Warm Spinach and Butternut Squash Salad

I took an eye-opening public class at the Natural Gourmet Institute in NYC a few weeks ago on preparing raw foods.  The class was hosted by the famed Renée Loux and everything was incredible.  Not only was it delicious, but I felt so clean and light, yet satisfied, afterwards.  There must be something to the theory that consuming living enzymes (that is the enzymes found in food not heated beyond 110 degrees Fahrenheit) can be more effective in supplying our bodies with energy and health.  I proceeded , of course, to buy the Renée’s  book, “Living Cuisine”, and have been looking to recreate that happy experience in as many ways as possible here at home.

As much as I loved the raw experience, I think it would be difficult to eat that way all the time (at least at this point in my life), especially in a Northeast winter while also cooking for a guy.  I do however, believe that I can incorporate raw and lightly steamed vegetables into the diet much more than I have considered in the past.  This meal is an example of an integrated approach to raw foods.

Serves 4-6

For the salad:

6 scallions, sliced (white and green parts)

1 yellow or red bell pepper, medium dice

1 cup curly parsley, chopped (not too fine)

4-5 oz baby spinach

1 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes

1 head collard greens (preferred), Tuscan kale or chard, stems discarded and leaves cut into 1-inch thick slices

1 handful raw pecans, broken into pieces

For the dressing:

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (I use Bragg)

1½ tablespoons balsamic vinegar

juice of 1 lemon (about 2-3 tablespoons)

2 teaspoons grade B maple syrup

What to do:

Whisk dressing ingredients vigorously in a small bowl until somewhat emulsified.

Place the scallions, bell pepper, parsley and spinach in a large bowl (the biggest one you’ve got).

In a medium-sized pot (preferably one that comes with a steamer basket), fill halfway with water and add a pinch of salt.  Bring to a gentle boil and add the squash.

After about 5 minutes, when the squash is about halfway cooked, add the kale or collards to the steamer basket on top of the simmering squash and allow to steam for about 3 minutes*, until the greens are lightly softened.  Remove steamer, check that the squash is done and strain together.

Give the dressing another whisk.  Add warm vegetables, pecans and dressing to the bowl with the raw vegetables.  Gently toss together.  The spinach should soften and the dressing should become fragrant.  Serve immediately while still warm.  (I served it with some leftover garlicky broccoli rabe and it was an awesome complement to this salad!)

(*If you do not have a fitted steamer basket, blanch the kale/collards with the squash when it’s about a minute away from being fork-tender.  Strain together.)

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Gluten-Free Ricotta Dumplings (Ricotta Gnudi senza Glutine)

These are an adaptation of a recipe I found in Bon Appétit Magazine.  They are great topped with a light tomato sauce, pesto, or just plopped into vegetable purée soups.

In the past I’ve done a spinach version, which is delicious, but this time I just made the plain ones.  In parentheses you’ll see the modifications for the spinach version.

Gluten-Free Ricotta Dumplings



2 cups ricotta (for spinach version sub 1/3 cup of ricotta with mozzarella)
1 large egg, beaten to blend
1 large egg yolk, beaten to blend
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan or Grana Padano
1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (or 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg for spinach version)
2/3 cup rice flour or all purpose flour, plus more as needed
(For spinach version add 5 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and wrung dry.)

What to do:

Mix ricotta, egg, egg yolk, pepper, 1/2 cup Parmesan, garlic powder, and salt in a large bowl until well combined.

Add flour; stir just until combined (mixture will be soft and moist, but add more flour by the tablespoonful if it feels really wet).

Dust a rimmed baking sheet or large plate generously with flour. Using a soupspoon, shape heaping spoonfuls of dough into ovals; place on baking sheet and dust with more flour.  Should make 15-20.

Let set in fridge for 15 minutes, or up to a few hours.

Cook dumplings in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring delicately a couple of times, until cooked through and tender, 5-6 minutes (a few minutes after they’ve floated to the surface).

Cooked dumplings will still bounce from the touch, but still be tender.  They should not be mushy.

Strain very slowly or remove from pot with a large slotted spoon.

Ricotta Gnudi Senza Glutine



2 tazze di ricotta (se volete fare la versione agli spinaci, sostituire metà tazza con mozzarella grattugiata)

1 uovo intero + 1 tuorlo, sbattuti

1/2 cucchiaino di pepe nero

1/2 tazza di Grana grattugiata

1/4 cucchiaino di sale

2/3 tazza di farina di riso (oppure farina 00)

(Per la versione agli spinaci, circa 200 g di spinaci surgelati, scongelati e torti

Come fare:

Mischiate tutti gli ingredienti, tranne la farina, in una ciotola.

Unite la farina e mischiate, ma non troppo.  Se troppo umida, aggiustate con ancora della farina, poca alla volta.

Infarinate un piatto grande e tenetelo vicino.  Usando un cucchiaio, modellate degli ovali dell’impasto, quindi ponendogli sul piatto infarinato.  Dovreste averne 15-20.

Metteteli in frigo per riposare tra 15 minuti e qualche ora.

In tanto, fate bollire dell’acqua salata in una pentola di taglia media.  Fateli bollire per 5-6 minuti (qualche minuto dopo che inizino a galleggiare), agitandoli delicatamente qualche volta.

Gnudi cotti saranno morbidi ma sodi al tocco.  Non devono essere molli.

Scolateli pianissimo, oppure rimuoverli con un mestolo perforato.

Minted Zucchini Soup (Vellutata di Zucchini alla Menta)

This is a very quick and easy soup that’s also oil free.  I usually have it warm, but it’s also great chilled on a hot summer day.

What you need:

4 zucchini

2 shallots, roughly chopped

½ yellow onion, roughly chopped

4 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth

1/3 cup fresh mint leaves

5 oz fresh baby spinach (about 4 handfuls)

Juice from 1 lemon

1/2 – 1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper, plus more to serve

goat cheese or yogurt (not 0%), to serve

torn mint, to serve

What to do:

Throw zucchini, shallots, onion and broth into a pot and bring to a boil.  Once boiled, turn heat to medium-low and simmer until vegetables are soft.

Stir in mint leaves, spinach, lemon, salt and pepper.  Purée in blender or with an immersion blender.  Adjust lemon, salt and pepper.

Serve immediately and top with goat cheese or yogurt, pepper and a sprinkling of torn mint.  (Great cold too!)

Vellutata di Zucchini alla Menta:

Cosa Serve:

4 zucchini

2 scalogni, spezzettati

½ cipolla gialla, spezzettata

4 tazze di brodo di cipolla o di verdura

1 manciata piccola di menta fresca

4 manciate di spinaci freschi

succo di 1 limone

1/2 – 1 cucchiaino di sale

1/4 cucchiaino di pepe nero

formaggio di capra o yogurt intero, per servire

menta fresca strappata, per servire

Come Fare:

Mettete zucchini, scalogni, cipolla e brodo in una pentola e fate bollire.   Quando bollente, abbassate la fiamma e fate cuocere finché siano cotte le verdure.

Serve immediately and top with goat cheese or yogurt, pepper and a sprinkling of chopped mint.

Aggiungete la menta, gli spinaci, il limone, il sale e il pepe.  Frullate tutto nel mixer e aggiustate il limone, il sale e il pepe.

Servite immediatamente e metteteci sopra una cucchiaiata di formaggio di capra o di yogurt, un pizzico di pepe e un pò di menta strappata.  (Buonissima anche fredda!)

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