Friday, March 26, 2010

Pasta e Fagoli Basilicata (Pasta and Beans Basilicata)

Pasta e Fagoli Basilicata
(Pasta and Beans Basilicata)
serves 4
“Pasta and beans, you can’t do that . . . it's two starches!” that’s what my new bride (Jo) said when I first told her about this Italian specialty . . . today she looks forward to it.  She enjoyed it so much that she would ask my mom (Susie) to make it all the time, including in the summer time, to which my mom would tell her “We can’t, Pasta e Fagoli is a winter dish!” . . . sorry mom we enjoy it year round.  This is our family version, no tomatoes, just a yummy sauce made of extra-virgin olive oil and the “juice” from the Cannellini beans.  It's a cross between a pasta dish and a soup.
1/4-cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 carrot, finely diced, about 1/4-inch
1 onion, finely diced, about 1/4-inch
1 rib celery, finely diced, about 1/4-inch
3 cloves garlic, micro-planed
2-tablespoons parsley leaves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 - 15 1/2 ounce cans of cannellini beans, liquid reserved
1-pound Maccheroncelli or Ditalini pasta (small tube shaped macaroni)
1.  In a large pasta pot bring a large volume of salted water to a rapid boil over high heat.  When the water comes to a roiling boil toss in the pasta and cook until the pasta is al dente.  Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking liquid before draining the pasta through a colander.
2.  While the pasta is cooking and in a separate 3 quart pot (large enough to accommodate both the pasta and the beans and sauce you are preparing), heat the oil over medium heat. Add the diced carrot, diced onion, diced celery, the garlic, parsley, red pepper flakes, and cook over medium heat until the vegetables become tender.
3.  While the vegetables are sautéing, fill the empty cans with water and stir the water around so it can absorb any of the thick cannellini liquid clinging to the inside of the cans.  Set the liquid filled cans aside.
4.  Add the reserved cannellini liquid, the water from the cans, and the bay leaf.  Reduce the heat to medium-low.
5.  Add the beans and the al dente pasta while gently stirring to evenly distribute both. Lower the heat to simmer and simmer the Pasta e Fagoli for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding some of the reserved pasta cooking liquid if the sauce is too "tight".
6.  Adjust seasoning with salt, freshly ground black pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste.   Serve immediately either "family style" in one pasta bowl OR divided evenly among warmed, individual pasta bowls and accompanied by additional extra-virgin olive oil to drizzle, red pepper flakes, and crusty Italian or French bread to "mop up" the fagoli "juice".

Next Week's Posting: Conchiglie con Piselli, Panna, e Menta (Shells with Peas, Cream, and Mint) 

Friday, March 5, 2010

Memphis Style Barbecue Ribs

Memphis Style Barbecue Ribs
makes about 4 – 6  servings

This recipe  is the  evolution of a spice mixture I became aware of when I  was a young Marine  stationed at Naval Air Station Millington Tennessee outside Memphis.  Some  of the keys to good ribs are to  remove  the "silver skin", partially slicing between each rib prior to cooking, and cooking slow and low (slowly over a low flame with plenty of smoke).  I think the addition of cumin to the traditional Memphis dry rub gives it a refreshing and slightly Mediterranean flavour surprise.

        6 pounds spare ribs
1 3/4 cups cider vinegar
1 3/4 cups apple cider
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 bay leaves
3 tablespoons Louisiana-style hot pepper sauce
1 tablespoon salt
3/4 cup BBQ Rub (recipe follows)
3 cups wood chips
Vinegar Sauce (recipe  follows), optional
1.  If your ribs have not been already trimmed by the butcher, trim them as follows:
2.  Place the ribs meat-side up on a cutting board. There is a line of fat at the base of the ribs; cut along it to remove the rib tips, they're composed of cartilage and add nothing to the ribs. Turn the meat over, rib-side up.
3.  Cut off the flap of meat on the inside of the ribs. (The reason for removing these pieces is that they will burn well before the ribs are done. You can marinate and season these flaps with the rest of the ribs and grill them over direct heat for about 15 minutes, turning once. They are delicious.)
4.  With the rib-side up, work a sharp knife under the tough, silver-skin like membrane that covers the bones. Working from one rib to the next, pull the membrane off the rib. (For a better grip, grab the membrane with a paper towel.) The membrane may tear and you may have to start over, but be patient – removing the membrane allows the spices and smoke to penetrate the ribs, and makes the ribs much more attractive and easy to eat.  This is also a good time to slice partially between each rib to make separating them later easier.
5.  In a shallow, plastic or non-reactive pan or bowl large enough to hold the ribs, mix together 1 cup cider vinegar, 1 cup cider, garlic, bay leaves, 2 tablespoons hot sauce and the salt. Put the ribs in this marinade, turn to coat, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 16 hours, turning once during this time.
6.  Remove the ribs from the pan 2 hours before you plan to cook them and pat them dry. Discard the marinade.
7.  Sprinkle the ribs all over with 1/2 cup of the rub, patting it on with your fingers. Cover and refrigerate for about 1 1/2 hours.
8.  Remove the ribs from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 1/2 hour before grilling; this will help prevent the meat from "seizing up" and becoming tough when placed on the grill.
9.  Mix the remaining 3/4 cup cider vinegar, 3/4 cup cider, and 1 tablespoon hot sauce. You will apply this basting liquid to the ribs about once every hour or so with a spray bottle.
10. (optional) Soak about 3 cups of wood chips (hickory, oak or apple) for at least 1/2 hour in cold water.
11.  Prepare a charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill for indirect grilling over low heat . (optional) Drain and add 1 cup of the wood chips (for a gas grill, place  wood chips in a disposable aluminum pan under the grating where they can smolder and smoke).
12.  Place ribs  on the grill meat side down and grill the ribs, covered, until they are crispy, and the meat has pulled back from the bone, 3 to 4 hours, depending on the heat of your grill. Spray the ribs with the vinegar-cider mixture every hour, and turn them once during grilling. Don't forget to add more wood chips (optional)—and, if using charcoal, more coals—as needed (check every hour or so). You should have enough soaked wood chips for about 3 hours of cooking time; if your ribs take longer, you will need to soak more chips.
13.  If the ribs are done before you are ready to eat, wrap them in heavy-duty aluminum foil and leave them over very low, indirect heat for up to 1 hour.
14.  Remove the ribs from the grill, spray or baste with any remaining basting liquid, and sprinkle with the remaining the 1/4 cup of rub. Serve as is, or with Vinegar Sauce.

Makes about 1 cup or about enough for 8 pounds of Memphis style ribs
6 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons coarse salt, such as kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1.  In a sealable, clean container large enough for all  the ingredients,  combine the ingredients and seal the container.   Shake  the container briskly to completely and evenly distribute all the ingredients.
2.  Label the sealed container and store in a  cool, dark place until needed.

Vinegar Sauce
makes about 2 ½ cups
2 cups cider vinegar
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon Louisiana-style hot sauce
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
In a medium bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients. Use immediately, or cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Next Week's Posting: Soupe a l'Oignon au Fromage (French Onion Soup)

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