Friday, June 25, 2010

The Great Summer Pantry & Freezer Clearance: Day 3

Some recipes (like the two soups I just made) always seem to need a bit of tweaking here and there until they're just right. I expect that. After all, no two people's sense of taste (and food preferences) are the same, so no single recipe will bowl everybody over without some modification. Thus whenever I try out a new recipe, there is always that element of chance: what if I go to all the trouble to make this and I don't like it?* The good thing is that it probably won't be all that bad; it looked good enough on paper to want to try it in the first place, right? With a little adjustment of the seasonings, it'll at least be edible (even if you decide that it's not one you'd make again).

Generally, I tend to under-salt my food during cooking, so unless some other flavor is jumping out at me ("Hey lady, I need more garlic!"), the first thing I'll do is sprinkle in a pinch more salt (and a few more cranks of the pepper mill). If I'm going to freeze the recipe in question though, I'll wait on the final salting until I heat and serve it. Freezing seems to concentrate saltiness and well, you can always add more salt if you need to, but you can't take it back out!

Occasionally though I'll try a new recipe and it hits one right out of the park on the first pitch. This ragout is one of those. I did make a few changes, but only out of necessity.**  The flavors are cooked and layered in a way that creates a nice deep base of flavor. Ladle it over creamy polenta and you have a meal that would be perfect in the middle of winter, but isn't so heavy that it couldn't be served on a cool summer evening.

White Bean and Mushroom Ragout
Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant: Simple Suppers cookbook and Serious Eats

2 large cloves garlic
1 tsp each: fresh thyme, rosemary and sage
1 large onion, cut into quarters
1 Tblsp olive oil
1/4 cup dry vermouth
12 oz. mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
1 28 oz. can (or 2 14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes
2 cups canned (or cooked) navy beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup each: fresh basil and spinach, minced
salt and pepper
grated Romano or Parmesan (for serving)

Mince garlic and herbs in a food processor. Add onion and pulse until it's roughly chopped.

Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add contents of food processor and a pinch of salt. Cover and let cook for 10 minutes. Stir, then add vermouth and mushrooms. Scrape up any cooked on bits in the bottom of the pot, cover and cook for five more minutes. Add tomatoes, beans and greens; simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle over pasta or creamy polenta and top with grated Romano or Parmesan.

*In the past, we would try to "be good" and eat any disaster at least once before eventually tossing the rest out. These days, we just have a glass of wine with it and suffer through until it's all gone... even if it takes a week do it. And that there, is the one drawback to big-batch cooking on a budget.

**As with any recipe I make, all changes are the direct result of what ingredients I have in my kitchen, how important to the recipe the missing ingredient is, and how willing I am to go to the store for something I don't have... and of course, whether or not there's any extra grocery money this month. 
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