Sunday, January 24, 2010

Roast Pepper Sauce for Spinach Malfatti

After two weeks of not cooking and one trip to the farmer's market, I've spent pretty much the entire weekend in the kitchen.  I came across the cookbook 400 Sauces on clearance at Borders, and this recipe sounded really good.  And it is.  It reminds me of the ricotta gnocchi I made with red pepper sauce, only the tomatoes in the sauce definitely made it better.  The book says that "malfatti" is Italian for "badly made" since they aren't evenly shaped

Spinach Malfatti
1 1/4 lb baby spinach
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tbsp olive oil
12 oz ricotta cheese
3 eggs
1 scant cup breadcrums
1/2 c flour
2/3 c grated Parmesan cheese
nutmeg, to taste

For roast pepper sauce
2 red peppers, seeded and quartered
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
14 oz can chopped tomatoes (I used no salt added)
salt and ground pepper to taste

  1. Make the sauce.  Roast the red pepper in the broiler until they blister and blacken.  Cool slightly then peel and chop the flesh.  I chopped the onion and stemmed the spinach while the peppers were roasting, though technically, I think you are supposed to do all the prep work at the beginning.
  2. Heat the oil in a large pan and saute the onions and peppers for 5 minutes.
  3. Add tomatoes and 2/3 cup water and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to boil, then lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  4. Puree the mixture in a food processor or blender, the put in a clean pan.
  5. Make the malfatti.  Trim any thick stalks from the spinach, wash well.  Blanch the spinach in boiling water for a minute.  Drain, refresh under cold water and drain again.  Squeeze spinach dry and chop it finely.
  6. Put finely chopped onion, garlic, olive oil, ricotta, eggs and breadcrumbs in a bowl.  Add the spinach and mix well.  Stir in flour and a tsp of salt with half the parmesan.  Season to taste with pepper and nutmeg.
  7. Roll mixture into 16 small logs and chill slightly (I didn't chill because there was no room in fridge and it was raining outside, but this made it break up a lot more when cooking).
  8. Bring a large pan of water to the boil.  Carefully drop in the malfatti in batches and cook them for 5 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon.
  9. To serve, reheat the sauce and divide it among four plates.  Arrange four malfatti on each and sprinkle the remaining Parmesan.  I however, topped it with the sauce.  Maybe when I eat leftovers tonight I'll do it the other way.  I'd take a picture but my camera's battery is dead.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Spicy Red Lentil Soup

I made this a couple months ago and haven't written about it yet.  This recipe is thanks to the 400 Best Budget Recipes from ctheflute :).  I bought split red lentils last time I went to the farmers market and realized that either the recipes with split red lentils were not that good or I didn't like them.  But I had about 4 cups that I needed to use.  Then I found this recipe.  It wasn't the best lentil recipe ever, but it was the best split red lentil recipe I've found and it was cheap and used some ingredients I don't use very often (namely fenugreek and, well split red lentils)

Spicy Red Lentil Soup
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 fresh red chili, seeded and finely chopped*
1 carrot, grated
scant tsp ground fenugreek
2-3 tbsp olive or sunflower oil
1-2 tsp cumin seeds (I would probably recommend ground instead)
1-2 tsp coriander seeds (I used ground)
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 generous cup red split lentils (this means 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp)
7 1/2 cups veggie stock (I'm pretty sure I cut this down to 3 cups veggie stock and 2 cups water)
Salt and pepper to taste

Chopped red onion for serving

  1. Heat oil in heavy pan and stir in onion, garlic, pepper, cumin and coriander seeds.  When onion begins to color, toss the carrot and cook 2-3 minutes.  Add the fenugreek, sugar and tomato paste. Stir in the lentils
  2. Pour in the stock, stir well and bring to the boil.  Lower the heat, partially cover the pan and simmer for 30-40 minutes until lentils have broken up.
  3. Serve straight from the pan or blend for a smooth texture.  Sprinkle with red onion.

*Since this will likely be a habenero, you should use gloves to seed and chop it

Two Weeks of Black Beans

So over the past two weeks, I've been studying and therefore unable to devote much time to cooking.  So what did I do?  I cooked up a bag of dried black beans and made them my staples.  I made refried black beans cooking them up with some coriander, oregano, and cumin and put those on quesadillas and rice cooked with cilantro (and topped with cheese and salsa) as my definition of comfort food.  I threw some beans in a can of tomatoes with cumin, garlic, red pepper and a frozen cilantro cube and put it over polenta.  But my most exciting recipe was an adaptation of Rachel Ray's pumpkin black bean soup (adapted because I forgot to buy onion and garlic and didn't want to buy cream because I wouldn't have any other use for it, since I haven't been cooking/baking).  Oh, and I made it waaaaaaaaay to salty, so I tried to cover it up with spiciness and a couple frozen cilantro cubes.

  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 3 cups canned or packaged vegetable stock, found on soup aisle
  • 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes in juice
  • 2 cups cooked black beans
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree (found often on the bakingaisle)
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder, 1 palm full
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin, 1/2 palm full
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, eyeball it in the palm of your hand
  • Coarse salt
  • Some combination of oregano, garlic powder, coriander
  • 2 frozen cilantro cubes (=2 tsp finely chopped cilantro)
  • 2 shredded carrots


Heat a soup pot over medium heat. Add oil. Add broth, tomatoes, black beans and pumpkin puree. Stir to combine ingredients and bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and stir in spices and carrots to taste. Simmer 20 minutes, adjust seasonings and serve  Rachel Ray says use chopped chives, I say it's January and fresh herbs are expensive.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Comfort food: Warm Salad with Poached Egg

All the rich food of the holidays (and the amount of meat my family eats relative to what I eat when I cook for myself) makes me crave something simple and comforting.  One of these things that I crave is black beans in just about any form.  But I also find eggs very comforting.  Eggs are one thing I have trouble working with, which is weird given the amount I cook.  I really can only scramble them, but I've been working on learning to poach them because I like the vinegary flavor.  And I'm getting better.  But then once you have a poached egg, there are tons of things you can do with it.  And thanks to the "400 Best Ever Budget Recipes" book, I found a very simple, delicious, and healthy recipe that I love.  And that's what this blog is supposed to be about, right?  And another bonus: easily makes food for one, so no muss, no leftovers, plain and simple.

Warm Salad with Poached Egg
Mixed Greens
Shredded/sliced Cheese (I can't remember what the book recommends, but I use whatever white cheese I have on hand, I really liked it with Asiago)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic minced or pressed (pressing means you can do the entire recipe without a knife or cutting board, making less clean up, especially if your sink is just a little too small to comfortably wash a cutting board)
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste (I like to throw a little Italian seasoning in)
(the recipe also calls for croutons, preferably homemade/dried bread, but I don't really like croutons enough to keep them around and the beauty of the recipe is it's made of stuff I normally have in my refrigerator so it doesn't require any planning)
1. Poach egg.  First thing is crucial to bring the egg to room temperature.  Plus the fresher, the better.  Beyond that, I am by no means an expert in this department, but what I've found that works is in a shallow pan (but not a frying pan, deeper than that) bring a few inches of water with a splash of white vinegar to a boil.  Reduce heat to bring water down to a simmer.  Break the egg into a small heatproof bowl or slotted spoon and ease into the water by letting a little into the bowl or dipping the spoon in before dumping the egg in.   Simmer for 5-7 minutes?  I simmer until poking the egg with a spoon doesn't leave any egg goop on the spoon.  This usually means the egg ends up overcooked, so you might want to follow someone else's directions here.
2. Rinse greens and tear into bite sized pieces.  Top with cheese (if sliced, tear into small pieces)
3. Once egg is cooked, remove from pan with slotted spoon and put it on top of the salad.
4. In the same pan (yes, I know there are eggy remains in it, but that makes it fun) saute the garlic in the olive oil.  Add balsamic vinaigrette, salt, and pepper (and Italian seasoning, if desired) and heat until warm.  Pour over salad.  This doesn't make much dressing so you might want to add a little bit more oil/vinegar.  But it's warm and comforting and heating the dressing makes the cheese just a little bit soft, which is tasty.