that everything would be all right. Moving to Italy for a one year masters program isn’t for the faint of heart. There were a million times I wanted to and  did throw my hands in the air and give up. My mom and dad were the only ones able to control these outbursts and get me back on track, reminding me that rescanning/rewriting/redoing x, y, or z form, letter or application would be worth it in the end. Thank God I had the sense to listen because they were so right.

What he can do: cycle from Vail to Aspen for fun, cycle to and from work (22 miles each way) every day, cycle 50 miles on Sunday mornings with his biker gang. What he can't do: smile on command.

On that note, I offer you the latest installment of “Best I Ever,” which is a true culinary collaboration. Dad sent me this email yesterday: “Recipe Idea- Soup: borlotti bean*, faro, rosemary, pancetta and p-r cheese.” Can you see why I love this man? What a great combo. I’ve tweaked it a bit (sans cured meat so Catherine could enjoy)**, but I think/hope it still captures his culinary vision.

Father’s Day Bean Soup

Serves 5

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 yellow onions, diced

2 leeks, sliced thin

6 cups chicken broth

1 cup faro

1 can crushed tomatoes

1 sprig fresh rosemary

3 cups haricoverts, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 can each borlotti and white beans, rinsed (substitute pinto for borlotti if necessary)

Salt and pepper to taste

Parsley Pistou Topping

1 cup fresh parsley, minced

½ cup Parmesan cheese, minced

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Add the olive oil to a large stockpot over low heat. While the pot gets hot, dump the leeks into a strainer and rinse under cold water to remove any sand or grit. Dry the leeks and add them to the pot along with the onions. Cook the onions and leeks for about five minutes just to soften.

Next, add the chicken broth to the pot and bring to a summer. Stir in the faro, tomatoes and whole rosemary spring and cover for about ten minutes. Skim off any foam from the surface and mix in the haricoverts. Taste for salt and pepper and simmer for another five minutes. Add all but ¼ cup of the beans. To thicken the soup, mash the remaining beans with one tablespoon of broth and stir into the soup. Simmer for another ten minutes, removing the rosemary sprig just before serving.

For the pistou, in a small bowl mix together all three ingredients. Serve the soup topped with two or three tablespoons of the pistou and crusty bread.

If soup says, "I love you!" then Father's Day soup says, "I really love you and happy Father's Day, Papa Bear!"

*This time of year borlotti beans are everywhere in Italy and boy are they pretty: http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2002/1516886065_5a4f65571b_o.jpg. They have a starchy texture and nutty flavor and cook up to a light brown. Unfortunately they may be tricky to find in the U.S., so substitute pintos if you can’t find any.

**For those who love cured pork as much as Papa Sudekum, this is how I would incorporate some pork love:  brown about 1/2 cup  diced  pancetta in the pot until it lightly browns, about eight minutes. Hold on the olive oil since the pork will render enough fat. Add in the  onions and leeks to soften in the drippings.

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