Tag Archives: spinach

Yes! BAKED Broccoli, Spinach and Feta Empanadas (using store-bought disks)

24 Feb

Here is the second installment of 2014: The Year of the Empanada. After my first installment, in which I fried up my stuffings in Goya pre-made disks, I was showered with questions about whether they could be baked instead.

I wasn’t sure, but thanks Kathy Blenk for reporting back that she tried it and indeed they could!

How to pinch in those cute folds

How to pinch in those cute folds (photo Marianne Goralski)

So I decided to go for it as well (later in the year I hope to make my own, but one thing at a time) and was very pleased with the results. Continue reading

Spinach or Chard or Kale Pasta – the fastest pasta in my arsenal

15 May

When it is crunch time – 5:30 p.m. and nothing planned for dinner, or 10 p.m. and nothing made for Leandro’s lunchbox, I do not despair. As long as there is a bag, or half bag of frozen spinach or chard or kale in the fridge, a box of pasta and some garlic (and there pretty much always is), I am good to go.

Leafy greens are powerhouses in the veggie world. Kale provides calcium, Vitamins A, C, and K, potassium and folate. Chard has vitamins A and D. Spinach has iron. And best of all, my son, who I started on garlicky, cheesy pureed spinach on pasta as one of his first solids, doesn’t really differentiate among them, so I can vary at will. Start your kids on the good stuff early, I am telling you!

Second best of all? They are all terrific from frozen bags.

And third? You can throw the frozen greens right in with the boiling pasta…ladies and gentleman, this is a one-pot convenience meal par excellence.

I have posted a similar recipe before, with options for freezing the sauce for baby food, but this time I am giving you the bare bones with how to handle each green. You can, of course, also use fresh greens, but our spinach and chard isn’t ready for harvest yet, so I am still using bagged.

Pasta with Dark Leafy Greens

(this can be halved for smaller meals)

1 lb. pasta of your choice (the curly short kind or farfalle/bowties grip the greens best)

1 lb bag frozen chopped spinach, kale, or chard

2-3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

salt and hot red pepper flakes to taste

abundant grated cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano) or 1/2 cup crumbled feta

Bring abundant salted water to the boil. Add pasta and, if using kale or chard, add that immediately too. If using spinach, add halfway into the pasta cooking time.

Drain the pasta and vegetables and return the empty pot to the stove at medium heat. Let any residual water boil off, then add olive oil, garlic and optional hot red pepper flakes to the pot. Cook garlic gently until browned, then add pasta, greens and cheese to the pot. Combine thoroughly, salt to taste and serve.

Pasta with Tomatoes, Spinach, Goat Cheese and Black Olives (feeds a crowd!)

22 Mar

The planting season is picking up at Restoration Farm, the C.S.A. that we belong to at the historic Old Bethpage Restoration Village here on Long Island. I say that as if I were right in there, pruning the apple trees and preparing the beds and raising those heritage birds, getting dirty and sweaty in honest, sacred labor on the land.

Uh, well, not exactly.

Farming has always been more theoretical than hands-on in my life. Sure I have come out to volunteer at the farms we have belonged to, but in all honesty, since I’ve had Leandro, it’s been more about picking a couple of pea pods, then taking him to see the pigs or the chickens  or to the bathroom, rush, rush, than it has been about actually doing anything useful in an agricultural sense.

This year will be different, in two ways:

1) We have a little more sun in our yard these days, thanks to some trees that had to come down. Last year we did some experimental container gardening to gauge where we could actually grow vegetables. Now that we’ve established that, we will be putting in some raised beds this year and trying to grow more stuff for ourselves.

2) Leandro is more self-sufficient and mature and I have hopes that our volunteering days at the farm will be less like outings to the zoo and more like real contributions.Call me crazy, but a girl’s gotta dream…..

In the meantime, we attended the season-opening potluck at the farm last Sunday and — while I listened with longing, yearning, and almost dismay as the real farm folks told me with great enthusiasm about everything they’ve been doing in the last few weeks — I tried to keep positive about what is to come for me in the world of growing things! (and we have started peas, tomatoes, peppers and culantro from seed this week).

This was my contribution to the potluck…it seemed to go well for everyone (except my own traitorous offspring who decided he didn’t like the look of it and proceeded to stuff his face with the stuffed shells and the two different baked macaroni and cheese, and the Hardscrabble chicken — anything but my dish, the one I had made thinking he’d love it; thanks for the support, little dude) and I had enough to bring in for my esteemed colleagues. At least one has decided that she doesn’t have to cook this week thanks to this abundant, rich, very easy and super-tasty, creamy dish.

You’ll be able to use this recipe next time you have to feed a bunch of people with stuff you already have on hand!

Pasta with Spinach, Tomatoes, Goat Cheese and Black Olives

1.5 lbs penne or other short pasta

6 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic, sliced thin

½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes (more if you want it spicy)

28 oz canned of diced tomatoes (or two Cups fresh)

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

10 oz – 16 oz frozen spinach

20-30 pitted black olives, sliced

½ Cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano or pecorino

6 oz fresh goat cheese (chévre)

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Reserve ½ cup of pasta water, drain and keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic and red pepper and cook at medium low until softened and golden, about 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes, and salt and pepper to taste (if using fresh tomatoes, cook until they begin to soften) and then add spinach, cooking at medium low until the spinach is heated through and incorporated, about 5 minutes. Add olives.

Add the pasta and the grated cheese (and tablespoons of the reserved pasta water if the sauce is too thick) and stir until the pasta is fully coated. Add the goat cheese, mix well (but gently) and serve, with additional grated cheese if desired.

Macaroni and cheese with style (yes, you can make a roux) and spinach

6 Aug

The perceptive examiner of the picture in this post will probably agree that I did not choose an auspicious time to tart-up a macaroni and cheese dinner. I should’ve reached for a box of Annie’s Organic (and believe me, as much as I believe in a home-cooked meal, I reach for the Annie’s with great frequency in stressed times) rather than set out to make a white sauce while my over-tired, over-heated, under-snacked and therefore unpredictable pre-K maniac was in the room. If you decide that I am actually the maniac for trying it, well, I won’t argue.

A proper white sauce is creamy and smooth and tonight’s, while creamy, was not quite as smooth as normal. But I decided to post anyway, because I want to convince you that making a roux isn’t so hard. If I could do it passably well under this evening’s circumstances, imagine what you can do with better timing and fewer interruptions. And to those who get too critical, I say most of the lumpiness in the picture is due to the cheese, which I do not allow to cook much at all, since I don’t want it to get hard or stringy!

A roux is a mix of fat and starch and it adds thickness to dishes. The idea is to get the fat to activate the starch in your flour without burning it. It is the binder for a rich gravy, a thick gumbo, and unctuous macaroni and cheese. This one is blonde – which means it is not colored, so it requires little precision. All you have to do to make this happen is watch your temperature and keep stirring. I mean it.

For more background on roux try Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roux

To make your own, try this!

Creamy, cheesy and easy

Macaroni and cheese with style and speed (and spinach)

½ box pasta of your choice, 6-8 oz (we prefer small shells for this)

1 Cup frozen cut or chopped spinach

2 Tbs butter (salted is fine)

4 tsp all-purpose flour

¾ Cup whole milk

½ Cup grated grana padano or parmigiano reggiano or other cheese of your preference, grated fine for even melting

Salt to taste and additional grated cheese to taste

Cook pasta according to package instructions, adding frozen spinach 4-5 minutes before pasta is ready. Drain and set aside.

In the meantime, melt 1 Tbs butter in a heavy skillet at low heat (save 2nd Tbs for later in the recipe). When any foaming subsides, stir in flour 1 teaspoon at a time, stirring frequently until each teaspoon of flour is completely blended in. Then continue stirring while mix (roux) thickens into a paste. Continue cooking at least five minutes, stirring frequently to avoid burning or coloring (you need this cook time to get the floury taste out).

Add milk and raise heat to medium and stir frequently until liquid becomes thick and creamy. Stir in cheese, stir just enough to mix and then add pasta and spinach mixture and reserved butter. Mix thoroughly and salt to taste. Serve with additional grated cheese.

Cheesy Chard Pasta

7 Mar

Chard is one of those leafy greens everyone should eat more of. It’s actually as delicious in winter as in summer and provides calcium and all sorts of other nutrients and has a bit more body than spinach (but can be used in much the same ways with a little extra cook time).

My son loves spinach pasta (which appears in an earlier post “My kids loves spinach” https://hotcheapeasy.wordpress.com/2010/11/02/my-kid-loves-spinach/) and never notices the difference when I serve the chard variation. He especially digs in when I use curly, frilly or curvy pasta that he can get his eager litle fingers all over– I am attributing that to a chromosomal enthusiastic male response to visual stimuli that I have been hearing a lot about lately.  That’s hot!

It is also fast and easy and really hearty-comforting.

Chard Pesto for Pasta (serves four)

1 lb. fiore (pinwheel) pasta

2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

3-5 cloves garlic, chopped

(1/8 tsp hot red pepper flakes, optional)

1 lb. chard, washed, stems removed and chopped fine*

1 Cup broth or water

Salt and pepper to taste

Several Tbs grated cheese (preferably parmigiano reggiano or gran padano) or crumbled feta or, why not both?

Cook pasta according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a generous skillet with a cover. Add garlic and stir around for a minute or until turning golden and fragrant. Add hot red pepper flakes if desired. Add chard and stir to coat. Sauté chard until bright and beginning to wilt, then add water or broth. Bring to a simmer and cover, turning occasionally. The idea is for the chard to really soften, which will take 10-15 minutes. If you run out of cooking liquid, add a ladleful of water from the pasta pot. If I want the chard really fine (to encourage more consumption by my toddler, I will spread the cooked chard on a cutting board and chop some more when it is a bit cool.

 Drain pasta and mix with sauce and a generous amount of grated cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

*Save the stems, chop and use in another recipe; they are delicious as part of a stir-fry or just sautéed with onions to top burgers.

My kid loves spinach!

2 Nov

So yesterday’s lentil soup got the thumbs up from the little guy, who had it over rice this evening (spicy chorizo bits removed), and from his godmother, who took her share to work today for lunch (spicy chorizo bits most definitely left in!).

While we were eating that, I took my own advice and put a pot on the boil, because in my life you always have to be thinking about the next day’s grub.

The quicky solution for tomorrow’s lunch? What I call spinach pasta. It originated from the aglio-olio-pepperoncino dish that I learned to make immediately upon moving to Italy many years ago.

The original recipe is just good extra virgin olive oil, sauteed garlic and some hot, red pepper flakes on spaghetti. Couldn’t be more simple or more tasty. Somewhere along the way I started adding chopped spinach to the mix. Then, when Leandro was born, the hot, red pepper flakes fell out (which is really too bad, but, I anticipate, only temporary).

It became one of those sauces that I made a lot of, pureed and froze in ice cube trays to defrost for his lunches once he was eating solids and going to daycare.

(Important mommy note: start your kids on strong flavors from the beginning. Bland is bullshit and starts you on a long and boring road of pasta with butter and crappy chicken nuggets from which you and the children may never entirely recover).

Now that he’s a big boy, he gets the spinach chunkier and he loves it with loads of grated Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano or Gran Padano — I spring for the real grating cheese, as the powdered fake stuff is truly appalling. This is the recipe most requested by his caregivers at school! Make enough to freeze half and use it within a month.

BONUS EASINESS – frozen spinach works best! Yeah, I am a goddess.

Spinach and Garlic Pasta (serves 4)

1 lb  frozen, chopped spinach, thawed

2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

3-4 cloves garlic, minced 

1/4 tsp salt

Abundant grated Parmigiano Reggiano, Gran Padano or other high quality grating cheese (do not add if freezing)

1 lb pasta of your choice (I like the corkscrew kind, like fusilli, because it traps more spinach that will then make it into a kid’s mouth). Use half the amount if freezing half the sauce.

Boil up the pasta following the package instructions and for God’s sake add the salt. Add lots of it. Please. Most of it will go down the drain and pasta cooked in bland water will taste like cardboard.

Now if I don’t feel like dirtying another pot, I just dump and drain the pasta when it’s ready and make the sauce in the same pot. Put it back on the heat to dry (lower it to medium), get the oil in there and warm it up, add the garlic, sautee until fragrant and just golden (lower the heat more to be safe), (ADD hot red pepper flakes now if you want some heat) then add the chopped spinach and coat thoroughly, warming through and adding about 1/4 tsp of salt. At this point, remove what you plan to freeze, then grate loads of cheese into the remaining spinach mixture. Add the pasta and serve, or pack up for heatable lunches the next day. Really. It’s that easy.

Variations: We get a lot of chard and collard greens and kale from our C.S.A. Remove the hard stems and chop fine, then give them the same treatment as the thawed spinach, except I cook it longer and add water in 1/4 Cup increments during the cooking until tender. I can fill it in with a last minute handful of spinach too. Leandro never knows the difference and dark leafy greens provide a lot of nutritional punch (even calcium!)

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