Hannibal Lector’s Favorite Salad

Today we will discuss Classic Pasta at Home’s Fava Bean and Pecorino Salad. A favorite for Dr. Lector, he pairs it with his favorite Chianti and liverwurst that he gets at some special butcher shop. I can’t remember which one….I think it’s called Buffalo Bill’s Exotic Meats or something.

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Dr. Lector and his Chianti

Unfortunately, I ran into Dr. Lector while shopping for fava beans. His love of fava beans has no bounds. He bought them all up at the grocery store and was unwilling to share any with me. He said something about having a special dinner party and that he would invite me, but he had already “outdone” himself as it was. I don’t know what that meant, but Dr. Lector has always been a little off.

So I had to substitute with lima beans. Thankfully no other substitutes were needed.

What you’ll need:

  • 4 lbs of fava beans
  • 2 1/2 – 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of minced green onion, stem included
  • salt and pepper
  • lemon juice to taste
  • 8 – 12 soft lettuce leaves, preferably red. (Dr. Lector prefers the shade of Chianti)
  • 2 oz pecorinio cheese such as Toscanello or Manchego.

The first step in making this salad is to shell the fava or lima beans. To do this, you must either soak overnight or boil them for what seems like an eternity. Don’t be impatient with this step because it can make or break this salad. In other words, you don’t want the beans to be hard.

If you use the boil method, have a bowl of ice water ready. This creates a fast hot to cold effect that will rip off the skin of the bean. Buffalo Bill told me about this wonderful method by the way.

Drain the water once you let it cool down and then mix the beans in a large bowl with the olive oil and the green onions. Once these are mixed, you can add the salt, pepper, and lemon juice to your liking.

We are now ready to add the lettuce. Do so by tearing the lettuce into bite sized pieces and tossing gently along with rest of the salad.

The final step is to garnish with some cheese! My favorite part!

The cookbook recommends using a vegetable peeler and shaving the cheese into paper-thin slices. I grated mine, but I do think the shaved method would produce a greater taste of cheese. Being a cheese lover, I wished I had done this instead.

Can’t live in the past, though, right?

Anyway, you will want to toss the cheese as well. Once you have done so, it will be ready for consumption. Pair it with whatever you wish, unless it’s Hannibal Lector that is. I wouldn’t recommend that.

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Shrimp and Beans aka the Rich Man’s Pork and Beans

I never would have thought that shrimp and beans would be a good combo.  I like shrimp. I like beans, but together?! Get out of here!

Thankfully Classic Pasta at Home has pulled me out of the pork and bean gutter, dusted me off and taught me fancy phrases like the rain in Spain grows mainly on the plain.

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In case you didn’t get it

Speaking of fancy, Classic Pasta at Home is kind of a fancy little cookbook. You’re not going to find pasta emerging from hot dog links here, which we all know is a classic American pasta dish.

I’m being sarcastic here, please don’t send me hate mail about this. It’s a joke. Lighten up Francis. Oh great, now you’re mad because I called you Francis.

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Moving on to serious business, I do think the actual pasta in this cookbook is classic, but the sides dishes are not what I would find in my Italian-American small town. I’ve never seen a side dish of shrimp and beans or breasola with asparagus. Both of which are incredibly delicious by the way!

So, dear readers, this is an exciting time. Get pumped up for this recipe, because un-like myself, it is a winner.

What you’ll need

  • 1 1/8 cups of dried white beans (I used canned beans, you can too. Look for 8oz worth)
  • 6 cups of water
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 1 fresh rosemary sprig
  • 18 large shrimp prawns, peeled
  • 1/3 cup of olive oil
  • 1/3 cup of minced red onion
  • 1/4 cup of parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar

The first step is to rinse your beans, if you bought dried ones. If you did, you will rinse and then soak for up to 8 hours. When those hours are up, you then simmer the beans with the yellow onion and rosemary over medium heat. You will do this if you use canned beans as well. The book says to simmer in 6 cups of water. I used canned beans and was concerned about them getting soggy, so I just added a little bit of water. It was just enough to keep the beans from sticking and to allow the onion and rosemary to soak with the beans.

If you used dry beans, you will simmer for an hour. If not, I’d say 20-30. As I said earlier, I wanted to get the flavor of the rosemary and onion without causing the beans to become soggy. I ended up succeeding, but you do have to be careful to not overcook.

With both types, once the beans are cooked, you remove the onion and rosemary, drain the water, add salt and pepper, and then place it somewhere where it will keep warm.

The next step is to prepare your shrimp. I took my usual shortcut of using precooked shrimp. If you decide to be more classy and cook your own shrimp you will need to peel the shrimp and slit the back so it will open up like a butterfly while it cooks.

That’s not the only reason you need to cut them though. You also have to remove their shrimp veins. This is why I buy precooked shrimp. I could do that, but I don’t want to. Why should I force myself to do something like that when I don’t have to?

To cook the uncooked shrimp, you boil them in salted water for 45 seconds. When the seconds are up, you drain and transfer to a bowl for some tossing.

If you were not classy like I was, you should re-heat your precooked shrimp. I heated mine up in pan real quick with just a touch of olive oil but feel free to do whatever you like.

The final steps to making this classy meal is to combine the beans with the shrimp along with olive oil, red onion, parsley, garlic, and vinegar. Toss it to your little hearts content and then do a spice taste test. Adjust accordingly and then have someone who lives downstairs from you serve it to you because this is a classy dish and you are too classy to serve yourself.

In fact, just have someone downstairs cook it for you. If you happen to live on the ground floor and can’t do so. Well, I’m sorry to say that you just aren’t classy enough to eat this dish.

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Tumato Salad or The Salad that Stole My Heart

This salad. Oh my god this salad! I know it’s a basic thing for white girls to love salad, but I’ll have you know that I’ve always been desperately in love with chicken parmesan, pizza, burritos, and chips and salsa. It’s a toxic unhealthy orgy.

I think this Tomato and Tuna Salad from Classic Pasta at Home is the one for me though. It’s not overbearing, it’s filling, and it’s lean. I will miss my toxic orgy, but this salad will make up for it with devotion.

I’m not fooling anyone am I? I’m going to end up cheating on this salad the second pizza winks at me. The goddamn bastard knows he has me in his clutches!

Ok, so my bad humor aside, this salad truly is one of the best tuna salads I’ve had. Before I tackled this recipe, I’ve tried my hand at creating my own tuna salad recipe. It’s always good, but a meh good. It doesn’t really knock your socks and boots off. I think the key thing it was missing that I learned from this recipe is the white wine vinegar and basil. Those were the two major ingredients I was missing in my own concoction anyway.

What you’ll need to make this is, 2 large seeded and chopped tomatoes, 1/2 lb of tuna (I used Genova Yellowfin Tuna and I highly recommend it), 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1/4 cup of minced red onion, 2 teaspoons of capers, 2 cloves of minced garlic, salt, white wine vinegar to taste, around 12 basil leaves torn into small pieces, 1 heart butter lettuce, 2 hard boiled eggs quartered, and 12 black  Mediterranean olives.

To assemble the salad you will combine the tomatoes, tuna, oil, onion, capers, and garlic in a large bowl. I do not like capers and therefore omitted them, just so you know. Toss this mix and season with salt and vinegar. Toss again. Salads really like to be tossed apparently.

Once the salad is satisfied with your tossing, you will add the basil.

The final step is to divide your lettuce into 4 servings. In other words get 4 salad plates and make sure each has an equal amount of lettuce. Once that step is done, do the same with the tuna mixture as well as the olives and egg.

As you can see by my photo below, I just halved the eggs. I didn’t see the point in quartering them since I just made this salad for myself. I also bought California black olives, because I just wrote black olives on my grocery list.

Do you guys think I’ll ever get this lesson about details? I sure hope so.

I do prefer Mediterranean olives to black olives and I do think this salad would have been even better if it weren’t for my mistake. In the end, it wasn’t much of a deterrent to my enjoyment of this salad though. I look forward to making it again and this is a recipe I’ve bookmarked for the future.

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Run away salad! I’ll just hurt you!

Fennel Threesome with Arugula and Parmesan

My next recipe hails from Classic Pasta at Home and is an arugula salad with fennel and Parmesan. I love arugula and Parmesan. I can’t place how I feel about fennel though. I don’t hate it, but I don’t really like it either. It reminds me of people in my life who have never done anything spiteful or mean towards me, but for whatever reason I feel like something is off anyway. It’s a bizarre area of ambiguity that I am not a fan of.

Fennel is similar in that regard. I mean it’s healthy, so I feel like I should like it. It has a slight licorice taste to it, which means it’s not too bitter or sweet. I’ve liked it on certain pizzas and pastas I’ve had in the past, but I think that’s because it was just kind of there. It wasn’t really asserting itself in any way.

In this salad, Mr. Fennel was asserting himself big time and I decided I didn’t like fennel any more. He was being a little pushy. I enjoyed the arugula and Parmesan though, despite the cookbook calling arugula nutty. I always considered arugula to be just a little eccentric.

Anyway, to make your pushy arugula and fennel salad you will need 1 fennel bulb, 1/2 pound of rocket arugula, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1 minced shallot, salt, pepper, and 2 oz of Parmesan cheese.

The first step is to slice your fennel. To do so, remove the stems and stalks. You will only be utilizing the bulb. You’ll also want to rinse the fennel. It gets a little dirty. I’m guessing from pushing itself onto everyone like the floozy fennel it is. Once you’ve rid your fennel of disease, you will cut it in half and thinly slice crosswise. When this is done, place the fennel in a large salad bowl with the arugula.

While the fennel and arugula are getting to know each other, you can make the dressing. Whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, and shallot in a small bowl to do so. If desired, you can also add salt and pepper to this. Either way, you are going to add this whisk mixture to the dance party in your large salad bowl. Toss that salad, because floozy fennel likes it and add more lemon juice if you think it’s needed as well.

Once fennel seems satisfied you can bring yourself to the party, provided you bring some shaved Parmesan with you. Fennel won’t have it any other way and arugula is just doing it’s thing.

I was not a big fan of this salad. I think mostly because I wasn’t enjoying the fennel. I also think my shallot was too big. What an unfortunate, un-intended pun by the way. I suppose I should apologize more for the other puns though. I actually came up with them.

Moving on, the shallot was a little too strong in my dressing. I think I should have used only half of the shallot I had minced. It also gave me the worst breath. I chewed a piece of gum and had three or four listerine strips before it went away.  I would have brushed my teeth, but I was in a public place after eating this. Talk about unfortunate.

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A slightly bitter threesome

Eggplant Rolls

This recipe comes from Classic Pasta at Home and is fairly simple to make. It’s a bit time consuming though, not so much in physical labor, but in waiting time. The eggplant cooking process is kind of like cooking with a crockpot, so to speak.

What you need for this recipe is 2 eggplants, 2 red bell peppers, 1/4 cup of fresh bread crumbs, 3/4 cup of grated pecorino cheese, one tablespoon of pine nuts, 4 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic, basil leaves, white wine vinegar, and parsley.

Your first step in making this dish is to trim and cut the eggplant into 1/3 inch slices. You are only going to use 8 of these slices, however. Once you’ve got your 8 slices, arrange them on a rack and sprinkle with salt. Let them stand on the rack for about two hours. This is done so the eggplant softens, making it easy to roll up.

When the eggplant has soaked enough salt, you pat it dry and then boil it in water for 5 minutes to soften even further. After the boiling process you transfer the eggplant strips onto a towel to dry.

Now you are ready to make your filling. I got a bit annoyed with myself on this process. I almost always refer to the recipe list for my measurements, forgetting that those measurements are sometimes divided into different sections of the cooking process. Needless to say when a recipe says “throw all the stuff together!” I take it for it’s word and then just look to the ingredients list instead of paying attention to the details within the recipe.

I never said I was a good cook people. Read my intro, I admit fully I lack in culinary skill.

Anyway the first step in making the mixture I got through unscathed. That was to set the oven to the broiler setting, though. So do that and then cut your bell peppers in half. Remove the seeds and place inside the oven. Broil until the skin has blackened and then peel once they have cooled down. After they are peeled, cut the peppers finely and mix with one tablespoon of olive oil, not four like I did. You will also add pine nuts, (which I omitted because although they are delicious, they are also expensive) breadcrumbs, and 1/4 a cup of the cheese. Guess what I did with the cheese? Added too much like the oil. Thankfully my mixture turned out ok, despite this error.

The garlic is also added to your mixture, but after it’s been sautéed in olive oil for a minute. This should be done with one tablespoon of oil and the garlic should be minced before cooking.

When you finally mix everything together, all you need to do is spread the filling onto your eggplant strips, add a strip of basil, and roll up. Drizzle the eggplant with the remaining olive oil, which should be two tablespoons by the way and sprinkle with white wine vinegar.

Your rolls are now ready for baking. To do so, set the oven to 375 and bake for about an hour. Remove from the oven, sprinkle more cheese, touch it up with some parsley, and you’ve got a tasty little eggplant roll!

My rolls came out a little over cooked and stuck to the bottom of pan, but they tasted amazing! I recommend cooking them for a half hour instead to prevent this problem. I think the full hour is not needed. I haven’t tested this theory, though, so feel free to check for yourself.

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Overstuffed eggplant rolls

Baked Radicchio Tied with Prosciutto

This recipe comes from Classic Pasta at Home. It reminds me of pigs in a blanket only with radicchio and prosciutto instead of hot dogs and bacon. It’s not as fattening which makes it not quite as good, but it’s still tasty.

The first step is to cut a head of radicchio from the stem into 6 wedges. Once you have your wedges you are supposed to brush each wedge with olive oil. I do not have a cooking brush so I ended up dipping a bit of oil in a pan and sort of dipped each wedge.

After that step you just take a strip of prosciutto and wrap it around the radicchio, drizzle more oil, and bake for 12 minutes or so.

The final result is quite good. The prosciutto comes out nice and crisp and pairs well with the radicchio.The radicchio is a bit bitter, but the oil helps negate that. It is a little difficult to eat gracefully though. You can’t just pop into your mouth. You can cut it, but for me it was like cutting a sushi roll. It just doesn’t seem right.

Radicchio in a blanket

Radicchio in a blanket

Eat Your Artichoke Heart Out!

My next recipe is a side dish from a cookbook called Classic Pasta at Home. There are only three categories in this book, pasta, appetizers, and desserts . So like I said, I made a side dish called Artichokes, Roman Style.

This sounds simple enough, right? Well let me tell you, the Romans have a reputation for tenacity and perseverance and that shows in their desire to even bother having their own recipe for artichokes. Why, you ask? I’ll tell you, because there are a million prickly layers that are hard to rip off, you prick your fingers, and then you realize the heart of the artichoke is very small. At this point you think to yourself, “Why did I bother?”

This reminds me of an ex actually. I dated him for two and a half years and his cat gave me more love than him. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. I doubt he’d read this anyway and admittedly he’s the only ex whose feelings I’m not too concerned with. I know that sounds awful, but if you knew what he put me through you’d probably understand.

If any other exes read this, you are ok in my book, even if we aren’t exactly close anymore. I also hope I made it clear enough to whom I’m referring to as well so there are no misunderstandings.

I probably should just delete that comment. It’s becoming a lot like the artichoke, a lot of effort to make sure I don’t insult people I actually like for one tiny joke. Truthfully, most of the men in my life have had some layers, but they were more like onions. Which is fine. I like onions. It’s ok to be guarded. I understand that.

What is this blog about again? Oh yeah, cooking.

Anyway, artichokes take a lot of effort and this recipe almost killed me. First off, artichokes are surprisingly expensive. I believe I paid $10-15 for four artichokes! Secondly, it takes forever to peel off the layers and towards the bottom things start to get prickly. I even soaked these in lemon water, but they were still hard and brittle!

After peeling off all those layers, you spoon in a mixture of garlic, mint, parsley, and olive oil. Then you simmer each artichoke in olive oil, white wine, and water.

The result I got was disappointing. I’m guessing that’s because I didn’t soak them well enough. Most of the artichoke came out hard, but the parts that weren’t did taste very good.

I have a friend that is a pretty good cook who agreed with my analysis that cooking with artichokes is just not worth the trouble. Not unless you really know what you’re doing anyway. We both recommend just buying canned artichoke hearts. The heart is the best part anyway and it’s already prepared for you when it comes in a can. This is not recommended when it comes to men though. Don’t buy jarred man hearts, some of them are worth the layers.

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Finished product of some very insensitive, hard, and brittle artichokes.