Melts in Your Mouth
I don’t want to play games. I want some one-on-one time with some oeey-gooey-goodness and I want it to be up close and personal. I want to get my Digable Planets on and relish in some creamy lavishness. And what better way to do so than to get my smooch on with some darling whole wheat crepes filled with melty swiss and artichokes. But you know I like my pop of color, so why not some spinach and red peppers to make things majestic. And tender shrimp to round out this party of sheer sexiness. I feel like I’m wasting time talking when I could be noshing. And I imagine that you’re feeling the same way and want to cut to the fucking chase. Let’s get it on… Continue reading Shrimp Crepes with Spinach, Artichokes and Swiss
Sexy Ass Spinach…For Lovers Only
I know that this is one of those recipes that you think of from 90s potlucks and progressive dinners. Pop it in a bread bowl and you are completely with the era. But I still go back to this recipe for the winning combination of flavors and the lack of pre-processed ingredients used to make it. This is no TGIF Frozen Spinach Dip in the freezer aisle of the grocery store. This one is for lovers only. Shallots and garlic flavor the creamy dip and bring out the sweetness of the spinach and artichokes. Best of all, the ingredient list is simple enough that you probably have most of the ingredients on hand already. So if you need a calorie splurge to go with a little junk TV, this’ll do the trick. Bravo, here I come… Continue reading Spinach Artichoke Dip
Not that I haven’t always been an odd duck, but as a child, I didn’t eat any sort of seafood except for oysters. Fish was assumed to taste the way it smelled, crabs looked like spidery ocean monsters, and shrimp had to have been the grossest looking things I’d ever seen. But oysters! How I loved them so! My favorite preparation was fried with lots of lemon and ketchup, and I would adore the nights our family and extended family would pile into the car to go to the Chesapeake Bay Seafood House for their All-You-Can-Eat extravaganza. I’ve grown to become EEO about seafood (I’m sorry for judging you guys!) and adore just about every fresh catch I can get my hands on, but oysters hold a special place in my heart. Continue reading Oyster Rockefeller Dressing
When did the art of creaming vegetables become en vogue? And when did it fall out of favor in the first place, with poor creamed corn holding up the fort, all the while labeled as low-brow and trailer park? It’s rather silly given that if ever there was a way to get people to give vegetables a chance, it’s to slather them in cream.
The first time I ever tried creamed spinach, I wasn’t really a true spinach convert. Boston Market (then Boston Chicken) had opened down the street from us and the family decided to give it a try. The guy working the counter (aka the “Side Dish Pimp”) tried to sell us on the glories of their creamed spinach, touting it as a game changer. We took the bait and I took my first bite of the stuff, more dairy than veg and not at all what I had imagined it to be. Years later, I realize that what I had had wasn’t revolutionary, but it did deserve credit for resoundingly convincing me that spinach is on my team 100%. *in my best Will Ferrell as Robert Goulet voice* “You win, spinach. You always do!” Continue reading Creamed Spinach
Back when I was rocking plaid skirts and a blazer in high school (and even before that as a tagalong with my mom’s running club), we used to frequent a quirky eatery called Generous George’s Positive Pizza and Pasta Place. Fake flamingos and pink and teal paint dripping with kitsch and childhood memorabilia everywhere, it looked a little like Miami Vice and Parker Brothers got together as an interior design firm. And do I recall a shark hanging from the ceiling? Or maybe a surf board? It was probably both.
Aesthetics aside, the place was too fun. The pizzas featured airy, pliant dough with mounds of toppings and cheese. And the pastas, all served on a single-sized pizza crust, were epic sized portions that even my dad’s appetite could not slay. People left the place with takeout boxes and close to a pound of pasta in leftovers. My mom usually got the red or white clam, Dad loved Old Naples with crumbled sausage and melted cheese, and Lexi usually ordered a personal pizza and pretended to be full after a bite or two so that she could get away with ordering dessert. I used to be a sucker for the Chicken Romano Fettucine, basically alfredo with chicken, ham, peas and mushrooms, until I ordered the Rosemary Chicken Florentine on a whim. The first time made me a convert – farfalle tossed with tender chicken, spinach, bacon, roasted red peppers in a rosemary cream sauce. It was ridiculous. Preposterous. I was hooked.
Years have gone by since I’ve rolled down Duke Street in Alexandria to see our old haunt, and it turns out that there’s only my memories of the place to serve me now. My sister posted on Facebook that the location was demoed and is now a PNC Bank. I wondered if they auctioned off the merry-go-round pony that was in the main dining room? Anyways, rather than put on my old school uniform, I decided to relive a classic and make a heaping mess of the beloved pasta. I cut back the fat on the sauce, using milk instead of cream, and I didn’t have a pizza crust to use as a plate. But it was still ridiculous. Still preposterous. And apparently, I’m still hooked.
Rosemary Chicken Florentine Pasta
2 chicken breasts
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
2 c. of chicken stock
1 c. of white wine
1/2 tsp. of white pepper
1/2 tsp. of black pepper
1 tsp. of salt
1/4 tsp. of garlic powder
2 bay leaves
4 strips of bacon
4 cloves of garlic
6 oz. of roasted red peppers, sliced
6 oz. of baby spinach
1 tbs. of olive oil
1 tbs. of chopped rosemary leaves
1 lb. of dried pasta cuts (farfalle, conchiglie, ziti, penne)
6 tbs. of butter
3 tbs. of flour
2 1/2 c. of whole milk
1 c. of locatelli
1/2 tsp. of black pepper
pinch of white pepper
pinch of nutmeg
1/4 tsp. of garlic powder
Begin by cooking the chicken. Add two boneless, skinless chicken breasts to a saucepan with the stock, wine, rosemary sprigs, bay leaves, 1/2 tsp. of white pepper, 1/2 tsp. of black pepper, 2 tsp. of salt and 1/4 tsp. of garlic powder. Bring to a boil and then turn off the heat. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes. Remove chicken from poaching liquid and let cool slightly. Shred with two forks. Set aside.
Now make the sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Whisk in the flour, white pepper, black pepper, garlic powder and nutmeg. Add the milk, whisking the entire time to prevent lumps. Turn the heat to medium and whisk until thickened. Stir in the locatelli and remove from the heat. Stir in the roasted red peppers. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to box directions. While the water comes to a boil, add bacon to a skillet and brown. Toss in garlic, rosemary, spinach and the olive oil and cook until spinach is wilted. Season with a little extra salt and black pepper and set aside.
When the pasta finishes, drain and toss with the red pepper cream sauce, spinach/chicken/garlic/rosemary mixture. Top with extra grated locatelli and serve hot.
Of the dishes that I crave in an almost manic way, pawing the walls like a crackhead needing a fix, wonton noodle soup is always on the top of the list. In college, it was brimming bowls of Cantonese Wonton Soup from Ollie’s Noodle Shop in NYC. The broth studded with crisp shallots and baby spinach featured the most lovely shrimp and pork wontons – I willingly braved the lines and the brusque service just to get my weekly fix. It was hard for me to imagine a wonton soup better than it, but once I tried the Roast Pork Wonton Noodle Soup at China Fun (also in NYC), I fell head over heels in love. Blubbery udon noodles, tender slices of barbecued pork and spinach and scallions swimming around in a steaming bowl of broth. And those wontons. God, I have dreams about them – I felt a Robert Rodriguez-style need to march right into the kitchen and shoot the cook as the rest of the world didn’t deserve to eat anything so damn good.
Not to put his business out there, but my husband is not a fan of spinach. Stubborn that I am, though, I try to work it into dishes to “convince” him that maybe, just maybe, there is requited love out there for him and the leafy greens. You see, I didn’t always adore spinach myself. When I was in preschool, I once had an abysmal lunch of macaroni and cheese (yum!) with canned spinach (ugh!). When I refused to eat my spinach, I was told that I couldn’t have any chocolate pudding for dessert. This was no matter in that I didn’t like chocolate (don’t really love it to this day unless it’s really, really good) – I pitched a fit and refused to eat the vile spinach. With that, I was whisked off to timeout and my hatred of spinach was sealed. Until…I decided to study Italian in high school before heading off across the pond for a school trip. As we learned the different food names in Italian, a group of us made a face at spinaci. “Oh no!” our professor assured us, “Fresh spinach sauteed with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper is delicious! You must try it.” Try it, I did, and I never looked back – spinach and I were meant to be together. Continue reading Dionysi’s Spinach and Cheese Pie
Just as ancient tales are easily bungled by funky translations (like Charles Perrault’s original story Cinderella, with confusion over a slipper of glass [verre], squirrel fur [vair] or even iron [fer]…a hot mess that Cinderella was), so too do recipes often have translation mix ups. Although Italian Wedding Soup, a popular dish in this country, hints at origins surrounding Tuscan weddings, the actual name of the soup is minestra mariata or “married soup” – a reference to the melange of greens, broth, meat and cheese. An apropos name, given that all of the flavors in this soup blend together into something akin to a warm hug. I’m all about that marriage, if I do say so myself.
Traditional versions of the soup involve a slow simmering stock that can include soup bones (prosciutto to be super authentic) and a variety of greens and broccoli. I love this soup with pastina, or little pasta pearls that puff up in the broth, but this version, as inspired by the cracked-out craziness of the Canadian show “Bitchin’ Kitchen” uses cheese tortellini. If you don’t have tortellini, you can swap it out for ditalini (short pasta tubes) or any mini pasta you’d like. You call the shots – this is your wedding and I don’t want you getting all bridezilla on me.
Italian Wedding Soup
1 1/2 lbs. of ground beef
1 lb. of pork
1 small hoagie roll
1/2 c. of parsley leaves
1/4 c. of parmesan
pinch of salt
pinch of black pepper
1 clove of garlic, very finely minced
pinch of oregano
8 c. of chicken stock
cheese tortellini or ditalini
In a food processor, grind up the hoagie roll, parsley leaves and garlic. Toss into a standing mixer or mixing bowl and blend with the beef, pork, egg, parmasean, salt, pepper and oregano. Roll into very small meatballs, about 1/2 of a tablespoon of filling at a time. Set aside.
In a pot, bring the chicken broth to a boil. Add the meatballs and let simmer away in the soup for at least 20 minutes. Grab another pot, fill with water and bring to a boil. Salt the water and chuck in the cheese tortellini or ditalini pasta, cooking according to the package directions. Drain.
To assemble the bowl of soup, add a handful of baby spinach and 1/2 c. of pasta to a large soup bowl. Ladel over the broth and meatballs, top with some cracked pepper and parmasean cheese.