Happy new year! How did you spend the last days of 2011? We weren't able to take the week off, so we were home, working during the days and trying to somehow make it still feel like Christmas in the evenings. We ended up being pretty successful. We went to see the Lincoln Park Zoo Lights, had friends over for soup and salad, joined same friends on a different night for pizza and Wii, and attended a fabulous New Year's Eve party complete with vodka tasting, banana split bites and fireworks on Navy Pier.
Do you love my Christmas dress?! I WON IT! Courtesy of Oona and the ladies at Shabby Apple. Thank you thank you thank you!!!
Aside from the dress, one of the best gifts I got this Christmas was the newly released Cook's Illustrated cookbook. I urge you to buy it for yourself and anyone else you know who is even moderately interested in cooking. It is like a recipe encyclopedia, and threatens to make all my other cookbooks (and even *gasp* the Internet) obsolete. A Google search for a recipe is so risky! I mean, I do it all the time, but each time I try a recipe I got online, there's a little bit of breath-holding, especially if I got it from a mildly unreliable source. With this cookbook, I know that each recipe has been tested and tested again, and I trust it completely. Also, I've made several things from it already, and they've all turned out magnificently. At just over $20, it is also a great deal.
I hope you had a wonderful holiday season, and that your 2012 is off to a fantastic start!
Pasta e Fagioli
adapted from Cook's Illustrated
This traditional Italian soup is even better a day or two after you make it, when the flavors really get a chance to meld. The heirloom beans I used barely hold their shape, transforming the broth into a velvety bean gravy.
Pronunciation: PASTA (duh) EH FA-JOH-LEE.
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 slices bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped fine
1 celery rib, chopped fine
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 anchovy fillets, rinsed and minced
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 Parmesan cheese rind (or a 2-inch cube of cheese)
3 cups cooked cargamanto cranberry beans (or 2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans)
3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 1/2 cups water
salt and pepper
1 cup orzo, or other tiny pasta
2 ounces grated Parmesan, for sprinkling
Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Add celery and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, pepper flakes, and anchovies and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes and deglaze the pan. Add Parmesan rind and beans and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer about 10 minutes.
Add chicken broth, water, and one teaspoon salt. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Remove and discard Parmesan rind. Remove from heat, ladle into bowls, and serve with grated Parmesan for passing.