Posts Tagged spinach
I learned to make empanadas from my aunt, who was born in Argentina. I’ve never been able to match the beautiful little folds she makes to hold the edges together, but I love to make them anyway. There are a zillion ways to fill them (you can even make dessert empanadas), and I’d encourage you to experiment with different fillings. Here’s one that I think works really well.
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1/2 cup carrot rounds
- 1 cup diced potatoes
- 6 oz fresh spinach
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp melted butter
- 6 empanada wrappers
Preheat your oven to 350°.
Brown the beef with the olive oil and set aside. Cook the carrots and potatoes until soft, then add the spinach, parsley, and salt and pepper. Sweat the spinach down for about 2-3 minutes. Combine with the beef and remove from heat.
I buy frozen empanada wrappers at the local ethnic grocery store because I’m way too lazy to make them fresh – it is a LOT of work.
Spoon the filling onto the empanada wrappers and fold in half. Moisten the edge of the wrapper with water and turn up the edge to close the wrapper. Pinch the two sides together firmly.
Brush the top of the empanada with melted butter and cut several vent slits in the top. Bake for 25 minutes.
Eat carefully – the filling will be hot!
This is a quick, easy side dish that I make all the time in different variations.
- 8 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
- 9 oz fresh spinach
- 1 oz very fatty bacon, cut small
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp garlic powder or 1/2 clove fresh garlic
- 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
In a large pan, render down the bacon on medium heat. Cook it until it has just begun to crisp up, and has released most of its fat. If you’re using fresh garlic, add it in at this point and cook for about 1 minute. Add in the spinach and cook until just softened. Next, add the mushrooms and seasonings, and cook until the mushrooms are tender. Turn off the burner and drizzle in the vinegar, stirring thoroughly. Serve hot.
Totally simple, completely delicious.
We went out to a Brazilian steakhouse Monday night for a birthday dinner, and I ate a quantity of meat that I might describe as obscene. So, for dinner the following night, I felt like maybe we should have something light.
A good veggie burger is satisfying without being heavy. There are lots of varieties of veggie burgers, based on any number of main ingredients, including things like textured soy protein. This recipe results in a very soft patty with a really good flavor that makes no attempt to taste like beef. It’s also dark green and swampy looking, so be warned.
- 2 cups cooked beans
- 8 oz raw mushrooms
- 1/2 lb fresh spinach
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 3 sprigs of fresh oregano
- 10 fresh sage leaves
- 3/4 cup flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 3-4 tbsp sesame oil
The first six ingredients go into the food processor. I’d recommend doing the spinach first, and breaking it into two batches, then setting it aside once it’s pureed finely. Once everything is broken down, combine it thoroughly. You should be able to dump it all back into the food processor if you have a 7-cup model, if you don’t feel like doing a lot of hand mixing.
Blend in the flour gradually. You may need to adjust up or down. The texture you’re looking for is like thick oatmeal.
Pour the sesame oil into a pan and heat it up until it’s just starting to shimmer. Spread the batter (for lack of a better word) out 1/2″ thick in your desired patty size. Cook on medium-high heat until the bottom solidifies and browns – it will take several minutes. Don’t try to flip it too soon or it will break apart.
Once the patties are cooked on both sides, slide onto a bun and top with your favorite salsa, and you’re ready to go.
I served these with sweet potato fries, which I’ll post tomorrow.
These baked stuffed shells are nice and cheesy, and really form a full meal in a single dish.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 10 oz frozen spinach, thawed
- 15 oz ricotta cheese
- 12 oz box of jumbo shells (conchiglie)
- 2 cups marinara sauce
- 1/2 lb shredded fontina cheese
- Salt to taste
Cook your shells to al dente, strain, and rinse with cold water to stop them from cooking further (and keep them from sticking together). Set them aside.
Press the excess water out of your spinach using a colander and/or paper towels. You want to get as much water out as possible, or your filling will be thin and runny. Mix the spinach thoroughly with the ricotta. Salt to taste.
Set your oven to 375° and let it heat while you stuff each shell with the filling. Place the stuffed shells in a single layer in a baking dish. You may not fill all the shells – I had about 4 left over. The dog was happy to take care of them for me.
Pour the marinara evenly over the shells. Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the top.
Bake for 15 minutes or until the cheese is completely melted and the sauce is bubbling.
This makes four servings.
Tonight’s post is a nice tidy little example of the fact that I am an imperfect chef at best. The dish I made wasn’t a disaster or anything – it was tasty, I assure you – but it certainly did not go entirely as planned.
The fumbling started at the grocery store. I got to the checkout line with:
- 2 13-oz. tubs of marinara sauce
- 1 15-oz. tub of ricotta cheese
- 1 10-oz. package frozen chopped spinach
- 1 lb. of ground turkey
- 8 sheets of fresh whole wheat lasagna noodles
I knew I had shredded cheese at home, but I didn’t realize that all I had was parmesan. Lasagna isn’t really lasagna without mozzarella. So that was my first mistake. Well, the first mistake I noticed…When I got home, I put everything in the refrigerator, including the frozen spinach, because in the past I have forgotten to thaw the spinach and it’s a pain in the ass to do so right when you need to be using it. So I was okay there.
My lovely assistant stopped off at the store on the way home and bought mozzarella. I should have specified that I needed a big bag of mozzarella. I didn’t. The bag he bought was clearly not going to go very far.
No worries, though! Strength through adversity, or some such.
Here are a few things I did right:
- Start a big pot of water boiling – I used the smaller of my two stock pots for this. You want the lasagna noodles to have plenty of room.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Melt a few tablespoons of my trusty garlic and herb butter and brown the turkey in it. The turkey should be cooked through, but just barely.
- When the water boils, gently lower each sheet of lasagna into it. Since this is fresh pasta, it cooks very quickly. Don’t let it boil too vigorously, as it will tear.
- Combine the ricotta and the spinach in a bowl.
Here are all my ingredients when I started out:
I pulled the lasagna sheets out of the pot and rinsed them lightly with cold water after about four minutes of gentle boiling, then patted each one dry with a paper towel to remove excess liquid.
It was at this point that I realized the dimensions of the noodles were wildly different than those of my pan. This was not an insurmountable issue – I cut the noodles so that they would fit widthwise rather than lengthwise. The first layer into the pan was noodle, then marinara.
I dished up the marinara with this adorable little ladle. Fun fact: it’s from a children’s cooking set I bought at IKEA. One of the fun things about their kids’ toy kitchen stuff is that it’s all real – the little tiny pots and pans are stainless steel, as is this cute little thing. And it’s perfect for small tasks.
At this point, I noticed another minor stumbling block: there was no way I had enough marinara. I tried to make the sauce layer thin, to stretch what I had.
Next the ricotta and spinach mixture.
Then another layer of noodle.
Then the parmesan.
Then another layer of sauce, then most of the mozzarella. There definitely wasn’t enough.
After the cheese layer, I put down another layer of noodles. There were two full sheets left – not sure what I’m going to do with them.
Lastly I spread out the turkey…
…and the last of the marinara and cheese. I didn’t get much coverage.
The dish went into the oven for 25 minutes and came out pretty and browned:
When I cut into it, though, there was a lot of extra liquid. I think I probably should have drained the ricotta and spinach, and maybe used a thicker red sauce than the marinara I bought. More cheese would have been better as well – I should have gotten enough to put some on each layer.
However! The final product was delicious. I had seconds. It isn’t going to win any awards, but as far as eating it goes, I had no complaints. This was an experimental preparation – I didn’t follow a recipe, and the last time I made lasagna myself was three or four years ago, using a very different array of ingredients.
This is a fine example of what I am always telling my friends who are afraid to cook: experiment! Don’t be scared to screw up! There are certainly ways to prepare food that will render it inedible, or burn your kitchen down, or make yourself sick, but in general, the worst that can happen is that it will taste bad.
I certainly don’t recommend you follow the steps I have here to the letter, because the result is not what I wanted. Still, all the ingredients I listed above are worthy, and I encourage you to play with them. Ricotta and spinach are great in conchiglie (pasta shells), and ground turkey is a very nice replacement for ground beef or pork in just about any application.
So, in summation: tonight’s experiment constituted a failure, in some ways. But I learned some lessons and I had a tasty dinner, which I consider a victory.
Get out there and try stuff