Lemon Thyme and Ginger

“Say, Pasta Fazool.” Pasta e Fagioli Recipe

Say, "Pasta Fazool", Pasta e Fagioli recipe.

A friend approached Joe and said, “Joe, I just tried this great soup. It is called pasta ee fa-gee-oli. You have to try it.” 

Joe responds laughing, “That’s not how you say it. It is pronounced pasta fazool.”

“No Joe. It’s pasta ee fa-gee-ol-ee.” It is pasta and bean soup and it is delicious.”

“I’ve eaten pasta fazool my whole life. It is Dad’s favorite soup and he loves to make it. In our house, we call it, pasta fazool.”

How do you say, “Pasta e Fagioli”?

Click here for the correct pronunciation.

Actually, according to online reference, you do not pronounce the “e” and fagioli has two syllables, fa-joli. The pronunciation is very lyrical and dances off the tongue with the accent on the “joli”. Saying “fagioli” is fun and so is saying “fazool”. The rhythm of the Italian word is upbeat and more captivating than the English translation, “beans”. Yet no matter how you say it, pasta e fagioli is delicious and needs to be in your soup repertoire. It is an Italian soup made with pantry staples of beans and pasta created out of necessity from humble origins. At its core, the soup is made with only four ingredients, beans, pasta, onion, and garlic. 5 ingredients if you count the water. 6 if you count the parmesan cheese. In my household, we always count the parmesan cheese.

Fazooli Pasta e Fagioli recipe.

Pasta e Fagioli

From my research, there are as many versions of pasta e fagioli as there are neighborhoods in Italy. Traditionally, pasta e fagioli has a stew-like consistency, somewhere in the middle of thick and thin. Too thick and it tastes gloppy, too thin and it is less filling. If Goldilocks were Italian, the three bears would leave pasta fagioli instead of porridge for Goldilocks to sample. She would taste each bowl of pasta fagioli to find the one that was “just right”, with the proper consistency and texture. Whether pasta e fagioli is thick like a stew or not, it is a magical soup with comforting flavor from the beans, pasta, aromatics, and parmesan cheese. Like Mac and Cheese, pasta e fagioli is pure comfort food and not only fuels the body but soothes the soul.

Italian heritage of Pasta e Fagioli.

Say, "Pasta Fazool", Pasta e Fagioli recipe.

Switching It Up

Traditional pasta fagioli recipe does not use stock because the soup’s foundation is the same water that cooks the beans and pasta along with aromatics and leftover rinds of parmesan cheese. Cooking everything in one pot helps develop the stew-like consistency of the soup. Plus, using rinds from parmesan cheese adds a nutty and cheese flavor to the water that is really lovely. It is a great technique to use when you need to bump of the flavor of a mild tasting broth or soup.

For my version, I made the soup with a thinner consistency, but it is loaded with lots of pasta, beans, and tomatoes. I chose not to cook the pasta and beans together but cooked them separately. Often, pasta gets gummy in soups because they become saturated and overcooked. I find this very unappetizing and do my best to avoid gummy pasta whenever possible.

Additionally, I made this soup with fresh cranberry beans and the cooking liquid turns dull and grey. I worried that the bean cooking liquid would make the soup unappealing. So, erring on the side of caution, I cooked the beans separately as well. By cooking the pasta and beans separately this gave me more control over the lifespan of the cooked pasta, the consistency of the soup, as well as the color and overall appearance.

Instead of using plain water, I combined vegetable broth, pasta water and the bean cooking liquid to make up the soups’ stock. This mixture keeps the traditional elements but lightens it up both in flavor and viscosity. I chose vegetable stock over chicken stock because chicken stock makes everything made with it taste like chicken soup.

Say, "Pasta Fazool", Pasta e Fagioli recipe.

Cranberry Beans

Cranberry Beans

Cranberry beans are stunning to look at with its’ ivory color and magenta splatter. Unfortunately, the beans lose their fun purple appeal as they cook, creating beans with an ivory-grey tone and ugly grey-beige liquid. The vibrant colorful appearance is gone. Have no fear, despite the dull cooked appearance, cranberry beans have a lovely mild and herbal flavor from the aromatics in the cooking liquid. When you cook fresh beans, do not salt the water. Instead add onions, garlic, and herbs to season the liquid. The cranberry beans will absorb all the aromatics and taste wonderful.

If you can find cranberry beans, buy them. This time of year, fresh cranberry beans are available at Farmer’s markets or specialty grocery stores. A pound and a half of cranberry beans in their shell will give you enough beans for this soup. The bonus of using fresh beans over dried beans is they do not take as long to cook, and there is no need for the overnight soaking.

To save time, use canned cannellini beans, reserving their liquid for the stock and rinsing them. Look for the low salt, or no salt variety as canned foods are often high in salt.

Say, "Pasta Fazool", Pasta e Fagioli recipe.

More soup recipes

Kabocha Coconut Curry Soup

Vegetable Pruée Soup

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

Pasta Fazool

Not only does pasta fazool have the power to nourish the body for a day of hard work, but it also has the power to heal emotionally. Eating soup is grounding, comforting and uplifting on any given day. I am not sure why all I know is how I feel after eating a bowl of soup. While eating soup there is a sense of timelessness and that might be the reason for the feeling of calm and comfort.

Making soup gives me the same satisfaction and reassurance. I find it to be a meditative process with a delicious outcome. What I love about making soup is I can use up odd and end pieces of food like vegetables, chicken or fish and give them new life. Pasta fagioli is the perfect foundation for such an activity. You won’t get the traditional soup, but the premise is the same. Use what you have in the pantry or the refrigerator, even if it is just pasta and beans, and transform those leftovers into a substantial meal.

I dedicate this post in loving memory to my father-in-law, Phil Palumbo. There is no special occasion for this dedication other than I cannot say pasta fazool or enjoy eating this soup without thinking of him and feeling his love.

How to make vegetable stock.

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Say, "Pasta Fazool", Pasta e Fagioli recipe.

Pasta e Fagioli

Some people say "Cheese" when having their pictures taken, but in our family, we say, "Pasta Fazool." It is a family tradition started from Joe's dad because it is such a fun word to say. No matter how you say it, Pasta e Fagioli, Pasta Fazool, or Pasta and Beans is a hearty heartwarming soup made from pantry ingredients and just hits the spot when every you need a pick-me-up. 

It may look like a lot of ingredients in this recipe for such a basic soup, but each ingredient is consistent with the Italian tradition of using simple pantry ingredients and creating something magical. You can make this as easy as you wish by using store-bought stock and canned beans, or follow my lead and make everything from scratch. Yet, I hope one day, when you are stuck inside from bad weather, you take the time and make this soup from scratch. There is nothing like a homemade soup and its heartwarming lift you get from spending the day creating something delicious to eat for your family. 

Cooked pasta absorbs a lot of the liquid in the soup. As a result, some people add warm pasta to individual bowls of the soup instead of the pot. This prevents the pasta from getting gummy from overcooking. But I believe the pasta adds flavor and a nice consistency to the soup, so I do not do that. To prevent the pasta from overcooking, make sure you cook it al dente because the pasta will continue to cook in the warm soup. Also, when I heat up leftovers of pasta fagioli, I add more vegetable stock to loosen it up. 

Course Light Supper, Lunch, Soup
Cuisine Italian, Italian American
Keyword pasta and beans, pasta e fagioli, soup
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Cooking the beans 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 6 servings
Author Ginger

Ingredients

Beans

  • 2 cups (500 ml) dried cannellini beans or great northern soaked overnight Or, fresh cranberry beans
  • 1 onion cut in quarters
  • 3 garlic cloves peeled and smashed
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs rosemary or one sprig sage
  • 1 rind parmesan

Pasta e Fagioli

  • 6 slices bacon cooked and cut into ½ inch pieces optional -see notes for substitutes
  • 4 TB (1/4 cup / 60 ml) extra virgin olive oil or you can use a combination of rendered bacon fat and olive oil
  • 2 celery stalks diced
  • 1 onion, cut in small dice
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Bouquet garni of 3 parsley sprigs, 1 sprig sage, 2 sprigs rosemary
  • Beans from the bean recipe, drained from their liquid. Or 1-14.5 oz can cannellini beans, great northern beans, or kidney beans
  • 2 Parmesan rinds, plus grated or shaved for serving
  • 4 cups (1 liter) vegetable stock
  • 2 cups (500 ml) water, or a combination of pasta water and the bean's cooking liquid
  • 1 - 14.5 oz (425 g) can diced tomatoes with liquid
  • 4 - 6 oz (125 -175 g) dried pasta such as ditalini, small elbows, or small tube-shaped pasta
  • Parmesan Reggiano cheese grated or shaved

Instructions

Beans

  1. If you are using fresh cranberry beans you won’t need to soak them overnight as they have not been dried out. 

    If you are using dried beans and forgot to soak them overnight, place the beans in a large pot filled with water. Bring the pot of water to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and soak for one hour. Drain the water and proceed as directed for cooking the cranberry beans. 

    If you are using canned beans, drain and reserve the bean liquid. Rinse the beans. Begin the recipe at step 1 under Pasta e Fagioli. 

  2. Place the fresh cranberry beans or soaked beans in a large pot and add the quartered onion, 3 cloves of garlic smashed, 3 bay leaves, 2 sprigs of rosemary. Bring to a boil then turn down the heat to a simmer. Cook until tender, but not breaking apart, about 35 minutes for fresh cranberry beans, or 1 hour or longer for the dried beans. Check the beans frequently so you do not overcook them. 

  3. Remove the aromatics, onion, garlic, herbs, pour the beans into the bowl of a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl to catch the liquids. Drain the beans and reserve the bean water. Set aside.

Pasta e Fagioli

  1. In a 5 qt Dutch oven or large stock pot, add the olive oil, (or a combination of olive oil and rendered bacon fat to equal 4 TBS (1/4 cup / 60 ml)), set over medium heat.  Heat up the oil to melt the bacon fat if using. Add the onions and celery and a Kosher salt. Sauté until the vegetables are soft and transparent, being careful not to brown the vegetables, about 5-8 minutes.  Add the red pepper flakes and minced garlic and sauté until for about 1 minute.

  2. Once the vegetables are soft, add the vegetable stock, and 2 cups water (or a combination of pasta water, bean cooking liquid, and water). Add the bay leaves, bouquet garni, parmesan rinds, and chopped tomatoes with their liquid. Bring the soup to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.

  3. Continue to simmer the stock and add the cooked beans and crispy bacon pieces. Simmer for ten to twenty minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Add the cooked noodles and cook until they are warmed through.

  4. Serve hot with thin slices, or finely grated Parmesan Reggiano. 

  5. Pasta e fagioli is best eaten the day it is made but it can be reheated on the stove or in a microwave. You may want to add some extra stock when heating up leftover soup, as the beans and pasta will absorb the liquid in the soup. 

Recipe Notes

Joe's dad often added scraps of meat like ham to the soup to make it more substantial or cook the beans with a ham bone. According to Joe, Dad often used the soup to use up odds and ends of food that was leftover in the refrigerator or the pantry. 

I like bacon in this soup as it adds a lovely smokey flavor. Pieces of fried prosciutto are a nice addition as well, but it does not have the smoky flavor of bacon. 

If you do not eat pork, a traditional substitute is anchovy filets. Add 4-6 fillets to the sautéed onion and celery when you add the red pepper flakes. You want to cook them down so they melt into the oil before you add any liquids. 

For a plant based version, omit the bacon, anchovies, and parmesan cheese rind. You will need additional seasoning to add more body and flavor to the pasta fagioli, which can come from additional garlic and herbs. Or maybe a small amount of miso though not too much to change the soup's Italian flavorings. I have yet to try nutritional yeast, but that is another option as well.  

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Seared Chicken Skewers with Rosemary

Seared Chicken Skewers with Rosemary recipe.

Damn the weather is funky this week, it is hard to believe it is July. There has been so much rain, I feel like I am living in a rainforest. Where did the summer go? I know rain is good for my garden, fills our reservoirs, and calms the earth, but man this constant shower is dreary. Before the deluge, I planned on making more recipes from my grill, but sadly these plans got flooded out. Fortunately, I could easily change plans with a chicken skewer recipe that has all the charm of a grilled dinner without lighting a match, Seared Chicken Skewers with Rosemary.

Seared Chicken Skewers with Rosemary recipe.

Seared Chicken Skewers with Rosemary recipe.

Seared chicken skewers are as easy to prepare as threading a needle. Ribbons of herb marinated chicken strips get skewered through rosemary stems then seared on a stove top grill pan or skillet. Once the chicken skewers get good and golden, they are popped in a hot oven to finish cooking in a wine bath. It may sound like a lot of steps, but the two-part cooking process goes by very quickly and effortlessly.

Seared Chicken Skewers with Rosemary Recipe.

Seared chicken skewers with rosemary recipe.

La Cucina Italiana

I first discovered the idea of using rosemary stems as skewers several years ago in La Cucina Italiana magazine, the English version, (May 2013). If you wish to browse through this lovely magazine online, you will need your browser to translate the pages for you. This picturesque magazine is all about Italian cuisine and Italy, and I only have this one volume. Their chicken skewer recipe is part of a feature on cooking with fresh herbs. I spotted their Spiedini di Pollo Marinato alle Erbe recipe, (which means herb marinated chicken skewers) because it uses woody rosemary stems for the skewers. What a clever use of something one would normally throw out.

Seared Chicken Skewers with Rosemary recipe.

We always have a lot of rosemary around our house because Joe makes a delicious sourdough olive rosemary bread for Rochambeau Farm Stand. Sometimes there is a lot of rosemary left over so I am always looking for recipes to use up any leftover sprigs. Fortunately, we buy our rosemary at a restaurant supply store and can get rosemary sprigs that are 10 to 12 inches long. These woody sprigs make the best skewers for grilling and a great substitute for bamboo skewers if you can get them.

Seared chicken Skewers with Rosemary recipe.

Chicken Skewers with Rosemary

I love cooking with fresh herbs and use them whenever I can. A simple scattering of fresh herbs like basil, tarragon or rosemary lifts any food from standard fare to interesting and uplifting.  This herb marinade is a good example of how using fresh herbs can make a big difference in flavor. It just wouldn’t taste the same if you made the marinade with dried herbs.

The only change I made is adding minced garlic to the marinade and Kosher salt to the chicken before adding the marinade. Adding the salt first gives the salt time to steep in the chicken meat. Boneless skinless chicken breasts need a lot of help developing flavor and I wanted the chicken to taste seasoned without being salty.

I thought the original recipe needed some more oomph, so I added a lot of garlic. What I then realized is this marinade is very similar to the marinade in my Lemon Herb Roast Chicken Recipe.

Seared Chicken Skewers with Rosemary recipe.

A bonus using this marinade is there is no acid to turn the chicken breasts mushy. As a result, you can easily prepare the marinade and chicken in advance, then skewer and cook the chicken right before you plan on eating.

Another aspect I like about this recipe is the two stages for cooking the chicken. First, you sear the chicken skewers, which only takes about 2 minutes per side, then the skewers are roasted in a very hot oven with some white wine. This creates a moist chicken with a light tasting pan sauce. This pan sauce helps keep the chicken tender and adds another layer of flavor to your meal.

If you wish, and already have the grill going for another food, sear the chicken skewers on your grill, then finish cooking them in the oven as directed.

Seared Chicken Skewers with Rosemary recipe.

Is It Done Yet?

The most difficult part about this recipe is determining when the chicken is done. Everything else is very straightforward. Like chicken kebab, the chicken gets packed in on the skewer making it difficult to determine when it is done. It is important to check the pieces in the middle of the skewer where it is compact and thus need a longer time to cook. Getting a good look at the inside of the chicken is difficult therefore a good instant read thermometer is your best tool for the job. I love my Thermapen thermometer, but any fast and reliable instant-read thermometer will work.

Vegetable Side dishes for Seared Chicken Skewers with Rosemary

These chicken skewers will pair well with many vegetables and sides. Here are just a few from my blog.

Asparagus and Seared chicken skewers with rosemary recipe

Grilled Asparagus

Asparagus with orange mayonnaise and Seared Chicken Skewers with Rosemary recipe.

Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise

Zucchini fritters and seared chicken skewers with rosemary recipe.

Zucchini Fritters

Marinated Zucchini and Seared chicken skewers with rosemary recipe.

Marinated Zucchini

Grilled Vegetables with seared chicken skewers recipe.

Grilled Vegetables

Garden Pasta Salad with Seared chicken skewers with rosemary recipe.

Garden Vegetable Pasta Salad

Check out my new Recipe Index. It is now easier to look up a recipe on my blog by clicking on a category in the recipe index. It is easy to read on a laptop or desktop computer. Unfortunately, the index and categories get spread out when viewing from a mobile device like your phone. You can find my recipe index at the top menu on my home page. 

Seared chicken skewers with rosemary recipe. Moist chicken skewers made with chicken marinated in a fresh herb marinade and threaded on woody rosemary stems.
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Seared Chicken Skewers with Rosemary recipe.

Seared Chicken Skewers with Rosemary

Chicken skewers are marinated in a fresh herb and garlic marinade then threaded on woody rosemary stems. If you cannot get long and sturdy rosemary stems, use bamboo skewers instead. The two-part cooking process of first searing the chicken, then roasting the skewers in the oven produces tender chicken skewers with great fresh herb flavor. 

You can get long and woody rosemary sprigs at farmers markets, restaurant supply stores, or wholesale stores. 

Seared Chicken Skewers with rosemary is an easy family meal or great for entertaining. 

Depending on how big each chicken breast is, there is enough chicken for 4 people with hearty appetites or 6 to 8 people served with two other side dishes. 

Course Dinner
Cuisine Italian
Keyword chicken, chicken skewers
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Marinating time 3 hours
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • 2-3 lb. (1 k -1.5 k) boneless skinless chicken breast -4 breasts
  • 1 tsp (3 g) Kosher salt

Herb marinade

  • 3 - 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 heaping TB (10 g) heaping Tablespoons minced rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon (1 g) thyme lemon thyme if you can get it
  • 1 TB (1.5 g) minced parsley
  • Zest of one lemon
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) 70 ml extra virgin olive oil, plus more for searing the chicken

Final touches

  • 8 - 10 bamboo skewers or long woody rosemary stems
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) dry white wine or dry vermouth Like Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc

Instructions

  1. Press on the chicken breast so they have an even thickness. You do not have to pound them out, just even them out a little. Slice each breast lengthwise into  ¼ inch (.5 cm) slices. Add the chicken ribbons to a bowl large enough to hold all the chicken without crowding them and sprinkle with Kosher salt. Using clean hands, mix the chicken with the salt until it is evenly incorporated. Thoroughly wash your hands and the bowl of chicken aside.  

Prepare the herb marinade

  1. In a small bowl add the minced garlic, minced rosemary, thyme, minced parsley, lemon zest, and olive oil. Stir to combine. Remember to wash your hands after you mix the chicken before you touch anything else. 

  2. Add the herb marinade to the chicken and toss with your hands until the chicken strips are evenly covered in the herb marinade. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 to 8 hrs.

Cook the Chicken

  1. If you are using rosemary stems, cut the end to make a pointed tip for easy threading. Soak the bamboo skewers or woody rosemary stems in water for 30 minutes. Bring the chicken out of the refrigerator to rest on the counter and come up to room temperature.
  2. Preheat the oven to 450°F / 230°C / Gas Mark 8. Slide the oven rack in the middle position. 

  3. Thread each skewer with the chicken slices. You can roll up each slice and spear it on the skewers, or weave each slice of chicken, over and under the skewer creating a ribbon of chicken. Squish the threaded chicken to make room for another slice. Depending on the length of each skewer, you can fit 3 to 4 slices of chicken on each skewer. Be careful not to pack the chicken in too tightly. 

  4. Heat a grill pan or a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When the grill pan is good and hot, add the chicken skewers to the pan. Only add enough skewers to not crowd the pan, about 3-4 skewers. Sear the chicken until nicely browned, about 2 minutes. Turn the chicken over and sear the other side, about 2 minutes more. 

  5. Place the seared chicken skewers in a baking dish large enough to hold all the chicken in a single layer without overcrowding, but small enough so the liquid won’t dry out when cooked. See Note. 

  6. Continue to sear the remaining skewers in batches until all the chicken is seared. 

  7. Add the white wine or dry vermouth to the baking dish holding the chicken skewers. Add more if the wine does not cover the bottom of the pan.

  8. Place the chicken in the oven and roast until done, about 10 minutes. Start checking the chicken at around 8 minutes. A good instant read thermometer is your best tool here for determining if the chicken is done. Aim for an internal temperature of 165°F / 74° C. Once done, take the chicken out of the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes.

  9. Serve hot with pan juices with grilled asparagus or zucchini. 

Recipe Notes

The original recipe calls for a 9" x 13" (23 x 33 cm)  baking dish. That is a little too small to fit 8 skewers without overlapping. Often, I needed to nestle each skewer around the dish with some laying vertical and others horizontal at the top and bottom of the dish. Trim each skewer to help them fit easily in the pan. Other times I used a larger baking dish 15" x 10.5" (38 x 27 cm) which is a tad too big. When I use a bigger baking dish I add more wine to make sure the liquid covers the bottom of the pan, so it does not dry out in the oven. 

 

Seared chicken skewers with rosemary recipe. Moist chicken skewers made with chicken marinated in a fresh herb marinade and threaded on woody rosemary stems.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Toasted Farro with Mushrooms and Rosemary

Toasted farro with mushrooms and rosemary recipe

One ancient grain that is making a new impression in today’s modern diet is farro. I discovered it a few years ago by accident when I bought it instead of fregola. My lapse in memory steered me off course because farro is a wheat and fregola is a pasta made with semolina flour. These items don’t belong in the same aisle at the grocery store. Fortunately, this mistake was well worth making and I have cooked farro ever since.

Toasted Farro with mushroom and rosemary recipe

About Farro

Farro is a whole grain with an ancient pedigree. This grain was a staple wheat that fed ancient civilizations in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. According to The Spruce, farro might be the mother wheat from which all wheat comes from. Honestly, I am more confused now than before I stared researching farro. Apparently, some confusion exists about the name or I should say, names. I don’t know if it is made by combining three wheat varieties – einkorn, emmer and spelt. Or, identified as either of the three wheat varieties. Or, all of the above. After reading the two previously linked articles and this one from NPR, I think it is all of the above.

Toasted farro with mushrooms and rosemary recipe.

Ultimately, what is important to know is the variety of farro. The variety determines how you must prepare your farro and how long to cook it. The three varieties are, whole, semi-pearled, and pearled. Whole grain farro has the whole grain intact and needs overnight soaking before cooking. The semi-pearled and pearled varieties have the bran partially or completely removed. Without the bran, farro cooks faster and does not need soaking. My grocery store only carries pearled farro, so I do not have experience cooking with the other varieties. Because of the different varieties, I recommend reading the label and directions carefully. This way you know what type of farro you have and how long to cook it.

Despite the varieties and confusion, farro is a delicious grain and worth making. I like its nutty flavor and chewy texture. The complexity of flavor adds more depth and is a nice substitute for rice or potatoes. Usually, I make it for a side dish with roasted meats. This way, while the meat roasts, it is easy to focus my attention on making the farro.

   Pair farro with  Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs

Honey Mustard Spatchcock Chicken (without the roasted veggies)

 

Toasted Farro with Mushrooms and Rosemary recipe

Dried porcini mushrooms and powder.

Cooking with Farro

For this recipe, I craved something with the creaminess of a risotto, but not as rich and requiring less effort. Mushrooms add smooth and silky texture to grains and are in season now. They make the grains taste creamy without adding dairy. There is a pound of mushrooms sautéed with two types of onions in this meal for a super luxurious feel and earthy flavor. I combined cremini mushrooms and button mushrooms, yet any mushroom combination will work.

Additionally, I added some dried porcini mushroom powder for extra depth. This is optional but is an economical and effective way to add wild mushroom flavor. If only white button mushrooms are available, I recommend adding the dried mushroom powder to boost the mushroom flavor. To make it, grind dried mushrooms in a spice grinder until it turns into a fine powder. Store in a container with a tight-fitting lid in your pantry. Just a small amount of the dried mushroom powder adds a lot of body to any meal.

Toasted farro with mushrooms and rosemary recipe.

Toasted Farro with mushrooms and rosemary recipe.

Whenever I cook with grains, I like to make them easily adaptable to a vegetarian or vegan main dish. By itself, farro with mushrooms and rosemary is not a complete protein source. With the added cashews, this is a nutritionally dense side dish. Add cannellini beans or lentils, and this transforms into a protein-packed plant-based meal. Grains and legumes are complementary proteins, so when combined in one meal all the amino acids are available. Because semi-pearled or pearled farro has some or all the bran removed, these types of grains do not make a complete protein when combined with legumes. Yet, it is a great vegan option.

Toasted farro with mushrooms and rosemary recipe.

How to Cook Farro

Instead of following the directions on the back label of my farro, I followed the recommendation from Joshua McFadden in his Six Seasons Cookbook. First, I toasted the farro in a large skillet with smashed garlic and red pepper flakes. Once toasted, I added water and a bay leaf, covered the pan and let it simmer until done. I like making rice like this too. Toasting grains in a skillet brings out the nuttiness in the grain and the fragrance is delightful. It cooks faster too. Unfortunately, toasting farro and sautéing the mushrooms requires the use of two large skillets. If you only have one skillet, use a 4 or 5-quart Dutch Oven for the mushrooms, and a 10-inch skillet for the farro. Sautéing vegetables and toasting grains requires a wide surface area to prevent the food from steaming.

With the sautéed mushrooms and onions an ancient grain comes to life with rich flavors. I got the desired creaminess of risotto without all the stirring and extra cheese. Like chatting with a dear friend, farro with mushrooms and rosemary provide sustenance and comfort after a day’s work.

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Toasted farro with mushrooms and rosemary recipe.

Farro with Mushrooms and Rosemary

Farro is an ancient wheat that is still popular in Italy. It has a nutty flavor and is perfectly made into a side dish with roast chicken or pork. I love the creaminess sautéed mushrooms brings when combined with grains so I added a full pound of mushrooms to complement the farro. For added texture and nuttier flavor, I added cashews. Sherry vinegar added at the end of cooking brightens the earthy meal. If you can't find sherry vinegar substitute it with red wine vinegar or lemon juice. I toast farro using pearlized farro. Whole farro needs to be soaked overnight, to soften the bran, then simmered in water the next day. It is hard to toast grains that are saturated with water so this technique might not work. However, you can still enjoy this recipe using whole farro. Simply follow the cooking instructions given with the farro, then add the cooked farro to the sautéed mushrooms and onions. For a vegetarian entrée: add cannellini beans, lentils, or chickpeas, and sautéed greens with the farro.
Course Side Dish, Vegetarian Main
Cuisine American
Keyword farro
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Author Ginger

Ingredients

For the Farro

  • 1 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled and crushed
  • 1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup 188 g pearled farro
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cups 1 liter water
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt

For the Farro with Mushrooms and Rosemary

  • 2 TB Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small sweet onion minced
  • 1 medium shallot minced
  • 2 stalks celery minced reserve leaves for later
  • 8 oz (225 g) baby bella mushrooms a mix of sliced and rough chopped
  • 8 oz (225 g) button mushrooms a mix of sliced and rough chopped
  • 1 tsp dried porcini mushroom powder* optional
  • 1 large sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 TB butter
  • 1 TB sherry vinegar
  • 2 oz (62 g) 62 g lightly salted cashews, rough chopped
  • More rosemary and celery leaves for garnish

Instructions

Make the Farro

  1. Place a large skillet on a burner and turn the heat to medium. Add the olive oil. Just when the olive oil begins to shimmer, add the crushed garlic and red pepper flakes. Stir to coat and gently sauté until the garlic begins to brown and soften, about 3 minutes. Add the farro and bay leaf and stir to coat. Constantly stir the grains while toasting so they do not burn. Toast the farro until it begins to brown and become fragrant. Add the water and Kosher salt then bring to boil. Cover the skillet and turn down the heat to a simmer. Cook the farro until tender but still has a bite. It should not be mushy or the grain split open. Start tasting the farro at 15 minutes for doneness and continue as needed. When the farro is just cooked, drain the water and remove the bay leaf.

Putting it all together

  1. Meanwhile, heat up a large skillet and add 2 TB olive oil. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the celery onions and shallots. Stir to combine. Remove the rosemary leaves off its stem and add the stem to the onions and celery. Reserve the rosemary leaves for later. Sauté on medium heat until the vegetables get tender and the onions translucent. Add a small pinch of Kosher salt, about 1/4 tsp and stir.
  2. Add all the mushrooms and stir to get them nicely coated with oil. Continue to cook and occasionally stir until all the juices from the mushrooms evaporate.
  3. Scoop out a tablespoon of the farro cooking liquid and add it plus 1 teaspoon of the dried mushroom powder to the mushrooms. Stir until mixed in. Taste and correct the seasoning for salt. Remove the rosemary stems and stir in the butter.
  4. When the farro is cooked al dente and drained from the water, add it to the skillet with the mushrooms. Stir. Add the minced rosemary and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning. Add a few grinds of the fresh pepper and one tablespoon of sherry vinegar, turn off the heat and stir.

  5. Garnish with chopped cashews, chopped celery leaves, and chopped rosemary. This dish can be made ahead and reheated later. Add the cashews and herb garnishes just before serving.
  6. Serve hot as a side dish.

Recipe Notes

To make the dried mushroom powder. Add a small handful of dried mushrooms to a clean spice grinder and grind to a fine powder. Continue until you used up all your dried mushrooms. Put the mushroom powder in a container with a tight-fitting lid. Store in your pantry for 3 months. This mushroom powder recipe is from My Master Recipes by Patricia Wells.

Nutrition Facts
Farro with Mushrooms and Rosemary
Amount Per Serving (4 g)
Calories 0
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Fresh Basil Marinated Zucchini

During the busy summer months we all need those back pocket recipes. The ones you can just whip out and create without thinking about it. Marinated Zucchini is just one of those recipes. It is so easy, after you made it a couple of times you know it by heart.

Basil Marinated Zucchini recipe

What I love about marinated zucchini is, the cooking process is simple and (to coin a phrase from Food52), genius.  First, you slice each small zucchini lengthwise down the middle. Once prepared, sear each zucchini slice in a skillet with olive oil. Then, marinate the seared zucchini for one hour in a basic vinaigrette and fresh basil. That is it. Simple, but a recipe that develops great depth of flavor in a mild tasting summer vegetable. If properly cooked, the acid will not make the zucchini soggy. Instead, it develops a bright taste yet retains the subtle and clean zucchini flavor.

Basil Marinated Zucchini recipe.

This recipe is from Canal House Cooking Volume 8: Pronto (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2013) via Food52. There is no need to make adjustments, it is already perfect. I just added a little more fresh basil right before serving as a garnish and extra basil flavor.  You could experiment with other herbs like lemon thyme, parsley or tarragon, but the warm sunshine flavor of basil is notable.

Is your garden overflowing with zucchini? Try these other great zucchini recipes from my archives:

Zucchini, Corn and Avocado Salad

Zucchini Frittata

 

Basil marinated zucchini reicpe.

This recipe is also easy to resize. The original recipe calls for a half pound of zucchini. Fortunately, I found the perfect size zucchini at my local farm stand, each one weighing about a quarter of a pound, (113 g). I decided to double the recipe just so I could have more zucchini to photograph and work with. I was also able to fit all 8 of my zucchini halves in my 10-inch cast iron skillet. Look for small, same size zucchini at your store or market. The little quarter-pounders are perfect. Big and fat zucchini may look impressive, but are not suited for this recipe. They take longer to cook and have larger seeds in the middle.

Basil Marinated Zucchini recipe

 

Nutritional Benefits of Zucchini 

The only difficult part about making marinated zucchini is remembering to make them at least an hour in advance. This is not a last minute recipe idea. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to make marinated zucchini and realized I forgot about the marinating step. This is not a salad recipe where you add the vinaigrette just before serving. The hour marinating is important to build the bright flavor from the vinegar and sets this recipe apart from others. As a result, this is a great make ahead recipe.

 

Print
Basil Marinated Zucchini recipe.

Fresh Herb Marinated Zucchini

This is one of my favorite ways to eat zucchini. The vinaigrette gives the zucchini some character, yet still retains it's mild taste. The only thing that is difficult about making this great zucchini recipe is to remember to make it at least one hour in advance. The zucchini tastes bright and is accented from the warm sweetness of fresh basil. Vinegar will tenderize the zucchini so, be careful to cook the zucchini just enough to be tender but still have some firmness. If you have small zucchinis, about 1/4 pound (113 g) each, I portion one zucchini per person. This recipe is very slightly adapted from Canal House Cooking Volume No. 8, (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2013) on Food52.
Prep Time 3 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 18 minutes
Servings 4 -8 servings
Author Ginger

Ingredients

For Zucchini

  • 2 TB 30 ml olive oil
  • 1 lb 453 g very small zucchini, ends trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
  • Pinch of Kosher Salt

Vinaigrette Marinade

  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 2 TB 30 ml red wine vinegar
  • 6 TB 1/3 cup / 75 mlextra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 6 - 8 fresh basil leaves thinly sliced

Instructions

  1. Cook the zucchini. In a large skillet, heat 2 TB (30 ml) olive oil over medium high heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the zucchini halves to the pan cut side down. Depending on the size of your pan and zucchini, you may have to cook the zucchini in batches. Sear the zucchini until nicely golden brown. After 3 minutes check to see if the zucchini is nicely golden brown*. If not, continue to cook on the cut side checking every couple of minutes until tender. Once the zucchini is golden brown turn over each piece, then cook on the opposite side for 3 minutes more. The zucchini is done when it is golden brown on the top and tender, but not too soft in the middle. Transfer the zucchini slices to a shallow dish and sprinkle with a pinch of Kosher salt.

Vinaigrette

  1. While the zucchini is searing, in a small bowl whisk together the minced garlic, red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, and a couple of grinds of fresh black pepper. Pour the vinaigrette over the zucchini slices and add the fresh basil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for one hour. If you need to make this well ahead of time, marinate the zucchini in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container. Serve at room temperature as a vegetable side dish.

Recipe Notes

* The original recipe says to cook for 3 minutes on the first side. I have never gotten the zucchini a nice golden brown in 3 minutes. I have a gas stove top using liquid propane, and typically it takes 6 - 8 minutes to achieve a light golden brown. As with all recipes, use them as a guide because your conditions and equipment are different from the author's.

© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Saffron Cauliflower Risotto

Safron Cauliflower Risotto Recipe

Risotto is food for the gods. It comes from humble origins as grains of rice but develops into a creamy luxuriousness that transports you to a dreamy and calmer world. Often, I feel like I am being extravagant when I eat risotto. It’s odd when I think about it because essentially risotto is a bowl of rice slowly cooked in stock, vegetables and cheese. Nothing fancy, but what a transformation. Say the word risotto, people start to swoon and get weak in the knees. They can only respond by repeating your own words with a subtle exclamation, “Oohhhh rissoootooo, I love rissoootooo.”

The first time I had risotto was many years ago in a very fancy restaurant, Equus at The Castle in Tarrytown NY. We were the lucky recipients of a gift certificate to this 5-star establishment. For our first course, my husband ordered risotto and I, not knowing anything about risotto, ordered pumpkin soup. Joe, being a generous person, offered me a taste of his risotto. That first bite of risotto changed my life.

To this day it is the best thing I have ever eaten. Selfishly, I was tempted to grab his bowl and make a run for it. Fortunately, I did not run away and Joe continued to share his risotto with me. My bowl of pumpkin soup got pushed aside as we sat together sharing the risotto and savoring each bite while melting into our chairs. I do not remember anything else about that meal, only the risotto.

Safron Cauliflower Risotto reicpe

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© 2016 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

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