Every so often, we all experience what I call happy accidents. These are instances where, for example, you find a great parking spot, $20 in your pocket you forgot about, or even a little free treat with your coffee. Sometimes these are just delightful, unexpected coincidences. Other times, I wonder if they are divinely orchestrated circumstances. The last time I strolled through Barnes and Noble, I came across a very pretty cookbook that caught my eye which has changed the way I cook. Eat Good Food is a fantastic study of local produce, great (unique) recipes, and gorgeous photos. Although nothing free fell out of the sky, I gladly paid the $20 for a book I now consider priceless. This particular happy accident produced the very recipe you see here.
To be completely honest, I had an old Christmas gift card burning a hole in my pocket. So technically, this was a gift. For me, that cements the fact that this was meant to be.
This cookbook is one the best I've ever read, and not just that, it's one of the first cookbooks I've actually read in depth. Typically I thumb through cookbooks looking for good pictures of plates I or my family might like. If one strikes my interest, I will pause on the recipe to take a deeper dive.
Eat Good Food has changed the way I look at food, and certainly the way I shop and eat. Between 297 pages of beautiful photography and scrumptious recipes lies some of the most fascinating and useful information on how to select good produce to feed yourself and your loved ones. This book and the works of Michael Pollan sparked my interest in meeting the people who grow and harvest our food.
The book is heavy, and it's thick matte pages look eager to soak up all the tomato sauce spills and vinaigrette splatters you can throw its way. I love a durable cookbook that can weather the storms of cooking and stay intact.
Plus, my mother wrote many notes in her cookbooks, which is something I do now as well. I love seeing her handwriting and notes. From what I can tell, she too didn't mind a bit if some of what she was cooking made its way onto the pages of recipes. Her cookbooks were worn and well used. And that's just how this one is becoming. Already the dozen or so recipes we've tried have rave reviews scribbled in the margins, with a little sauce on the side.
So, yeah. Eat Good Food is awesome. I love it to pieces. It's one that I reference over and over again, and I imagine I will for many years to come.
In particular, this Orecchiette is one of our favorite weeknight recipes. It's easy-peasy, makes your house smell wonderful, and tastes delicious. I am not sure if we've ever had any leftovers from this dish - it doesn't last long in our house. Try it out for yourself, and let me know what you think in the comments below. Enjoy!
Orecchiette with White Beans and Chard (adapted from Eat Good Food)
- 1 large bunch of chard (I used rainbow swiss chard)
- 1/2 lb dried orecciette pasta (it's the one shaped like little bowls)
- 1/2 cup diced pancetta (we have also used 2-3 slices of thick bacon that has been diced)
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 3 large garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 1/2 cups cooked white beans, or one 15 oz can drained and rinsed
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, more as needed
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parm
- salt and pepper
Rinse the chard and strip the leaves from the stems. Roughly chop the leaves and dice the stems into 1/2 inch pieces. Keep the leaves and stems separated.
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the orecciette and cook until just barely al dente (3-4 minutes less than the package instructs). Remove the pot from heat and scoop out about 2 1/2 cups of pasta water in a separate bowl. Drain the pasta.
Put the empty pasta pot back on the stove on medium high heat. Throw in your pancetta with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and cook until golden and most of the fat has rendered, about 2-3 minutes. Make sure you're stirring frequently. Next add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and continue to cook until the onions are translucent and softened, about 4 minutes. Add your chard stems and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes.
Add the beans and gently mash half of them with a spoon (this will help thicken the sauce). Add the thyme, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1 cup of pasta water. Stir. Cover the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes to blend the flavors. Stir in the chard leaves, cover your pot again and cook for another couple of minutes - until the chard cooks down a bit.
Add the drained pasta and another 1/2 cup of pasta water. Stir constantly until the liquid has thickened a bit, about another 2 minutes. Add more pasta water if it gets too thick. Remove from heat and add the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil, the lemon juice, and 1/4 cup of parm. Taste the dish and add more salt and or lemon juice if needed. Top with the remaining Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!