I have been a little homesick lately although I am not sure why since I have been busier than ever. I really noticed it last night as I listened to a reading by Kate Inglis from her new children’s novel The Dread Crew: Pirates of the Backwoods. Her first public reading was at Word on the Street which was held on the waterfront this year - only blocks from where I grew up. As she described the setting, it was as if she was catapulting me back to Halifax. If she can do this introducing her reading, I can’t wait to curl up and read the book!
Another thing I have been thinking about is a crepe torte with spinach and mushroom which I used to get at the Italian Market on Young Street. Isabelle’s school was having a quiche and pizza sale today and I thought it might be a good chance to try to make it. I found a similar recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, I made some slight changes, mainly in the construction – it was very rich but very good. When I make it next time the only changes I would make would be to add more spinach and mushroom. Making the torte was fairly time consuming but I have an electric crepe maker which made things much easier. To make the crepes, I followed the basic recipe which came with the maker.
Gâteau de Crêpes à la Florentine
About 24 crêpes 6½ inches in diameter
Sauce Mornay (béchamel with cheese), 3 cups
|5 tbsp flour|
|4 tbsp butter|
|2¾ cups boiling milk|
|½ tsp salt|
|1/8 tsp pepper|
|Big pinch of nutmeg|
|¼ cup whipping cream (I didn’t add this, I didn’t think it was needed)|
|1 cup coarsely grated Swiss cheese|
Cook the flour and butter slowly together in the saucepan for 2 minutes without coloring. Off heat, beat in the boiling milk and seasonings. Boil, stirring, for 1 minute.Reduce to the simmer and stir in the cream by tablespoons. Sauce should be thick enough to coat the spoon fairly heavily. Remove from heat and correct seasoning. Stir in all but two tablespoons of the cheese. Film top of sauce with milk to prevent a skin from forming.
|1 tbsp minced shallots or green onions (I used salted onion made by Paul and his mom and omitted the salt)|
|2 tbsp butter|
|1½ cups blanched chopped spinach (next time I would use more)|
|¼ tsp salt|
Cook the shallots or onions in butter for a moment in an enameled saucepan. Add spinach and salt, and stir over moderately high heat for 2 to 3 minutes to evaporate moisture. Stir in ½ to 2/3 cup of the cheese sauce. Cover and simmer slowly for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Correct seasoning and set aside.
Cheese and mushroom filling
|1 cup cottage cheese or 8 ounces cream cheese|
|Salt and pepper|
|¼ lb. (1 cup) minced mushrooms (next time I would double or triple but I love mushrooms)|
|1 tbsp minced shallots or green onions (again I used salted onion)|
|1 tbsp butter|
|½ tbsp oil (I omitted the oil)|
|3 tbsp grated cheese|
|½ tbsp butter (I omitted the butter)|
Mash the cheese in a mixing bowl with the seasonings. Beat in 1/3 to ½ cup of the cheese sauce, and the egg.
Sauté the mushrooms and shallots in butter and oil for 5 to 6 minutes in a skillet. Stir them into the cheese mixture, and correct seasoning.
Forming the mound
(This is where I deviated from Julia)
Julia says: Butter the baking dish, and center a crêpe in the bottom. Spread it with a layer of cheese and mushroom filling. Press a crêpe on top and spread it with a layer of spinach filling. Continue with alternating layers of crêpes and filling, ending with a crêpe. Pour the remaining cheese sauce over the top and sides of the mound. Sprinkle with the 3 tablespoons of cheese and dot with 3 or 4 pea-sized bits of butter. Set aside.
Cover the bottom of a lightly buttered spring-form pan with crepes (I used 3). Then, alternate layers of mushroom, spinach, cheese sauce and crepes until spinach and mushroom mixtures are finished and a little less than 1½ cups of cheese sauce remains. (For some layers I cut the crepes to fit.) Mine ended up looking more like a cake than a mound. Finish with a layer of crepes, top with remaining cheese sauce. Sprinkle with remaining Swiss cheese.
About 25 to 30 minutes before serving time, place in upper third of a preheated 350-degree oven to heat through thoroughly and brown the top lightly. Remove from spring-form pan. To serve, cut in pie-shaped wedges.