The recipe I developed for design*sponge was inspired by spring and all of the new herbs and vegetables appearing in the markets, including one of my very favorites, artichokes. The secret to this dish is using frozen artichoke hearts, which greatly speeds up prep time and makes the dish a breeze! I've found some great frozen artichokes at Trader Joe's. Feel free to experiment with cheeses in this dish. You want something with good flavor (and meltability), but not something that will over-power the artichokes. Here's to spring!
On an unrelated note, a photographer friend, Steve Adams, asked me to remind everyone that the International Conference on Food Styling and Photography: Style without Borders is being held this year from June 12-15, 2009 at Boston University. Full details and a downloadable registration form are available here. Unfortunately, registration has now passed but if you are really interested perhaps there's something you can do. . .
1 pound frozen artichoke hearts
1 3/4 cups whole milk
1 3/4 cups aged Fontina cheese, freshly grated
1/2 cup fresh ricotta
1 1/2 cups fresh spinach, julienned
1 leek, white and light green parts only, well washed and cut into rounds
1 extra large egg, lightly beaten
3 Tbs fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
3 Tbs fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 Tbs all purpose flour
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper (plus more to taste)
1/2 tsp good sea salt (plus more to taste)
Pre-heat oven to 350˚ F. Cook artichokes according to package directions. Meanwhile, heat a few tablespoons of oil in a heavy-bottomed sauté pan and sauté leeks until translucent.
Drain water from artichokes and add artichokes, salt and pepper to pan and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add herbs, and sauté for 30 seconds. Add milk and flour, mix well and simmer for ~10 minutes until mixture thickens a bit and flavors are infused throughout. Slowly add a few tablespoons of the hot milk mixture to the lightly beaten egg in a separate bowl to temper the egg.
Remove pan from heat. Add the egg mixture to the pan, followed by the spinach and the cheeses. Stir until cheese melts and ingredients are well combined. Add additional salt and pepper if desired.
Pour into a 7×10 casserole dish. Cover loosely with foil and bake for 35-45 minutes or until casserole is set (check after 35 minutes). Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving. Garnish with parsley.