Monday, January 30, 2012

Croissants - Part Un



The people have spoken, HANDMADE CROISSANTS ARE BETTER! Let's do it! Allow for 3 days to complete this simple and fun recipe by Mireille Guiliano from French Women Don't Get Fat.


Croissants

Makes 12

Ingredients:

1 cup milk, plus 2 tablespoons to brush over croissants
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 1/4 cups, plus 3 tablespoons sifted all-purpose flour (measure and reserve in separate bowls)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons sweet (unsalted) butter
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon milk (for glaze)

Day 1 (Friday Evening):

Heat 1 cup of the milk to lukewarm. Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup of the lukewarm milk. Stir in 2 tablespoons flour (from the 2 1/4 cups) and whisk until there are no lumps. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature until doubled in volume (this will take about 10-20 minutes).


Mix the sugar and salt into the 2 1/8 cups flour.


Heat the remaining milk. Transfer the raised dough to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, add the lukewarm milk, and with the mixer at high speed, start adding the sugar, salt, and flour mixture, a little at a time, reducing the speed to low-medium until the dough is sticky and soft. (If it doesn't look like it will come together, keep mixing, it will.)


Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Wow, that was NOT difficult AT ALL! Check back for Day 2!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Pow Wow, Anyone?

Not all bread requires yeast, some use baking powder as a leavener, like "Indian Fry Bread." Fry bread is traditional to Native Americans, originating with the Navajo Indians, and is a staple of southwestern cuisine. Around 1846, early pioneers (along with the U.S. Cavalry), moved west into Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado (the native lands of the Navajo). In 1863, Kit Carson was dispatched to Navajo lands to retrieve a surrender. After no surrender was made, he ordered the burning of the land, forcing the Navajo and the Mescalero Apache Indians to a camp in Bosque Redondo, New Mexico. The camp was overcrowded and supplies limited. Thus, fry bread was born and is still essential at any self-respecting Pow wow.

Fry bread can be topped with honey and sugar, or topped with traditional taco fare, to make "Indian Tacos" (the state dish of Arizona). I like to top mine with shredded Picante Pot Roast, lettuce, tomatoes, cheddar cheese, salsa or hot sauce, and sour cream. A small bowl of Frijoles Borrachos on the side would be nice, too! Delicious! Indian fry bread is fantastic, historic, and definitely worth trying!


Indian Fry Bread

Makes 8

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon powdered milk
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening or lard
3/4 cup cold water
2 cups canola oil, for frying

Directions:

Combine the flour, baking powder, powdered milk, and salt in a large bowl. Cut in the shortening with a pastry blender or 2 knives until the mixture is crumbly. Add the water and mix until the dough comes together. Dust the top with flour, cover with a kitchen towel, and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour.

Heat the oil in a large high-sided pan until it reaches 350 degrees (or until a small piece of dough dropped in begins to fry). On a floured surface, divide the dough into 8 pieces and roll out each piece into a 4-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick. Fry the bread in batches until golden brown on both sides, 3-4 minutes. Remove to a baking sheet lined with paper towels or to a cooling rack with paper towels underneath. The fry bread can be held warm in a 200 degree oven for up to an hour, or refrigerated and reheated for 10-15 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Legacy of the French

France first began it's involvement with Vietnam as early as the 17th century, by Catholic missionaries. Along with missionary work, attributed to the Paris Foreign Missions Society, trade also became established and continued through the 18th and 19th centuries. France obtained complete control in 1887 and occupied Vietnam (part of Indochina) until 1954, when the Geneva Conference granted Indochina independence from France. The influence of the French, can be seen in the French colonial-style architecture, improved ports and drainage systems, and the introduction of coffee, tea, and rubber plantations. However, the best influence by the French was gastronomic, introducing baguettes, ice cream, pate, and crepes.

Vietnamese bread (known as banh mi) is traditionally made with an mixture of wheat and rice flour, giving it a lightness and subtle flavor. This recipe for "Vietnamese Baguettes," adapted from The Complete Vietnamese Cookbook, by Ghillie Basan, is said to be traditional, and makes an excellent Pork Meatball Banh Mi. (One of my favorite sandwiches, ever!)


Vietnamese Baguettes

Makes 2-3 loaves (I make 3, so I can fit them in my oven!)

Ingredients:

1/2 ounce (5 teaspoons) dried yeast 
2 cups warm water
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 cups unbleached white bread flour
2 cups rice flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 egg yolk

Directions:

Sprinkle the yeast over 4 tablespoons of water and 1/2 teaspoon sugar in a small bowl. Let sit until foamy. (If it doesn't foam, throw it out and buy new yeast!) 

Sift the flours and salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the yeast mixture. Pour in the remaining 1 1/2 cups water into the well in the center. Using your hand, draw a little flour into the center and mix until you have formed a smooth batter in the center. Sprinkle a little of the flour over the top to prevent a skin from forming and leave it to froth for about 20 minutes.


Using your hand, draw in the rest of the flour and work the mixture unto a springy dough. Lift it to a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes. Shape into a ball.

Clean the bowl and lightly oil it. Put the dough into the bowl and cover it with a damp dish towel or plastic wrap. Leave to rise and double in size, at least 2 hours. Knock back the risen dough by punching it down and lift to a floured surface and knead. 

Divide the dough into 2 or 3 and roll into a log shape about 12" long. Place the logs on a baking sheet (I had to use 2, overlapping), and slit the surface lengthwise. Cover with a damp dish towel and leave to double in size. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.



Brush the loaves with beaten egg yolk mixed with a touch of water, and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees and bake for 20-25 minutes more, until the loaves sound hollow when tapped.

Monday, January 23, 2012

IT'S A MIRACLE!

There are great bakeries making fine varieties of bread; however, nothing beats fresh bread straight from your oven! Making bread may seem tedious, but it is well worth the effort. An excellent bread to try, is a nice rustic French boule. This recipe for "The Miracle Boule," from Laura Calder, and attributed to New Yorker, Jim Lahey, is AMAZING! It takes two days, a dutch oven, and patience. The mature flavor, crisp crust, and pleasantly chewy texture, will ensure that you will make this again and again!


The Miracle Boule

Makes 1 round loaf or "boule"

Ingredients:

3 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups water
Extra flour, wheat bran, or cornmeal, as needed

Directions:

Mix the flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Stir in the water to blend. What you'll have is a wet, shaggy, sticky dough, but not so wet as to be batter. Cover the bowl with a tea towel or plastic wrap, and let it rest in a warm place for at least 12 and up to 24 hours. It's ready for the next step when the surface is dotted with bubbles.

Flour a work surface and dump the bread out onto it. Sprinkle over a little more flour and fold it over once or twice. No need to knead. Cover with a tea towel, and let rest 15 minutes.

Using only enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to your fingers, shape the dough into a ball. Coat a cotton towel with flour, wheat bran, or cornmeal. (You need quite a lot of flour because you want to be sure the dough doesn't stick to the towel.) Cover and let rise about 2 hours. When ready, the dough will be more than double in size.


Half an hour before the dough is ready, heat the oven to 450 degrees. Put an 8-quart (2 L) lidded cast-iron pot or Dutch oven (cocotte) inside to heat. When the dough is ready, remove the pot from the oven, and using the towel, turn the dough into it, seam side up. (It will look messy, but this is okay.) Give the pan a gentle shake to settle the bread evenly. Cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid, and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until the loaf is nicely browned. Cool on a rack.


Recipe from French Taste: Elegant Everyday Eating, by Laura Calder. (Great Cookbook!)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Incredible Edible Ice

I stumbled across this video showing the amazing Chinese Ice Sculpture Festival!


With these incredible ice sculptures in mind, I concluded my Chinese New Year Menu with "Ginger, Lemon, and Mint Granita." The first time I made this was on a whim, and was certain it might bomb; however, all of my guests and I loved it! This refreshing icy dessert is as soothing as it is delicious! I can't think of a better way to start a new year! Add a fortune cookie and you're set! Try it, you'll be surprised!


Ginger, Lemon, and Mint Granita

Serves 4-6, (1/4-1/2 cup is an appropriate serving size)

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups sugar
2 1/4 cups water
1 1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, sliced
Handful of mint, stems and leaves separated, leaves finely chopped
1 tablespoon honey
Zest and juice of 1 lemon

Directions:

In a saucepan over medium heat, dissolve the sugar in the water and bring to a boil. Add the ginger, mint stems, and honey, and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, pour into a metal bowl, and let cool.

Strain the mixture into a freezer safe bowl or rectangular container. Stir in the chopped mint leaves and lemon juice and zest.

Place the bowl in the freezer. Once it starts to develop an ice crust, take out at 20 minute intervals and break up the ice thoroughly with a fork to make a crushed ice texture. Repeat the process until the mixture is completely frozen and crushed.

Divide between decorative glasses or dishes and serve.

Recipe from balancing flavors: east&west, by Tom Kime.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Lucky Dumplings

I am always looking for a reason to put a menu together. This time, it's Chinese New Year 2012 - Year of the Dragon, which begins on January 23! 
I began the menu with "Crab Dumplings with Garlic-Ginger Dipping Sauce." The preparation of dumplings is representative of packaging luck inside. (I could always use some luck!) These fantastic dumplings are full of crabmeat, scallions, garlic, ginger, and a touch of sesame oil. Yum! The best dumpling wrappers for this recipe are round "gyoza" wrappers. I couldn't find any, so I used wonton wrappers and used a 3 1/2" round biscuit cutter. In addition, the dumplings are cooked with a mix of oil and water to create a crisp bottom, and a tender, juicy top. They are very tasty and a favorite of my oldest child!


Crab Dumplings with Garlic-Ginger Dipping Sauce

Makes 36 dumplings, serving 12 as an appetizer

Ingredients:

For the dumplings
10 ounces lump crabmeat
1/2 cup minced scallions
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
36 gyoza or wonton wrappers
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
3/4 cup water, divided

For the dipping sauce
1/2 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

Directions:

For the dumplings
Combine crab, scallions, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, and pepper in a large bowl. Organize your work area with a small bowl of cold water, your wrappers, biscuit cutter (if needed), crab mixture, and a rimmed baking sheet lined with plastic wrap, to hold the finished dumplings.

Working with one wrapper at a time, cut with biscuit cutter (if necessary), dip your finger into the water and moisten the edges of the circle. Spoon about 1 1/2 teaspoons of filling into the center. Fold the wrapper over to form a half circle, pinching the edges together to seal.
Repeat with the remaining wrappers. Cover the wrappers and finished dumplings with moist paper towels to prevent drying. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to cook.

For the sauce
Mix all ingredients in a jar.

Finishing the dish
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Mix 1 tablespoon canola oil with 1/4 cup water in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, bring to a simmer. Carefully arrange 1/3 of the dumplings in the skillet (don't let them touch). Cover and cook until the dumplings puff up and are light brown on the bottom, about 5 minutes. Transfer the dumplings to a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven. Repeat with the remaining dumplings. Serve hot with the dipping sauce and devour that good luck!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Tinga! Tinga! Tinga!

A "tinga," as it is called in Puebla, is a classic of Central Mexico. It consists of a blend of shredded meat simmered with fresh local ingredients, usually used to make tacos, tortas, and tostadas. This recipe for "Smoky Shredded Chicken and Potatoes with Roasted Tomatoes (Tinga de Pollo y Papas)" is delicious and it's smoky, slightly spicy flavors appeal to everyone! For a casual dinner or buffet, serve in a warm, deep, serving dish, topped with the cheese and avocado, a big green salad, and lots of hot tortillas for making tacos. A nice cold cerveza would be nice, too!


Alternately, you can top individual corn tortilla chips to make "tiny tostadas," a perfect accompaniment to margaritas! Perfect party food, and pretty, too!


Smoky Shredded Chicken and Potatoes with Roasted Tomatoes (Tinga de Pollo y Papas)

Serves 4, about 4 cups

Ingredients:

For the sauce
2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo
2 garlic cloves, unpeeled
12 ounces (2 medium-small round or 4-6 plum) ripe tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil

For the tinga
4 medium (1 1/2 pounds total) chicken thighs, skin removed
4 medium boiling potatoes (like the red-skin ones)
1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
Salt, about 3/4 teaspoon
1/3 cup crumbled Mexican queso fresco or pressed, salted farmer's cheese
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and diced

Directions:

For the sauce
Roast the unpeeled garlic on a griddle or skillet over medium heat, turning occasionally, until soft (they will blacken in spots), about 15 minutes; cool and peel. Roast the tomatoes on a baking sheet 4 inches below a very hot broiler until blackened on one side, about 6 minutes, then flip and roast the other side. Cool, then peel, collecting any juices with the tomatoes. 

In a blender or food processor, puree the tomatoes and their juices, chipotle chiles, and garlic. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a heavy, medium (2 to 3 quart) saucepan over medium-high. Add the puree and stir for about 5 minutes as it sears and thickens.

For the tinga
Nestle the skinless thighs into the sauce, cover, and set over medium-low heat. Cook for about 25 minutes, until the meat is thoroughly tender. Remove the chicken to a plate, leaving as much sauce as possible in the pan. Cool, then pull the meat from the bones in large shreds; there will be about 2 cups.

With a food processor or hand grater, coarsely shred the potatoes. Squeeze between your hands to remove as much water as possible.

Finishing the dish
Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high in a large 10"-12" nonstick or well-seasoned skillet. Add the onion and potatoes and cook, stirring and scraping up any sticking bits, until well browned, about 15 minutes. Scrape in the sauce and oregano, bring to a boil, stir in the chicken, and heat through, about 2 minutes. Taste and season with salt. Scoop into a warm, deep, decorative serving dish. Sprinkle with cheese, strew with avocado and serve without hesitation. This can be made a day ahead, cover, refrigerate. Warm in a 400 degree oven, covered with foil, garnish with cheese and avocado, and serve.

Recipe adapted from Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Naughty little Pintos, getting Tipsy on Tequila!

I am so excited to share this recipe for "Drunken Pintos with Cilantro and Bacon (Frijoles Borrachos)!" These soupy beans, similar to frijoles charros (aka., cowboy beans), are perfect in a small bowl alongside tacos, and other Mexican fare. Although, they are equally welcome at any barbecue! It's amazing how just a little tequila transforms this recipe from traditional to transcendent! 


Drunken Pintos with Cilantro and Bacon (Frijoles Borrachos)

Makes 4 cups, serving 4 to 6 as a side dish

Ingredients:

8 ounces (about 1 1/4 cups) dry pinto beans 
1/2 cup (about 2 ounces) cubed pork shoulder (or extra chopped bacon, if you wish)
4 thick slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 small white onion, diced into 1/4-inch pieces
Hot fresh green chile to taste (roughly 2 serranos or 1 jalapeno), stemmed, seeded, and sliced
Salt, about 3/4 teaspoon
1 1/2 tablespoons tequila (plus a little more if you like)
1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro

Directions:

The beans:
Rinse the beans thoroughly and scoop into a medium-size (4-quart) pot with a lid. Add 5 cups water, remove any beans that float and discard. Add the pork shoulder (or extra bacon) and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and very gently simmer, partially covered, until the beans are thoroughly tender, about 2 hours. You'll need to gently stir the beans regularly and add water as necessary to keep the liquid a generous 1/2-inch above the level of the beans.

The flavorings
In a medium-size skillet, fry the bacon (that is the remaining bacon if you used some for the beans), stirring regularly, until crisp, about 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon, leaving behind as much of the drippings as possible. Pour off all but about 2 tablespoons of the drippings and return the pan to medium heat. Add the onion and chiles and fry until deep golden brown, about 10 minutes. Scrape the onion mixture into the beans, then taste and season it all with salt. Continue simmering, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 30 minutes to blend the flavors.

Finishing the dish
If the beans seem quite soupy, boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the consistency of a nice, brothy bean soup. Just before serving, stir in the tequila and cilantro, then serve in warm bowls topped with the crumbled bacon.

Recipe adapted from Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen.
(Fabulous Cookbook!)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Enticing Aromas! "Olé!"

To me, there is nothing more satisfying to make than salsa! The enticing aromas of roasted tomatoes, garlic, and chiles, finely chopped white onion, and chopped fresh cilantro, is muy delicioso! One of my favorites is Rick Bayless's "Essential Roasted Tomato-Jalapeno Salsa: From the Stone Mortar (Salsa de Molcajete)." For this recipe, I used my beloved mortar and pestle. If you don't have one, just use a blender or food processor. If you like it really spicy, add another jalapeno. Besides tortilla chips and guacamole, this salsa is also fantastic with eggs, chicken, and fish! (It's always devoured the day I make it!)


Roasted Tomato-Jalapeno Salsa (Salsa de Molcajete)

Makes about 2 cups

Ingredients:

1 pound (2 medium-large round or 6 to 8 plum) red, ripe tomatoes
2 large (about 1 ounce total) fresh jalapeno chiles
3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
Salt, about a scant 1/2 teaspoon
1/2 small (about 2 ounces) white onion, finely chopped
A generous 1/3 cup loosely packed chopped cilantro
About 1 1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar (optional, I prefer it without)

Directions:

Roasting the basic ingredients:
The broiler method: Lay the tomatoes on a baking sheet and place about 4 inches below a very hot boiler. Roast until blistered and blackened on one side, about 6 minutes; with a spoon or pair of tongs, flip the tomatoes and roast on the other side.


The griddle method: Line a griddle or heavy skillet with aluminum foil and heat over medium. Lay the tomatoes on the foil and roast, turning several times, until blistered, blackened and softened, about 10 minutes. Don't worry if skin sticks to the foil.
Cool, then peel the skins, collecting all the juices with the tomatoes.

While the tomatoes are roasting, roast the chiles and unpeeled garlic directly on an ungreased griddle or heavy skillet (you already have one set up if you've griddle-roasted the tomatoes) over medium. Turn occaisionally until both the chiles and garlic are blackened in spots and soft, 5-10 minutes for the chiles, about 15 minutes for the garlic. Cool, pull the stems off the chiles and peel the papery skins from the garlic.



Grinding the salsa:
The mortar method: In a large mortar (molcajete), use the pestle to crush and grind the chiles, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt to a coarse-textured paste (this will release a wonderfully pungent aroma), paying special attention to breaking up the chile skins. A few at a time, grind in the roasted tomatoes, transferring the ground mixture to a bowl if the mortar gets unmanageably full.


The food processor or blender method: In a food processor or blender, grind the chiles, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt to a coarse paste, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl a couple of times. Add the tomatoes and pulse a few times until you have a coarse-textured puree.

Transfer the salsa to a serving bowl, and stir in any reserved tomato juices.

Final Seasoning:
In a strainer, rinse the onion under running water (aka., de-flaming), shake off the excess and stir into the salsa, along with the cilantro and optional vinegar. Add water, if necessary, to give the salsa a thickish, but easily spoonable, consistency (2-4 tablespoons). Taste and season with salt, usually a scant 1/4 teaspoon, and the salsa's ready to serve!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Note on Champagne

I LOVE Champagne! Not just any champagne, Veuve Clicquot! If only I could enjoy some everyday! I'm sure there are many other fine varieties, but I love the history of Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin. She must have been very savvy! This will provide a quick history:

(Sorry this video wasn't more glamorous, but it is concise.
For more on Veuve Clicquot,
with amazing photos, but a lot longer,
click here.)

A bottle of Veuve Clicquot, that makes you instantly giggle and smile with pleasure, is worth every penny! Life's hard. You deserve it! (Especially, if you made it through the "Magical Leek Soup," by Mireille Guiliano! aka., also very savvy and former President and CEO of Clicquot, Inc.)


*Mireille, If your reading this, I'd be honored to accept any donations of Veuve Clicquot!*

Friday, January 6, 2012

Do you, Escarole, take Mini-Meatball, to be your partner, in soup?


I'm still continuing my "healthy soup" week, to help us all bounce back after extravagant holiday eating! I started with Swiss-chard, continued with leeks, and now it's time for escarole! Escarole is a member of the endive family, and is the flat leaf variety known as Chicorium endivia var latifolia. Besides being high in fiber and rich in essential vitamins and minerals, escarole is believed to reduce high glucose and LDL cholesterol levels. In addition, it is said to help rid the body of infections. It's a super green and very popular in Sicilian cuisine!

To utilize this ruffly leaf, I chose to make Italian Wedding Soup (Minestra Maritata), which has nothing to do with weddings, rather, the "marriage" of flavors. There are numerous versions of this soup, but I chose to make this recipe from Saveur magazine. It was different from versions I've made before, by including shredded chicken and adding some tomatoes to the stock. It may not be for everyone, but I liked it and feel healthier already!


Italian Wedding Soup (Minestra Maritata)

Serves 8 (great leftover for lunch)

Ingredients:

1, 3 1/2-4 pound chicken (I used 4 chicken thighs instead)
2 carrots, peeled and trimmed
2 ribs of celery
2 cups canned whole peeled plum tomatoes
Kosher salt and pepper
1/2 cup acine de pepe (frog's-eye) or other tiny round pasta
1 bunch escarole, washed and coarsely chopped (if you can't find escarole, use Swiss-chard or spinach)
1/2 pound ground beef, pork, or whatever you prefer
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmigiano-reggiano
1 tablespoon freshly grated Romano cheese
Leaves of 2 sprigs of flat leaf parsley
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

Directions:

Put the chicken, carrots, celery, tomatoes, 14 cups of water, and salt to taste into a large pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, skimming any foam that rises to the surface, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until chicken is just cooked through, about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a small pot of boiling salted water until just tender, 5-7 minutes. Drain, rinse, and set aside. Put escarole and 2 tablespoons water into a large skillet, cover, cook over medium heat until wilted, 4-5 minutes and set aside. Gently mix ground beef, egg yolk, bread crumbs, cheeses, parsley, garlic, oregano, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper together in a large bowl, form into 1/2" meatballs, and set aside or refrigerate until ready to use.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer chicken to a large bowl and set aside to let cool. Strain the broth through a cheesecloth-lined colander into a clean medium pot, discarding solids. Shred the chicken meat and set aside, discarding skin and bones.

Bring broth to a boil over high heat. Add the meatballs, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until cooked through, 10-15 minutes. Add the shredded chicken, escarole, and pasta. Season to taste with salt and pepper, simmer for 15 more minutes, to let the flavors "marry."

Monday, January 2, 2012

Do You Know This Beautiful Leaf?


It's Swiss chard! Next to spinach, Swiss chard is among one of the healthiest foods around. In fact, Swiss chard is recommended to treat osteoporosis and Alzheimer's disease! If you've never tried it, I recommend you do! This is "red Swiss chard," but it also comes in "rainbow," how beautiful! I always think of this lovely soup when I want to balance extravagant eating, like during the holidays. This delicious soup, full of shallots, pancetta, cannellini beans, Swiss chard, and cheese tortellini, is easy and just what you need to get back on track! It's so good, you'll be surprised!


Italian White Bean, Pancetta, and Tortellini Soup

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces pancetta, chopped
3 large shallots, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1, 15 ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
4 cups chopped Swiss chard (about 1 bunch)
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1, 9 ounce package cheese tortellini, fresh or frozen (recommended: Buitoni)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

In a large, heavy soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta, shallots, carrot, and garlic and cook until the pancetta is crisp, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the beans, Swiss chard, and broth.

Bring the soup to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the tortellini and cook 5 minutes for fresh, 8 minutes for frozen, or until just tender. Season with pepper and serve. A crusty baguette is just perfect on the side!

Recipe from Everyday Pasta, by Giada De Laurentiis.