|Perfect winter meal.|
Week 2 of writing a new blog post a week! My goal is to cook a new recipe and post about it each week. I have a plethora of cookbooks that I haven't made a dent in. My mom got me "Lidia's Italy", written by Lidia Bastianich, last Christmas. Lidia takes us on a culinary tour of Italy (and Istria, where she grew up, which is now part of Croatia) - traveling to 10 regions from Piemonte to Puglia. For someone who has only traveled through Tuscany, her book provided me with a great overview of the different regions and the distinct cultures that separate them.
I perused Lidia's recipes looking for something hearty, warm, and healthy. When I came across her Braised Swiss Chard and Cannelini Beans (Zimino Di Bietole E Fagioli - for those of you who want to learn a little Italian) I knew I had found a winner. This dish comes from the Tuscan region called Maremma (My mom may know Maremma for its Vermentino wine). Swiss chard is always available at our local farmer's market, but I never know what to do with it. This was a perfect time to incorporate it into a meal.
The dish takes a little preparation time, as the dried beans require soaking overnight. I put them in a pot of water right before I left for work and they were ready to go when I got home. The dish comes together pretty easily. First, you cook the beans for 40 minutes. With 10 minutes to go I started boiling the swiss chard. When the beans are done, you heat olive oil, sliced garlic, and pepperoncino flakes (I used red pepper instead) in a dutch oven pot. Then you toast a couple tablespoons of tomato paste. After that you add a can of crushed tomatoes (I subbed a can of chunky tomato soup) and bring to a boil. Then you add the beans and finally the swiss chard. I added the juice of half a lemon and fresh oregano at the end.
The dish was simple but delicious. Cooking beans from scratch is way better than canned beans - they don't have that mushy texture. The swiss chard was like a heartier spinach and the tomato sauce added a rich acidity to bring the dish together. I topped it with a little fresh pecorino and served it with toasted bread. A little wine and you have a complete meal! Plus, this dish tasted even better the next day. I had several delicious and healthy lunches for the rest of the week.