Monday, October 13, 2008
Two Dishes out of One
A few months after my oldest son was born, I got it into my head that I wanted to start a supper club. Everything is a little foggy from that time in my life so I don't remember what made me decide that was the right time - especially since I could barely make pasta with jarred sauce because of the exhaustion I was experiencing. Maybe it was a desperate attempt to get back to the cooking I loved and missed with the care required for a newborn. Regardless of the reason, start one I did and almost four years later we are still going strong.
We started off getting together about every other month and now we have slipped a bit so it is only four or five times a year. We are all committed to making it more frequent, but coordinating four families' schedules (there are ten children between all of us) makes it a little difficult. We hosted this past Saturday night and I thought long and hard about what I wanted to make. I feel like the past few times we have hosted, I have made something a little on the "weird" side - something aggressively vegetarian - so I thought I would dial it down a notch and make something more approachable.
Fall is the perfect season for dinner parties. It's cozy to be in someone's home rather than a restaurant, and the possibilities for seasonal dining are endless. I chose to feature some of my favorite flavors - apple, squash, balsamic vinegar, sage. We started with a simple green salad with lots of herbs (chervil, parsley, and tarragon) and a wedge of Camembert cheese. Because the dinner was going to have a lot of strong flavors, I chose to keep the salad very green and clean. The dressing was a simple vinaigrette with whole grain mustard and champange vinegar.
The main feature of dinner was a Butternut Squash Galette, a variation on this one from the Macrina Bakery cookbook. The squash was mixed with cinnamon, allspice, and cloves, plus a couple pinches of fresh sage, and that mixture was topped with sauteed apples which had been tossed with the same spice mixture. Lest this all seem to sweet for dinner, there was a healthy scattering of Gorganzola cheese and parsley over the top to keep it nice and savory. To accompany the galette, I made incredible cipolline onions (you can find the recipe here) which will certainly be a repeat on my Thanksgiving menu. Until I met Randy, I would never have considered an onion anything other than an element of a mirepoix, but he has taught me that onions need their due.
Because two of the three parts of the plate had sweet elements, I thought the third needed to be really savory. For some reason, white beans jumped out at me and I decided to make some with sage and tomatoes. I usually find bean dishes too dry, so I was determined to make this nice and moist with lots of flavor. My end result met my expectations but because I am me and I chronically overcook, I made way too many beans. Ultimately, this was a great mistake because I used them the next night to make a simple and delicious soup. All I had to do was saute some onion and finely chopped celery and carrot until soft, add the beans (which already had a fully round flavor of their own, especially after a night in the refrigerator), a little vegetable broth and voila - soup!
White Beans with Tomatoes and Sage
Serves 6 (with enough for soup, see recipe below)
When I made this, I used 1 1/2 pounds of beans to serve 8 and I had a tremendous amount left over. This recipe is a little more modest.
1 lb. dried white beans, such as cannelini
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 28 oz. can Italian whole tomatoes, with added puree
3 tbsp. chopped fresh sage
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Put the beans a large pot and cover with cold water by at least two inches. Allow to soak overnight.
Drain the beans and rinse them well with cold water. Refill the pot with the beans and enough water to cover by at least two inches. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat slightly, cover, and cook until tender. Depending on the freshness of your beans, this can take 30-60 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid and drain the beans.
In a large skillet, heat enough olive oil to lightly cover the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic and saute until starting to brown. Add the beans and the tomatoes, breaking up the tomatoes with your hands as you add them. Be sure to add all the puree in the can. Add enough cooking liquid to get a thick stew consistency (you can always add more if it seems to dry). Sprinkle with a healthy pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper, and the sage and cook, uncovered, until thick, about 20 minutes.
Place leftovers in a covered container and refrigerate overnight.
White Bean Soup
You can blend part of this soup or all of it to get a thicker consistency. I had planned to do so and then found out my immersion blender was broken.
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
Leftover White Beans with Tomatoes and Sage
1-2 cups vegetable broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a small soup pot, heat just enough oil to cover the bottom of the pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and saute, stirring occasionally, until soft and the onion starts to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the beans and broth, turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 10 minutes, until thickened slightly.