Sneaking in for lunch, to serve up a soupish risotto that we had on Saturday, when my parents and nephew came for a visit. I see now I could have, and probably should have, scooted another bowl into frame, or the pile of spoons to my right, as this recipe makes a big ol' potful, and feeds a gang with abundance. But I was distracted, because of a rousing game of Battleship, because of a convoluted plan to secure my older brother's birthday gift, and because I was hungry.  So a lonely, single serving it is, with a timid-seeming slouch of green and bronze and black. Still, it gives a good idea of everything you need to know.

BRAISED KALE WITH BLACK QUINOA + A BIT OF RISOTTO by Tara O'Brady

The soup is maybe more of a stew, but either way, it is resolutely savoury, with a base of onion and anchovy upon which a risotto is started. Atop that goes handful after handful of the thinnest slivers of kale you can manage. It cooks some more, to tender acquiescence, until the greens and grain are languid in a saline slip of broth. But then, oh then, we loosen the business with more stock, then stir in bouncy quinoa, and walnuts that have been toasted and so strike an aromatic note that verges on sharp. The effect is taken to full-throated cheer by an exuberant amount of lemon zest and oil-packed chilies. It's the last few minutes there, the last few ingredients that change the soup's character entirely.

Now it comes across loud and clear; it is a soup that exclaims. The effect is ebullient, energy-enhancing, and bracing, simultaneously substantial and soothing while clearing the head and nostrils, and setting shoulders straight. The soup requires taking breath around each spoonful, the extra air needed for balance. It is mostly vegetables, granting a sense of piety and wholesomeness, toothsome without excessive weight. After the roasts, braises, gravies, marshmallows and custards of our lately, it was the jostling we needed.

BRAISED KALE WITH BLACK QUINOA + A BIT OF RISOTTO by Tara O'Brady

Though I've not tried her recipe, this reminds of the cabbage and rice soup from Molly, via Luisa, that came from Marcella Hazan. I like how that version is all softness, harmonious with butter and a generous amount of cheese, and is closer to the recipe upon which this is based. I'll be making that one soon, when the momentum of this one wanes.

Hope your days have been happy and merry, and here's to the brightness ahead. Cheers, all.

 

BRAISED KALE WITH BLACK QUINOA + A BIT OF RISOTTO

A soupier, brasher, even more kale-packed adaptation of a recipe by Martha Rose Shulman via the New York Times.

Enough for 6.

INGREDIENTS

  • 7-8 cups good-quality vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 anchovy fillets or about 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • Salt, as needed
  • 2/3 cup Arborio rice
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 exceedingly large (approximately 16 ounces / 454 g) bunch of kale, well washed, stemmed and cut into slivers 
  • 3 cups cooked black quinoa
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
  • 1/2 cup (57 g) grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • Freshly-ground black pepper
  • Peperoncinio in oil or dried red pepper flakes

METHOD

In a saucepan, bring the stock to a simmer. 

Heat the olive oil in a wide, heavy saucepan over medium heat (I used a 5-qt Dutch oven). Cook the onion with a generous pinch of salt until tender but without colour, around 3 to 5 minutes. When you think the onion is about a minute away from being ready, add the anchovies, stirring them into the onions and breaking them up with the back of the spoon. 

Tip the rice and garlic into the pot, and stir until the grains separate and start crackling, around 3 to 5 minutes. Add the wine while still stirring, and continue until it evaporates. Pour in about 1/2 cup of stock, and cook, stirring regularly, until the liquid is just about absorbed. Add another couple ladlefuls of stock, and continue in this fashion, stirring in the stock then adding more once the rice is almost dry. After 10 minutes, start adding the kale, in batches as necessary. Cook as before, with regular additions of stock, then stirring in between, until both the rice and kale are tender. 

Stir in the black quinoa, most of the walnuts, the Parmesan and lemon zest. Pour in enough stock to wet everything to your liking, giving it all a few good turns in the pan to give the broth a chance to thicken. It should be lush and creamy.  Check for seasoning, then serve straight away with more cheese, the reserved walnuts and the peperoncino. 

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It's a repeat declaration, but I'm crazy for baked beans. They needn't always be homemade; I am sufficiently happy with tinned. To me, their ketchup-y sweetness is camping trips and student days and breakfast at Debenhams's restaurant with Gigi when I was fourteen years old.

Lately, I've made room for another bean. Bubbling Bacon Butter Beans from Adam Perry Lang's Charred and Scruffed. Sean and I had them for yesterday's lunch, most likely one of the remaining few outside this year. 

bubbling bacon butter beans by tara o'brady

The bean business started the day before, only because it suited my schedule, not because of the recipe's need. In a big pot there was a fry of bacon, shallot and sage, and let's recognize that the smell of frying sage is the finest harbinger of later autumn. I use a lot of herbs year round, but lean most heavily on sage when on those pages towards the end of the calendar.

The large limas took a tumble into the mix with chicken stock, while chopped tomatoes were in a pan with oregano and bacon of their own; the latter cooked until their juice was mostly gone, until they crackled and concentrated. This intense slurry went in with the beans, then the whole went into the oven.

Perry Lang explains he prefers "butter beans" as a name over lima beans, since buttery best evokes the mashed-potato-fluff of the limas. Dried, they are discrete, flattish oblongs, which is to say they're the prototype for skipping stones. Cooked, limas swell impressively, to a shape like two plump offset rounds joined at the middle. They are firm, yet soothingly tender, and absorb flavours like nobody's business. Here they sop up the surrounding goodness, with a subtle nuttiness of their own.

I finished our beans with a stirring-through of chopped kale then drips of parsley, chive, chili and lemon made into a quick dressing. The fried egg was gilding the lily for certain, but an embellishment I'd also repeat.

What we ended up with was a deeply-satisfying bowlful, spoons at times mild and others with capricious sting. The herbs, dried and fresh, long-cooked and just-added, skimmed across each bite, plinking first then sinking into something deeper. I liked how the egg yolk further enriched the broth, the fat and acid made for each other, and the resonant savouriness of the combination.

bubbling bacon butter beans by tara o'brady

Charred and Scruffed  is a one to read, not only for grilling, not only for cooking meat, but for anyone interested in cooking, full stop. Perry Lang is keen on details, taking advantage of every opportunity to build flavour and texture. He encourages observation and the active participation in process. His techniques are innovative and, what's more, profoundly useful. I turn to it as often for reference as I do for recipes.

The garage roof is getting new shingles, and one of the roofers smokes those skinny cigarillos. On the back deck a day ago the wind was picking up for a storm, and carried the music from their radio and the scent of the tobacco.

Beans, bacon, eggs, singalong and smoke. I'd repeat that, too

 

BUBBLING BACON BUTTER BEANS (with kale and an egg)

Excerpted from Charred & Scruffed:  Bold new techniques for explosive flavor on and off the grill by Adam Perry Lang (Artisan Books, 2012).

Serves 6 to 8

Butter beans are just another name for lima beans, especially in the South. But I tend to think more sensually, and I have always felt that when they are cooked just right, these beans achieve a state of melty smoothness that is best described by the word "buttery." In the process of cooking, they throw off starch—just like Arborio rice does in risotto. The result is velvety creaminess. My recommendation for these beans is "Serve with anything," because they go with everything. But I could also say, "Serve with nothing else," because they are satisfying all by themselves and quite irresistible when you take them from the fire -- steaming, bubbling, and fragrant. — APL

INGREDIENTS

  •  3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for drizzling
  •  6 slices thick-sliced bacon, cut into ¼-inch-wide strips
  •  ½ cup finely chopped shallots
  •  4 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled, plus 1 tablespoon grated garlic (use a Microplane) or garlic mashed to paste
  •  1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  •  2 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
  •  4 cups cooked butter beans or two 15-ounce jars or cans butter beans, drained, rinsed if canned
  •  1 cup Pomi diced tomatoes (or other Tetra Pak tomatoes), drained
  •  1 teaspoon dried oregano
  •  1/4 cup finely diced prosciutto fat (or additional bacon)
  •  Sea or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  •  2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  •  White wine vinegar

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until it sizzles when a piece of bacon is added. Add the rest of the bacon, the shallots, crushed garlic, and sage and cook, stirring, until the shallots are just translucent, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the beans, bring to a simmer, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small skillet over high heat until very hot. Add the tomatoes and sauté for 2 minutes, then add the grated garlic and oregano and cook until most of the moisture has evaporated and the tomatoes are crackling.

Stir the tomatoes into the bean mixture, along with the prosciutto fat. Season with salt and pepper and pour into a 2-quart casserole or baking dish.

Transfer to the oven and bake for 20 minutes, until the beans are velvety and creamy. If the beans start to look dry, add a splash of water.

Stir the parsley into the beans, adjust the acidity with white wine vinegar as necessary, and drizzle generously with olive oil. Serve, or keep warm in a low oven until ready to serve.

Notes from me (Tara):

  • I cook the bacon alone for a few minutes before adding the shallot, so it takes on some colour. That's my preference when it comes to bacon, but might not be be yours.
  • I daresay they could be made vegetarian with vegetable broth instead of stock, and using fire-roasted tomatoes for the needed smokiness.  
  • To make the dish as pictured, coarsely chop a few handfuls stemmed Tuscan kale or baby kale and stir into the hot beans right before serving. Plunk a fried egg on top. As mentioned above, I use Perry Lang's herb dressing to season at the end.
  • Toast! How could I forget toast? Eat these on toast. 

 

 

 

 

 

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