spinach

This isn’t a recipe that I would have been excited by before my “Veganist” epiphany. Nancy Harmon Jenkins’ dish relies on Spanish chorizo. I’ve yet to find vegetarian chorizo so made due with Tofurkey brand Italian sausage. To make the olive oil redden, I added a bit of sweet paprika. (In the full on meat version, the chorizo has the paprika inside, which imparts a reddish color as it cooks.

Spanish-style chickpeas with spinach and veggie sausage

Spanish-style chickpeas with spinach and veggie sausage

I like Jenkins’ book, The Essential Mediterranean, a great deal. The recipes are often familiar, though like this one, many are new to me. She structures the text a bit differently in that after the intro, each section has a long and rather engaging discussion of the main ingredients for that section, including their history in European cuisine and her own personal anecdotes. So the book is practical and yet like an educational travelogue all at once. Sort of blog-like really…

I had already prepared my dried chickpeas so diverged a bit from her instruction here. I don’t think that it made too much difference. Next time I think that I shall try a different type of veggie sausage. The texture and taste weren’t quite what I’d hoped. Nevertheless, the recipe itself is sound.

Spanish-style chickpeas with spinach and veggie sausage

2 cups prepared chickpeas
2 medium onions, both peeled, one left whole, the other chopped
3 bay leaves
Small bunch of Italian parsley
4 tbsp olive oil
1 lb baby spinach
3 cloves garlic
1 package of veggie sausage of your choice, cut into bite-sized rounds
1 tsp paprika
Salt and black pepper to taste
Water

Begin by placing chickpeas into a medium pot with the whole peeled onion, bay leaves, parsley, some salt to taste and enough water to just immerse them. Simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes to flavor them. Remove and discard onion, parsley, and bay leaves. Reserve some of the cooking water and drain the rest.

Add olive oil, chopped onion and garlic to a hot skillet with a pinch of salt. Sauté for a few minutes until onion starts to get tender then add sliced veggie sausage and paprika. Cook for a few minutes. Add chickpeas with a bit of reserved water. Heat through. Add spinach and black pepper. After spinach just wilts, adjust flavors and serve.

{ 6 comments }

This recipe is a slightly modified version of the one on the back of my Trader Joe’s “Southern Green Blend” pre-washed and chopped bag of greens. The greens include mustard, turnip, collards and spinach. Usually I just sauté some garlic in olive oil then cook the greens until they’re just beginning to wilt. That’s tasty (I don’t cook my greens to death. I know that’s a popular way in Southern cuisine but I like a bit of texture in mine.) But I was feeling a little bored so thought I‘d try this instead.

spicy mixed greens in tomato, olive garlic sauce

spicy mixed greens in tomato, olive garlic sauce

You’re supposed to use Roma tomatoes and those dull canned black olives as well as Kalamata and the green with pimentos. I didn’t have all that so I did my best. The greens themselves tend to be a bit peppery and bitter. Done this way, the flavors are softened a bit by the sweetness of tomato and the salty tang of olives. The lovely heat comes from the Italian basil, garlic and chile condiment

my used bag of Trader Joe's Southern Greens Blend

my used bag of Trader Joe's Southern Greens Blend

spicy mixed greens in tomato, olive, garlic sauce

3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup olive oil
1 heaping teaspoon (or more) Italian basil, garlic and chile condiment
1 bag Southern Greens or make your own mix
½ cup Kalamata olives, pitted and cut in halves
½ cup green olives with pimentos, sliced
½ small can tomato paste and about twice that much water
Salt and black pepper to taste

Sauté garlic in olive oil with some salt for a minute or so until it begins to cook. Add the Italian basil, garlic and chile condiment and stir. Toss in the olives, tomato paste and water. Simmer for a bit until paste begins to dissolve. Add greens and cook, covered, until the texture is to your liking. Add more salt and pepper as needed.

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Until just this week when the rain finally hit with a vengeance, I’ve been feeling that light joyful mood that I always have in spring-like weather, you know: energetic, hopeful and hungry for something new. That, of course, has inspired me to continue my adventures in the kitchen. So here we are. I made a sun-dried tomato and red bell pepper tapenade as a party dip but had leftovers. The flavor was quite intense, so I thought it would work perfectly as a filling for ravioli.

ravioli filled with sun-dried tomato and red bell pepper tapenade and mozzarella

ravioli filled with sun-dried tomato and red bell pepper tapenade and mozzarella

I know that people shy away from making their own pasta, and I used to be like that, too. Now I love it. Sure it is a bit of a job—mainly the kneading is a pain. But I prefer to think of it as a necessary work-out to get my desired marvelous result. Running the dough through the pasta machine is a snap now that I’ve gotten a replacement clamp to hold the device to my countertop. Plus that part is really quite soothing.

my hand-cranked pasta machine

my hand-cranked pasta machine

I made the dough using the same recipe and technique from my last ravioli post, which I’ll copy-and-paste here to make things easier. This time I took pics of the pasta with each run through the machine so you can see how long it gets. This does take some space in the kitchen as the sheets of dough grow ever longer. I moved a lot of stuff out of the way and covered most of my counters with clean dishtowels before I started with the machine.

The filling was just the tapenade, some mozzarella and a bit of parmesan cheese. After I boiled my ravioli for about 5 minutes; I lightly sautéed it in olive oil, garlic and fresh spinach. Mmmm!

ravioli filled with sun-dried tomato and red bell pepper tapenade and mozzarella

for the dough:

2 cups flour (I used all purpose)
3 eggs

for the filling:

2 red bell peppers, stems, seeds and ribs removed, cut into large chunks
3 cloves garlic
½ cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil
2 tbsp olive oil
12 kalamata olives, pits removed
Pinch dried oregano
Salt and black pepper to taste
1/3 pound part-skim mozzarella
2 tbsp parmesan

for the sauté:

3 tbsp olive oil
1 bunch whole spinach leaves, large stems discarded
5 cloves garlic, sliced
Salt and black pepper to taste

to prepare dough for ravioli:

Usually you’re supposed to pour the flour on a work-surface then mix in the egg. Counter space is at a premium in my tiny kitchen so I beat the eggs for a couple minutes in a small bowl, then mixed them with the flour in another. Then I dumped everything onto a floured surface and kneaded it for eight (8) minutes. (I set my kitchen timer.) The kneading is the key step and really it is sort of magical as about seven minutes on, suddenly the flour-egg dough starts to do something amazing! It turns into pasta! You can feel it in your hands literally changing. Sure, that is what you’re making so should not come as a surprise to anyone. Nevertheless, whenever I make pasta, I am always stunned that it actually works!

my lump of dough after eight minutes kneading

my lump of dough after eight minutes kneading

Roll dough into a ball then cut it into six equal pieces. With your pasta machine on the widest setting, roll each piece through once. Then fold the edges of each piece together towards the middle and pass it through the machine again, still at the widest setting. Repeat with each piece so that they’ve all been rolled and folded about three times. When not working with a piece, lay it on a clean kitchen towel and be sure not to let it touch any of the other dough.

After that, reduce the width of your pasta maker by one notch and pass each piece through. They will slowly start to get longer. Repeat at next lower notch and so on until you get to the penultimate. By now, your dough should be quite thin and very long. Once you’ve finished set aside.

dough pieces after first setting on machine

dough pieces after first setting on machine

dough pieces after second setting of machine

dough pieces after second setting of machine

dough pieces after third setting on machine

dough pieces after third setting on machine

dough pieces after fourth setting of machine

dough pieces after fourth setting of machine

dough pieces after fifth setting of machine

dough pieces after fifth setting of machine

they're getting big now on the sixth setting

they're getting big now after the sixth setting

the seventh setting is getting blurry--I must have been more tired than I thought

the seventh setting is getting blurry--I must have been more tired than I thought

the dough after the eighth setting--we're ready to go

the dough after the eighth setting--we're ready to go

to prepare filling:

First make tapenade by sautéing red bell peppers and garlic in olive oil until tender. Add to food processor with sun-dried tomatoes, olives, oregano, salt and black pepper. If too thick, add a bit more olive oil. I used about one and a half cups.

Shred mozzarella. Mix cheeses with tapenade.

to assemble ravioli:

placing the filling on the pasta

placing the filling on the pasta

finished glider-shaped raviolis

finished glider-shaped raviolis

Place about a teaspoon full of filling along prepared dough strips, roughly three inches apart from one another. To seal, dab your finger in some water, rub water along edges of dough and between mounds of filling. Carefully fold dough over filling, press down to remove air pockets. Cut between mounds of filling to create individual ravioli. I folded mine into triangular shapes, thinking of our recent adventure with hang-gliders. Set aside but be sure not to let them touch one another. Makes about three dozen.

to make final dish:

Boil ravioli in salted water about 5 minutes. Meanwhile sauté garlic in olive oil for about a minute. Add spinach, salt and black pepper. Drain ravioli and toss into wilted spinach. Fold together and serve.

{ 5 comments }

I adapted this marvelous garbanzo bean recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook, Plenty.

sautéed chickpeas with Swiss chard, spinach and labneh sauce

sautéed chickpeas with Swiss chard, spinach and labneh sauce

I like so many things about Ottolenghi’s book: plenty of them. In particular, from reading and trying out his flavorful recipes, I realize now that unknowingly we’ve been using principles from and eating PLENTY at home all along. Ottolenghi focuses my attention on the process and the order in which ingredients are added or combined to a dish to maximally preserve the individual flavor and freshness of each, while combining harmoniously in a final dish that will taste even better. Here the aromas and volatile components present in herbs such as mint and cilantro, and the powerful presence of garlic all play their individual roles, adding layers of complexity to this meal. I feel I am acting sort of like one of the Iron Chefs today, trying awkwardly to explain myself to the panel of celebrity judges. Yet in a simple dish made with ingredients as prosaic as beans sometimes you truly can find poetry.

sautéed chickpeas with Swiss chard, spinach and labneh sauce

6 cups cooked chickpeas
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
6 medium sized carrots, peeled and cut into ½ inch chunks
2 bunches rainbow Swiss chard
2 cups pre washed spinach leaves
1 tsp cumin seeds
5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 tbsp fresh mint, julienned
2 tbsp cilantro, julienned
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper

for the labneh sauce:

¾ cup labneh
Water
Kosher salt
Olive oil

Wash Swiss chard in lots of water. Separate stalks from leaves. Cut stalks into ½ inch segments. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Drop the Swiss chard stalks in, cover and cook for a couple of minutes. Add chard leaves and cook for a couple of minutes more. Add spinach leaves in the last 30 seconds. Drain.

Add half of the olive oil to a sauce pan on high heat. Next add cumin seeds followed by the carrots and sauté for about 5 minutes. The olive oil will get tinted orange from carrot and the air will be infused with the scent of cumin.

Add chick peas, chard and spinach, give it a good stir. Cook for about 8 minutes. In the last minute of cooking add garlic, cilantro, mint, salt, pepper and the rest of the olive oil. Remove from heat. Taste and adjust flavors if needed. Transfer to a serving platter

To make the labeneh sauce, place labeneh in a bowl, add about 1/3 cup of water and whisk until it reaches the consistency of a thick yogurt. Add salt, pepper and olive oil to taste. Spoon it over the chick peas and serve.

{ 7 comments }

vegetarian bi-bim-bap

by Heguiberto on December 2, 2011

I’ve wanted to make bi-bim-bap at home forever but have always been put off by the amount of work involved. All that chopping, individually cooking everything then assembling the dish seemed monstrously time-consuming and a bit annoying. The bi-bim-baps I’ve had at Korean restaurants are all served in one of those really hot stone pots (dolsot). Often you just crack a raw egg over the dish, mix all the lovely ingredients together and enjoy. The egg cooks perfectly in the hot pot and the rice at the bottom forms this marvelous toasted crust of which I’m particularly fond. Delicious!

colorful and flavorful vegetarian bi-bim-bap

colorful and flavorful vegetarian bi-bim-bap

I remember as a kid every now and then my mother would burn her rice and get super upset about it. What to her was a disaster to me was a treat because I loved eating the slightly burned and smoky crust. Anytime I eat bi-bim-bap I feel that there is somehow a bit of Brazil in the dish.

I regard bi-bim-bap as a version of paella or pilaf. All of them are rice dishes mixed together with other ingredients. Here are some other recipes for it: here, here and here.

fern brake

fern brake

My dish calls for what to me is a novel ingredient, fern brakes. I found these dried and rehydrated at my local Korean market. I bought both types but since they need to soak overnight, I used the rehydrated ones. They have a lovely tea-like aroma and mild flavor, somewhat like subtle fiddlehead ferns.

To make this vegan, simply leave off the eggs.

vegetarian bi-bim-bap

1½ cups Thai Jasmine rice
3 small zucchinis – julienned with a bit of salt sprinkled over
2 medium carrots – julienned
1 cup broccoli florets
2 bunch spinach
3 eggs
½ red bell pepper – julienned
½ orange bell pepper – julienned
1 container brown beech mushroom
1 cup of soy bean sprouts (nato sprouts)
1 cup fern brakes
1lb firm tofu cubed
8 cloves garlic minced/smashed
2 heaping tbsp Gochujang hot pepper paste
3 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp soy sauce
olive oil
toasted sesame seed oil
sea salt

To make the rice:

Add 1 tbsp olive oil to a saucepan on temperature high. Add rice and give it a good stir. Add 2½ cups of water, stir again. Bring to a boil, stir again. Reduce heat to simmer for about 15 minutes, until water has been absorbed. Remove from heat let it rest, lid on for another 15 minutes.

To prepare veggies:

slicing all the veggies for vegetarian bi-bim-bap

slicing all the veggies for vegetarian bi-bim-bap

All veggies must be cooked separately.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Drop in broccoli florets and cook for a minute or so. Transfer to a bowl.

Drop in spinach and let it blanch for a minute or so, transfer to a colander, allow it to cool down a bit. Squeeze to remove as much water as possible.

Using the same saucepan add soybean sprouts and a dash of salt and cook for 10-12 minutes. Strain and squeeze to remove water.

Add 1 tsp of olive oil to a skillet, 2 cloves of garlic minced and sauté until aromatic. Add bean sprouts and cook for few minutes. Season with one tablespoon of soy sauce and ½ tsp sesame oil. Set aside.

Wipe skillet and return to burner. Add 1 tbsp olive oil, 2 garlic cloves minced and mushrooms. Sauté mushrooms on high heat for a couple of minutes. Sprinkle with some salt, cover the pan and let the mushrooms sweat. Set aside.

Wipe Skillet with a paper towel. Add ½ tsp of olive oil, 1 clove of minced garlic and sauté. Add spinach and cook for another minute, season with 1 tsp of soy sauce. Set aside.

Wipe skillet off again. Add ¼ tsp olive oil. Drain zucchini; add to skillet and sauté for 1 minute. Set aside.

Repeat process, this time with no oil with peppers and carrots.

Return skillet to stove. Add 1 tsp of olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic minced, cook until aromatic. Drop in fern brakes and sauté for a couple of minutes, towards the end add 1 tbsp soy sauce and 1 tsp of sesame oil. Set aside.

layering some of the veggies over the rice

layering some of the veggies over the rice

adding the soy bean sprouts to the bi-bim-bap

adding the soy bean sprouts to the bi-bim-bap

To prepare pepper sauce:

Meanwhile, mix rice wine vinegar, 3 cloves of garlic minced and Goshujang pepper paste together. Once all mixed it should have the consistency ketchup. Taste it and adjust flavors if necessary. Look for spice, sweet, umami and sour flavors. The paste will be used as a condiment to the Bibimbap at the table.

To assemble dish:

Add a few drops of sesame oil to a non stick paella pan. Using a paper towel rub oil all over its surface including border. Add cooked rice and press with a spatula, making sure the surface and borders are filled. Cover, bring temperature to high and cook for about 10 minutes. This is where rice develops the smoky, brown, nutty slightly burned crust.

Time to assemble the dish! Place cubed tofu in the center over the toasted rice; arrange mounds of each of the ingredients interchangeably along the border, forming a kind of flower pattern. Cover and let it warm through. Serve with fried egg sunny side up and dollops of Goshujang sauce on top of everything. The flavors are out of this world!

rewarming everything before serving

rewarming everything before serving

You can serve this dish with banchans, or side dishes, like pickled cucumbers or/and kimchi. I was going to serve both but forgot to bring the kimchi to the table.

{ 4 comments }

Okay here’s a recipe using the prosaic spinach. But is this nutritious every-day green really dull, as that expression would imply? I simply adore sautéed leafy vegetables. Think collard greens, kale, Swiss chard, broccoli rabe, mustard greens and of course spinach: all incredibly tasty and healthy. Normally at home we make them simply, sautéed with garlic, olive, salt, occasionally embellished with a squirt of lemon juice one day; another day, sprinkled with a few nuts; or with fresh ginger; maybe with a pinch of parmesan cheese. The variations go on and on and on, to borrow a phrase from a dear friend. One of our earliest blog posts, running the spinach marathon, has several tried-and-true spinach creations.

Korean inspired sautéed spinach

Korean inspired sautéed spinach

What makes this spinach sauté “Korean,” aside from the fact that it comes from The Kimchi Chronicles, is Marja’s idea that a Korean version uses copious of garlic and a touch of good soy sauce drizzled over it at the very end. I am never afraid of using garlic and love soy sauce, so to me this is another delicious way of cooking a sautéed leafy green vegetable.

Korean inspired sautéed spinach

2 large bunches spinach, cleaned, towel dried. Remove part of the stems if too long
6 large cloves of garlic, peeled
3 tbsp canola oil
Dash of soy sauce

With the flat part of a knife smash garlic on cutting board surface then mince.

Place a large saucepan on stove top, add canola oil and bring temperature to high. Oil needs to be almost at smoke point. Add garlic and sauté until aromatic and slightly tanned (not burned). This only takes a few seconds. Add spinach and stir so garlic at the bottom doesn’t burn. Cover and cook for a couple of minutes more. Transfer to a serving platter and drizzle soy sauce over it. Serve as a side dish.

To make this into a more substantial main course, you can toss it with soba noodles. Yumm.

{ 4 comments }

orzo with spinach

by Heguiberto on September 9, 2011

I haven’t made this dish in ages! It is so satisfying and good, yet, for some reason orzo seems to have fallen out of fashion in our household. Now I am determined to make that right again. I only wish we could find more varieties here in SF. I remember in the Big Apple orzo came in many different colors, brands, sizes and shapes. Clearly I need to shop, maybe in North Beach.

orzo with spinach

orzo with spinach

You can serve this as a side or main dish. We had ours with poached salmon in lemon sauce.

orzo with spinach

1 lb orzo
2 lb organic spinach leaves: try the curly type (Bloomsdale) they are more flavorful
6 cloves of garlic, cut into thin slivers
5 tbsp grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt to taste
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp pine nuts

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add orzo and cook per instruction in the package. Drain.

Dry roast pine nuts in a skillet for about a minute, remove from heat and set aside.

Return skillet back to burner. Add 3 tbsp of olive oil. Toss in garlic and sauté until aromatic. Add spinach in three batches and cook until wilted (it is okay if some leaves don’t wilt fully, they will in the dish). Toss in orzo, season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat. Add cheese, remaining olive oil and pine nuts. Adjust flavors with more salt, pepper!

Makes about six servings.

{ 6 comments }

I love palak paneer, that Indian dish of spinach and cheese, but every time I go to Indian restaurants I tend to stay away from it. There’re a couple of reasons. The first is that the color of the dish scares me a bit. So often, the spinach has that uninviting rusty grayish green shade that says, “I’ve been sitting here forever waiting for you to order me.” Not good.

palak tofu or Indian pesto with tofu

palak tofu or Indian pesto with tofu

But don’t get me wrong on this. Usually, I find that most types of curries, including the ones I make at home, taste even better after they get some rest. Somehow the flavors intermingle more harmoniously. Not so with palak paneer. I don’t think that it improves with rest: it just discolors.

My second “issue” is the ghee. Restaurants are very fond of that ingredient, which I know is extremely popular in India, too. But not for me. I get indigestion when I overindulge. I’m just not used to so much butter. It is true that palak (spinach) and paneer (Indian cheese) are a bit bland by themselves. And ghee does have flavor. But come on. Indian cuisine is so rich with spices, isn’t there something else that might spare my stomach and waistline?

On my quest to find the ‘ideal’ spinach curry I bumped into this interesting blog, and this other one, and this one. Then I improvised.

I think I finally nailed it. The recipe is healthy, nutritious and completely vegan. Here paneer was replaced with firm tofu, ghee was substituted with olive oil and to add creaminess and thickness, I added ground cashew nuts. We had it with carrot and cumin flavored basmati rice, minus the carrots. Steven thought it sort of resembled Italian pesto based on the ingredients and preparation method, hence my alternate name.

palak tofu or Indian pesto with tofu

1 large container of fresh spinach, leaves only (1lb)
3 jalapeño peppers, seeds partially removed, chopped
2 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves
1 container firm tofu, cubed
1 medium white onion, cubed
3 ripe Roma tomatoes
¾ tsp grated/ground fresh ginger
5 tbsp minced cilantro
¾ tbsp grated/ground garlic
½ tsp cumin seeds
3 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp raw cashew nuts
Kosher salt to taste

Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a pot on high. Add jalapeño peppers and sauté until soft. Add spinach and continue sautéing until wilted and volume reduced to about ¼. Set aside.

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Cut top of tomatoes off and make a cross incision at the other end. Plunge them in hot water and remove when skin curls. Let tomatoes cool down a bit, peel skins off and cut into cubes. Set aside.

Add some salt to hot water used to skin tomatoes, pour it over tofu and let it soak for about 10 minutes. Drain on paper towel. Add two tablespoons of olive oil to a skillet and gently toast/sauté the tofu cubes. Turn the heat off and keep it warm.

Place cashews in a skillet and toast them for a couple of minutes without burning them. Add to food processor and grind to a paste. Add sautéed spinach/jalapeño pepper mix, cilantro and fenugreek. Continue processing to a paste. Set aside.

sauteing tofu and preparing palak sauce

sauteing tofu and preparing palak sauce

Meanwhile heat remaining olive oil in pan, add cumin and toast until aromatic. Add ginger and garlic, stirring until raw smells are gone. Toss in onion and cook until translucent. Add spinach mix, salt to taste and cubed tomatoes, stir to combine and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Keep stirring to prevent sticking.

Either gently fold in tofu or plate it as we did here. Serve with rice.

{ 8 comments }

spinach narcissus

February 11, 2011

Of course I was initially drawn to this recipe because of its name: spinach narcissus. It has a beautiful ring to it, don’t you think? Instead of the character disorder, this dish represents the springtime daffodil, or narcissus, blooming over a bright green lawn. The sunny-side up eggs do sort of look like daffodils to […]

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seafood vegetable nabe

January 7, 2011

Nabe (sometimes called nabemono) is a brothy soup made with a hodgepodge of vegetables, seafood and meat that is prepared with all of the aforementioned items combined into endless “weirdcombinations.” If you have not tried classic nabes such as Oden, Sukiaki, Shabu-Shabu or Chanko Nabe you are definitely missing out! They are all delicious and […]

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