Monday, June 24, 2013

Exceeding Expectations: Cheap and East Weeknight Dinner

I found this recipe on Bon Appetit's website and showed it to fiance. I thought it looked good, but he was a bit skeptical. I decided to make it anyway. The final product exceeded both our expectations, mine by a fair bit, his by miles. It was so good, he asked me to make it again that same week.

I made some changes to make it a bit more healthful. I halved the olive oil and cut the bread thinner. I also used less cheese. I printed the recipe below with my changes, but visit the link to see the original. The final product felt simple, but decadent. The flavors are super fresh and it just feels very Provencal. Is that snooty? I feel like food should look amazing, taste simple, but rich. Like countryside food. Am I making sense? I hope so.

White Bean Ragout with Toast
recipe adapted from here
3 medium onions, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
4 garlic cloves, 3 finely grated, 1 halved
2 teaspoons tomato paste
4–6 1/2-inch-thick slices grilled or toasted ciabatta
5-6 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan
2 15-ounce cans cannellini (white kidney) beans, rinsed and drained
3 cups vegetable broth (I used chicken for extra flavor, but vegetable would be good too)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

2 tablespoons sliced basil

I started by chopping all of the onions in my new cuisinart! (It was a birthday present and this recipe was its maiden voyage!). I put the onions in a bowl, then chopped the red bell pepper. You don't want the pepper or onions to be mush, but you want them finely chopped. Add the pepper to the bowl and mix thoroughly.

Once you have the mix ready to go, heat up 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet. When it's hot, add the onion and pepper mix and stir together. Simmer, stirring regularly, for about 30 minutes until it's all soft. Add the grated garlic and tomato paste and cook for about 3 minutes. Set aside 1/2 cup of this mixture (it's called Italian soffritto) and put the rest in a container. Let it cool completely. Freeze it for up to 4 months or put it in the fridge for about a week. This is what it looks like when all cooked.

I had all of this soffritto left over, so we are planning some meals to use it up!

While the soffritto was cooking, I prepared the bread slices. I got a loaf from Whole Foods and they sliced it thin for me. Then I cut the garlic clove in half and rubbed it on the front and back of the bread. Finally, I grated about a tablespoon of cheese for each slice and sprinkled it over the top.

Add the reserved soffritto back to the skillet with the white beans. Cook for a few minutes until hot.

Add the vegetable or chicken broth and bring to a boil. Simmer for about ten minutes until the sauce thickens up. Then add the tomatoes and simmer for another ten minutes or so. You want the mixture to look like a thick soup.


Meanwhile, I baked the bread at 375 until it was nice and crispy. Then I popped it under the broiler to get a good brown on it. You want the bread to be really really crunch.

Finally, place a piece of bread in a large, wide bowl and spoon some of the mixture on top. Sprinkle with tons of fresh basil and enjoy! The center of the bread gets nice and squishy and the outside stays crunchy. It's absolutely amazing, you won't be disappointed!

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