Vegetables & Sides

Malfatti;Italian ricotta and spinach dumplings

Malfatti; Italian ricotta and spinach dumplings

 

Malfatti, which loosely  translates as “poorly made” in Italian, are billowy dumplings of ricotta and spinach. Essentially gnocchi, but without the dough casing. A wonderful choice for a gorgeous light meal that is sure to satisfy even die hard meat sauce lovers.

Malfatti speak for themselves. Unlike gnocchi, there is no fiddling about making perfectly shaped dumplings. These have a very rustic homemade allure that harkens back to 17th century northern Italian cooks in the countryside. Malfatti can be steamed, boiled, sauted, or gently cooked in a simple tomato sauce.

I make my own ricotta (see recipes here) paired with the simplest tomato sauce (see recipe here) made with imported Italian tomatoes or tomato passata, fresh Italian tomatoes which have been passed through a food mill to remove the skin and seeds. Imported passata is readily available. To a passata just add onions, garlic, salt and pepper, and olive oil and you have the simplest of red  sauces made in no time.

 

Malfatti: makes about 15    3 servings

Malfatti in red sauce

Malfatti in red sauce

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • large bunch of young spinach leaves, chopped
  • 6oz/170g ricotta cheese
  • 1 organic egg, whisked
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ tsp finely grated nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
    prepared red sauce
  • whole dried red chiles (optional)

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the spinach and saute just until the spinach has wilted, about 1 minute. Transfer the spinach to a paper towel to absorb excess water and set aside.

Place the ricotta in a mixing bowl and add the wilted spinach, egg, ¾ cup of Parmegiano-Regiano, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and flour. Fold the ingredients together until just combined and coming together.

Cover the mixture and refrigerate for 30 minutes. This will make the malfatti easier to form.

Then scoop out a generous tablespoon size portions of the mixture and form into elongated egg shapes without being too concerned about their uniformity. Think malfatti!

Place them on a parchment lined tray, cover, and refrigerate until you are ready to cook them in red sauce.

Preheat the oven to 350f/180c

Warm the red sauce and pour a cup or so in a baking dish. Then add the malfatti to the dish and add more sauce to nearly cover the malfatti with only the top exposed. Add the dried chiles if using and transfer the baking dish to the oven and bake for 20 minutes.

Open the oven and add the remaining ¼ cup grated Parmigiano over the tops of the malfatti. Turn the baking dish for even baking and continue baking until just lightly browned, about 15 minutes.

Serving:

Serve the malfatti as pictured in a pool of red sauce along with a mixed greens salad and some crusty bread.

A perfect summer meal!

Roasted Beet Salad with Currants and Anise

Roasted Beet Salad with Currants and Anise

 

The Holidays are nearly upon us and we cooks are all no doubt busy planning parties and finalizing menus for holiday meals for our families and friends.

Every year I host a Christmas dinner for friends here in Chiang Mai, where Christmas is pretty much a non-event other than the usual retail angle. Early on I tried replicating a traditional western Christmas feast, which required a turkey imported from the US and winter root vegetables from Australia and New Zealand.  It was complicated and expensive and, to be honest, rather ridiculous when it was all said and done. So from that point onward I have been creating holiday menus from various cuisines from around the world which are so much more interesting and fun for myself as well as for my friends. This year it is going to be a casual Spanish paella supper with various Spanish inspired accompaniments including this beat salad. At first glance this salad may not garner much attention. But that said, the earthiness of the beets combined with a sweet note from currants plumped in a hot Spanish sherry bath and the perfumed accent of toasted anise seeds magically reveals this salad’s hidden deliciousness.

Roasted Beet Salad with Currants and Anise  photo: Kevin West

Roasted Beet Salad with Currants and Anise photo: Kevin West

This is an easy and deeply colorful salad that is not only a perfect addition to a holiday menu, but to serve throughout the rest of the year as well.

 

Roasted Beet Salad with Currants and Anise    serves 4-6

  • 6 medium size beets, roasted
  • ¼ cup dark dried currants
  • 3 tablespoon sweet sherry (Madeira, or Marsala)
    1 small red onion, peeled, quartered, and thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons anise seeds, lightly toasted
    1 teaspoon flaked sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • radicchio leaves
  • flat leaf parsley sprigs

For instructions on roasting beets (click here)

You can also simply boil the beets if you prefer. Place the beets a in large sauce pan and add water to cover. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and cook until the beets are tender but not too soft, about 30-40 minutes. Test by slipping a sharp knife into the flesh. Drain off the water and set the beets aside to cool.

In either case, when the beets are cool enough to handle slip off the skin and discard. Cut the beets into thin slices. Stack the slices and cut into batons crosswise and place them in a large bowl.

Place the currants in a small sauce pan and add the sherry. Bring to a simmer and cook until the sherry is absorbed. Add the plumped currants to the bowl with the beets.

Add the sliced onions, 1 ½ teaspoons anise seeds, , sea salt, and pepper. Toss until the ingredients are well combined. Add the vinegar and olive oil and toss until evenly coating the beets. Taste and adjust salt and pepper to your liking.

Cover the beet salad with cling film and refrigerate until well chilled.

Serving

Remove the beet salad from the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving. Serving the salad at room temperature allows the flavors of the salad to bloom.

Arrange the radicchio leaves on a serving platter or individual plates. Nestle the beet salad over the radicchio leaves. Sprinkle the remaining anise seeds over the beets and garnish with parsley sprigs.

Delicioso  . . .    to the very last bite !

  

Autumn Moon Salad

Autumn Moon Salad

 

As all cooks know, there are those times when you just have to buckle down and get on with making do with what you happen to have on hand. This time of year that means getting creative with the heartier autumn vegetables varieties that are available in your local farmers markets. As it happens I put this salad together on the day of the November full moon so aptly named an Autumn Moon Salad.

Maybe I’m taking some artistic license here, but indulge me. The cool weather and a brilliant full moon shimmering in the crisp autumn sky somehow seemed in sync with the earthy flavors of gold potatoes tossed with deep green Brussels sprouts and kale leaves spiked with chilies and fresh herbs. There are those times in the kitchen when everything seemingly just comes together effortlessly. 

 

Autumn Moon Salad     serves 4 to 6

  • 4 gold potatoes    aka Yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 pound young Brussels sprouts
  • 2 large bunches kale or collard greens
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¾ cup sliced Spanish pickled red pimientos
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano ( marjoram or wild thyme)
  • 2 teaspoons pepper corns, lightly toasted and coarsely crushed
  • ½ teaspoon pure ground red chile powder
  • flaked sea salt
  • Greek yogurt
  • za’atar (optional)      For more information about za’atar and substitutes (click here)

 

Peel the potatoes and cut into bite size pieces. Place them in a sauce pan and cover with water. Add a pinch of salt, bring to a boil and  reduce the heat and simmer. Cook until the potatoes are tender but not too soft. Transfer the potatoes to a colander, drain well, and set aside to cool.

Remove the outer leaves from the Brussels sprouts and discard. Then snap off a few layers of leaves and place them in a steamer basket. Divide the remaining more compact sprout heads into quarters lengthwise and place them on top of the sprout leaves in the steamer.

Cut the kale (or collard) leaves off the stems. Peel and thinly slice the stems and add them to the steamer basket. Using a very sharp knife, remove the central ribs of the leaves and discard. Slice the leaves in half and place them in the steamer basket.

Cover the steamer with the lid and place over medium heat. Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat to low and steam the contents until tender, but not limp. Then remove the steamer basket and set it aside to cool uncovered.

While the vegetables are steaming you can saute the onions and garlic. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil to a saute pan set over medium heat. When the oil is hot add the onions and reduce the heat a little bit. Saute until the onions are softened. Add the garlic and saute another couple of minutes and then set aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl combine the cooked potatoes, steamed sprouts and kale (or collards) and toss. Add the sauteed onions and garlic and gently toss to evenly coat the potatoes and vegetables with the onions and garlic. Then fold in the pimientos.

Drizzle the vinegar and remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil over all and toss well. Scatter the oregano (marjoram or wild thyme), crushed pepper corns, ground red chile powder, and flaked sea salt over the surface. At this point I like to use my hands to combine the seasonings into the salad for a more even distribution without damaging the potatoes. Taste and add more salt if needed.

The salad is now ready to serve or it can be refrigerated for later use.

Serving:

This salad is best served at near room temperature.

Place the salad in a shallow serving bowl or platter. Drizzle the surface with room temperature Greek yogurt and a good dusting of za.atar.

A Soft and Billowy Potato Salad

A Soft and Billowy Potato Salad

 

Melissa Clarke’s article,  An Accidentally Creamier Fluffier Potato Salad in the NY Times last month, as always,  captures Melisa’s delightfully playful ways in the kitchen that can turn what might be considered mistakenly over cooked potatoes for a potato salad into a mistake worth repeating.  Her purposely soft cooked starchy potatoes folded together with a mildly rich dressing makes the case for a fluffier potato salad that is truly carving worthy.

Keep in mind the secret to success here is to gently simmer your potatoes until they are as soft as they can possibly be without falling apart.

The recipe that follows differs from Melissa’s but uses the same soft cooked potato method. Once the potatoes are drained and cooled for 10 minutes, they can then be gently folded together with sauteed onions, pancetta, garlic, and celery. The salad is then dressed with a subtly rich mayonnaise and Greek yogurt dressing and served while still warm! This has been a steadfast tried and true method I have followed for years and remains my favorite way to make potato salad not matter what ingredients you are using!

 

A Craving Worthy Soft & Billowy Potato Salad      Serves 6 

  • 2.2 pounds/ 1 kilo gold potatoes, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 oz /57 grams pancetta, thinly sliced and diced
  • ½ cup finely diced onion
  • 1 plump garlic clove, peeled and minced
  • ½ cup finely diced young celery
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise (Hellmann’s)
  • 1/3 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon flaked sea salt + more to taste
  • 1/3 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon chipotle chile powder or red chile powder (optional)
  • 1/3 cup finely sliced Italian parsley leaves
  • assortment of salad leaves and greens
  • smoked flaked sea salt (Maldon) for finishing
  • fresh parsley leaves for garnish

Peel the potatoes and cut them into ¾ inch cubes. Place in a large sauce pan and cover with water. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Stir in some salt and simmer the potatoes until they are very soft and tender but still just holding their shape. Test by inserting a knife blade into a potato which should slip easily into the flesh. Once perfectly cooked, drain the potatoes in a colander and set aside to cool briefly. Then transfer potatoes to a large bowl and set aside.

While the potatoes are simmering, heat the olive oil in a medium size saute pan set over medium low heat. When hot add the pancetta and gently cook several minutes without browning. Add the onions, season with some sea salt and pepper , and continue sauteing until the onions are soft without browning. Add the garlic and celery and season with chipotle powder or chile powder if using. Saute 1 minute more and remove the pan from the heat.

Using a silicone spoon, distribute the warm pancetta onion mixture over the potatoes and gently fold the mixture into the potatoes. Then scatter the parsley over the top.

In a small bowl combine the mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, and Dijon mustard and stir until well combined and smooth. Then spoon the dressing over the potatoes and fold in until evenly distributed. Taste and season with more salt if needed. You will notice the dressing will cling nicely to the soft starchy potatoes which gives this potato salad its soft billowy texture so do not be tempted to over mix.

Serving:

Arrange a bed of assorted salad leaves and greens  on each individual serving plate and place the potato salad centered into the leaves. Garnish with parsley leaves and scatter some smoked flaked sea salt over the potatoes and serve.

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