Spinach and Ricotta Dumplings

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Spring has sprung, dear readers! There is fresh spinach at the market and smiles abound!

About damn time, that’s what I think. Yesterday it got up to a glorious 50, almost 60 (!) degrees. Fabulous. I took a long walk and everyone seemed so happy, smiling, saying hello—we’re emerging from our winter shells and it feels so good. I love living in a small town where you pass people on the street and wave, knowing that they understand what we’ve all been through.

That all being said it’s supposed to rain and maybe even snow again today. Shoot. What that means is that although yesterday was a great salad day, you may want to use that new spinach for something a little warmer and richer. Fortuitously, I happen to have a recipe in mind for you.

Spinach and ricotta are a lovely combination to fill just about anything. Here, they are combined with a few spices to make little dumplings (the recipe I took this from called them gnocchi, although I’m not entirely convinced that’s accurate, I really think of gnocchi as containing potatoes). Then you broil them, and they get all crispy and beautiful. A little crispy ball with a delightfully creamy inside. Need an appetizer for and Easter meal? Look no further (plus, it’s good for brunch or dinner).

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Do you use all the food that you buy? Food waste has the highlight of a few recent news stories. Modern Farmer discusses companies that are working to use leftover products from certain industries, like grape seeds and skins. And you may have heard about Dan Barber’s popup restaurant in New York, Wasted? Making gleaning trendy (I admit that part of me sighed “oh, New York,” when I read about it. But I approve).

Another thing I wanted to mention is that this is a vegetarian recipe, like most of the ones that I cook and share with you. The reasons I’m a part-time vegetarian are because it’s better for the planet—veggies take less energy to grow—and that finding good, healthy (antibiotic free and all that) meat is rather pricey. But I do love meat and eat it not infrequently; and I think that meat animals are an essential part of a whole farm ecosystem. There are also ways to kill animals that aren’t too stressful, if that’s your qualm. If you are vegetarian, kudos to you and more people in the world should move in that direction—just keep in mind that plants are organisms too, and that just because we know less about them (and, for example, how they talk to each other) doesn’t mean we should feel more righteous about killing them as opposed to mammals. What I’m trying to say is that even if you have a strong ethical directive, you can’t stop thinking about where your food comes from and what it takes to produce it, and that goes for everyone.

Original recipe from Food 52, although I actually found it too rich, so I’m cutting down the butter.

Spinach and ricotta dumplings
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1 1/2 pound fresh spinach, washed (you can also use two 10-oz packages of frozen spinach in a pinch) 
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
2 eggs
6 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan or other hard cheese, divided
Salt and pepper
Pinch of ground nutmeg

Start by cooking the spinach. Wash, then sauté until wilted (it will shrink down a bunch). You’ll want to squeeze out whatever water you can, it is often very liquidy. After squeezing dry, chop it up. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in the pan and add the spinach back in until all the liquid has disappeared, then add the ricotta and cook for a few minutes.

Beat the eggs together in a separate bowl, then add the spinach/ricotta, flour, 1/4 cup of grated cheese, and seasonings. Mix together, then refrigerate until a little firmer, 30-60 minutes.

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Boil water in a large (pasta) pot. Remove batter (dough? mixture?) from the fridge and shape into small balls, maybe 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Boil, like you would gnocchi, for 5-8 minutes, until they are all floating and get a little puffy. Lift them out and set them on a rack or clean tea towel to dry.

Turn on the broiler (although you may have to turn the oven up really hot instead, depending on the strength of your boiler). Melt the last 2 tablespoons of butter in a small roasting pan, and place the dumplings in the pan, leaving a little space in between. Top with cheese, then broil (or roast) until the cheese is brown and crispy.

Serve hot. They reheat well in a hot oven (you could put them straight from the fridge into a cold oven, then turn it up high). I recommend some crusty bread on the side.

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