Pork and Ricotta Meatballs

I’ve been making this recipe for years. The results are a tender, delicious meatball with endless possibilities. Serve them over spaghetti with tomato sauce, glazed in jam for an appetizer, or simply with a side of Romesco as I have here. I used ground pork, but you can use any meat you like including ground chicken as in the original recipe. I would imagine that already spiced up breakfast sausage would also be delicious, just reduce the seasonings! In the summertime, I swap the rosemary for basil — use what speaks to you and the seasons. You really can’t go wrong. My family prefers straight up meatballs without the bread, but you can certainly add in breadcrumbs if desired.

Ricotta Meatballs 

Adapted from this recipe

Ingredients: 

  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lb ground meat
  • 8 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 2 stalks of fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 1 tspn. salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper

DIrections:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. 
  2. In a small saute pan, saute the onion until translucent. Add garlic and saute for another minute. Set aside to cool down. 
  3. Set up a sheet pan and line with a silpat mat, parchment paper or tin foil. 
  4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the meat, cheese, rosemary, cooled onion/garlic, egg, salt and pepper. Mix with your hands until combined. 
  5. Form the mixture into meatballs and arrange on the sheetpan. 
  6. Bake for about 25 minutes. Turning the meatballs and pan about 15 minutes in. They should get nice and brown spots. 

Pictured here with a romesco sauce, one of my favorites, find it here

Spanakopita Quiche

Originally appeared in the Clemson Area Food Exchange newsletter, Edited by Ellie Sharp

The bounty of spring brings to mind eggs, greens, and dairy! I know everybody is making quiche and frittata these days, but I wanted to introduce something that’s a little different: spanakopita-inspired quiche! This rich and savory dish brings Greek flavors to your table any time of day, and takes full advantage of local ingredients. You will need to purchase a few items from the store, but it’s more than worth it!

If you’ve never worked with phyllo dough before, you can find it in the freezer section next to puff pastry and pie dough shells. Make sure to thaw it the night before so it’s ready to go when you are ready to cook. Phyllo dough can be finicky: it dries out quickly and the super-thin sheets make it a blessing and a curse — difficult to work with but a joy to eat. For this recipe, it doesn’t need to be perfect, and tearing will add to the rustic plating, but do make sure you take the time to prep your ingredients and work space so that you can twork quickly once you unwrap the dough.

A note about equipment. I used a 10-inch springform pan so that I could remove the “collar” or side of the pan for a pretty presentation. This is totally not necessary and this recipe will work in a regular 9 inch pie pan! However, if you do use a 10-inch springform pan, I do recommend adding 2 more eggs (for a total of 6 eggs) as it’s a bit bigger and fills out nicer. I made the recipe both ways with equal success. 

Ingredients

  • ½ package of phyllo dough
  • 4 TB. butter, melted
  • 1 TB butter or cooking oil of choice
  • 1 package of large scallions/spring onions, diced
  • 2-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lb greens – I used a combination of swiss chard and spinach to mix it up
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • S & P
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • ¼ cup freshly chopped herbs – dill, parsley, oregano, chives are all good choices
  • 4 oz. feta, crumbled

Directions:

  1. Defrost phyllo dough in the fridge the night before. Take it out of the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature while you start prepping the quiche filling.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400. 
  3. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter/heat oil and add onions. Saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add minced garlic and cook for 1 minute until fragrant. Season with salt and pepper. 
  4. Start adding greens in batches, stirring to wilt and incorporate. Continue adding until all greens are cooked down, reserving one small handful of spinach leaves for the top. 
  5. While this happens, you can whisk eggs in a bowl with the milk. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside. 
  6. When all greens have wilted down, season the skillet with salt, pepper, lemon zest, and fresh herbs. Turn the heat off, taste and adjust seasonings. 
  7. Set up your phyllo dough station. Unwrap phyllo dough and set next to melted butter with a brush. Using your preferred quiche pan, brush the insides with melted butter. Start by removing one phyllo sheet and covering the bottom of the pan. Brush lightly with butter. Place another sheet down in the other direction to cover the bottom thoroughly and brush with butter. Now, work on draping the sheets of dough over the pan. Brush each lightly with butter, and continue draping the sheets of dough to cover the sides and bottom of the pan while creating a large overhang on the outside of the pan. If you need to walk away or notice your phyllo dough drying out very quickly, you can cover it with a very lightly damp dish towel that will help! I used roughly 15-20 sheets of phyllo dough. I still had some leftover that I wrapped up for another use. 
  8. Next, spread the greens over the dough, spreading out in an equal layer. Top with whisked eggs/milk. Finally, top with crumbled feta cheese.
  9. Fold the hanging dough on top of the quiche. You may have to crinkle it a bit to make sure you can visually see the greens in the center. Drizzle remaining butter all over the top of the phyllo.
  10. Bake the quiche at 400 for about 35 minutes until the dough is browned and crunchy and the eggs are set (if it jiggles in the center, the eggs may need another minute or two)! 

Saag Paneer-Inspired Greens and Feta

Saag Paneer-Inspired Greens and Feta 

This first appeared in the CAFE newsletter, published in May 2021
Words and photos by Amanda Callahan of Callywood Farms, edited by Ellie Sharp

Back when I was in graduate school at the University of Denver, my apartment was just around the corner from this little Indian place. As a born and bred Southern girl, I had never experienced Indian food but after one dinner there I was hooked. I spent a lot of money at that little Indian place, and I vowed to learn how to make my favorites at home. Armed with the Internet and books, I started ordering spices online and referring back to my remembered tastes of the restaurant to re-create dishes.

Once we moved to South Carolina, I had to adapt recipes to our garden and native species: I make a mean masala with crowder peas in place of the usual chickpeas, and my family enjoys many delicious vegetables in curry sauces with okra and beets being some of our favorites. But when “Sweet Tea” at Saint Basil Farm (now Growing Green Farms) asked if I’d ever made “saag” from wild spinach or lamb’s quarter I answered, “You know, I haven’t!”, and I knew that was a challenge I needed to meet as saag paneer is a personal favorite. Saag paneer is a classic Indian dish. It starts with puree of greens in a spiced sauce to which fried cubes of fresh paneer cheese, which is a mild farmer’s cheese, are added at the end of cooking. The greens and the creamy cheese are reminiscent of creamed spinach in American cuisine, but complex and vibrant with the Indian spice profile.

One of the more recent, approachable Indian cookbooks is “Indian-ish” by Priya Krishna and it is a fabulous cookbook if you’re looking for easy, adaptable Indian-ish recipes. Paneer is very hard to come by in the rural US. I often make it from scratch or buy it in bulk from one of my favorite restaurants up in Greenville, SWAD. However, Priya suggests using feta cheese thus making this dish easy to recreate with a local ingredient list!

And so I set out to adapt Priya’s already adapted version of the dish to include local greens. Priya uses only spinach in her recipe, but traditionally saag is often cooked with bitter greens, usually mustard greens with spinach and I have even seen some old-school Indian recipes that use kale, radish and turnip greens. I suspect saag would do excellent with a handful of dandelion greens from your yard too.It also makes a truly excellent dish with the lamb’s quarter offered on CAFÉ. 

I invite you to step outside the box with this local take on a classic Indian dish! 

  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons of ghee (clarified butter) or oil of choice (such as vegetable, avocado, coconut, etc), divided 
  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 2 green cardamom pods or ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom 
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 lb braising greens mix (kale, turnip greens, Brussel sprout greens, etc.)
  • 2 packages lamb’s quarter, spinach or radish greens
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • 1 small hot pepper, chopped, or ground cayenne to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup of feta cheese, drained from brine to dry out a bit, chopped into small cubes
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon asafetida (optional, but is a great Indian pantry spice if you plan to cook Indian food!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder

Directions:

  1. Over medium heat, warm the ghee (or oil) in a large pan. Once warm, add the coriander and cardamom and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes or until the seeds start to brown. Add the onion and cook until it is translucent, 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the ginger and garlic and cook for 1 minute more. 

2. Add the greens in batches, wilting down and adding more as you make room. Once all is added, cook for 4 to 5 minutes.

3. Remove the pan from the heat and add the lime juice, green chile, and salt. Let cool for 5 minutes. Transfer to a blender and blend into a chunky paste. Return the spinach mixture to the same pan and set it over low heat. (If you have an immersion blender, blend in the pan.) Stir in 1/2 cup water, then gently fold in the feta, being careful not to break up the cubes. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes more to soften the feta slightly and allow it to soak up some of the spinach sauce.

4. While the feta cooks work on the ghee-spice mixture. In a small pan over medium-high heat, warm the remaining 2 tablespoons of ghee (or oil) for 1 minute. Add the cumin seeds. As soon as the cumin seeds start to sputter and brown, about 1 minute max, remove the pan from the heat (cumin seeds will burn quickly, so keep your eye on it!). Immediately add the asafetida (if using) and chili powder.

5. Pour all of the ghee (or oil) mixture into the spinach and feta once that is done cooking and mix.   

Homemade Ricotta

I know I have mentioned this before, but if you didn’t know, we have easy access to raw milk. In SC, raw milk is legal to sell. We hadn’t even tasted raw milk prior to moving here. In CO, you had to buy a share (upwards of $150) of a farm and then buy a gallon (upwards of $10). I had read a lot about the tasty, nutritious, mysterious raw milk, but it had never passed my lips. A neighbor told us about a little family farm, really close to us, Harmony Dairy. I’ll have to do a post in the future, just so you can see pictures of where I go to buy my milk. It’s literally the farm your parents told you that “Rover” went to when he got too old. I get out of my jeep after going through multiple chained gates (free roaming animals are happy, but also dangerous for cars!) and pull up to a refrigerated cooler that says, “Drink Milk.” I put my $5 in a little tool box and grab my delicious raw, un-homogenized, full-fat, cream on the top milk. On my way out, I usually pet a calf or two, whisper to a pig of give a loving nudge to a dog or chicken. Are you in love yet?

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We aren’t big milk drinkers. My milk usually ends up fermented in some variety (yogurt or kefir), in a roux, and I use it in my coffee every morning. I usually get a gallon every two weeks. Except recently I’ve been buying more and more, ever since making homemade ricotta! I’ve never been a big ricotta fan. I mean I buy it once a year when I make lasagna and never think much of it. That has definitely changed.

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While it takes some time (not much though compared to any other cheese), it is definitely worth it. You have a few minutes while the milk heats. Go nuts. Me? I play with this beauty.

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I’m shameless. Sorry. I couldn’t let one post go by without a pic!

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I heat the milk with the acid (lemon juice) and the curds and whey separate and just before it erupts into a boil is when I shut off the heat. You can see the bubbles about to surface and the temp is around 200-205.

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And then the straining begins. It takes a little while for me as I only have this little sieve. Quadrupled lined with cheesecloth, it’s ready to go. I pour and drain and pour some more and drain some more.

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Almost there…

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You can stop the straining process when it looks and feels like ricotta to you. I like mine a little on the wet side. Then I liberally sprinkle with sea salt. And eat it. And occasionally it makes it into a beautiful dish like this one.

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Summer squash and ricotta galette. Divine.

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Or on a plate alongside crackers and fig jam for an elegant snack.

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Or on top of a plate full of pasta instead of parmesan for a rich, creamy addition. So, go ahead, make some ricotta. I promise you’ll find ways to use it!

Homemade Ricotta

Adapted from: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2012/06/how-to-make-ricotta-cheese-from-scratch.html

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 gallon whole milk (DO NOT use ultra-pasteurized milk, which is basically any organic milk sold at the grocery store. It will not curdle, I learned this the hard way a long time ago! If you don’t have access to fresh milk, look in the store for a low-pasteurized alternative. For instance, I know Publix’s whole milk is low-pasteurized).
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice (From 1-3 lemons. I had super juicy lemons and only needed 1.)
  • Optional: 1/2 cup heavy cream (you might need this addition if using whole milk from the store), salt to taste

Directions:

  1. In a large, heavy-bottom pot (dutch oven or cast iron is great here), add milk and lemon juice, stir briefly.
  2. Set heat to medium-low heat. Heat milk until it reaches 175 degrees at this setting. This take about 30-50 minutes.
  3. After it hits 175 degrees, raise the heat to medium-high and watch closely. You will see the curds begin to separate from the whey (pictured above) and the whole thing will look like it’s about to erupt into a rolling boil. Shut the heat off before this happens. Let it sit for a few minutes while you get the straining station set up.
  4. Over a large bowl, set your sieve and quadruple line it with cheesecloth. Pour the curds and whey into the bowl and let it drain. I keep adding liquid as it drains down. It takes me about three dumps. I get in there with a spatula (pictured above) and help the liquid get under the curds by lifting and folding with the spatula.
  5. Once it looks and feels like ricotta to you, it’s done! Again, I liberally sprinkle with sea salt, but do your to your taste preference. Yes, this means start eating it now.
  6. Keep in air-tight container in fridge for over a week.