The Kitchenless Cook
You are what you eat
By Bill Knutson
This is a phrase I heard often as a child, and until recently it made little sense to me. When I was very young, it made me nervous because I didn’t want to become a hamburger and fries. And in my teen years, I realized it was my parents’ way of guiding me away from junk food, although I have to admit, they weren’t too successful. But, as I have gotten older and pursued a greater commitment to cooking quality food, I have discovered it means much more than just going to the grocery store and buying the best-looking piece of meat and some fresh vegetables.
Knowing that our bodies are nourished by the nutrients we absorb from the food we eat, shouldn’t we also consider that the food we eat also absorbs nutrients from what it has eaten? We also want to take into account how the animal is raised. Was it raised in a stress-free environment? I know from personal experience that stress increases the toxins in your system and causes tightened muscles. Is that what you want to serve your guests for dinner?
Buying organic is a step in the right direction, but is not the final answer. We need to look for meat that comes from producers who have committed to raising their livestock in a healthful and humane manner. Chef Chris Cosentino of Incanto (1550 Church Street, 415-641-4500) has made this commitment and has the only “certified humane” restaurant in the country.
I have long admired his cooking and philosophy regarding where our food is sourced from. I recently had a chance to spend some time with him in his kitchen where we prepared a recipe that he has let me share with you. After talking with Cosentino, I discovered his passion runs very deep for the animals he serves. He is also a mentor to his staff, showing them the complete process from the field to the table. This instills in them a more profound appreciation for the animal they are preparing and serving.
For a long time, Cosentino has also had a passion for making sausages and curing meats. This passion has led to many nights when the kitchen staff has had to dodge and weave through hunks of meat hanging to cure in the kitchen. Cosentino has alleviated this problem by starting up Boccalone, a meat-curing facility in Oakland that supplies both Incanto and a retail shop in the Ferry Building. For next month’s issue, I will be spending time at Boccalone and will delve into the curing process to discover the difference between salami and salumi.
Here is the recipe Chris taught me to prepare.
Chris Cosentino’s Boccalone Sausage and Beans
Note: This recipe calls for preparing dried beans. You can substitute steps 1 and 2 in the recipe by using four 15-ounce cans of beans, rinsed and drained.
1 pound dried cannellini beans
3 quarts pork stock
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 onion, peeled
1 carrot, peeled
1 fennel bulb, split
4 canned plum tomatoes,
1. Sort through the beans, removing any stones, and rinse under cold running water. Place the beans in a large pot, cover with cold water by at least two inches, and let soak for at least four hours
2. Drain the beans and return them to the pot. Add the pork stock, whole vegetables, and canned tomatoes. Cover and bring to a simmer over medium heat, continuing to simmer for one hour.
3. Lower the heat so that the beans are barely simmering and cook for an additional one to two hours or until beans are just tender. Note that the fresher the beans, the shorter the cooking time.
4. Remove the beans from the heat and let them cool in their cooking liquid. Remove the whole vegetables and reserve the beans in their liquid.
Beans with Sausage
5 tablespoons olive oil
1½ pounds Boccalone sausage
4–5 fresh sage leaves
4 garlic cloves, peeled and
Salt (about 2 teaspoons) and
freshly ground black pepper
1. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage links and crushed garlic cloves, making sure not to crowd the pan or the sausage won’t brown well. Once the sausage is brown, add the sage leaves. As the leaves sizzle, add the reserved beans along with their cooking liquid, stirring occasionally until slightly thickened (about 5 minutes).
2. Season to taste with salt
and pepper. Simmer a few minutes longer, stirring gently, being careful not to break up the beans, until sausage is cooked through and the sauce has thickened.
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