Tag Archives: Italian

Italian Bean Salad

Served cold or warm, the crispness of the green beans and the creaminess of the cannellinis make for a filling yet refreshing dish. A perfect vegetable side for the summer.

Italian Bean Salad

1 lb. green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary needles, finely chopped
14 oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup Italian flat-leaf parsely, chopped
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese, shaved, for serving

1.) Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt generously and add green beans. Cook until vibrant green yet still crisp; 3 minutes. Drain, and plunge into a bowl of ice water for a minute or so to stop the green beans from cooking any further. Drain.

2.) Combine green beans, cannellini beans, parsley, salt, and pepper in a medium sized bowl. Set aside.

3.) Heat oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic and rosemary and cook, stirring constantly, until garlic becomes fragrant; 30 seconds. Add to beans and stir to coat.

4.) Using a vegetable peeler, shave cheese over salad, and serve.

Barley Risotto with Cannellini Beans, Arugula, Kale, and Lemon Zest


Have you ever tried a barley risotto? If not, you are in for a treat. As an eternal devotee to the wonders of Italian cuisine, I don’t think it gets much better than this. This is a wondrous dish – hearty, healthy, vibrant, refreshing, green, and amazingly delicious. Easily one of my favorite things that I’ve made so far this year. Trust me, this is a dish that you will come to crave.

You will also love that you can go for seconds (and thirds!) without feeling too much guilt – barley is packed full of fiber (both soluble and insoluble), protein, copper, antioxidants, and vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, B12, C, D, E and K. Whew! But most importantly, it tastes SO GOOD. As in, I don’t at all prefer regular Arborio rice-style risotto over barley risotto.

If you haven’t cooked with barley before, be forewarned that it is a very thirsty grain, and the copious amounts of liquid and stirring in this recipe are quite necessary for the perfect end result. Do feel free to change up the beans, greens, and herb combination – the possibilities are endless.

Barley Risotto with Cannellini Beans, Arugula, Kale, and Lemon Zest

The Risotto
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, cut to a 1/4″ dice
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup pearled barley, rinsed
14 oz can cannellini beans
3 packed cups of arugula and kale mix, the argula chopped and the kale cut into 1/4-1/2″ ribbons
1/2 freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino-Romano cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
juice of half a lemon, or to taste
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

The Garnishes
zest of 1-2 lemons
handful of chopped arugula
freshly grated cheese

1.) In your widest heavy-bottomed skillet (not nonstick), heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, marjoram, and a few pinches of salt, and cook for about 10 minutes; or until onion begins to take on some color and the bottom of the pan is beginning to collect some delicious browned bits. Meanwhile, gently heat your stock in a small saucepan so that it is nice and warm, but not simmering or boiling.

2.) Once the onions are nicely colored, add barley and cook for several minutes more.

2.) Add white wine to deglaze the plan, and scrape all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan with your wooden spoon.

3.) Now we begin the long (yet immensely satisfying) process of adding the liquid. Add 1 cup of stock and stir until fully incorporated.

4.) Continue adding stock and stirring frequently by 1/2 cup at a time, making sure to let the barley absorb each 1/2 cup before you add the next. If you add too much liquid at a time, the risotto will not come out as intended. You will have between 6 to 8 additions. I used 3 1/2 cups of stock, but you may wish to use more if you prefer a “looser” risotto.

5.) Once all of your stock is absorbed and the barley is pleasant to the bite, season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the cheese and butter. Then stir in the beans and greens. Cook until greens are wilted; just a few minutes.

6.) Remove from heat, and stir in the lemon juice. To serve, divide between 4 plates (or 2 if you are habitually hungry). Sprinkle each serving with a bit of chopped arugula, and loads of lemon zest and cheese.

Spicy Whitefish Soup

Oh, what a soup! A sunny bowl of vibrant color and deep flavors. This recipe was adapted from an episode of my favorite Food Network chef, the lovely Giada De Laurentiis.

Spicy Whitefish Soup
Serves 4

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, chopped
5 carrots, chopped
3/4 cup dry white wine
28 oz can crushed tomatoes (San Marzano is the best)
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound skinned whitefish (cod, arctic char, or halibut), thoroughly rinsed, cut into 3/4-1 inch chunks, and salted
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1.) Grab your trusty dutch oven and heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, sprinkle with some sea salt, and saute for 8 minutes. Then add the carrot and garlic, and saute for 8-10 minutes more; until the onions are browning and a yummy brown film forms on the bottom of the pan.

2.) Turn the heat to high, add the wine, and scoop up all the delicious browned bits from the bottom of the pan with your wooden spoon. Simmer until most of the wine has evaporated; about 5 minutes.

3.) Reduce heat and add the red pepper flakes, water, and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20 minutes.

4.) Add fish to the pot, cover, and continue to simmer for 5-10 minutes; until cooked through. Season with a few grinds of black pepper and more salt, if you think it needs it. Sprinkle with a bit of parsley, and enjoy with a chunk of good, crusty bread.

Escarole and Cannellini Bean Soup

A more humble, nourishing supper you will not find. Works wondrously alongside fettucine with homemade tomato sauce. Classic.

Escarole and Cannellini Bean Soup

3 tablespoons olive oil
8 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds escarole, chopped
8 cups good-quality low sodium chicken broth, preferably homemade
5 1/2 cups cooked cannellini beans, or three 15 oz cans, drained and thoroughly rinsed
A healthy chunk of parmesan rind
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste (about 2 teaspoons of each)

1.) Heat oil in your Dutch oven over low-medium heat. Add garlic and saute for about a minute, stirring constantly throughout.

2.) Add escarole, in batches if necessary, stir to coat with the oil and fragrant garlic, and continue to cook until wilted.

3.) Add beans, broth, chunk of Parmesan rind, and the salt and pepper. Simmer gently for 20 minutes.

4.) Season to taste with more salt and pepper, if necessary. Serve with good bread.

Kale with Garlic & Red Pepper Flakes

For some inexplicable reason, a huge number of people have a strong aversion to kale. I think it’s all mental, y’all! Kale is DELICIOUS, and not to mention, a staple in those wondrous Italian kitchens.

For example, Cowboy will, indeed, actually consume kale and enjoy it when it is safely ensconced in a soup or stew of sorts – it’s true identity masked.

My theory behind kale’s bad rap is this – it has become so intrinsically linked to the eating-healthfully-just-for-the-sake-of-being-healthy school of eating thought that it has become viewed as a total health food – only to be consumed to fulfill your daily vitamin requirement or whatever. So sad… more for me!!!

This is the most traditional (and tasty) preparation of kale – garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes. Beautiful.

Kale with Garlic & Red Pepper Flakes

1 large bunch of kale, stems removed and leaves torn into bite size pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons water
7 cloves garlic, minced
pinch of fine grain sea salt
pinch of red pepper flakes

1.) Heat oil over medium heat in a large saute pan that has a lid.

2.) Add garlic, saute for 30 seconds, and then add kale and water.

3.) Give the kale a good stir, coating it with the oil and water. Reduce heat, cover, and cook until the kale has wilted, about 5 minutes.

4.) Once kale has wilted, turn off heat, and stir in a big pinch of red pepper flakes and salt.

5.) Using tongs, remove from pan, leaving behind any extra water or oil, and serve immediately.

Family Heirloom: Chicken Vesuvio

Before trying this recipe, I had yet to experience the pleasure of the pure, strong flavors that Chicken Vesuvio is meant to be.  This is a classic Italian dish – one that is often butchered by American Italian restaurants.  When I recently ordered it at Chicago’s Carmine’s, the dish that arrived was one of soggy, salty chicken, sitting in a pool of watery broth.  Yuck.

THIS one however, a recipe that is a staple in Cowboy’s Italian family, is heavenly.  The short list of ingredients is what makes this dish so good.  One appreciates the mellow sweetness of the garlic, the assertive peppery & saltiness of the chicken, and the crispy goodness of the potatoes – all punctuated by the pleasant addition of vibrant green peas.

This is what Italian cooking is meant to be – pure, delicious, and uncomplicated.  Italians truly know how to get the most out of their ingredients.  They use the most favorable flavor combinations in their cooking – ones that have been tested time and time again – and often do so at the risk of being pigeonholed as “boring.”  There’s a reason these ingredients have been paired together for so long.  Why mess with something so beautiful in its simplicity by adding unnecessary ingredients?  Basta!

Chicken Vesuvio

4 chicken breasts
2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
12 cloves of garlic, peeled
½ lb. frozen petite peas, cooked, and tossed with 1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup unbleached, all-purpose white flour OR white whole wheat flour
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp fine grain sea salt
½ cup olive oil

1.) Preheat oven to 350. Place potatoes in a pot of cold, salted water while you prepare.  (Soaking the potatoes in water prior to cooking helps to create that divine crispy, brown crust).  Place flour, salt, pepper, and paprika in a plastic bag.   Place chicken in bag, twist the top to close, and shake to coat chicken with flour and seasonings.

2.) Start cooking the potatoes and chicken at the same time.   Simmer potatoes over medium-high heat while you sauté chicken pieces in olive oil in a sauté pan. Your goal here is simply to brown the chicken a bit before it goes in the oven, so a few minutes on each side should do the trick.

3.) Once browned, remove chicken from pan and place in a 9 x 15 glass baking dish with the garlic cloves. Add potatoes to the sauté pan, working in batches if pan is too crowded, and sauté until lightly browned as well.

4.) Add potatoes to baking dish, and drizzle the remaining olive oil over the contents of the dish.

5.) Bake for 1 hr and 15 minutes to 1 1/2 hours, depending on how thick your chicken breasts are, until chicken and potatoes are browned, adding the peas 10 minutes before you take the chicken out of the oven.

Italian Minestrone

Italian Minestrone

1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large white onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1 lb. chard (rainbow is beautiful, but any kind will work), de-stemmed and roughly chopped
1 medium sized russet potato or sweet potato, peeled and cubed
4 ounces of the best pancetta you can find, roughly chopped
14 oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup dried pasta (orechiette, rotini, macaroni, etc.)
3 1/2 cups cooked cannellini beans (or two 15 oz cans)
2 14 oz cans low-salt beef broth (Swanson is GREAT!)
A nice, big chunk of Parmesan cheese rind
1 fresh rosemary spring or 1/2 tsp dried
1 1/2 Tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste (about 1 tsp each is just about perfect)

1.) Grab your trusty Dutch oven and heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, and saute for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, carrots, celery, and pancetta. Saute for 10 minutes.

2.) Add the chard and potato and saute for a few more minutes.

3.) Add the tomatoes and rosemary, and simmer for 10 minutes; until tomatoes break down.

4.) Meanwhile, puree 1 cup of beans with 1/3 cup of the broth in a food processor or blender.

5.) Add pureed bean mixture, remaining broth, and parmesan rind. Simmer for 10 minutes, add the dried pasta, and continue simmering for 10 minutes more.

6.) Add the remaining beans and parsley, and simmer for another few minutes.

7.) Season with more salt and pepper if necessary, discard the rosemary sprigs if you used fresh, and serve soup sprinkled with parmesan cheese and a nice big piece of crusty bread.