Archive for the ‘Spinach’ Category

Pasta E Fagioli Salad with Fennel

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

I promised you a recipe using the Florence fennel I harvested the other day, and for a change, I’m delivering in a timely fashion.  Fresh produce waits for no one!  This salad is a take on a traditional Italian dish, Pasta E Fagioli, or pasta and beans.  Mediterranean peasant food is my all time favorite.  If I have to be more specific, then it would the simple practical Tuscan dishes which utilize fresh seasonal produce, cheese, hearty breads, and leftovers.

My sister, the world traveler, just gifted me this tin of cold pressed organic olive oil she picked up on a recent trip to Cyprus. I thought this recipe would be worthy of such a high quality olive oil. Some day I would love to visit Greece and Italy, but for now I’ll have to live vicariously through my sister’s traipsing around.

Pasta e Fagioli Salad with Fennel
4 ounces whole wheat penne (1 1/2 cup dry)
1  15 oz can Cannellini Beans (of course, I recommend organic)
1/2 medium bulb Florence fennel, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
1 cup halved cherry or grape tomatoes
1/4 cup onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
Juice of 1/2 lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
3 tablespoons good extra virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste (I used a little more than a teaspoon of salt)
Small bunch of greens of your choice

Cook the pasta according to package directions.  I’m always sure to salt my cooking water because I hate bland pasta.

Combine the beans, fennel, tomatoes, onion, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper in a roomy bowl.

Drain the pasta and toss with the bean mixture. Place greens on a platter or plates, and spoon mixture on top. Garnish with chiffonaded basil.

I would have preferred to use my favorite arugula, but my current planting isn’t ready yet. I still had a little bit of spinach left in the garden, so that’s what I was stuck with.  Cress would be a good choice for greens also.  I guess I like anything with a bit of a peppery bite.

Pasta Verde

Monday, June 28th, 2010

I have a problem…. I freely admit it…. I’m a pasta addict. I’ll eat the stuff in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and colors. I’ll eat it with red sauce, green sauce, white sauce, no sauce!.  I don’t know if I’ve ever met a pasta I wouldn’t eat.

One of my favorite cookbooks (and I have way too many) is The Pasta Bible. If you like to make pasta, and make it frequently, then I highly recommend adding this book to your collection. The spine of my book is broken, if that tells you anything about how much I’ve used it.

Like any good addict, I’ve also got paraphernalia to accompany my addiction. My husband is my enabler. He gave me my paraphernalia as a Christmas gift about 14 years ago. My paraphernalia is a Cuisinart pasta extruder.  The machine has been discontinued, but the company that made it for  Cuisinart  is still around, and they manufacture a similar Lello pasta maker. Even better, Lello’s machine costs much less than mine did. Fourteen years of service is a great testimonial to this work horse of a pasta machine. Also, if you own a Kitchen Aid mixer, I’ve been hearing great things about the pasta attachment available for use with it.

The following recipe works great for my machine, which does all the hard work. All I have to do is dump the ingredients into the mixing bowl and let it mix for several minutes. Then I stand there and cut the pasta to the desired length as it comes out of the extruding die. Assuming most of you don’t have a machine, I should probably provide a tutorial on making pasta by hand. The gal who wrote this tutorial uses a hand crank machine, but you can use a rolling pin.

This pasta’s  vibrant green color comes from chlorophyll.  If you missed it, you can learn how to extract chlorophyll in my previous post

Pasta Verde

4 cups durum semolina flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 eggs
1/4 cup chlorophyll

Place the eggs and chlorophyll in a measuring cup and mix together.  You need exactly 1 cup of liquid. If needed, add enough water to the mixture to bring it up to 1 cup.

Add your liquid ingredients to your dry ingredients according to the method you are using (make a well in the flour and add the liquid ingredients to the well if you are making pasta by hand). It should look something like this when you’re finished mixing.

Once your pasta dough is mixed you can roll it out and cut it, or in my case stand there and cut the pasta as it comes out of the machine.  I made rigatoni.

A few comments on my ingredients.  I try to use as many local and organic ingredients as possible. However, I live in a rather remote community where organics can be difficult to obtain.  I use organic, free range eggs from my own flock, but organic semolina is a difficult animal to locate and I’ve been forced to have it shipped in. A great place for organic grains and flours is Heartland Mill out of Kansas.

Extracting Chlorophyll from Leafy Greens

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

Chlorophyll extraction is considered an advanced cooking technique, which I think is ridiculous considering how easy it is.  I was surprised to discover that you can’t find much on the Interwebs about chlorophyll in cooking.  You ask, “Chlorophyll in cooking?  Huh?”  Chlorophyll imparts a beautiful green, tasteless color to foods. Additionally, it is very healthy.  If you’d like to do some further reading, here’s more information on chlorophyll than you ever wanted to know.

I’m going to cover chlorophyll in two parts.  Part 1 will be extraction. In Part 2 I’ll show you how to use chlorophyll to make gorgeous Pasta Verde. Also, I’ll follow up with a recipe using the pasta to make a  salad I’m planning to take to an annual family reunion on the 4th of July.

I hate waste.  When my spinach or arugula bolts I have a problem with pulling it up and throwing it on the compost pile.  Using bolted greens to extract chlorophyll is my solution to “wasting” the leafy greens that I go through so much trouble to grow in my  little garden.

This morning after the dew had dried, I cut the spinach stalks and stripped the leaves.  I ended up with a little over half a pound of spinach.  I plant small 18 x 18 inch square patches of spinach and arugula several times throughout the growing season, so I almost always have some available.  I have two  favorite varieties of spinach.  Monstrueux De Viroflay, an old French Heirloom variety,  is planted in the cooler temperatures of spring, and again in early fall for overwintering.   Summer Perfection, a heat tolerant variety from Renee’s Garden Seeds,  is planted once summer temperatures gear up.

The next step is to macerate the spinach with some water.  I used about 2 cups of water for my half pound of spinach, placed it in my food processor, and whizzed the behoozit out of it (thanks to my friend Tina for that wonderful new addition to my vocabulary).

Once the greens are processed, strain the pulp through a jelly bag or a couple of layers of fine cheesecloth or butter muslin to obtain a deep, dark green juice.  Squeeze as much liquid as possible out of the pulp. The pulp is what my compost pile finally gets.

This next part is the cool part! Place the juice in a heavy, stainless steel sauce pan and gently heat over medium heat to approximately 150 degrees. Be careful not to let it get too hot.  What you’ll be watching for is the chlorophyll to separate from the water portion of the juice.  You know you’re there when it looks sort of like algae floating in murky green pond water.

Remove from heat and pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer. Press very gently on the green paste in the strainer to remove some of the excess water (which I throw on my compost pile). The green paste is your chlorophyll. If you won’t be using it immediately, cover and store in the refrigerator.  It’s best if used within a couple of days.  I’ve never done it before, but some day I plan to experiment to see if it will freeze well.  I got about 1/4 cup of chlorophyll from the half pound of spinach.  1/4 cup is what will be needed for a batch of Pasta Verde.