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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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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.

4 timbales in pan of water
Timbales after baking but before unmolding.

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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Feb. 18:

It's wet to start the week. When you do get outside, between or after storms, concentrate on damage control:

* Keep storm drains and gutters clear of debris.

* Clean up tree debris knocked down by wind and rain.

* Where did the water flow in your garden? Make notes where revisions are necessary.

* Are any trees leaning? See disturbances in the ground or lawn around their base? Time to call an arborist before the tree topples.

* Dump excess water out of pots.

* Indoors, start peppers, tomatoes and eggplant from seed.

* Lettuce and other greens also can be started indoors from seed.

* Got bare-root plants? Put their roots in a bucket of water until outdoor soil dries out. Or pot them up in 1- or 5-gallon containers. In April, transplant the plant, rootball and all, into the garden.

* Browse garden websites and catalogs. It’s not too late to order for spring and summer.

* Show your indoor plants some love. Dust leaves and mist to refresh.

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