Friday, July 08, 2005


Spinach Souffle and Tapanade-Whipped Potato Timbale with Red Olive Relish*

*AKA: Vintage Irish Cheddar and Fresh Spinach Souffle, and Nyon Olive Tapanade-Whipped Potato Timbale On a Potato Galette, Topped with Spicy Red Olive-Hazelnut Relish, and Garnished with a White Cheddar Frica and Fried Spinach Leaves. (My goodness. Does that title not sound like the writing of a girl who just graduated from cooking school last week, or what! I can't believe Neiman Ranch beef, Fennel Pollen or Maytag Blue Cheese weren't included! That would have perfected the absurdity.)

Considering the choices for the
Paper Chef #8 contest this month, (hosted by Sensational Sarah, the blogger with the mostest,) I really should have made something Tex-Mex. I mean, the ingredients were spinach, cheddar, olives and either potato or cream (but not both.) What kind of girl am I that a spinach tortilla burrito did not immediately come to mind? There could have been a zillion choices had I only thought a little further South! Der. I guess I was just trying to be extra fancy. Still, it would have been the obvious choice for certain.

Actually, I've been pondering what to do with those four things for days, and what I did come up with was outrageously tasty. That, despite the fact I'm prone to think very few things hold a candle to the simple brilliance of a stuffed and rolled tortilla. As a matter of fact, I think I will make that tomorrow, just for kicks, and let you know how it comes out. I've been wanting to make homemade tortillas forever anyway...

What I did create was based entirely on some crazy-vibrant red olives I saw at the olive bar (when did that become a thing in markets? I love it, but it does seem a tad weird to me) in the market a few days ago. Enigmatically titled "French Olives," there was no other description, so it was up to me to snatch a sample and learn they were actually Italian Cerignola olives (huge and meaty, not salty or oily) that were dyed red a la 70's era pistachio nuts. Remember those? Despite the olives actually being a touch bland, they were just so happy and festive, I had to take some home.

So what did I make? A full meal is what I made. Seriously, it was hearty. A delicious tower of, well, let's see, from the bottom up, it was a crispy Yukon gold potato galette, spinach and white cheddar custard (I used something called Irish Vintage Cheddar. Who knows what that is, but it was nice and crumbly, sharp but not overwhelming and was a beautiful pale white), fresh spinach leaves, black olive tapanade whipped potatoes topped with a red olive and hazelnut relish, (well, it was more like a tapande too, but I didn't really want to say that twice. Then again, I just did, didn't I? Whoops.) a cheddar and pecorino frica (lace like cheese crisp) and deep fried spinach leaves (not a recommended treatment for such a watery veg. Quite dangerous actually what with all the sputtering and splattering and hot oil and all) It was a tour de force, a warm and satisfying vegetarian meal, a fancy as can be supper and overall, well, lets just say, I proudly retained my good standing in the clean plate club for one more day.

My overall idea was to have the main four ingredients show up at least twice in the dish, to highlight different textures and techniques. That and I got a little carried away with the deep frying (giggle). I loved the combination of the shattering crispiness of the fried spinach on the top and the potatoes on the bottom. The red olives, being somewhat mild were a perfect compliment adding flavor and texture without introducing overpowering saltiness, while the tapanade added a great burst of flavor to the creamy potatoes.

It was a little over the top in terms of preparation (It took 1.5 hours. Although, a lot of that was just waiting for the custard to cook) but it was great fun and worth every step. This recipe is a great time to practice mise en place. Have all your ingredients and tools out and ready from the start and it will come together much more smoothly. Try it, and enjoy!

2 pounds fresh spinach, rinsed, a few leaves set aside
1 large onion, minced fine
2 teaspoons butter
5 large eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
pinch of salt and pepper
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup white flour

4 tablespoons finely grated cheese and a large pinch of flour, mixed

1/2 cup dry cured black olives, pitted (I used Nyon olives)
3 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon capers, rinsed
1 large anchovy filet
black pepper
a small fist full of parsley (hows that for an accurate measurement!)
1 clove of garlic, rough chopped

4 large Idaho potatoes, peeled and rough chopped
2 teaspoons butter

1/2 cup red "French Olives", pitted
teaspoons olive oil
large fistful of parsley
small pinch of red pepper flakes (adjust to taste)
1 small clove of garlic, minced
1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, rough chopped

oil for frying (I used peanut oil)

Preheat your oven to 350F.

In a large pan over medium low heat, sweat the onion in the butter until translucent. Add the spinach and cook until just wilted, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, allow to cool, squeeze out any excess liquid and rough chop. (You could also chop the spinach before wilting it. Whatever your preference.)

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, cheese, milk, flour, salt and pepper, then add the spinach. Pour it all into a oiled dish and bake until set, about 55 minutes. When done, remove from oven and let cool slightly to set.

Add the potatoes to a large pot of salted water, over high heat.

While the potatoes are cooking, make the tapanades. Either rough chop all the ingredients or add them all to a food processor. Adjust seasoning to taste and refrigerate until assembly.

On a non-stick baking mat create the frica by just making little mounds of the cheese/flour mixture then pressing down slightly. They don't spread too much but the piles shouldnt be too tall or too close together. Bake at 450 F for ten minutes. They are extremely delicate, so after letting them cool for a minute or two on the mat, remove with a spatula, using the utmost care, unto a piece of wax paper until you are ready to use them.

If you want to create the galette (a few incredibly thin potato slices overlapping to create a rough circle shape) and the fried spinach leaves (again, not recommended, but they sure do taste good!) go ahead and deep fry them at this point in 1 inch of hot vegetable oil. Remove when crispy and blot on paper towels. Salt liberally and set aside.

To compose:

Place the potato chip galette on the plate. Place a lightly oiled metal ring on top (I used a Heinz brand Spotted Dick can, with both ends removed. It was the perfect size and kind of tasty!), add the spinach custard, a layer of spinach leaves, a small pinch of salt and pepper, then the potatoes. Smoosh down gently (and yes, smoosh is a technical term. Im sure of it.) and remove the ring by gently lifting upwards. Top with the olive relish, custard and spinach leaves, and serve!

Enough for four


Because of their higher starch content, Idaho and Russett potatoes are better for mashing than creamer potatoes.

The conventional canned "Black Mission" olives are actually green olives that have been cured with lye, which changes the color to black.

Anti-cancer compounds found in sauerkraut -- You might want to add a little more sauerkraut to your hot dog: The tangy topping, made from fermented cabbage, contains a class of compounds called isothiocyanates which were previously identified in other studies as potential cancer-fighting agents, researchers say. -Science

I am deeply saddened that once again, terrorism has affected people and places I know and love. London and the whole of the UK are in my thoughts and I hope we all take a moment today to reflect on our lives and good fortunes and say a prayer (or whatever works best for you) for peace and understanding.

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Beautifully presented! What are french olives? Do they have sweetness?
ah, there's my LA chef girl! aw...i have a new-found love for souffles, and yours sounds (and looks - but the picture isn't here anymore!) delicious!

have fun in the ozarks ;)
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