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Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Life Around My Table Seafood

Spinach Ricotta Stuffed Dover Sole

Spinach Ricotta Stuffed Dover Sole with Spicy Tomato Sauce from Karista's Kitchen

I just realized I may be a tiny bit obsessed with ricotta cheese.  My last two recipes have included ricotta cheese and now I’m posting this lovely Spinach Ricotta Stuffed Dover Sole with a Spicy Tomato Sauce.  Completely unintentional as it may be, I must have a sub-concious need for ricotta cheese. Maybe I’m simply channeling my inner Italian, or my need to return to Italy. 🙂 Yep, it’s my need to return to Italy.

This is a dish that keeps a regular rotation on my dinner menu.  Which is why I’m surprised I’ve never shared this enchanting recipe until now.  I’m fairly certain it was due to the food being eaten before I could snap a photo.

Spinach Ricotta Stuffed Dover Sole is a simple entree that assembles easily and can be popped into the oven and served with a lovely Citrus and Arugula Salad or Pesto Broccolini for a beautiful meal.

On occasion I’ll prepare the ricotta stuffing the night before and let it sit in the fridge until needed the next evening; making it even easier to assemble, bake and serve this saucy and creamy Spinach Ricotta Stuffed Dover Sole.

Spinach Ricotta Stuffed Dover Sole with Spicy Tomato Sauce from Karista's Kitchen

I’ve prepared this dish with fresh spinach, sautéed, chopped and squeezed, but I find for reasons of time and texture that frozen, chopped spinach which has been thawed and squeezed works better in this recipe.

That said, once, I forgot to pick up frozen spinach at the market so I walked outside, snipped some Swiss chard from my garden and used it instead.  Not quite as delicate in flavor as the spinach, but still lovely and delicious.

Spinach Ricotta Stuffed Dover Sole with Spicy Tomato Sauce from Karista's Kitchen

I love it when dinner comes together quickly and involves cheese and sauce.  Not too mention, it’s a great way to serve more seafood during the week without a lot of fuss.

An interesting wine tip…  I’ve paired this recipe with a dry, un-oaked chardonnay as well as a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  Although these two wines have completely different flavor profiles, both wines were complimentary.  🙂

Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,

Karista

Spinach Ricotta Stuffed Dover Sole

Serving Size: 4

Spinach Ricotta Stuffed Dover Sole

Ingredients

    For the Dover Sole
  • 1lb Dover Sole
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 oz. whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 package (about 8-12oz) chopped frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons fresh chopped Italian parsley, divided
  • ½ cup shredded Mozzarella
  • ¼ cup Italian bread crumbs or panko bread crumbs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
    For the Tomato Sauce
  • ½ cup diced yellow onion
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 1 14oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Lightly oil an 8 ½ x 11 baking dish.
  • In a food processor add the ricotta, spinach, garlic, ¼ cup parmesan cheese, oregano and Italian parsley. Pulse until thoroughly combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Season each Dover sole filet with salt and pepper. Place a teaspoon or two of the spinach ricotta mixture on one end of the filet and then roll, being careful not to squeeze the filling out of the sides. Some will inevitably escape during cooking. Place seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat until all the filets have been stuffed and rolled.
  • Mix together the mozzarella, ¼ cup parmesan and bread crumbs. Sprinkle on top of the stuffed, rolled filets and then drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil.
  • Place the baking dish in the oven and let it cook for about 10-12 minutes. Turn the broiler on for a minute or two, just before the fish is done to toast the bread crumbs and melt the cheese.
  • To make the sauce, add a tablespoon of olive oil to a sauté pan and heat over medium heat. When the oil is hot sauté the onions until wilted, then add the garlic and crushed red pepper and sauté one minute longer.
  • Next, stir in the red wine and let it reduce by half. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the tomato sauce and tomato paste. Once incorporated put it back over medium heat and let it simmer for about 10-15 minutes, adding a little water if needed. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • To serve, ladle sauce on a plate and then place a stuffed filet or two over the sauce and garnish with additional chopped fresh Italian parsley.
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    http://karistaskitchen.com/2016/03/02/spinach-ricotta-stuffed-dover-sole/

    DaVinci Wine Recipes Halibut Karista's Kitchen Seafood

    White Fish Florentine with DaVinci Pinot Grigio

    Halibut Florentine from Karista's Kitchen

     

    This White Fish Florentine is a lush and flavorful dish inspired by my visit to Tuscany with DaVinci Wine a few years ago.  

    Spinach is used in all sorts of Tuscan dishes and it’s also prevalent in many coastal seafood recipes like my Spinach Ricotta Stuffed Dover Sole.  I love the simple list of ingredients combined with fresh white fish, which is typically easy to find year round.   This gorgeous recipe makes for a fuss free weeknight meal or an elegant meal for entertaining.

    Living here in the Pacific Northwest, I use several different types of white fish for this recipe, depending on the season.  I adore this dish when halibut is in season or when I can snag a gorgeous piece of black or ling cod.

    I like to enjoy the fresh and enticing flavors of this White Fish Florentine paired with a bottle of DaVinci Pinot Grigio. Perfection!

    Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,

    Karista

    White Fish Florentine with DaVinci Pinot Grigio

    Serving Size: 4

    White Fish Florentine with DaVinci Pinot Grigio

    A great way to use all that fishing trip fish stocked in the freezer or the spinach you froze from summer. Substitute with fresh winter greens instead of spinach and spike with your favorite spices rather than the Dijon.

    Ingredients

    • 1lb fresh spinach (or 1 large pkg frozen organic chopped spinach)
    • Olive oil
    • 3 tablespoons chopped shallots
    • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
    • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
    • 1/3 cup heavy cream (for a saucier dish add ½ cup cream)
    • 1 teaspoon lemon zest and a few squeezes of lemon
    • Salt and pepper
    • 1 ½ – 2 lbs fresh fish (Cod, Ling Cod, Halibut, Snapper, Sole, if using snapper try to remove the bones prior to cooking)
    • 1/3 cup bread crumbs
    • 1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan
    • Serve with fresh lemon wedges

    Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 400F.
  • In a sauté pan over medium heat, drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil and add the fresh spinach, in batches if you need. Sauté just until the spinach is wilted and transfer to a dish. Continue until all the spinach has been sautéed. Let the spinach cool a bit and then squeeze all the excess liquid from the spinach. Coarsely chop the sautéed spinach and set aside.
  • Or, if using frozen spinach, thaw and squeeze out all the excess liquid.
  • In the same sauté pan over medium heat, add another tablespoon of olive oil and sauté the shallots and garlic for one minute or until fragrant. Next, stir in the heavy cream, Dijon mustard and lemon zest. Take the pan off the heat and fold in the chopped spinach until combined with the sauce. Season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Drizzle a bit of olive oil in the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish, just enough so the fish won’t stick. Season each piece of fish with salt and pepper and place the fish in the baking dish in a single layer.
  • Spread the spinach mixture evenly over the fish. Then squeeze a bit of lemon juice over the spinach and fish. Mix together the bread crumbs and grated parmesan and then sprinkle on top of the spinach.
  • Place the fish into the oven and roast for about 10-15 minutes or until the fish is flaky and done. Typically you can cook fish about 10 minutes for every inch of thickness, however, because we’ve layered with spinach and breadcrumbs cooking time may be longer.
  • When the fish is done, remove from the oven and serve with fresh lemon wedges.
  • Recipe Management Powered by Zip Recipes Plugin
    http://karistaskitchen.com/2014/11/01/white-fish-florentine/

    This dish is inspired by my visit to Tuscany with the 2013 DaVinci Wine Storyteller Experience and adapted from many versions of Fish Florentine.  I dined on something similar and I was so impressed with the simple but flavorful meal I had to re-create it for this website. Enjoy! 

    Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Salad vegetarian VRAI Magazine

    Blueberry and Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese and Toasted Walnuts

    Blueberry Spinach Salad with Goats Cheese and Toasted Walnuts

    There are loads of fun and exciting things happening at VRAI Magazine, besides this delish recipe of course.

    VRAI Magazine is designing our first ever digital issue for the holiday season.  We are so excited about all the fabulous stories, recipes, travel, DIY, Fashion and lifestyle articles all surrounding the holiday season.  We’ve launched a Kickstarter video and we’d love your support!  Click  HERE and check out the video.  You’ll get to see and hear from all of us.  Including a snippet from Moi. 🙂

    VRAI Magazine is also where you’ll find this lovely and seasonal salad recipe.  Click HERE for the recipe.

    Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,

    Karista

    Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Life Around My Table Risotto Sassy Side dishes vegetarian

    Fresh Spinach, Arugula and Lemon Risotto

    spinach, arugula and lemon risotto

    Fresh Spinach, Arugula and Lemon Risotto

    One of my chicken gals laid an egg today!  Yes, I splattered the good news all over facebook, instagram, and twitter.

    After my little social media blitz, I joyously announced the good news to my two sassy gals.  To which the reply was less than enthusiastic.

    One of my sassy gals gets a pass on enthusiasm as she’s still recovering from surgery, but I thought my youngest gal would be a little more thrilled about the good news.  I was on the receiving end of “that’s nice Mom”.

    chicken egg

    Our first egg

    I did however get a resounding “hurrah” for this lovely little spring green dish of risotto.  One of my youngest gals favorite comfort foods.

    Risotto can be simply flavored with just a hint of spiciness from sautéed shallots, layered with the subtle saltiness of fresh grated parmesan, or exquisitely prepared with earthy porcini’s and lightly drizzled with the distinct pungent flavor of truffle oil.

    This risotto however is most beautifully in between.  Hmmm… I’m sounding a bit like Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  This risotto is just right. 🙂

    spinach, arugula and lemon risotto

    Fresh Spinach, Arugula and Lemon Risotto

    Beautifully green with the distinct peppery taste of fresh arugula and the subtle grassiness of fresh spinach.  Then combined with a spritz of fresh lemon, garlic cloves and olive oil, this risotto seems to complete the spring season of risottos.

    Bright in color and happy on the palate.  What every spring risotto aspires to be.

    Fresh Spinach, Arugula and Lemon Risotto

    Serves 4 to 6

    Ingredients

    1 cup fresh spinach, packed (I used baby spinach leaves)

    1 cup fresh arugula, packed (I used baby arugula leaves)

    1-2 cloves garlic, crushed

    Zest of one lemon

    2-3 tablespoons lemon juice

    ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

    Salt and pepper to taste

    3 tablespoons butter

    1 shallot, chopped

    2 cups Arborio rice

    ½ cup dry white wine

    6 cups vegetable broth, warmed

    ½ cup grated parmesan cheese

    Directions

    Combine the arugula and spinach leaves, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil in a food processor.  Blend until coarsely chopped.  Fold in the lemon zest.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    In a large saucepan bring the broth to a simmer.  Cover and keep warm over low heat.

    Melt the butter in a heavy large pot over medium heat.  Add the chopped shallot and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes.

    Add the rice and stir for about 2 minutes. Add the white wine and stir until absorbed, about 1 minute.

    Stir in 1 cup of the warm broth and simmer until it is absorbed, stirring frequently. Cook until the rice is almost tender, adding broth ½ cup at a time and stirring often, allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding the next, about 20 minutes.

    Stir in the spinach arugula mixture. Continue cooking, adding more broth ¼ cup at a time, until rice is creamy and tender, about 10 minutes longer.

    Season the risotto with salt and pepper.  Transfer to a bowl and sprinkle with the parmesan cheese.  Serve immediately.

     

    Chicken Kid Friendly Pasta vegetarian

    Summer Lasagna

    I suppose you’re wondering what in the world is Summer Lasagna?  Well, it’s lasagna I make in the summer.  🙂  Naw!  Just kidding. 

    Summer lasagna is my answer to lasagna all year-long.  Just like soup, I like to eat lasagna in all seasons.  So I decided to change it up a bit, use a bechamel sauce (fancy name for white sauce), add some spinach, ground chicken and of course all the regulars… mozzarella and parmesan.   And if I have my fave Fontina Val d’Aosta cheese in the frig, that get’s tossed in too. 

    The Bennett Crew wasn’t so sure they were going to like Summer Lasagna because they really love my rich red sauced Lasagna Bolognese.  Luckily I got three thumbs up from the crew and they asked me to make it again this week. 

    I’ve also made this yummy white sauced lasagna without ground meat and it’s just as delicious.  I added in steamed asparagus, extra spinach and fresh chopped herbs.  And course extra garlic and cheese just to create a little decadence. 

    Serves 6-8

    Ingredients

    1 lb ground chicken

    1-2 tablespoons veggie oil

    ½ cup chopped shallots

    4 – 5 cloves garlic, minced

    1 cup sliced cremini mushrooms

    ½ teaspoon dried oregano

    5-6 ounces baby spinach

    Salt and pepper

    6-9 Dry lasagna noodles, cooked according to directions

    Béchamel sauce (recipe below)

    1 lb Ricotta cheese

    ¼ cup shredded or grated parmesan

    1 egg

    1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs or seasoning

    2 -3 cups fresh mozzarella shredded or sliced

    ½ cup shredded or grated parmesan

    ½ cup shredded fontina, optional

    1 8×8 or 8×11 baking dish

    Directions

    Pre-heat the oven to 350F.

    In a large skillet over medium high heat add the oil and the ground chicken.  Cook until the chicken is almost done.

    Add the shallots and mushrooms to the chicken mixture and let them cook for a 2-3 minutes.  Then add the garlic and sauté a minute longer. 

    Turn the heat down to medium and stir in the oregano. Then add the fresh spinach.  Let the spinach wilt down a bit and season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste.  Take the mixture off the heat.

    Wilting spinach into chicken mixture

     

    The spinach wilted nicely

    Prepare the béchamel and set aside.

    In a medium bowl mix together the ricotta cheese, ¼ cup parmesan, egg, dried herbs and a pinch of salt and pepper.

    Ladle a little béchamel sauce on the bottom of the baking dish and then cover the sauce with lasagna noodles. 

    Spread more sauce over the noodles and then top with some of the meat mixture.  Top the meat mixture with some of the ricotta, and then sprinkle with a bit of the mozzarella.

    Repeat the layers 2 or 3 times depending on pan size.  Be sure to reserve enough mozzarella to sprinkle on top and then sprinkle with parmesan and fontina (if using).  This is definitely a recipe that can be layered however you like so feel free to be creative!

    Place a sheet of foil over the baking pan and place in the oven for about 20 minutes.  Remove the foil and let the top of the cheese crisp to a golden brown.  At the end of the 20 minutes, sometimes I turn on the broiler and toast the cheese quickly.  Be sure to watch or it might burn.  (I’ve done this!)

    When the lasagna is done, remove from the oven and let it sit for at least 10 minutes.  It’ll be easier to cut and serve.  This lasagna is definitely delicious the day its prepared, but it’s also fabulous the next day.

    Serve with a light Spinach and Raspberry salad and crusty Italian bread. 

    Mario Batali’s Bechamel (one of my favorites)

    Ingredients

     5 tablespoons butter

    4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

    4 cups milk

    2 teaspoons salt

    ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

    Directions

    In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until the mixture turns a light, golden sandy color, about 6 to 7 minutes.

    Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate pan until just about to boil. Add the hot milk to the butter mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from heat. Season with salt and nutmeg, and set aside until ready to use.

     

    Pork

    Stuffed Pork Loin with Fresh Spinach, Feta and Golden Raisins

    I just might have a thousand recipes for pork (exaggerating a wee bit), but for some reason I’m completely bored with all of them.  I think it’s time to get a little fancy with this week’s pork. 

    And by fancy I don’t mean lots of work,  just really fresh and delicious and maybe a little different from the usual.  Something that’ll make me smile and maybe even impress the Bennett Crew.  They are my toughest critics.  So far anyway.   

    I had the prettiest pink pork loin in my frig.  I asked my butcher to butterfly the pork loin so I could stuff it.  With what I wasn’t sure.  I had spinach in the frig, and I always have feta cheese.  I love feta cheese and my absolute favorite feta is Valbreso French Sheep’s Milk Feta.  Yum!

    I keep lots of dried fruit on hand (for those scones I’m always going to make but never get to), and I was thinking the golden raisins would go nicely with the spinach and feta.  Throw in some onions, garlic and toasted walnuts and my boring pork just got exciting. 

    The pretty pink pork turned out beautiful.  What was the first thing the Bennett Crew asked?  Mom, does it come with a sauce? (if you know me, you know why that’s funny) So much for impressing the Bennett Crew. 

    And the answer is yes.  I did whip up a little sauce for the stuffed pork and I’ve added it at the end of the recipe.  A simple pan sauce that you can use for any meat dish.  Just in case your family asks “does it come with a sauce?”. 

    Serves 4-6

    Ingredients

    3lb pork loin, butterflied (ask your butcher to butterfly)

    5-6 oz fresh spinach (I like to use organic fresh baby spinach)

    ¼ cup golden raisins

    1/3 cup white wine, warmed (you can substitute with warm water)

    Olive oil

    Butter (if needed)

    2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

    1 small onion, chopped (I used a Walla Walla sweet onion and it was delish!)

    ¼ cup toasted chopped walnuts

    3 1/2 – 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

    Salt/pepper

    Kitchen twine

    Fresh chopped Italian parsley, for garnish

    Shortcut Rosemary White Beans (recipe below)

    I know the directions look long and tedious… but it’s just me being wordy again.  It’s really very easy to put together and then pop it in the oven.  Add some shortcut rosemary white beans and dinner is not only beautiful, but delicious.  

    Directions

    Pre-heat the oven to 400F.

    Place the warm wine (or water) in a bowl and then add the raisins.  Let the raisins sit and plump while you prep the rest of the ingredients.

    Heat a skillet or sauté pan on medium heat and add a tablespoon of oil.  Add the fresh spinach to the pan and let the heat wilt the spinach.  Try not to cook the spinach; you just want it wilted, not fully cooked where it omits lots of liquid.  Transfer the wilted spinach to a bowl and set aside. 

    In the same skillet or sauté pan over medium heat, add about 1 tablespoon oil or butter.  Sauté the onions until translucent or nicely wilted.  Then add the garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds longer just until fragrant. 

    Remove from the heat and place the onions and garlic in the bowl with the spinach.

    Drain the raisins and then add them to the spinach mixture, along with the chopped walnuts and crumbled feta. 

    Gently toss the ingredients together, season with salt and pepper to taste.

    Unfold the butterflied pork loin and season both sides with salt and pepper.

    Spread the filling on the pork.

    Roll the pork and then place seam side down in a baking dish or roasting pan.  With kitchen twine, tie the pork in two or three places. 

    Place the pork in the oven and roast at 400F for about 10 minutes.  Then turn the oven down to 350F for another 30. 

    At 30 minutes, check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer.  The pork will be done when the meat thermometer reads 145F.  These are new guidelines for cooking pork.  For more information about the new guidelines here is an informative website.

    http://www.prairiefarmer.com/story.aspx/new/guidelines/pork/is/perfectly/safe/at/145/degrees/f/9/49779

    When the pork is done, remove from the oven and let it sit for about five minutes before slicing.

    If you’d like a quick pan sauce for your pork, heat a few tablespoons of butter over medium heat.  When the butter is frothy, whisk in a teaspoon of Dijon mustard and then about 1/3 cup of white wine or chicken broth.  Let the sauce simmer and reduce a bit.  It will be not be a thick sauce, just a nice au jus type sauce to ladle over the pork once it’s sliced. 

    Season the sauce with salt and pepper and if you have any fresh herbs lying around, chop an assortment of fresh herbs and add to the sauce.  I love fresh chopped oregano and Italian parsley with this sauce. 

    Slice the pork and place on individual plates or a platter.  Sprinkle with fresh chopped Italian parsley.  If you made the sauce, drizzle it over the sliced pork. 

    Serve with Shortcut Rosemary White Beans and a mixed green salad for a beautiful and delicious meal. 

    Shortcut Rosemary White Beans

    Ingredients

    1 15oz can organic white beans

    2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary

    Salt and pepper to taste

    Directions

    Add the beans and rosemary to a small pot.  Heat the beans to a simmer, being careful not to over mix as they will lose their shape. 

    Turn off the heat and cover with a lid.  Let the beans sit for a few minutes to absorb the rosemary flavors.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

    Refrigerate the beans to top a salad or serve warm as a side dish.

    Salad Sassy Side dishes

    Baby Spinach, Raspberry and Toasted Walnut Salad in Raspberry Vinaigrette

    Last night I needed a quick salad for dinner.  Looking through the frig I realized I didn’t have any fresh romaine.  But I had mounds of baby spinach, 2 lbs to be exact.  Obviously I got a little excited when purchasing spinach; really, who needs 2 lbs of spinach? But I had 2 lbs of spinach and lots of fresh organic raspberries because my Suzie Q is on a raspberry kick at the moment.

    After realizing I had the makings for a great salad I did a little happy dance in the kitchen because I could finally use my new raspberry vinegar. I’ve been waiting for the perfect moment to crack open that beautiful bottle.

    The salad and dressing was a hit.  Beautiful bright green and crisp baby spinach tossed with fresh organic sweet raspberries, toasted walnuts and lovely, sweet but tart, pink raspberry vinaigrette. It was almost too beautiful to eat.

    Ok, so now here’s the great part.  This yummy salad would make a fabulous light summer meal topped with grilled chicken or crab and shrimp salad. It would also taste fabulous with a warm piece of fresh grilled fish plopped right on top of the salad, to wilt the spinach a little.  Then drizzle with extra vinaigrette.  It’s a two for one recipe!

    Serves 3-4

    Ingredients

    6-8 ounces fresh organic baby spinach (about 1-1 ½ packed cup per person for a side salad)

    1 pint fresh organic raspberries

    ¼ cup toasted chopped walnuts (optional, pecans are also a nice option)

    3 tablespoons good quality raspberry vinegar

    1 heaping tablespoon raspberry preserves (great on scones, toast and use the remaining jar to prepare a savory Raspberry Sauce)

    2/3 cup good quality olive oil or grape seed oil

    Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

    Directions

    Whisk together the vinegar, oil and preserves.  Taste for salt and pepper.  If you like your dressing sweeter add a bit more preserves.  If you like your dressing a bit more “zingy”, add a little more vinegar.

    In a large bowl toss the spinach with vinaigrette and then top with fresh raspberries and toasted walnuts.  Serve immediately.

    To use as an entrée, pair the salad with grilled chicken slices or pieces, chicken salad, tuna salad, crab and shrimp salad or grilled shrimp.

    Kid Friendly Sassy Side dishes vegetarian

    Warm Farro with Wilted Baby Spinach and Crispy Pancetta

    Meet my new discovery, Farro.   Well, it’s not really a “new” discovery, I’ve just finally figured out how to cook with it.  Farro is one of those new again ancient grains to gain popularity in the mainstream food arena.  A grain that feels and cooks much like brown rice or barley, but  more complex and stubborn.  As you can tell I’ve wrestled with perfecting the cooking of this little grain.   

    Farro is the Italian name for Emmer wheat.  The first bite will have you hooked; rich and nutty flavor with just a bit of crunch keeps your spoon or fork digging in for more.  A fabulous alternative to brown rice or couscous, and deliciously pairs with veggies, caramalized onions, wilted spinach, chard and anything else you can think of.   

    Ok, so now you know what farro is, let me tell you how I cook it.  I’ve experimented with several methods and the method I’ve had the most luck with is simply boiling in water for a recommended amount of time, taking it off the heat, and letting it sit for a while to soften.  When the grains have popped open and become soft, that’s when I think farro tastes and feels the best.  

    I’d really like to tell you it was my culinary brilliance that figured out my favorite method for preparing farro, but honestly, it was because I had to quickly take the pot of farro off the heat so I could leave my house.  I’d lost track of time experimenting with recipes and forgot I had to pick up my daughter from school!   The farro was just going to have to wait and I’d deal with the disaster when I got home.  To my surprise it wasn’t a disaster at all, it was a delicious discovery.  I love when that happens!

    If you can’t find farro where you live, here is a link to our local Emmer Farro grower, Bluebird Grain Farms.  They will ship right to your door!  http://www.bluebirdgrainfarms.com/index.html  

    Serves 4-6

    Ingredients

    2 cups Emmer Farro (whole grain, if using cracked farro cut the cook time in half, or follow cooking instructions on the package)

    4 1/2 cups water or veggie or chicken broth

    8 oz – organic baby spinach ( or more, depending on how much you like spinach!)

    8 – 10 slices pancetta (basically it’s Italian bacon)

    1 small onion, halved and thin sliced

    2 cloves garlic, minced

    Butter

    Olive oil

    Salt and pepper

    Chopped fresh Italian parsley (for garnish, optional)

    Directions

    In a large pot, heat the 4 1/2 cups water.  Season the water with a little salt, and then add the farro.  Let the farro simmer for about 30 minutes.  Check the farro, if it is soft and plump and you like the texture then it’s ready.  However, if it’s still a bit crunchy and the kernels haven’t burst, take it off the heat and let it sit for another 30 minutes in the hot water.  

    While the farro is cooking, heat a skillet on medium and add a pat of butter and saute the onions.  Once the onions are soft and golden, add the garlic and saute for a minute longer.

    Transfer the onions and garlic to a bowl and set aside.  In the same skillet over medium heat, add the pancetta.  Let the pancetta cook and crisp, like bacon and then transfer to a dish and set aside. 

    Last, again in the same skillet, add a drizzle of olive oil if needed and heat on medium heat.  In batches, add the baby spinach to the pan and let the spinach wilt.  You just want the spinach to wilt slightly, not cook down until soggy.  Transfer the spinach to the dish with the onions and garlic. 

    When the farro is done, drain if needed and place in a large bowl.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

    Toss the farro with the spinach, onions and garlic.  Once it’s blended to your satisfaction, crumble the pancetta over the top and serve.  Dust with fresh chopped Italian parsley if desired. 

    Enjoy!

    I surfed the net for additional farro recipes, and I love the farro post on the blog Orangette, a fellow Seattlite.  Sounds yummy! PS: I love Molly’s book too!  Definitely worth purchasing, a great read!

    http://orangette.blogspot.com/2009/04/its-name-is-farro.html

    Chicken Kid Friendly

    Lemon Chicken Florentine

    Sometimes I feel like the Queen of the quick meal; prep it, cook it, sauce it and serve it!  Fresh ingredients that require minimal effort but result in exceptional flavor. 

    And sometimes I like to make dinner a project.  Piddling around in the kitchen (yes, I used the word piddle! It must be another one of those Southernisms from my youth) prepping savory and aromatic ingredients, standing over a Dutch oven or a skillet stirring and sautéing; playing with a blend of flavors to create a fun and enticing dinner event. 

    If I had all the time in the world, that’s how I’d cook every night.  But I live in reality (most of the time) and reality often tells me I have to hustle if I want to serve dinner before midnight.  Ok, I’m being dramatic again, we don’t eat dinner even remotely close to midnight.  But there are moments when I’m in a genuine panic because my family is famished and my day was running late before my feet hit the floor that morning. 

    This is exactly the reason I love simple, fresh and tasty dishes that use the seasons harvest combined with a main ingredient.  Most produce really does taste fabulous all on its own.  But combine it with a few other fresh ingredients, simply prepared and of course sauced, and wow… dinner made delicious. 

    Lemon Chicken Florentine is a perfect example.  Fresh baby spinach, aromatic shallots and garlic, tangy fresh lemon, organic chicken topped with a quick creamy sauce and a sprinkling of fresh herbs and decadent cheese.   Set it on the table and watch it disappear!

    I know the recipe looks lengthy, but it’s just me being wordy.  I love teaching home chef’s how to cook and I want to make sure you fully understand the easy steps in preparing this dish.  The sauce is just a quick bechamel (do not hyperventilate it’s super easy!) combined with lots of fresh herbs and your favorite hard cheese.  Personally I adore Parrano cheese, very much like a parmesan but nuttier.  Most markets that have a gourmet cheese area will carry this cheese as it’s becoming quite popular in the US.

    I love feedback, questions and comments, so if you need additional advice or instruction on any of the recipes in this blog, just give me a shout.  (that would be an email shout) 🙂

    Keep dinner simple… Enjoy the flavors of life!

    Serves 4-6

    Ingredients

    1 ½ lbs organic free range chicken breasts, thin sliced or pounded thin (when talking to your butcher ask for chicken cutlets) It should be about 6-8 cutlets if nicely thin sliced.  If you can’t find cutlets, purchase organic chicken breasts and either pound them thinner and cut into serving sizes, or the chicken breast horizontally to make two cutlets out of one breast.

    2 tablespoons or a good drizzle of high heat oil (coconut, safflower, sunflower or peanut)

    Salt and pepper

    3 lbs fresh baby Spinach (I love using baby spinach; it wilts quickly and easily. However, if you grow spinach or purchase it from a local farm, definitely use whatever kind of spinach you have on hand)

    3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

    2 tablespoons butter

    1/3 cup chopped shallots (this doesn’t have to be exact, if you have one shallot, medium or large, chop it up and use it)

    2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

    1 ½ cups organic milk (whole milk, 2% or 1%)

    1 medium lemon juiced (2-3 tablespoons)

    1/3 cup shredded parmesan, Gruyere, Parrano, Fontina or Romano cheese (Or a combination)

    ¼ cup chopped Italian parsley, fresh basil, fresh oregano, fresh thyme or fresh chive (or a combination)

    Directions

    Pre-heat the oven to 350F.

    Heat a large skillet on medium high and add a few tablespoons of oil.  Pat the cutlets dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper.

    When the oil is hot place the cutlets in the pan and cook for a few minutes on each side, just until golden brown.  No need to cook through as they are going in the oven to finish cooking.

    Once the cutlets have been browned, transfer to a platter.

    Turn the heat down to medium and add the spinach, in batches if necessary, to the skillet.  (No need to add any oil or butter we just want to wilt the spinach with the heat) Toss until the spinach is wilted, adding more spinach as it cooks down. 

    Just as the last of the spinach begins to wilt, toss in the garlic and sauté for a minute or two.  Transfer the spinach to a baking dish or roasting pan and spread evenly on the bottom of the pan.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

    Still over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of butter, and shallots to the skillet. 

    When the butter is frothy and shallots are soft, add the flour and whisk for a minute or two.  It will look like a bit of a disaster in your pan, but don’t panic, once you add the milk, the sauce will all come together, just keep whisking. 

    As you whisk, pour in the milk and continue whisking until the sauce is smooth and is at your desired consistency.  If the sauce seems too thick (like gravy rather than a sauce) add a little more milk to thin.  Whisk in the lemon juice and taste for salt and pepper.

    Take the sauce off the heat and stir in the cheese.

    Place the chicken on the spinach and cover with the sauce.  Sprinkle additional cheese on top with the fresh chopped herbs.

    Place the baking dish in the oven and bake for about 5-8 minutes longer.  The sauce will be slightly bubbly and the chicken should be done.  If using a meat thermometer, the chicken will be done when it reaches 160F. 

    Remove the baking dish from the oven and let it sit for about 5 minutes before serving.  I love to serve this with brown rice or a wild rice mix, farro or quinoa.  Enjoy!

    Salad Sassy Side dishes vegetarian

    Spinach Salad with Cremini Mushrooms and Crispy Pancetta tossed in a Maple vinaigrette

    Some evenings I simply crave veggies.  Unfortunately, I seem to have this need to dress up my simple veggies with this, that and the other, and often end up just a tad bit short of simple.  However, always delicious! 

    That’s how I ended up with this simple salad.  I was feeling like a spinach salad but needed just a little more tickle for the taste buds.  I have this fabulous dressing that I use for spinach salad but didn’t have the brown sugar it called for.  No problem I thought, I’ll substitute with maple syrup.  Oh, and wouldn’t crispy pancetta taste divine with the maple flavored vinaigrette?  Well,  one thing led to another and voila!  My spinach salad was born.  (I sound like the children’s book “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”) 

    I must admit the maple flavors in the vinaigrette pair beautifully with the cremini mushrooms and crispy pancetta.  However, if you’re vegan or vegetarian, feel free to skip the pancetta and add other delicious flavors such as toasted walnuts or pecans, or even herbed croutons would be yummy.  Just a little something crunchy for some texture with the soft mushrooms and firm spinach leaves. 

    If you don’t have pancetta on hand, feel free to substitute with your favorite smoked bacon.  As well, you can substitute the  maple syrup with brown sugar.  This beautiful and delicious salad is great all by itself, but it’s also tasty paired with salmon or pork. 

    Enjoy your veggies tonight with this divine Spinach Salad.  Happy Cooking!

    Serves 2

    Ingredients

    5 ounces baby spinach, washed and paper towel dried

    3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

    1/4 cup maple syrup

    3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

    1 teaspoon dijon mustard

    1 teaspoon Worcestershire

    salt and pepper to taste

    1 cup sliced cremini mushrooms

    8-10 slices pancetta

    Directions

    In a skillet on medium heat, fry the pancetta just as you would bacon.  Remove the pancetta to a bowl and then crumble when cool.  Add the cremini mushrooms to the fat left in the pan and saute the mushrooms until wilted. 

    Whisk together the red wine vinegar, olive oil, mustard, Worcestershire, and maple syrup.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

    Toss the spinach leaves with about half the dressing. Reserve the other half in the frig for up to 3 days for another salad or use over grilled salmon. 

    Plate the spinach and then top with the mushrooms and crumbled crispy pancetta.  Serve immediately.

    For a Vegetarian option:  Omit the pancetta and replace with toasted walnuts or pecans and thin sliced red onion.