This smooth forest green spinach tart is a recipe from my time as sous chef at Heartland. We had two daily changing tasting menus: one vegetarian, one meat. The vegetarian menu was always the tricky one for me, as cooking good meat by comparison, is easy, you just cook it.
One week I thought of a new dish. It was a spinach and parmesan custard baked in a crust on sheet trays and cut out into rounds. You can make them in advance and serve them with many different garnishes. My boss liked it so much we put it in his book Heartland: Farm Forward Recipes From the Great Midwest.
My boss liked it so much we put it in his book Heartland: Farm Forward Recipes From the Great Midwest.
For home cooking, it isn't practical to bake large trays and cut out rounds like I originally did for restaurant service as I'd sell anywhere from 30-50 slices a day, but the spinach pie works great in a simple pie crust dough.
One of my favorite ways I served it at home was as a simple lunch with some of my mushroom conserve from the previous season, warmed up and tossed with a few fresh greens dressed with a squeeze of lemon.
Do you have to puree the filling?
You don’t necessarily have to puree the filling. There’s a lot of other interesting greens that could work too. Soft greens like chard, and spinach are probably my favorite. Kale and tougher greens will need to be strained.
It's important to think of the finished dish as more than a slice of fancy green quiche. For restaurant service, it was always served with a seasonal garnish. Here's a few ideas.
- Put a spoonful of warm tomato sauce on the plate with the tart.
- Sauteed mushrooms add a great texture and visual appeal.
- A salad of halved cherry tomatoes mixed with herbs, olive oil and fresh lemon juice is very good.
Parmesan Spinach Tart
- 10 inch Tart Shell
- Pie weights, like beans or lentils you will need 3 cups to cover the bottom of the pan
- 12 oz flour chilled (roughly 2 cups)
- 8 ounces cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes plus a little extra for greasing the tart pan
- 4 oz ice water or a scant ½ cup
- ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- A good pinch of flaked salt gently crumbled to break up large flakes kosher salt can be used in a pinch
- 1 large egg beaten well or pureed with a tablespoon or two of milk for eggwash (optional)
- 12 oz spinach leaves washed and cleaned
- 2 cups heavy cream or half and half
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 large eggs + 3 yolks
- ⅛ teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg a couple good gratings
- 5 ounces grated Parmigiano Reggiano Grana Padano, or other high quality parmesan
- In the bowl of a food processor, blend the flour, salt and butter until it resembles coarse meal. Drizzle in a little ice water until the dough just comes together. Remove the dough, flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Grease the tart pan. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough until it will fit over the sides of the tart pan. Press the dough into the pan, making sure it's flush with the bottom and sides of the pan.
- Poke the bottom of the dough all over with a fork. Put a layer of aluminum foil onto the crust covering the entire bottom and most of the sides. Put in the dried beans or pie weights and bake for 30 minutes.
- Remove the shell from the oven, remove the pie weights, brush the bottom of the tart shell with egg wash and bake again for 5 minutes. Remove the tart shell and cool.
- Prepare an icewater bath and bring a two quarts or so of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, remove the stems from the kale, preferably using a paring knife, but you can also rip in a hurry.
- Blanch the spinach in boiling water for a few seconds then shock in ice water, squeeze dry, and coarsely chop. You should have about 1 cup of kale.
- Put the greens and remaining ingredients in the bowl of a high powered blender and puree very smooth. It needs to be fine enough to go through a strainer if you will strain it.
- Make sure not to blend the custard for too long or it will destroy the green color. The blender should always remain cool to the touch.
- Preheat the oven to 375 F.
- Strain the spinach custard through a fine sieve into a large bowl steadied on a rolled up kitchen towel, pressing down to pass the liquid through the mesh. Take your time and do it in small batches.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste. Yes there is raw egg, no it won't hurt you.
- Pour the filling into the pre-baked tart crust and bake for 15-20 minutes or until a cake tester or paring comes out clean when the center is pierced. Cool for a few minutes. Cut into slices and serve warm or at room temperature