June 10, 2007

Spinach and Ricotta Pasta

We've joined a CSA this year. It's Happy Heart Farm and it's just down the street from where my sister lives. She had joined last year and liked it, and the more we read of the Omnivore's Dilemma the more we felt we needed to go for it. We already eat mostly organic, whole-grain, less-processed foods. But ever since reading Gary Nabhan's book, Coming Home to Eat, I've felt like we should be focusing more on local foodstuffs. Though we'd done that a bit, Omnivore's Dilemma (review to come, I promise!) provided the kick in the butt that we needed.

When we lived in San Francisco we subscribed to "The Box" (now apparently called Organic Express). On a weekly basis we'd receive a box of veggies and fruits that were mostly local, all organic, and several items of which we'd never tried before (like chard). It was a wonderful chance to try out (and learn to cook) veggies that I'd never tried before. (Chard not only became one of my favorites, but Naomi has nicknamed it "Yummies in Tummies.")

I think that joining this CSA will be similarly gastronomically enlightening. I'm looking forward to trying new veggies, testing new recipes, and eating with the seasons.

After only two weeks of receiving shares from the farm, I found that I was already starting to drown in spinach. I had been adding it to the salads I was making with the radishes, beet leaves, and 2 kinds of lettuce I'd received from the farm, but I had only made a small dent in the spinach. So I decided not only to cook it all up tonight, but I also wanted to get rid of the ricotta that had been sitting in the fridge for too long (and which had a "sell by" date of today).

The following is what I came up with:

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2 garlic chives
(This is a great example of something new I'm trying thanks to the CSA.)
fresh spinach (It was probably the equivalent of two boxes of frozen spinach. If I had tried to measure it before cooking, it probably would have been about 10 cups, but it cooked down to about 2 cups... maybe 3.)
15 oz. ricotta cheese
2 eggs (I buy these from a guy at church who has over 50 birds: chickens, ducks, geese, among other things. We're hoping to visit them sometimes this summer.)
1 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste
herbs (I used dried dill because I Love dill. But I also used some fresh oregano from the CSA.)
12 oz. pasta (I used fusilli, the kind that look like corkscrews, but shells would also work well.)
cheese (I used provolone but that's only because it's all I had. This dish would work well with mozzarella and a tad bit of parmesan.)
tomato sauce (I totally cheated and used Wild Oats parmesan pasta sauce

Put water on to boil. When boiling, add the pasta and cook until it's el dente.

Melt some butter in a large pan. (It should be big enough to hold the spinach.) Add chopped garlic chives. (Garlic chives look sorta like regular chives on steroids. They taste like green onions only magnified a few times and given a hint of a garlic punch.) Sautee garlic chives for about 2 minutes, then add cleaned spinach. (Remember, fresh spinach tends to be gritty. Wash it several times to be on the safe side.) Cook spinach until it is reduced to about half to a third of it's original size. Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl mix eggs, ricotta cheese, salt, pepper, and herbs. Add spinach and chives. Then add pasta and pour the entire mixture into a casserole dish.

Cook for about 10 - 15 minutes uncovered at 350 degrees. Add cheese to the top and cook until cheese is melted. While this is cooking, make pasta sauce (or heat up premade sauce, as I did).

Serve with a ladle (or two) of pasta sauce. Sprinkle some parmesan on top.

(Rob said several times, "I'm surprised at how good this is!")