Chocolate & Spice

chocolate, spice and the other pleasures in life

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Random Thoughts on a Thursday

The condiments in my pantry

These are the various condiments I use nearly every day when cooking over here. The latest addition is Poudre de Tomate d'Italie or Italian Tomato Powder from Oliviers & Co, which I discovered in their Bleecker St shop in New York. That's the tiny pot in the photo above. Just a couple of pinches in extra virgin olive oil makes for a nice dip with foccacia, while a teaspoon of the same easily adds some intensity and punch to a Tomato Bean and Bacon Stew.

Tomato Bean and Bacon Stew

What with the orgy of eating we had gotten up to over the last 3 weeks, A and I thought to 'detox' our overtaxed systems with some health(ier) eating this week. Much as we both love fine dining and eating out, our secret cravings are often for home-cooked goodness like stews, soups and dishes with lashings of gravy to ladle over rice. Since we're abstaining from carbos this week, I thought this stomach filling dish, chockful of vegetables would be a perfect way to ease back into normal eating patterns after the surfeit of excess we faced in New York.

Full of tomato goodness and tender vegetables, the Tomato Bean and Bacon stew is wonderful on its own with a good slice of wholemeal bread spread with butter and hits the spot on a cold wintry night. Although it's spring now in Melbourne, this is also great for cool nights (remember this is the city with 4 seasons in one day). It is also one of A's favourite dishes. This recipe is from Nigel Slater's Real Cooking with minor modifications:

Tomato Bean and Bacon Stew (serves 4 as a substantial lunch or supper)

Ingredients:

250g/4 large handfuls cannelloni, flageolet or haricot beans (I used half a packet of the Italian style Soup Mix from Mackenzies for a mix of beans and lentils)
Bay leaves
Good olive oil
2 medium sized red onions, chopped (or any sort of onions you have handy)
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
A couple of handfuls of diced fat smoked bacon e.g. pancetta (I use normal streaky or back bacon)
2 sticks of celery, chopped (including the leaves)
2 medium sized carrots, diced (I like carrots in my stews)
2 x medium sized tins (400g) of tomatoes
4 handfuls of spring greens or shredded cabbage
A handful of parsley leaves
Grated Parmesan cheese

Method:

1. Put the beans to cook, with a bay leaf or two and a glug of olive oil and simmer till they are tender. After the first few minutes cooking, skim off the fluffy white scum that rises to the surface. The beans should be ready after 50 minutes simmering. (To expedite the cooking time for beans, you would do well to soak them overnight in plenty of cold water.)
2. Warm a little olive oil in a large, deep pan, enough to cover the bottom comfortably. Add the onions and the garlic and cook over a slow heat until they have softened but not browned. Throw in the bacon, celery and carrots and cook for a couple of minutes till the fat turns golden.
3. Add the tomatoes and their juice, the beans and all of their cooking liquid to cover everything. If insufficient liquid, add some water. Stick a couple more bay leaves in and simmer for 30 minutes.
4. Add the chopped spring greens or shredded cabbage and the parsley leaves and cook for a further 20 minutes.
5. Add a generous lashing of salt and black pepper. Here I add a couple of teaspoons of my tomato powder and let it simmer for a further 5 minutes for the flavours to intensify. When serving, ladle into deep warmed bowls with a drizzle of olive oil and a scattering of Parmesan on each.

Nigel Slater cautions to leave enough for tomorrow and like the classic Italian Ribollitta, this stew tastes even better reheated the next day.

Oliviers & Co

249 Bleecker Street New York

Tel: 646 230 8373

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