Four-Bean Cabbage Soup and Problem Child

Last night I still had the cooking duty (joy?), so I asked Barbara what she wanted for dinner.  “Something with a lot of beans!”, was her unexpected reply.  So I perused Zuppa! by the Romagnolis, and used the inspiration to come up with my own version of  this cross between a bean and cabbage soup and stew.  Recently, I am making the dish first and then jotting down notes of what and how I did it:

Cabbage and 4 Bean Soup

I had already made a pot of the famous red beans of Tolosa, so some of those were left and ready to go.  I then cooked a pot of Vallarta beans from Rancho Gordo, a small, greenish-yellow dried bean which is smooth and sumptuous, to which I could add half a can of the black beans we always have in the cupboard.  The fourth bean is less available, but Idylwilde has some delicious fresh flat Romano beans right now, so I cut up some and added them to the mix.

The sofrito (as shown above) formed the flavor base of the soup.  Thinly sliced red cabbage from Lynn’s garden, plus corn kernels, canned Italian tomatoes, and herbs were all the other elements need for vegetables.  Cooked some sprouted brown rice and added that halfway through cooking the soup.  Sautéed croutons from a loaf of  Tuscan pane provided a little more protein and a lot of crunchiness.

Soup in the bowl

The wine turned out to be something really special.  It was a 2011 Linne Calodo Problem Child, my first ZSM (Zinfandel, Syrah, Mourvedre).  Here are Matt Trevisan’s tasting notes from the website:

2011 Problem Child
72% Zinfandel, 20% Syrah 8% Mourvèdre

If you are expecting loads of fruit, mind boggling aromatics and a deft balance, then look no further. This is your wine. It really has never been a problem, just a fascinating trip of fruit, acid, judicious barrel use with quest of balance. (PS: I found it.).

Release Date: Winter 2013, SOLD OUT

I loved it, and so did Hank on Thursday night, when he came over to taste with me.  Too bad there is no more available of any vintage of this wine.  Buy more next year is the solution.

2011 Problem Child

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Salmagundi — A Most Unlikely Combination for Lunch

Salmagundi is a hodgepodge dish of all kinds of things — apparently from the French word ‘salmagondis‘.  It’s the only way I can describe what I had for lunch today.

I started by going through the refrigerator with these questions in mind:

  • what appeals to me today?
  • which produce needs to be cooked today before it goes bad?
  • what leftovers should be used soon?
  • based on my early selections, what else would go with this stuff?

Here’s what I found and how I prepared the items:

Salamagundi ingredients

I sautéed the first four ingredients in 2 Tbs. of olive oil, then added the mushrooms and tofu, followed by something I forgot to write on the list above — several spoonsful of cooked Rancho Gordo Vallarta beans with some of their liquid.  At this point I added salt, pepper and some pimenton, for depth of flavor.

I was nervous about putting any cooked beets into the dish, since they tend to turn everything within the nearest 1/4-mile a deep crimson color.  However, I took a chance, cubed a very large beet, and added it to the pan, along with the fava beans, and — a little later — the remaining 1/2 pint of a delicious farro and vegetable dish I made a few nights ago.

Finally, for savoriness I added a few pitted Ligurian olives and some chopped pickle that I have been enjoying the past few days, too.  The results were delightful, and I ate two full pasta bowls of this very unlikely combination.

grilled lemon-pepper tofu …and chopped pickle Salamagundi in bowl-2

What wine would you serve with this concoction?  Something equally arcane, of course.  In this instance it was a 2010 Argyros Atlantis Red from Santorini, 90% Mandilaria and 10% Mavrotragano grapes.

Atlantis red Argyros Atlantis red

Without a doubt no one will ever make this dish again (including me), but I do have a simple, four-step, more generic version of the recipe to offer you:

  • choose leftovers and must-use items from the refrigerator
  • prepare those needing precooking first
  • sautée everything together in stages in a large pan with olive oil and spices
  • serve with an obscure wine


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Two Mid-August Lunches

I do enjoy lunches so much.  Here are two of my recent favorites.

Birthday Lunch.  The first was to celebrate my birthday a few days ago.  I had gone to the North End the previous week to replenish my supply of the best dried porcini (1/2 kilo bag and a small bank loan).  The grocer I rely on there is Salumeria Italiana, and I also picked up a package that looked intriguing: pasta with truffle, a tagliolini by Morelli. I decided that this would be stupendous with Tartufata, a mixture of cooked porcini, black olives and truffles, also from Italy.  It was easy to do: boil the pasta (which cooked very quickly), toss with tartufata and reserved pasta water, add some chopped up marinated tomatoes, a few basil leaves, salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.  Pair it with a bottle of 2011 Riecine Chianti Classico, a stunning raw and natural wine from John at Social Wines, and be very happy that you are alive on your birthday to enjoy it all.

pasta with truffle pkg Tentazioni Processed with VSCOcam with k1 preset pasta and sauce in dish

White Eggplant and Tomato in the Style of Santorini.  Today was a quiet Sunday.  At the farmers market in West Acton I bought a few things, and the most interesting was a white eggplant variety, similar to one I had in Santorini.  So I made a late lunch with this, and some of my other favorite items of the week — new red potatoes, and cooked red Tolosa beans from the Basque country of Spain.  This eggplant was quite firm, with very few seeds, so it took quite awhile to soften and be fully cooked, using a non-stick skillet and several glugs of olive oil from Puglia and lemon thyme from our garden.

I removed the cooked eggplant to a serving platter, then heated some more olive oil (first flavored with three cloves of garlic) and made a rich, thick tomato sauce with peeled chopped fresh tomatoes (2), canned Italian tomatoes (3) and juice, and 2 tablespoons of double-concentrated tomato paste from Santorini.  The sauce was cooled and then layered atop each slice of eggplant, and topped with salt-packed Spanish capers which had been rinsed and drained a few times.

The Tolosa beans had been cooked the day before, so they just needed to be heated up with finely diced red onion and olive oil, and the potatoes were simply boiled until tender, peeled, and seasoned generously with olive oil, salt and pepper.  The wine was perfect for it — the rest of the bottle of Riecine Chianti.

eggplant tomato capers closeup serving plate 1-2 empty lunch plate-2

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Late July: Wine Cellar Reorganization, More Good Food and Wine

One of the big events this summer was the reorganization of my wine cellar.  The prime mover on this was my friend David, who was aghast back in May when he looked at the over-crowding and lack of any semblance of date control in the temperature-controlled room I’ve used for years to stock wines, extra provisions, and pots that Barbara won’t let me put in the kitchen.  I actually knew where some wines were located, but he correctly assessed that there were wines buried in the racks that should be drunk soon, or they would be no longer palatable, let alone at their prime.

David volunteered to donate a weekend to this effort, so he came over one Saturday afternoon.  We had dinner and did some wine sampling (since no one was driving anywhere afterward), and we slept soundly overnight.  Since I had done a couple of hours of pre-work earlier that week to remove non-wine items so we could get access, we were able to work together Sunday to complete the reorganization, assess the contents, discard the stuff that needed to go, and celebrate the victory.  There were some very fine surprises in there, principally some older Bordeaux vintages that called out for attention. Best of all, we found space so I could buy some new wines to drink, as well.

David in the cellar close, but organized-2 Italian, red and white old Bordeaux in the racks partners organizing

Earlier that Saturday, I was graced by a visit for lunch from my good friend, Stacy.  The menu was simple: my go-to salad Kachumber, and a non-vegan but vegetarian frittata, made with sautéed zucchini and fresh pecorino cheese.  As always, we had lots of fun.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

The rest of late July, as I was wrapping up my summer course, featured more vegetables and grains, plus some delicious organic ravioli made by a couple in NH, Valicenti Organico.   The one I tried first was Pea and Olive Oil ravioli, with a simple sauce of toasted walnuts, fresh basil from the garden, and lots of Italian olive oil.

Another day I went to an old favorite, Lulu’s Provencal Table, by Richard Olney to make a richly-flavored tapenade to go with a new loaf of my whole grain levain.  This was augmented with heirloom tomatoes, thinly-sliced red onions marinated with sumac and lime juice, colorful roasted sweet peppers, one very good dill pickle, roasted beets and cauliflower, black olives, pan-roasted shitakes, plus cucumbers, guacamole, and lots more basil.  Favored wine bottles included a Spanish Samsó (Clos de Noi) and a white Rioja (Lopez de Heredia Tondonia).  I still didn’t gain any weight, but I had fun trying.

peas and olive oil ravioli-2 lunch Grilled Levain and Friends Grilled bread, toppings and savories Lulu's tapendade Pickle Peppers Saturday lunch 2 Clos De Noi 2009 Samsoe Vina Tondonia white Rioja 1991-2

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So Many Good Meals, So Few Blog Posts….

This will be my catch-up entry (no, NOT ketchup, don’t use it) for the summer.  I haven’t posted anything for more than a month.  Sure, I have good excuses, but you don’t want to hear them anyway.  So I will just share some of my favorite dishes with you during this period.

Vegan Solution for Cheap Red Wine

One of the meals was built around a very cheap (~$5) Sangiovese from our friends at Trader Joe’s.  The brand was Griffone, and I had found their Primitivo to be a great value, so I thought I would give the Sangiovese a try.  No luck; it had all the charm of cheap cherry pop (soda).  The vegan solution was to use the wine (reduced by boiling it down) to flavor some onions, add freshly-cooked vegetables and combine with a good organic pasta.  Pasta was Trenette from Liguria: veggies included onions, tomato, yellow zucchini, fresh fava beans, and scallions; and the wine (to drink) was one of my favorite Ligurian reds, Bansigu, from Social Wines.  What are the grapes?  Here is the list from Bruna, the winery:

Granaccia 70%, Rossese, Barbera, Cinsault e altre varietà in percentuale minore.

red onion, cheap wine combo red, yellow and gold fresh fava sauce before pasta water sauce Trenette closeup pasta and sauce in pot Bansigu


Next Stop: A Vegan Indian Meal

While Barbara was away in July, it was a good time to experiment with Indian foods and associated spices, of which she is not particularly fond.  I recently bought Anupy Singla’s book, Vegan Indian Cooking, and I’ve found a number of great recipes in it.  Two of them made a fine supper one evening: Kachumber (a tomato, onion, cucumber salad which I made frequently all summer), and a legume dish with lentils and chickpeas.  In honor of my desire for maximum cross-cultural experiences, I chose the wine — a 2012 Roussanne from Savoie, France.  Could not have been a better pairing.

! Kachumber Chana Masala Legumes 2014-07-07 18.35.08 Indian Lentil Dish 2014-07-07 18.57.40 2014-07-07 18.56.12

 Vegetables and Grains

With the farmers markets this summer, I had access to great vegetables, and I also had time to bake.  So a number of meals featured these ingredients, especially beets, Ottolenghi’s hummus, and my favorite whole grain levain bread.

L salad lunch bread and tomato, shitakes and greens Chinese spinach Ottolenghi Hummus-2 whole wheat levain - July 12


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Luncheon letter to a friend

Below is my email for a friend who invited me to pick in her garden today:

Dear L,

My lunch today was a mixture of julienned raw beet (from your garden) and cubed cooked beet, your red lettuce, thinly-sliced red onion marinated in sumac spice and lime juice, Calabrian olive oil, chopped tomato, some puréed chana dal (Indian split chickpeas), fried small cubes of Cypriot Halloumi cheese, cooked French flageolet beans, fresh thyme and basil, and toasted walnuts. All accompanied by fresh slices of my whole wheat levain bread baked 2 hours ago and an Italian rose wine. 

Thanks for the vegetables!

L salad lunch L salad lunch-2


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Casarecce for Dinner

I love the artisans in Italy.  They make things of such high quality: products that give great pleasure and satisfaction to those who appreciate them.  Over the years, I’ve experienced this with apparel, ceramics, jewelry, art, leather goods, and of course, with food and wine.  Such was the case late in the week when I was shopping at Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge, where I was introduced to the special pastas of Mauro Musso.

I decided to try one of his small production, hand crafted pastas — Casarecce.  As with all of his pasta, this was made with ancient grains, in this case Farro and Rye flours.  He is also very specific (and accurate) in his timings for cooking pasta; I was warned to adhere closely to his guidelines.

casarecce-2 cooking casarecce

It was my turn to cook dinner, and I decided to make a vegetable pasta dish, with flavors that would complement the rustic grains.  I also had in mind using whatever was on hand, especially if I could finish items that needed cooking or finishing.  Mentally, I was thinking of the hills in Liguria, and mushrooms needed to be a big part of the base.  What became the sauce included:

  • onions, leek, and celery, sautéed
  • carrot batons, sautéed and braised
  • brown beech and shitake mushrooms, and partially roasted eggplant cubes, also sautéed
  • handful of dried Porcini mushrooms, soaked in warm water and drained
  • 2 Tbs. of double concentrated paste, made from Santorini cherry tomatoes
  • some white wine
  • fresh peas at the end

These were cooked together slowly for some time.  When the pasta was prepared as directed, I added it to the sauce, along with at least 1/2 cup of the pasta water, and let that simmer for a bit, until the water was absorbed.  In the meantime I made a salad, and then served the meal, accompanied by a glass of Manoir Tête de la Rouge Bagatelle, from Saumur in the Loire Valley of France.  It’s all Cabernet Franc, and fit well with the dish.  It was the perfect supper, and an incredibly good (and healthy) pasta.

Casarecce in bowl Bagatelle

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