3 weeks ago
Thursday, January 1, 2009
I hope that everyone had a Happy New Year! We had a great New Year's Eve -- we actually got to go out to dinner with friends thanks to some great grandparent babysitters! We went just late enough to miss the Early Bird Special, but early enough to be able to clear out of the restaurant before the hipsters started showing up, much to their great relief. You know, I have pretty much completely assimilated into my new home state, but the one thing that I have never been able to accept is Central Standard Time. For me, Eastern Standard Time will always be The Real Time. But living in CST totally works to my advantage on New Years' Eve, because I can go to bed at 11:01 p.m., right after the ball drops in Times Square. I once stayed up until midnight to watch some kind of bizarre Central Standard Time ball dropping ceremony, but truly, nobody makes that mistake twice. In fact, I don't even think they do it anymore -- they just replay Dick Clark and Ryan Seacrest (sorry David, but Ryan was definitely there, so I can't just ignore him) at midnight CST. But I have yet to come up with a compelling reason to stay up the extra hour to watch it twice, especially when I feel like we already rung in the new year an hour ago.
But moving on to food! In the "formal" food blogging groups that I participate in, there were all kinds of extensions, exemptions, exonerations, substitions, pardons, and absolutions granted in December, in recognition of the fact that it is an insane month for all of us. Therefore, I am posting one Barefoot Bloggers and one CEIMB recipe today, even though I am not exactly sure if I am early, late, posting the wrong recipes altogether, or still a member of these groups. In any event, I made 'em, so I'm going to take advantage of this unprecedented loosey-gooseyness in the food blogosphere to tell you all about them!
The Barefoot recipe, chosen by Natalie of Burned Bits, is Pappa al Pomodoro, from Ina's fantastic new cookbook "Back to Basics." I posted a few weeks ago that in a moment of weakness I bought this cookbook for myself on or around December 12th, which was an egregious violation of all standards of Christmas etiquette. Well, as it turns out, David's parents had indeed already bought the cookbook for me -- doh! David's mom was very sweet and told me that I could just regift it, but being the greedmeister that I am, I decided to check with Barnes & Noble to see if I could swap it for another Barefoot Contessa book -- and sure enough, I left with a brand new copy of Barefoot Contessa Family Style! Jane, I'm thinking that I swapped out the copy that I bought for myself, and kept the one that you all gave me. I love it -- thank you!
Well, one look at this Pappa al Pomodoro and I knew that it was exactly what we needed after a solid six weeks of extreme gluttony. It is a simple tomato soup, filled with vegetables, flavored with red wine, rich stock, and basil, and thickened by ciabatta bread. Best of all, it is topped with a crispy, savory topping of ciabatta, pancetta, and fresh basil. I loved the soup, but really I could have sat there all night and popped this topping like potato chips. That's okay -- I know that deprogramming will be a slow process.
I had a hard time finding ciabatta, which is a central ingredient in this soup. I never cease to be amazed at the things that I cannot find at grocery stores in this town. As I hunted for ciabatta, I found that I was powerless to stop myself from morphing into that most dreaded of grocery store inhabitants, The Aimless Grocery Meanderer. And while I was aimlessly meandering around the bakery section, I was almost taken out at least twice by that other almost equally dreaded grocery store dweller, the Crazed Bat Out of Hell Race Walker. The risks we take for our art! I finally found ciabatta at a Walmart Supercenter 30 miles away from home (I didn't go that far just searching for ciabatta, I promise).
Well, once I FINALLY had all of the ingredients I needed for the Pappa al Pomodoro, I iced my knees, adjusted my Ace bandage, took a nap, and then got to work on the soup. You start out by sauteing the onion, garlic, carrots and fennel in a pot:
Then you add the ciabatta, cook that for about 5 minutes, and add the tomatoes, stock, wine, salt and pepper. Simmer it for about 45 minutes and make the topping, which just involves mixing up cut up ciabatta, pancetta, and basil on a baking sheet, drizzling with olive oil, and baking for 20 or 25 minutes:
Serve with fresh parmesan. We really enjoyed this soup. It's a light soup, but the bread keeps it from being totally wimpy. Serve it with a green salad and it's a light meal, serve it with grilled cheese and you've got a hearty and comforting dinner. I'll make this one again for sure.
The Craving Ellie in My Belly recipe is Chocolate Cherry-Almond Biscotti, chosen by Leanne of Enjoying My Favorite Things. You can get the recipe on Leanne's blog. The recipe provided me with my first chance to test drive the new toy that Santa brought me:
I love this scale! It's still a total novelty to me, and if you set an item down in my kitchen, I will weigh it. You've been warned.
The dough for this biscotti was pretty dry. I was really afraid that it would fall apart when I went to cut it, but it didn't.
These biscotti are made with olive oil and half whole wheat flour, and kind of have a "rustic" taste to them. I was a little skeptical about the olive oil at first, but I thought these were great! Compared to the way I've been eating lately, these biscotti seemed like an actual health food! It's all relative. I'll make these again -- I think they make a great, reasonably healthy afternoon snack.
Best wishes for a happy & healthy New Year, everyone, and I am looking forward to cooking & baking with you in 2009!
Posted by Cathy at 8:03 PM