Sunday, February 28, 2010

White Bean Sautee with Roasted Veggies

We don't eat out all that much, maybe because I don't mind cooking, but I do find eating in restaurants to be a good source of inspiration for recipe ideas. I was reminded of this over the past couple of weeks. First, when we stopped at The Friendly Toast in Portsmouth en route to Maine and I ate a veggie barbecue bowl. If you haven't been to The Friendly Toast, it's fun and funky, and they often add creative twists to casual type food. The barbecue veggie bowl was a perfect example of this. It was basically an unbaked, updated vegetarian version of Shepherds Pie. Our other recent meal out was at Flora, our neighborhood fine dining venue, where we visited for a belated Valentine's Day meal. It's only our third visit there, but we've had an excellent experience each time. There I had a white bean cassoulet with roasted root veggies, wild mushrooms and greens. I have since made versions of both of these.
At the risk of being boring, I will post the white bean dish even though my last post featured the same main ingredient. But, I am loving cannelini beans these days and I want everyone else to feel the love! Perhaps it's because I eat so many black beans and chickpeas (of course), that they are a nice change. But they really do have a nice texture and lend themselves well to fragrant herbs. When I researched cassoulet recipes I found they were more like soups and included sausage as well as beans. The dish at Flora was definitely not soupy. I also wanted to include some Israeli couscous since I thought that would add some nice texture and make a heartier meal. I'm not totally sure what they had for roasted veggies, but I'm pretty sure they had some butternut squash and turnip in there. I used white and sweet potato and a delicata squash. If you've never had this kind of squash, you MUST try it. It's nutty and light, not as sweet as butternut, and you don't have to peel it. (And you may already know how I feel about peeling butternut squash. Just for the record, I would still adore delicata squash, even if it needed to be peeled.)
I originally thought I would assemble all the three pieces after each had been cooked, then bake it for a bit. But in the end, I decided not to. Instead I just layered them in a bowl and served. It's still not quite what I want, but it was tasty enough that I would make it again. I will still go back to the drawing board though and see what I can come up with.

White Bean Sautee with Roasted Veggies

Bean sautee:
1 tblsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 large or 3 small ribs celery, diced
4 cloves garlic
2 14 oz cans cannelini/ white kidney beans
1/2 can diced tomatoes
1 cup veggie broth
a few leaves of kale, de-stemmed and chopped
2 tblspns dried herb de provencal or a mixture of thyme, sage, oregano and a bay leaf

Israeli couscous:
1 cup Israeli couscous
1 1/4 cup veggie broth

Roasted Veggies:
2 tblspns oil
4ish cups of a mixture of good roasting veggies diced (I used white potato, sweet potato delicata squash and crimini mushrooms
1 tspn sage
salt and pepper

1. Toss the veggies to be roasted with the oil, sage, salt and pepper to taste. Place in a baking pan and roast at 425 for 40 minutes or more til tender, tossing every 10 minutes or so.

2. Heat oil for bean sautee in a large sautee pan over medium heat. Add onion, celery and garic. Cook five minutes until soft. Add beans and herbs, toss for a couple of minutes then add broth and tomatoes and simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes. At the end, you just want a little liquid left in the pan, so you may find you'll need to add more broth. You all may want it more tomatoey, but I wanted the tomato to be subtle.

3. Bring the couscous and broth to a boil. Turn heat to low and simmer covered for 10-12 minutes, until broth is absorbed.

4. After the bean sautee has been simmering for about 15 minutes, add the kale and put the lid on the pan.

5. On serving dishes, ladel a layer of beans, then a layer of couscous. Top with roasted veggies.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Pasta with Cannelini Beans and Spinach

While my lack of blogging might indicate a lack of cooking, that's not necessarily so. I have recently purchased a couple of new cookbooks after not having bought any for quite some time. I am finding them inspirational. It's time to take my cooking up a notch and I'm confident these books can help me. I got another Moosewood: Cooking for Health. I've made several dishes from that so far. I also just received Modern Vegetarian Kitchen. I spent some time reading it yesterday, but haven't cooked anything from it yet. The author gives a lot of great tips and explanations and so far, I like what I see.
I've also had a fairly busy schedule. On Mondays I am taking a class in Harvard Square on writing and publishing childrens' books. On Tuesdays I do a cycling/ core strengthening class at the Training Room in Somerville. Wednesday nights is group trainer workout in Cathy and Mike's basement with potluck dinner after. Thursdays I usually work late and do a run. Then, we're back to the weekend. There hasn't been much time for experimenting in the kitchen, so I've been falling back on many of the usual suspects.
I'm pretty sure this dish could become a regular. It's one of those things you can make even if you haven't made it to the grocery store in a bit, because you'll have everything on hand in the pantry or freezer. You'll note that the recipe calls for a 1/4 tspn of salt. Due to a little mishap, I put about 6,ooo times that amount into the pan. As I was shaking a "bit" of salt in right at the end of cooking, the lid came flying off, dumping the entire contents of the container onto the pasta. After hearing some expletives emerge from the kitchen, Todd came running in thinking I had perhaps caught my hair on fire. When he saw what actually happened, he said, "I know you're upset, but you have to admit, it's pretty funny. We should take a picture of it." So we did and then we salvaged a portion of it. I guess if you spend enough time in the kitchen, you're going to have days like these. And, I now understand why on cooking shows the chefs pick the salt from a little bowl and sprinkle it on with their fingers. Lesson learned.

Pasta with Cannelini Beans and Spinach
10 oz frozen chopped spinach
8 oz of fusilli or rotini pasta
1 tblsp olive oil
1 small onion chopped
4 cloves garlic minced
pinch red chile pepper flakes
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 15 oz can cannelini beans
1 tspn dried oregano
1 tspn dried basil
1/4 tspn salt
1/4 tspn ground pepper
a few tblspns feta, parmesan or asiago cheese

1. Cook the spinach. Heat it according to package directions, drain it and press out the excess water. (If using fresh, wilt in some boiling water, drain press excess water from it and chop it coarsely.)
2. Cook pasta according to package directions.
3. Heat oil in a sautee pan over medium heat. Add onions, garlic and chili pepper flakes. Cook for a few minutes until the onions are soft. Add tomatoes, beans, and spices. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, uncovered, until liquid is reduced. Add spinach and pasta. Let simmer for a couple more minutes. Serve in bowls and top with cheese.