A fine plate of food: fagioli cake and chard gratin ~ Ham Pie Sandwiches

21 March 2011

A fine plate of food: fagioli cake and chard gratin

Like many people, John and I have a set of different staple foods we can throw together at a moment's notice. One of the top contenders is pasta fagioli: a pureed tomato/bean/various vegetable sauce mixed with pasta and dusted with parsley, pepper, and/or grated cheese. It takes very little time (especially with precooked or canned beans), costs next to nothing, provides abundant nutrients, and puts you right to warm, blissful sleep.

Leftover fagioli is especially excellent. When you have leftover fagioli, you can put it in a pan and make it into a huge, lovely, crusty-edged, creamy-middled pasta cake. You then win dinner.

Fagioli cake

Warm up a wide frying pan, preferably nonstick or cast iron. If your leftover sauce and pasta are not mixed, mix them together thoroughly. When the pan is nice and hot, add a slug of olive oil. Swirl it around to coat the surface. Add your fagioli mixture to the hot pan. If you have only a little, you may want to make small individual cakes; I had plenty, so I made one gargantuan cake.

Cook until browned on one side, shaking the pan occasionally to deter sticking. Next, flip your cakes over and brown their other sides. With small cakes, this is easy; with a large cake, you may want to follow my lead and just flip about a quarter of the cake at once. This means the finished product won't be a solid cake, but really, who cares? It will still be browned and crispy and delicious. I suppose you could experiment with the Spanish tortilla-flipping technique, but I have to tell you--I don't think that would work very well. Maybe mixing an egg or some other binding agent in with your fagioli/pasta business would help there.

Once the second side of each fagioli cake is browned, you are done!

Ok. We had fagioli, but we wanted some more vegetables. Fortunately, lots of vegetables are pretty easy to come by at our house. I had a big bunch of chard in the crisper, and this baked spinach recipe from Smitten Kitchen in mind. I'm very happy to report that chard can definitely sub for spinach here; the result was excellent, and tasted nothing like any chard I've made before. New ways to eat vegetables! Hooray!

Even with the chard sub, I adapted Deb's method (initially from Julia Child; reputable!) only the slightest amount. I wanted to use the chard stems, so I diced them finely and cooked them for about five minutes before adding the chopped leaves. I didn't bother shocking the cooked chard, as I didn't care about preserving its color. I used vegetable stock instead of beef (who has beef stock lying around? Not me). I used parmesan instead of gruyere, and finely chopped a somewhat fresh piece of bread instead of using the very dry crumbs required.

So that's what "only the slightest amount" of change looks like at our house.

When I was done cooking, the stovetop looked like this:

It was 9:07. We were starving. I shoveled fagioli and chard gratin onto both our plates, and split a cara cara orange in half for pseudo-dessert.

The result was completely excellent, and we ate it all. I mean that literally. We ate all the fagioli. We ate all the chard. We ate every single edible thing on the stove, and then ate half an orange apiece besides.

It was so good, and we were so full.


Jes said...

Your weeknight meals look so close to mine, holy cow (esp. the time of eating!). The fagioli looks deeelish!

Eileen said...

Thanks! 9 pm is a completely ordinary time for us to eat--but eating two complete dishes is not that typical! Usually it's more like one big entree with bread/rice/salad/etc.