I’m the kind of person who saves all kinds of scraps in the freezer. It might seem crazy, but, at the same time, I think of these scraps as treasures. I once read somewhere that the Eskimos teach that if you are going to eat meat, it is respectful to use all of the animal’s parts, and I’ve taken that to heart.
Mostly, I save bones, particularly chicken bones. When I roast a chicken, I save the neck and the carcass. When I bone pieces of chicken, I save the bones. All these jewels get stowed in the freezer, and when enough are saved up, it’s time to make stock. The only thing about stock is the time it takes. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be a challenge to find the right block of time to make it happen.
Then, I came across the idea of making chicken stock in the slow cooker. All the usually aromatics get added to the pot along with the bones, and it does its thing overnight, while I sleep. The slow cooker cooks low and slow, and I don’t have to be nervous and babysit the gas flame on the stovetop. Perfect!
I love the convenience of the aseptic boxes of chicken broth, which I buy in quantity at Costco. But when the soup is brothy, there’s nothing like using homemade stock and letting the flavor shine.
I’d been craving a bean soup with pancetta. I made stock while I was sleeping, and then put together a hearty pot of soup in the morning to be ready in time for lunch. The soup was chock full of vegetables and beans, and really hit the spot.
I also tried my hand at this recipe for Rosemary Focaccia. I enjoy making homemade bread, but can never seem to get the timing to mesh with my schedule. It was a weekend, so I was able to make it work. Plus, focaccia doesn’t involve quite as much rising and waiting as loaves of bread.
What a perfect weekend lunch!
Tuscan White Bean Soup
Adapted from Joanne Weir’s More Cooking in the Wine Country
½ cup dried navy beans
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 oz pancetta, cut into ¼-inch pieces
1 stalk celery, cut into ¼-inch pieces
2 carrots, peeled and cut into ¼-inch pieces
1 onion, cut into ½-inch pieces
2 leeks, cut into ½-inch pieces
2 red potatoes, unpeeled, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 Tbsp tomato paste
3 cups chicken stock
3 cups water
1 bunch kale, stems removed and discarded, leaves cut into ½-inch ribbons, about 1-inch long
Salt and pepper to taste
Sort the beans to remove any rocks or other debris. Place the beans in a large bowl, cover with boiling water, and soak for 4 hours. Drain and transfer to a large saucepan. Cover the beans with cold water, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until they are tender, about an hour. Drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid.
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add the pancetta, and cook until it starts to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, onions, leeks, potatoes, tomato paste, stock and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the kale, and continue to cook, until the vegetables are tender, about 15 more minutes.
In the meantime, puree half the beans with ½ cup of reserved bean cooking liquid. Add the whole beans and the bean puree to the pot. Simmer for 5 minutes, until everything is warm. Season with salt and pepper.
Another tough week of getting my act together for cooking. I haven’t been particularly organized about planning meals or shopping. I stopped at the store last night, but only picked up depleted staples: yogurt, grapefruit juice, breakfast cheese. This morning, I realized we really didn’t have anything for dinner.
The weather this evening was supposed to be balmy, so Howard said he’d grill. This morning, he pulled some Chestnut Farms’ sweet Italian sausage from the freezer and left it in the fridge to defrost.
Now, what to have with grilled sausage? I wasn’t I the mood for pasta, so I pored over a pile of cookbooks to find some inspiration. I didn’t find an exact recipe that appealed, but I found a few different ones with elements that did. From those ideas, I came up with my own concoction.
I had to stop at Wilson Farm on the way home from work to pick up some broccoli rabe, but everything else I needed was in the pantry. The result was a warm mess of spicy bitter greens with tomatoes and white beans. I topped each serving with a link of grilled sausage. It was nearly perfect. Next time, I think I’d slice the grilled sausage and just toss it into the greens. The flavors went well together, and it was a successful dinner!
Braised Broccoli Rabe with Tomatoes and White Beans
1 lb broccoli rabe
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can (14 oz) diced Italian tomatoes with juice
1 can (15 oz) cannellini (white kidney) beans, drained and rinsed well
½ tsp red pepper flakes
Remove the very ends of the broccoli rabe (¼ inch or less). Slice the stems and leaves into 1- to 2-inch pieces. Rinse well. There is no need to dry the greens. The clinging water will cook off while braising.
Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add minced garlic and cook until fragrant, but don’t let it brown. Add the broccoli rabe and stir to combine with garlic. Stir in the tomatoes, beans, and pepper flakes. Cover, and cook until the liquid evaporates, about 10 minutes. Season with salt to taste. (Personally, I thought the canned tomatoes and beans added more than enough salt, and I didn’t add more.)
If desired, serve topped with grilled sweet Italian sausage.