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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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A recipe for preparing delicious meals from the bounty of the garden.

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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Sept. 25

This week's warm break will revive summer crops such as peppers and tomatoes that may still be trying to produce fruit. Pumpkins and winter squash will add weight rapidly.

Be on the lookout for powdery mildew and other fungal diseases that may be enjoying this combination of warm air and moist soil.

* Late September is ideal for sowing a new lawn or re-seeding bare spots.

* Compost annuals and vegetable crops that have finished producing.

* Cultivate and add compost to the soil to replenish its nutrients for fall and winter vegetables and flowers.

* Plant for fall now. The warm soil will get cool-season veggies and flowers off to a fast start.

* Plant onions, lettuce, peas, radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, bok choy, spinach and potatoes directly into the vegetable beds.

* Transplant lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.

* Sow seeds of California poppies, clarkia and African daisies.

* Transplant cool-weather annuals such as pansies, violas, fairy primroses, calendulas, stocks and snapdragons.

* Divide and replant bulbs, rhizomes and perennials.

* Dig up and divide daylilies as they complete their bloom cycle.

* Divide and transplant peonies that have become overcrowded. Replant with "eyes" about an inch below the soil surface.

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