One Pot Dinner in 15: Cannellini Beans with Pancetta and Sage

10 Apr

As much as I love to use fresh ingredients whenever possible, I definitely feel the time crunch when working late and looking for ideas for a weeknight dinner. On evenings that require extra hours at the office, the temptation to grab takeout is hard to resist. I always keep a can of Cannellini beans around for this reason. Cannellini beans are low in fat and high in fiber, iron, and folate. They are also versatile. In the summer, I enjoy eating them cold tossed with some olive oil packed tuna, arugula, kalamata olives, and sherry vinaigrette. When I’m in the mood for a hot meal, then these beans are the perfect base for a “throw whatever you’ve got all in the pot” style 15 minute stew like the one I made tonight. A can of beans, a can of diced tomatoes, some leftover pancetta, a couple of handfuls of arugula, and ta-da! Healthy, really really quick, weeknight dinner.

Cannelli Bean Stew with Pancetta and Sage

Recipe yields 3 servings

1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 oz pancetta (or bacon), diced
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 to 3 tbsp fresh sage, finely chopped
1-19 oz can Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1-15.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
2 to 3 cups arugula (or spinach), packed

  • Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
  • Add in garlic, pancetta, onion, and celery. Saute until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.
  • Add in chopped sage, quickly mix in, about 15 seconds, until sage releases fragrance.
  • Add in Cannellini beans, diced tomatoes, and chicken broth. Bring stew to a boil by increasing heat to high. Lower heat to a simmer, and let the stew develop flavor, 8-10 minutes.
  • Add in the arugula during the last minute or so of the stew cooking. It will wilt quickly.
Sprinkle with grated Parmesan if desired. Serve with crusty French bread for a complete quick weeknight dinner.
Nutrition Facts

Per serving
as calculated by Sparkpeople Recipe Calculator

Calories 273 | Fat 6g | Cholesterol 18mg | Sodium 1156mg
Carbohydrate 35g | Dietary Fiber 10g | Sugars 7g | Protein 20g

Vitamin A 18% | Vitamin B-6 4% | Vitamin B-12 1% | Vitamin C 31%
Vitamin E 4% | Calcium 14%| Folate 26% | Iron 23%


Pasta with Proscuitto, Sage, and Mushrooms in a Red Wine Reduction Sauce

3 Apr

This recipe is a slightly varied version of the Penne with Pancetta, Sage, and Mushrooms from the April 2012 issue of Bon Appetit based on ingredients I had available. I also made the recipe with significantly less butter and cheese to make it a bit lighter. The combination of salty cured meat, earthy mushrooms, and slightly bitter sage gave this dish a substantial feel and a complex flavor profile that reminds me of the rich foods of the holiday season. Yet the dish is not heavy like holiday foods, making it a lovely option for spring. The quickest way to prepare this dish is to get all 3 pots and pans going at the same time, one for the broth-wine reduction, one for sauteing the mushrooms and proscuitto, and one for boiling the pasta.


Pasta with Proscuitto, Sage, and Mushrooms in a Red Wine Reduction Sauce

Recipe yields 3 servings

1 cup low sodium beef broth
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced (I used baby bella)
4 oz chopped proscuitto (or pancetta, or bacon with fatty ends trimmed)
1 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp chopped fresh sage
1 small sprig of fresh rosemary, removed from the stem
8 oz pasta (I used rotini, penne would also work well in holding the sauce/cheese)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

  • To make the red wine sauce: Bring wine and beef broth to boil in a small saucepan until reduced to about half the original volume, about 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add in mushrooms and saute until tender, 3-4 minutes. Remove mushrooms to a plate. Add proscuitto to skillet and saute until proscuitto browns around the edges, 5-6 minutes. Add back to skillet mushrooms. Pour in broth-wine reduction, butter, sage, and rosemary. Stir until sauce is mixed well and slightly thickened, about 3-5 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of water according to directions on package until al dente. Drain.
  • Stir pasta and half of the Parmesan cheese into deep skillet with pasta sauce. Season with salt and pepper as needed. Transfer pasta to serving plates and top with additional Parmesan.

Nutrition Facts
Per serving
as calculated by Sparkpeople Recipe Calculator

Calories 519 | Fat 21g | Cholesterol 37mg | Sodium 1448mg
Carbohydrate 59g | Dietary Fiber 9g | Sugars 2g | Protein 25g

Vitamin A 4% | Vitamin B-6 5% | Vitamin B-12 3% | Vitamin C 2%
Vitamin D 11% | Vitamin E 7% | Calcium 13%| Folate 43% | Iron 17%

Thai Style Stir-Fried Brussels Sprouts

26 Mar

I don’t even know if Brussels sprouts exist in Thailand. But after having the addictive combination of Brussels sprouts and fish sauce at ChoLon in Denver and Uchiko in Austin, I knew this was a taste I had to recreate at home. My simple stir-fry version here doesn’t include crispy flash-fried mint leaves (a la ChoLon Chef Lon Symensma) or fish caramel (a la Uchiko Chef Paul Qui), but captures the essential magic of nutty Brussels sprouts meeting sweet and pungent fish sauce and oh-so-fiery Thai chilis. And it’s definitely something you can pull off in 15 minutes for a quick and healthy weeknight dinner.

Thai Style Stir-Fried Brussel Sprouts

Recipe yields 4 servings

2 tbsp vegetable oil
3-4 cloves spring garlic or 2 cloves garlic, minced (I prefer the milder, sweeter taste of spring garlic for this recipe when they are in season)
1 quart (4 cups) Brussels sprouts, stubby stems trimmed, and halved lengthwise
2-3 Thai chilis or serrano peppers, stems removed, chopped into thin slices/rings
1 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp soy sauce (preferably Thai style thin soy sauce)
1/2 tsp brown sugar

Heat vegetable oil in a wok over high heat. When oil is hot, throw in garlic and stir-fry quicky for 15-30 seconds, until garlic is lightly brown and starting to release fragrance. Add in Brussels sprouts and Thai chilis, and stir-fry for 3-5 minutes until Brussels sprouts start to show brown on the edges, adding a tiny splash of water if the sprouts start sticking to the wok. Add in oyster sauce, fish sauce, soy sauce, and brown sugar and stir-fry until Brussels sprouts are evenly coated. Serve over steamed white rice.

Nutrition Facts
Per serving
as calculated by Sparkpeople Recipe Calculator

Calories 78 | Fat 4g | Cholesterol 50mg | Sodium 298mg
Carbohydrate 10g | Dietary Fiber 4g | Sugars 3g | Protein 3g

Vitamin A 14% | Vitamin B-6 13% | Vitamin C 129%
Vitamin E 8% | Calcium 4% | Folate 14% | Iron 8%

Food Travel Bucket List

19 Aug

I must be getting old as I am making a bucket list. I’ve seen many travel bucket lists out there, and as much as I enjoy reading those, I know I’m not the type that enjoys traveling to a destination unless my taste buds can also be satisfied. So here’s the beginnings of making Donna’s Food Travel Bucket List. Help me out by answering the following:

1. Your overall favorite food destination (city/region).

2. Favorite city/region for high end dining.

3. Favorite city/region for casual/low end dining.

4. A place that doesn’t get much food press but pleasantly surprised you.

5. Favorite place for an outside the restaurant food experience (cooking school? food festival? milking cows on dairy farms? deep sea fishing?)

Franklin BBQ is Moving to Brick and Mortar Location

7 Mar

Franklin BBQ is officially out of the trailer and into the spot formerly occupied by J Kelly’s BBQ starting Saturday, March 12.

Here it is straight from the pitmaster’s mouth (or keyboard?):

Just wanted to send out a note to let you know this Saturday, March 12th, will be our first day at our new location.
900 E. 11th Street. Our phone number will stay the same. 512-653-1187
We will be open 7 days a week, and for now we will just be open for lunch.
We will have Texas beers on draft, and you can even take growlers of beer to-go.
We will have outdoor picnic tables, indoor seating and plenty of parking.

Franklin BBQ
911 E 11th St
Austin, TX 78702

(Google Map)

Car-Free is Care-Free on 3/12, Beer Lovers Rejoice

6 Mar

Mark your calendars beer lovers, the stars have aligned for the perfect car-free Austin beer crawl on March 12.  Capital Metro is extending its MetroRail service for all Fridays and two Saturdays in March (12th and 19th) and the newcomer to Austin’s booming microbrewery scene, Circle Brewing Co, is hosting its grand opening celebration on March 12.  This self-guided beer lover’s crawl starts with Circle Brewing’s party at Kramer Station, continues to laid back, community owned Black Star Co-op Pub and Brewery at Crestview Station, and ends with endless dive bar and pub options and melt-in-your-mouth pork belly buns near Plaza Saltillo Station.  Plentiful beer and car-free travel means you can enjoy a carefree Saturday full of brouhaha (or brewhaha?) without worrying about dedicating the unlucky designated driver or finding the oh-so-coveted yet oh-so-not-available Saturday night parking spot around downtown Austin.

Getting Started:

From your starting point, plan your trip to Kramer Station with CapMetro’s Trip Planner or Google Maps’ Transit Directions.  A MetroRail regional pass (valid all day) is just $5.50, guaranteed to be more cost effective than those pesky rising gas prices.


First Stop: Kramer Station

Circle Brewing Company officially opens its doors to the public on March 12.  The Grand Opening party goes on from 2:00pm to 6:00pm and offers visitors 3 free samples or, with the purchase of a $10 pint glass, full size samples in your shiny new glassware.  They’ve also promised BBQ (and other Austin trailer food vendors?) to satiate your stomach during the sampling.

Second Stop: Crestview Station

Hop on the MetroRail Red Line one stop south to Crestview Station, where community owned BlackStar Co-op is offering $1 off any pint of their house brews when you show your MetroRail ticket for the entire month of March.  BlackStar just tapped their House Brown 660 in promotion of Texas House Bill 660, a piece of legislation which, if passed, would allow brewpubs like BlackStar to sell their brews off-premises (e.g. your local grocery store or restaurant).  Politics aside, BlackStar has one of the most laid back, wide open patios around town to enjoy your brews and a menu full of tasty options like the crispy and creamy pan-fried grit cakes with serrano and garlic sauteed shrimp, the perfectly dressed beet and arugula salad with candied pecans and blue cheese, the intensely flavored bowl of red chili, the light and crispy battered redfish and chips, and the sinfully rich and comforting chicken pot pie (made upon order, takes a little longer but worth every minute).  Don’t forget the bacon toffee for dessert (or as a great beer companion snack).

Third Stop: Plaza Saltillo Station

It’s getting later into the night, and Plaza Saltillo Station (two stops south of Crestview Station) just happens to be located in the middle of some of east Austin’s best dive bars and pubs.  A five minute walk down E 6th from Plaza Saltillo Station lands you at The Liberty (1618 1/2 E 6th), where the beer is cheap and cold and the massive back courtyard is filled with picnic tables and an outdoor bocce court.  A half block further east on E 6th just past Chalmers Avenue is The Grackle (1700 E 6th), a newcomer to the strip that offers an expansive front covered porch and a great selection of brews (think Brooklyn, Unibroue, Stone Brewing, etc) with prices guaranteed to be more palatable than those on the other side of I-35.  But the beer and the East Austin vibe aren’t the only reasons to visit Liberty Bar and The Grackle, nouveau Asian food trailer East Side King runs operations late into the night at both these bars and offers the best post-boozing bites in Austin (in the back courtyard at The Liberty and in the parking lot at The Grackle).  Perhaps you’ve heard of David Chang’s Momofuku pork buns in NYC? Well, I’ve eaten these sublimely rich buns at both Momofuku Ssam and East Side King, and I confess to prefer the Austin trailer version.  East Side King takes an acute stab at “elevated low brow food” trend with its Ramen noodles with pork belly, poached egg, shiitake mushroom, green onion, and kimchi served in the instant noodle bowl.  It’s a delicious concept that will have you licking the bowl clean and laughing at the irony at the same time.  While you’re indulging in everything pork belly, don’t forget the tasty sides of fried Brussels sprout salad and beet home fries.

And Beyond: Downtown Station

One stop south of Plaza Saltillo Station is Red Line’s Downtown Station.  Perhaps you’ve heard of a little event known as SXSW?  The Downtown Station is in the middle of all the SXSW opening night action, and it’s easy to catch a cab back from downtown if you stay out past the MetroRail’s last scheduled train of the night (11:30pm).

Pacific Rockfish Over Cannellini Beans, Kale, Parsnip, Turnip, Carrot, and Celery

14 Dec

Following a week-long trip abroad, my jet-lagged better half requested his first meal home be “normal food.”  It’s a good thing I’m a mind reader, because clearly by “normal food,” he meant something clean in flavor, simple in preparation, and seasonal in ingredients.  I’m pretty sure by “normal food” he meant in the style of Sharon Hage’s (former) York Street.  Or maybe he just wanted a hot dog.  Let that be a lesson to him to be specific next time, because this is what I ended up making:

A golden crusted, semi-firm, semi-flaky piece of Pacific Rockfish atop lightly sautéed mixture of cannellini beans, kale, diced parsnips, turnips, carrots, celery, and onion seasoned simply with salt, pepper, a touch of paprika, and a drizzle of lemon juice based off of a recipe from the December 2010 issue of Shape magazine.

For me, any chance to mix seasonal veggies is a winning combination.  The intricately sweet, earthy, and slightly bitter flavors of the root vegetables and leafy greens in this dish and along with its nutritional density definitely won me over.

A spread of winter vegetables:

Recipe yields 4 servings

2 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
1 medium turnip, peeled and diced
2 parnips, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp paprika, more for sprinkling (optional)
1 bay leaf
15 oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 bunch kale, center ribs removed and roughly chopped into bite sized pieces
1 lb Pacific Rockfish, skinned, rinsed, patted dry, and divided into four 4 oz fillets (You can use any larger, semi flaky white fish.  The original recipe called for cod, which Whole Foods was out of on the Sunday evening I went shopping.  Note to self: stop grocery shopping on Sunday evenings)
lemon wedge for lemon juice
salt and pepper

  • Note: the two parts of the dish, the fish and the veggies, cook somewhat simultaneously.  Start with the veggies (which take a touch longer), but start on the fish during the last part of the veggie preparation when you’re just heating ingredients through.
  • Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large, deep saute pan over medium-high heat.  Add onion, carrots, turnip, parsnip, and garlic.  Fry for about 5 minutes or until edges of veggies are turning golden brown, stirring frequently.
  • Add paprika and bay leaf, cannellini beans, and 1/2 tbsp more olive oil and fry for 4-5 more minutes or until just heated through, stirring frequently.
  • Stir in kale leaves and cook until leaves are wilted but not soggy, 3-4 more minutes.
  • In the mean time, season fish fillets with salt and pepper on both sides.  Heat remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat.  Lay fish fillets gently in pan and cook 3 to 4 minutes each side, or until golden crust forms.
  • Divide vegetable-bean mixture among 4 plates, top with fish fillet.  Sprinkle fish with a touch of paprika (optional) and a few drizzles of lemon juice.

The better half’s verdict?  He was happy to be home because “the food is better here.”  Well, with the exception of a few delicacies.

Nutrition Facts
Per serving
as calculated by Sparkpeople Recipe Calculator

Calories 403 | Fat 12g | Cholesterol 50mg | Sodium 1080mg
Carbohydrate 40g | Dietary Fiber 10g | Sugars 7g | Protein 36g

Vitamin A 324% | Vitamin B-12 23% | Vitamin B-6 32% | Vitamin C 104%
Vitamin E 21% | Calcium 17% | Iron 21%