Malfatti di Spinaci e Ricotta Keeps the Vampires Away

Well, not really, but fresh garlic on your front porch does!

This past Friday I went to Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem with two foodie girlfriends, Mimi from Israeli Kitchen and Sarah from Foodbridge. We had a great time exploring the market finding all sorts of goodies to try. I came home with fontina, mahleb, pear cider from Normandy, a loaf of currant and walnut bread, artichokes, and 6 kilos of braided fresh garlic. I thought Mr. BT was going to kill me for buying so much garlic, but his Hungarian side was pleased as a peasant in the countryside. I thought my car was going to smell like a Romanian kitchen, but it wasn’t too bad, or maybe I just like the smell of garlic. We hung the beautiful braid on our shady front porch to dry.

I am always looking for quick dishes to make during the week and I had some ricotta and spinach I bought to use during Passover, but never got around to using. So, I used them to make a very quick, light and delicious Italian dish called Malfatti. It is a Tuscan dish made with ingredients that are used to fill ravioli. In fact it was probably concocted when someone had made too much ravioli filling. There are various versions of this dish, including one served with a brown butter and sage sauce, but I served mine with a tomato and fresh garlic sauce. They are like little soft pillows in your mouth, but without having to pick the feathers from between your teeth.

Malfatti di Spinaci e Ricotta

Serving Size: 4 to 6 serving as a light main course and 6 to 8 a

(Spinach and Ricotta Malfatti)

500g (1lb) ricotta

2 cups chopped frozen spinach, thawed and moisture squeezed out

100g (1/2 cup) butter, melted

1/4 cup semolina, plus more for shaping

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

4 large egg yolks

1 large whole egg

Freshly ground black pepper

Parmesan cheese

Put a teaspoon of semolina into a narrow wineglass. Drop in a ball and swirl until it forms an oval. Repeat. (You may need to add more semolina) You can freeze them at this point.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in the malfatti and cook until they float, about 8 minutes. (If frozen, 10 minutes.) Drain malfatti and place on plates or in a flat bowl. Serve with tomato sauce or a brown butter and sage sauce, and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padana

Keftes de Espinaca con Muez

There is something cathartic telling someone that you are sorry if you hurt them or caused them pain in any way. My husband  and I say we are sorry after every fight because my grandmother always told me to never go to bed angry. This was one of the many pieces of advice she gave me as a key to a successful marriage and I took them to heart because she and my grandfather were married almost 65 years. Every year, before Yom Kippur, my husband and I look each other in the eye and say, “I am sorry if I hurt you or caused you any pain this past year.” All of this and asking friends and neighbors for forgiveness is essential because the religious part of Yom Kippur only relates to what we sins between man and G-d. In other words, breaking commandments to do with Shabbat or keeping kosher, and so on.

The first time I said this to my husband I just welled up with tears and felt a huge weight lift off of me. It was a very strange feeling, catharsis.

Now we are celebrating the week long holiday of Sukkot. I do not have beautiful pictures of a Sukkah this year, but I will be posting about a lovely adventure with Mr. BT in the next few days.

Last night, I roasted chicken that I had stuffed with garlic, lemon, fresh thyme, and fresh rosemary. I placed the chicken on a bed of sliced butternut squash, drizzled on pomegranate molasses, and sprinkled turkish pepper all over. I served this with a wonderful Sephardic spinach patty that I made with ground walnuts. They are lovely and light, and could also be served as a main dish with another vegetable or salad.

Chag Sameach to everyone. I hope you are having lovely meals under the stars.

Keftes de Espinaca con Muez

Serving Size: 4-6 as a main course or 8-10 as a side dish

(Sephardic Spinach Patties with Walnuts) Adapted from Olive Trees and Honey: A Treasury of Vegetarian Recipes from Jewish Communities Around the World by Rabbi Gil Marks

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, crushed

2-1/2 cups thawed frozen chopped spinach, squeezed dry

About 1 cup freshly ground walnuts

1/2 cup whole wheat dried bread crumbs or matza meal

About 3/4 teaspoon table salt

Ground black pepper to taste

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Flour for dredging

Vegetable oil for frying

Lemon wedges for serving

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and the crushed garlic. Sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the spinach, ground walnuts, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Stir in the eggs. If the mixture is too loose, add a little more bread crumbs and if the mixture is two dry, then add another egg. The mixture can be stored in the refrigerator for a day.

Shape the spinach mixture into patties 7.5cm (3 inches) long and 4cm (1-1/2 inches) wide, with tapered ends. Dredge the patties in flour and lightly pat off the excess. In a large skillet, heat a thin layer of oil over medium heat. Fry the patties, turning, until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. Serve warm, accompanied with lemon wedges.

Perfect Dish for a Cold and Rainy Winter’s Night

Israel depends on a rainy winter for its water supply for the rest of the year. We have had a serious drought here that no one is taking seriously. However, the last few weekends we have had a significant amount of much needed rain.

Rain and cold always demand hot and hearty dishes to keep us warm and cozy inside and out. There is a another sale at our local supermarket on lamb; this time the sale is on lamb neck. I don’t think lamb neck is readily available at supermarkets or butchers in most parts of the US and Canada, but you may be able to find it at a Halal butcher in larger cities with a Muslim population. If not, you could always use lamb shoulder. I don’t think you will have a problem finding it in Europe.

This lamb recipe was published in Haaretz newspaper a couple of weeks ago and is from a famous restaurant in Nazareth called Diana’s. It specializes in meat, especially lamb kebab that is chopped by hand, and seafood.

The seasoning of the lamb is more subtle than usual for middle eastern food: even though one tablespoon each of allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon appears to be a lot,  this is for quite a large quantity of meat and none of the spices has a very strong taste to begin with. It is very important to let the meat cook on a very low flame for long enough to become really tender: in fact, if you can cook the meat (without adding the spinach) the day before and then cook it again for about 30 minutes (following the rest of the instructions) just before serving, it will be even better.

Lamb and Turkish Spinach Stew

Serving Size: 4

4 pieces lamb neck with the bone, weighing approximately 350g (3/4lb) each

1 tablespoon ground allspice

1 tablespoon grated nutmeg

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Olive oil

8 whole shallots, peeled

8 whole garlic cloves, peeled

5 garlic cloves, crushed

1 kg (2 lbs) fresh medium size spinach leaves, stems removed, rinsed well and coarsely chopped

Mix the spices together. Lightly salt the meat and rub the spices on both sides of the lamb neck.

Heat a little olive oil in a skillet and saute the pieces of meat until they start to brown. Transfer the meat to a large pot. Saute the whole shallots and the whole garlic cloves and add to the pot with the meat. Pour in enough water to cover and bring to a boil. Cook for about an hour over a high flame.

Lower the flame and skim off the foam that has formed on top. Simmer for an additional two hours over a low flame until the meat is very tender.

Add the spinach leaves and simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, add olive oil to a pan and saute the crushed garlic until golden. Add the garlic to the stew, mix and adjust seasoning to taste. Serve over rice.

For dessert, I used a new carrot cake recipe that I hadn’t tried before. This cake is spicy, but not sweet at all except for the natural sweetness of the carrot, in spite of the fact that it calls for 1-1/2 cups of icing sugar. So if you like very sweet cakes, this one might not be for you.

Carrot and Walnut Cake

Serving Size: 10 to 12

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup vegetable oil

1 1/2 cups icing sugar (confectioner's sugar)

1 cup crushed walnuts

1 cup grated carrots

1 cup milk or water

6 eggs

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground clove

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

Preheat oven to 170C (350F). Grease and flour one large tube pan.

Sift the flour, baking soda, and baking powder together and set aside. Beat the eggs together with the spices for 5 minutes. Stir in the icing sugar and mix well. Beat in the vegetable oil and continue beating for 5 minutes.

Alternately add the flour mixture and the milk or water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to the egg mixture. With a spoon stir in the carrots and the walnuts. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake at 170F (350F) for 1 hour.

Related Posts with Thumbnails