Southern Snacks Cookbook

The Southern Sympathy Cookbook

I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Summer Caprese Chicken Salad

Summer Chicken Caprese Salad

The tomato-mozzarella-basil caprese salad is a true summer staple. When tomatoes are at their juiciest best, it is a joy to serve them with as little fuss as possible. The pairing of tomatoes and mozzarella is deliciously simple, creamy and fresh classic. I’ve taken the idea of the caprese in a lot of directions to maximize this lovely flavor combination, so it’s no wonder I eventually landed on this chicken salad version. I was looking for another creative way to make a wonderful cold salad for a summer meal, one that could be a centerpiece, not just a supporting character. But I wanted to do something lighter and fresher than the creamy mayonnaise form (not that there is anything wrong with that). I felt like chicken dressed in a vinaigrette style dressing would be perfect, and so I turned to this creamy flavor packed standard dressing from my repertoire. And it seemed only natural that a salad with a dressing made with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese have an Italian flair. So tender chicken, creamy mozzarella, crisp pine nuts, juicy tomatoes and a sprinkle of basil it is.

I find mozzarella “pearls” easily in the grocery store, they are little bite-sized balls of cheese perfectly suited for salad. If you don’t find these, tear a ball of fresh mozzarella into small pieces instead. I like the symmetry of round cherry tomatoes and the bright pop of red, but you could easily use oblong grape tomatoes or varicolored varieties. There is likely to be some dressing left over, but never fear. It is delicious on any green salad and will keep for a few days in the fridge.

Summer Caprese Chicken Salad

For the Dressing:

2 cloves garlic

½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar

Zest and juice of one lemon

¾ cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste 

For the Chicken:

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves

Olive oil

Kosher salt

Black pepper

¼ cup pine nuts

8 ounces mozzarella “pearls”

1 pint cherry tomatoes

1 bunch fresh basil leaves

For the Dressing:

Place the garlic, cheese, vinegar and lemon zest in the carafe of a blender and blend to a rough paste. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil until creamy and emulsified. Add the lemon juice and blend to combined. Taste and blend in salt and pepper as needed. Transfer to an airtight jar. The dressing will keep in the fridge for 5 days.

For the Salad:

Preheat the oven to 400°.

Place the chicken breasts on a roasting tray lined with non-stick foil. Brush them with olive oil, then season generously with salt and pepper. Roast until the chicken reaches 165°on a meat thermometer and the juices run clear, about 25 minutes. Leave the chicken breasts to cool completely, then cut into small chunks. Place the chicken in a bowl and add the mozzarella, then pour over about half of the dressing and stir to coat completely. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight. 

About an hour before serving the salad, toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet until lightly golden and fragrant. Add the nuts to the chicken and mozzarella in the bowl. Half the cherry tomatoes and add to the salad. Stack up the basil leaves and roll into a tight cigar, then slice into thin strips. Add the basil to the salad and stir to combine everything. Shake the remaining dressing well to combine, then add a bit at a time until the salad is nicely covered in dressing, but there is not a great deal pooling in the bowl. You may not use all the dressing. Cover and keep in the fridge until shortly before serving.

Serves 6

Roasted Carrot Gnudi with Dill Beurre Blanc

Roasted Carrot Gnudi with Dill Beurre Blanc

I know I some time wax poetic about my love for farmers markets, but they really are a true inspiration for me. Wandering through the stalls marveling at all the fresh produce my wheels just begin to churn and my creative juices start flowing. And not only for the jam and preserves I obsessively put by, but for creative and fresh ways to dine from all the beautiful abundance. I religiously attend one of my local markets, but I also visit markets when I travel, just so marvel offer all the produce. There is a vendor at my local market that makes his own fresh ricotta cheese and I pick some up almost every time I’m there. I use it in a lot of ways, but in the spring I love it spread on a slice of bread fresh from one of the market bakers, topped with berries and drizzled with local honey.  Once he asked me what I was planning to do with it, and before I could really think it through, I answered “gnudi.” As I turned to view another stall, I lovely bunch of carrots called out to me, and as a headed home my mind put together the idea of a combination. I made this dish for several weeks, experimenting with different sauces and techniques, just as special treat for myself. But when hit on the classic beurre blanc, punched up with dill, carrots perfect partner, I knew I really had something. I posted a picture on social media and recipe requests started coming in, so here you go.

A dish like this is so simple, it is always about the best ingredients. I buy fresh, small carrots at the farmers market. If you don’t have that option, look for smaller, firm carrots that haven’t been sitting around at the market for a long time and avoid large hard ones. I also buy freshly made ricotta at the farmers market, but look for a high quality Italian style whole milk ricotta and drain it if it has a lot of liquid. Real parmiggiano cheese makes a difference too. And splurge on some European style butter for the sauce to make it extra rich and flavorful. This makes enough for 2 generous servings, but can easily be doubled.

Roasted Carrot Gnudi with Dill Beurre Blanc

For the Gnudi:

12 ounces fresh, young carrots

Olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper

1 Tablespoon fill fronds

8 ounces ricotta, drained if it is particularly wet

2 egg yolks

¼ cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup grated parmigianno-reggiano cheese

1 ½ cups semolina flour

For the Beurre Blanc:

1 large shallot, finely diced

1 cup white wine

½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter

1 teaspoon lemon zest

2 teaspoons lemon juice

3 Tablespoons finely chopped dill

Salt and pepper

For the Gnudi:

Preheat the oven to 425°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with non-stick foil or parchment paper.

Peel the carrots and cut into evenly sized, rough chunks. Place on the prepared baking sheet and drizzle with a small amount of olive oil – just enough to lightly coat the carrots, you don’t want lots of oil pooling on the pan. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and roast for 30 minutes until soft when pierced with a knife and browned in some places. Cool completely.

Put the carrots in the bowl of a food processor, add the dill and blend until you have a rough puree (a little texture is good). Add the ricotta and egg yolks and blend until smooth, then scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the flour and cheese and generous pinches of salt and a few grinds of pepper and blend until completely combined, scraping down the sides as needed.

Spread the semolina in a thick layer on the bottom of a low, flat container. Scoop out about  a tablespoon of the carrot mixture at a time and drop directly into the semolina. I use a small cookie scoop which I highly recommend. Roll the ball over in the semolina, then pick It up and toss it lightly between your hands to round it off and shake off any excess semolina. Place the ball in the corner of the container on top of te semolina. Repeat with the rest of the mixture and spread the finished gnudi out, not touching each other, on top of the semolina. Place int the regrigertor uncovered for a few hours. Remove from the fridge at elast 30 minutes before cooling. (Storing the gnudi in the semolina absorbs excess moisture so the cook up light and fluffy). 

For the Beurre Blanc:

Put the shallot and wine in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook until the wine is almost totally evaporated and the shallots have a nice glaze. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in a few cubes of butter until melted and smooth. The butter must be cold for the sauce to emulsify. Continue until all the butter is incorporated. The butter should melt into the sauce from the residual heat, but as you add the butter to the sauce the temperature lowers, so when it is not melting easily, return the pan to the very lowest heat and whisk constantly. When all ethe butter is melted and the sauce is thick and almost creamy, whisk in the lemon zest and juice, then the dill and salt and pepper to taste.

While you are making the beurre blanc, bring a large pot of very well salted water to a boil. When the sauce is done, gently shake any excess semolina off the gnudi and drop them in the water. Cook until the gnudi float to the top, about 3 – 5 minutes, then remove to a colander with a slotted spoon. Spread the gnudi in a serving dish or individual bowls and drizzled with the beurre blanc.

Serves 2

Dublin Lawyer (Shrimp in Irish Whiskey Cream Sauce)

Dublin Lawyer

I absolutely discovered this dish because of the name. I first saw it on a pub menu in London and had to ask. After it was described, my dining companion switched his order to it and we both relished bites. But I had to know where the name came from, so I soon set out to do some research. This was many years ago and the internet was not quite so helpful, but eventually I stumbled across an Irish cookbook that clued me in. Dublin Lawyer is traditionally made with lobster, and the story is its name comes from the fact that lobster, whiskey and cream make it “rich as a Dublin lawyer”. I’ve made this for myself for a special treat dinner and served it to friends – a flaming dish is always a hit.

I substitute shrimp in this recipe because they are easier to find and easier to work with. I use great big sweet wild caught Gulf shrimp or almost lobster-like royal reds and think this dish is still rich and decadent. Lobster is not easy to find in landlocked Memphis, and I’ve never been very skilled at cooking with it anyway. You can of course use lobster if you like. Either make the sauce and use it to nap whole lobster tail or stir in lobster meat at the end as you do the shrimp here. You can serve Dublin Lawyer as a first course to an Irish meal or as a main with a green salad. I always serve it with some good bread for mopping up the delicious sauce.

Dublin Lawyer (Shrimp in Irish Whiskey Cream Sauce)

4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

4 green onions, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

Dash of cayenne pepper

Sea salt and black pepper

¼ cup Irish whiskey

1 ½ cups heavy cream

1 Tablespoons finely chopped parsley, plus a little for garnish

1 pound very large shrimp, peeled and deveined, thawed if frozen

Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the chopped green onions and sauté until soft and glassy. Add the garlic and cayenne and generous pinches of salt and pepper and cook a further minute. Remove the pan from the heat and pour in the whiskey. Use a long lighter to light the whiskey on fire (stand back!) and let it burn until the flame dies. (Alternatively, you can return the pan to the heat and boil until the whiskey is reduced by about 1/3). Return the pan to the heat and pour in the cream. Stir well and cook at a nice bubble until the cream is reduced and thickened, about 7 minutes. Stir in the parsley. Pat the shrimp dry and slip them into the cream sauce. Cook just until the shrimp are pink and firm, turning them over in the sauce, about 4 – 5 minutes. Serve immediately, sprinkled with a little chopped parsley.

Serves 4 – 6

Sweet Potato Skordalia

I first had sweet potato skordalia in Birmingham, Alabama at a meal during a Southern Foodways Alliance event prepared by Tim Hontza’a of Johnny’s in Homewood. The whole “Greek and three” meal was fantastic, but I was enchanted by the little dab of sweet potato skordalia on the edge of the plate. It was the perfect combination of classic Greek cooking with Southern sensibility. Skordalia is a Greek spread traditionally made with yellow potatoes, garlic and almonds or walnuts. Since that meal, I have wanted to re-create the skordalia, so I delved into Greek recipes and got to work. I realized the beauty of this dish is simplicity.  I tried spices and herbs, but the simple combination of earthy sweet potatoes, the bite of garlic and a touch of almond nuttiness is a perfect combination.

This spread is a perfect snack for fall and Thanksgiving and a really creative twist for a friendsgiving spread. It is simple to make and can be made a day or two ahead and the vibrant orange color is beautiful. Finely grind some blanched almonds in the food processor or use almond meal. Almond flour is a bit too fine for this. Serve it with a drizzle of olive oil on top for spreading on pita bread or hearty crackers.

Sweet Potato Skordalia

2 large sweet potatoes

3 garlic cloves

juice of 2 lemons

2 Tablespoons finely ground almonds or almond meal

2/3 cups olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into evenly sized chunks. Place in a large saucepan covered by water by about an inch. Bring to a boil and cook for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes are very soft. Drain the potatoes and place in the bowl of a food processor. Add the garlic, lemon juice and almond meal and process until smooth and well combined. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil until the dip is smooth. Season well with salt and pepper and blend again. Scrape into bowl and leave to cool to room temperature before covering and refrigerating for up to two days.  Serve with pita bread or hearty crackers, the top drizzled with olive oil.

Alioli with Salt Roasted Potatoes

A few years ago, a friend invited a group to his family vacation home in the hills outside Valencia, Spain to celebrate his birthday. I will always travel for a good party, so I packed my bags and jetted off. I was the first guest to arrive, so he and I headed off to the grocery store to stock the house (he is also aware that I am an expert grocery shopper). In addition to stocking up on milk and eggs and bread, he insisted the first thing we buy was a tub of alioli. I knew of the garlicky mayonnaise like alioli of course – it is the Spanish cousin to France’s better known aioli – but had never heard of it sold in tubs at the grocery store. But there it was, in the refrigerated section, next to the butter, many brands and sizes. My friend explained that this stuff was everywhere in the area; every restaurant serves it with the bread basket, every store stocks it, and it is his favorite Spanish treat. And he was right. We purchased the first of several tubs for the week along with some lovely locally made bread. We ate mostly at restaurants, and sure enough every single one of them brought out a dish filled with alioli and bread to slather it on, almost every time in the yellow and green mortar made especially for the preparation of alioli. All the touristy and fine ceramic shops in every town sold a version, so we all decided it was the perfect souvenir of our trip.

Alioli spread on good bread is a delicious treat, but it’s uses are endless and show up on many tapas menus. It is fabulous with big, juicy, cold shrimp (we did that in Spain with the leftovers from a dinner using locally sourced shrimp). It is used to make a cold potato dish, like a potato salad, but I love it as a dip for vegetables, or these fantastic salt roasted potatoes. The potatoes are crispy on the inside and tender on the inside, perfectly seasoned all the way through. This is not a dish for any kind of fancy artisan salt, just the kosher salt from the box. Look for the little bite size potatoes at the grocery or farmers market – any color will do.

Alioli with Salt Roasted Potatoes

For the Alioli:

3 cloves of garlic

Generous pinch of kosher salt

1 whole egg

1 egg yolk

a squeeze of lemon juice (about ½ teaspoon)

½ cup canola oil

½ cup mild olive oil

For the Potatoes:

1 ½ pounds small potatoes

2 – 3 cups kosher salt

For the Alioli:

Peel the garlic and cut each clove in half. Is there is any green germ sprouting in the middle, cut it out. Put the cloves through a garlic press into the bowl if a small food processor. Sprinkle over some salt, then process for a few seconds. Add the egg, egg yolk and lemon juice and scrape all the garlic from the sides of the bowl into the eggs and process until smooth. Measure the oils together in a spouted measuring jug and, with the motor running, slowly drizzle it into the eggs in a steady stream. Keep processing in the oil until thick and completely emulsified. You will hear that the processing changes from a wet, slapping sound to a smooth whir. When the alioli is thick, scoop it into a serving bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours. It will keep for 2 days.

For the Potatoes:

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Choose a ceramic baking dish that fits the potatoes close together, but not touching. Spread about 1 cup of the salt over the bottom of the dish, then nestle the potatoes into the salt. Pour the remaining salt over the potatoes and roast for 1 – ½ hours. Prick a potato with a thin knife or skewer to see that they are tender throughout. Its fun to serve the potatoes on their salt bed, but you can also scoop them out of the salt and serve in a bowl.

 

 

 

Guinness Caramel Sauce or Caramel Chews

This starts as a tale of failure. I set out to make a rich, Guinness-laced caramel sauce to drizzle over ice cream. In my first attempt, I dropped the ball, got distracted and cooked the caramel little longer than needed. But as the caramel was setting up, I thought perhaps I could save the day by pouring the thick caramel into a pan to see what happened. What happened was lovely little chewy caramels. I hit my intended goal on my second batch, which made the lovely sauce I imagined. This recipe(s) has been sitting in my files for awhile now, as I wasn’t sure exactly how to share it. But in the end, I couldn’t resist sharing the intended and unintended consequences.

As St. Patrick’s Day approaches, I frequently pull out the Guinness and start cooking. Deep stout beer adds flavor and depth to so many preparations, from Guinness and Oatmeal Quick Bread to Guinness Sausage Coddle. It’s also an interesting ingredient in sweet recipes too, adding a heady note to this decadent sauce – and the caramel chews. I love the sauce poured over simple vanilla ice cream or drizzled over pound cake. The caramels make a lovely little gift – a special pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!

Guinness Caramel Sauce or Caramel Chews
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Ingredients
  1. 1 ¼ cup white sugar
  2. ½ cup Guinness Extra Stout, divided
  3. ¾ cup heavy cream
  4. 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  5. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
Instructions
  1. Mix the sugar and ¼ cup of the Guinness together in a high sided saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes without stirring. Measure the heavy cream and remaining Guinness together in a measuring cup. Carefully add it and the butter and salt to the caramel, stirring to combine. It will bubble heavily and seize up a little, just keep stirring until it is smooth and creamy.
  2. For Sauce: Cook for 2 minutes, until it is thick and smooth. Let the sauce cool. Transfer to an airtight jar and store in the fridge for up to a week. Place the jar in a bowl of warm water to soften the caramel.
  3. For Caramel Chews: Line an 8 by 8 inch square pan with parchment paper. Cook the caramel for 4 minutes, then pour directly into the prepared pan. Don't worry if it doesn't spread all the way to the edges of the pan; when it is just cool enough to handle, shape any ragged edges into a square. When the caramel is completely firm and cool, cut it into 1 - inch pieces. Wrap each piece in a twist of waxed paper. You can use clean fingers to shape the pieces into a bit more of a cylinder if you prefer, or leave them in rough squares.
Notes
  1. Makes about 1 ½ cups sauce or 20 caramel chews
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
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Herbed Focaccia Dinner Rolls

If you search through the bread recipes on this site, you will see that it maps out my quest to bake fresh bread without too much effort. I am not one who is going to carefully nurse starters or delicately knead and form stylish loafs of artisan breads. The mysteries of yeast sometimes elude me. I love a shortcut, but I do love the smell of fresh bread baking and the sense of accomplishment of serving a basket of warm bread that I made my own self, so I am always intrigued by easy ideas. I shared my simple method of Super Simple Focaccia a while ago, and this is a take on that idea. Individual muffin tin dinner rolls look gorgeous piled in a pretty basket, and a dozen rolls passed around can be a little tidier to serve than a tear-and-share pan version. The zippy herb and garlic topping adds interest and a nice pop pf flavor.

I love the Italianate flavors of rosemary and oregano in this recipe, but of course you can vary the herbs to your taste and menu. I think a dose of cracked black pepper would be a nice touch. You can easily mix up these rolls, set them to rise and have the bowl washed and put away before guests arrive and just pop them in the oven.

Herbed Focaccia Dinner Rolls
Yields 12
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Ingredients
  1. 7 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
  2. 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  3. 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
  4. 1 clove garlic, peeled
  5. 1 package (1/4 ounce) package quick rise yeast
  6. 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  7. 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  8. 1 ½ cups warm water (about 110 degrees)
  9. 3 cups all-purpose flour
  10. Flaky sea salt
Instructions
  1. Place 5 Tablespoons of the olive oil in a small saucepan with 1 Tablespoon rosemary, 1 Tablespoon of oregano and the garlic clove. Heat over medium heat until shimmering, then remove from the heat and set aside.
  2. Place the yeast, sugar, salt and warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Leave for about 5 minutes until the yeast starts to foam. Add the flour, remaining 2 Tablespoon olive oil and the remaining herbs and beat for about 2 minutes until everything is well combined. The dough will be sticky.
  3. Divide the dough evenly between twelve regular muffin cups. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. When the roll dough has risen, remove the garlic clove from the seasoned oil then spoon it evenly over the rolls, making sure to distribute the chopped herbs evenly. Sprinkle the tops of the rolls with flaky sea salt, then bake until golden and firm, about 20 - 25 minutes. Place a sheet pan on a lower rack in the oven under the pan in case any oil bubbles over. Let the cooked rolls sit for about 5 minutes, then use a dull knife to loosen from the tins and remove.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Taleggio Risotto Cake

I did not grow up eating risotto. It was not a dish on the menus of the many fine Italian-American restaurants in Memphis we ate at during my childhood. When it started to become a common and trendy dish, for many years, I assumed it was some sort of chef-secret dish that couldn’t be created at home (a silly thought now I know). Once I realized that at its heart, risotto is simple fare that takes only a little patience, it became a comfort favorite for me. I love a creamy, homey bowl of risotto, and I find the stirring meditative and relaxing. One of the joys of cooking is watching plain ingredients transform into something altogether luxurious, and no dish is more an example of that than witnessing grains of rice release their starch into a luscious, creamy creation layered with flavors and sophistication.

I make risotto with all sorts of flavors – like my Carrot and Dill version, or the seasonal Squash Blossom iteration. Sometimes I go plain with just a dose of parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, sometimes I stir in fresh tomato sauce from my summer stash. But the point is, I usually make it only for myself. When you have guests to serve, standing over the stove stirring a pot of rice isn’t always feasible or friendly. I’ve tried baked versions, restaurant tricks for preparing it partially ahead, even a slow cooker method. But none have ever been completely satisfying. Until this springform version. Eggs hold the whole thing together and ricotta keeps the final result creamy. I tend to let the edges get slightly crispy, which adds an extra touch of texture, and I love the gooey layer of cheese oozing from the center. The presentation is pretty impressive too. Unmold the dish onto a pretty platter and add a sprinkle of fresh herbs for color.

My favorite risotto indulgence that I make for myself on special occasions uses salty pancetta, woodsy marjoram and aromatic taleggio. These flavors meld together beautifully to make a very pungent and unique whole. I have used the combination to top pizza and focaccia as well. But once you get the hang of this risotto cake, you can use any flavors you like.

Taleggio Risotto Cake
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 4 ounces diced pancetta
  2. 1 large shallot, finely diced
  3. 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  4. 1 ¾ cups Arborio rice
  5. 1 cup white wine
  6. 4 - 5 cups chicken broth
  7. 3 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh marjoram
  8. ¾ cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  9. 2 large eggs
  10. 4 ounces grated parmesan cheese
  11. 7 ounces taleggio cheese
  12. Olive oil
  13. Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Cook the pancetta in a large, deep skillet over medium high heat, until it is browned and crispy and has released its fat. Remove the pancetta to a paper-towel lined plate with a slotted spoon. You need about 2 Tablespoon of fat in the pan, so add some olive oil if the pancetta hasn't produced enough. Drop in the shallots and cook until glassy and soft, then add the garlic and cook for just about a minute - do not let it brown. Stir in the rice, coating it well with the fat, and cook for a few minutes until the edges of the grains begin to turn translucent. Pour in the wine and cook, stirring, until the wine is completely absorbed. Add the broth a cup at a time, stirring frequently, letting the rice absorb each cup before stirring in the next. After you've added two cups, stir in half of the marjoram and about a quarter of the pancetta. After adding four cups test to see that the rice is soft, but still with a little bite, then add liquid just until it reaches that point. Season well with salt and pepper. When the risotto is cooked, transfer it to a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil or parchment and spread it out to cool.
  2. While the risotto cools, cut the rind off the taleggio. It is easier to do this while the cheese is cold. Slice the taleggio into thin slices and set aside. Brush the inside and bottom of an 8-inch springform pan with olive oil.
  3. In a large bowl (or the pan you cooked the risotto in), whisk together the ricotta, eggs and parmesan cheese until smooth and combined. Add the risotto, remaining marjoram and pancetta and stir until everything is combined and well distributed. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if needed. Spread half of the risotto in the prepared pan and spread it out in an even layer. Drape half of the sliced taleggio over the top of the rice, distributing it evenly. Spread the rest of the risotto in the pan and press it down into an even layer. Place the rest of the taleggio over the top of the rice cake.
  4. At this point, you can cover and refrigerate the dish for several hours. When ready to bake, take the pan out of the fridge to take the chill off. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees then bake the risotto for 30 - 35 minutes, until the edges are golden, the cheese is melted and the center is heated through. Let the cake sit for about 10 minutes before removing the side of the pan, cutting into wedges and serving.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
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Farro and Herb Minestrone

There are one million and one delicious versions of an Italian style bean soup that it is almost impossible to narrow down a favorite. So the best thing to do, in my opinion, is to start from scratch, and that is what I’ve done here. I don’t really know if this is technically a minestrone, a pasta e fagioli or what, all I do know is that it is really delicious. I have become a huge fan of farro as I work to add whole grains to my diet, and decided it would be an interesting replacement for pasta in a brothy soup. The nutty flavor and slightly chewy texture make it hearty and interesting.

Let me explain my process. Cooking the farro separately keeps the soup from becoming thick or pasty. I love the herbal flavor of this soup – I think that’s what makes it more than broth with beans – but I find chopped rosemary can be too woody in a soup, so I like to simply infuse the broth with rosemary (and crisp celery leaves) then add the other freshly chopped soft herbs at the end so they are bright. I read for years about using a parmigiana cheese rind in soup and thought it was some sort of trendy, over the top silliness, but turns out it is really a great idea. It adds some depth and saltiness, and a hint of nuttiness that goes so well with the farro. Buy a wedge of real parmigiana for the fricos and cut off the rind. But you can (and should) save the rind of any wedge in a Ziploc in the freezer, though I have now found that the better cheese counters at the grocery now sell rinds. I love Italian borlotti beans, and sometimes find them at stores or online, most easily at Hispanic markets where they are labeled Roman beans. If you can’t find them, lovely white cannellini are perfect. Topping this soup with crispy cheese fricos is pretty and interesting, but feel free to just grate some cheese directly over the bowl.

Farro and Herb Minestrone
Serves 6
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For the Soup
  1. ½ cup farro
  2. 1 ½ cups water
  3. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  4. 1 carrot, finely diced
  5. 1 stalk of celery, finely diced
  6. 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  7. ¼ cup vermouth
  8. 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  9. 5 cups of chicken stock
  10. 3 – 4 stalks fresh rosemary
  11. 5- 6 celery leaves
  12. 1 (2-inch) piece of rind of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (optional but worth it)
  13. 1 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
  14. 1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano
  15. 1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
  16. 1 (15 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  17. 1 ( 15.5 ounce can) borlotti beans or cannellini beans
For the Fricos
  1. 12 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano -Reggiano cheese
  2. freshly ground black pepper
For the Soup
  1. Put the farro and water in a small saucepan with a good pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cover the pot and cook for 20 minutes. Check to see that the farro is cooked through, but still has a little bite to it (yes, al dente). If there is still some water left, drain it off, though the grains may absorb all the water.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium and add the carrot, celery and onion. Stir to coat with olive oil, then cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, then splash in a 1/4 cup of vermouth or water and cook until the liquid has completely evaporated. Continue cooking until the vegetables are a light amber color, soft and glassy, another 10 minutes or so. Add the garlic to the pot, stir well and cook 1 – 2 minutes – don’t let the garlic brown. Pour in the chicken stock, then drop in the cheese rind. Tie the rosemary stalks and celery leaves in a piece of cheesecloth or place in a mesh tea ball and add to the pot. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low and simmer the soup for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove the herb bundle and the cheese rind and give the broth a go with an immersion blender. You don’t want to completely puree, but it gives the broth a little more body, so just 4 -5 whirs around the pot. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and the chopped herbs. Stir in the farro. Rinse and drain the beans then stir them into the soup. Keep the pot on the heat just until the beans and farro are heated through.
For the Fricos
  1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and place 1 Tablespoon mounds of finely grated parmesan cheese about an inch apart on the baking sheet. Grind over a little black pepper. Neaten up the edges, slightly flatten the tops and cook for 8 – 10 minutes until golden brown around the edges. The fricos will crisp as they cool.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup with Rum and Citrus

Slow Cooker soups are one of winters greatest treats. For very little effort, you get big results, with the added bonus of a house that smells deliciously of warmth and comfort. And in the middle of winter, this black bean version has a tropical, sunny profile that perks things up considerably. Add some colorful toppings and everything will seem brighter. This soup is hearty and fresh all at the same time.

I love the Caribbean profile of this version of black bean soup – a little Cuba, a little Jamaica, a little Mexico – but all flavor. A nice dose of rum adds a good punch and tangy citrus brightens the rich soup up considerably. I like to serve some lime wedges for squirting on the top and add a sprinkle of chopped cilantro, but you can mic a little sour cream with some of the citrus juice and float dollops of that, or top with some diced avocado or red onion. I think this would be great beside a Cuban sandwich or a piece of avocado toast. If you like things spicy, add a finely diced jalapeno or two with the vegetables or serve with some hot sauce on the side.

Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup with Rum and Citrus
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 1 large yellow onion
  2. 1 carrot
  3. 1 green bell pepper
  4. 3 cloves garlic
  5. 4 (15-ounce) cans black beans, well rinsed and drained
  6. 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  7. ½ cup dark rum
  8. 4 cups vegetable stock
  9. 1 orange
  10. 1 lemon
  11. 1 lime
  12. 2 bay leaves
  13. 1/4 cup citrus juice
  14. 2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
Instructions
  1. Finely chop the onion, carrot and bell pepper. You want very small pieces. Finely mince the garlic and place them all in the crock of a slow cooker. Add the beans, cumin, rum and vegetable stock and one cup of water. Stir well.
  2. Peel a thin strip from the skin of each of the orange, lemon and lime using a vegetable peeler. Place the citrus strips and bay leaves on top of the soup, cover and cook on high for 3 – 4 hours or on low for 7 – 8 hours.
  3. Thirty minutes before the cooking time is completed, squeeze the juice from the orange, lemon and lime. Remove the strips of peel and the bay leaves from the soup, then measure out ½ cup of juice and pour it into the soup. Add the chopped cilantro and stir to combine. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup, or transfer it to a blender and give it a whirl. Finish cooking the soup until it is warm through.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/