Egg Noodles with Creamy Red Cabbage and Sweet Corn

Something about this recipe caught my eye when I spied in it a cookbook recently. I’m crazy about cabbage (probably a minority opinion) and I wish more people would give it a chance. When cooked right its sweet and retains just the right amount of crunch. Knowing I could probably find some late summer corn in the farmer’s market made this one a no brainer for tonight’s “Meatless Monday” supper.

And it was awesome. Liz just complained that I can’t find a recipe that calls for fresh corn just before it goes out of season for the long cold fall and winter. That probably means you have a couple of weeks to make this one before it’s too late. By the way, I cut this in half to serve two and used two average size ears of corn.

Next time I might consider a different noodle with more stach to it. I had hoped to make it downtown to pick up some fresh pappardelle, but my day got away from me. If you can get your hands on some pappardelle or even fresh lasagne sheets (cut them up wide) I think that would be best. I also used sour cream, having some on hand that I didn’t want to waste. Crème fraiche, with it’s higher fat content would probably be better, but I thought the bite of the sour cream worked nice with the sweetness of the cabbage. It sounds a bit Eastern European, doesn’t it?

Egg Noodles with Creamy Red Cabbage and Sweet Corn
from The Edible Brooklyn Cookbook
Ingredients
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 medium head red cabbage, cored and sliced into strips ½ inch wide
1 Tbsp salt
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup sugar
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 ½ cups sweet corn kernels
1 lb wide egg noodles
1 cup crème fraiche or sour cream
freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Heat the olive oil until shimmering in a large saucepan set over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, cover the pot, and cook for a few minutes until the onion is a soft tangle but the garlic is not yet golden.
Add the cabbage and salt, and cook for 3-4 more minutes, taking care to not let the vegetables brown. Add the vinegar and sugar, cover the pot, reduce to a gentle simmer, and cook for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste the cabbage: it should be tender but not mushy. Adjust the salt, vinegar, and sugar to taste as needed, and set the cabbage aside.
In a large skillet, melt the butter and sauté the corn over high heat until it begins to caramelize. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Cook the egg noodles according to package directions, reserve 1 cup of the pasta water, and drain. In a large bowl, combine the egg noodles, sweet corn, braised red cabbage, and cream fraiche. Thin with pasta water to taste. Ladle into bowls and serve topped with pepper to taste.
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Cooking Italy: Apple and Bean Soup

According to Lidia: “Every region of Italy has a fagioli (bean) soup, often quite filling, with potatoes and pork and either pasta or rice. Interestingly, it was in Trentino-Alto Adige, renowned for the heartiness of its soups, that I had this unexpectedly light bean soup, cooked with fresh apples and delicately spiced. It is vegetarian (also unusual), nourishing, and quite scrumptious. The combination of apples and beans is marvelous, and one of the pleasing features of this recipe is that simply by using less water you can make a great bean-and-apple side dish, a perfect accompaniment to roast pork, duck, or ham.”

This sounds appealing, no?

Apple and Bean Soup

I thought it did, but I’ve found my first stinker among Lidia’s recipes. I love apples. I love cannellini beans. It sounded like a light yummy soup. But, it was beyond bland.  The cinnamon and lemon zest only moderately helped add flavor. I’ll even admit, I overcooked the beans a bit. But, even perfectly cooked beans could not have saved this soup. I’ve had many vegetarian soups that I love, but this one lacked a real backbone and depth of flavor (I couldn’t help but think it needed bacon or something meaty).

It’s going on the “never again” list, so don’t bother gang.

Apple and Bean Soup
Zuppa di Mele e Fagioli

Region: Trentino Alto Adige

Ingredients

½ pound dried cannellini beans, rinsed and soaked overnight
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 pounds Golden Delicious apples
6 tablespoons butter
4 whole cloves
8 cups water, hot
Zest of 1 lemon, grated
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

Start by draining the soaked beans, then put the soaked beans in a pot with the bay leaf and fresh cold water to cover by an inch or so. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to keep the liquid simmering steadily, and cook, partially covered, about 40 minutes, or until the beans are cooked through but not mushy. Turn off the heat, stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt, and let the beans cool for a while in the pot, absorbing some of the cooking liquid.

To make the soup, peel and core the apples, and cut them in 1/4-inch thick slices. Put 4 tablespoons of the butter in the heavy saucepan, and set it over medium heat. As soon as the butter melts, scatter the apple slices in the bottom and drop in the cloves.

Cook the apples for 3 minutes, or until they begin to soften, turning and stirring them gently. Drain the cooked beans, and add them to the pan, then pour in the hot water-all 8 cups if you’re making soup; 6 cups to make a side dish with thicker consistency. Turn up the heat, and stir in the lemon zest, cinnamon, and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt.

Cover the pan, bring the liquid to a boil, then set the cover ajar and lower the heat to keep the soup bubbling gently. Simmer 10 to 15 minutes, until the apples are completely soft and the liquid has the consistency you like for soup (or cook longer for a side dish). Turn off the heat, stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, and serve.

Posted in Italy, Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy, Never Again!, Soup, Trentino Alto Adige | 1 Comment

Cooking Italy: Spaghetti in Tomato-Apple Sauce

I decided to start cooking my way through Trentino Alto Adige with the most simple recipe I could find in the chapter because I hadn’t stocked up at the grocery store in over a week. Lucky for me, Lidia included a recipe for spaghetti in a tomato-apple sauce (wow, I actually had everything I needed on hand!) that would be done in under 30 minutes.

Spaghetti in Tomato Apple Sauce

I’ve never heard of including apple in a pasta sauce and it has certainly never occurred to me (in other savory fruit news, a friend recently suggested I try a banana curry).  However, the shredded apple, along with diced onion and celery really did lend a nice texture to the sauce that elevated it above a simple tomato sauce.

I didn’t make any changes to the ingredients required by this recipe, but it’s worth pointing out that 1 lb. of apples is probably two average size Golden Delicious apples. I used three because I had no idea how many apples were in a pound and didn’t have a scale handy (although I think all this cooking might require I purchase one). It seemed like too much once I mixed it in and tasted a bit too much once the recipe was done. So, I checked next time I was at the grocery store…2 apples = just under 1 pound.

The only other changes I made from Lidia’s original recipe was to not puree the canned whole tomatoes and not peel the apples. These weren’t decisions I came to on my own, but rather Lidia’s own suggestion in a video on her website. I guess she changed her mind after she wrote the book. Instead, I crushed the tomatoes with my hand when I added them to the pan and it worked fine.  I would however recommend you peel your apples. There were a few bites where the peel was distracting

Overall, I found this recipe to be a success.  I plan to make it again with less apple next time (using only 2 peeled apples). I think it would make a great recipe for kids as a sneaky way to get in a few extra fruit servings, but also because the flavor of the apple is noticeable and really yummy. It’s also a great easy recipe for your aspring chef teenager to make on their own. Or better yet, the not so cooking inclined spouse!

A few notes on ingredients…be sure to use a tart, firm apple such as Granny Smith, Winesap, Jonagold, or Golden Delicious. Use a good quality canned tomato since this is the backbone of your sauce. Plum tomatoes are prized for cooking because they have fewer seeds and it’s often the seeds that lead to bitterness. And don’t shred your apples too far in advance or they will brown. Do it when the recipe suggests. Here’s the recipe:

Spaghetti in Tomato Apple Sauce
Spaghetti con salsa di Pomodorie e Mele
Region: Trentino Alto Adige

Ingredients

3 cups canned Italian plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large celery stalks, cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1 cup)
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound apples, tart and firm
1 pound spaghetti
1 cup Grana Padano or Parmesan, freshly grated, plus more for passing

Directions

Pour the canned tomatoes into the food processor or blender, and purée until smooth.

Pour 4 tablespoons of the olive oil into the skillet, set it over medium heat, and strew the chopped celery and onion in the pan. Cook and stir the vegetables for about 5 minutes, until they wilt and start to caramelize.

Stir in the puréed tomatoes, season with the salt, and heat to a bubbling simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or so. As the tomatoes perk, peel and core the apples, and remove the seeds. Shred them, using the coarse holes of the shredder or grater.

When the tomatoes have cooked about 5 minutes, stir the apples into the sauce. Heat again to a simmer, and cook the sauce, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, stirring now and then, until it has reduced and thickened and the apple shreds are cooked and tender.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil, drop in the spaghetti, and cook it until barely al dente. Lift the spaghetti from the water, let drain for a moment, and drop it into the warm sauce. (Reheat, if necessary.)

Toss pasta with sauce for a minute or two, until all the strands are coated and perfectly al dente. Turn off the heat, sprinkle the grated cheese over the pasta, and toss well. Drizzle over it the remaining olive oil, toss once again, and heap the pasta in warm bowls. Serve immediately, passing more cheese at the table.

Posted in Entree, Italy, Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy, Trentino Alto Adige | Leave a comment

The Inspiration

It all started with a bowl of bucatini con salsicce.

If you are reading this blog, you can thank (or blame) Lidia Bastianich’s recipe for bucatini con salsicce (bucatini with sausage). While lounging around the house this past May, Liz and I caught an episode of Lidia’s Italy on PBS. In this particular episode she made bucatini con salsicce and canederli di ricotta (ricotta dumplings with strawberry sauce). Both looked amazing and I set out to make both as soon as possible.

Given that is was peak strawberry season in New Jersey, we had the ricotta dumplings the next day. The dumplings were light as clouds and the strawberry sauce tasted like summer the way only farm picked strawberries can. They were an excellent match. After the success of this dish I was even more excited to try the bucatini con salsicce.

The appeal of the dish was it’s simplicity of ingredients: Italian sausage, peperoncini, white wine, garlic and canned tomatoes on a thick spagetti-like pasta with a hole running through the center. I have never been very fond of plain old pasta with marinaria sauce, but I love the acidity and tartness of a good (fresh or canned) tomato.  So, this recipe seemed like a great way to liven up a tomato sauce. I hoped we’d like it.

And, we ate it up. It was “lick your plate” good.  As I was going and on about how excited I was to have a new go-to, easy to make pasta recipe, I mentioned to Liz I should pick up the Lidia cookbook it could be found in. She walked over to the bookcase and pulled it out.  Turns out, I had owned this particular Lidia cookbook for several months and didn’t realize it. It came to me the way most of my cookbooks had, pilfered from the “free pile” at Liz’s work.

It wasn’t until 22 inches of snow forced Liz and I inside for several days after Christmas, that I spent any time looking through Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy. I had made bucatini con salsicce again recently and was inspired to try other recipes, so I began flipping through and plotting out what I’d make next.

An idea began to take root.  Of the 20 regions of Italy, Lidia covered 12 in this particular cookbook.  I could spend all of 2011 cooking with Lidia as she cooked from the heart of Italy. Each month would be dedicated to a particular region and I’d try to cook three to five dishes from that region.

And, that’s what I’m doing now.  I chose Trentino Alto Adige as my first region since it bordered the Alps and had winter appropriate foods. I’ve already made two dishes from Trentino Alto Adige and hope to make one or two more before January ends in 8 days. I’ll be blogging about each recipe I make and sharing pictures and thoughts.

I’ve had a growing interest in Italian food over the past year having tried a few excellent new recipes and reading the culinary adventures of my ex-pat friend Katie Parla as she eats her way through Italy (among other places). So, this fun little experiment seemed destined to happen.

I might blog about other things I’m cooking as well. Someone recently told Liz they thought of me as a “purist’ when it comes to food and I can’t decide if that extends to blogging as well. I have a feeling if I make something I think is worth sharing, it will make these “pages” too.  Hopefully I’ll inspire others to try some of these recipes and if you aren’t a big cook, I’ll inspire you to come over for dinner.

Bon appetit!

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