Cannellini Beans with Spinach

Cannellini Beans with Spinach  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Cannellini Beans with Spinach | Image: Laura Messersmith

After an odd few days of 80 degree temperatures in New York we’re back to the weather I associate most with late October. Weather more in the vein of “a dark and stormy night” full of windy breezes that swirl the leaves and pulse with energy straight from Ghostbusters.

It’s days like today that absolutely call for something simple, warming, and earthy. A dinner that calls to mind the safety of hearth and home; simmering merrily on the stovetop through the afternoon then bringing family to gather around the table. As written this is a dish reminiscent of a Tuscan stew – creamy beans, bright lemon, leafy spinach – but with a bit more chicken stock could easily translate into a wintery soup. Even better? With just a quick swap in of vegetable stock for the broth you’ll have a fantastic main course that I’d be proud to serve to any vegetarian.

Cannellini Beans with Spinach  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Cannellini Beans with Spinach | Image: Laura Messersmith

Stews always improve with a bit of time to think about what they’ve done, and so this is also a dish that I would absolutely make extras of and squirrel away in the freezer for use this winter when something cozy is just the ticket. Perfect with a slice of crusty bread toasted and rubbed with garlic or a sprinkle of parmesan melted on top.

Cannellini Beans with Spinach (serves: 8)

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups dried cannellini beans
6 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 head of garlic, halved crosswise; plus 2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 sage leaves
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for serving
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 bunches mature spinach, ends trimmed
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Instructions:
Place the dried beans in a large French oven or bowl and cover with double the amount of water. Cover and allow to soak for 16-24 hours at room temperature.

Drain the beans and return them to the pot. Bring beans, head of garlic, sage, 3 tablespoonsolive oil, and 6 cups chicken broth to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat, add 1 teaspoon kosher salt and simmer gently until beans are creamy all the way through but skins are still intact, 35–45 minutes. Some of the beans will break down slightly and thicken the broth. Let cool while you move onto the spinach.

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large deep sauté pan over medium. Cook crushed garlic and red pepper flakes, stirring, just until garlic is golden, about 1 minute. Working in batches, add spinach, letting it wilt slightly before adding more, and cook, tossing often, until leaves are just wilted, about 5 minutes; season with salt.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer beans to sauté pan with spinach and cook, tossing gently, until beans are warmed through. Add lemon zest, lemon juice, and 1/4 cup bean cooking liquid and toss, adding more cooking liquid if needed, until coated. The mixture should be closer to a sauce than a soup in consistency. Be careful not to over cook or the beans will begin to break down. Taste and season with salt as needed. Serve drizzled with oil and a slice of toasted crusty bread.

Do Ahead: Beans can be cooked 3 days ahead. Keep in cooking liquid; cover and chill. Cook spinach and seasonings when ready to serve.

Re-written and lightly adapted from Bon Appetit’s Cannellini Beans with Spinach by Rita Sodi & Jody Williams.

Cannellini Beans with Spinach  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Cannellini Beans with Spinach | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes! I used a 6 qt. French oven, large deep sauté pan, fine mesh sieve, medium cutting board, chef’s knife, liquid measuring cup, slotted spoon, microplane grater, and measuring spoons.

Cannellini Beans with Spinach  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Cannellini Beans with Spinach | Image: Laura Messersmith

Pan-Seared Pork Chops with Garlic and Sage

Pork Chops with Garlic and Sage  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Pork Chops with Garlic and Sage | Image: Laura Messersmith

Am I the only one who’s just now realizing how delicious (and frankly, super simple to make) pork chops are? They’re quickly becoming my favorite thing to make for quick weeknight suppers, special occasions, when guests are coming to dinner. In part that’s because they’re a little unexpected – not your standard chicken or obvious “fancy” steak. It’s also because when a pork chop, especially a really flavorful, bone-in cut, is prepared simply it’s greater than the sum of its parts.

Case in point, just read the ingredient list below – I’d be willing to bet that the only items not on hand are the meat and the herbs, everything else is almost certainly in the pantry already, just waiting to be called into action. But don’t be fooled – just because the recipe is brief doesn’t mean it’s ordinary or boring. In fact the results are deeply savory and satisfying – just right for a chilly October evening.

Pork Chops with Garlic and Sage  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Pork Chops with Garlic and Sage | Image: Laura Messersmith

Pan Seared Pork Chops with Garlic & Sage (serves: 4)

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 (6-8 ounce) thick-cut, bone-in pork chops
Kosher salt
ground black pepper
8 fresh sage leaves
2 garlic cloves, peeled, smashed
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Instructions:

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Pat the pork chops dry with paper towels and season generously on all sides with salt and pepper.

When the oil is hot and beginning to smoke, add the pork chops to the pan. Cook on one side until golden brown, about 1 minute. The turn and repeat the process on the other side, cooking for 1 minute. Continue to turn each minute for about 7–10 minutes until the chops are deep golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 135 degrees F.

Remove pan from heat and immediately add the sage, garlic, and butter. Swirl together the juices and aromatics, then tilt the skillet and spoon the pan sauce over the pork chops – bone and fat cap included – for 2-3 minutes. Transfer pork chops to a platter and rest at least 5 minutes - the internal temperature will rise to 145 degrees F.

Serve immediately with juices from the pan spooned over the top.

Re-written and lightly adapted Bon Appetit’s Your New Favorite Pork Chop by Alison Roman.

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes! I used a large sauté pan, tongs, medium cutting board, large spoon, chef’s knife, and paper towels.

Pork Chops with Garlic and Sage  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Pork Chops with Garlic and Sage | Image: Laura Messersmith

Pork Chops with Garlic and Sage  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Pork Chops with Garlic and Sage | Image: Laura Messersmith

Honey Rosé Plum Cobbler

Honey Ros  é Plum Cobbler  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Honey Rosé Plum Cobbler | Image: Laura Messersmith

I adore fall and the smoky scent of leaves, the crisp brightness, the enjoyment of cool cheeks and a cozy sweater. I anticipate the energy change from the hot laziness of summer, but I also sort of dread it – the beginning of the all too rapid transition into full-on winter. Slushy side walks, cold fingers, wearing my duck boots nearly 24/7 – no thanks.

But let’s focus on the here and now – the blazing blue skies the last lingering summer produce. Who doesn’t need a great late-summer early-fall recipe to take advantage of the glorious wealth of plums that hit the markets in September and generously hang on until October? Definitely not a delicate berry, but a bit more tender-hearted than the sturdy apples and pears to come in oh like t-minus 1 week (not that I’m really complaining.)

Honey Ros  é Plum Cobbler  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Honey Rosé Plum Cobbler | Image: Laura Messersmith

Plums have the depth to stand proudly alongside other robust flavors and add their tart sweetness to the dry rosé. This cobbler topped with buttery dough – is waiting to grace your dinner table.

Honey-Rosé Plum Cobbler (serves 6)

Ingredients:
1 3/4 cups, plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons whole milk, divided
1/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup dry rosé wine
1/3 cup clover honey
2 1/2 pounds assorted plums, pitted and cut into 8 wedges each
2 tablespoons coarse sugar, aka sugar in the raw

Optional for serving: ice cream or whipped cream

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Brush 6 oven-safe ramekins with softened butter.

For the biscuits, combine the 1 3/4 cups flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Add 1/2 cup milk and olive oil to the flour mixture. Stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap, and set aside.

For filling, combine the wine, honey in an extra-large skillet whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons flour. Stir in the plums. Cook and stir over medium-high heat about 8 minutes or until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat; keep warm.

Unwrap dough and roll out to 1/2-inch thickness on a floured surface. Cut into rounds using a 1-inch round cutter. Divide plums among the ramekins filling nearly to the tops. Arrange the biscuits over the filling, slightly overlapping as needed. Brush with the remaining 2 tablespoons of milk and sprinkle the biscuits with the coarse sugar.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until biscuits are golden. Place a baking sheet below the dish to catch an drips during baking.

Remove from oven and let stand 30 minutes before serving with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream.

Adapted and lightly re-written from Better Homes and Gardens’ Honey Rosé Plum Cobbler by David Bonom.

Honey Ros  é Plum Cobbler  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Honey Rosé Plum Cobbler | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
I used 6 (7 ounce) oven-safe ramekins, pastry brush, medium mixing bowl, measuring cups & spoons, liquid measuring cup, spatula, large skillet, whisk, chef’s knife, medium cutting board, small fluted biscuit cutter, and rimmed baking sheet.

Honey Ros  é Plum Cobbler  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Honey Rosé Plum Cobbler | Image: Laura Messersmith

Good + Simple

I was really curious about Good + Simple by Jasmine Hemsley and Melissa Hemsley, especially after the rave reviews the Hemsley sisters garnered for their first offering The Art of Eating Well. They are fascinating to listen to - see also a great podcast interview on Radio Cherry Bombe - and clearly know their stuff when it comes to nutrition and healthful eating. Their tips and tricks are insightful and did inspire me to make some (small) changes in my diet like reducing sugar and caffeine.

Usually when I get a new cookbook I read it cover to cover flagging every recipe that sounds delicious until the pages are bristling with tabs - some annotated with upcoming occasions or seasons to jog my memory down the road. The snag came along when I began to look through the recipes and found that many of them required unusual or difficult to find ingredients even in New York City (maybe something lost in translation since this is a book out of the UK?), lengthy processes, or a combination of flavors that just weren't appealing to my palate. I put this book down without sticking a single post-it.

If you're a regular reader you know by the recipes I post that we eat fairly healthfully with an indulgence here and there, but we still consume dairy, gluten, etc. So, it probably says more about my commitment to an eating overhaul than about the quality of the content, but for me photographs are another huge part of diving in to a new author. Beautiful, appetizing images show me what the finished product should look like and motivate me to actually make the dish. Unfortunately, as an accompaniment to a fresh, modern take on cooking & eating these pictures felt dated and flat, even a little off putting.

Honestly, I wish I liked this book more. I love that these two sisters have established a successful business, and I would have been psyched if their book had inspired me to experiment with the way we eat. For people looking to address diet-related health issues I think this could be a great resource, and I'm not saying I'll never ever pull a recipe from this book - it's possible I'll find myself returning for some of the gut-health information - but unless I have a dinner guest with dietary restrictions it's not going to be my first stop.

I received a promotional copy of this book via Blogging for Books in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own.