Monday, March 10, 2014

Orecchiette, kale & white beans

There is one cookbook in my small collection that I value more and more each time I peruse it & use it- Eat Good Food -the so-much-more-than-just-a-cookery-book written by a man I truly admire, Sam Mogannam. Not only does it contain a collection of  inspiring recipes, it's brilliance is that it's a guide to shopping for fresh, quality ingredients whilst getting a better understanding for supporting traditional and local food makers and suppliers. It's one of the most consumer friendly books around and an inspiring source for food education.
I first picked up the book from my local library after reading an article in the San Francisco Chronicle about Sam and Bi-Rite Market. My next day off, pedaling across town to the Mission for some work related thrift shopping, I made the turn and headed down 18th St.  At street level, the one block between Delores and Guerrero tips the scale slightly toward residential, but is as bustling as any commercial city street with both foot and vehicle traffic.  I walked my bike and spied the tiers of fresh flowers a half block away and made my way into the tiny, over-flowing market after locking up the bike. I was instantly transported back to my NYC/NYU  days. I didn't do a lot of cooking back then but I loved wandering the narrow aisles and perusing the artfully abundant wire rack shelves of grocery and over-flowing wooden crates of produce. These were the gourmet markets, short on square footage and high in alluring vertical abundance. The Garden of Eden on 14th Street and Balducci's in the West Village were my favorites. Dean & Deluca? not so much. There was something intimidating about that store.
The moment I first walked into Bi-Rite Market I was impressed by the staff, so knowledgeable and friendly, there when you needed them  and giving you the freedom to browse as long a you wanted. I loved the artististic hand lettered signs and personal informative descriptors of wines and cheese. I remember thinking "I just want to live here!". That was about 3 years ago. Next month will mark my 1 year anniversary as part of the Bi-Rite Family. Every day I learn something new.
Oddly enough, this is the first time I've cooked orecchiette pasta. I love it. They're tiny bowls of creamy goodness. I used green curly kale instead of chard as we only had the rainbow chard in the store. The recipe notes that red chard pigment will bleed into the dish and can become bitter. I wasn't sure if that applied to rainbow as well so I decided to go with the kale. I like to use the curly kale when cooking and Lacinato kale in salads. Spinach is good here too.

Orecchiette, White Beans & Chard
from Eat Good Food

1 large bunch chard, about 14 ounces
kosher salt
1 pound dried orecchiette
1/2 cup (about 2 ounces) finely diced pancetta
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
3 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 cups cooked white beans (one 15-ounce can, rinsed & drained)
2 teaspoons chopped thyme or sage, or a combination
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, more as needed
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

To prepare the chard, strip the leaves off the stems. Dice up the stems and slice the leaves into thin strips, keeping them separate.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then salt generously. Add the pasta and cook until it's almost al dente, a couple of minutes less than the package instructions. Using a large slotted spoon or mesh strainer, scoop out the pasta into a colander and let it drain well. Reserve 2 cups of pasta water, and empty the pot. Return the pot to the burner and set the heat to medium-high. When the pot is dry and hot, add the pancetta and 1 tablespoon olive oil and cook, stirring frequently until the pancetta is golden and most of the fat is rendered out, about 2 minutes. Add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and continue to cook until the onion is translucent, about 4 more minutes. Add the chopped chard stems and cook until softened, then add the garlic and cook, stirring for another minute.
Add the beans and using a potato masher, crush about half of them. Breaking down of some of the beans thickens the sauce. Add the thyme or sage, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 cup of the pasta water and stir to combine. Cover the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes to blend the flavors. Stir in the chard leaves, cover and cook until the chard is tender, 2-3 more minutes.
Add the drained pasta and stir to combine. Cook, stirring constantly, until the pasta is just al dente and the liquid has reduced to a creamy coating of sauce, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Add more pasta water if its too dry.
Remove from heat and stir in remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, the lemon juice and 1/4 of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Taste and add more lemon juice or salt as needed. Garnish with the remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano.

This made good leftovers, especially the next morning, topped with a poached egg.

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