26 March 2008
Alternate fagioli with copious awesome
Today at the store the first heirloom tomatoes were in! I know we live in California, but what the hell?
So this weekend we got on planes and went to hang out with friends in Arizona. The whole fairly spontaneous weekend out of California and far away from work was an excellent idea. We drank and ate and talked and boated around the lake chasing the ducks.
One of the places we ate was Romeo's Euro Cafe. Since all the entrees are apparently way too big for one person, we split everything. I ended up with half an order of Transylvania chicken, which of course was covered in blood and topped off by a bat wing. No, actually it was roast chicken, red pepper, garlic, and eggplant in a little bit of broth with the best white beans I've ever had. O white beans. That's the ode version of "O".
When I came home, I was (among other things) totally starving and a little dehydrated from the afternoon turned evening of planes and airport. We also appeared to have eaten all our viable food immediately before the trip. I was nearly ready to bust out the emergency tuna casserole when I opened the freezer and found a bag of previously cooked white beans. I could do fagioli! I had half a can of whole plum tomatoes, too, and seriously wanted them. Plus I still had a lot of the previous day's chicken and bean taste in mind. I could do interesting new fagioli!
This is a really deceptive bowl of pasta. For one, it doesn't look like there are any beans. It looks like a frivolous bowl of tomato cream sauce, but it's actually really dense and heavy and filling. It's so good. You should eat it.
Interesting new pasta fagioli
boiled white beans (frozen or not)
lots of garlic
a couple green olives
broth of some kind (strong, good)
salt, pepper, marjoram, thyme, oregano, basil
good grating cheese if you want it (toasted pine nuts otherwise)
If you need to get anything out of the freezer (broth, beans), do it now. Let it sit on the counter and defrost at least a little before you have to add it.
Start the fagioli by crushing, peeling, and roughly chopping a bunch of garlic. I used six big cloves for just me, I think. Garlic is great and you should use it. Put them and a big slug of olive oil in a big pan over lowish medium heat. Stir occasionally as they get all soft and melty.
Get some tomatoes. I had Italian plum tomatoes from a can of whole skinned. This was perfect. Chop up about four (skinning if necessary/if you feel like it) and add them to the pan with as much juice as you can scrape off the cutting board. Stir, turn the heat a bit higher, and cook to reduce the tomatoes. Chop up a couple olives, if you have and like olives, and add them as well. Salt, pepper, and otherwise spice the business to taste. I used pretty scant amounts of everything, since my tomatoes smelled really good and I wanted to taste them more than the spices.
Somewhere in here, put the pasta on.
When tomatoes are reasonably reduced (i.e. you are too impatient to wait for them any longer, in about ten minutes), add maybe a cup of broth and about two cups of beans. You can still add these if they're frozen: the heat from the pan will warm them up fairly quickly. As things get more liquid, you can turn the heat up a little further. As the beans defrost, you can start roughly mashing them with the back of your spoon, then stirring them up from the bottom of the pan. Keep doing this until the beans are at your preferred texture: I like a medium-smooth paste.
Simmer, stirring some more, until the business is a little more soupy than you prefer. Add a slug of dry vermouth, stir to distribute, and cook maybe another three to five minutes. In the meantime, chop up a handful of fresh parsley. Taste the fagioli, correct any seasonings, and you're ready to assemble.
Drain the pasta and tip it into the beans. Add the parsley. If you want to add grating cheese (or pine nuts), add it. Stir. Now get as much of the business as possible into a big bowl, add any garnishy cheese or parsley you might want, and eat it.
I managed to eat this for three meals in a row, hot and cold, and still want more of it. You should make it. It's really good.
Maybe have some white wine.