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Spinach fits the mold in easy timbale

Recipe: Simple spinach timbales make a delicious side dish

Cheese-topped spinach timbale on a plate
Spinach timbale is an easy and delicious side dish.
(Photos: Debbie Arrington)

Timbales sound fancy (and some are). This simple version shows off one of our favorite spring vegetables – spinach.

We love our spinach on the Left Coast. Jeanne Voltz (a.k.a. Marian Manners), the Los Angeles Times food editor and columnist during the 1950s and '60s, noted that this leafy green was popular with both home cooks and chefs.

“Californians eat spinach with no prodding at all,” she wrote in “The California Cookbook,” a 1970 compilation of Golden State favorites. “The most deluxe restaurants serve enormous quantities of creamed spinach.”

This recipe is a modified version of a throwback. Along with several other spinach recipes, Spinach Timbales were featured as an alternative to ubiquitous creamed spinach in the 1949 “Sunset Cook Book of Favorite Recipes.” (I’ll save that book’s Taxco Spinach-Stuffed Pancakes for another day.)

Timbales got their French name from their shape; it’s derived from the French word for “kettledrum.” Custard cups or other similarly shaped molds work great.

Timbales may have crusts that act as the mold for the rich ingredients inside. The most simple (such as this) are crustless egg custards blended with other ingredients and steamed or baked in a water bath.

Before puréeing, cook your spinach with as little water as possible.

Cooked spinach in a metal pan
Sautéeing the spinach in a little olive
oil is one way to cook it with little water.
Spinach timbales

Makes 4 servings


1 cup cooked spinach, puréed

2 eggs, beaten

½ cup cream

1 scallion, finely chopped (including some green leaves)

¼ cup Parmesan cheese, shredded

1/8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1/8 teaspoon mace or nutmeg

Butter, margarine or non-stick spray

4 timbales in pan of water
Here are the timbales after baking but before removing from
the pan of water.


Butter or grease 4 molds or custard cups. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Bring 2 cups water to boil, then turn off heat.

In a mixing bowl, combine puréed spinach, eggs, cream, scallion, Parmesan cheese, hot sauce, pepper and mace or nutmeg until blended. Spoon mixture into prepared molds or custard cups.

Place filled molds or cups in a deep-dish pie pan (or similar pan) and place pan on oven shelf. Carefully fill pan halfway with hot water around the molds or cups (it may not take all 2 cups).

Bake at 350 degrees until the timbales are set and, when tested, a thin-bladed knife comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes.

To unmold, run a thin-bladed knife along the inside of the mold or cup. Carefully invert over plate.


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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Feb. 5

Make the most of sunny days and get winter tasks done:

* This is the last chance to spray fruit trees before they bloom. Treat peach and nectarine trees with copper-based fungicide. Spray apricot trees at bud swell to prevent brown rot. Apply horticultural oil to control scale, mites and aphids on fruit trees soon after a rain. But remember: Oils need at least 24 hours to dry to be effective. Don’t spray during foggy weather or when rain is forecast.

* Feed spring-blooming shrubs and fall-planted perennials with slow-release fertilizer. Feed mature trees and shrubs after spring growth starts.

* Finish pruning roses and deciduous trees.

* Remove aphids from blooming bulbs with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap.

* Fertilize strawberries and asparagus.

* Transplant or direct-seed several flowers, including snapdragon, candytuft, lilies, astilbe, larkspur, Shasta and painted daisies, stocks, bleeding heart and coral bells.

* In the vegetable garden, plant Jerusalem artichoke tubers, and strawberry and rhubarb roots.

* Transplant cabbage and its close cousins – broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts – as well as lettuce (both loose leaf and head).

* Plant artichokes, asparagus and horseradish from root divisions.

* Plant potatoes from tubers and onions from sets (small bulbs). The onions will sprout quickly and can be used as green onions in March.

* From seed, plant beets, chard, lettuce, mustard, peas, radishes and turnips.

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