Store pre-washed and spun greens in a ziplock bag or plastic container lined with a dry paper towel in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks (spinach has a long shelf life if stored properly). Excess moisture causes rot. Cut greens perish more quickly if stored wet in a plastic bag.
Blanch pre-washed (and chopped, if desired) greens in boiling water for 1 minute. Plunge into an ice water bath to cool. Drain and wring out as much water as possible. Form into convenient serving-size balls. Wrap balls in plastic wrap and freeze in quart or gallon-size freezer bags.
Fill a large bowl or dishpan with cold water. Add greens and swirl around vigorously. All the dirt and sand will sink to the bottom. Lift greens out of basin and into a salad spinner or colander. Spin greens to dry or drain as best you can and dry on towels.
Spring is the ideal time to savor the unique gifts of spinach: the earthy succulence of its leaves in salads; its melting tenderness when sauteed; the chalky taste it leaves in your mouth; its natural marriage to tangy feta and smooth milky ricotta, not to mention good old heavy cream. Now is the time to roll up your sleeves, roll out some fresh pasta, and elevate spinach to its highest potential: lasagna, manicotti, ravioli.
- 3-4 cups cooked, chopped spinach (or other greens)
- 1 cup bechamel (see below)
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup milk or cream
- 1/2 cup parmesan
- 1 tsp salt
- bread crumbs
- For the Bechamel
- 4 tbsp butter
- 4 tbsp flour
- 4 cups milk, heated
- salt and pepper
- ground nutmeg
Preheat oven to 375. First, prepare the bechamel. In a saucepan, melt butter and whisk in flour. Keep whisking a minute or two to cook the raw flour but be careful not to let it brown. Slowly whisk in the hot milk and be sure to stir out any lumps. Continue whisking over medium heat until thickened to the point where it coats the back of a spoon. Stir in salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg.
Next, beat the eggs in a large bowl and combine with milk, bechamel, cheese, salt and pepper. Combine with the cooked greens and pour into a buttered baking dish and top with a light coating of bread crumbs. Bake until firm and brown on the edges.
- For the paneer
- 1/2 gallon whole milk
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- Canola oil for frying
- For the saag
- 1 lb spinach
- 1 lb mustard greens, turnip greens, or broccoli rabe
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
- 1-3 fresh green chilies, chopped
- 3 Tbsp canola oil
- 1 Tbsp cumin seeds
- 1 cup water
- 1-2 tsp salt, to taste
- 1/2 stick butter (optional)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)
- 1 tsp garam masala
Indian food always seems like a mystery. You try cooking it at home and it never seems to taste like it does at the restaurant. Many home cooks just assume that Indian food is inherently too complex to even try, but the methods can actually be pretty simple, as in this recipe (apart from the home cheese-making, that is).
Bring the milk to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, taking care not to let it come violently to a boil and make a mess of your stovetop. Just as it comes to a boil, add the salt and lemon juice and stir gently until the curds separate from the whey, about 30 seconds.
Drain the curds in a colander lined with cheese cloth. Gather up the cloth and squeeze out the remaining whey. Put the curd ball, still in the cloth, on a plate and weigh it down with another plate and a heavy object such as The Joy of Cooking. Leave for a half hour or so, pouring off the liquid that accumulates from time to time.
When the paneer is fairly dry, heat 2 -3 Tbsp of canola oil in a non-stick skillet. Cut the paneer into cubes and fry them in the hot oil, turning gently, until brown on 2 or 3 sides. They brown pretty fast, so watch out. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.
Wash the greens and chop them. For the best flavor, you need spinach AND another type of green. Heat the oil in a capacious skillet or wok over high heat. Add the cumin seeds and stir until the pop and become aromatic. Add the garlic, ginger, and chilies and fry for a few minutes, until the garlic becomes sticky and golden. Add the greens, salt and water and cook over low heat, covered, for 30-45 minutes. Add the paneer, butter and cream (if you want it to taste like it does at an Indian restaurant), and simmer for 5 more minutes to infuse the flavors. Remove from the heat and stir in garam masala. Serve with basmati rice and other Indian dishes.
- 1 lb spinach
1 garlic clove, minced
1 scallion, white part only, minced
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp Sesame oil
1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
Boil the spinach in salted water for 30 seconds. Drain and rinse in cold water. Form into a ball and squeeze out all the water. Chop the ball roughly a few times. Combine the other ingredients in a bowl and toss. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve at room temperature as a side dish with rice. There's a good video of this on YouTube.
- Fresh egg pasta
3 cups all purpose flour
Pour out the flour directly on your countertop or a very large pastry board, making a well in the center like a volcano. Crack the eggs into the center of this well and begin to beat with a fork. Little by little, incorporate flour from the walls of the volcano. Try not to let the egg mixture break through the walls and go spilling everywhere. Patience is the secret to fresh pasta: beat it with the fork until you can't bear it anymore. When the dough ball is ready to be worked by hand, relinquish the fork. If you proceed to hand kneading too soon, though, you will make a sticky, eggy mess of your hands. Knead the dough by hand, incorporating as much of the remaining flour as possible. Next, the dough needs to rest. Wrap your precious golden ball in plastic wrap and leave on the counter for 30 minutes.
After the dough rests, it's time to roll. (If you don't have a pasta rolling machine, now would be too late to go buy one.) Have some extra flour ready. Cut off about a quarter of the dough ball and roll it out using the machine. My method is to make a round disc by hand, coat it with flour, and roll it through stage 1. Dust again, fold the piece in half, and send it though 1 again. Now dust, proceed to 3, dust again, and proceed to 5. I usually stop at the second to last stage because if you go all the way, the dough gets really thin and tears easily. You will find, through practice, your own method that works in your kitchen.
- Spinach-Ricotta filling:
- 1 lb spinach, blanched, cooled, squeezed, and chopped
1 quart ricotta
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg
Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir until incorporated.
- Simple tomato sauce:
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can whole peeled tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
Saute the garlic in the oil until just beginning to brown. Add the tomatoes and their juice and simmer until reduced, about 15 minutes, breaking them up with a wooden spoon along the way. Season with the salt and pepper and toss in a few basil leaves if you have them.
Manicotti are the simplest type of filled pasta. Just cut your pasta sheets into large rectangles, boil them until they float, and then drain. Roll them with the filling, slather with sauce and some additional parmesan cheese, and bake for 25 minutes at 350. Buonissimo!