Category Archives: spinach

Ricotta & Spinach Dumplings

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Spaghetti and meatballs is a classic comfort dish but what about switching out the meatballs for ricotta and spinach dumplings instead? That is exactly what I did when I came across this recipe from Cooking Light and all I can say is oh my goodness are they tasty. They are so good I’m not sure that I will go back to old fashioned meatballs again.

Because the ricotta cheese is featured so prominently in this recipe be sure to use one you really like. Sometimes I make my own (it really is easy) but when I don’t have the time I buy fresh ricotta cheese at my local market. The same goes for the parmesan cheese. I like to grate my own as I need it since it tastes so much better this way. Combined with the spinach, these dumplings remind me of a spinach lasagne repackaged in a new form. They are simply delicious.

RICOTTA & SPINACH DUMPLINGS

1 10-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed
1/3 cup plus 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3  ounces Parmesan cheese, shredded
2 large egg yolks
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups marinara sauce

 

  • Cook the spinach in the microwave according to package directions then allow it to cool slightly. Place spinach in a clean kitchen towel. Squeeze until very dry. You want to remove as much moisture as possible.
  • Combine the flour, spinach, ricotta cheese, salt, black pepper, nutmeg, parmesan cheese, egg yokes and egg in a medium bowl. Stir gently just until combined.
  • Sprinkle 4 tablespoons of the remaining flour on a baking sheet.
  • Drop the ricotta mixture by tablespoonfuls onto floured pan to make about 36 dumplings.
  • Sprinkle the dumplings with remaining 1 tablespoon flour, and very gently shape each into a ball; gently roll on pan to lightly coat with flour.
  • Place the marinara sauce in a large skillet over medium heat; cover and keep warm.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add 9 dumplings to water; cook for 5 to 6 minutes until the dumplings float to the surface of the water. Do not allow the water to boil.
  •  Remove dumplings from pan with a slotted spoon, and place in marinara; keep warm.
  • Repeat procedure 3 times with remaining dumplings.
  • Serve on top of your favorite pasta.

Serves 8

Tuscan Sausage & White Bean Soup

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It’s Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing I want to do is cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.
Tonight calls for soup. After a holiday season filled with rich treats and perhaps a late night ringing in the new year, tonight’s dinner needs to be easy, fast and on the lighter side while still being warming and comforting (since the weather is anything but). So soup it is. And this soup, from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe fits the bill perfectly. It is warm and satisfying without being heavy. And in true Fast Friday form, it is fast. So go ahead and make a pot tonight. Just add some crusty French bread and dinner is served.
TUSCAN SAUSAGE & WHITE BEAN SOUP

1 pound mild Italian sausage links, casings removed

1/2 cup chopped carrots

1/2 cup chopped yellow onion

3 cloves garlic, chopped

6 cups low-sodium chicken broth

2 (14.5-ounce each) cans diced tomatoes

1 (15-ounce) can Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 tablespoon dried basil

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 1/2 cups uncooked small pasta

9 ounces spinach leaves, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

  • In a large pot, cook the sausage over medium heat until browned, 3-4 minutes, breaking it into small pieces as it cooks.
  • Add the carrots, onion, and garlic, and continue to cook, stirring often, until the sausage is cooked through, 5-10 minutes.
  • Add the broth, tomatoes, beans, basil, salt and pepper.
  • Bring the soup to a boil.
  • Add the shell pasta, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pot. Cook for about 8-10 minutes, until the pasta is tender, stirring occasionally to make sure the pasta isn’t sticking.
  • Stir in the spinach and simmer for another minute until the spinach is wilted.
  • Serve sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.

Serves 6

Spanakopita

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I love Greek food but outside of Greece I find that its quality is hit or miss. When we lived in Virginia one of my favorite annual events was the Greek Festival hosted by the local Greek community. It was right in our neighborhood so we were able to walk to it to enjoy the delicious foods that was all homemade. Here in Belgium the Greek community hosts a similar event each June and we always attend to enjoy the food, music and dancing. Of course nothing rivals the amazing Greek foods we’ve had when we’ve actually been in Greece. Whether on the islands or the far northern reaches of the country, the food from local tavernas has been the best I’ve ever eaten. It is classic, comforting and unpretentious.

Inevitably, whenever I have a really good Greek meal I come home with the intent of replicating the food myself. I’ve learned that the key to the best replications is to use genuine ingredients that actually come from Greece. Case in point is this spanakopita which I’ve adapted from Martha Rose Shulman’s Mediterranean Harvest cookbook. Spanakopita is a classic Greek dish and is always my test of whether a restaurant is good. If the spanakopita is good chances are the other dishes are as well. With its flaky crust and generous dose of spinach, leeks and feta cheese, this version is just like the ones I’ve eaten in Greece.

SPANAKOPITA

2 1/2 pounds fresh spinach, rinsed, stemmed and minced

4 large leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing

1 bunch of flat leaf parsley, stemmed and chopped

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced

1/4 cup fresh dill, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 1/2 cups feta cheese, crumbled

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

12 sheets phyllo dough

1 egg white, lightly beaten

  • Heat the oil in a large skillet set over medium high heat.
  • Add the spinach and saute, stirring regularly, until the leaves begin to wilt. This should take about 2 or 3 minutes.
  • Add the leeks and continue to saute, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly brush a 12 inch baking dish with olive oil. Set aside.
  • Place the spinach and leek mixture in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the parsley, rosemary, dill and thyme.
  • Add the eggs and feta cheese then season with the salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir well until everything is combined.
  • Brushing olive oil between each sheet, layer 7 phyllo sheets in the prepared baking dish, placing them so that they overlap each other.
  • Scrape the filling onto the top sheet of phyllo then fold all of the sheets over the filling.
  • Layer with the remaining phyllo sheets, brushing with olive oil between each layer.
  • Stuff the edges of the phyllo into the edge of the dish.
  • Brush the top of the pie with the egg whites then using a sharp knife, cut 5 to 6 slits into the top of the spanakopita.
  • Place in the oven and bake until the top is golden brown, about 45 to 50 minutes.
  • Serve hot or at room temperature.

Serves 6

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The whole pie

Chili Garlic Shrimp & Noodle Stir Fry

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It’s Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing I want to do is cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

Shrimp are one of my favorite fast food finds and this recipe, adapted from Cooking Light. highlights shrimp at their best. Not only do they cook up quickly but they are packed with protein and their mild taste makes it the perfect companion for bold flavors. Before stir-frying the shrimp I quickly pre-cook them in a coconut milk bath. This plumps the shrimp and infuses them in a slightly sweet flavor that readies the shrimp for what comes next. Then a soy and rice vinegar sauce tempered with honey makes for a slightly sweet and tangy base for this stir fry while the garlic and jalapeno peppers add a bit of punch. Add in some crunchy vegetables and rice noodles and you have dinner in a bowl. Enjoy!

CHILI GARLIC SHRIMP & NOODLE STIR FRY

8 ounces rice noodles
20 ounces medium sized shrimp, cleaned and deveined
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 jalapeño pepper, sliced
1/2 cup julienne-cut carrots
1 cup green onions, sliced
2 cup sliced bell peppers
8 ounces baby spinach

  • Cook the rice noodles according to the package instructions. Drain, rinse with cold water, drain again and set aside.
  • Heat the coconut oil in a large wok set over medium high heat.
  • When the coconut milk comes to a simmer, add the shrimp and cook for 2 minutes. Drain the shrimp and set aside. Discard the milk and wipe down the wok.
  • Combine the vinegar, soy sauce, honey, fish sauce, and cornstarch in a small bowl. Set aside.
  • Heat half of the canola oil in the wok set over high heat. Add the crushed garlic cloves and sliced jalapeño pepper; stir-fry 30 seconds. Remove mixture from pan and add to the reserved shrimp.
  • Add the remaining canola oil to the wok. Add the carrots, green onions, and bell pepper; stir-fry 3 minutes.
  • Stir in the vinegar and soy sauce mixture and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Add the noodles, the shrimp, garlic, jalapenos and spinach to the wok and cook for 2 minutes.

Serves 4

 

Sausage Tortellini Soup w/ Garlic Croutons

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It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion.  If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

Here is another satisfying and delicious soup idea that is adapted from the Noble Pig. The soup includes spicy sausage (substitute sweet or mild Italian sausages if you prefer) and tender tortellini in a herb filled tomato broth. And don’t forget the croutons since they are really the finishing touch for the soup. Feel free to use slightly stale bread or a different combination of herbs if desired.

SAUSAGE TORTELLINI SOUP w/ GARLIC CROUTONS

For the soup:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound spicy Italian sausage links, cut into bite sized pieces

1-1/2 cups chopped onion

cloves garlic, finely minced

4 cups low sodium chicken broth

1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon dried oregano leaves

1 tablespoon dried basil leaves

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon dried red chili peppers

1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

10 ounces fresh spinach and cheese tortellini

4 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves

For the garlic croutons:
1 loaf French bread, cubed
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon paprika
To make the soup:
  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet set over medium heat.
  • Add the sausage and cook, stirring frequently until cooked through and browned on all sides. Move to a paper towel lined plate.
  • Add the onions to the pan and saute until soft; about 8 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  • Meanwhile, add chicken broth, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, basil, sugar, chili peppers, pepper and salt to a large, heavy bottomed soup pot. Bring to a boil.
  • Add the onion-garlic mixture and simmer, uncovered for about 10 minutes.
  • Add tortellini and cook according to package directions, usually about 7-9 minutes.
  • Stir in the cooked sausage and stir in spinach until just wilted.
  • Serve immediately topped with the garlic croutons.

To make the croutons:

  • While the soup is simmering, melt the butter in a large skillet set over medium-high until foamy.
  • Sprinkle the garlic powder, basil, thyme and paprika to the butter.
  • Add the bread cubes and toss until well coated.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and tossing frequently, cook until the bread is crusty and toasted on all sides, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Serves 4

Greek Chicken Pasta

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It’s Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing I want to do is cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

Who doesn’t love an easy yet tasty pasta meal? I know I certainly do and this chicken pasta dish adapted from the Noble Pig doesn’t disappoint. The chicken adds protein to the dish while the addition of spinach makes this a complete one pot meal. The feta and olives give the dish a Mediterranean flair. Depending upon what I have on hand, I’ve used both Greek and Spanish olives so simply choose one you like. If you are short on time or have leftovers, use rotisserie or pre-cooked chicken. Simply add the chicken in during the final step and cook until heated through.

GREEK CHICKEN PASTA

12 ounces spaghetti

3 Tablespoons olive oil

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed

1 large onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

12 ounces baby spinach

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes

1 cup whole olives of your choosing

1 cup toasted pine nuts

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

  • Cook spaghetti as package directs.
  • While the spaghetti cooks, heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.
  • Add the chicken breasts and tossing regularly, cook until browned on all sides, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Add in the onion and the garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
  • Stir in the spinach, wine, oregano, chile flakes, olives, pine nuts, salt and pepper.
  • Drain pasta and return it to the pot.
  • Add the chicken and spinach mixture and cook over medium heat until warmed, about 4 minutes.
  • Transfer to plates and top with feta cheese.

Serves 4

Greens & Potato Goat Cheese Tart

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Let me just say that whether they are sweet or savory, I love rustic tarts. Without a crust requiring fussy details or intricate rolling, they are just so simple and forgiving. I think quirkiness is part of their charm. So whether you are looking for a light dinner, an appetizer or even a brunch item, this rustic tart is for you. The basic recipe is from Cooking Light but I’ve tweaked it to make it my own (in other words, to accommodate the ingredients I could find). For my greens I used a combination of baby spinach and kale which when combined with the potatoes made for an earthy and satisfying tart filling. Any combination of hearty greens can be substituted. And the goat cheese? Who doesn’t love goat cheese.

The tart makes a perfect light dinner option when paired with a salad or it can be served either hot or at room temperature as an appetizer. Enjoy!

GREENS & POTATO GOAT CHEESE TART

1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1/4 cup water
5 cups leafy greens (spinach, kale, Swiss chard)
1 cup vertically sliced red onion
1 cup thinly sliced potatoes
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup goat cheese, crumbled
  • Combine the flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and baking powder in a food processor; pulse 2 times to combine.
  • Combine 1/3 cup oil and 1/4 cup water in a small bowl.
  • With processor on, slowly add oil mixture through food chute; process until dough is crumbly.
  • Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead 1 minute; add additional flour, if necessary, to prevent dough from sticking.
  • Gently press dough into a 5-inch disk; wrap in plastic wrap, and chill 30 minutes.
  • Using both stems and leaves, chop the greens to equal 5 cups.
  • Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat.
  • Add the greens and the onion to the pan and sauté for 4 minutes.
  • Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, potato, and thyme. Remove from heat; cool.
  • Preheat the oven to 375°.
  • Unwrap the dough and roll into a 14-inch circle on a floured surface.
  • Place dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or lightly coated with non-stick cooking spray. Spread the greens and potato mixture evenly over dough, leaving a 2-inch border.
  • Fold edges of dough toward center, pressing gently to seal (the dough will only partially cover the greens and potatoes.
  • Sprinkle pepper and cheese over chard mixture.
  • Bake at 375° for 40 minutes or until browned. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting into wedges.
Yields: 12 wedges
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