Kidney Beans in Tomato Sauce

February 19, 2018

As you may have figured out by now, we live in a multi-generational household.

My husband’s parents live in our casita in Santa Fe.  Before we moved to Santa Fe, they lived in our coach house in Chicago.

Meals are usually communal affairs and, after many years, I’m learning to make some of my mother-in-law’s dishes that I’ve taken for granted for more than 20 years.

Though these beans could easily be the centerpiece of a vegetarian meal if you leave out the bacon, they usually accompany something more pleasing to carnivores (that would be my husband and my father-in-law).  For this rendition, I went back to the original recipe, with bacon, though usually my mother-in-law leaves it out and simply adds a few tablespoons of olive oil to sauté the onion and bell pepper.

My husband at two years of age with his parents

As I was learning to make these with my mother-in-law, I also learned that the recipe originally came from my husband’s Godmother, Lorraine.  Lorraine is of Polish heritage but was married to Jack, a close friend of my father-in-law who moved to the USA from Italy.


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I’m totally confused by the heritage of these beans.  My mother-in-law says they’re Polish based on Lorraine.  I always thought of them as Italian because, until recently, I thought the recipe was from my mother-in-law’s family and, also, because the red sauce with bacon is pretty similar to an Italian-American adaptation of a classic Italian method for cooking green beans.  The bacon is a substitute for pancetta which is the same cut of meat as bacon but which is not smoked after it is cured.

I guess I’m going to have to go with my mother-in-law’s assertion that these are Polish though I can’t say I ever had anything like them among the Poles and other Eastern Europeans in my hometown of Johnstown, PA.  Really, though, that’s not definitive.  I’ve never had any potato cakes like my Slovak grandmother’s (unless they were made by one of her daughters-in-law, of which there were seven!).  That doesn’t make those potato cakes any less Slovak, though.

Red beans and tomatoes are a common combination internationally.  There are versions from New Orleans to Haiti to India to South America to Italy to name just a few.  To be sure, the seasonings vary tremendously but the basics, red beans and a tomato-based sauce, remain the same.


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Fast forward to the 1970’s:  my husband (on the right) and his brother (on the left) with their parents

I’ve decided to keep this recipe in its original form, with canned beans and tomato sauce.  Although I keep an array of canned beans in my pantry for unexpected events I usually prefer to start with dry beans.  Most commercial brands of tomato sauce are made from tomato paste and water, with a bit of onion powder and garlic powder added.  In place of tomato sauce, I typically use tomato paste and water to achieve the same results.


If you have a favorite family recipe and a bit of a story to tell, please email me at santafecook@villasentieri.com and we can discuss including it in the blog. I am expanding the scope of my blog to include traditional recipes from around the country and around the world. If you haven’t seen Bertha’s Flan or Melinda’s Drunken Prunes, take a look.  They will give you an idea of what I’m looking for.


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Kidney Beans in Tomato Sauce
These beans can be made without the bacon, or with less bacon, in which case a few tablespoons of oil will need to be used to sauté the onion and bell pepper. If you want extra sauce just increase the amount of tomato sauce. You can sauté a clove or two of minced garlic with the onion and bell pepper if you would like. The liquid from the canned beans will improve the consistency of the sauce. Before using it, however, taste it to be sure that it does not have a metallic flavor which happens with some brands of beans. If so, drain and rinse the beans and add additional water in place of the liquid in the cans.
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Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 75 minutes
Servings
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Ingredients
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 75 minutes
Servings
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Ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Dice the onion.
  2. Dice the bell pepper.
  3. Chop the bacon.
  4. Sauté the bacon until it begins to color, adding a small amount of oil if needed to keep it from sticking.
  5. Add the onion and bell pepper to the bacon.
  6. Sauté until the onion just begins to color and the pepper becomes a dull green and starts to soften. It may be necessary to cover the pan and/or add a tiny amount of water if the onion and/or pepper begin to get too brown.
  7. Add the beans and their liquid.
  8. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil.
  9. Add tomato sauce and water.
  10. Simmer, partially covered, for approximately one hour, adding additional water if necessary.
  11. Taste and adjust seasoning while the beans are cooking.
Recipe Notes

Copyright © 2018 by VillaSentieri.com. All rights reserved.

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Mom’s Slow-Roasted Pork

February 14, 2018

Growing up, Sunday dinner almost always included some sort of pasta with my mother’s long-simmered Southern Italian sugo.

The sauce was made with large pieces of pork which were always served on the side.  In addition, there might be meatballs, simmered in the sauce after being fried to a deep brown.  Sometimes, actually, much more often than sometimes, there would be veal cutlets.  This was back in the day when people didn’t really think about how veal was produced…or maybe it was produced more humanely back then.  I’m not sure.

Sometimes a pork roast would accompany the pasta.  Occasionally, though not often, the pork roast would be accompanied by potatoes and there wouldn’t be pasta on the table.

A Sunday without pasta, though, was quite unusual in my parents’ house.


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The pasta could have been homemade linguine or fettuccine, which my mother and her sister, my Aunt Margie, made on a regular basis and then dried and stored in large rectangular aluminum tins that once held baccala (salted cod).

Those tins had a myriad of uses, from protecting pasta and cookies to storing recipes and papers.  Even though they were made of an inert metal, they had to be thoroughly scrubbed and allowed to air out, uncovered, for weeks to rid them of the smell of baccala.

My mother learned her style of Southern Italian cooking from her mother, Angelina (far left). No doubt she learned it from her mother (center).

Sometimes the Sunday pasta was homemade ravioli, never was it gnocchi as my father didn’t like gnocchi.  Those were reserved for dinners when my father was out of town.

Usually, though, the pasta was dried pasta from a box: spaghetti, rigatoni, wagon wheels, fettuccine, and so forth.  Dried pasta is really a different sort of pasta with some different uses than fresh pasta (even if the fresh pasta is dried before use as mom and Aunt Margie often did).


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I know many of you have heard me say this, but roasts in our house were much more similar in texture to pulled pork than the typical French-American style of “just-how-little-can-we-cook-this-hunk-of-meat-and-say-it’s-done” type of roast.

A huge advantage of this style of cooking is that you can know in advance when it will be done because it’s really the clock that counts, not the thermometer.  I don’t like making an American style roast for a dinner party.  It makes me crazy.

I don’t get to enjoy cocktails and I don’t get to enjoy the first course because I’m focused on when the thermometer might say the roast is done.  While the temperature to be achieved is precise, the time is not.

On the other hand, the Italian style of roasting eliminates all of these problems because the meat is not “just barely cooked enough.”  The collagen begins to liquefy and the roast becomes unctuous.

If you haven’t experienced this style of roast, give it a try.  If you like it, look up my recipe for Italian Slow-Roasted Chicken or Turkey for the poultry equivalent.


If you have a favorite family recipe and a bit of a story to tell, please email me at santafecook@villasentieri.com and we can discuss including it in the blog. I am expanding the scope of my blog to include traditional recipes from around the country and around the world. If you haven’t seen Bertha’s Flan or Melinda’s Drunken Prunes, take a look.  They will give you an idea of what I’m looking for.


 

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Mom's Slow-Roasted Pork
I have an assortment of blue spatterware roasting pans which are perfect for this type of roast. I also have an array of heavy stainless steel, aluminum, and enameled cast-iron roasters. The more important issue is using a roasting pan of the right size to hold the roast without crowding (it shouldn’t touch the sides or top of the roaster) or without too much empty space. The initial cooking at higher temperature not only browns the roast, it helps it to reach the optimum temperature for collagen to break down to produce that pull-apart texture. You can easily increase the size of the roast. With a 4 to 5 pound roast, you would probably need to add another 45 minutes to 1 ½ hours to the roasting time.
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Course Mains, Meats
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Mains, Meats
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Cut the garlic cloves into 3 to 4 slivers each.
  2. Plunge a paring knife into the pork at intervals to make small pockets about 1 inch deep. Space the pockets out around the roast.
  3. Put a piece of garlic and some of the fresh rosemary into each pocket.
  4. Some of the rosemary will invariably stick to the fat cap. Don’t sweat it, just try to get most of it in the slits.
  5. Put the roast into a roasting pan that is just large enough to hold it.
  6. Generously season the roast with salt and pepper.
  7. Pour the wine (or water) into the bottom of the roasting pan.
  8. Roast, uncovered, at 375°F until the roast is browned a little, 45-60 minutes.
  9. Baste with pan juices.
  10. Cover and continue to roast at 275-300°F for about another three hours, basting with the pan juices every 30-45 minutes or so.
  11. The pan juices will dry up. Be careful not to burn the bits on the bottom of the pan, but allow them to brown before adding another ¼ cup of water or so. After two or three cycles of this, the pan juices will be a luscious dark brown.
  12. Remove the roast from the pan. Allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  13. To serve, pull the roast into large pieces. Don’t even try to slice it. It’s not supposed to slice.
  14. Pour a little of the pan juices on top. Pass the rest.
Recipe Notes

Copyright © 2018 by VillaSentieri.com. All rights reserved.

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Marisa’s Mystical Meatballs

February 9, 2018

These meatballs are really mystical if you consider the sway they hold on my husband, his brother, and his father.  They go wild for these meatballs.

Well, wild in that very restrained Northern Italian way.

If they were Southern Italian, where a dinner conversation can seem like a minor riot, their meatball response would barely register on the scale.  It would signal almost utter disregard for the meatballs.

But that, in fact, is not the case.  The meatballs hold some sort of magical, mystical charm.

Marisa, of course, is my mother-in-law and these are her meatballs.  She considers them quite unusual, having learned to make them from her mother and basically not remembering any other relatives or friends making something similar.

And, as meatballs, they ARE unusual!

An old-fashioned ricer is still an indispensable piece of kitchen equipment. Make sure yours is very sturdy. Many new ones are not.

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But here’s a secret that I haven’t told anyone yet.  They really AREN’T meatballs.  They’re croquettes!  Crocchette in Italian.

There, I said it.  Marisa’s Mystical Meatballs aren’t really meatballs.  But everybody in the family calls them “Ma’s Meatballs.”  “Ma’s Croquettes” doesn’t have the same alliterative allure, even if it’s more accurate.

My mother-in-law and father-in-law celebrating his birthday.

When I did a Google search for crocchette, Google turned up about 1,730,000 results in 0.51 seconds.  When I searched for crocchette patate e carne (potato and meat croquettes), Google returned 1,500,000 results in 0.72 seconds.

And that was doing searches in Italian!

I found a Japanese woman who seems to have the same relationship to her mother’s meat and potato croquettes (korokke) as my husband and his family have to his mother’s.


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The meat for these “meatballs” (a word I’ll use in deference to my husband and his family of origin) is boiled before being finely chopped.  This presents a perfect opportunity to make a really nice beef broth.  You don’t have to do that, of course, but since you’re going to be boiling the meat anyhow, and since it only takes a few extra minutes to throw some aromatics into the pot, why not!

The broth from the meat for the specific batch of meatballs shown in this blog is sitting in the freezer ready to be turned into Auntie Helen’s Stracciatella, which will be coming up on the blog next month.


If you have a favorite family recipe and a bit of a story to tell, please email me at santafecook@villasentieri.com and we can discuss including it in the blog. I am expanding the scope of my blog to include traditional recipes from around the country and around the world. If you haven’t seen Bertha’s Flan or Melinda’s Drunken Prunes, take a look.  They will give you an idea of what I’m looking for.


 

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Marisa's Mystical Meatballs
Marisa says she usually uses cross-cut beef shank for the meatballs. When we made them, she also a piece of beef she bought for soup so we used both. In the end, we got ½ pound of cooked beef, with fat and gristle removed. Adjust the proportion of the other ingredients if you get substantially more or less cooked beef. If you want to use just cross-cut beef shank, I would try about 2 ½-3 lbs. The beef is boiled and then finely chopped to make the meatballs, giving you the opportunity to make a really nice beef broth with just a few minutes more work.
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Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 6 hours
Servings
meatballs
Ingredients
Beef and Broth
Meatballs
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 6 hours
Servings
meatballs
Ingredients
Beef and Broth
Meatballs
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Instructions
Beef and Broth
  1. Cross-cut beef shank.
  2. Put the meat and all other broth ingredients in a large stock pot.
  3. Cover with abundant cold water.
  4. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 4-6 hours, until the meat is very tender.
  5. Remove and cool the beef.
  6. Strain the broth and reserve for another use.
Meatballs
  1. Remove fat, gristle and bone from beef. You should have approximately ½ pound of cooked beef.
  2. Cook the unpeeled potatoes in boiling water until you can easily pierce them with the tines of a long fork or paring knife, 20-25 minutes.
  3. Remove the potatoes from the water and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, mince the garlic or grate it on a microplane grater.
  5. Combine beef, parsley and garlic in a food processor. Process until finely chopped.
  6. Peel the slightly cooled potatoes. If they are too cool it will be difficult to rice them.
  7. Pass the potatoes through a ricer.
  8. Combine the beef mixture with the potatoes, nutmeg, allspice, salt and black pepper.
  9. Mix well with a large spoon or your hands.
  10. Add the lightly beaten eggs.
  11. Mix well using your hands.
  12. Form the mixture into 16 balls and then flatten them slightly.
  13. Lightly roll the meatballs in fine dry breadcrumbs.
  14. Pour ⅛ inch of oil into a large sauté pan.
  15. Heat the oil on medium-high heat.
  16. Fry the meatballs in two batches, on medium-high, flipping once, until brown.
  17. Drain on paper towels.
  18. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Recipe Notes

Copyright © 2018 by VillaSentieri.com. All rights reserved.

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Italian Wedding Soup

February 5, 2018

Growing up I never really understood why this was called Wedding Soup.  It was NEVER served at weddings.

It was mostly served at home, unceremoniously.

The fact that it was unceremonious is a shame.  It is a wonderful soup and, being honest, takes a bit of work to pull together.  Both the soup, and the soup-maker, in my estimation, deserve a bit of attention.

Although it takes some work, it doesn’t require much in the way of heard-earned skills like frosting a cake or making pie crust.  It’s just a bit of slogging through a series of steps.

This is a beloved soup among Americans of Italian descent.  Interestingly, my in-laws who are actually from Italy had never heard of it until I made it for this blog!


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But back to the “wedding” part.  I did a bit of internet research (thanks Google!).  Actually, I hesitate to call it “research.”  I’m old school.  I remember when doing research meant hours upon hours spent in libraries looking at actual hardcopy materials.  It almost doesn’t seem fair to sit on my sofa with my laptop and read materials served up by Google based on natural language questions and call it research.

The “natural language” part is interesting too.  In the “old” days, if you found an article that was relevant to the research topic, you would look at the articles referenced by the author and find, potentially, other relevant articles.  But they would all be older than the first article.  This is where the “Science Citation Index” came into play.

The Index was a series of periodically published volumes that listed all the articles that cited a particular article in their bibliography.  With the Science Citation Index, you could start with a relevant article and then work forwards finding all the newer articles that had cited that article.

Now I just tell Google what I’m interested in and I get a bunch of (almost always) relevant “hits!”  Google is even nice enough to tell me how many hits there are and what fraction of a second it took Google to identify them.

Even when I’m researching a biomedical topic I sit on my sofa with my laptop and search the National Library of Medicine.  The search language is a bit more arcane than the natural language used by Google but it still feels like cheating compared to slogging around a library.  I can even have the full article delivered to my laptop so I don’t have to figure out what library has the publication I need.


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So, what did I learn from my Google search?

It appears (at least it’s a plausible theory) that Wedding Soup is an inaccurate translation of Minestra Maritata or Married Soup; apparently so-named because of the way the different ingredients marry together so well.

I’m guessing that many Americans with no affiliation to Italy have never had escarole.

Interestingly, my husband’s Tuscan grandmother would use up small amounts of different types of dried pasta, perhaps putting them into a soup or serving them with a simple sauce.  She referred to this as Pasta Maritata because she was marrying the different types of pasta to create a dish.

If this theory is correct, I am perplexed by the inaccurate translation but, be that as it may, the soup is wonderful.  I urge you to give it a try.

I like breaking up the work over two days, especially since I like to make a long-simmered broth as the base of the soup.  My mother didn’t do this.  Once the chicken was cooked, it was removed and shredded and the broth was used without additional simmering to make the soup.  It shaves about 3 hours off of the prep time.  But, since making broth is mostly hands off, and the improvement in flavor is dramatic, I simmer everything a bit longer before straining and discarding the solids.


If you have a favorite family recipe and a bit of a story to tell, please email me at santafecook@villasentieri.com and we can discuss including it in the blog. I am expanding the scope of my blog to include traditional recipes from around the country and around the world. If you haven’t seen Bertha’s Flan or Melinda’s Drunken Prunes, take a look.  They will give you an idea of what I’m looking for.


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Italian Wedding Soup
If you don’t want to use the white center of the escarole, start with two heads and just use the dark green parts. The pale inner portion can be served in a salad or cooked in a number of ways. I like to divide up the work over two days, making the broth on the first day and the remainder on the second day. It’s perfectly feasible to do it all on the same day, however. I always keep a stash of rinds from Parmigiano Reggiano and Pecorino cheeses in the freezer. They add great flavor to broths, beans, and an array of other dishes.
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Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 5 hours
Passive Time 2 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Broth and Chicken
Meatballs
Final assembly
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 5 hours
Passive Time 2 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Broth and Chicken
Meatballs
Final assembly
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Rating: 0
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Rate this recipe!
Instructions
Broth and Chicken
  1. Cut the chicken into breast halves, legs, thighs, and wings. Cut the back into 2 or three pieces. Reserve the liver for another use but chop the remaining giblets.
  2. Slice the onions. There's really no need to peel them first.
  3. Same with the garlic, no need to peel. It all gets strained out in the end.
  4. Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, partially covered for two hours.
  5. After two hours, remove the breasts, legs, and thighs. Continue to simmer the broth.
  6. Remove the meat from the bones. Return the chicken bones and skin to the broth.
  7. Continue to simmer the broth for another two hours, adjusting seasoning as needed.
  8. Meanwhile, shred the breast meat and refrigerate.
  9. Reserve the leg and thigh meat for another use.
  10. After the broth has finished cooking, cool it for several hours. Strain and discard the solids. Allow the broth to come to room temperature and refrigerate.
  11. Alternatively, immediately strain and discard the solids and proceed as below.
Meatballs
  1. Put all the ingredients except the bread into a mixing bowl.
  2. Cut the crusts from the bread.
  3. Cover the bread with warm water for 3-4 minutes.
  4. Squeeze some of the water from the bread.
  5. Add the bread to the mixing bowl.
  6. Mix with your hands, until thoroughly combined and no streaks of white from the bread remain visible.
  7. As you are mixing add a bit of the bread soaking water from time to time (about a quarter cup or so total) to keep the mixture moist but not wet.
  8. The mixture should become tacky from the effects of the water and the mixing on the proteins in the meat. The tackiness will help the meatballs hold together for the same reason that sausage doesn’t fall apart when the casing is removed.
  9. With damp hands, roll the mixture into approximately 50 meatballs. Keeping your hands moist will enable you to create a smooth surface on the meatballs. If there are visible cracks, the meatballs will split when cooking.
Final assembly
  1. Skim the fat from the broth. Add water to make 6 quarts of broth. Bring the broth to a boil.
  2. Meanwhile, coarsely chop the escarole.
  3. As the broth comes to a boil, adjust the salt and pepper.
  4. Add the chopped escarole. Return to a boil and cook at a moderate boil for approximately 5 minutes.
  5. Add the meatballs. Return to a boil and boil gently, so the meatballs don’t break, for 10-12 minutes.
  6. Add the shredded white meat chicken and return to a gentle boil.
  7. Adjust salt and pepper. At this point, slightly over-salt the soup as the dry pasta will reduce the saltiness of the soup. The soup can be made ahead to this point. Return to a boil and add the pasta just before serving.
  8. Add the pasta and boil gently until pasta is cooked, approximately 10 minutes.
  9. Adjust salt and pepper.
  10. Serve with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
Recipe Notes

Copyright © 2018 by VillaSentieri.com. All rights reserved.

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