Baked Eggs on Wilted Spinach

As Marie explained a little while back, egg based dishes are really the ticket to a quick, protein-rich, satisfying meal.  And such dishes are even better being as they are, welcome any time of day–a relaxed dinner, an elegant brunch platter, an easy lunch.

Though while I often think of egg-based dishes making for light meals, there are plenty of ways that they do not.  Quiche, I’m looking at you.  Even in your “healthier” spinach quiche guise, you still have loads of cream and butter and cheese.  Might as well just eat the quiche with bacon.

Eggs Baked over Wilted Spinach (6 of 6)

This recipe, however, both claims to be, and really is, a light meal.  The eggs are gently baked in the oven over a bed of flavors–earthy spinach infused with the robust aroma of aleppo pepper, playing off against the sweetness of gently sautéed onions.  It’s particularly nice right now as the weather gets warmer and will easily round out all those “casual” brunch parties we’ll be throwing all summer on our perfectly manicured backyards, with fizzy mimosas made from fresh squeezed oranges decorating our perfectly manicured hands as we toss our heads back with effortless laughter.  Or, it is equally appropriate for more slapdash brunches–the only ones we manage to have, usually starting at the ungodly brunch hour of 9am on a Sunday since everyone we know has young kids so we’ve all been up several hours by then anyway.

Eggs Baked over Wilted Spinach (4 of 6)

I once read that baking eggs in the oven was used as a true test of a cook’s skill at the great French culinary academies (in fact it’s probably a cliché), and when you make this dish you can see why.  It’s hard to tell just by looking if the eggs have set.  Although  the whites are fairly straightforward–they’re either white or they are not–the yolks remain surprisingly (and confoundingly) vibrant yellow and almost glossy.   Of course, the upside of this is that your yolks set into that slightly creamy, yet firm consistency that is the hallmark of a well-cooked hard-boiled egg.  I ended up relying on the very scientific “poke the yolk with your finger” test.

Eggs Baked over Wilted Spinach (5 of 6)

Before I scare anyone off however, I fully admit to overcooking my eggs and this dish still turns out wonderfully.  And to assuage any further fears, I overdo things intentionally, because I worry about things like giving my kids salmonella.  I needn’t have worried:  The last time we brought this to a brunch, they wouldn’t touch it once they saw that blog-famous amazing pull-apart bread our hostess had made.

Baked Eggs on Wilted Spinach

Notes:  Stemming spinach goes remarkably fast (especially as compared to other greens), no knife needed.  Simply fold in half along the stem and zip the leaves off.   I use two bunches of spinach, and my kitchen scale malfunctioned when I tried to weigh the stemmed leaves, but assuming your bunches are 12 ounces each you’ll probably end up with 8 ounces of leaves.  It’s not a make or break proposition so no worries.  Make sure to wash your spinach well–it traps dirt remarkably well.  The first time I made this there was an unwelcome grittiness to the meal, so I learned my lesson.

I like to preheat the baking dish in the oven while I make the spinach mixture, and then add a light coating of oil, on the theory that this will make the eggs will be less liable to stick and therefore the dish easier to clean off.

  • 3T olive oil
  • 1 red onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2t aleppo pepper (or more, or substitute some other dried pepper)
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 large bunches of spinach, stemmed
  • 4 eggs
  • Optional:  Greek yogurt to garnish

Preheat the oven to 310F.

Heat the olive oil over medium low in a large skillet.   Add the onion and sautee until soft, about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic, aleppo pepper, and spinach and continue to cook until the spinach is wilted.  Adjust for salt and pepper.  Transfer to a baking dish (or use your skillet if it can be transferred to the oven; unless you are using a lot of spinach an 8 inch skillet is probably the best size).

Crack each egg into a separate cup (or crack two eggs gently into two cups if you are more daring).  Make wells in the spinach mixture and gently pour an egg into each indentation.

Bake for about 25 minutes at 310–though allow extra time as I’ve had it take even 10 minutes more at times.  (I’m guessing depending on the temperature of the eggs).

Serve with greek yogurt, if desired.

Eggs Baked over Wilted Spinach (2 of 6)

Extra-Spinachy Spinach Pie (Spanakopita Style)

I think I should feel a little funny telling you about my own take on spanakopita.  After all, who am I to mess with a classic?  While I consider myself very accomplished at eating and enjoying Greek food, I am by no means an expert at making it.  But then again, maybe we could consider this a tribute to that classic dish.

Spinach and Feta Pie (4 of 4) (aka "extra-green spanakopita")

Of course I love spanakopita as is–but sometimes I wouldn’t mind something a bit lighter.    Along the lines of, more spinach, less cheese.  (Something I can hardly believe I am saying–how could you ever have too much feta?)  And with lots of flavorful dill and parsley, perhaps we can just consider this an extra-green spanakopita?

Spinach and Feta Pie (1 of 4) (aka "extra-green spanakopita")
I made another tweak, while I was at it, and decided to give it a whirl with puff pastry.  You could certainly use phyllo if you wanted, but personally, I find puff easier to work with (and I always have loads in the freezer–see my prior post here).  I tend to get those gossamer-thin leaves of phyllo matted into an unappealing clump.  Though I follow all instructions to keep under a damp towel, the edges still manage to dry out on me.  And I inevitably shred as many phyllo sheets as I manage to tease apart.

Since phyllo layers are glued together with butter, why not use puff pastry dough, which has all that golden butter rolled in for you already?  And puff bakes up light and airy,  delicately embracing the filling of my extra-green spanakopita.Spinach and Feta Pie (2 of 4) (aka "extra-green spanakopita")

 Extra-Spinachy Spinach Pie (Spanakopita Style) 
 
  • 3 10-ounce packets (about 850g total) chopped spinach, defrosted
  • 1 small red onion, chopped fine
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped fine
  • 4T butter
  • Several grindings (or a healthy pinch) of nutmeg
  • Several grindings of pepper
  • 3/4t salt
  • 2 big handfuls of parsley, chopped (about 4T)
  • 2 big handfuls of dill, chopped (about 4T)
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 ounces (170g) feta, crumbled
  • 10 ounces (285g) or so of puff pastry
  • 1 egg, beaten, for egg wash.

Roll out pastry dough into a rectangle approximately 12″ by 14″ (30 x 35cm). Slide onto a cookie sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and chill.

Squeeze out as much water as possible out of the spinach. (Push spinach against a colander, or squeeze in a towel).

Melt the butter over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and saute until soft. Add the nutmeg, pepper, and salt and stir.

Add the spinach, and cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid has evaporated and the spinach is dry. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Stir in the parsley, dill, and eggs. Crumble in the feta.

Take out your puff pastry and scrape the filling out over a little less than one half of the dough, leaving a margin all around. You don’t want to spread it too widely because you want to make sure you can fold the dough without stretching and also so you have edges available to seal it shut.

Fold the remaining dough over the filling, and use water to help seal the package shut. Cut slits in the dough to allow steam to escape while cooking. Paint with an egg wash if using.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until the filling is set and the pastry is nicely browned.

A version of this post was originally published on Honest Cooking.
Spinach and Feta Pie (3 of 4) (aka "extra-green spanakopita")

Spanakopi-tart

Another meal, brought to you by the question “how am I going to use up these foods from my CSA?”

I sort of had in mind making an onion tart at the beginning.  I had seen the recent blog post on Chocolate and Zucchini for an olive oil tart crust and wanted to try it.  A tart crust that is whole wheat, and has only a quarter cup of oil (and no butter)?  Very intriguing.  I love regular tart crust, but it does require a lot of butter, and even though I don’t worry about that stuff so much, when you are making a tart crust and actually see how much butter (i.e. pure fat) you are adding, you do tend to think “maybe I’ll wait a little while before making this again.”

We had quite a few (I think) Vidalia onions from the CSA so I figured I could using that as the filling, but frankly that didn’t sound so exciting.  But aha, there was lots of fresh spinach in the fridge too.  And feta.  And I thought:  spanakopita!

So I browned the onions and then added the fresh spinach until it wilted.  I turned up the heat to boil off as much of the excess liquid as possible, hoping to avoid a soggy tart crust.  I let it cool a little and mixed up eggs, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.  Then I lifted in the onion-spinach mixture, using a slotted spoon (to let any more water drain out).  Then I sprinkled crumbled feta on top.

I was nervous–while I have made up soups before (sort of, anyway) and improvised a frittata or two (also not that daunting), this was something that was baked.  I didn’t know if the pie crust would cook all the way, I didn’t know if the filling would set before the crust burnt, I didn’t know if I had gotten the temperature right.

After thirty minutes, I gently slipped a knife in and it came out clean.  Being a bit antsy about the whole endeavor, I tested a few more spots and convinced myself it was done.  I very gently lifted the rim of the tart mold off and saw that it looked solid and sturdy.  I cooled it a little on a rack, and then slid it off the tart mold’s base.  Dry all the way through on the bottom, and nicely baked.  No sogginess, no raw dough.

It all looked good, but of course the proof is in the eating!  I was a bit worried that I had overdone it on the nutmeg, or that my addition of rosemary  to the tart crust was unwise and would clash with the spice flavor.  But the rosemary seemed to enhance the sweetness of the caramelized onions, and the nutmeg was just right and not overpowering (think of those overly spiced pumpkin pies and how disappointing they are!).  We had a few servings for lunch and I was quite pleased with myself, I will admit.

I guess this is something like a quiche as well, though with this olive oil crust rather than, once again, buttery dough.  And I’m sure it’s “lighter” than spanakopita itself, what with layers of phyllo dough moistened by butter.  What I like is that it’s pretty easy to make and makes a great weekend lunch!

IMG_7807

 

Spanakopi-tart

For the crust (adapted for this recipe from Chocolate and Zucchini); do check this post for extra details, tips, and variations).
  •  250 grams (about two cups) of a 50/50 mix of all purpose and whole wheat flour.
  •  1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  •  1 teaspoon rosemary
  •  60 ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
  •  120 ml (1/2 cup) cold water
For the filling
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 1 1/2 lb spinach (if you use frozen, be sure to thaw and squeeze out as much liquid as possible).
  • 1 t nutmeg
  • 3 eggs
  • salt and pepper
  • 5 oz feta cheese (more or less, depends how much you like feta!)
Combine the flour, salt, and herbs in a medium mixing bowl. Add the oil and mix it in with a fork. Add the water, mix with the fork until it is absorbed, then knead lightly (I do this with just one hand, in the bowl) until the dough comes together into a ball.
Turn the dough out on a lightly floured work surface. Sprinkle a little flour on the ball of dough and on the rolling pin, and roll the dough out into a circle large enough to fit your tart pan. Transfer the dough carefully into the prepared pan and line it neatly. Trim the excess dough (re-roll it and cut into decorative shapes to top the tart), and place the pan in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.  (Note, the original recipe suggests lightly greasing the mold; I did not do so and had no problems; but I also have a tart tin with a separable base which may make this strategy easier to pull off).
Make the filling.  Preheat the oven to 400F.  Saute the onions over medium heat until they start to brown (about 15 minutes).  Add the spinach–it will overflow the skillet but will eventually shrink down substantially.  Once the spinach has wilted, turn the heat up to high and boil off as much liquid as possible (onions give off liquid when they cook).  Set the mixture aside to cool 5-10 minutes.  Mix the nutmeg, eggs, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.  Add the spinach and onion mixture with a slotted spoon to drain out any excess liquid.  Stir together and pour into the filled tart pan.  Scatter chunks of feta over the surface of the mixture.  Bake for 30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack.  Best enjoyed warm.