Non Parlo Italiano, Ma Mangio Italiano

In Beans, Italian, Pasta, Vegetables on November 10, 2011 at 2:30 pm

My broken-Italian headline states that I don’t speak Italian, but I eat Italian 🙂

After nearly 2 weeks back, it was due time to make some cibo Italiano.  Every region in Italy has their own flair when it comes to cuisine.  Of course, everywhere you go you can get pasta.  However, eating pasta every day, at every meal, can not only get boring, but will make those kgs or lbs rise on the scale.  Funny, at every hotel we stayed there was a bathroom scale measuring weight in kilos, which contributed to my blissful ignorance.  Then we got to Milan, and the scale had both kilos and pounds.  The mathematician in me quickly calculated the exchange rate, and it was not pretty.

My favorite cuisine was in Tuscany.  Probably because it is very rustic, and integrates a lot of veggies, grains like farro and orzo (barley), and beans.  Tuscans are super into beans.  Probably because they are cheap and filling.  At every restaurant you could order a side of beans;  usually cannellini.  The texture is so creamy, but with a really good bite.  I decided for this meal I would have to feature them.

I soaked the beans overnight, and then rinsed them and put in a pot with fresh water and 2 small bay leaves.  I let the pot get to a boil, and skimmed some of the foam.  These beans were super foamy, so you can see there was a lot of work to be done.  After 5 minutes, I lowered the heat and covered to simmer for about 90 minutes.

When the beans were done, they looked so creamy and delish!

Like I said, pasta is really big in Italy.  Usually it is served as a first course before the main meat or fish dish.  Since there were none such dishes in this dinner, I decided to serve it as another contorno.  My husband loves pasta, about as equally as he loves potatoes.  I guess that’s what happens when you’re half Italian and half Irish.  However,  I am perfectly happy to go starch-less for dinner.

Here is where the compromise comes in – Spaghetti Squash.  It is an amazing vegetable that if prepared the right way mimics the appearance of angel hair pasta.  Luckily I found one in my share this week, so it was the perfect opportunity to use it.  For myself, I would just eat the squash, but for Nick I will do a combo of whole wheat spaghetti and spaghetti squash.

To prepare the squash, you can either first cut in half to remove seeds and bake, or just pierce holes, bake, and then cut, clean, etc.  Unfortunately, there were a couple of undesirable spots on my squash, so I had to do some dissection to recover the edible potion.

While the squash roasted, it was time to prepare the vegetable dish.  I decided to make a Sicilian collard greens recipe from The Kind Diet, because it a)used up my collards and b)fit my Italian theme.  The ingredients include collards (chopped very fine in this case), garlic, raisins, pine nuts, EVOO, and balsamic.  Pretty standard pantry items.  If you don’t have pine nuts, you could omit or sub with some pumpkin seeds.

First I sauteed garlic in EVOO.

After about a minute, I added the collards, covered to cook a couple minutes, then added the pine nuts and raisins to cook a couple minutes more.  At the end, I deglazed with balsamic, and then it was done.

Now it was time to finish up the “spaghetti”.  I took the squash out of the oven, and while letting it cool I boiled some water and added some whole wheat spaghetti to a small pot.

To strand out the squash, I used a fork and combed out the flesh until there was flesh-no-more.  Doesn’t it look so much like spaghetti?

Luckily, I had some sauce leftover from Sunday’s Pizza.  It had a chance to marinate some more, so it was really flavorful for this dinner.

Luckily, I ALSO had a bottle of vino roso to accompany our feast.  What Italian meal is complete senza vino?

I love how this meal represents Italia not only in cuisine, but in color.  Red, White, and Green!  Nick’s plate, squash mixed with pasta.

Mine was just squash, but equally as pretty and delish!

The only problem with this meal was that the pine nuts were stale.  I thought I had bought them rather recently, but I suppose I was wrong.  Mind you, this past year was kind of a hectic blur 🙂

For this meal, I was able to use 2 of the veggies from the share: collards and squash.  I still have some dill, carrots, a smidge of broccoli, and a lil bit of lettuce left.  I also have been using the braising greens in my lunches, so that should be done by Friday.

I have some great ideas for the next dinner.  Can you bear the anticipation?

  1. Freeze the pine nuts. They come out fine.

  2. I recently bought some farro…what should I do with it???

    • You can use it as a sub for rice. You could also put it in a minestrone soup. I’ve also seen some salad recipes that incorporate farro. I like it just plain, maybe with some basil or pesto.

  3. […] When it was time to start dinner, I drained and rinsed the beans, put in a pot with water to cover, added two bay leaves, and you know the rest of the deal.  In case you need a refresher, read this post. […]

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