Note: Scroll Down For Full Recipes
It’s still hot in the city, but there are hints, suggestions of autumn all around us. Kids have strapped back on their backpacks for the first time in months, and they drag their parents eagerly through the streets of Manhattan during the morning commute. During a lunch break sitting on a park bench in the beating sun, a few crisp golden leaves blow across your feet. And a trip out of to the island now brings the waft of acorns and sap on the crisp evening breeze. September is here, and soon will be harvest.
Autumn means a lot of things for food. The weather is cool enough to finally crank our ovens on again, and we trade quick sautes or no-cook salads for dishes that simmer, stew, roast, or bake. We become more comfortable spending the evenings indoors, and therefore more accepting of meals that take longer to cook.
Two recipes that seemed an ode to autumn fell into my lap today, and so ready am I for the heartier foods of fall that I knew both must be cooked in my tiny kitchen immediately. The first comes from 1000 Days in Tuscany, Marlena de Blasi’s memoire that laces narrative with recipes in a way that feels so organic, you might not notice it at first. From her I adapted a Tuscan recipe for Fagioli al Fiasco sotto le Cenere, or “Beans Braised in a Bottle under the Cinders”. de Blasi writes: “The most ancient, succulent method of cooking beans is al fiasco, in a bulbous-bottomed wine bottle which is filled with beans, white wine, olive oil, a sprig or two of rosemary, a few cloves of garlic and fresh sage. The neck of the bottle is loosely stoppered with a moistened cloth, set loosely enough to permit steam to escape, and the whole is buried under the ash of a dying fire to cook overnight.” Sort of like this…
Having neither a bulbous-bottomed bottle, nor cinders of a dying fire, I made due with a sauce pan and stove top. The result was so surprisingly phenomenol, that let’s just say I’m having trouble controlling myself as the aroma from these beans, which slow cook for at least an hour, drifts over here as I write this. A small sneak taste told me everything I need to know – this dish is the epitome of warming, soulful comfort food, melting like butter on your tongue with the woodsy smoke of rosemary erasing every thought from your mind. Think I’m being a bit dramatic? Just make them, and you’ll see.
Fagioli al Fiasco - Serves 2 to 3
- 1 can of white cannellini beans, with excess liquid poured off
- 1/2 teaspoon of course sea salt
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup of dry white wine
- 1 large sprig of rosemary
- 3 fat garlic cloves, roasted and crushed
- 1/4 cup chopped sage leaves
First, prep all your ingredients. Strip rosemary leaves from the stem and finely chop…
To cook on the stovetop, simply combine all the ingredients above in a medium saucepan, cover, and barely simmer over low heat for about an hour.
De Blasi uses dried beans in her recipe, but this being modern day America and not rustic Tuscany, I felt the canned Goya variety were more practical. De Blasi also calls for fresh crushed garlic, but I took a gamble and roasted mine (though roasting garlic is nearly always a sure thing). I highly recommend this approach; the combination of creamy beans, fragrant olive oil, fresh rosemary and buttery roasted garlic is unbeatable.
Crushed garlic, post-the-roast:
Give the pot an occasional stir to make sure you’re beans aren’t bubbling too much and nothing is sticking. This should be an incredibly low, slow simmer. And if you can stay patient, and not ruin you appetite, just over an hour later the heavenly end result will look a little something like this:
I know, I know… running off to the kitchen to make this and not even going to read the other recipe. Well, I couldn’t blame you
The second dish is adapted from a TastingTable.com recipe for Peruvian-Style Roasted Chicken with Sweet Onions. Since these beans were distinctly Italian, though, I traded in the cumin of the Peruvian chicken for basil and oregano, and created a more Mediterranean rendition.
Mediterranean Roast Chicken with Sweet Onions - Serves 2 to 3
- 1/2 lb of boneless skinless chicken breasts – and if the picture below doesn’t convince you to go organic/local, I don’t know what will.
- 3 medium shallots (TT recommends sweet onions)
- 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1 red or yellow bell pepper
- 1/4 lemon, sliced thin
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of sweet paprika
- 1/2 tablespoon dried basil
- 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper
- 2 1/2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Grease a large roasting pan with cooking spray or olive oil and set aside. In a small bowl, combine the paprika, basil, oregano, salt, pepper, garlic, vinegar and 1¹/₂ teaspoons oil to make a paste.
Place the onions in large bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of the paste. Rub the chicken pieces with the remaining paste…
…and place in the prepared pan, then cover with onions, bell pepper and lemon slices! I swear, the chicken is under there somewhere.
Roast, basting occasionally with pan juices, until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are very tender, about 45 minutes. Then, remove the roasting pan from oven and let rest 5 minutes. What you are left to share and enjoy looks a little something like …
Serve with the Tuscan beans and bask in autumnal bliss. Falling back never tasted so good