Gratin of Spinach

December 16, 2010 § 1 Comment

I usually open the Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1 by Julia Child just to get inspiration for a special dinner that I am going to prepare – in this case Christmas dinner.  However, such parousal always turns into a desire to make something RIGHT NOW from her many recipes.  As luck would have it, the time was getting dangerously close to dinner.

Most of the things in the book are very technical and time consuming (at least for the non-professionals, like myself), but I just had to share this Gratin of Spinach recipe that I adapted from Julia’s Spinach Quiche recipe (found on page 153 of Vol. 1).

I have to first note that a gratin is simply a quiche without the pastry shell.  And if you have ever made a quiche, you know that the pastry (assuming you are making your own from scratch) is the more time consuming portion of the whole process.

Ingredients:

  • 1 finely minced shallot (or green onion, if you prefer)
  • 2 Tb butter
  • 1 1/4 cup baby spinach (if you are using older spinach, you should blanche and chop it first)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • pinch of pepper
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups whipping cream (or you can make this half milk, half cream)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Butter an enamel or ceramic oven-safe baking dish.

Prepare the spinach mixture:

  • Cook the shallots for a few minutes in butter
  • Add spinach and cook until most of spinach water is evaporated
  • Add salt, pepper
  • Take off heat and allow to cool

Prepare the egg mixture:

  • Beat eggs and cream with salt and pepper until blended and starting to get to the borderline of fluffy
  • Once the spinach mixture has cooled, fold it into the egg mixture

Pour the entire mixture into the baking dish.  Place into the upper third of preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes until the gratin has “puffed” and browned.  You will know its finished when you can stick a knife into the middle of the gratin and have it come out clean.

This dish makes a truly special brunch or lunch.  The texture is incredibly fluffy and the spinach is the perfect accompaniment to its smoothness.  If you like to live on the dangerous side of things, you can serve this for dinner.

A note on the Julia Child cookbook mentioned above:
Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child is available in a smaller one volume or a two volume set.  Either is a fantastic investment.  This is one of the few cookbook staples that I cannot live without.

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Baked Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower, Asparagus, Spinach, Zucchini, and Peas

August 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag of Trader Joe’s Rotelle whole wheat pasta
  • 1 container Trader Joe’s low-fat ricotta cheese
  • 3 medium zucchini (sliced into 1 inch thick strips)
  • 1 large head cauliflower
  • 1 bunch of asparagus
  • 1 bag of frozen spinach (defrosted and wrung out)
  • 1 cup of fresh peas or frozen peas defrosted
  • Olive oil
  • 3-4 pieces of Trader Joe’s cracked wheat sourdough bread
  • 3 large cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • Zest of lemon
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Homemade or home style ranch dressing (for serving)

Directions:

1.  Preheat your oven to 425º.  Cut the head of cauliflower into 1 inch florets.  Toss the florets with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Spread the florets out, in a single layer, on a rimmed baking pan.  Bake for 25 minutes, or until florets are tender and have browned in spots.

2.  While the cauliflower is cooking, heat a grill pan and grill up the bunch of asparagus and zucchini.  When the asparagus and zucchini is cooked, be careful you still want them to be crisp, set them on a plate to cool.

3.  Cook the pasta according to the packages directions.   Make sure you generously salt the pasta water to add flavor to the pasta.

4.  While the pasta is cooking and the veggies are cooling off, make the crouton crust for the top of the pasta.  In a food processor, combine the bread (tear them into large pieces), chopped parsley, and lemon zest.  Pulse until you have medium sized crumbs.  Add a drizzle of olive oil and pulse 2-3 times to just incorporate the oil.

5.  When the pasta is done cooking, drain the pasta and reserve 1 1/2 cups of the pasta water for use later in this recipe.  Put the drained pasta back into the same pot you cooked the pasta in.

6.  To the cooked pasta, add the roasted cauliflower, grilled asparagus and zucchini (cut it into bite sized pieces before adding it into the pot), spinach, peas, red pepper flakes, the reserved pasta water, and the container of low-fat ricotta cheese. Mix until combined.

7.  Add Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste.

8.  Put the pasta in a large baking dish.  Top the pasta with the breadcrumb mixture, drizzle lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Bake in a 350° oven until the pasta is heated all the way through and the crumb topping has browned (about 30-40 minutes).

I serve ranch dressing on the side for this pasta dish.  If you aren’t obsessive about counting calories, a drizzle of cold ranch dressing on top of this warm summer pasta is heavenly.

Spinach Artichoke Orzo Salad All Week

May 16, 2010 § Leave a comment

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 a bag of store-bought fresh spinach
  • 32 oz. artichokes (jar or canned)
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup lite Italian dressing, plus more to taste
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 orange bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cups cheery tomatoes, sliced in half or quartered
  • 1 box orzo
  • Pepper to taste

Directions:

1.  Combine artichokes, spinach, Parmesan cheese, and Italian dressing in a Ziploc bag and marinate for 1-2 hours.

2.  Meanwhile, cook orzo according to the directions on packaging.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  Let cool to room temperature.

3.  Cut the tomatoes and chop the bell pepper.  Put them into a large bowl.  Stir in the cooled orzo pasta.

4.  Chop the  artichoke and spinach (try to keep all of the dressing in the bag).  Add them to the pasta.  Add the dressing and Parmesan cheese from the marinated artichokes (inside the Ziploc bag) to the bowl.  Toss everything together.  Add pepper and more dressing to taste.

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