Spinach and Zucchini Curry

[Spinach and Zucchini Curry]Monday night found me with no dinner plan. There were a couple of aging zucchini in the fridge, still firm but starting to blemish and a purple bell pepper, all from the farm stand near work. I found a package of frozen spinach in the freezer and a vague plan started to form. The result was a curry-like dish.

Spinach and Zucchini Curry
Servings: 4-6
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 10 oz. pkg. frozen chopped spinach, mostly thawed (see first direction)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 2 medium zucchini, quartered and cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped, or pressed through a garlic press
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp. sweet curry powder
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • kosher salt and black pepper

Directions:

  1. Remove the brick of spinach from the package, place it on a cutting board and cut it into about 20 cubes. This is easiest if spinach is mostly thawed. Transfer cubed spinach to a clean dish towel, twist towel into a ball and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions and bell pepper, sprinkle with salt and toss to coat with oil. Cook, tossing occasionally, until the onions and peppers have softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer cooked onions/peppers to a bowl, retaining as much oil in the skillet as possible, and set aside.
  3. Return skillet to medium heat. When oil is shimmering add the zucchini, sprinkle with salt and cook, undisturbed, for 2 minutes. Shake the pan to redistribute zucchini and cook, undisturbed for another 2 minutes. Transfer zucchini to the bowl with the onions and peppers, again retaining as much oil as possible.
  4. Once again return the skill to medium heat. Add the spinach. Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the moisture has been released, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir until aromatic, probably no more than 30 seconds.
  5. Return the onions, peppers and zucchini to the pan and add the curry and paprika. Stir until spices are distributed throughout the skillet then add the tomatoes, yogurt and water. Stir until the yogurt is fully dispersed into the vegetables, creating a sauce. Cook for 5 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper; adjust as desired.

Notes:
I nuked the frozen slam of spinach for a minute on full power to knock it from brick to mostly thawed. Your mileage, and microwave, may very.

You may wish to remove the seeds from the zucchini. I do this after quartering by just running the knife along where the seeds meet solid zucchini. Seeds aren’t really a problem on smallish zucchini. When the zucchini get to the large size the seeds can turn to mush in your dish.

We served this with white rice.

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Orecchiette with Spinach, Hazelnuts and Brown Butter

This weeknight dinner recipe is simple enough that I managed to pull it together even on a night when I was just plain exhausted.

Orecchiette with Spinach, Hazelnuts and Brown Butter
Servings: 3-4
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz. unsalted butter, cut into 1 Tbsp. pieces
  • 3/4 cup hazelnuts
  • 8 oz. orcchiette
  • 3 oz. fresh spinach, rinsed and spun dry
  • 1/2 tsp. dried chile flakes
  • kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • Parmesan cheese for garnish

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Put a large pot with 8-12 cups of water over high heat and bring to a boil.
  2. Place the hazelnuts on a rimmed baking pan and place in the oven until browned and fragrant, 10-15 minutes. Give the pan a shake every 3-4 minutes. Transfer pan to a cool rack and allow to cool for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Transfer hazelnuts to a clean dish towel, gather up the ends and rub the nuts against the towel vigorously to remove the skins. When most of the skins have been removed chop on a cutting board or in a food processor.
  4. Cook pasta according to package instructions (mine said 11 minutes and that’s what I went with).
  5. While the pasta cooks heat butter in a large skillet over high heat until it begins to brown. Swirl pan periodically to move the butter about.
  6. Add spinach, hazelnuts and chile flakes to the pan; toss with butter and cook for 5 minutes.
  7. With luck your pasta will be ready when the spinach is well wilted. Add the cooked pasta to the skillet along with about a 1/4 cup of pasta water.
  8. Stir pasta into spinach and nuts. Heat until the pasta water has mostly evaporated, creating a light sauce.
  9. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste. Spoon into bowls and garnish with grated Parmesan cheese.

Notes:
I’ve never managed to remove all of the skins from the hazelnuts by rubbing with a towel. Some of the extra skin will flake off as you chop the nuts. Accept the chaos (or pick out the tiny skin pieces).

You can substitute another leafy green, such as Swiss chard or beet greens, for the spinach. You may want to trim off the longer, thicker parts of the stem on Swiss chard and chop it up fine before cooking. I’d avoid heartier greens such as kale or collards in this dish. They take longer to breakdown to an enjoyable texture in my opinion.

Spinach with Raisins and Pine Nuts

Spinach with Raisins and Pine Nuts
Servings: 4
Prep time: 35 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, medium dice
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 lb. spinach, well rinsed
  • juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • kosher salt and black pepper

Directions:

  1. Cover the raisins with ~1/2 hot water and allow to sit for 30 minutes to hydrate.
  2. Place pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium-low heat. Cook until nuts are golden brown; shaking pan periodically.
  3. Wipe out skillet, return to medium heat and add the oil. Heat until shimmering; add onions and a generous pinch of salt. Toss to coat with oil and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the chopped garlic, toss and cook until fragrant (about 1 minutes).
  5. Add spinach, another generous pinch of salt and cover the pan. Cook, undisturbed, for 5 minutes.
  6. Remove the cover. Stir onions and spinach together. Continue to cook, uncovered, for an additional 5 minutes or until moisture has evaporated.
  7. Add lemon juice, raisins and pine nuts; stir to incorporate. Taste; add pepper and salt as desired.

Notes:
If a lemon isn’t available add 1 tablespoon of cider or white vinegar.

Slow-Cooker Pork, White Bean and Fennel Soup

I love a lazy Sunday however most of them are packed with to-dos and running around. It’s nice to be able to spend 10 or 15 minutes prepping something with the sure knowledge that you’ll have a taste meal at the end of the day.

Slow Cooker Pork, White Bean and Fennel Soup
Servings: 6-8
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 7 hours

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 small fennel bulbs, trimmed and sliced into 1″ pieces
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. country-style pork ribs, excess fat removed
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can canned small white beans, undrained
  • 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

Directions:

  1. Combine broth, fennel, onion, garlic, pork and bay leaves in the slow cooker. Cover and cook, on low, for 6 hours.
  2. Bump the slow cooker up to high. Add the spinach, tomatoes and beans to the cooker. Recover and cook for an hour.
  3. Remove the pork (and bones) from the pot. Chop or shred into smaller pieces and return to the cooker. Add the vinegar, stir to incorporate. Taste and adjust salt/pepper as desired.

Notes:
This soup is based on one from Campbell’s. I added a few things to bump up the flavor and reworked the instructions a bit as well.

My frozen spinach didn’t thaw much after 6 hours in the fridge. I took a chance and added the mostly solid spinach brick to the slow cooker. It heated up fine and the soup seemed no worse for wear.

Rice Florentine

There is a restaurant nearby that serves Rice Florentine as a side. It seems to be not much more than rice with small bits of unidentifiable green vegetation tossed in. I wanted something with a bit more color, and flavor.

There is a fair amount of prep work on this dish, particularly with the baby spinach. I think the end result is worth the extra effort.

Rice Florentine
Servings: 12+
Prep time: 20 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups water
  • 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
  • 2 1/2 cups long-grain rice
  • 10 oz. fresh baby spinach, stemmed, cut into 1/4″ pieces, rinsed and spun dry
  • 2 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped into 1/8″ pieces
  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced 1/8″, with most of green
  • 2 Tbsp.butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. Penzey’s Mural of Flavor spice blend (or see note)
  • 1/2 teaspoon powdered rosemary
  • kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Make the rice: – Bring water, 1 tablespoon kosher salt and 2 tablespoons vegetable oil to a boil in a large pot. Add rice, stirring briefly to distribute in the pot. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 15-17 minutes. Check rice; it should be cooked through and look dry. Cook an additional minute if there is noticeable moisture. When cooked – turn off heat and place a double layer of paper towels between the pot and the lid.
  2. Cook veggies: – Heat remaining tablespoon of oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat until bubbling subsides. Add peppers and scallions with a pinch of salt. Stir to coat with oil and cook until peppers start to turn translucent, 3-4 minutes. Add garlic, stir and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute.
  3. Add spinach, cook for a minute so it starts to wilt then stir it into the pepper mixture. Cook until any water released by the spinach is evaporated, about 5 minutes total.
  4. Sprinkle spinach with spice blend and rosemary. Stir to combine, cook for a minute or so and taste. Add salt as needed.
  5. Fold spinach mixture into cooked rice. Transfer to a large serving bowl and enjoy.

Notes:
To prep the spinach I removed the stems from about 20-25 spinach leaves at a time, stacking the leaves on top of each other. I then cut them into 1/4″ pieces, transfered the cut spinach to a salad spinner and repeated the process until all the spinach is cut up. Rinse with cold water, drain and then spin at least 3 times.

If you don’t have the Mural of Flavors spice blend you can mix together 1 tsp. dried thyme, 1 tsp. ground black pepper, 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary, 1/2 tsp. ground coriander and the zest from a lemon or orange. Use 1 teaspoon of that and save the rest.

I referenced a couple of recipes while putting this recipe together: http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/florentine-rice and http://southernfood.about.com/od/ricesidedishcasseroles/r/bl90805e.htm

Potato Gnocchi, Sausage and Spinach

This dish is a weeknight pantry/fridge raid with a package of shelf-stable gnocchi providing the starting point.

Potato Gnocchi, Sausage and Spinach
Servings: 4-6
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 45

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 lbs. Italian sweet sausage
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, 1/4″ dice
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • kosher salt
  • 2 tsp. Penzeys Mural Of Flavor (see note)
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 lb. potato gnocchi
  • 1 6 oz. bag spinach, rinsed and spun
  • Parmesan cheese for garnish

Directions:

  1. Place sausages and 1/2 cup water in a lidded skillet and heat over medium. Cook for 5-7 minutes; cook until internal temp reaches 160°F. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile heat a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the gnocchi according to the package. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water and drain.
  3. Dump out excess water from the skillet and wipe skillet dry. Return skillet to medium heat and add the olive oil. When the oil begins to shimmer add the onions along with a pinch of kosher salt. Stir to coat and cook for 4-5 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds or until fragrants. Add the red pepper flakes and spice blend. Stir to incorporate and bloom the spices.
  4. Add the spinach along with the reserved pasta water. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring periodically. The spinach will wilt down to less than a cup in volume.
  5. While the spinach cooks slice the sausages into bite-size pieces.
  6. When the spinach is fully cooked add the sausages and gnoochi. Toss to combine. Cover and cook long enough to reheat sausages.
  7. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.

Notes:
Penzeys Mural Of Flavor is one of my favorite spice blends. If you don’t have it you could substitute 1 tsp. dried thyme, 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper, 1/4 tsp. ground coriander and 1/4 tsp. dried citrus peel.

I prefer to boil the potato gnocchi for a little longer than the package recommends. In my case the package said 2 minutes in boiling water. At that point they were warmed through but still a little dense for my taste. An extra minute made them a little lighter and less chewy.

Cauliflower, Potato and Spinach Curry

I found this recipe in Joy of Cooking a few weeks back while looking for carrot recipes. No carrots here but cauliflower is near carrots alphabetically and this caught my eye.

The spinach makes a nice addition to what would otherwise be a rather beige dish. We enjoyed it over hot rice.

Cauliflower, Potato and Spinach Curry
Servings: 4-6
Prep time: 20 minutes
Total time: 60 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 head cauliflower, cored and cut into bite size pieces
  • 2 Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 2 Tbsp. sweet curry powder
  • 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and rough chopped
  • 3 lg. garlic cloves, rough chopped
  • 1 2-3″ piece of ginger, peeled and minced
  • 2 Serrano chiles, seeded and minced
  • 2 medium onions, 1/4″ dice
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 14 oz. can lite coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 16 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 12 oz. spinach, stems removed and chopped into bit size pieces

Directions:

  1. Prep all your ingredients before you start cooking. Chop the cauliflower, dice the potato, slice the apple, etc. Measure out oil & water, open the cans, drain the chickpeas. It really makes things easier when you start working at the stove.
  2. Combine the curry powder and flour in a small bowl. Stir to combine and set aside.
  3. 3/4 fill a large sauce pan with water and bring it to a boil. Fill a separate bowl with cold water (few ice cubes would help but aren’t necessary).
  4. While the water comes to a boil combine the apple, garlic, ginger and peppers in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Processor for 10-15 seconds to finely chop the apple and combine.
  5. Once the water is boiling add the cauliflower, return to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. When 5 minutes is up remove the cauliflower from the hot water and transfer to a the cold water bath.
  6. Add the cubed potatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Transfer these to the cold water bath as well.
  7. In a large pot heat the oil over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the chopped onions and apple/garlic/ginger/pepper mixture. Stir to coat and cook until the onions begin to soften, about 5-7 minutes.
  8. Add the curry powder/flour mix and stir to coat the vegetables. Cook for ~3 minutes to bloom the spices in the curry powder and cook out the raw flour taste.
  9. Add the coconut milk, water and salt. Stir and bring to a boil.
  10. Drain the cauliflower & potatoes; add them to the curry along with the chickpeas. Return to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
  11. Dump the spinach on top of the curry and cover the pot. Let the spinach steam for a minute then stir it into the curry. Cook for 3-5 minutes; you want the spinach cooked but not lifeless.
  12. Taste and adjust salt & pepper as you wish. Serve.

Notes:
I used Penzey’s Sweet Curry Powder in this dish. I use it when I don’t want to make my own blend.

I’m always surprised by how much green comes off of spinach when you rinse them properly. Other greens can easily be substituted for the spinach.

The recipe seems to have a lot of steps. OK, the recipe has a lot of steps. The boiling/shocking steps can be a bit of a pain however I think it helps with the overall texture of the dish. You could probably skip the food processor if you want to grate the apple and chop garlic, ginger and peppers fine yourself. The end result is definitely worth the effort, at least in our opinion.