Always Hungry? An improvised meal

One of the problems I have with rigorous meal plans is that I refuse to shop for my food according to a menu! Even though I’m shopping in the supermarket, I want the freedom to buy what looks good–not what I need for a menu. When I find lovely ahi tuna for a measly &7.99 per pound, you be I’m having that for a meal. That was what I found on Friday, so I had an ad lib meal constructed from the simplified meal plan (page 152).

My high-quality protein was the tuna–pan seared to medium rare. The carbohydrate and vegetable were spicy mixed greens (a mix of radicchio, shredded broccoli stems, kale, and a few other robust greens) steam-sautéed with borlotti beans, seasoned with just a dab of bacon fat and red pepper flakes. Since tuna is not as oily/fatty as sardines, salmon, or mackerel, I followed the “pour on the fat” instruction by adding with a dollop of the lemon dill sauce.  YUM! Dessert? Raspberries and heavy cream (though these were not on the menu for today  either but I used the quantities suggested in the meal plan elsewhere.

(The dill sauce thins and spreads quickly when it hits something hot–next time it will go on the side!) The tuna steak that I had was close to a half pound, so there will be some for a lettuce wrap or salad tomorrow.

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Beans & greens–soup!

close-up of rapini or broccoli raab

rapini

This is one of my favorite recipes for the seasons when cool weather crops are easy to find.  It’s modified from “Marcella Cucina” (Bibliography)–it’s four servings as a main course, but it freezes well, and reheats well.  For best results, I recommend cooking your own dried beans, but canned will always work as well.  If you can’t find borlotti or cranberry beans, pinto beans would be a good substitute. If you can’t find the rapini (broccoli raab, or broccoletti) you can use broccoli–but the taste won’t be the same.  Rather than broccoli, I’d opt for other winter greens such as mustard greens or kale.

Cranberry Bean and Cime de Rapa Soup

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups dried, soaked, cooked borlotti (cranberry) beans
  • 1-1/2 pounds greens, stemmed if large
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1/4 pound pancetta, chopped fine (about 1 cup).

Preparation

Beans

  • Soak beans overnight in brine.
  • Drain and bring to a boil in a fresh change of water.
  • Reduce the heat and cook at a very low boil until for about 30 minutes
  • Add 1-1/2 teaspoons salt and continue to cook until tender.
  • Let them steep in the cooking liquid until ready to use.

Greens

  • Wash the greens in several changes of water and stem the leaves if they are large.
  • In a covered saucepan, with 2 cups water,  bring to a boil over high heat.
  • Add salt to taste and cook until tender.
  • Drain the greens.
  • When cool enough to handle, chop coarsely.

The soup

  • Put olive oil and pancetta (or bacon) in saucepan and cook, stirring frequently, until browned.
  • Add the garlic and sauté until the garlic just begins to color.
  • Add the chopped greens and cook for about 5 minutes, turning frequently to coat with oil and mix with the bacon.  Be sure to scrape the fond (all the good brown stuff) from the bottom of the pan.  If needed, add 1/4 cup water to help with this.
  • Drain the beans (do not discard the cooking liquid).
  • Purée half the beans and enough cooking liquid to make a medium dense consistency.
  • Add to the remaining beans and the greens and cook for about 10 to 15 minutes to blend flavors.
  • Taste and correct seasoning, and serve.

The original recipe suggests that this not be refrigerated since a night in the refrigerator will give the vegetable a “grassy, metallic” taste.  I don’t think that is an issue–you’ll only be able to tell if you try it yourself.  I would package some in zipper-lock freezer bags (single-serving amounts) and put it directly into the freezer.

Chicken sausage

Chicken Italian sausage

I’ve made this substituting sausage cut in pieces for the pancetta or bacon to make it a heartier soup.  Italian sausage (hot or mild according to taste) works well, but I’ve use other sausages from the store-made ones at Harris Teeter, such as lamb. There are a number of chicken sausages available if you’d like to avoid beef or pork.  Even without adding meat it’s still a hearty warming light supper.

A son goût!