I’ve been facing quite a conundrum lately. You may have noticed already that I like cooking . And I like eating, especially that which I have prepared myself – because I can make things exactly as I want them. However, those of you who do your own cooking will probably know that a cook shall always crave the consumer’s appreciation : we’ll put the plates on the table and then watch, hawk-like, for any telltale glances, eyebrow-twitching, tiny grimaces or sounds that can give us a clue. Do they like it? Or not??
Such is the fate of artists, I’m told, and a dreary one it is. I remember my father, for example, never muttering even a word of approval whatever Mother did, and actually deriding my brother for offering that which he knew she needed. Then again, no need to worry my readers about that kind of jerkassitude. Today, I’m facing a different problem. My new S.O. likes everything, will eat everything and be happy about it. Really.
And how’s Kitchen Witch with cooking ambitions supposed to do? I mean, I can compose an exquisite symphony for a cheese quartet, and he’ll eat it and say, “It’s good, thank you” and then promptly give me a peck on the cheek and go to sleep. Or, I can bash some random vegetables into a pot, boil them yellow with a generous helping of groat, then proceed to add way too much salt, thus achieving something horrible and unfit for animals, because of the salt. And he’ll eat it and say, “It’s good, thank you”. And I know he means it, it’s not like he pretends so I won’t be hurt. It’s not really a problem, but it kind of demotivates me when it comes to cooking. In the end I just disregard him and do whatever I want, but feel bad about it.
All right, enough rambling. In spite of this terrible tragedy that is a partner easy to please, I have recently tried out a new recipe. It’s a pasta recipe and it’s got a faux-italian name, so you can see everything is still normal around here.
Cannelloni is a type of pasta used for baking and not boiling. It’s made into tube shapes, not very long and with a large enough diameter (which varies) to allow stuffing. You can put pretty much anything in it, and here’s an idea.
- Cannelloni pasta – you can buy it, it’s not that rare. The actual amount depends on how much can you fit in a baking dish.
- Cheese – go with quark cheese if you want the spinach taste to come out. Feta cheese will get you a spicier, but still balanced dish (or you can mix those two). Choose camembert for a strong, piquant taste, though it will dominate.
- Spinach – in 1:1 proportion with cheese
- Leek (optional)
- Onion – in 1:1 proportion with leek and 2:1 with spinach and cheese
- Olive oil
- Sour cream
- Herbal spices : rosemary, laurel leaf, black pepper, thyme, basil, tarragon and juniper are all good choices.
Chop the onions and fry them on olive oil over medium heat. Add the spinach and garlic and fry for a while (if you’re using frozen spinach, make sure you evaporate the water surplus). When you’ve got a nice, warm and not too runny green mass, add the cheese and leek. Simmer over medium heat to melt the cheese. At this point it will look utterly horrible, so you can frighten your kids with it. If you don’t want to, make sure they don’t see it as the sight will make them refuse to eat anything.
Once the unspeakable eldritch horror on your frying pan achieves a thick, smooth form, use a knife, a spoon, a kitchen baster or sheer force of will to stuff it into the raw pasta tubes. I repeat, just in case – you do not boil the pasta. If you do, it goes soft and you won’t be able to stuff it with anything. The stuffed tubes are then placed in a casserole (oil it up a little) and the surface covered in sour cream. This is important – if you bake them bare, the pasta will dry up even more and you’ll get hard, splintering shells. You need to keep the water in with a layer of cream. Some grated cheese can go on the surface, too. if you like.
Place it all in the oven and bake in medium heat – too much and it’ll just dry up to the point of in-edibility. It needs 30 to 40 minutes, when in doubt you can poke a pasta tube and see if it’s hard or softening.
This sounds a bit complicated, I know, but it’s actually a fairly simple recipe and useful if you want to create an illusion of haute cuisine without too much work. However, it has proven impossible for me to take a reasonable picture of the actual dish, so I’m sorry to say you’d have to take my word for it.
Serve with wine, depending on the contents (stuffing possibilities are endless). If there’s no meat in it, or it’s chicken, serve medium-dry white wine, as is the case with mine.