Tag Archives: Parmesan cheese

SPAGHETTI SQUASH WITH PARMESAN AND POACHED EGGS

Snow is on our local mountains, so winter is not far away. The farmers market has all but closed except for apples and a bounty of winter squashes – pumpkins, acorn, and butternut squashes. That means lots of soup, pies, and acorn squash roasted with maple syrup or brown sugar. My favorite squash is spaghetti squash, because it is so versatile, and the strands hold their crispness even with cooking.  We usually eat it with just butter, salt, and pepper. Of course, you can substitute it for spaghetti with marinara. I decided to do a riff on a pasta dish that Jacques Pépin demonstrated years ago on his television show. That recipe has become a favorite, especially when we are in a hurry for lunch or a light dinner. This time I just substituted spaghetti squash.

RECIPE

Spaghetti Squash with Parmesan and Poached Eggs

Ingredients

  • medium spaghetti squash
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup finely minced parsley
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • poached eggs

Method

  1. Pierce the squash several times with a metal skewer, going all the way to the center. This is important. Otherwise you will have an explosion and mess in your oven
  2. Bake the squash in the middle of the oven pre-heated to 350°F (190°C) for 1 hour. Test for doneness by piercing with a sharp fork. The squash should be tender.
  3. Remove the squash from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes until you can handle it comfortably. With a large, sharp knife, cut the squash in half lengthwise.
  4. Scrape out the seeds. Then, with a fork, scrap out the flesh into a bowl. The squash will form spaghetti-like strands.
  5. Stir in the butter, olive oil, Parmesan, and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Place individual servings in pasta bowls and top each with two poached eggs.
  7. You should be able to make four servings.
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HEART OF PALM PUFFS – A GALLERY OPENING

A few weeks ago I had what I thought was a wonderful opportunity. I was invited to show some of my photographs in a nearby artists’ cooperative gallery. I put together about  half a dozen of my favorite images, framed, and matted them. Along with oils, watercolors, pottery, and jewelry from other artists, the photos were arranged for a show.

As is the local tradition, the new show was inaugurated with a Friday evening opening complete with sparking water, wine, and appetizers. Each artist was asked to bring some kind of food, so that set off a perpetual struggle in my mind – what to serve? I found a recipe for chorizo tapas that sounded delicious, but I worried that gallery visitors might get grease on one of the oil paintings. Then I thought of empanadas filled with hearts of palm. I had first tasted them forty years ago at a party held by one of our Brazilian friends.

The bonus that moved me toward this option  was that I had a can of hearts of palm in the pantry. At the same time, making the dough for empanadas seemed like more effort than I wanted so I decided to use frozen puff pastry. The end result turned out to be these heart of palm puffs.

Heart of palm, also called palm heart or palmito, can be harvested from the growing tips of nearly all palms, but  this may destroy the palm. The commercial variety comes from the peach palm, a plant from the Amazon that now is grown throughout Central and South America. It is sustainable without destroying the palm for future growth.  Supposedly you can find fresh palm hearts in gourmet grocery stores, but I have only seen the canned variety.

The gallery opening was crowded, and the puffs disappeared. So did the gallery. What the reader needs to know is that nearly every person who lives in Santa Fe considers himself/herself to be an artist. The other factor is that there may be more galleries than residents. That is a certain formula to assure that many galleries disappear quickly amidst the competition. That was the fate of our co-operative, and my first show did not survive for this post.

RECIPE

Heart of Palm Puffs

Ingredients

  • 1 can (14 ounces) hearts of palm
  • Old Bay seasoning
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/3 cup parsley, minced
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 egg white beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Method

  1. Drain the hearts of palm, slice them into ½ inch coins, and marinate them, covered, in the refrigerator, with a little of the liquid from the can, a good sprinkle of Old Bay seasoning, salt, and pepper
  2. Combine the parsley and Parmesan cheese. Set aside.
  3. Thaw the puff pastry according to package instructions. Then on a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough so that it is about 1/16 inch thick. It should be large enough that you can cut 40 2 inch squares.
  4. Working quickly so that the pastry does not dry out, place a heart of palm disc in the middle of half of the pastry squares. Top with a ¼ teaspoon of parsley and Parmesan cheese mixture.
  5. Dab the edges of the square with the egg yolk mixture, top with another square, and press the edges together with a fork.
  6. Place the puffs on a Silpat-lined baking tray. Brush the tops with the egg white mixture.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes in the middle of an oven preheated to 400° F.
  8. When golden brown, remove the puffs from the oven, and cool them on a cooling rack.

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SANTORINI AND SPANAKOPITA

The ship sailed into the harbor at Santorini just as the dawn broke over the Aegean Sea. We were surrounded by mountaintops glistening a blazing white. Snow, I thought. In the Mediterranean? Impossible. And then I realized that the villages of Santorini were perched on the peaks surrounding us, washed an incredible white, and glued to the impossibly steep slopes all the way to the harbor below. No wonder so many tour guides call Santorini the best island escape in the world.

The islands have been populated for thousands of years, but they have also been the scene of unthinkable human disasters. Even from a ship, it is clear that the villages have been built upon the remaining walls of an ancient volcano, and that the harbor nestled in the ring of islands is the caldera of that volcano.

Minoan culture once thrived on the islands, not that of the capital in Crete, but clearly more than just an outpost. Ancient ruins have been excavated showing vivid wall paintings, impressive buildings, and a thriving population center. All of that came to an abrupt end in about 1600 BCE when the volcano exploded with one of the largest flows of smoke, lava, and ash during historical times. Crops failed in China because of the explosion, and the civilization on Santorini was annihilated. The islands remained uninhabited for hundreds of years. Some believe that the disaster is the source of the legend of Atlantis.

There have been other eruptions over the centuries, and seismic and volcanic activities have been recorded in recent years. Still the inhabitants seem oblivious to all of this, and the visitor is soon caught up in the apparent tranquility of the scene.

The sands of the popular beaches may be red or black or white depending upon the color of the volcanic layer from which they come. The environment is that of a desert with desert plants and no natural sources of water except the rains. Some of the buildings are painted in pastel shades, but the great majority are whitewashed with bold blue trim. Churches are everywhere, and their vivid blue roofs meet the clear blue of the cloudless skies. Narrow streets weave along the crests of the hills. Everyone seems to relax in a casual stroll.

Our  visit ended with a ride down the cable car with a panoramic view of the harbor down below. It is easy to see why many Greeks as well as celebrities have chosen Santorini as a quiet getaway.

 

SPANAKOPITA

More than forty years ago when we lived in Salt Lake City, Susan was well-known amongst our friends for one of her hors d’oeuvres which she served with drinks. The recipe came from the local Junior League’s Heritage Cookbook and was called “crab triangles”. The dish was equally popular when we moved to Shreveport. It called for flaked crab meat, cream cheese, phyllo dough, and butter. At the time, neither of us knew that the triangles were a riff on the Greek treats, tyropitas (phyllo triangles filled with cheese) or spanakopita (phyllo triangles filled with spinach and cheese)

The following recipe is not necessarily authentic (every Greek family has its own recipe so, what, after all, is really “authentic”?) But it’s pretty close to the real thing, and it is good enough that you probably will not have any leftovers. It uses frozen phyllo dough which usually comes in a 1 pound box containing two separate rolls of 20 leaves of dough in each roll. Be sure to read the label.

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks (½ pound) unsalted butter
  • 1 roll (½ pound) phyllo dough thawed according to instructions
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium shallots, minced
  • 9 ounce package of pre-washed spinach, chopped
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ½ teaspoon Pernod
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
  • salt and pepper

Method

  • Prepare clarified butter by melting butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Skim off the foam that rises to the top. Let milk solids settle to the bottom of the pan. Then pour the skimmed butter slowly into a glass measuring cup, being careful not to pour the milk solids into the cup. Set aside the clarified butter in a warm, not hot, place.
  • Heat a medium frying pan over a medium-low flame. Add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, stir in the shallots and cook until wilted and translucent. Do not brown.
  • Add the chopped spinach, cover, and cook until the spinach is wilted. Add the wine and Pernod. Cook until the mixture has given up most of its moisture and is dry. Do not brown or allow to burn. Cool for 5 minutes.
  • Combine spinach mixture, feta cheese, eggs, and Parmesan. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Set aside.
 

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NAPA CABBAGE AND BREAD SOUP

I had some napa cabbage left over from my New Year’s Day braised cabbage, so I decided to make some soup.

Napa cabbage (also spelled nappa cabbage) is an authentic Chinese cabbage. The name comes from a Japanese word that means something like vegetable greens.  So far as I have been able to figure out, the name has nothing to do with the Napa Valley in California. I think that name is probably from the Spanish, meaning an aquifer or gas layer. The taste of the cabbage is milder than regular cabbage, and the leaves are crisper

Regular cabbage dates back to the Egyptians, but probably cabbage heads did not appear on the culinary scene until the twelfth century in Germany. For this recipe, you can use regular cabbage, but I think you will like the flavor better with Chinese cabbage.

The soup makes a simple lunch or dinner. We had the added pleasure of a slice of Srah’s new bread, Douglas fir scented levain topped with fresh butter. A perfect winter-time light lunch

RECIPE

Napa cabbage soup with Douglas fir levain-1Napa Cabbage and Bread Soup with Croutons and Parmesan Cheese

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • ½ large head napa cabbage, cored and shredded
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • ½ teaspoon beau monde seasoning, or to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 ½ inch slices good quality white bread cut in ½ inch cubes
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • ¼ cup minced parsley

Method

  • In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan or stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onions, stir, and cover. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the onions are wilted and translucent. Do not allow them to brown.
  • Add the shredded cabbage to the pot, cover and continue to cook until completely wilted. Do not brown. Then add the vegetable stock, bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Add the beau monde seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper.Cook for 40 minutes or until the cabbage is soft. Add more liquid if necessary.
  • In the meantime, place one of the diced slices of bread on a small baking sheet and dry in the middle of an oven preheated to 225°. Bake for 30 minutes, turning frequently, until the bread cubes are completely dry and crisp. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  • When the cabbage is fully cooked and tender, stir in the remaining cubed slice of bread. The bread should dissolve and thicken the soup. Add more liquid if needed.
  • When ready to serve, plate the soup in 4 wide soup bowls, top with the croutons, sprinkle with the grated Parmesan cheese and parsley. Serve immediately.

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CLAM, MUSHROOM AND SPINACH STUFFED CONCHIGLIONI

Pasta shaped like great big shells (conchiglioni) has always intrigued me, because those shells are just begging to be stuffed with something. The little ones are good, too, because they hold sauce in a hot dish or dressing in a pasta salad. But the big ones can hold any kind of stuffing you can think of.

Conchiglioni

A box of conchiglioni caught my eye in the grocery aisle the other day, so I bought one without having a clear idea of what I wanted to make from them. Over several days I flipped through a mental catalog: shrimp, cheese, ham, chicken, ground beef. Nothing seemed exactly right, and then I remembered a can of minced clams that had been sitting in the pantry just waiting for me to make one of my favorites, pasta with clams and white sauce.

Stuffed shells ready for sauce

That seemed like a good beginning, but I was trying to think of something a little different. At last I came up with a plan and decided to make a stuffing of clams, mushrooms, and spinach.

Ready for the oven

Ingredients

  • 12 giant conchiglioni
  • 3 quarts salted water
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 bunch fresh spinach, washed, trimmed of stems, and chopped coarsely
  • 1 pound crimini mushrooms, washed and sliced
  • 6.5 ounces canned minced clams, drained (Reserve clam juice)
  • ½ teaspoon Pernod
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • ½ cup whipping cream
  • ¾ cup grated Swiss cheese
  • ½ cupgrated Parmesan cheese
  • butter for dotting the top of the casserole

Baked

Method

  • Boil the pasta shells in the boiling salted water until al dente, about 12 to 15 minutes. Drain and set aside for stuffing.
  • In a large skillet over medium-high heat,  heat the olive oil until shimmering. Then add the chopped spinach and heat, covered, until wilted.
  • Add the mushrooms and continue to sauté until the mushrooms are cooked through.
  • Then add the clams, Pernod, salt and pepper. Be careful with the Pernod, as too much can be overwhelming.  Reduce the heat to low until ready for stuffing.
  • In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and then add the flour. Stir until thoroughly mixed and cook for 5 minutes to remove the raw taste of the flour. Stir in the clam juice and enough cream to make a thick sauce. Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Add water if the sauce is too thick.
  • Arrange the cooked pasta shells in a well-buttered baking dish.
  • Divide the stuffing evenly among the pasta shells. Then top with the sauce, sprinkle with Swiss  and Parmesan cheeses. Dot with butter, and place in the middle of an oven pre-heated to 350°F. Bake for 50 minutes or until the top of the casserole is well-browned.  Remove from the oven, let rest for 5 minutes, then serve.

Ready to serve

Closeup view of the finished dish

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RICOTTA PIE WITH ASPARAGUS, MUSHROOMS, AND PROSCIUTTO

Our ovens recently went on the blink, and we had to do without baking for over two weeks while the repairman ordered parts. We made it through the crisis – with some withdrawal symptoms – and our ovens were finally restored to working order. To celebrate, I decided to make a couple of quiches using some shrimp and fresh Spring asparagus from the grocery store. I made the quiches only to discover that I had left out the asparagus. My fall-back plan was to use the asparagus the next night in something else. The plan wound up to be an exercise in cleaning out the refrigerator. I came up with what is not really a quiche, so I called it a ricotta pie. Regardless of the name, it turned out to be a good use for the asparagus.

RECIPES

Pie Crust

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 Cup vegetable shortening
  • 2 2/3 Tablespoons (8 teaspoons) ice water
  1. Combine the flour and salt in a medium bowl
  2. Add the shortening and cut it into the flour mixture with a pastry blender until it resembles coarse corn meal
  3. Make a well in the center of the mixture and pour in the water, mixing with a table fork until the mixture comes together in a ball.
  4. Knead gently for just a few seconds, shape into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes

Pie Filling

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces low-fat ricotta
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 Tablespoon Pernod
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon finely ground white pepper
  • 1 pound fresh asparagus
  • 6 crimini mushrooms
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 ounces Swiss cheese, shredded
  • 3 ounces prosciutto, thinly sliced
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, freshly and finely grated
  1. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, eggs, Pernod, salt, and pepper until smooth and well blended. Set aside.
  2. Wash the asparagus, trim the woody ends (saving them for stock), and cut into 1-inch pieces. Set aside.
  3. Clean and slice the mushrooms. Sauté them in olive oil until they have given up their liquid. Drain and set aside.

Just out of the oven

Final Assembly

  1. Remove the chilled pie crust dough from the refrigerator and roll it into a circle large enough to line a 9 inch pie pan with enough to crimp the top edge.
  2. Ladle half of the ricotta mixture into the bottom of the prepared pie shell.
  3. Arrange the asparagus pieces over the filling. Then add the mushrooms, Swiss cheese, and prosciutto in layers.
  4. Cover with the remaining ricotta mixture and sprinkle with the grated Parmesan cheese.
  5. Bake in the middle of an oven pre-heated to 425° for 10 minutes. Then lower the oven temperature to 350° for an additional 60 minutes. Turn the baking pie front to back in the oven about half way through the baking. Watch carefully toward the end of baking and remove from the oven if the pie becomes too brown.
  6. Place the finished pie on a cooling rack for 5 minutes. Then slice into 6 or 8 pieces. Serve while still warm.

Ready to eat

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