Maine Roots

A blog about all things Maine


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Weekly Recipe: Strawberry Spinach Salad

You can’t say I didn’t warn you about the forthcoming barrage of salad and other veggie-heavy recipes.  My cousin Cathy has made a stawberry and spinach salad for years – it’s consistently served when we have dinner at her house – and I’ve always loved it, yet never made one myself.  When I came across this recipe in Maine Home Cooking, I couldn’t resist.  It can be found under Fresh and Seasonal, page 220.

You’ll need:

  • 4 to 8 ounces of spinach
  • 1/2 large red onion, or to taste
  • 1 cup (or less) strawberries
  • 1 teaspoon of Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 tablespoon red wine, malt, or balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil or your favorite vinaigrette salad dressing
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Remove the big stems from the largest spinach leaves and shred the spinach into a bowl.  Chop the onion finely and toss into the bowl with the spinach.  Slice the strawberries and add them to the spinach to suit your taste.  Whisk together the mustard, vinegar, and olive oil, and sample the dressing by dipping a spinach leaf into it, then add salt and pepper to taste.  Dress the salad lightly just before serving.

strawberry spinach salad

While this recipe sounded great with no additions, I made two adjustments.  First, I added goat cheese.  I had a feeling that it would become a deliciously creamy addition to the vinaigrette, and it did.  Second, on Nick’s serving, I added cooked and chopped chicken, so he’d have a bit more protein to bulk up the meal.

We both loved this salad – it was every bit as tasty as I’d hoped, and we’re adding it to our meal plan on a regular basis.

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Weekly Recipe: Spinach, Ricotta, and Pasta Casserole

I really, really hate letting anything go to waste.  I purposefully select recipes and “meal plan” our week to use up any ingredients in our fridge.  For example, if a recipe calls for chicken broth, I specifically seek out other recipes (that are varied enough not to bore us) that require chicken broth so that I can use it within the 10 days specified on the carton.  Same goes for any veggies, dairy products, etc. that might be living in our refrigerator.

The one area in which I have failed repeatedly to accomplish this feat is with ricotta cheese.  My husband loves lasagna, so I make it fairly frequently, but I haven’t found a use for the remaining ricotta, which inevitably goes bad before I make lasagna again.  So, imagine my surprise and delight when I stumbled across this recipe in my Maine Home Cooking cookbook.  It resides on page 218, under the ‘Fresh and Seasonal’ category, and it requires nearly the exact amount of ricotta cheese that I had left over from making lasagna late last week.  Additionally, it includes spinach, which I am coincidentally trying to eat more of (along with kale, and other dark green vegetables), because my eye doctor recommended it for my long-term eye health.  Perfection!

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 package frozen, chopped spinach or 1 lb. bagged fresh spinach (I used fresh)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, minced (optional)
  • 1 pint of ricotta cheese
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of pesto (optional)
  • 8 ounces bow tie or rotini pasta
  • 1/2 lb. of mozzarella, grated

I added both the garlic and pesto (which my mother had made herself), and I highly recommend both.  It really set the dish off.

If using fresh spinach, wash it and spin it to remove excess water, then blanch or steam it.  Squeeze the water out of the steamed or frozen spinach and chop it up.

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Steaming spinach, boiling pasta…

Saute the chopped onion and minced garlic in the olive oil until soft.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Put the ricotta cheese in a medium bowl and stir into it the spinach, onions, garlic, and pesto (or your choice of seasonings).  I should mention, I also added about a 1/3 cup of parmesan cheese – because I had it, and it’s delicious – what other reason do I need?

Next step – boil and drain the pasta and mix into the seasoned spinach and ricotta.

Mix it all together...

Mix it all together…

Brush or spray a little oil in a 2-quart baking dish.  Put in half the mixture and sprinkle half the grated mozzarella, then add the other half and top with remaining mozzarella.

Layered pasta, spinach, and cheese, pre-baking

Layered pasta, spinach, and cheese, pre-baking

Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese is melted on top and it is heated through.  Then enjoy!

Yum!

Yum!

This dish was exceptional.  I love pasta and cheese, so it wasn’t a long shot to wow me, but Nick is a little tougher.  While he (pretty much) always likes my cooking, I can tell when he really enjoys it because he says something along the lines of “wow, honey, this is really good.”  When that happens, I put it on my “make again” list.  This recipe just landed there.  I can’t recommend it highly enough!