Chicken Polpettine in Spicy-Garlic Tomato Sugo over Smoky Cannellini Beans with Escarole

This recipe came to me after I had already made a lovely pot of smoky Cannellini beans.  The beans alone could have served as a hearty if not somewhat boring meal, (or pasta e fagioli).  However, I am no longer allowed to make pasta e fagioli for my husband and kids.  The comforting dish which practically occupied its own tier of the food pyramid in my Italian family has been outlawed in my own household.

It would seem that I played that song one too many times for my captive audience.  On the last occasion I prepared pasta e fagioli, I believe my 12 year old said, “I would rather listen to Disney’s “it’s a small world”, relentlessly, rather than eat another bite!”  Point taken.

In an attempt to a least salvage the glorious beans which are the underpinning, I reworked the culinary equation to look like this:

pasta e fagioli  + escarole – pasta + chicken polpettine (meatballs) = approval!

And guess what?  The recipe got healthier in the process with the addition of lean protein, greens, tomatoes, and removal of the starch laden pasta.

Smoky Cannellini Beans with Escarole
1 pound dried Cannellini or Great Northern beans, soaked overnight
5 quarts chicken or vegetable stock, preferably homemade
1/4 cup high-phenol, Ultra Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 small onion diced
4 cloves garlic minced
1 bay leaf torn
2 heads of escarole, torn
2 smoked turkey wings or 1 tablespoon sweet or hot Spanish smoked paprika
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

In a heavy 8+ quart stock pot over medium heat saute the onions in the olive oil until translucent.  Add the garlic and paprika (if using) saute for another minute.  Add the stock, turkey wings (if using), beans, and bay leaf.  Simmer for about 1 1/2 hours or until the beans are tender, add the escarole during the last 10 minutes of cooking.

Meanwhile, make the polpettine…

Chicken Polpettine
2 pounds lean ground chicken or turkey
2 sliced of white or french bread
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1 small yellow onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons minced flat leaf parsley
1 tablespoon kosher salt
fresh ground pepper to taste
1/3 cup super fresh, high phenol Ultra Premium Olive Oil

Soak the bread in the milk.  In a large mixing bowl combine the ground poultry, onion, garlic, cumin, parsley, salt and pepper. Squeeze the soaked bread of excess milk and add to the bowl.  Mix the contents thoroughly and portion out 1″ diameter meatballs. (I like to use a small cookie dough scoop here)

Heat a large skillet over medium -high heat.  Brown the meatballs in batches until golden, and set aside.

Sugo
1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
3 tablespoons  super fresh, high phenol Ultra Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil
5 cloves garlic minced
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes (optional)
1/2 cup white wine
1 teaspoon dried oregano
sea salt & fresh ground pepper to taste

Drain all but a small amount of the oil from the skillet used to brown the meatballs.  Place over medium heat and add fresh olive oil.  Add the garlic and chili flakes.  Saute for a minute being careful not to burn the garlic.  Add the white wine and scrape up any browned bits adhering to the bottom of the pan from the meatballs.  Reduce the liquid by half and then add the tomatoes, oregano, salt, pepper and reserved meat balls. Simmer for approximately 20 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasoning.

To serve this dish as pictured above. Ladle the beans on to a plate and top with a scoop of meatballs and sauce.

Makes 6 hearty portions

Slow Roasted Golden Beet & Tangerine Salad Over Baby Arugula with Blue Cheese & Olio Nuovo-Citrus Vinaigrette

The sweet earthiness of the golden beets, along with the salty blue cheese, nutty arugula, tangy tangerines, and pungent olio nuovo olive oil make this salad a virtual party in your mouth.  Beyond that, the impeccably fresh seasonal ingredients are visually arresting, and resemble a ray of golden sunshine on the plate.

Ingredients
4 cups baby arugula
3 medium sized golden beets
2  medium Satsuma Tangerines, 1 peeled and divided in to segments, the other juiced
1 Tablespoon Cara Cara Orange Cream White Balsamic
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon Peppery Olio Nuovo Ultra Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/3 cup good quality, crumbled blue cheese
Sea salt to taste
Fresh ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup Tarragon Croutons (see recipe below) – or store bought croutons

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350.  Scrub the beets removing any debris, roots and green parts.  Place the beets on a piece of aluminum foil large enough to fully enclose the beets in to a package.  Drizzle the beets with a tablespoon of olio nuovo olive oil, a sprinkle of sea salt, and 1 tablespoon of water.  Seal the package by crimping the foil and roast the beets for 1 hour or until tender when pierced with a knife.  Allow to cool and then peel.  Cut the beets in to six wedges and set aside.

Just before serving, whisk the tangerine juice with the Cara-Cara Orange White Balsamic and a pinch of salt.   Slowly drizzle in the remaining olio nuovo while whisking constantly to make a vinaigrette.  In a large bowl, gently toss the arugula with 1/2 of the vinaigrette and then arrange on a plate or platter.  Arrange the tangerine segments, golden beet wedges, and blue cheese over the arugula.  Drizzle the rest of the dressing over the top, then add the croutons, and finish with fresh ground pepper if desired.  Serve immediately.

Makes 4 generous salad portions

Tarragon Croutons

Ingredients
2 cups of fresh or day old sourdough bread cut in to 1/2" cubes
1/4 cup Organic Tarragon Olive Oil (or you can use any infused olive oil you desire)
1/2 teaspoon salt
fresh ground pepper to taste

Directions
Preheat the oven to 375.  On a baking sheet large enough to hold the bread cubes in a single layer, toss the bread cubes with the infused olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and fresh ground pepper if desired. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until the bread cubes are golden brown.  Cool and store in a zip lock bag or air tight container.

Makes 2 cups

Chicken, Caramelized Onions, and Wild Mushrooms Over Pappardelle Sauced With A Creamy Bacon-Thyme-Balsamic Reduction

That’s quite a title, no?  You could just shorten the name of this dish to “Nom-Nom!”.  Other descriptors include, easy, elegant, comforting, and delicious.

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds free-range, boneless skinless chicken thighs or breast tenders.

4 thick strips smoked bacon, diced

1 large sweet onion sliced thin

8 oz. assorted wild mushrooms, sliced (cremini mushrooms will work in a pinch)

4″ piece of fresh thyme, stem discarded

1/4 cup Traditional Style Balsamic Condimento or Juniper Berry Balsamic Condimento

2 tablespoons of fruity-floral Extra Virgin Olive Oil such as Hojiblanca, Picual, or Koroneiki or Wild Mushroom-Sage infused olive oil

1/2 cup heavy cream

sea salt & fresh ground pepper to taste

1 pound pappardelle pasta or wide egg noodle pasta, cooked and drained

Directions

In a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat, brown the diced bacon to a crisp.  Remove the bacon from the pan and reserve. Pour off all but a tablespoon of the bacon fat.  Season the chicken on both sides liberally with salt and pepper  Add the olive oil to the pan, place it back over the heat, and allow it to heat for a minute over medium-high heat.

Saute the chicken for a few minutes until golden brown on both sides, in batches if necessary.  Do not over-crowd the pan.  Remove the chicken to a plate and reserve.

Add the onions to the drippings in the pan.  Cook for about five minutes, stirring frequently until the onions become a soft golden brown.  Add the mushrooms.  Saute for approximately three more minutes over medium high heat until the mushrooms are browned and slightly caramelized.

Add the fresh thyme leaves and balsamic to the mushrooms and onions, de-glazing the pan by scraping up any browned bits from the bottom.  Cook to reduce for a minute.  Add the cream and stir to combine.  Add the bacon and reserved chicken.  Allow the pan to come to a simmer.  Cook for another two minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce thickens.  Season generously with sea salt and fresh ground pepper.  Serve over pasta, rice, or cooked whole grains.