Vegetable tarts, pies and gratins are an easy way to get those 5 portions of fruit and veg a day, without having to go out of your way. Without even knowing it, Peruvians got it right when they started introducing lots of these savory pastry recipes into their diet. Dishes such as pastel de acelga, pastel de alcachofa (the artichoke version of pastel de acelga), vegetable flans and empanadas, and timbal de espinacas -the recipe I’m sharing today-, are a very common snack or appetizer, enjoyed both when eating out and when preparing food at home.
The good thing about these veggie tarts, other than being cheap and easy to make, lasting for several days in the fridge, and tasting delicious, is that they are a kind of veggie in disguise, similar to what I said about the coliflor arrebozada. Latin Americans have found wise ways to make eating vegetables fun and tasty, so that people learn to eat them and love them from a very early age. I remember loving this type of food since I was a kid, eating it at room temperature out of my lunchbox at school. I wasn’t the only one; everyone around me seemed to enjoy these salty treats as much as I did. This probably had to do with the eggs, cheese, milk, and crumbly crusts that were usually a part of the preparation, which gave them a completely different appearance, taste, and feeling, than the depressing act that eating a cold and crunchy salad represents for kids.
You can make this crustless spinach tart with any fresh, frozen, or even stale bread, making good use of food that you are ready to discard. And if you cut it in small squares, it is also a perfect bite to serve as an hors d’oeuvre at your next dinner or cocktail party. There is no doubt that everyone’s tastebuds (and bodies) will be pleased with the delicious dose of greens.
- ½ cup butter, plus extra for buttering the pan
- 4 slices bread
- 500 gr spinach
- ½ onion
- 150 gr grated cheddar cheese
- 5 eggs
- ½ cup cream (half & half)
- Salt and pepper
- Nutmeg powder
- Preheat the Oven to 350F.
- Butter an ovenproof dish. Cut the bread slices in small pieces. Transfer half of them into a bowl, and cover the bottom of the buttered pan with the other half.
- Fill a saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add the spinach and cook for one minute until just wilted. Drain with a strainer, pressing with a spoon to get rid of all the liquid.
- Chop the spinach and add it to the bowl with the chopped bread.
- Chop the onion. Heat ⅓ of the butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon. Add to the bowl along with the cheese and eggs. Stir everything with a fork.
- In the same frying pan you used for the onions, warm up the remaining butter with the half and half, until the butter melts. Do not let it boil.
- Put the warm liquid into the bowl. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir well with the fork.
- Pour the mixture over the buttered pan lined up with bread pieces. Put the pan on a larger ovenproof dish or baking pan. Pour some water into the larger pan, until it reaches half way the height of the smaller pan.
- Bake like this for 40 minutes. Take out of the oven, and let cool a little bit on a cooling rack before serving.