Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Kicking It Off Right

Everyone has their version of a New Year's tradition, whether it's watching the big ball drop in the Big Apple or, after the stroke of midnight, shouting "Rabbit! Rabbit" for good luck (no really, a friend told me that this is what they do). But it can't hurt, right? Jim Dixon of Real Good Food shares his recipes and, best of all, the stories behind them.

Traditional New Year’s foods often symbolize good luck, and vaguely coin-shaped lentils fall into that category.

Lenticchie al Mauro

Mauro was a grizzled farmer we met in the Umbrian hill town of Castelluccio, home of Italy’s best lentils. He admonished us as we were about to sprinkle Parmigiano over a simple bowl of lenticchie: "Solo aglio, olio, sedano, sale, e aqua. Non formaggio." ("Only garlic, oil, celery, salt, and water. No cheese.")

2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. extra virign olive oil
1 stalk celery, diced
Salt to taste
1 c. small green lentils (also called French or du Puy)

Sauté the garlic and celery in the olive oil over medium-low heat for a couple of minutes, being careful not to let the garlic brown. Add the lentils, water to cover (2-3 cups), and a good pinch of sea salt. Bring to gentle boil, reduce heat, and simmer 15-20 minutes or until lentils are tender. Adjust salt and drizzle with more extra virgin olive oil.

Lenticchie all’Uccelletto con Cotechino

Fagioli all’Uccelletto, or beans with tomato sauce, is a common Tuscan dish. Literally "like little birds," the origin of the phrase all’Uccelletto is subject to some debate. Pelligrino Artusi, in his classic 1891 cookbook "La Scienza in Cucina e l’Arte di Mangiar Bene," says it refers to the use of sage, essential in cooking birds. Others claim it acknowledges beans as the traditional accompaniment to roasted songbirds. Lentils with tomato sauce and sausage are also served in Tuscany and Umbria, but not usually tagged all’Uccelletto. I just like how it sounds.

One batch Lenticchie al Mauro (above)
4-5 cotechino sausages
2 Tbsp. tomato paste or 1 c. chopped canned plum tomatoes
Olive oil for drizzling

While the Lenticchie al Mauro are cooking, cook 4-5 cotechino sausages (available from Salumeria di Carlo) in a little olive oil over medium low heat, turning often until browned on all sides. At the end of the lentil cooking time, add about tomato paste (or chopped tomatoes). If you use tomato paste, you may need to add a little more water. Place the sausages on top of the lentils, cover and cook another 10 minutes over low heat. Drizzle with more extra virgin olive oil at the table.

No comments: