THE GOCHISO GOURMET: Back to the pantry

columnist-logo_ryantatsumoto_FINALThough it now seems like a generation ago, early in the pandemic when supermarket shelves started looking somewhat bare as customers purchased pantry staples like canned beans, flour and most grains (rice) as soon as they were stocked on the shelves, we started purchasing dried legumes as our standby. Legumes contain both protein and fiber fortified starches and essentially make a complete meal. Also, most shoppers bypassed these items, assuming they took too long to prepare and cook. Around this time, I picked up a take-out order from Senia, a restaurant in Chinatown in Honolulu that, like many other restaurants, was only offering take-out. At the time, their menu was a Portuguese-themed meal, starting with a tomato and cucumber salad, crushed baby potatoes baked with caramelized onions, kanpachi escabeche with peppers and sea asparagus and finally, a feijoada or traditional ham and bean stew featuring white and pink heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo. After sampling the complete meal, I knew I had to find the source of those Rancho Gordo beans.

Rancho Gordo
Rancho Gordo was started by Steve Sando some 20 years ago, producing heirloom beans. Over the past decade, his bean crop has been coveted by chefs and foodies alike. He also partners in the Rancho Gordo-Xoxoc Project, assisting small farmers in Mexico in continuing to grow their indigenous beans, herbs and corn. After sampling that feijoada from Senia, I ordered several varieties of Rancho Gordo’s heirloom beans (the store is in the heart of Napa town). Since then, I have used those beans for venison chili, Portuguese bean “stoup” and punjabi chole or an Indian curry-like dish.

A New Pasta
In the midst of the pandemic, when most of our local supermarkets stocked nary a box of dried pasta, I turned to the Internet to see if I could procure a supply that wasn’t a king’s ransom. You see, our go-to pasta is either Barilla Protein+ or Delallo, but during the pandemic, none could be found (along with rice and flour). I found a brand-new shape of pasta, the Cascatelli (Italian for waterfall), which looked like a cross between a musical treble clef and a miniature lasagna noodle.

Sfoglini
Started in 2012 in Brooklyn by a chef – Steve Gonzalez – and a creative director – Scott Ketchum, Sfoglini offers traditional pasta shapes, as well as flavored varieties such as Saffron Malloreddus, Porcini Trumpets, Sriracha fusilli and Hemp Radiators, as well as their cascatelli, which is so popular that it’s always on backorder. James Beard winner Dan Pashman created their cascatelli in collaboration with Sfoglini.

However, after I filled my cart with assorted pasta, I realized that even something as light as dried pasta carries a king’s ransom just for shipping charges, which was more than the cost of the pasta itself. So I searched online for alternative sellers and low and behold, the first to appear was Amazon. While they didn’t carry all flavors, they did have four-pack assortments, including four-packs of the porcini trumpets. Ever since I first sampled the Porcini Carbonara at Vein, located in Kaka‘ako in Hawai‘i, I’ve been after that same flavor of the earthy porcini balanced by cheese and black pepper, and the richness of the egg. Sometimes the egg is mixed into the still hot pan, sometimes the pasta mixture is moved off the heat and the egg “cooks” in the residual heat of the ingredients, and in the case of Vein at Kaka‘ako, the raw egg yolk is simply mixed into the pasta by the diner, almost like a tamago meshi … or tamago pasta…

Porcini Carbonara. photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

Porcini Carbonara
1/4 cup diced pancetta
1/4 cup minced shallots or red onion
Olive oil
3 fresh cloves of garlic, minced
1 lb. medium cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup dried porcini, rehydrated in warm water
1/2 cup mixed dried mushrooms, rehydrated in warm water
1 lb. Sfoglini Porcini Trumpet pasta
Equal parts shredded Parmigiano and Pecorino cheese, about 3/4 cup
Raw egg yolk(s) optional
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Cook the Sfoglini trumpets in water, draining them in a colander about one to two minutes before the listed boiling time.

In a little olive oil, cook the pancetta just until it starts browning, then add the shallots/red onion and garlic and sauté just until the shallot/red onion and garlic start softening. Add the fresh cremini mushrooms and cook until they soften. Add the rehydrated mushroom as well as the soaking liquid, being careful not to add grit and dirt that may have settled on the bottom. Once the liquid comes to a boil, add the drained Sfoglini trumpets and finish cooking them with everything else. Just before turning off the heat add about 1/2 cup of the cheese blend, salt and black pepper and toss to evenly distribute the cheeses. Place a single egg yolk in the middle of the pasta and instruct diners to mix it into the pasta. Sprinkle with the last 1/4 cup of the cheese blend.

Best of Both Worlds
Since we now have an abundance of dried pantry staples, I haven’t been cooking just bean centric or pasta centric dishes. Combining both improves the nutritional profiles as amino acids missing from wheat or legumes can now combine to create a better amino acid mix for a complete protein profile. So, it makes for the perfect marriage of Sfoglini pasta and Rancho Gordo heirloom beans. In lieu of another specific recipe, I’ll just list the basics so you can season to your own liking.

The Basic Pantry Stoup

Stoup with Sfoglini Reginetti and Rancho Gordo Alubia Blanca. photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

1 lb. dried beans — I usually soak overnight then pressure cook for 10 to 12 minutes depending on the bean size
1 lb. dried pasta — I usually add everything to a slow cooker so the pasta goes in last according to its cook time
1 to 2 lbs. chopped greens, fresh or frozen (spinach, kale, collard greens)
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 cup dried, diced carrots
1 cup dried, diced celery
1/2 cup dried, minced onion
2 tbsp dried, minced garlic
Salt and fresh black pepper to taste
About 1 quart of water — the pasta and dried vegetables will absorb about 3/4 of the water

Italian version 2 tbsp Italian seasoning or crumbled, cooked Italian sausage and fennel
French version 1 tbsp dried Herbs de Provence or fines herbes or bouquet garni
Spanish version 2 tbsp smoked paprika, diced, mixed peppers, 1 tbsp Sherry vinegar
Indian version 2 tbsp curry powder

You can also add your favorite diced animal protein to any version.

The Gochiso Gourmet is a column on food, wine and healthy eating. Ryan Tatsumoto is a graduate of both the University of Hawai‘i and UC San Francisco. He is a clinical pharmacist during the day and a budding chef/recipe developer/wine taster at night. He writes from Kane‘ohe, HI and can be reached at gochisogourmet@gmail.com. The views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

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