Tag Archives: shallots

Cannellini Beans with Bacon & Spinach

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADespite the fact that we got ourselves a cute little tree, I’ve been listening to Christmas music while getting ready in the morning, and I spent an entire weekend (and then some) making edible holiday gifts, it just doesn’t feel like Christmas this year.  It might be partly due to the fact that it’s been insanely warm for this time of year-–it’s been in the 60’s for weeks now!  Ugh.  My husband finds it humorous that I should complain about this, but I stand by it.  I want a little chill in the air, enough so that a winter coat is mandatory.  I want to walk down the streets of NYC, looking through the windows at the whimsical holiday displays while sipping a hot cocoa.   Is this too much to ask??  The world can be a tough place to stomach sometimes, and I feel like December is the one time of year when we are allowed to live in a fantasyland in our heads––dreaming of sugarplums, reindeer, and snowmen.  I am going to try and make the best of it.  At least we’re not housebound due to a huge snowstorm, eh?

You HAVE to make this dish, and soon.  I’ve made it twice in the past month, and I can’t get enough of it.  Not only is it a perfect, comforting winter meal (even if it is warmer than usual), but it’s super-easy and pretty healthy.   It takes all of 10 minutes, and you can make it in one pan.  Enjoy, and Happy Holidays!
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACannellini Beans with Bacon & Spinach
Adapted from The Splendid Table

Yield:  4 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
6 ounces smoky bacon, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 shallots, minced
1 (28-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
6 cups baby spinach
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Put a large (approximately 10-inch) skillet over medium heat. Add the oil and let it get hot.
2. Add the bacon and cook until crispy, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the garlic and shallots, and cook for 30 seconds longer. Add the beans and cook for another 2 minutes.
4. Add the spinach and salt, season with pepper, and cook until the spinach wilts, about 4 minutes, adding a tablespoon or two of water, if needed, to help the spinach along. Serve immediately.

Ricotta-Pea Ravioli with Mushrooms

DSC_5858It feels good to be lounging around my apartment on a Saturday morning again.  I’ve been away the past two weekends, first to Maryland to visit my in-laws and then to Philly to meet up with my mom.  Both trips were enjoyable, but it’s always nice to be able to sleep in on a Saturday morning in your own bed.

I’ve been thinking a fair amount about what life will be like after one (or both) of my parents die.  I’m not someone who dwells on death by any means, so it’s a bit new for me to be spending time pondering this.  Maybe it’s because one of my grandmas was recently moved into a nursing home.  She isn’t doing so well.  My other grandma has been in a nursing home for a few years now.  I know it’s a bit of a leap to go from that to, “Oh my gosh, my parents are next,” but I’m in no way prepared to say goodbye to either of my parents.  One of the interesting things about living far away from them is that they appear to age so much faster.  I typically only see them once a year, and besides the gray hair, etc. that comes with aging, I’ve started to notice a change in the way they carry themselves.  They are not the middle-aged parents that I left behind 12 years ago when I moved to NYC.
DSC_5834I am trying to be more present when I spend time with them.  I want to take it all in, and just enjoy who they are without wanting to change them.  When my husband and I were in Maryland, my mother-in-law agreed to show me how to make a few of her recipes.  One of them was Mr. K’s favorite dish, and another was my favorite dish.  Of course, being an Indian woman, absolutely nothing was written down, so it was a lot of, “About this much cumin, and about this much rice.”  After a few times of asking what the equivalent measurement would be and not getting a straight answer, I finally just started frantically scribbling down everything she showed me in the hopes that I will be able to replicate these recipes with some semblance to the way she makes them.   She is an incredible cook, and what’s more, my husband considers her cooking true comfort food.
DSC_5848Last weekend I was in Philly with my mom.  She brought along some scrapbook cards that we have been sending back and forth to each other to fill out over the last year or so.  One of the questions I had to answer was,  What Were You Good At As A Child?  I put down that I was a good speller, since I remember winning at least one spelling bee as a kid.  But then I answered another card with the same answer apparently, which caused my mom to ask incredulously, “Did you think spelling was the only thing you were good at?” while laughing uncontrollably.   We had one of those wonderful and rare moments where she started laughing, which caused me to start laughing, and then neither of us could stop.  Supposedly, I was good at other things, like math, but I don’t buy it.  She also told me that I was dyslexic and had to see a reading specialist the summer before kindergarten.  From what my mom says, I absolutely adored this specialist, but I have no recollection of her whatsoever.  Isn’t that strange?  Someone who was so helpful to me and brought me so much joy, and yet I have no memory of her.  The brain is so mysterious.  It was great to have a weekend with my mom.  I missed her the minute I hopped on the train back to NYC.
DSC_5849Ricotta-Pea Ravioli with Mushrooms.  It screams spring, doesn’t it?  Using wonton wrappers makes this recipe very approachable.  I love the sweetness of the peas, combined with the creaminess of the ricotta.  If you want more umami flavor and saltiness, which I did, feel free to add some (cooked) bacon to the filling.  The original recipe called for shaved asparagus to be added at the end, but I left it out.  This is yet another recipe that I could not stop eating, and was sad when I had my last serving of it.
DSC_5855Ricotta-Pea Ravioli with Mushrooms
Adapted from Cooking Light

2/3 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup frozen green peas, thawed and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup (1 ounce) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon rind

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots (about 2)
5 teaspoons chipped fresh chives
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
16 ounces (2 1/2 cups) mixed mushrooms (such as shiitake, cremini, and oyster)
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Remaining ingredients:
Wonton wrappers
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1. To prepare filling, combine the first 8 ingredients in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.
2. Place parchment paper on a baking sheet, and put 12 wonton wrappers on baking sheet.  Fill small bowl with 1/4 cup room temperature water.
3. Spoon 1 1/2 teaspoons filling mixture on each wonton wrapper.  Dip finger in water, and moisten all four edges of wonton wrapper, as you go along.  Place another wonton wrapper on top of moistened wrapper, pressing around filling to seal.  Repeat procedure with remaining wrappers and filling mixture to form 24 ravioli.  Cover with dishcloth (to prevent drying out) and set aside.
4. To prepare sauce, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and next 3 ingredients (through mushrooms) to pan; cook 8 minutes or until mushrooms are browned and tender, stirring occasionally. Add broth and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; cook 4 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates. Remove from heat; keep warm.
5. Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add 4 ravioli to each pan; cook 3-4 minutes or until ravioli float to the surface. Remove ravioli from water with a slotted spoon. Place ravioli on a tray, making sure they do not overlap; cover and keep warm.
6. Place 4 ravioli on each of 6 plates; top each serving with 1/2 cup sauce.  Sprinkle each serving with 4 teaspoons cheese.



Mushrooms with Chestnuts and Thyme

DSC_5299I went to a book reading in my neighborhood the other night.  It was one of those bracingly cold evenings where you find yourself walking faster simply to seek warmth indoors.  The author was talking about identity and how we all have different personas that we wear depending on our surroundings.  He told the story of going off to college and wanting to hide his Queens accent because he desperately wanted to fit in with his more well-off peers.  Similarly, once he returned home from college he discovered that he was attempting to mask his “uppity” college vocabulary and newfangled accent so as to not feel like a fraud amongst his family and high school friends.

You hear so much chatter these days around being “authentic”, but what does that mean?  I think we carry all of our experiences with us, and that all of our identities, or personas, are equally authentic.  Indeed, they enrich our lives if we allow them to.  Of course, we give different weight to different experiences we’ve had, but they all matter.  I love the idea that human beings are constantly changing and evolving.  That depending on how curious you are and open to new thoughts and ideas, you can truly expand your world.  Now that I’ve lived in NYC for almost 12 years, I am a very different person from when I first moved here.  Back then, I wanted to hide my “Minnesotan-ness” and put on airs that made me appear more sophisticated.  Living in New York has seeped into my bones and transformed my sense of self.  Now I find myself thinking nostalgically about my time in Minnesota and some of the aspects of my personality that I was so quick to shed.
DSC_5272Twelve years ago, I was ashamed of not being as smart as the people around me.  I thought I should be more worldly and culturally astute.  I was only in my late 20’s and yet I felt like I had wasted time during my youth and needed to catch up on so many things.  Instead of accepting myself for where/who I was, I berated myself and frequently felt like an outsider amongst my New York friends and co-workers.  If I could do it all over again, I would be kinder to myself and allow the vulnerability and curiosity that is inevitable at such a young age.  I would embrace what I did not, could not know and be open to asking questions without embarrassment.  It is an identity that I should not have been ashamed of.
DSC_5285Now, when I return to Minnesota I often times feel the need to suppress aspects of myself that certain family members might not understand.  I know this is universal, but I sometimes revert back to the person I was growing up under my parent’s roof.  Although I feel somewhat like an outsider there, I’m more accepting of who I’ve become and try to allow the discomfort that lies in the space between who I was then and who I am now.
DSC_5289I had a few bags of chestnuts left over from Thanksgiving that I wanted to use up, and this recipe was exactly what I was looking for.  It’s hearty enough to stand alone as a vegetarian meal, or can also be a delicious side dish.  I love mushrooms, and the earthiness of the mushrooms pairs really well with the sweetness of the chestnuts.  The marcona almonds sprinkled on top is completely optional, but I like the crunch it adds.
DSC_5293Mushrooms with Chestnuts and  Thyme
Adapted from Bon Appétit

Yield:  10 servings

6 tablespoons (3/4 cup) butter
8 large shallots, sliced (about 2 cups)
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 lbs. assorted wild mushrooms (such as stemmed shiitake, crimini and oyster), sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
3/4 cup Madeira (or substitute a full-bodied red wine)
1 7.25-ounce jar roasted peeled whole chestnuts, halved (about 1 1/2 cups)
3/4 cup whipping cream
Chopped fresh chives
Marcona almonds, roughly chopped

1.  Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large, deep non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.
2.  Add shallots and sauté until tender and golden, about 6 minutes.  Add garlic and stir 30 seconds.
3.  Add remaining 3 tablespoons butter and stir until melted.  Add mushrooms; sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Sauté until tender and brown, about 10 minutes.
4.  Add thyme and stir 1 minute.  Add Madeira and simmer until almost evaporated, about 1 minute.
5.  Add chestnuts and whipping cream and simmer until cream thickens and coats mushroom mixture, about 1 minute.
6.  Season generously with salt and pepper.  Transfer to bowl; sprinkle with chives.