Tag Archives: unsalted butter

Spinach & Parmigiano Torta

We can’t get enough of leafy greens. Spinach, broccoli raab, escarole, beet greens, Swiss chard, kale, cabbage… at least one vegetable green and leafy finds its way to our table at every meal. And while I adore these vegetables simply steamed and dressed with lemon juice and olive oil, or sauteed with garlic and chili flakes, I love incorporating them in more “dressed up” dishes like the torta below.

Essentially a souffle, this torta is baked in a pretty oven-to-table pan so it can be served all puffed up and golden straight from its cooking vessel. Denser and less airy than a classic French souffle, it is a lovely main course accompanied by green salad and crusty bread. Try using different greens as they appear at the farmers’ markets this spring; spinach, always available, is an excellent jumping off point.

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Serves 2 as a main course

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the pan
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 pound fresh spinach, leaves only, washed thoroughly
  • 3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup 2% or whole milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs, separated

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Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (preferably set on convection bake). Lightly butter an 8-inch x 4-inch oven-to-table pan (or any ovenproof pan with a 4-cup capacity). Dust the bottom with 1 tablespoon of the Parmigiano.

Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of the salt and drop in the spinach. Cook 3 minutes, or until soft and silky. Drain, rinse under cool water to stop the cooking, and squeeze dry. Chop finely and set aside.

In a small but heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly with a wire whisk, until the flour loses its raw smell, about 2 minutes. Do not allow the flour and butter mixture to take on any color, so monitor the heat carefully and whisk constantly.

Quickly pour in the milk, still whisking all the while to prevent lumps. Bring to a boil and cook over medium hear 3 minutes, or until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Whisk in the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt, the pepper, the nutmeg, and 1/4 cup of the remaining Parmigiano. Now whisk in the egg yolks, beating thoroughly to avoid scrambling them in the hot milk mixture. Beat in the spinach and set aside.

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In a clean, dry bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, then gently fold into the spinach mixture.

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Pour into the buttered oven-to-table pan and dust the top with the remaining tablespoon of Parmigiano. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until golden, set, and puffed. Serve hot.

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Creamy Parsnip Sformato

In Italy, there is a class of dishes (some sweet, some savory) that goes by the name sformato, from the word forma, which means mold or shape. Like frittata, a close cousin, a savory sformato is egg-based, but it is heavier on the vegetables, creamy in texture, baked in a mold, then unmolded (hence the name) before serving.

I make sformati with whatever vegetables I have on hand; in the winter, butternut squash, parsnip, fennel, and cauliflower are favorites. If using a starchy or fibrous vegetable (like the four mentioned above), I find it best to boil the vegetable before puréeing it; watery vegetables such as mushrooms or eggplants do better sautéed fist, then puréed. And while I bake sformati in individual ramekins for company, I usually bake a sformato in one large soufflé dish if it’s just the two of us sharing it. Cast iron or enameled cast iron skillets like the one pictured here are a great baking vessel too. In this case, I serve the sformato still in the skillet or soufflé dish, and it’s so comforting to dig in while the sformato is still hot from the oven!

Serves 2

  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 6 ounces (1 medium) parsnip, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice (weigh after peeling)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 ounces young goat cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg whites

Preheat the oven to 375° (preferably set on convection).

Butter the bottom and sides of an 8-inch cast iron or enameled cast iron skillet. Sprinkle the bottom and sides of the skillet with 1 tablespoon of the grated Parmigiano.

Bring 1 quart of water to a boil. Drop in the parsnip and 1 tablespoon of the salt. Boil 3 minutes, or until the parsnip is fork-tender, then drain and cool under running water. Blot dry thoroughly before proceeding or the sformato will be watery.

Place the parsnip, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, the remaining 3 tablespoons of the Parmigiano, the nutmeg, pepper, goat cheese, and whole eggs in the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth, then transfer to a bowl.

In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites with a whisk until soft peaks hold; the whites should hold their shape when the bowl is turned upside down. If they do not hold their shape, beat a little longer. Fold gently into the parsnip mixture, being careful not to deflate it.

Spoon into the prepared skillet. Immediately bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until golden, set, and puffed. Serve immediately.

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Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Roasted Shiitake & Speck

We love Jerusalem artichokes. With a flavor reminiscent of truffles and aged cheese, they lend themselves to all manner of preparations. One of our favorite ways to enjoy their distinct aroma is in soup, and the recipe below, a recent creation, is especially soothing on a chilly day.

Serves 2

For the soup:

  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 medium onion, minced
  • 1/2 pound Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half

For the shiitake:

  • 1/2 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

To serve:

  • 2 thin slices Speck, cut into fine slivers

Make the soup: Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed 2-quart pot. Add the onion and cook 5 minutes over medium heat, or until soft, stirring often and adding a splash of water if needed to prevent sticking. Stir in the Jerusalem artichokes and artichokes, season with the salt and pepper, cover, and cook 10 minutes, stirring once in a while and adding a splash of water as needed if the vegetables stick.

Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes, or until the vegetables are thoroughly coated in flour and the raw flour smell has dissipated. Add the broth, still stirring, and bring to a gentle boil. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are very soft and the soup is thick.

Meanwhile, make the shiitake: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees (preferably set on convection). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and toss the shiitake with the olive oil, salt, and pepper on the parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Roast in the preheated oven 20 minutes, or until lightly browned and somewhat shriveled, stirring once or twice for even browning. Set aside.

Being careful not to burn or splash yourself, puree the soup in a blender in several batches. Return to the pan. Stir in the half-and-half, adjust the seasoning, and serve hot, garnishing each portion with the shiitake and Speck.

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Potato and Spinach Gnocchi with Caramelized Onions & Crispy Rye Bread Crumbs

These gnocchi are a variation on a Piedmontese specialty which goes by the name Cabiette. Some recipes call for grating the potatoes while they are raw and combining them with spinach (or more traditionally, nettles) and rye flour. I prefer boiling and ricing my potatoes because the texture is smoother and the gnocchi lighter. Either way, what gives this dish its distinct personality is the use of rye flour and topping of crispy rye bread crumbs, which give the gnocchi a pleasantly nutty flavor and marry well with the slight bitterness of the greens. If you can find nettles, pick off the tender leaves wearing gloves to protect your hands, discarding the stems.

The gnocchi can be boiled and topped with the caramelized onions, grated cheese, and bread crumbs up to 12 hours ahead and refrigerated, so this is a great make-ahead dish for entertaining. Just pop them into the preheated oven when you are ready to serve.

Serves 4

For the gnocchi:

  • 1 and 1/4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 8 ounces fresh spinach leaves
  • 4 ounces ( 1 and 1/4 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for the counter and trays
  • 1 ounce rye flour (1/3 cup), or additional all-purpose flour if preferred
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce:

  • 1 slice stale rye bread
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the baking dish
  • 1 pound yellow onions, thinly sliced

To cook the gnocchi:

  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1/4 pound Toma delle Langhe, Fontina, or Raclette, rind removed, grated

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Make the gnocchi: Place the potatoes in a pot of cool water to cover and bring to a boil. Cook until tender when pierced with a knife, about 25 minutes. Remove to a tray and reserve the cooking water.

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Pass the potatoes through a ricer onto a counter and allow to cool to room temperature (if you make the gnocchi while the potatoes are still hot, they will “sweat” and require additional flour, making them heavy rather than light).

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Return the potato cooking water to a boil. Add the spinach and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Drain, discarding the cooking water. Squeeze VERY DRY with your hands and chop finely.

Bring 1 quart of water to a boil.

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On a counter, combine the riced potatoes, chopped spinach, all-purpose flour, rye flour, salt, and pepper. Gather gently into a dough; if the dough is sticky, add more all-purpose flour; if it is dry, add a touch of water. (Remember: you can always add flour, but you can never take it away, so be cautious when adding flour.) Don’t knead the dough, as the potatoes are naturally moist and they will make the dough feel sticky.

When the dough seems to be of the right texture, snip off a piece and test it in the boiling water: drop it in the boiling water until it floats to the surface, remove with a slotted spoon, taste, and adjust the texture of the gnocchi as needed, adding a bit more flour if they are too soft and falling apart, or a bit of water if they are too dry.

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Shape the gnocchi: Roll the dough into 1-inch wide logs on a lightly floured counter and cut into 1-inch pieces. Arrange in a single layer on a lightly floured tray.

Make the sauce: Process the bread into crumbs into fine bread crumbs in a food processor; toss with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and set aside.

Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet, add the onions, and season with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Cook until caramelized, stirring often, about 25 minutes over medium-low heat; set aside.

Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in a small pan and keep warm. Butter a large baking dish and set it aside.

Cook the gnocchi: Preheat the oven to 325° (preferably set on convection). Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add the salt.

Drop in the gnocchi and cook until they float to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon to the buttered baking dish.

To bake: Top with the caramelized onions, and pour on the melted butter. Scatter the Toma over the gnocchi and top with the rye bread crumbs. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and the bread crumbs are golden, and serve hot.

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