Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Baked Spinach with Cheese

By request, here's my current favorite one-dish recipe, adapted from The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever, by Beatrice Ojakangas. The title of this 640-page book sums it up perfectly.


This dish is reminiscent of quiche, but without the high-fat crust and cream. It's still rich, thanks to the  eggs and cheese. I add extra cheese and imported ham to make it heartier. I've used skim milk with good results and I love it topped with panko breadcrumbs. The crispy golden topping is as rich and essential as the icing on a cake.

I don't know if low-cholesterol versions of eggs and cheese would produce good results, but if you experiment, let me know how it works out.

This works best with baby spinach, but regular spinach is fine if you tear it up and remove the thicker stems. Spinach packages come in many different quantities, so adjust the ingredients based on whatever amount you bought. Wilting the spinach will reduce its volume dramatically. If you buy three 6-ounce bags of spinach, you'll have enough for about six servings unless you're famished.

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons melted butter + extra for the dish
18 ounces of baby spinach
1/4 cup flour
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (or similar, or more)
1 tsp. salt
pepper to taste
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
4 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (panko is best)
2 to 4 oz. shredded or cubed ham (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Boil water in a kettle.

2. Put the spinach in a colander and pour boiling water over the leaves until they wilt. Drain excess water. (I use a salad spinner.)

3. In a mixing bowl, mix the flour, cheese, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Mix in the spinach. (Add ham next, if using.) Butter a casserole dish and fill it with the mixture, packing it loosely and flat.

4. Beat the eggs and add milk. Pour this all over the spinach mixture.

5. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, uncovered. It should be set. Mix the breadcrumbs and melted butter and spread evenly over the top. Return to the oven for another 5 or 10 minutes, until the breadcrumbs are golden and crispy.

To get the maximum nutritional benefits from spinach, always serve it with orange juice or citrus fruit — vitamin C helps your body absorb iron.


Bon appetit!

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