Great meals come from great ingredients. That’s obvious, but I feel truly blessed to have the time now to find and prepare wonderful ingredients and to have them available when I want to cook. Today was a typical late-Fall afternoon in New England: variable light snow all day, quite cold, but not too windy. It was a perfect time to take my garbage and recycle to the transfer station in town (open only on Saturdays and Wednesdays), and to make pasta per pranzo (pasta for lunch).
Like many of the components of our cooking, the initial activities took place a day or two earlier (unknowingly, of course, since I had not planned the meal then — I was just gathering good ingredients for later use). Such was the case when I went to Whole Foods on Wednesday, since the market was close to a business meeting that day. I bought a nice bunch of lacinato kale (cavolo nero, when I cook Italian) and some heirloom dried beans.
Browsing around the internet that night, I came across an interesting recipe in the New York Times for Bean Confit, and I put in on my list to make for Thursday. Over the years I had given this confit treatment — poaching food in a bath of hot olive oil — for duck legs, tuna, carrots and other vegetables, but I never tried it with beans. Using one of my favorite copper pots from Dehillerin purchased 2o years ago in Paris, I prepared the beans Thursday and put them in the refrigerator. I did mash some of the beans and put them on a piece of my country bread toast with olive paste (tapenade) and enjoyed with a glass of 2007 Morgon as a snack that night.
Friday night we went to dinner at a friend’s house, so the next chance to cook was Saturday lunch. After determining that Barbara had no interest in lunch today, so I could make whatever I wanted, I grabbed some of my favorite ingredients and went to work.
- organic taglietelle pasta from Italy
- plump Kalamata olives with the pits still in them
- Artibel Calabrian hot peppers
- the cooked beans
- cavolo nero (stripping the leaves from the stems)
Making the dish was straightforward:
- boil the pasta in well-salted water
- do the same with the cavolo nero
- pit the olives (safety tip: count the unpitted olives before you start; smash or press the olives with a weight or a knife; remove the pit and separate the flesh; then count the pits when you are done to make sure you got them all. Saves dental bills.)
- chop the garlic and one or two hot peppers
- remove a cup of the cooked beans with some of their olives oil and put in a saute pan
- cook over medium high heat, then add chopped garlic and cavolo nero
- cook until the cavolo nero absorbs the olive oil
- add olives and chopped pepper to the pan and stir to mix in
- drain the pasta, reserving about a cup of pasta water
- add the pasta and some of the water to the saute pan to coat with the sauce
- add olive oil, salt and pepper to taste
- serve in a pasta bowl
Take a little leftover salad (I had one from the natural food market, made of seaweed and kelp noodles) and add some cubed cooked beets.
Mangia bene! Serve with Sicilian Frappato, which was perched nicely on the kitchen windowsill, overlooking the new snow.