Spinach Squares, Havarti team up for Super Bowl
BAKED CHEDDAR SPINACH SQUARES BAKED HAVARTI
Whether you watch the Super Bowl for the football or the commercials (I confess, I'm in it for the latter), the big matchup is the perfect reason to get together with friends and enjoy some game-day fare.
The first item on today's menu has been a long-standing favorite of mine for its taste and versatility. It is similar to quiche and may be used as a bite-size appetizer or cut into bigger squares for a veggie option on your dinner plate. A convenient recipe for entertaining or a busy weeknight, what is essentially a cheesy baked spinach may be cooked ahead and reheated. It freezes well, too.
Those who read my column or website regularly know I love to provide options, and this recipe is no different. As an alternative to the spinach, you may substitute a 10-ounce box of frozen, chopped broccoli. Either way, simply follow the moisture-removing tip to ensure a perfect outcome.
1 (10-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup milk (nonfat is fine to use)
½ cup onion, finely chopped
¾ pound (3 cups) shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided (see note)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Remove the moisture from the spinach. To do this easily and thoroughly, my favorite trick is to wrap a clean tea towel around it and literally wring it out. If you have never done this, you will be amazed at how much water is in there! Then, separate the spinach with two forks or with your fingers.
In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, salt, milk and eggs with a fork. Stir in the onion, two cups of the cheese, and the spinach.
Spread the mixture evenly in a greased, 12x8-inch baking dish. (Two 9x5-inch loaf pans have a similar surface area, and you could eat one right away and freeze one for later.) Sprinkle with the remaining one cup of cheese, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until cooked through and golden brown on top. (Sometimes, I move the dish to the top rack for the final 2 minutes or so to brown the top a little more. Just watch closely if you do this, so as not to burn.)
Note: When serving as a side dish, I have occasionally made this recipe with one cup less cheese, and it is also delicious. If you prefer a lighter option, simply add one cup of cheese initially, then top with one final cup before baking.
Recipes that allow for advance preparation and minimal time in the kitchen are what I seek out when entertaining. For that reason, the following recipe for a crusty-yet-gooey baked Havarti is one that I return to again and again.
A hint of Dijon paired with this variety of cheese, simply wrapped and baked, produces a delightful alternative to a simple cheese tray. Add a bowl of mixed nuts and a veggie tray to bolster the offerings and achieve a well-balanced spread.
You may assemble this recipe several hours in advance and then pop in the oven just before company arrives. (Simply rest on the counter for 20-30 minutes before baking to take off the chill.) A pleasant aroma will welcome your guests, and chances are they will be requesting your recipe!
Although I serve this with crackers and apple slices for a pretty presentation and complementary flavor, the end pieces are encased in extra dough and are my favorite; no crackers needed.
1 (8-ounce) package Original Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon chopped basil
1 block Havarti cheese with dill (about 7 ounces)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon sesame seeds, poppy seeds or a combination
Crackers and optional apple slices, for serving
On a piece of parchment or waxed paper, unroll the crescent rolls and press the seams together to form a rectangular piece. This will be wrapped completely around the piece of the cheese. I think it is easiest to pull apart the rolls, put them back together so they are slightly overlapping, and then press together so the edges are well sealed.
Spread the Dijon over the dough, and then sprinkle with the basil.
Place the Havarti in the middle of the dough. Bring the dough up and around the cheese, pressing along the edges to seal. The parchment or wax paper will help you lift it without overstretching. (I often have excess along two of the edges, so I slice this off, twirl the two strips of dough and lay them crisscross along the top for an easy, decorative touch.)
Place on an ovenproof serving dish. No need to grease. At this point, you may cover and refrigerate for several hours. Set on the counter for 20-30 minutes before baking.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. While oven is heating, brush the beaten egg all over the dough, and then sprinkle with the sesame and/or poppy seeds.
Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until golden brown. As all ovens vary, check a few minutes early. When the top is nicely golden, remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving with crackers and optional apple slices.
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