Parsnip? What’s that? Don’t even think this flan is one of my Italian recipes because… that’s not p-o-s-s-i-b-l-e.
Simply, the Italians, or most of them, ignore the existence of this root vegetable related to the carrot: it doesn’t belong to the traditional Italian variety of food and vegetables.
So, this recipe doesn’t come from Italy but from a French chef, Michel Richard; his book, “Happy in the kitchen”, was one of my discoveries while I lived in California.
This is a delicious and very easy to make appetizer: the colour is a bright green and the texture is very fluffy, a perfect marriage with the smooth and velvety fondue. These spinach bites are a smart dish and, most of all, they can be made ahead and then warmed through before serving. And yes, I definitely loved parsnips :- )
Fluffy spinach and parsnip bites
(baking pan: 25×25 cm)
450 gr fresh spinach
230 gr parsnips, peeled and chopped
230 ml cream
50 gr unsalted butter
50 gr grated parmesan
4 free-range eggs
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp gelatin powder (or 3 sheets)
150 gr grated fontina
1 Tbsp flour
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
120 ml whole milk
2 tsp grated parmesan
1 pinch of cayenne pepper
- Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add about ⅓ of the spinach to the pan and move it around with a wooden spoon until it begins to wilt. Gradually add the remaining spinach, stirring constantly, until all the spinach is wilted. Remove from the heat and spread the spinach on a baking sheet to cool.
- Once it is cool, wring out the excess liquid from the spinach by hand or in a clean kitchen towel. Set aside.
- Place the parsnips (peeled and chopped) in a steamer basket over simmering water, cover and steam until completely tender.
- Combine the parsnips, cream, and spinach in a blender and blend well, about 1 minute. Add the eggs, sugar, salt, pepper, gelatin and parmesan, and blend until completely smooth and aerated, about 2 minutes.
- Line a square baking pan (25×25 cm) with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides and making certain to get into the corners. Lightly coat the aluminum foil with butter.
- Strain the mixture into the baking pan (straining will eliminate air bubbles). Place in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, until puffed; the center should be firm to the touch.
- Let cool to room temperature, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate to chill completely, or for up to a day.
- When ready to serve: carefully lift the foil and remove the spinach lock from the pan and place it on a cutting surface. Trim the edges and cut the block into pieces and bake for 10 minutes or until warmed through.
- For the Fonduta sauce: whisk together the flour, olive oil, and ½ cup of milk in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Add the cheeses and whisk again. Microwave for 2 minutes. Remove and whisk vigorously until smooth. Place back in the microwave for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the cheese has melted. If the sauce is too thick, whisk in additional milk. Season to taste with salt & cayenne pepper.