Tuesday, June 14, 2011
One good thing about spring spinach is that, since spinach was also in our fall CSA boxes, there hasn’t been quite enough time for me to completely lose the spinach casserole recipe I had set aside but never got around to trying. Said recipe is for a dish loaded with spinach and quinoa and held together with cottage cheese and eggs. And, since spinach is in season and in the CSA box, when the recipe writers (the people at Martha Stewart Living magazine, no less) indicate a whole pound of spinach is required and I’ve only got half of that, the casserole is going to get shorted. Don’t worry. It turned out delicious anyway.
I used a couple other seasonal substitutions when bending this recipe to my will, including green garlic, which is the immature bulb of the garlic with which we’re all familiar, and some beautiful locally-grown scallions. I also adapted the procedure of the original recipe to streamline it a bit by sautéing the spinach rather than blanching it, which also resulted in fewer pots, pans and bowls to wash.
I might have taken things a bit too far in the made-from-scratch department by making my own cottage cheese, using a recipe in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman. You, of course, could use store-bought cottage cheese, and you probably will if you’re not as inclined to make messes as I am. You might want to taste the cheese for salt before deciding how much additional salt to add to the casserole. I made very lightly salted cheese, and would have liked more than the ½ teaspoon or so of salt that I put in my casserole. I think, however, that a commercial cottage cheese might have enough salt in it to carry the flavor of the whole dish. Here, you’re going to have to be your own judge. And more on that homemade cheese in another post.
I want to say that this casserole has a mild flavor, but I don’t want you to get the impression that it is bland. The taste of the spinach, whole grain quinoa and mild cheese are enhanced nicely by the onions, garlic and herbs. I cut the casserole into serving-size rectangles that we ate with a fork, but I think you could cut it into small squares and serve it as finger food, even at room temperature. The cut pieces hold their shape firmly, thanks, I suppose, to the eggs and cheese.
In case “mild” does read as “bland” to you, I think there could be many variations that would work well with this basic recipe. Crumbled feta cheese could replace some of the cottage cheese. (You could probably use ricotta instead of cottage cheese as well.) Different grains, such as barley, brown rice or millet might be good in place of the quinoa. You could probably substitute chard or other greens for the spinach. This time of year, when it’s just getting exciting to find and cook with locally-grown produce, you can take something relatively simple and basic (but not bland!) like this casserole, or another recipe you’ve been saving, and add to it all the best of the fresh and delicious ingredients available.
Quinoa and Spinach Casserole
Adapted from a recipe in Martha Stewart Living magazine
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped scallions
2 cloves garlic or 1 small head green garlic, minced
8 ounces fresh spinach
a pinch or two of kosher salt, to taste
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 cups cooked quinoa
1 cup cottage cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Coat a 2-quart casserole dish with cooking spray, oil or butter. Set aside.
2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add the scallions and cook about 2 minutes or until just beginning to brown. Add garlic or green garlic. Cook about 30 seconds, stirring constantly.
3. Add the spinach and salt to taste. Cook until completely wilted, stirring frequently. Stir in the thyme, rosemary, red pepper flakes, and black pepper. Remove from heat and set aside for a few minutes to cool.
4. Stir in the quinoa. Gently stir in the cottage cheese and eggs.
5. Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Bake, uncovered, at 350 F for 60 to 70 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Cut into squares or rectangles and serve warm or at room temperature.
Makes 4-6 servings.
Other recipes like this one: Broccoli Cheese Casserole with Mustard Rye Croutons, Chard Tart with Feta Cheese and Olives, Spinach and Feta Souffle
One year ago: Asparagus and Goat Cheese Dip
Two years ago: Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce and Strawberry Rhubarb Fool