Spinach, Barley and Gruyere Timbale on Marinara

Are you totally intimated by my use of big cooking words? Better yet, are you impressed?

Ha. Timbale is just another way of saying molded custard, like a quiche without a crust.

I love this dish. It is filling and satisfying and not a million calories. I feel better, richer and happier every time I serve it. The textures, the various tastes all simple and complex depending on the bite… The homemade marinara underneath perfectly complements the dish. And it looks fucking awesome. Just make sure you butter the ramekins well. And a baking pan large and deep enough to use as a water bath for the ramekins.

For the uninitiated, the tasks at hand may be intimidating but fear not. It is a bit labor intensive but it is worth it. I have done this so many times that I deem this one an easy dish. Not because I am so talented but because I have enough practice. And dammit, I am talented, even if it is just a little bit.

The first few times I made this dish, I served it as one of the many courses… Since then, I bought much smaller ramekins so people don’t get so full. The way I have outlined the recipe here, I would suggest serving this as a main course. And it is vegetarian to boot.

Ingredients

For the Marinara

  • 28 oz of diced tomatoes (2 cans)
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/8 tsp. sugar
  • 2-3 sprigs of basil leaves

For the Timbale

  • Butter for ramekins
  • 6 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 cups tightly packed blanched spinach (from 1.5 lbs of baby spinach or 3 lbs from fresh on stem), finely chopped
  • 2 tsps. fresh thyme, chopped 
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup cooked barley
  • 3 oz. Gruyère cheese, grated (in a tight spot, use Parmesan)
  • 2/3 cup 2% milk
  • Salt, to taste
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • Several basil leaves, julienned, to dress the plate

Makes 6 1-cup ramekins or 8 5-0z ones. Prepping the ingredients will take about 30 minutes. Cooking and baking time will add up to 2 non-consecutive hours, without needing much attention.

Make the marinara. In a blender or food processor, pulse the tomatoes.

In a 4-quart sauce pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic to the pan and let it get only just fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomato, sugar, salt and the basil to the pan and bring to a gentle boil. Once boiling, reduce to simmer and let simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring once in a while. When done, remove the basil sprigs. You can prepare the marinara a day ahead and keep it in the refrigerator.

Start making the timbale. To blanch the spinach, first wash the spinach well if using from a bunch (rather than out of a pre-washed bag). Fill a large bowl with 20-30 cubes of ice and then fill the rest with cold water. Bring a large pot of water to boil and using a strainer or steamer basket, boil the spinach in batches, no more than 20 seconds per batch. Transfer immediately to the cold water. Drain and squeeze out excess water. I leave the spinach in another strainer over a bowl so it drains as I prepare other stuff.

Butter 6 1-cup ramekins (or 8 5-oz ones), making sure the sides and bottom get generously ‘oiled.’

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Beat the eggs in a large bowl and stir in rest of the ingredients and add 3/4 tsp of salt. Scrape the mixture into the ramekins, filling them only 3/4th of the way and no more. Place the ramekins in a large baking pan deep enough and fill it with enough hot or boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Place the baking pan in the oven and reduce heat to 325 degrees. Bake for 30-40 minutes until set and a skewer inserted in the center of a ramekin is almost clean.

While the timbale is baking, reheat the marinara sauce. When it is time to serve, spoon 3-4 tbsp of the marinara on each plate. Run a knife around each ramekin and unmold on to plates. Ramekins will be hot so be careful. Dress up with julienned basil leaves.

Here is the nutrition information on this recipe:

spinach timbale nutrition facts 2

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