Comfort Food Lightened Up: Heathy and Delicious Recipes

Tang, one of my closest friends in college. Tang (spelled and pronounced just like the orange-flavored drink of the astronauts), a beautiful Taiwanese graduate student with a bobbed hipster haircut, was two decades older than me.


  • 1 pound dried white beans
  • 1 28-ounce can Tuttorosso Peeled Plum Italian Style Tomatoes, drained, with juices reserved
  • Olive oil, Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, as needed
  • 2 meaty and smoked ham hocks, about 2 pounds total
  • Zest of half a lemon, removed in strips with a vegetable peeler
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 small head savoy cabbage, cored and cut into strips
  • 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs

Put the following in a spice bag:

  • 1 medium carrot, cut in half
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled, halved
  • 1 small head of garlic, unpeeled, cut in half crosswise
  • 1 celery stalk, cut in half
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 1 small dried red chili, such as de árbol


1. The day before cooking, pick through the beans and remove any debris. Soak them in a large pot of cold water and cover generously, and let sit for at least 12 hours or overnight. (Otherwise, to quick-soak the beans, put them in a heavy 6-quart pot and add water to cover by about 2 inches. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat off. Let soak for 1 hour.)

2. The day of cooking, season drained Tuttorosso tomatoes with salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a shallow bowl and let sit for at least 20 minutes. Set aside.

3. Drain the soaked beans and put them in a large pot. Cover the beans with the reserved tomato juice and enough water to submerge them. Add the ham hocks and the spice bag. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook for a few minutes while skimming the surface.

4. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour or longer, until the beans are nearly tender, adding a little water if necessary so that the beans and the spice bag remain just barely submerged.

5. When the beans are nearly tender, add the lemon zest, the white wine, and 1 tablespoon of salt and continue to simmer until the beans are completely cooked and the remaining liquid is reduced and a little saucy. Adjust the seasoning and discard the spice bag.

6. If the beans are done before the ham hocks are completely tender, transfer the hocks to a small saucepan along with some bean cooking liquid and additional water to cover. Simmer gently until the meat is fork-tender; let the hocks cool in the broth; and then return the broth to the beans. Remove the meat from the bones and return the meat to the beans. Leave in a very low simmer to keep warm.

7. Heat a large, heavy skillet and 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the cabbage, season well with salt and fresh pepper and sauté over medium high heat for 3 minutes until the cabbage begins to lightly color and is slightly wilted. Do this in batches if necessary to not overcrowd the pan. Roughly chop the marinated Tuttorosso tomatoes and add to the skillet. Continue cooking over medium heat for another 2 minutes until tomatoes soften. Mix in the parsley.

8. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Combine the cabbage and meat mixture with the beans and their thickened broth and transfer to a large shallow casserole dish. Top with breadcrumbs and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and bake at 350° F for 35 minutes or until the casserole is very hot throughout and the breadcrumbs are golden brown. Remove from oven and let rest before serving.

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Part of the secret of a success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.Mark Twain

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