Tag Archives: beans

Dizi (quick easy version)

Even if I’m not really “feeling” it with this mild and sunny 65°F weather, soup season is in the air and dizi is a soup of Persian origin that I learned about on Bourdain’s Parts Unknown. Dizi are the green cooking vessels shown below, but the term also refers to the dish itself that contains lamb, chickpeas, beans, onion, tomato, potato and seasonings in a simple yet very aromatic broth. It’s a unique dining experience in that you eat it in 2 steps: first you drink the delicious broth, then you mash the remaining solids into a thick paste. This mixture is then devoured with pickled garlic and fresh herbs with a pile of flatbread.

Dizi pots - Bourdain
Like a good Bourdain fan, I snapped a screen shot in hopes of finding dizi pots in Milan.

Dizi for two

4 cups water
6-8 ounces lamb pieces, excess fat trimmed and removed
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
1/2 cinnamon stick
1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 dried lime, pierced (see note below)
1/2 cup chickpeas, cooked
1/2 cup white beans, cooked (I used cannellini or zolfino)
2 medium tomatoes, skins blanched and removed, then cut in half
2 medium potatoes, halved lengthwise
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 packet saffron powder
Salt and pepper
Plain yogurt
Fresh herbs (mint, coriander, tarragon, parsley)
Thinly sliced radish or carrot ribbons
Pickled garlic cloves or onions

Place all ingredients into a large pot except the saffron. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer. Cook, covered, for 60-90 minutes or until lamb is fork tender. Add the saffron powder. Remove dried lime and cinnamon stick. Check seasoning and add salt if necessary.

To serve, ladle legumes and lamb into deep soup containers, making sure each serving has a piece of tomato and potato. Cover with broth. Traditional dizi will have you pour the broth into a separate soup dish but I serve mine in one single bowl. Drink the soup first, then mash (I use a fork) what’s leftover into a thick mixture. This is finger food heaven, scooped on a piece of warm flatbread and topped with yogurt, pickles, and fresh herbs.

NOTE: There really is no substitute for the unique flavor of dried lime but if there’s no way of obtaining it, use the peel of 1 organic lemon (white pith removed).


Comfort food from Valtellina: il Taròz

Yesterday 10°C and sunny – today 3°C and snow! I’m actually okay with this Jeckyll and Hyde weather because it means that we still get to chow down on simple fare like this: taròz. Made with ingredients most anyone can find in their pantry or freezer, I can’t get over the fact that in a decade of living here, this dish never crossed my palate until recently.

The word taròz is patois derived from “tarare”, or more accurately, girare or mescolare (to turn or mix). Boiled potatoes and beans (still hot) are mixed together until they form a somewhat mashed texture. Cubes of cheese are stirred in until melted into the mix. Lastly, chopped onions cooked in a generous amount of butter are added and the whole lot is seasoned with ground pepper and nutmeg. In other versions, some cooks also like to add chopped pancetta in with the onions. View this youtube clip to see how it’s made.


There aren’t exact measurements for this recipe. Judge amounts according to the number of servings that you need. For 2 people, I cut up and boiled 3 large potatoes and 3 handfuls of frozen beans (added a few minutes to the salted water before the potatoes were completely cooked through). I estimate about a cup of cheese (use a semi-soft cows milk type) and a half cup for onions (chopped or sliced). As for the BUTTER – using a lot of it way back then was probably necessary to sustain families through harsh winters. The original creators would most likely make fun of my couple of tablespoons plus an equal amount of olive oil.


Mix, mix, mix! And mix again.


Mix in the cheese (cut into small pieces or cubes) until melted. Add the onions cooked in butter. Season with ground black pepper and ground nutmeg. Serve with freshly grated or thinly shaved parmigiano.

Top 10 favorite italian dishes to eat in winter

Bagna cauda

The unusually lower temperatures that Italy is experiencing right now is being compared to the kind we normally see in January. If it continues on like this, I may end up with way more than 10 favorites for the cold months. Cheese, potatoes, beans, and cabbage play such a big role in so many great-tasting seasonal recipes that it just isn’t a winter without them. And if by a divine miracle the digits go up next month, we are still going to eat every single one of these dishes for the sake of tradition.

Beginning from the top – garlic & anchovy (left dish) and a vegan-friendly garlic & sunchoke (right) Bagna Cauda. As we experienced for ourselves last month, numerous food festivals in Piemonte are created around la bagna caöda so I think it merits being at the #1 spot. The rest of the list proceeds in no particular order and includes rib-sticking sustenance of Northern Italian cuisine. Of course a list isn’t complete without something for the sweet tooths, and that’s why panettone (my favorite) and pandoro (MotH’s) are side-by-side at the end.

La Fonduta – aka fondue. Served valdostana-style like this or in a larger fondue pot with bread cubes and accompanying vegetables.

Trippa – a soup/stew of tender strips of tripe, beans, pancetta and a hint of tomato; topped with parmigiano.

Cassoeula – a rich and filling mix of pork sausage, pork skin and ribs, and a lot of cabbage. It tastes even better the day after, and red wine (Barbera or Bonarda) is a must with this.

Pizzoccheri – there are two faces to pizzoccheri: Valchiavenna-style cheese and flour dumplings (left, also called gnocchetti bianchi) or Valtellina’s buckwheat flour pasta with potatoes, cabbage and cheese on the right.

Jota – a thick soup of beans, sauerkraut, potatoes and smoked pork. This specialty is popular in Friuli (we first tried this in Gorizia) and was so common in Trieste that old folks used to say “sempre jota, sempre jota, e mai polenta e latte” – always jota, always jota, and never polenta and milk. Pronounced like yoh-tah.

Polenta and beans – separately they are basic dietery items, but put them together with crumbled bits of fried pork rinds and enjoy a dish from Emilia Romagna. It actually has a name – calzagatti – and a story behind it.

Bollito Misto – mixed boiled meats that must include beef tongue and calf’s head – testina – to be authentic. Served with a variety of flavorful sauces, and don’t fret about the head part because you’ll never actually see eyeballs staring up at you.

Panettone and Pandoro – the first, a specialty from Milan and the second from Verona. No wonder we can’t be bothered with cookies and other holiday desserts. The breads come in sizes meant to serve a large family which is why it takes forever to get through the stash that we receive as gifts. Can you come up with a Top 10 pick of winter meals where you live?