Tag Archives: soup

Hot pot season is here

Fondue chinoise
Hot pot side dishes: buckwheat soba, brown rice and ginger soba, green onions, thai basil, pumpkin, enoki mushrooms, scallops, napa cabbage, eggs

With mornings in the mid-40’s and abrupt weather changes alternating from wet to dry, it was bound to happen that we’d both end up with colds. The best thing to beat il raffreddore is lots of rest and nourishing soups, but the thing is (with me anyway), is that after a couple of days I’m bored of soup. Solution? Turn it into a hot pot with lots of tidbits to stab, skewer and dip into a delicious broth.

Asian veggies at Esselunga

Fresh portobello and porcini is easy enough to get here but when I spotted shiitake and enoki mushrooms at our favorite supermarket (Esselunga), the idea of fondue chinoise came to mind. A simple chicken broth and a variety of side dishes for a party of two is fun, but with a larger group you might want more than one hot pot on the table so that no one ends up battling for their turn like these kitty cats.

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
Condiments
Plain yogurt
Fresh herbs (mint, coriander, tarragon, parsley)
Thinly sliced radish or carrot ribbons
Pickled garlic cloves or onions
Flatbread

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.

Dizi Sunday lunch

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.

Dizi - the condiments

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).

Dogs welcome at the Fasulin de l’oc cun le cudeghe

Dogs welcome at Fasulin de l'oc in Pizzighettone

Yes. I cani possono entrare. Nine years ago at the Fasulin de l’oc event in Pizzighettone for the very first time, dogs weren’t included on the welcome mat. Fortunately for us at the time of our visit, someone took kindly to our plight and we were shown to a quiet section, far from the main dining area.

Casamatta 21 for the dogsWell now things have changed. Dogs (cats too, if we are to take that sign up top at face value) and their peeps have a designated space at the very end in Casamatta 21. We had no idea about this, but again, a kind soul noticed our bewildered faces, pointed us in the right direction, and suggested that one of us could get the food while the other sat with the dogs. This event grows bigger with each year and I’m glad we took his advice – look at that line below.

Pizzighettone Casematte

While the wait may have been longer than expected (about 30′), the quality and quantity of the dishes still remain the same after all these years. Black-eyed peas (fasulin de l’oc) and pork skin (cudeghe) nestled in a thick, flavorful broth. A popular example of comfort food in Italy no matter what the weather’s like outside.

Fasulin de l'oc 2015
Sunday lunch for 30€: black-eyed peas and pork skin soup, raspadura cheese, cheese cubes and mostarda, lardo and salame, grilled polenta, bread and wine.