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Spinach Custard with Gruyère Topping

This healthy dish works equally well as a savory brunch offering and as a hearty vegetable side at dinner.

Ingredients:

  • Canola oil cooking spray
  • 2 to 3 Tbs. fine dried bread crumbs 
  • 1 lb. fresh spinach, or 1 package 10 oz. frozen spinach, thawed
  • 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion  
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic 
  • 4 dry-packed sun-dried tomato halves, snipped into small pieces with kitchen scissors (about 2 Tbs.) 
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt 
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste 
  • 1/2 cup shredded Gruyère cheese 
  • 3 eggs 
  • 1 cup 1-percent-fat milk 
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard 

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 180°F. Spray the inside of six 3/4-cup custard cups or an 8-inch pie dish or round or square baking dish with canola oil cooking spray. Lightly coat with the bread crumbs, then tap out the excess. If using individual cups, arrange them on a baking sheet.

If using fresh spinach, rinse it carefully in 2 or 3 changes of water, discarding the tough stems and any damaged leaves. Drain briefly in a colander and then transfer to a large saucepan with only the water that clings to the leaves. Place over medium-high heat, cover and cook, turning the leaves a couple of times, until wilted, about 5 minutes. Drain well and chop finely. Squeeze the spinach with your hands to remove all excess moisture. If using thawed, frozen spinach, drain it, then squeeze to remove all excess moisture. Set aside.

In a fry pan over medium-low heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, salt and a grind of pepper and cook, stirring, until all the ingredients are heated through, about 5 minutes.

Divide the spinach mixture evenly among the prepared cups, or spoon into the pie dish or baking dish. Smooth the mixture to create an even layer. Sprinkle the cheese on top, dividing it evenly if using custard cups.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until blended. Add the milk and mustard and stir until blended. Gently pour the egg mixture over the spinach filling, dividing it evenly if using custard cups.

Bake the custards until puffed and golden, 25 to 30 minutes for the custard cups and 30 to 35 minutes for the large dish. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for about 15 minutes.

Serve the individual custards in the cups or, if desired, run a knife around the inside edge of each cup and turn the custard out onto an individual dish. The custards will be firm enough to turn top side up. To serve the larger custard, cut into wedges or squares. Serve warm, or cover and refrigerate until cold before serving. Serves 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Essentials of Healthful Cooking, by Mary Abbott Hess, Dana Jacobi & Marie Simmons (Oxmoor House, 2003).