Monday, January 27, 2014

nuts and bolts

Well, I think you know how I feel about retro recipes.*

So how about some nuts and bolts?

My mother-in-law made a big batch of these at Christmas and every time she put a bowl out, we'd dip in and keep coming back until, in very short order, the bowl was completely empty.

I don't think I should even contemplate how many I ate on our day trip down to Seattle . . . but let me tell you, they are a perfect car snack. They're not messy, but they're super tasty and you've got at least two food groups with all the cereals and peanuts.

My mother-in-law made them gluten-free and my husband was so pleased that I knew I'd have to repeat them again soon at home.

And you know what?

They're a cinch. Basically, just mix a bunch of cereal with some oil and spices and bake.

I couldn't resist sampling a few before they went in the oven and they were darn good, but what happened in the oven was magical. The bolts slowly crisped and transformed themselves from separate cereals into one golden, cohesive snack mix.

I know you might be skipping down to the recipe now and might be astonished by the amount of oil called for . . .

What can I say?

This is a retro snack. I actually cut the oil from two cups to one and a half and it still tasted great. And this recipe makes a tonne of nuts and bolts (think: two of your biggest Tupperware containers overflowing).

So I don't think there's very much oil per serving. And the oil is, I truly believe, essential to create that lovely, golden, crisp finish.

Just try it. All the cool retro kids are doing it.

* That would be very, very positive.

one year ago: pan de yuca (colombian tapioca cheese buns), carrot and fennel soup
two years ago: tomato sauce with onion and butter, lemon syllabub
three years ago: naomi's granola, rosemary gruyère baked eggs

nuts and bolts
this makes a lot of nuts and bolts  enough to fill an industrial-size cookie sheet
all of these cereals  Chex, Cheerios and pretzels  are available gluten-free  

1/2  3/4 box Chex*
1 box Cheerios
1 bag pretzels
1 1/2 c. neutral oil, such as grapeseed or canola
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. celery salt
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 can roasted, salted peanuts

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour the cereals onto an industrial-size cookie sheet, or even two if you don't like nuts and bolts escaping onto the counter as you carefully mix them.

Whisk the oil with the Worcestershire sauce, celery salt and garlic powder. Alternately pour and mix them with the cereal until it's all mixed in. Don't worry if some spices are hanging out at the bottom of the bowl. Just scrape them out and put them on the cereal. This is a very forgiving recipe.

Stir every 15 minutes or so and bake for a total of two hours. When cool, toss with peanuts and eat.

*I used three-quarters of a 365 g. box because I love Chex. But the original recipe called for half a box.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

tuscan white beans

Happy New Year!

And happy time of the bean. In the post-sugar-and-gravy-haze of the holidays, I always like to give you at least one new bean recipe before I go back to dolloping cream over everything.

Last year, it was black-eyed peas with kale and bacon (and a near identical photo  fancy that!).

I seem to have skipped a year in 2012 (it was a leap year, after all), but I did bring you the über-healthy and über-tasty glory bowl.

In 2011, I brought you glorious hummus.

And in 2010, I brought you shortbread. Hmmm . . . maybe I'm not quite as consistent as I think.

Anyway, back to this year's bean dish.

Have you ever eaten a cannellini bean?

I believe it is Italian for "buttery, wonderful bean." That might not be a direct translation.

The cannellini bean is essential for this dish because once it's fully cooked, it magically maintains its nice bean-y texture but also emits a kinds of creamy bean-y goodness. This works very well when you finish it with slivers of golden fennel and carrot that have been softened in good olive oil.

A bit of fresh sage perks it all up, as does a splash of white wine at the very end.

I should tell you that the original recipe calls for both fresh sage and fresh rosemary, but my grocery budget doesn't permit me to buy both. I find a shake of dried marjoram stands in nicely for the fresh rosemary. (The sage is also handy to have on hand to add to brown-butter gnocchi for another meal.)

Anyway, whatever herbs you use and however you want to adjust this, it all cooks up and blends together so well that you will be eating it for many Januaries to come.

Bonus photo! This snowflake just arrived in the mail from friends in Germany.
Isn't it lovely?

tuscan white beans
adapted from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa: How Easy is That? and Ezra Pound Cake 
serves 6

454 g. (1 lb.) dried white cannellini beans
1/4 c. olive oil
4 c. fennel, chopped (about 2 large fennels)
2 c. carrot, chopped (about 4 carrots)
1 tbsp. garlic, minced
 3 c. chicken stock
1 tbsp. fresh sage leaves, minced
2 tsp. kosher salt (or 1 tsp. regular salt)
1/2 tsp. freshly-ground pepper
1/2  2/3 c. Asiago, Parmesan, or Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
splash of white wine
(optional) couple shakes of dried marjoram powder
(optional) 1 tbsp. fresh rosemary, minced

You have two options for soaking the beans: slow and quick.

Slow option: Cover the beans with water at least two inches higher than the beans. Cover and refrigerate overnight or 8 hours.

Quick option: Cover the beans with water at least two inches higher than the beans. Bring to a boil. Turn off the heat, cover and let sit for 1 hour.

Strain and rinse the beans. Put them back in the pot and add about twice as much water as beans. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer uncover until they are tender, about 45 minutes (depending how old your beans are).

In the meantime, heat a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the olive oil. Stir in the fennel and carrot. Cook 8  10 minutes, until tender. Stir in the garlic and cook 1 more minute.

Once the beans have cooked, strain them and add them to the vegetables.

Add 2 cups of the stock, sage, salt and pepper. Also add the marjoram or rosemary, if using. Bring to a simmer and cover. Stir occasionally and simmer for 15  30 minutes, until the beans are a very tender and a bit creamy. Add more stock if you'd like it a bit saucier.

Add the wine. Turn the heat off. Stir in the cheese. Taste for salt and pepper (you'll probably need more.) Serve hot with a piece of crusty bread or cheesy toast.