Thursday, January 1, 2009

Ringing in the New Year with Ina's Pappa Al Pomodoro and Ellie's Cherry Chocolate Almond Biscotti

I hope that everyone had a Happy New Year! We had a great New Year's Eve -- we actually got to go out to dinner with friends thanks to some great grandparent babysitters! We went just late enough to miss the Early Bird Special, but early enough to be able to clear out of the restaurant before the hipsters started showing up, much to their great relief. You know, I have pretty much completely assimilated into my new home state, but the one thing that I have never been able to accept is Central Standard Time. For me, Eastern Standard Time will always be The Real Time. But living in CST totally works to my advantage on New Years' Eve, because I can go to bed at 11:01 p.m., right after the ball drops in Times Square. I once stayed up until midnight to watch some kind of bizarre Central Standard Time ball dropping ceremony, but truly, nobody makes that mistake twice. In fact, I don't even think they do it anymore -- they just replay Dick Clark and Ryan Seacrest (sorry David, but Ryan was definitely there, so I can't just ignore him) at midnight CST. But I have yet to come up with a compelling reason to stay up the extra hour to watch it twice, especially when I feel like we already rung in the new year an hour ago.

But moving on to food! In the "formal" food blogging groups that I participate in, there were all kinds of extensions, exemptions, exonerations, substitions, pardons, and absolutions granted in December, in recognition of the fact that it is an insane month for all of us. Therefore, I am posting one Barefoot Bloggers and one CEIMB recipe today, even though I am not exactly sure if I am early, late, posting the wrong recipes altogether, or still a member of these groups. In any event, I made 'em, so I'm going to take advantage of this unprecedented loosey-gooseyness in the food blogosphere to tell you all about them!

The Barefoot recipe, chosen by Natalie of Burned Bits, is Pappa al Pomodoro, from Ina's fantastic new cookbook "Back to Basics." I posted a few weeks ago that in a moment of weakness I bought this cookbook for myself on or around December 12th, which was an egregious violation of all standards of Christmas etiquette. Well, as it turns out, David's parents had indeed already bought the cookbook for me -- doh! David's mom was very sweet and told me that I could just regift it, but being the greedmeister that I am, I decided to check with Barnes & Noble to see if I could swap it for another Barefoot Contessa book -- and sure enough, I left with a brand new copy of Barefoot Contessa Family Style! Jane, I'm thinking that I swapped out the copy that I bought for myself, and kept the one that you all gave me. I love it -- thank you!

Well, one look at this Pappa al Pomodoro and I knew that it was exactly what we needed after a solid six weeks of extreme gluttony. It is a simple tomato soup, filled with vegetables, flavored with red wine, rich stock, and basil, and thickened by ciabatta bread. Best of all, it is topped with a crispy, savory topping of ciabatta, pancetta, and fresh basil. I loved the soup, but really I could have sat there all night and popped this topping like potato chips. That's okay -- I know that deprogramming will be a slow process.

I had a hard time finding ciabatta, which is a central ingredient in this soup. I never cease to be amazed at the things that I cannot find at grocery stores in this town. As I hunted for ciabatta, I found that I was powerless to stop myself from morphing into that most dreaded of grocery store inhabitants, The Aimless Grocery Meanderer. And while I was aimlessly meandering around the bakery section, I was almost taken out at least twice by that other almost equally dreaded grocery store dweller, the Crazed Bat Out of Hell Race Walker. The risks we take for our art! I finally found ciabatta at a Walmart Supercenter 30 miles away from home (I didn't go that far just searching for ciabatta, I promise).

Well, once I FINALLY had all of the ingredients I needed for the Pappa al Pomodoro, I iced my knees, adjusted my Ace bandage, took a nap, and then got to work on the soup. You start out by sauteing the onion, garlic, carrots and fennel in a pot:

Then you add the ciabatta, cook that for about 5 minutes, and add the tomatoes, stock, wine, salt and pepper. Simmer it for about 45 minutes and make the topping, which just involves mixing up cut up ciabatta, pancetta, and basil on a baking sheet, drizzling with olive oil, and baking for 20 or 25 minutes:

Serve with fresh parmesan. We really enjoyed this soup. It's a light soup, but the bread keeps it from being totally wimpy. Serve it with a green salad and it's a light meal, serve it with grilled cheese and you've got a hearty and comforting dinner. I'll make this one again for sure.

The Craving Ellie in My Belly recipe is Chocolate Cherry-Almond Biscotti, chosen by Leanne of Enjoying My Favorite Things. You can get the recipe on Leanne's blog. The recipe provided me with my first chance to test drive the new toy that Santa brought me:

I love this scale! It's still a total novelty to me, and if you set an item down in my kitchen, I will weigh it. You've been warned.

The dough for this biscotti was pretty dry. I was really afraid that it would fall apart when I went to cut it, but it didn't.

These biscotti are made with olive oil and half whole wheat flour, and kind of have a "rustic" taste to them. I was a little skeptical about the olive oil at first, but I thought these were great! Compared to the way I've been eating lately, these biscotti seemed like an actual health food! It's all relative. I'll make these again -- I think they make a great, reasonably healthy afternoon snack.

Best wishes for a happy & healthy New Year, everyone, and I am looking forward to cooking & baking with you in 2009!


Jamie said...

Both of those recipes look and sound delicious! Happy New Year, Cathy!

n.o.e said...

I had to laugh at your descriptions of the looseness of the food blogosphere in December. Do you think they'll start cracking whips now that we're in the new year? Both of these recipes look great. I'm glad the soup isn't wimpy, that would be such a drag on the dinner hour.

And the scale! Isn't it great? I have a storage spot for mine (not too hard since it's slim) but it gets pulled out constantly.

Best wishes for a sweet New Year!!

Megan said...

The soup looks fabulous, I am beginning to wish I had made it. But I dropped BB, DB and CC. Can't remember what the initials stand for anymore -

Happy New Year - I always look forward to your posts!

natalia said...

Ciao ! Nice soup and biscotti ! I'll try to diet before you catch me wandering in your kitchen !

Marthe said...

The biscotti sounds great, I'm baking them tonight!! Can't wait to try them....

Debinhawaii said...

I am with you on the soup topping--I could have downed a pan just of it alone. The soup was really good wasn't it?! I have the same trouble finding things here--finally found a "free form" ciabatta at Whole Foods but it is crazy sometimes going to so many stores to find things.

Hope you have a great New Years and the biscotti looks great too!

The Blonde Duck said...

That soup looks perfect! And grilled cheese...yum! Hope you had a happy New Year!

Di said...

I love my kitchen scale! I'm not sure how I lived without it. Everything looks delicious.

Anonymous said...

The soup and biscotti look great! I love my kitchen scale. I use it everyday.

peggy said...

I do not own a kitchen scale. I am jealous that you do. I did not make the soup due to lack of time. I am jealous that you made the soup. I did not love the biscotti. I'm jealous that you did love it. Basically, I am just a jealous nasty person! HA That soup looks wonderful and tasty.

Cathy said...

Peggy, I'm going to bring in my kitchen scale and some soup for you on Monday. We'll weigh things and eat soup. It'll all be okay!

The soup actually DID kind of take a while to make. I am never sure if that's just me being slow and disorganized, or if it's really a time-consuming recipe. But there was a lot of chopping involved, and of course Ina made us drag out the food processor (next time, I'm going to just break up the tomatoes with my well-scrubbed fingers!) It made a huge pot, though! I will be freezing some.

Anonymous said...

That soup looks wonderful. Love your new kitchen scale. I too weigh or measure out everything. Drives my husband nuts! But it's kinda a game to me which possibly keeps me from gaining too much weight. Glad you liked the biscotti.

Mary Ann said...

Cathy, You are so on top of it! I totally ignored both of these recipes because all the other things I really wanted to make took over my schedule.
They both look fantastic! I would probably over-indulge in the topping too. It looks perfect for snacking.
I had to laugh about you cookbook buying story. How fun that now you have 2 great cookbooks.
Happy New YEAR!

Melissa said...

Happy new year to you and your family, Cathy! I found myself chuckling as I read about how you can never find items you need at the grocery store. I thought I was the only one with that problem. I'm usually that meanderer you spoke about... trying to dodge those race walkers. Glad someone can relate! Your dishes look fabulous and kudos to you on fitting them into your busy schedule!

Bridgett said...

I am hopelessly addicted to biscotti and I love this particular Ellie recipe. Your post also reminds me that I need to get Ina's new cookbook. I am so late with that!

Flourchild said...

Yum your food looks delish! You have been a busy baker and it's just barley in to the new go girl! I just made the pear tart and put it in the oven..Im keeping my fingers crossed. I took a few short cuts..Im praying I didn't ruin it! I look fwd to seeing your TWD pear tart! Happy New Year!

Pamela said...

Congrats on the new cookbook and the great new scale! I just joined CEiMB, and I'm looking forward to it! Everything looks great.

Proud Italian Cook said...

Hi Cathy Do you have a Trader Joes near you? They have a good ciabatta that I always buy.
I'm so with you on the extreme gluttony thing! I don't even know what to cook?
This soup is a great idea sounds so yummy with the pancetta, but I have to lay low on the carbs for a while:( (just for a while!)
Love that scale, I need to get one. Maybe thats what I need to do! Weigh all my portions, or just eat like Giada with a tiny plate, and a couple bites. Can you tell I need help??

Steph said...

Happy new year Cathy!! I'm glad you liked your gift. When I got my scale, I was measuring things too, even stuff that's been weighed at the grocery store (fruits, meat...). Even with a scale, I'm still a little worried, b/c what if the scale isn't accurate!

Matt said...

Thank goodness for all that loosey-gooseyness because I don't think I could have taken any more must-do types of pressure.

I also have been guilty of measuring things with my scale. Hmmm, I wonder how much this glass of water weighs? How about a chocolate chip? My car keys are really heavy? How heavy? Let me check.

I've also been guilty of exchanging cookbooks for ones I don't have and guilty of buying myself a present (or two).

I'm not sure if they have Panera cafes in the South, but I know they sometimes carry ciabatta loves.

Have a happy new year!

Certified Master Chef said...

Both the recipes are great, Almond Biscotti its simply tasty, looking so yummy.

Thanks for posting.

Jessica said...

Good call on the BFC Family Style cookbook -- it's fantastic! Glad your New Year's Eve was wonderful. It's funny, I've only lived on Eastern Time for about 6 months now but I'm totally adjusted to it. I haven't been able to get used to central time over the break (I do love the extra hours of daylight down here though!)

Heather said...

mm. it all looks so good! the cherry chocolate biscotti sounds lovely! although so does the dinner... i'll just take one of each :) glad you missed the early bird special... that would have been embarrassing ;)

n.o.e said...

Oh, Cathy, I just have to say that I've got the perfect yeast bread for you! I'll be posting it in the next few days, but it's easy and delicious. A great place to start with the 2009 yeasty resolution.

Natashya said...

I have heard great things about this soup! I will have to give it a try soon.
Ingredients are hard to find here in smaller town Canada too. Especially Latin and Southern ingredients that seem to be in every American recipe. Oh well..

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Laura said...

So I see Santa came through for you - nice scale (and that's totally going on my list this year - boy it seems weird to say that).

I hope I'm still a part of Barefoot Bloggers, but I didn't make a single thing in December - I hope those loosey-goosey rules still apply! I'd really like to get going again with BB, but I'm afraid I'll miss some of this month too with the Disney trip. Sigh. I think I'll still do the recipes even if they kick me out! I'm thinking of joining CEIMB too since I'm on the whole health kick nowadays. That'll have to wait til after we get back too though.

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