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Spinach & Parmigiano Torta

We can’t get enough of leafy greens. Spinach, broccoli raab, escarole, beet greens, Swiss chard, kale, cabbage… at least one vegetable green and leafy finds its way to our table at every meal. And while I adore these vegetables simply steamed and dressed with lemon juice and olive oil, or sauteed with garlic and chili flakes, I love incorporating them in more “dressed up” dishes like the torta below.

Essentially a souffle, this torta is baked in a pretty oven-to-table pan so it can be served all puffed up and golden straight from its cooking vessel. Denser and less airy than a classic French souffle, it is a lovely main course accompanied by green salad and crusty bread. Try using different greens as they appear at the farmers’ markets this spring; spinach, always available, is an excellent jumping off point.

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Serves 2 as a main course

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the pan
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 pound fresh spinach, leaves only, washed thoroughly
  • 3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup 2% or whole milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs, separated

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Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (preferably set on convection bake). Lightly butter an 8-inch x 4-inch oven-to-table pan (or any ovenproof pan with a 4-cup capacity). Dust the bottom with 1 tablespoon of the Parmigiano.

Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of the salt and drop in the spinach. Cook 3 minutes, or until soft and silky. Drain, rinse under cool water to stop the cooking, and squeeze dry. Chop finely and set aside.

In a small but heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly with a wire whisk, until the flour loses its raw smell, about 2 minutes. Do not allow the flour and butter mixture to take on any color, so monitor the heat carefully and whisk constantly.

Quickly pour in the milk, still whisking all the while to prevent lumps. Bring to a boil and cook over medium hear 3 minutes, or until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Whisk in the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt, the pepper, the nutmeg, and 1/4 cup of the remaining Parmigiano. Now whisk in the egg yolks, beating thoroughly to avoid scrambling them in the hot milk mixture. Beat in the spinach and set aside.

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In a clean, dry bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, then gently fold into the spinach mixture.

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Pour into the buttered oven-to-table pan and dust the top with the remaining tablespoon of Parmigiano. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until golden, set, and puffed. Serve hot.

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