Tag Archives: spinach

Spinach Pesto with Fusilli

pesto pasta tastefood

When you think of pesto do you think of basil? Most of us do. Traditional Pesto Genovese, the ubiquitous garlicky basil puree tossed with pasta is an Italian staple. I have to admit, though, that basil is not my favorite herb. When I use it, I do it sparingly so it’s pungent flavor doesn’t overwhelm. So, when I do make a pesto I like to substitute some or all of the basil with other herbs and greens – and you should too, even if you love basil. Herb pestos are a great way to use copious greens, and a wonderful way to spread their flavor in pastas, dolloped over pizzas or smeared on crostini. They are also great as a garnish or sauce for grilled meats, chicken, and fish. Try substituting parsley, cilantro, mint – or a mixture of all of them. Greens such as arugula and baby spinach also work well. I made this pesto with fresh baby spinach leaves and added a little lemon and mint to brighten the mix.

pesto spinach jar

Spinach Pesto with Almonds, Mint and Lemon

Makes about 1 1/2 cups pesto.

4 ounces baby spinach
1 large garlic clove
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1/4 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano
1/4 cup almonds
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the spinach, garlic, mint, cheese, almonds and lemon zest in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until coarsely chopped. With the motor running, add the oil in a steady stream to blend. If too thick add a little more oil to desired consistency. Transfer to a bowl. Season with salt and black pepper.

To serve with pasta, bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add 1 pound pasta, such as fusilli, and cook until al dente. Drain. Toss with several heaping spoonfuls of pesto to coat. Serve with additional grated cheese. Serves 4.

 

Salmon and Spinach Chowder

It’s the time of year for bowl-food. When the weather is grey, wintry and cold, there’s nothing more satisfying then a big bowl of dinner. Steaming hot and full of hearty healthy flavors and ingredients, it’s meant to be eaten with big spoons and napkins to catch the dribbles.

I love to eat chowders year round, especially in the winter when creamy dishes hit the spot. I often add a number of ingredients to my chowder in addition to the requisite fish. While most firm fleshed fish work in chowders, my favorite is salmon. Its buttery oil-rich flesh shines in a creamy stock and is a perfect accompaniment to earthy vegetables, crucifers and greens.

We don’t usually have left-over salmon in our house, since it’s often gobbled up the moment it hits our dinner plates. In the rare occurrence when there is some filets left, I’ll often add them to the next day’s chowder. While this recipe starts with the premise of using raw fish, pre-cooked leftovers work just as well. Considering how expensive salmon can be, this is a great way to get two fabulous meals from one purchase. You just need to be lucky enough to have the leftovers.

Salmon and Spinach Chowder

Feel free to improvise with your greens. Kale or chard may be substituted for the spinach. If you are cauliflower-averse, you can omit it and add extra spinach.

Serves 4

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups water
2 medium yukon gold potatoes, about 3/4 pound, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 1/2 cups bite-sized cauliflower florets
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon Tabasco
1 cup heavy cream
1 to 1 1/4 pounds salmon filet, skin and pin-bones removed, cut in 3/4-inch chunks
1 bunch fresh spinach leaves, stems removed, torn into large pieces
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh chopped dill

Heat the oil and melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the water and whisk to blend the flour. Add the potatoes and cauliflower. There should be enough water to cover the vegetables. If not, add more water to cover. Simmer, partially covered, until vegetables are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the paprika, Tabasco, and cream. Bring to a simmer. Add the salmon and simmer until cooked (or heated) through. Stir in the spinach and briefly cook until bright green in color and wilted, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into soup bowls. Garnish with fresh dill and serve immediately.

Gratineed Clams with Spinach, Cheese and Crispy Lamb

clams stuffed 1 tastefood~ Gratinéed Clams with Spinach, Cheese and Crispy Lamb ~

It’s the final challenge of the Lambs + Clams Contest. For the past 4 months I have been 1 of 8 national bloggers assigned to devise a recipe using lamb provided by Border Springs Farm or shellfish from Rappahannock River Oysters, culminating in the Charleston Wine and Food Festival in March. For this final contest we received a variety pack. Think surf and turf – Lambs and Clams style – namely 2 pounds of ground lamb and 25 plump middleneck clams. I admit, these are 2 ingredients I’ve never combined in one recipe, but, hey, there’s always a first time. And I love a good challenge.

Right away I considered a Mediterranean inspired stew, imagining poached clams in a robust tomato broth, with spicy lamb keftas standing in for chorizo. But: I have already created a recipe somewhat similar to that.  It did get me thinking, though, of lamb doing double duty for something else, like, say, bacon. Now, had I received a hunk of meat, I could have made my own lamb bacon, but I had ground lamb instead. So why not spice and cook the minced lamb to a point of crispness, where it could stand in for crumbled bacon? Hmmmm.

Which brings me to the weather – as all musings and ramblings do at some point. For the record, it’s cold,  grey and  wintery at the moment, which in my book is the perfect climate for warm, cheesy gratinéed food. A picture was beginning to form of a gratinéed clam on a halfshell crowned with crispy spiced minced lamb. And since it’s the New Year when healthy resolutions abound, I added a mound of spinach to the mix.

So if you give a cook a challenge, then you get…

clams stuffed tastefood

Gratinéed Clams with Spinach, Cheese and Crispy Lamb

For the spinach:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
6 ounces spinach leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano cheese

For the lamb:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound ground lamb
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne

16 middleneck or Manila clams

Finely grated Parmigiano cheese for sprinkling
Fresh Italian parsley leaves, chopped, for garnish

Prepare the spinach:
Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Sauté until fragrant, 1 minute. Add spinach. Sauté until leaves wilt. Add salt. Transfer spinach to a cutting board. Cool slightly, then coarsely chop. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the cheese.

Prepare the lamb:
Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add lamb. Cook, stirring, until fat renders and lamb is brown. Drain and return lamb to the skillet. Add paprika, salt, pepper and cayenne. Sauté briefly to combine. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add clams. Reduce heat to medium and partially cover. Cook until the clams open, about 5 minutes. Drain clams. (Discard any unopened clams). When cool enough to handle, pry apart the shells; discard the tops. Carefully loosen the clam muscle from the shell, leaving the clam in the bottom half of each shell.

Heat oven broiler. Place a heaping teaspoon of spinach over a each clam. Top with a teaspoon of lamb. Liberally sprinkle with cheese. Place in a baking dish. Broil until the lamb is crispy brown and the clams are sizzling, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve warm.

If you like this recipe, please hop over to the Charleston Wine and Food Festival’s Facebook page where you will find all of the entries to the contest. To vote, you will have to ‘Like’ the page, and then click on the ‘vote’ tab in the navigation bar.

I would like to thank the folks at BBT’s Charleston Wine and Food Festival for sponsoring this contest and inviting me to participate. I also thank  Border Springs Farm and Rappahannock River Oysters for supplying gorgeous products for each challenge. Next month will be so uneventful without one of their packages arriving.

And have a look at the other contest participants’ blogs:
Peter Barrett @ A Cook Blog
Olga Berman @ Mango Tomato
David Dadekian @ Eat Drink RI
Gwen Pratesi @ Bunkycooks
Heather Scholten @ Farmgirl Gourmet
Cecilia Stoute @ One Vanilla Bean
Vivek Surti @ Vivek’s Epicurean Adventures

Thanksgiving Side: Spinach Gratin with Cheesy Breadcrumbs

~ Spinach Gratin with Cheesy Breadcrumbs ~

You might also call this a “fill-in-the-blank gratin.” I had spinach in the fridge, but other sturdy greens such as kale or Swiss chard will work equally well in this recipe. The preparation is simple, consisting of sautéing the greens-of-your-choice, followed by a quick nap of cream. A crunchy topping of breadcrumbs and cheese finishes the gratins in the oven. And I dare say if there is someone in your family who is less inclined to favor these leafy superfoods, this gratin may be just the vehicle to get them munching.

Spinach Gratin

There is no thickener such as egg or flour in this recipe, so the results are akin to creamed spinach in a cup, with a cheesy breadcrumb topping. Because of this, I like to serve the gratin in individual ramekins. Makes enough for 4 individual gratins.

1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano or Pecorino Romano cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped, about 1/2 cup
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
12 ounces fresh spinach leaves, coarsely chopped if large
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 375 F. Mix breadcrumbs, cheese and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper together in a small bowl; set aside. Heat oil in a large pot or deep skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and red chili flakes. Sauté 1 minute. Add spinach, cover pot and cook over medium-low heat until leaves soften, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cream and salt. Simmer, uncovered, 1 minute. Divide spinach between 4 (3/4-cup) ramekins. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and cheese. Bake in oven until tops are golden and gratins are bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve warm.

If you like this, you might enjoy these seasonal gratin recipes:
Potato Gratins from TasteFood
Broccoli Blue Cheese Gratin from Leite’s Culinaria
Roasted Yellow Beet and Ricotta Tian from TasteFood
Artichoke Hearst au Gratin from Kalyn’s Kitchen
Cauliflower au Gratin from TasteFood

Gnocchi, Cannelloni and Judy Rodgers

Ricotta Cannelloni

As they say, the best laid plans…

This week I had the brilliant idea to make gnocchi.  I found some beautiful spinach at the market, and, inspired by recipes of home-cooked comfort food, I decided to make spinach gnocchi.  I consulted with my cookbooks and settled on Judy Rodgers’ recipe from the Zuni Café Cookbook.  I love Judy Rodgers and her restaurant, Zuni Café, in San Francisco.  I have owned her cookbook for many years, even before we moved to the U.S.  Her recipe is for ricotta and egg based gnocchi – light, airy, and mildly piquant with aged Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.  I pictured ethereal dumplings delicately flavored with cheese and flecked with spinach nestling in a bowl with butter and parmesan for our dinner – sublime.

Now, perhaps, because it was a school night. Or, perhaps, because I had already spent many hours in the kitchen cooking for another event.  Or, perhaps, because it was the very nature of this recipe which drew me to it that proved to be so elusive.  Some things are just not meant to be.  This is in no way a critique of Judy, but rather a lesson in my own limitations in time and experience.  Her recipe oozes comfort and warmth.  It evokes the spirits of grandmothers past.  It implies tradition and secrets passed down through generations at the kitchen table.  It also assumes patience and deftness in the zen-like repetition of forming delicate pillows of egg and cheese.

Unfortunately, it was late Wednesday afternoon and a school night. I had one hour before I had to pick up children, help with homework, critique a current event presentation, and have dinner on the table. No grandmothers were in my time-zone, let alone my kitchen.  My gnocchi wisdom was unformed, my experience non-existent, and any questionable zen-like qualities I may have were rapidly dwindling with the hours in the day.  Nonetheless, I stubbornly plowed forward with Judy Rodgers as my guide.

As I stood over a bowl of ricotta spinach batter, eyeing the clock, I formed my gnocchi, well aware that I had no cues to work with in terms of judging my batter and its consistency, no comfort in mastering the technique of shaping and cooking the dumplings.  I noted Judy’s warning of avoiding a too-wet batter, but how to know when a wet batter is too wet?  Heeding her advice, I brought a small saucepan of water to a boil, so I could test one of the gnocchi to see if it passed the wet-test.  I carefully lowered one of my fragile almond shaped gnocchi into the water.  I waited.  I watched. The water grew cloudy and then foamy. I realized with dismay that my dumpling was exploding in slow motion.  It failed the wet-test.  I watched the deconstructed bits of spinach and cheese swirl around in the water, listening to the clock tick in the background, and made an executive decision. Stubborn I may be, but for the sake of dinner and my overall disposition in the rapidly waning afternoon, I quickly decided to go to Plan B.  A cook can also turn on a dime and improvise when need be, and a family has to be fed.  I would not be un-done by these delicate cheese and egg pillows; one-day I would master the elusive gnocchi-technique. I would even start my own gnocchi tradition, by golly.  Just not at 5 p.m. on a school night.

Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni

As for the gnocchi, the batter instantly transformed into cannelloni filling (surprisingly easy with ricotta gnocchi.)  A little more Parmigiano-Reggiano, some minced garlic, a liberal grinding of black pepper, and we were good to go.  I quickly sautéed an onion with some garlic, added a can of crushed Italian plum tomatoes, some condiments, and I had a quick 10-minute tomato sauce.

For the filling:
1/2 lb. (about 250 grams) spinach
Olive oil
2 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese
2 eggs
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Cannelloni shells, uncooked, about 12
2 cups tomato sauce (recipe below)

Wash and dry the spinach.  Cut off stems.  Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a deep skillet.  Add spinach and sauté until limp but still bright green.  Transfer spinach to a kitchen towel.  Lay another towel over spinach.  Press to extract liquid.  Chop spinach and set aside.
Mix ricotta and eggs together in a medium bowl until smooth.  Add 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, garlic, salt, pepper and nutmeg.  Stir to combine.  Mix in spinach. Using a knife, fill cannelloni shells with ricotta mixture.

Spoon a thin layer of tomato sauce over bottom of rectangular baking dish. Arrange stuffed canneloni shells in one layer over sauce.  Spoon remaining sauce over shells to cover.  Sprinkle with remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Bake in pre-heated 350 F. oven until shells are tender and the tomato sauce and cheese topping is bubbly and melted, about 45 minutes.

10-Minute Tomato Sauce:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 28 oz. can crushed Italian plum tomatoes
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan.  Add onion and garlic, and sauté over medium heat until onion starts to wilt and garlic is fragrant, taking care not to brown the garlic.  Add tomatoes, tomato paste, and oregano.  Simmer 8 minutes.  Add sugar, salt and pepper to taste.