A message from above…

©cookinginmyheels.com

The other morning I woke up with a severe case of the mean reds. In plain speak; I was in a foul, foul mood. Grumpy, blue, mad at myself, mad at the world and my ‘predicament’, a nobody-loves-me-nobody-wants-me-nothing-is-right-gonna-eat-worms type of vibe. Get the picture? I was in no way fit to interact with polite society. After growling around the apartment for a while and stewing, I decided to get out of the house and go for a walk. I walk a lot. Most mornings, actually, and for a couple of miles along the Hudson. So off I trudged, leaving a trail of grump in my wake. The river and sky were both as grey as my mood, and as I looked out over them I heard a strange sound in the distance. Wait a minute — did I really hear what I think I heard? Can’t be. It sounded like the opening strains of “When you wish upon a star”. I cocked my head toward the sky, removed one ear from under my hat, and listened again. Nope, nothing. Oh great, I thought. Not only am I in a mood so petulant and stormy that even I don’t want to be around me, now I’m losing my mind and hearing things too! Then, I heard it again…

I often pray on my walks. I don’t really adhere to any specific religious doctrine. More like I embrace them all, usually based on the food served on holy days. Regardless, I do believe there is something out there and so I talk to her, him, them. Whichever celestial being happens to be within earshot at the time. And I happened to have been conversing with deities just before I heard the haunting refrain of Jiminy Cricket’s favorite tune. To be honest, that day there was more whining than conversing, so let’s just say the heavens and I were having a chat over coffee. Naturally, when I heard the song I thought, a sign?? Am I getting a SIGN? An answer to my whine telling me to follow my heart, follow my dreams?! NAH…that’s silly Karin. But then again… As I rounded the next pier, still pondering my ersatz divine message, I saw it. Off in the distance. Was it the manifestation of a heavenly being? Well, no. My vision, and the haunting sound resonating in the heavens was a cruise ship. A GIGANTIC vessel with vaguely familiar mouse ears on its twin smoke stacks, and running at least the length of a city block — a cross-town city block. Holy crap that mouse has a REALLY big boat!

I laughed so hard coffee nearly exited via nostril. Apparently, my walk coincided with the maiden voyage of Disney’s newest cruise behemoth into New York Harbor. No matter. My mood was instantly lifted, the mean reds chased away by a giant Mousekeship. Was it coincidence, or a message from above? I guess I’ll never know. Funny thing is, I always had my suspicions about the real Walt…

I think a post with celestial leanings, albeit more Disney-esque than divine, deserves a recipe equally heavenly. Enter my Spinach and Baby Peas Manicotti (I had considered naming it Mousekecotti, but thankfully sanity took hold again.) Homemade crepes wrapped around a puree of spinach, baby peas and cheese, topped in a light tomato sauce and some more cheese and baked until bubbly and yummy, these are just the thing to cure any blues (or reds), make you smile and maybe even whistle a happy tune…

Spinach and Pea Manicotti

This is a perfect recipe to make the components ahead of time, and then just assemble and bake when you are ready to eat.

Serves 2 as written (and easily doubled for 4 hungry Mouseketeers)

For the filling:

  • 1 ounce goat cheese
  • 1/3 cup ricotta
  • 1 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 2/3 cup frozen baby peas, thawed
  • 1 egg, separated – the yolk goes in the filling, save the white for the crepes
  • Zest of one lemon
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan, plus 2-3 TBSP for sprinkling on top

For the crepes: (makes 5-6)

  • 1 egg plus one egg white (use the white leftover from the filling)
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 TBSP water
  • 6 TBSP flour
  • Pinch of salt

Prepare the filling:

Add the thawed spinach and peas to a food processor and pulse until a rough puree (you want a little bit of texture, not baby food smooth.) Remove to a bowl and mix in the ricotta, goat cheese, lemon zest, salt, pepper and Parmesan. Let sit at least 4 hours (overnight is fine) in the fridge so the flavors can meld. When you are ready to assemble the dish, taste the filling and adjust the seasonings if necessary. Add egg yolk and mix well.

Prepare the crepes:

In a blender, add the water, egg, egg white, a pinch of salt and flour. Blend until smooth. Let sit for 30 minutes. Spray a nonstick 8” skillet or crepe pan with cooking spray (or wipe with a paper towel dipped in oil) and heat until a drop of water dances on the pan. Pour about 2-3 TBSP of the batter onto the pan and immediately swirl to cover the bottom. You can add a little more batter to fill any holes. Cook over medium heat until the edges start to curl (you don’t want these brown, just dry). Flip crepe and cook another 30 seconds or until the crepe releases from the pan. Put on a plate and cover with a sheet of waxed paper or cling wrap. Repeat until you have 5-6 crepes made. Don’t worry if they aren’t perfect. You will be filling and rolling them and covering them with sauce. If you are not using the crepes right away, wrap well and store in the fridge. I often double or triple the recipe and keep the extra crepes in the freezer (wrapped well) for the next time you want to make manicotti.

Assemble the dish:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Oil a small baking dish (I used a glass 8” square one). Put ¼ cup of the tomato sauce in the bottom of the pan. Take one crepe and put about ¼ cup of the filling down the center. Fold the crepe in half, then roll up. Place the manicotti into the dish, seam side down. Repeat with the rest of the crepes. Pour the remaining ½ cup of sauce over the crepes and sprinkle with 2-3 TBSP of Parmesan. Drizzle a little bit of olive oil over top, then bake for 20-25 minutes or until heated through and the sauce is bubbling. Let cool 5 minutes before serving. Calories: approximately 435 per serving.

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6 thoughts on “A message from above…

  1. This looks fabulous and I’m so hungry right now I could eat my arm or go food shopping and get these ingredients and try this right now! Glad you saw the mouse boat and it gave you this thought!

  2. Okay, you know me – allergic to garlic – but I think it sounds divine just as is! Sometimes it is nice to have something subtle and delicate – I really feel we are beginning to lose that in our culinary world. Everything needs a BAM! I woudln’t even add bacon! And I am so glad you use crêpes to make your manicotti instead of those hideous tubes! SO much yummier… Thanks for a great post!

    • Ah, to garlic or not to garlic, that is the question. I have to admit, in something like this dish (and my stuffed shells with peas and ricotta), I’m with you – I like the subtle flavors of the peas, spinach and lemon to shine through. That’s why I top this with a light tomato sauce, like a marinara. I’m going to try it the next time with a bechamel – I bet that can’t be bad either! Crepes rule David – those pasta tubes always remind me of PVC pipe! 🙂

  3. This sounds delicious and I am always on the look out for rich, satisfying vegetarian dishes I can make for my daughters. Think I’ll add a little fresh garlic in the filling though. My motto is that there is hardly a savory recipe that cannot be improved by the addition of garlic and/or bacon. Glad you got your joy back, mouseketeer!

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