Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Baked Spinach & Feta is Better Than You Even Know

A sort of crustless, denser quiche, this vegetarian entree saves the bother of making or buying pie or phyllo dough. There's so much going on here in the way of leafy greens you can also skip the side salad if you wish. Cafe Drake HRV teamed our spinach/feta casserole this week with roasted cauliflower, other ideal sides include marinated cucumbers, sliced tomatoes or roasted carrots. Warm pita and olives not essential but recommended. If you can't grasp the idea of a vegetarian main dish  - and really, what's wrong with you? - carefully cut squares of the baked spinach casserole make a luscious base for oven-roasted cod or, in the summer, any sort of grilled fish.

You'll need to plan an hour or two ahead simply to drain the cottage cheese. Place 1 heaping cup in a colander lined with cheese cloth or a paper towel, cover and leave to sit over a bowl (or just in the sink) for about 90 minutes. If the cottage cheese is dryer it may take only 30 minutes to drain all excess liquid. Skipping this step will result in a watery, bland casserole. 



Now let's proceed with 1 box of frozen chopped spinach. Prepare according to package instructions, taking care to not overcook, then drain and press out as much water as possible. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a large, deep bowl beat well 2 eggs. Add the spinach, 2-3 chopped scallions, fresh or dried dill to taste, a handful of chopped parsley if you have it, the drained cottage cheese and 1 cup crumbled feta. Season with salt and black pepper; if the feta is very salty, err on the side of caution with the salt. Lastly, stir in 2 or 3 dashes of your favorite hot sauce and pour contents into a well-oiled casserole. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until just firm and golden. Remove from oven and let rest for 20 minutes before serving.

As above, we used dried dill harvested from our gardens last Fall.

Both feta and cottage cheeses are required to obtain the springy, delightful texture of this spinach casserole.

Why ever waste energy when baking? At Cafe Drake HRV the oven always serves double duty when lit. Roasted plum tomatoes, cooked alongside the casserole, are a sublime contrasting side dish with their sweet acidity. Just slice in halves lengthwise and drizzle with olive oil, salt, cayenne pepper, honey and ground cinnamon. Cook for about 25 minutes total, flipping once.

Baked Spinach and Feta Casserole

Hey, we have three racks in the oven, why not use them all at once? Roasting is our preferred method of cooking cauliflower and to accompany our feta/spinach casserole we tossed the florets from one head with 1 sliced onion, olive oil, salt and pepper and a generous tablespoon of the spice mix raz el hanout. Best to put the cauliflower in towards the end of casserole cooking time; remove casserole to cool and crank oven to 425 degrees F. to finish cooking these veggies. Remember to stir now and then and check after 15 minutes for doneness.


above two photos: Spinach and Feta Casserole served with yogurt and cucumbers, tahini dressing, toasted pita, roasted cauliflower and baked tomatoes.

Leftovers with salad the following day.

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