Monday, July 20, 2009

Baby Back Ribs with Italian Beans and Sage

For the past year or so, much of my recipe discovery and research has occurred online. But lately, I have found myself returning to cookbooks. I love books, magazines, newspapers, anything I can read. And as much as I love the Internet and can't imagine life without it, it makes me very sad to think it is slowly replacing printed material, material that is tactile and makes noise and gets smeared with drops of tomato sauce as you cook from it.

So, I have been finding myself pulling my cookbooks off the shelf and buying them again. One of my recent purchases was the gem Italy Anywhere, Living an Italian Culinary Life Wherever You Call Home, by Lori DeMori with Jean-Louis De Mori and Antonio Tommasi that I picked up for $2 at the used bookstore. It is filled with traditional Italian recipes from their restaurants in Los Angeles and her Italian husband's childhood and with advice on bringing the Italian love and appreciation for good food and cooking into your own home. The first recipe I tried from the book were these delicious Baby Back Ribs with Italian Beans and Sage.

I intended to follow the original recipe to the letter, but it called for two types of dried beans with different cooking times. That seemed like too much work so I opted to use only the cannellini beans. However, when I went to make the beans, I realized I failed to soak them the night before, even after thinking all day long that the beans really should be soaked or they will never get soft. Kicking myself for not fully reading a recipe (again) I grabbed a can of cannellini beans from the pantry and found they worked great. The recipe below is adapted to include this change and some others I made to the beans. This dish was fantastic! The ribs were tender, moist, and full of flavor from the herbs. The beans were also full of flavor and I plan on making those regularly on their own. And as the book promised, I did live the Italian culinary life for an afternoon!

Baby Back Ribs with Italian Beans and Sage
adapted from Italy Anywhere by Lori DeMori

For the ribs:
1 slab baby back ribs, approximately 1 1/2 lbs
Freshly ground black pepper
4 large sprigs of fresh rosemary
4 branches of fresh thyme
2 handfuls of fresh sage leaves

For the beans:
1 can cannellini beans
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 T Italian pancetta, finely chopped
2 t garlic, minced
1 C tomato sauce (I used leftover jarred sauce)
1 t each fresh rosemary, sage and thyme
1/2 C chicken broth, hot

Method: ribs
Preheat the oven to 350°.

If your butcher has not already done so, pull away the thin opaque membrane that covers the underside of the ribs.

Sprinkle both sides of each slab with salt and a generous grinding of black pepper.

Place a wire rack inside a large baking or roasting pan. Fill the pan with 1 1/2 inches of water.
Lay half of the herbs on the rack, then place the ribs, meaty side up, on top. Cover with remaining herbs.

Tent the pan with aluminum foil so that no steam will escape during cooking and place ribs in oven for about 2 hours. They are ready when the meat is tender and moist.

Let the meat cool for 5 minutes then cut into 2 or 3 rib sections.

Method: beans
Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan ove low heat. Add onion, pancetta and garlic. Sauté until onion and garlic are golden.

Stir in tomato sauce. When it begins to bubble, add chopped herbs, the cooked beans, and the chicken broth. Simmer mixture together.

Ladle the beans onto individual plates, place a portion of ribs on top, and serve.
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