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January 25, 2005

Small Time Cooks 1-25-05

The snow was coming down as bad as I'd ever seen, but this was a day I wanted to be outside. I was going to meet Maria downtown to try this hot new vegetarian joint she was all excited about. They blended Spanish and Italian cuisine, and it was as good as the hype suggested.

Maria and I were still trying our Iron Chef recipes, and we wanted to try some Italian recipes with a Spanish kick. We chose spinach as our ingredient and went to town with a frittata and spinach pesto.

These dishes serve 3-4.

Spinach Frittata with Zesty Spinach Poblano Sauce

6 eggs

2 cups loose spinach

half a small onion

salt and pepper

1 Tablespoon butter

1 Poblano pepper

1 cup loose spinach

salt

juice of half a lime

Beat the eggs well and season with salt and pepper. In a large pan, sauté the onion with a little olive oil over medium heat until soft. Lower the heat to medium and add the onion and spinach to the eggs, being sure to get all the onions out of the pan. Add the butter to the pan, and, once it's melted, pour in the egg mixture. Let cook for about two minutes, then shake the pan gently to see if the frittata is loose from the pan. If not, run a spatula or thin spoon around the edge to pull it away from the pan. Lower the heat to medium low, and let cook for about 10 minutes. The idea is for the middle and top to set as much as possible.

To finish the frittata, turn on the broiler (if the pan is broiler-safe) and keep the pan under it for two to three minutes. If the pan is not broiler-safe, gently but quickly slide the frittata out onto a plate. Then, deftly flip the plate over to put the frittata facedown in the pan. Cook for about three minutes over medium-low heat. Overturn the frittata onto a plate to serve.

You should try to make the sauce before the frittata. (Cold eggs aren't fun for anyone.) Roast the Poblano pepper under the broiler for about five minutes on a side, and put in a paper bag to cool. Meanwhile, steam the spinach for about three minutes. Once the pepper is cool to the touch, peel off the skin and cut the pepper open. Clean out the seeds and lightly wash the pepper to get rid of any excess skin or seeds. Mince both the pepper and the spinach very finely, or purée them together. Mix them with the lime juice and a dash or two of salt. Serve warm over the frittata. This is also good with tomato.

Spinach Walnut Pesto with Crimini Mushrooms

1 cup loose spinach

2 Tablespoons walnuts

2 Tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper

8 oz. crimini mushrooms

extra olive oil, about 1 Tablespoon

fresh mozzarella, about 4 oz.

baguette

Toast the walnuts in a 400-degree oven for about six minutes. Roughly chop the spinach into more manageable pieces. Put the spinach, walnuts, olive oil, salt and pepper into a food processor, mince finely, and season to taste. Slice the baguette and arrange on a baking sheet. Tear or slice the mozzarella and place over the baguette slices. Cook in a 400-degree oven until the cheese melts, which will take about five minutes.

Now, slice the mushrooms into thick wedges. (Each mushroom should only produce four slices if it's average-sized.) Heat the extra olive oil in a pan over medium high heat. When ready, add the mushrooms and toss. Raise the heat to high and continue to toss and stir. This high heat will help the mushrooms seal in their taste and will prevent them from softening. After a few minutes, the mushrooms will start to squeak against the pan, sounding like wet shoes on a tile floor! When this happens, add the pesto and lower the heat to medium high. Toss in the mushrooms, coating them in the pesto, and cook for about three minutes. Serve the pesto and mushrooms over toast.