Spinach Frittata

We’ve been so busy lately that there hasn’t been a lot of cooking going on. But thanks to our CSAs and the active farmer’s market, the bounty has certainly been flowing in. Tonight we took a breath and cooked some of those greens in our fridge. What’s the answer when you’re looking for a quick, healthy dinner? Frittata, of course.

How many variations of eggs and veggies for dinner must there be? (We’ve already posted a few recipes here and here.) This version is light and airy, due to the ricotta. Greens can be mixed and matched, of course. I’m adding pea shoots to everything lately. In this dish, they really give you something to chew.

6 eggsin the oven
1 garlic scape, cut into small pieces
3 handfuls of spinach
1 handful of pea vines, chopped roughly
1/2 cup of ricotta
1/2 cup of milk
a few leaves each of mint and oregano
olive oil, salt, pepper

  1. Separate the eggs – yolks in one bowl, whites in a second bowl.
  2. In the bowl with the yolks, add ricotta, milk, herbs, salt, and pepper.
  3. Whisk egg whites vigorously (or gratuitously use your mixer – it is, after all, a quick and lazy dinner). You want them to be light and foamy.
  4. Fold the egg white mixture into the yoke mixture. Turn over gently until they are completely incorporated.
  5. Add about a tablespoon of olive oil to a heat proof (cast iron) skillet set over medium heat. Cook the greens for about 3 minutes, just until wilted down.
  6. Stir in the egg mixture.
  7. Bake at 35oF for 12-15 minutes.

Notes:

  • This recipe was adapted from one of my favorite quick meals,  puffy corn omelet.
  • I was completely lazy and didn’t even chop anything.  Scapes always seem to fly everywhere when I chop them with a knife, so I just use kitchen scissors to snip them down to the size I want. While I had the scissors, I cut the pea vines and the herbs right over the bowl or skillet. Easy!
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Whey, Too Good to Waste

Ricotta is a staple in my kitchen. I use it for ravioli and tortellini filling. I add it to frittatas, quiches, and savory pifresh-ricottaes. Last week, I included it in my pierogie filling. I even make dessert out of it.  Now that I’m in the habit of making my own ricotta, I feel like I’ve got the world at my fingertips – a light, fluffy, cheesy world. When you make all this cheese, you also wind up with a whole lot of whey. What to do?

Now, people will tell you that it’s a refreshing and healthy drink. I haven’t gotten that brave yet, but when I went on a calzone making binge and found myself with over 7 quarts  of whey, I had to think creatively to find other uses. If you find yourself in a similar predicament, with way too much whey, here are a few ideas to help you out.

  • Make whey pancakes. The batter, when I made it with AP flour, was a little runnier than my steadfast pancake recipe, but the pancakes were very tasty and worth wiping the drips off the counter.  For a really smug pancake, I’ll try this recipe next with whole wheat flour.
  • Pawn some off on a friend and give her the recipe for Italian white bread.
  • Use it as a base for soups. I’ve substituted up to 50% whey for stock, depending on the soup. I’ve used it successfully  in minestrone, chicken noodle, potato leek, and others.
  • Feed it to some friendly chickens. It’s good for them. (I don’t exactly remember why. I’m the baker, not the chicken farmer. I do it to make the chickens like me better, so they’ll be kinder when I come to visit.)
  • Add it to your pasta sauce. We liked it in pesto.

Spinach and Cheese Ravioli

These ravioli don’t have a strong spinach flavor, but the texture of the dough is nice and hearty.  They freeze well for a quick and healthy meal on a busy night. Ravioli are not hard to make, but I would recommend having a two-person team: one to roll and one to fill and shape.

Ravioli, ready for freezingDough:
8.5 ounces flour (about 2 cups)
6 cups fresh spinach
3 eggs
1 tbls. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt

Making the dough-

1. Prepare the spinach. Saute with just about 1 tbls. of water in pan for a few minutes, until wilted. (If you’ve just washed the spinach, shake a little of the water out and then toss in the pan. The leaves will be wet enough.) Place the spinach on a washcloth (that you don’t mind being stained) and squeeze over the sink. Try to get out as much water as possible.
2. Mix flour and salt ingredients in a bowl.
3. In a food processor, add egg, spinach, and oil. Process until smooth.
4. Make a little well in the flour mixture, pour in spinach mixture and mix with a fork until lumpy. Knead with your fingers until it comes together. Knead one additional minute, adding extra flour, if needed. (How will you know if more flour is needed? Dough should not be wet or tacky.)
5. Allow your dough to rest, covered, for 30 minutes. (Be patient. This step allows the flour to get properly moistened and allows you to work with the dough.)

Filling:
2 cups homemade ricotta
3 gloves garlic, finely diced
about 1/4 cup grated parmesan
about 1/4 cup grated mozzarella
salt and white pepper to taste
optional: add fresh herbs to taste

Prepare the filling:
6. Mix all the ingredients in small bowl. If your filling is too dry, mix back in about 1 tbls. of the whey from the cheesemaking. You want your filling to be light and fluffy, but it needs to be able to hold its shape.

Flour the dough before you roll it each time - Roll out the pasta:
7. Divide the pasta dough into 4 equal balls. Cover the balls that you are not using.
8. Shape the first ball into a rectangle. Sprinkle with a little flour every time your dough feels too tacky. Roll your dough through the pasta roller, gradually working your way up to setting six, which will produce a thin but sturdy sheet of pasta. Tip: fold your dough into a rectangle before sending it through the machine.

Shape the ravioli:
9. Cut a long sheet of pasta in half, so that you have two equal pieces. (Another technique is to fold a long sheet in half, gently crease to mark the center, and only fill one side. The second half of the dough becomes the top and ‘closes over’ the ravioli filling.)
10. Drop scant tablespoons of pasta about 1 inch apart on the dough, leaving an equal amount of space aDraw a line of water between each ravioli with your finger - round all four edges.
11. Dip one finger (or pastry brush) into water and run a line of water around the four edges and between each ravioli. Your goal is to moisten. Don’t get it too wet!
12. Lay the second pasta sheet over top of the filling. Work from left to right, gently pressing down between the ravioli as Seal the ravioli carefully - you go. You may need to stretch the last part of the dough over the filling.  Go back and seal the top and sides of each ravioli. Try not to trap any air next to the filling (or your ravioli may burst.)
13. Use a sealer/cutter pastry tool to seal and cut. (This tool is so worth the few dollars of its cost. But, alternatively, you can slice with a knife and seal by hand. I used to press each side shut with a fork and that worked well, though was time consuming.)

Save those babies for later:
14. Lay the ravioli on a floured sheet pan and place in the freezer for about a half hour. After this, they can be placed in a big freezer bag and won’t stick to each other.

Eat!
15.  From the freezer, boil in gently boiling water for five minutes. (Cook fresh raviloi 3-4 minutes.)

Delicious Ricotta Cheesecake

Here’s a recipe that I worked up for soundfood. It has recently been tested by a reliable group of foodies and dessert lovers. Enjoy!

Ricotta cheesecake is a lovely way to showcase your homemade cheese. Never made cheese? Well, ricotta is a good place to start. It’s easy to do and the flavor far exceeds any store-bought product.  If you arrive at a holiday party with this dessert, it’s sure to invoke ‘oohs and ahhs.’ For a refreshing taste of summer during this dark month, pair it with a sauce made from some of those precious blackberries that you may have stashed in your freezer.

For ricotta:
1 gallon whole milk
1 tsp. citric acid
1/4 cup water

For cake:
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 pounds fresh whole milk ricotta cheese
6 large eggs, separated
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
finely grated orange or lemon zest (optional
1/4 tsp. salt

Begin by making your ricotta. Mix 1 tsp. citric acid into 1/4 cool cup of water and stir to dissolve. Add one gallon of whole milk and this citric acid mixture to a heavy pot. (You can make ricotta with a lower fat milk, but the yield will be much higher with whole milk.) Heat, stirring often, to 185F. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Place a colander in a large bowl and line it with cheesecloth. Ladle your curds into your cloth. Then, tie the corners to create a bag shape. Hang your cheese for about 1 hour. (Usually ricotta is hung for about 30 minutes, but you want it to be drier for this cake recipe.)

After you have removed your cheese from the cloth, begin to assemble the cake. Preheat the oven to 375F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and sprinkle bottom and sides with sugar.

In a large bowl, whisk the ricotta, egg yolks 6 tbls. of sugar, zest, and salt until smooth. Set aside.

With an electric mixer, whisk egg whites on low speed until foamy. Increase the mixer to high and gradually add the remaining 6 tbls. of sugar.After about 3 minutes, the egg whites become stiff a glossy.

Gently fold in the egg whites into the ricotta mixture. Spoon into the prepared pan and smooth the top with the back of a spoon or rubber spatula. Bake for about 50 minutes to 1 hour. Test to see if a toothpick comes out clean after about 45 minutes, as this cake can rapidly go from perfect to too dark. (It’s ok if it still jiggles a little bit. As long as the toothpick is clean, your cake is done.) Cool in the pan and then refrigerate until it is time to enjoy!

-All the supplies (citric acid, cheesecloth, cheese thermometer) can be found by visiting the cheese queen.
-For blackberry sauce, add about one cup of blackberries to a saucepan, sprinkle with sugar, and simmer on low until mushy. Run through your food mill for a seedless affair or press through a strainer with the back of a spoon.
-For a large group, I like to serve this next to next to a flourless chocolate cake (recipe also found in the Gourmet cookbook). The blackberry sauce is a wonderful topping for both desserts.