Monday, January 20, 2014

Swiss Chard Casserole with Farfalle and Cheeses

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!  I hope you were able to do something civic-minded this long weekend (if you are getting a long weekend) even if it was just being kind to the opposing football teams’ fans regardless of whether your team won or lost.  As volunteer and human-rights oriented as MLK was, it is appropriate that he continues his legacy by giving us a three day weekend in January.  The man keeps on giving. 

We are gearing up in New York City for some football.  The Super Bowl teams are set and the Super Bowl-themed flags on light posts, along the side of city buses and in the subways are running rampant.  It is going to be interesting to see what the next two weeks bring us.  I promise that I will venture out to see what some of the festivities are and report back.  Either way, the weather looks like it will be a chilly one since we are hovering just below freezing for the next ten days it seems – and they are calling for six-ten inches of snow tomorrow. 

Because of the chill, I fear I’ve been inundating our dinners with soups, stews and chilis too much.  I forgot we may need to have something a tad more non-liquidy every once in awhile – you know, just to give our spoons a rest and our forks a chance to get in the game.

I found this recipe in the New York Times Cookbook (a favorite of mine) and, as expected, it did not disappoint.  It was easy to make and seemed appropriate for cold nights without making me go to bed with indigestion.  I tweaked it a bit but it came out just as I had hoped – the freshest pasta dish you can get before April when the farmers markets start being bountiful again.

Swiss Chard Casserole with Farfalle and Cheeses

1 pound Swiss chard
extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot
1 cup chopped canned tomatoes, drained
½ pound farfalle
2 oz. goat cheese
¼ cup grated Parmesan, plus more if needed

Start with the most time-consuming part of the recipe – rinse the Swiss chard, drain it, remove it from the stems and chop it fine.  (I ended up just tearing it with my fingers because I found I worked faster that way.)  Heat a swirl of oil in a deep-ish skillet over medium heat.  (You want it deep because you have a lot of chard that takes up a lot of room before it wilts.) Add the onion and sauté until tender.  Chop your shallot.  Stir in the garlic, chopped shallot and tomatoes.   Stir to incorporate and to ensure there isn’t too much liquid from the tomatoes. Add the chard and cook for about 8 minutes, until the chard has wilted.  Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the farfalle until al dente, according to the package suggestions.  Drain the pasta when done.   Dump the chard into a casserole dish (mine was a little smaller than a 9 x 13 dish) and stir in the goat cheese and half the Parmesan.  Fold in the farfalle and mix with the chard mixture.  Once incorporated, sprinkle the top of the casserole with Parmesan cheese and bake about 15 – 20 minutes until heated.  Serve with more Parmesan cheese if wanted. 

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Black-Eyed Pea Stew with Sausage and Collards

Happy New Year!  

I hope everyone's holiday season was a relaxing and happy one.  I took two weeks off from work so got a lot of rest and relaxation in.  The first week I spent in Newton with my family and got to dote on my niece and nephew regularly.  The second week I spent in New York City where I purposefully took the time off so I could see what it felt like to have nothing to do in the city for an entire week.  It was glorious.

That being said, the time off made me realize how much I appreciate a routine.  I was ready to get back to work (rain, cold and crowded subways be damned).  It also didn't hurt that I had leftovers of this recipe to look forward to for lunch.  As is the New Year's custom in my family, I made a meal that included black eyed peas, collards and pork to bring us health, wealth and good luck in 2012.  This year I made a stew and it already exhibited its prosperity by bringing us a beaucoup of leftovers.  I am not sure many people in the city know about this tradition (I'm working on spreading the word) but if you were wandering around the 5th floor of my apartment building last week, you would've smelled the deliciousness going on and convinced yourself to partake. 
The original recipe did not call for any sort of leafy greens but I added them due to the theory that collards represent money.  Figured it couldn't hurt u$.  Plus, the word 'collards' immediately takes me back to the south.  You can't NOT say it without a southern accent.  I also used a mix of sausages (hot and mild) and instead of chopping a can of Italian tomatoes, I bought a can of already chopped Italian tomatoes (duh).  I also only had 1 cup of dried black-eyed peas (ironically left over from last year).  The original recipe calls for 2 cups but 1 cup was fine.  These changes should be reflected in the recipe below.  Here's to prosperity in 2014!

Black-Eyed Pea Stew with Sausage and Collards
Adapted from Food & Wine

1-2 cups dried black-eyed peas, picked over and rinsed  
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/4 pounds Italian sausages (about 8 links; I used 4 hot and 4 mild sausages)
1 onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
One 14-ounce can chopped Italian tomatoes, drained 
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 cups water
1/2 a bunch of collards, stems removed and sliced in ribbons
1/4 cup chopped cilantro, plus leaves for garnish (optional)

Please your black-eyed peas in a bowl and add enough water to cover them so they can start soaking (this will make them cook faster).  In a large soup pot, heat the oil until shimmering. Add your sausages and cook over moderate heat, turning occasionally, until they are cooked through (mine took about 20 minutes but the original recipe says 10 minutes). Transfer the sausages to a plate to collect all the delicious juices. Add your chopped onion, bell pepper, garlic and jalapeño to the pot and cook over moderate heat until just beginning to brown.  Add the tomatoes and cook until some, but not all, liquid is evaporated. Add the black-eyed peas along with the broth and water. Bring to a boil. Cover partially and simmer until the black-eyed peas are just tender.  The original recipe says this takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes but it only took mine 45 minutes to an 1 hour. With about 30 minutes left, add your collards and stir.  They will cook in the final 30 minutes. Cut your sausages into slices or dices and add them to the stew along with the juices from the plate. Simmer the stew for 10 more minutes. Spoon into bowls and top with cilantro leaves if you so desire.