I love theatre. I adore theatre. It's breathing to me. I've gone from an often-unemployed-but-professional actress to "employed -yay" theatre teacher to "employed - yay" director to "freelance but produced - yay" playwright. I love figuring out the lights, playing with sound, agonizing between words and creating characters. Except when I don't love it and then I start to wax poetical about every other profession in the world (except maybe Toll Booth Operator).
I love blogging. Adore it. Except for those times when there is no time and I think I should be getting something up - only I have nothing to say and last week's cooking was not inspired and I don't want a cookbook deal and the days have been dark and I'm just going to use the stupid flash - ....and I'm trying to understand physics for a play I never should have decided to write ... so I haven't visited anyone....and then ... I just sit and read blogs. And in no time, I'm back to loving blogging.
In November I wrote about a ricotta sformato I had made - inspired by the restaurant Il Cibreo in Florence.
Ciao Chow Linda asked me if I had picked up their little cookbook and I replied, "Sadly no and I regret it."
One week later I received a copy of the pamphlet and attached to it was an Italian postcard that charmed which told me that she sent what she considered the best and the brightest recipes and I need to make the yellow pepper soup (will do). But first I had my heart set on the Sformato di Spinaci (Spinach flan). The recipe serves 8, so I halved it and it sill fed 6. It's a graceful puddle of green. Chef Fabio Picchi states:
"If you didn't have to deal with the difficulty of taking the flan out of the pan, this dish would be remarkably simple. Having overcome this little obstacle, and we shall see how, in my opinion this is a very fine dish and one that is not difficult to make."
Having been forewarned about taking it out of the pan (it is indeed a mass of softness), I thought about doing these in individual ramekins but I wanted to see the texture. Next time I will do the ramekins. But I don't regret doing it in one pan. I'm a sucker for turning vegetables into whispers.
Sformato di Spinaci - serves 8 generously
(I will give you Chef Picchi's measurements and then below - I will give you mine - and yes, the photos were taken with a flash - don't blink)
2 kg. Spinach
500 g. ricotta cheese
about 150 g. Parmesan cheese (freshly shredded)
120 g. - or about 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt - to taste
Spinach Flan - serves 4-6
30-35 ounces spinach
3/4 cup ricotta cheese (could use 1 cup)
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
nutmeg (to taste)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste
Wash the spinach and boil it in very little salt water - just till wilted. Drain it and squeeze out as much water as possible. Chop it up and add to a large bowl. (I saved the bowl and put all directly into the food processor.) Add all the ingredients to the bowl. Salt to taste. Then (my favorite recipe direction ever):
"If you have a food mixer, use it to make the mixture as smooth and uniform as possible; if you don't have one - either ask your next-door neighbor to lend you one, or when you chop up the spinach try to chop it up as finely as possible."
Put it in a medium sized baking bowl. The flan should be about four centimeters thick (mine was smaller and 2.54 centimeters equals 1 inch). Spread the mixture taking care to smooth the surface. Put the pan in the oven at 150 degrees C (about 300 degrees F) and leave it for a few minutes - just enough time for a thin film to form on the surface. (I only got a partial film.) Remove from oven, cover with tin foil and then you will need to check from time to time to see if the mixture is starting to swell (yes, Chef Picchio says you can open the oven - no problem - it's not a souffle).At that point, cover it well again and turn the oven down to 100 degrees C (about 212 F - and 215 F is just fine) and leave it for about 40 minutes.
To serve: Cut the flan into rectangular pieces (as you can see my shape didn't hold) and serve (preferably on heated plates) with tomato sauce or with a little melted butter and a dusting of Parmesan. I did the latter.
Chef Fabio Picchi's wonderful instructions on serving:
"I would advise you to carry out all the operations in the kitchen. To extract these rectangles without breaking them you will need to use rectangular spatulas: press lightly on two opposite sides, ease the pieces out and deposit them on the plates. If you need to use a finger to salvage a situation verging on disastrous, this will be understood, forgiven and justified even by the Hague Tribunal."
So there you have it - my flan - spread. The family didn't even look at the shape-shifter. They just ate. And sighed. Sighs tell a lot.
I thank you for all your kindnesses during the previous year. And I thank you for your blogs - your artistry and your nourishment. Food is necessary. Sharing elevates it. We are programmed to eat. We are also programmed to create. It's all somewhere in our DNA which is why we are a community. Buon Anno, friends. May 2012 bring you joy. And when it does - note it: in your blog, on a post-it-note attached to your computer or jotted down on the calendar. So no matter where you are on a given day - you have knowledge of the joy.