Category Archives: spinach

Pick-Me-Up Spinach, Egg Drop & Parmesan Toast Soup Recipe


How should I explain better my appreciation of this soup in a few words? Umm, remember when Chef Sean Brock is reminiscing about his favorite mom’s chicken soup dumplings ‘In the Mind of a Chef ’ saying it’s the best dumpling dish he ever had? This dish is better, period. A bowl of it will make you feel as good as gold…
I make this vivid green soup at least four times a year, mostly around mid-seasons: summer and winter solstice; spring and autumn equinox. It is one of my favorite complete meals which never fail to surprise with the taste, texture and color. The consistency and color of it can vary depending on the amount of ingredients (which you can modify according to your taste – more/less spinach, greens, eggs, stock or Parmesan bread). This soup is very forgiving: the different stages of the eggs’ coagulation depending on a temperature or cooking method would deliver smooth, ragged or clouded broth. Nevertheless, all forms of it deliver a fine bowl of comforting, homey goodness: full-bodied yet very light. If you like the Greek soup Avgolemono , this egg drop soup might be your next favorite. If the Avgolemono’s color is pure yellow, this one is bright green and always reminds of the nature’s renewal. Which we are still some ten weeks (hopefully less) away from…
This soup is an immune system booster and will pick you up fast whenever you need. We felt we badly needed it last Sunday upon coming back from St-Paddy’s parade in a form of half-humans/half-icicles who haven’t felt their toes up until dinner. It brought us back to life fast.  
I can’t exactly state the origin of this soup other than disclose that this recipe is coming from the magazine clips of the cooking journal of my dear French Canadian mother-in-law. It is very close to Italian egg drop soup called Stracciatella and may be it is, by virtue of its ingredients including Parmesan, although most of the Italian versions have some pasta and/or herb in it instead of the Parmesan toast and spinach. I tentatively tag it as an Italian dish, but if you happen know the exact origin of it, I am all ears.  
I couldn’t resist messing with the egg’s chemical formula having studied its molecular magic as an ingredient. Few times, instead of following the recipe (below) method, I would mix fresh, spinach, herbs and eggs with a bit, or a lot of warm stock in the blender. It makes some white foam on top, which I discarded carefully. Other wise, it makes absolutely stunning emerald-colored mix, which when warmed through under the boiling point, would granulate into tiny green egg drop microspheres giving luxurious velvety texture and feel to the dish. I warm it through whisking carefully, without reaching the boiling point; then place it in the 400F oven for 15-20 minutes topped with Parmesan toasts. Voila – viva the cooking experiments!
This method delivers bright green, grainy texture that is really worth showcasing. Not bringing the soup to the boiling point also helps to preserve a lot of healthy enzymes in the dish, which you will find packed with flavors. Equally, I sometimes swap spinach for kale, Swiss chard or arugula, add a bit of garlic and sometimes, during the flu season, a dash of minced ginger. Spinach version is my favorite however because it doesn’t overpower the delicate taste of eggs and stock. You may wish to follow or not these leads, the results will be great anyways.
Complex in taste and highly invigorating, it is yet very simple and fast to pull off. Eggs, fresh spinach, home-made broth, sliced baguette (or other kind of stale bread of your preference) and Parmesan are five core ingredients to it. I like to also add a big bunch of parsley to bring the nutritional and detox value of it to even higher level.
Sometimes I use this simple trick to cut the rounds of the stale bread with the shot glass to have a better appeal and coverage especially if you are serving the soup to the guests.

Parsley is a known kidney tonic and the powerful antioxidant along with spinach, which also boosts the iron stores in the body, they help strengthen bones, detoxify and heal. The eggs nourish liver, heart and kidneys, while the home-made stock comforts and supports the stomach and digestive tract with minerals, glucosamine (in case of chicken stock), iodine, etc. 

Should you wish to make this soup a real taste bomb, try to assemble it with the ingredients of possibly highest quality, including: free range eggs, spinach and parsley from your own garden, stock made with organic chicken/veggies and so on. Ahhh, I can’t wait to welcome spring to our territory…
Bon Appétit!

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SPINACH, EGG DROP & PARMESAN TOAST SOUP
Yields: 4 portions
Ingredients:
2 tablespoons butter or ghee
6 cups packed, rinsed and minced spinach leaves, equal to 1-2 bunches fresh spinach, OR 10 ounces frozen spinach
1 cups fresh parsley, minced (optional)
Salt and freshly ground (preferably white) pepper
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
6-7 cups of hot broth, chicken or vegetarian
4 bread slices (or more depending on a size), grilled (* select gluten free if necessary)
½ cup Parmesan, shredded
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 400F. Add butter to a big sauce pan or Dutch oven and heat to medium high. Add the minced spinach and parsley, stir for 1 minute. Add one cup of stock, mix and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.  Beat the eggs in a bowl and gently stir them into the spinach mix with the whisk.  Add the rest of the hot stock, mix well with the spinach-egg mix and check the seasoning. Place the grilled bread on top of the soup and sprinkle generously with Parmesan. Place into the pre-heated oven uncovered for 20 minutes, or until the bread and Parmesan dumplings are golden brown. Ladle into the bowls and serve immediately.

Spinach Pie Spanakopita and Fun in the Sun

Oh, summer, how I longed for you! And finally, you came to Eastern Canada with all your colors, welcoming breeze, humming sounds, camping, wilderness and millions of the itsy-bitsy things.

Summer is the season I can live through with no bigger ambition than my next BBQ or a pool party and it’s been like that for years. Which is why, the timing could not have been any better than the last real week-end of sun when we had our first BBQ-pool party. First real hot, long due sunny day, after prolonged raining and pouring. With almost overwhelming number of ideas and inspirations for a nice alfresco getaway – I was almost lost in choices.
The BBQ party is usually all about grilled meat, which we’ve had plenty of: assortment of kebabs, rack of pork, chicken tzatziki drums – they were all good. But when I caught my breath to pause and see which dish was the biggest success, it happened that an oven baked homemade spinach pie, Spanakopita, stole the show. Once again, Chef Redzepi’s prophecy about 2014 being all about the veggies and packing on greens turned out to be true – and, yes, it was a humble freshly baked spinach pie stuffed with hot aromatic puree of greens, herbs and cheese that was a star of our soiree.
 When those are real Greek people giving you kudos about your spinach pie, you better take a note and a good picture, because they do know a thing or two about Spanakopita. After all, this traditional savory pastry dish made of spinach, feta cheese and eggs wrapped in crusty dough, has been a Greek soul food for centuries. I must admit, it does taste great on a hot summer day and not only in the Greek islands. 
Another party winner was a perfectly fluffy marble cake (Gâteau surprise) Diane brought for the dessert – it was simply amazing so light and decadent at the same time. Thank you, Diane, I’ve savored the last sliver of it this morning with coffee – it was a super-delicious party reminder.
Saturday was really the first most beautiful summer day with plenty of sun; clear sky; cool summer wind; roses, daisies, poppies, irises, lupine, peonies – all opening at the same time; the bees buzzing and birds humming. This is our Canadian summer: everything in the nature suddenly rushes to bloom and seed almost screaming to complete the life circle in the short few months before going back into the long months of slumber. 
We did a fair amount of hammocking, swimming and splashing. Our doggy joined the water ball play in urge to bust the damn ball, which she did eventually. (No biggie, Michael, I will get you a new one.)
And of course the food: nothing tastes better than a good food eaten outside in a great company! It was so nice and so deservedly relaxing, it now feels it might have been other people from a great summer outdoors sketch… But it was us and the fun was ours and the Greek savory pie did exist, although for no longer than 20 minutes. This gave me an idea to write this post and share some apps about the successful Spanakopita making. 
Here are my tips for a great homemade Greek spinach pie, Spanakopita:
– A freshly chopped spinach would deliver the best results, but most of the time (I won’t lie) I use freshly frozen (thawed and drained) spinach to save time and effort. As long as you don’t let a pack of frozen spinach sitting in your freezer for months, I see no reason why not to go for this little convenience.
– Savory herbs add an amazing kick to the taste: freshly minced chives/scallions, oregano, dill, parsley slightly cooked in ghee or olive oil with the dash of nutmeg before mixing them with chopped spinach do make wonders to the taste of the pie. Feel free to use any extra of your favorite herbs like fresh thyme, basil or mint just to experiment for the taste you’d like to attain.
– The feta cheese I use most of the time is less salty than a standard feta cheese (I soak it in a milk or water overnight to drain out the excess salt. Sometimes, I use the mix of feta and ricotta or cottage cheese instead.
– Finally, I always use store bought puff pastry dough instead of phyllo dough, which, again, saves a lot of time and cuts on the amount of butter.
Quite often, I also use puff pastry dough making spinach puffs or turnovers with the same spinach filling – a superb companion to a bowl of soup or a cup of tea, not to mention the array of grilled things you can have them with.
And that’s basically it about my Spanakopita pie. I hope you, your guests or family will enjoy it like we did. Cheers to the happy summer times y’all!
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SPINACH PIE SPANAKOPITA IN PUFF PASTRY
Ingredients:
4 tbsp olive oil or ghee (clarified butter)
3 tbsp ghee or butter at room temperature for greasing the pan and brushing the top
¼ cup chives or scallions, minced
¼ cup parsley, minced
¼ cup dill, minced
1 tbsp fresh oregano, minced (optional) or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 small pinch nutmeg
2 packages (10 oz each) frozen, thawed and well-pressed/drained spinach or 2 ½ – 3 lbs of fresh spinach, chopped
1 ½ cup feta cheese, crumbled (I also drain the excess salt in advance by soaking feta in milk or water)
4 eggs, lightly beaten (plus 1 egg for egg wash to brush the top)
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
1 (397 g) pack frozen puff pastry dough, thawed in the fridge overnight
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 375F. Melt the ghee or butter, or olive oil in the frying pan and add chives or scallions. Cook for 2 minutes until soft and add parsley, dill, oregano and nutmeg. Add spinach, mix well and cook for another 2 minutes. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Add crumbled feta and eggs, mix well.
Brush the bottom of 8 by 8 (for the thicker crust) or 9 by 13 inches (for thinner crust) baking pan with melted ghee or butter. Roll out ¾ of the puff pastry to cover the bottom and sides of the dish. Brush with ghee or butter. Add the spinach filling and spread evenly to be flat. Brush the edges with egg wash. Top with the second dough sheet ½-inch thicker than the bottom sheet. Press the edges together with fork or fingers to seal. Brush with the rest of melted ghee or butter. Finish brushing the top with egg wash. Cut a few slits on top with the paring knife for the steam to get out. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until well-puffed and golden brown. Let the pie sit for about 10 minutes before cutting in pieces. Serve warm or at the room temperature.

Indian Summer Dinner

‘’Ya quilt y’all?’’ – asks me an old Native gift shop-keeper. ‘’Not really, but I would love to … one day,’’ I say sounding more like a schoolgirl than I want to. There is a display of gorgeous ethnic quilts on the wall and a row of huge quilting machines lining behind the Native lady like cannons. ‘’So, what’s y’all deal here?’’ she continues with all the nonchalance of one discussing the weather. ‘’I just stopped for a gas and decided to buy some dream catchers. It’s a very nice shop you have. Your quilts are impressive…’’ Always be polite and extra courteous when visiting a Native American reservation – they have their own laws that are sacred to them, so you never know. ‘’S’peiti ya’dunn quilt cuz y’all dunnow what y’all missin’.  Sammer’s fixin’on ra:d – perft thame to quilt y’all…’’ she goes with a strong Southern drawl (read: ‘’It’s a pity you don’t quilt, because you don’t know what you are missing. Summer is fixing on the ride – perfect time to quilt’’), which I just adore: it sounds like a lullaby for me (that’s why I am always ready to re-watch No Country For Old Men or Mud again and again). I can tell she was born in Southern US and/or most of the time resides there. 
Two younger Native women enter the shop with baskets full of squash, green beans, spinach and Brussels sprouts.  They give them to the old lady, saying ‘’Too many this year and they keep popping up, so here you are.’’ ‘’A’ll have’m for dinneh,’’ she lady responds in gratitude. I totally get it now: she is not just a shop keeper. She is a Matriarch.  ‘’How will you cook them?‘’ – my curiosity has no limits (and that’s why it killed a cat). ‘’Bake’m and eat’em. Thæjət would bɪjə $23.99,’’ the old Native lady wraps up our communication. That is good enough for me to have an idea of what will be my supper for the next few days. 
I am driving away from Kahnawake thinking about what Natives do as Mother Earth prepares for her long winter slumber. The Matriarch lady, the quilt, the dream catchers, the baskets of the fall bounty, the colorful trees and the growing carpet of leaves… 
It’s the Indian summer when the weather is breathtaking, the spiders make webs and the time stands still. About this time Natives are going to their last Powwow to connect with each other and the spirits of nature. Curiously (and by pure symbolic coincidence in in this case), in many European countries the Indian summer is called ‘’The Old Ladies’ Summer’’: a few days of unusually warm and sunny weather following the first fall’s frost. 

According to the Lakota legend of ‘’Why the Leaves Fall’’, many moons ago when the world was still young, the nature was enjoying a nice summer weather. As the days went by the autumn set in, and the weather became colder, so the grass and flower folks who had no protection from cold, asked the Creator for help. The Creator said that the leaves of the trees should fall to the ground, spreading a soft warm blanket over the tender roots of the grass and flowers. To pay the trees for their loss, he allowed them one last array of beauty. Since that time, each year, during Indian summer the trees take on their pretty farewell of colors red, gold and, brown. After this final display they turn to their appointed mission covering the earth with a warm rug against the chill of winter. 
So how about I’ll have what she has and include squash, Brussels sprouts, spinach and perhaps some kind of poultry. Coq au Vin sounds like is a good idea to add some substance and comfort to our Thanksgiving table. Here is my quilt of belonging representing a bounty and colors of a humble fall dinner: a butternut squash soup; Brussels sprouts with walnuts and orange zest; spinach mushroom puffs and no fuss Coq au Vin. Please stay tuned for the recipes as I have to go host a Thanksgiving dinner.
In the meantime, Happy Indian Summer and Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, with my best wishes for joy and never-ending feast. Cheers!

In the Mood for Italian Wedding Soup

Last night we watched Woody Allen’s delightful new movie “To Rome With Love” and, somehow it put me in the mood for “Minestra Maritata”, an Italian Wedding Soup. No, the movie does not feature any particular Italian recipe or food and, no, I am not always thinking about food when I watch movies. Well, once in a while maybe. Perhaps it was a combination of a cold November night, the burst of “Volare!”(“Oh!Oh!”) and one of the short stories featuring a young couple on their honeymoon all of which prompted me to cook some Italian comfort food next day. Whatever it was, I woke up this morning determined to cook this dish for supper.

For years I have been cooking different variations of this soup (which I used to call “Soup With Meatballs”) using my grandma`s notes without actually knowing it was “Minestra Maritata”. Until a trip to an Italian wedding has opened my eyes to the official name of this soup, which translates to “married soup” so many assume this is a traditional Italian dish for weddings. In reality, the name of this soup stems from an excellent marriage of its ingredients: a mixture of meat, heavy broth, green vegetables, and pasta. This soup is hearty and filling and with this added protein it becomes a complete and balanced one-course meal.

This is my personal twist on a classic dish, which takes around 45 minutes to cook, however, you can speed it up to 30-minutes simple “student version”, when you poach meatballs and pasta directly in the boiling stock, then add spinach (or kale, swiss chard or arugula) skipping other steps or ingredients. I prefer baking the meatballs rather than poaching them because it gives additional layer of flavour to the soup even if it takes more time to prepare. Also, the wine/apple cider vinegar part is essential as it gives this soup a very special flavour.

For the meatballs:

  • 1 pound ground veal (or chicken, or turkey, or sausage meat without casings)
  • 1/3 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder (or two minced garlic cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano, plus extra for serving
  • 3 tablespoons milk (or water)
  • 1 large egg
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch of nutmeg

For the soup

    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 cup minced yellow onion
    • 1 cup diced carrots (3 carrots)
    • 3/4 cup diced celery (2 stalks)
    • 10 cups homemade chicken stock (or commercial)
    • 1/2 cup dry white wine (or 3 table spoons of apple cider vinegar)
    • 1 cup small pasta such as orzo or stars
    • 12 ounces baby spinach, washed, trimmed and chopped (or 1 small pack of frozen spinach wilted)
    • pinch of chilli flakes, oregano and thyme (to your taste)

    Instructions:

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
    For the meatballs, mix the ground veal, bread crumbs, garlic & onion powder, parsley, Parmesan, milk, egg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl with a fork. With a teaspoon, drop 1 meatballs onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.
    In the meantime, heat the olive oil over low heat in a soup pot. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and sauté until softened, 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken stock and wine (or apple cider vinegar) and bring to a boil. Add meatballs and pasta to the simmering broth and cook for 6 minutes, until the pasta is al dente. Taste for salt and pepper. Stir in the fresh spinach and cook for 1 minute, until the spinach is just wilted.
    Ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle each serving with Parmesan if desired.

    Buon Appetito!