Without a trace

A couple of weeks ago I pulled a dish out of the freezer marked Spinach Torta, 5 pieces, with no date listed.  It was really good; well browned layers of spinach in a creamy base interspersed with pieces of thickly grated cheese.

It’s a mystery. I have found no backup, and I am pretty good at leaving a trail when it comes to recipes.  Even when I’m tinkering, I jot down a note for follow up. Either I was in a huge hurry or thought it wouldn’t matter, the question has remained with me, “How did I make that?”

I keep coming up with possibilities and theories… and here’s my latest bright idea.

Although I suspect I used fresh spinach, I opt for a carton of frozen chopped spinach. Right away, we know it will be different. We know that in working with spinach it’s all about eliminating the inherent moisture.  Once frozen spinach is defrosted, it’s simply a matter of squeezing this mass very well.

I also know that I would not be making a quiche, since I prefer something more solid.  I opt for a base similar to a Greek spinach filling with ricotta, plus a bit of bread crumbs for added moisture control and binder. The custard has more structure; reminiscent of clafoutis, it includes milk, egg, and a bit of flour.

Spinach Torta

So, there you have it.  This baby is not going anywhere, it has plenty of flavor and holds together beautifully.  Don’t be surprised when another version shows here, since that will likely happen again!

Spinach Torta

Ingredients
½ cup all-purpose flour
¾ tsp salt, divided
½ tsp nutmeg
5 eggs, beaten
⅔ cup milk
10-ounce frozen chopped spinach, thaw, drain, squeeze dry
1 green onion chopped and/or 1 clove garlic, mash & minced
⅔ cup ricotta
3 Tbsp Parmesan, grated
2 Tbsp bread crumbs
½ cup grated cheese, pepper jack, muenster or mozzarella

Instructions

  1. Spread a pie plate or quiche dish with non-stick spray.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, ¼ tsp salt, and nutmeg.  Add the beaten eggs and incorporate the flour into the eggs with a fork. Then, stir in the milk and whisk until smooth. Let stand 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375° F.
  4. In a medium bowl, combine spinach, green onion, ½ tsp salt, ricotta, and Parmesan.
  5. Stir the bread crumbs into spinach mixture. Whisk the batter down and add it to the spinach in thirds, stirring well after each addition. Pour the mixture into the baking dish and bake until it begins to set, rotating once, for about 30 minutes.  Sprinkle with ½ cup grated cheese and bake 10-15 minutes longer until puffed.  Serves 4 or more.

The Good Egg

Lately I’vEgge been brushing up on my soufflé making skills.

I’m one of those who love eggs, and I am relieved to be rid of the considerable guilt that egg consumption carried with it for many years.  Science has once again determined that eggs are not the great culprit that we feared.

The cholesterol scare has subsided and The Good Egg’s reputation is repaired – if not elevated.  For the record, blood cholesterol levels are more affected by the saturated fats consumed rather than by cholesterol itself.   Those fatty phospholipids in the humble egg only further serve to diminish the absorption of the yolk’s cholesterol.

Since most of the yolk’s fat is of the non-saturated variety many health professionals now take the stance that regular egg consumption does not affect the average person’s blood cholesterol level.

souffle, oven IMG_0147Sunday Brunch.  A soufflé was the obvious solution this weekend when deciding what to do with an over-abundance of fresh spinach.

Now that I’ve gotten my ratios and rhythm down on soufflé making, the results have been pretty spectacular.  Problem is, I’ve been so concerned with savoring its fragile beauty that getting photos has been a secondary issue.  This time I was prepared, but the result may look strange… since the soufflé was still in the oven.  I wasn’t taking any chances.

souffle 1 IMG_0152
Another Reason to Celebrate.  Not only did we have a delicious soufflé, but we also had beautiful thinly sliced, cold-smoked Norwegian salmon to go along with it.   No question, the combination was utterly exquisite.

Spinach and Cheese Soufflé

Inspired by the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ Tbsp. butter
  • 3 Tbsp. all purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ cup milk
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. grated nutmeg
  • white pepper, dash
  • 4 large egg yolks, room-temperature
  • l lb. fresh spinach, washed, stemmed and patted dry
  • 2 green onions, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 cup grated cheddar or parmesan cheese, 4 ounces
  • 5 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1/8 tsp. cream of tartar

 Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter the inside of a 2 qt. soufflé dish.  Wilt the spinach leaves and the green onions, then squeeze together to remove moisture and chop thoroughly.  Scald the milk.
  2. In a small pan over low heat, melt the butter; when it begins to bubble stir in the flour, and cook and stir for about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and slowly whisk the heated milk into the roux, then add the salt, nutmeg and white pepper.  Return to heat; cook and whisk until it begins to thicken, 1 to 2 minutes.  Continue to whisk over low heat for approximately 8 minutes ― until the whisk leaves tracks with sauce.
  3. Remove the sauce from heat and allow it to cool slightly, then whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time.  Stir in the cheese and the spinach mixture and transfer to a large mixing bowl. The base can be held at this point until ready to finish the soufflé.
  4. Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a mixer with whisk attachment and beat on low for 1 minute.  Add a dash of salt and increase speed slightly for another minute.  Increase speed to high and whip until firm, shiny peaks form, approximately 1 to 2 minutes longer.
  5. To combine, whisk ¼ of the beaten egg whites into the spinach-cheese sauce to lighten.  Gently fold in the remaining whites.  Pour the mixture into the prepared dish and smooth the top. Place it in center of the oven and reduce heat by 25 degrees. After 25 minutes, if the soufflé is browning too fast, cover with foil and reduce heat by another 25 degrees.  Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until it is puffed and brown.  Serve immediately.  The center will be soft, airy and moist; the exterior browned and crunchy.  Yield:  3 to 4 servings