Monday, May 10, 2010

Spinach and Sorrel Gratin

I prefer my vegetables unadulterated: steamed artichokes with butter for dipping, lightly salted asparagus spears eaten with my fingers, or spinach sauteed with a drizzle of olive oil. I like simple vinaigrettes for my salads and never eat corn on the cob with butter. But every now and then a dish comes along that gives me pause and makes eschew these basic vegetable preparations for something more elaborate.

A new friend had recently suggested I consider including foraged food in some of my recipes. Brilliant. As a medical student and soon-to-be resident, he pointed out that foraged food was perfect for the student budget because it's free! True, you do need to know where to look and take the time to actually forage, but we can't spend 12 hours a day chained to our desks. That just wouldn't do.

As fate would have it, my mother had brought me a bunch of sorrel this weekend from the Berkshires. Tangy and lemony sour, it tastes like spring. Taking inspiration from my latest culinary obsession Jerry Traunfeld, I adapted his recipe for Spinach and Lovage Gratin to make a healthier spinach and sorrel gratin. Although you can buy sorrel at the grocery store, here is more info on how to forage for it. I love sorrel, but it becomes a rather drab army green when cooked, so spinach is the perfect foil for keeping it bright. The active time for this dish is minimal, about 10 minutes, but you will need to bake the gratin for about 15-20 minutes. I think this would be a nice side to a pasta main course, like last week's Whole Wheat Pasta with Rosemary and Garlic.

Spinach and Sorrel Gratin
serves 4 as a side dish

Special equipment: 4 small ramekins or 4-cup baking dish
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 10 oz bag large leaf spinach
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 T flour
  • 3/4 c 1% milk
  • 1 generous cup chopped sorrel
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 3 T panko bread crumbs
  • 3 T grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 375 F. In a saute pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute until coated in oil and fragrant. Add spinach and stir until completely wilted (using tongs makes this easier). Remove to separate bowl. Return pan to heat and melt butter. When completely melted, add flour, stirring mixture constantly. The flour will begin to darken just a shade, then immediately add milk, stirring vigorously to dissolve flour and butter. Let milk come to a boil and thicken. Add sorrel and spinach mixture. Toss to coat and then divide among ramekins. Combine remaining olive oil, bread crumbs, and cheese in a small bowl then sprinkle over the top of the spinach. Bake 15-20 minutes or until tops are golden brown.

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