Friday, September 24, 2010

Pantry Raid

In my quest to stretch our monthly grocery budget, I have taken to a ritual pantry raid; a literal scouring of the pantry's contents in pursuit of undiscovered meal potential. This month's raid offered a plethora of dried beans.  What better way to kick off the beginning of fall than with some homemade soups?  One flip through my recipe collection, a few bags of fresh produce and I was ready to prepare three outstanding and inexpensive dishes.  The first two recipes are courtesy of the October issue of Food Network Magazine.  The last is a tried and true Ina Garten recipe that you may remember from party #49.  

Cranberry Bean Pasta Fagioli
One of my many culinary embarrassments includes my college-year love affair with the Olive Garden's Soup, Salad, and Breadstick.  To this day, I cannot serve Pasta Fagioli without a huge salad and buttery slices of garlic bread.  I do however skip the post-meal keg stand... even my nostalgia has its limits. 

Active: 45 minutes            Total: 2 hours 25 minutes

5 TB extra virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
5 cloves garlic, smashed
1 small onion
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes or more to taste
1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 2-ounce piece of pancetta*
5 canned whole San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand* 
Kosher salt
3 pounds fresh cranberry beans in pods, shelled (or 1 cup dried cranberry beans soaked overnight. I used this option.)
2 bay leaves
1 piece parmesan cheese rind, plus 1/2 cup grated parmesan, and more for topping.
2 cups small pasta, such as shells or ditalini*
1 bunch kale, stems and ribs discarded, leaves chopped
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
Freshly ground pepper

  1. Heat 3 TB olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the garlic, onion, red pepper flakes, rosemary and pancetta, if using, and cook 2 minutes.  Stir in the tomatoes and cook 2 more minutes; season with salt. Add the beans, 3 quarts water, the bay leaves and parmesan rind. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until the beans are tender, 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours.  (At this stage, I froze half of the soup and therefore used half of the pasta and kale.  I then added the Parmesan and salt and pepper to taste.)
  2. Uncover the pot and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat.  Add the pasta and cook until aldente, about 8 minutes.  Add the kale and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender 5 to 6 more minutes. (This soup should be thick and creamy thin with water if necessary) 
  3. Remove the bay leaves, parmesan rind and pancetta.  Add the grated parmesan, parsley, the remaining 2 TB olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Top with more olive oil and parmesan. 
Note: I had a package of sliced pancetta on hand; I diced up these slices and left them in the soup.  I also used home canned tomatoes in place of the San Marzano, however my favorite substitute was the use of whole wheat pasta.  Cranberry beans have a nutty, almost chestnut-like flavor.  The whole wheat pasta complimented this flavor beautifully and added another nutritious edge to this bowl of goodness. 

Slow Cooker Squash Stew
This was a fantastic soup, however it did not fare well during the reheat process; I recommend making this without any plans for leftovers.  
Active: 35 minutes         Total: 35 (plus 8 hours in the slow cooker)
3 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 TB Tomato Paste
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1.5 cups dried chickpeas, rinsed
1 pound butternut squash peeled and cut into large pieces
1 bunch swiss chard, leaves and stems separated and roughly chopped
1 piece of parmesan rind, plus grated parmesan for topping (optional)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and golden brown, 4-5 minutes.  Stir in the tomato paste and red pepper flakes and cook 1 minute.  Stir in 1/2 cup water, scraping up any browned bits. Transfer the contents of the skillet to a 6 quart slow cooker.
  2. Add the chickpeas, squash, chard stems (not the leaves) the parmesan rind, if using, 2 teaspoons salt and 7 cups of water to the slow cooker.  Stir, then cover and cook on low for 8 hours.  
  3. Just before serving, lift the lid and stir in the chard leaves; cover and continue cooking 10 more minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, and stir to slightly break up the squash.  Discard the parmesan rind. Ladle into bowls and top with grated parmesan cheese.     

Rosemary White Bean Soup
Serves 6
Sometimes, a basic bowl of creamy soup is essential to good living.  This is just the soup for such occasion. 
1 pound white cannellini beans (I used great northern beans) soaked overnight
4 cups sliced yellow onions (3 onions)
1/4 cup good olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large branch fresh rosemary
2 quarts chicken stock
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

  1.  In a large stockpot over low to medium heat, saute the onions with the olive oil until the onions are translucent, 10-15 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook 3 more minutes.  Add the drained white beans, rosemary, chicken stock, and bay leaf.  Cover and bring to a boil, and simmer 30-40 minutes. 
  2. Remove rosemary branch and bay leaves and pass soup through the food mill (I used an immersion blender and coarsely pureed.) 
  3. Salt and pepper to taste and serve.
I served this soup with a beet and goat cheese salad.  It was perfect for dinner and even better served from our family thermoses the following afternoon.

Don't have beans in the pantry?  MSN money did report a 20% price increase... the good news is that they are still under a dollar a pound.  Need a budget friendly menu, but your pantry is bean free?  Post questions in the comment box; I'm sure there is something perfect for your family table. 

No comments:

Post a Comment