Saturday, March 12, 2011

Slow Food Week

January and February flew right by me. It really did. Maybe it's because this school year rocks -- I mean seriously rocks. I don't wake up on Mondays with anxiety. I go to bed on Sundays feeling excited. What's come over me? It wonderful, but at the same time, worrisome because I don't think next year will be quite so rockin'.. Is that me being pessimistic? Is that me already worrying about my evaluation coming up when September rolls around .. that my admin will actually think I'm an inadequate teacher who can't spell (especially when writing on the board), who breaks fire safety codes because she ran out of wall space and needs a workshop in classroom management (especially during last period classes).. ? Yeah, well, let's not go there.. not this week anyway .. because....

It's March Break!! And I've declared it, Slow Food Week. Since January, we've been making quick and dirty suppers -- mostly soups that I make a huge batch of and then eat for an entire week. Soups aren't very photogenic, as I've mentioned before, but very tasty, healthy and warming after a long day of work. I've made cabbage and bean soup, all spiced up with fennel seeds, smoked paprika and cayenne pepper, and chickpea and tomato soup jazzed up with the addition of parsnips, and a good dose of cinnamon and cumin (totally inspired by the chickpea tomato soup that seems to always be the soup of the day at Java House). But seeing as it's March break, I've decided to slow things down. I have some beautiful slow cooking in mind -- like this healthy granola that needs lots of stirring and tending, and this beautiful cinnamon pull-apart bread that needs lots of time to rest. Since my slow-food week just kicked off, I'll post a slow-cooked recipe that I made during the holidays: Tuscan bean casserole. It was very yummy and comforting, and totally worth the wait.

Slow food, here I come!

Tuscan Bean Casserole
adapted from Vegetarian Times

3/4 pound of dried white kidney beans
3 sprigs of thyme, 1 sprig with leaves removed and chopped, 2 left on the stem
a big handful of fresh parsley, 2 sprig left whole, the rest chopped
1 medium onion, half chopped, half left whole
2 whole cloves
1/2 fennel bulb, diced
3 cloves of garlic, 2 chopped up, 1 halved
olive oil
1 large carrot, diced
a splash of white wine vinegarAdd Image
3/4 cup of fresh bread crumbs
a good grating of Parmesan cheese

1. Soak the beans in cold water overnight. Drain and place in a dutch oven or oven safe pot with enough water to cover it by a couple inches. Tie the thyme and parsley sprigs together and throw them in. Stick the cloves into the onion half and add that as well. Throw in the halved garlic clove. Partially cover and bring to a boil, then uncover and reduce to a simmer. Let it cook for about 30 minutes until the beans are nice and tender.

2. Drain the beans and reserve the liquid. Give the dutch oven or pot a little rinse and wipe out for the next step.

3. Cook the onions, carrots and fennel in olive oil on medium-low heat until soft and fragrant. Add the garlic and cook a little longer. Remove the pot from the heat and add the vinegar, making sure to scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add about 1-1.5 cups of the cooking liquid, the beans, and half the chopped parsley. Stir well to combine.

4. Combine the breadcrumbs, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the rest of the parsley and the cheese. Spread this mixture on top of the beans.

5. Bake the whole thing in a 375 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned (yeah .. ours got a little too brown) and the juices have bubble up. Remove from the oven and let it stand for about 20 minutes so that the beans can soak up the liquid even more. Serve warm.

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