Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Orecchiette with Kale and Garbanzos + Delicata Squash + Home-bottled Grape Juice + Baked Pears


Kale?  anchovies?  Sounds like I'm trying to be deliberately unappetizing.  Let me just say - cocoa powder is not too tasty either on its own - but in combination with the right ingredients, WOW!  And that's what happens when you combine pasta, winter greens and dried beans.  I don't know why, I don't know how - but WOW!

The optional but "highly recommended" addition of tinned anchovies brings in an indescribably subtle and satisfying subtext. You don't have to tell people how incredibly nutritious this dish is, they'll absorb more of the nutrients anyway because they'll be loving every bite.

Do try this dish at least once and see for yourself. At my house, this is the never-fail, super-quick, fall-back cold weather dish when I forget to put the beans on to soak the night before and dinner is needed within the half-hour. By the time the pasta is al dente, the greens & beans are ready to go. And rather than groans and moans, this meal is met with cries of "Yum!" while at least one child sets aside a portion to take in her lunch the next day. I usually make this without the Parmesan. Sometimes without the anchovies. Sometimes I substitute sardines instead. It's good whichever way I try it.

Orecchiette, "little ears" or "mouse ears," are a beautifully rustic hand-made pasta - it looks like you could make them yourself by flattening a small marble of dough over the top of your thumb. I usually substitute shells or gnocchi when I can't find orechiette at the market - any midsize pasta that will cup satisfyingly around the garbanzo beans will do admirably.


Orecchiette with Kale and Garbanzos
adapted from my favorite cookbook author Andrea Chesman's
366 Delicious Ways to Cook Rice, Beans, and Grains

Chop
  • 2 pounds kale (substitute broccoli rabe or collards, or a combination of greens
and then blanch in plenty of boiling salted water, until bright green and tender, 2 – 3 minutes. Drain and plunge into cold water to stop the cooking. Drain again.


In the boiling water, cook
  • 1 pound orecchiette
until al dente.  Drain.


Meanwhile, chop
  • 1 onion
and saute over medium heat in
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Add
  • 6 anchovy fillets, mashed (optional, but highly recommended)
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
until the garlic is fragrant and golden, about 3 minutes.


Add to the pan the blanched kale and
  • 3 cups cooked garbanzo beans (2 cans)


and cook until heated, about 4 minutes.  Season with
  • salt (if needed)
  • freshly ground black pepper

Combine pasta and vegetables.  If you wish you may sprinkle with
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
and toss well. 



Very satisfying with either (or both):

Baked Delicata Squash
(split lengthwise and seeds scooped out, baked cut-side down with about ½-inch of water in the baking pan.  350 degrees until soft.  About 30-45 minutes.)



Baked Pears
(left whole, pricked with a fork or knife tip, baked at 350 degrees until soft.  About an hour.  Cut in half and spooned directly from the toasted skin - which we don't eat - think of it as an all-natural candywrapper. You have never tasted a pear until you have eaten one baked - its flesh transformed into a delicate custard, its juices slightly carmelized - a richness that is at the same time light and subtly spicy.  People will wonder what magic ingredient you have used.  But it's pure pear, through and through.)