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Cooking

Second time around

Twice-cooked dishes that keep getting better.

Biscotti (Photo by Jim Scherer)
By Adam Ried
October 24, 2010

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Just think of that old song “The Second Time Around,” about how love is better on the second go. Well, sometimes the same thing applies in the kitchen. Biscotti get their crunch from a second trip to the oven, and hearty Tuscan Ribollita (the word translates as “reboiled”) is cooked twice, starting out as a vegetable soup with white beans, Tuscan kale, and cabbage, but stale bread and a second stint on the stove transform it into a hearty porridge-like meal perfect for fall and winter. Mexican staple Frijoles Refritos (a bonus recipe you’ll find online) is simply cooked beans mashed and cooked again with seasonings.

Orange-Pistachio Biscotti

Makes about 2 dozen

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup cornmeal

1½ teaspoons baking powder

Salt

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup grated zest from 3 oranges

2 eggs

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup shelled pistachios

1 large egg white, optional

Set the oven rack in the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment or a nonstick mat and set aside. In a small bowl, whisk the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and ¼ teaspoon salt, and set aside.

In a large bowl, stir the sugar and orange zest until moist and fragrant. Add the eggs and whisk until pale yellow, about 3 minutes. Add the butter and vanilla, and whisk to combine. Add the flour mixture and pistachios and, using a flexible spatula, fold to combine. Divide the dough into 2 equal portions on the baking sheet; wet your hands and shape 2 smooth 10-by-3-inch loaves, placing them about 3 inches apart on the baking sheet. Brush the loaves with the egg white, if using, and bake until set and browned around the edges, about 24 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time.

Cool the loaves on the baking sheet until just warm, about 15 minutes, and adjust oven temperature to 325 degrees. Use a serrated knife to bias-cut the loaves into ½-inch-thick slices (see Kitchen Aide). Lay the slices on the baking sheet, one cut side down (they shouldn’t touch); bake, turning over halfway through baking time, until crisp and golden brown on both sides, about 24 minutes. Completely cool biscotti on a wire rack and serve. (They can be stored in an airtight container for about 2 weeks.)

Variations

Mocha-Almond Biscotti

Follow the recipe for Orange-Pistachio Biscotti, making the following changes:

1) In the flour mixture, reduce the quantity of flour by 2 tablespoons, omit the cornmeal, and add ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon.

2) Omit the zest. To the sugar and egg mixture, add 3 tablespoons each unsweetened cocoa powder and instant espresso powder along with the butter, and increase the quantity of vanilla to 1 teaspoon.

3) Substitute 1 cup of lightly toasted almonds for the pistachios and add ¾ cup (about 1½ ounces) chopped bittersweet chocolate along with the nuts.

Chocolate-Almond Biscotti

Follow the variation for Mocha-Almond Biscotti, replacing the instant espresso powder with an equal amount of cocoa powder.

Ribollita

Makes about 3 quarts

Ribollita takes well to garnishes, including grated Parmesan, sliced black olives, and torn basil leaves.

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra, if needed

1 large onion, chopped

2 large carrots, chopped

2 celery ribs, chopped

2 teaspoons fennel seed, lightly crushed

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Salt

2 tablespoons tomato paste

6 cloves garlic, minced

1½ teaspoons minced fresh thyme

2 large bay leaves

1½quarts water, or vegetable or low-sodium chicken broth

1 2-by-2-inch piece Parmesan rind, optional

1 14½-ounce can diced tomatoes

1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1/3 small head (about ¾ pound) green or savoy cabbage, thinly sliced (about 7 cups)

1 large bunch (about 1 pound) Tuscan kale, stems removed and leaves chopped (about 14 cups, loosely packed)

Black pepper

6 ounces stale or toasted hearty country, French, or Italian bread, crust removed, and torn into chunks (about 5 cups)

½ cup chopped fresh parsley

In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, heat 4 tablespoons oil until it ripples. Add the onion, carrots, celery, fennel seed, red pepper flakes, and 2 teaspoons salt, adjust heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are soft and light golden, about 12 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the garlic, thyme, and bay leaves, stir to mix, and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Add the water or broth, Parmesan rind, if using, and tomatoes, increase the heat to high, and bring to a strong simmer. Add the beans, cabbage, and kale and return to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the vegetables are very soft and the flavors are blended, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Remove the Parmesan rind and bay leaves and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, if necessary. Add the bread and, off the heat, allow the soup to rest for at least 30 minutes, or cool completely and refrigerate overnight.

Return the pot to medium heat and bring soup to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Adjust heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the soup is very thick and dense and heated through (but not dry – add a little water, if necessary), about 20 minutes.

Add 2 tablespoons oil and the parsley, and stir to mix. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, black pepper, and oil, if necessary, and serve.

Send comments or suggestions to Adam Ried at cooking@globe.com.

  • October 24, 2010 cover
  • Your Home: Do-it-yourself

KITCHEN AIDE
Bias-cut biscott

The dough for biscotti is formed into loaves and baked until set, but still soft. The cookies are created by cutting those loaves into slices, which are then baked a second time, until they become dry and crunchy. To give biscotti an elegant, elongated shape, don’t cut them straight across. Rather, cut across the loaf at a 45-degree angle.