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Saturday, August 3, 2013

Italian-Style Savory Spinach-Stuffed French Toast

Savory Spinach-Stuffed French Toast--Italian Style

Italian-Style Savory Stuffed French Toast
by Victoria Challancin

Today I'll share four things about myself that you might not know:  I delight in surprises.  I am gaga over food history.  I am captivated by new recipe ideas. And I am thrilled with new challenges.  So, when you roll all these elements together, it is a definite recipe for exploration.  Toss in Italian flavors and it's a done deal.

I recently spied this recipe for a savory French toast on the Huffington Post and immediately knew I would have to try it.  Never having had a savory French toast before, I was instantly intrigued. Having a vegetarian husband, who I suspected would love it, was the final tipping point.

And then...then I did a little research fully expecting to find that French toast, known as pain perdu, or "lost bread" in actual French, was some modern spin on what was probably a Medieval recipe for eggy bread--a way to use leftover bread with whatever was on hand, you can imagine my surprise when I discovered the following:

A Few Facts about French Toast
  • The earliest known reference to what we now call "French toast" is in Apicicus, a collection of recipes in Latin dating to the 4th or 5th century (I was dazzled by this bit of info!)
  • A 14th-century German recipe existed for what is basically French toast which was called Arme Ritter or "poor knights" 
  • During the Middle Ages in England a similar dish, called suppe dorate, was popular (Wikipedia notes that the English might have learned it from the Normans who had a dish like it called tostees dorees)
  • Fifteenth century recipes existed in England for pain perdu (called "lost bread," which actually refers to the use of stale or "wasted" bread)
  • Torrija is the Spanish version
  • In France pain perdu can be enjoyed as a breakfast dish, a dessert, or an afternoon tea snack
  • In Quebec it is called pain doré, or golden bread
  • It is not only called pain perdubut also in France, Belgium, New Orleans, Acadiana (the Cajun country near New Orleans in Louisiana, USA), and the Congo
Ways to Enjoy French Toast:
  • With powdered sugar, as do the French (I always felt rather elegant as a little girl eating my French toast with powdered sugar, the way my Mom always served it--now I know why!)
  • With jam, marmalade, butter, nut butter, honey, Marmite, Vegemite, maple syrup, golden syrup, fruit-flavored syrup, molasses, apple sauce, baked beans, whipped cream, fruit, chocolate, Nutella, sugar, yogurt, bacon, treacle, cheese, ice cream, cooked meats, gravy, nuts
  • And I tried not to gag over these two popular toppings:  ketchup and mayonnaise!
  • In Hong Kong, the bread can be dipped in beaten egg or soy, fried, and served with butter and golden syrup or honey--and maybe a sweet filling is served between two slices of the toast
  • Cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla are common additions to the milk-egg mixture



Cook's Notes:  I loved, loved, loved this recipe, which is perfect for my vegetarian husband, who gave it a definite thumbs up.  It looked even better sprinkled with a touch of freshly-grated Parmesan cheese on the marinara sauce, which I added just before serving.  I used Newman's Own Organic Marinara Sauce, which was tasty and gave me all the excuse I needed not to make my own. It worked beautifully.

Recipe:  Italian-Style Stuffed French Toast
(Slightly adjusted from a Recipe from The Huffington Post, originally from Breakfast for Dinner by Lindsay Landis and Taylor Hackbarth)

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
4 cups loosely-packed fresh baby spinach
1/2 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 loaf soft French bread, cut into 8 1 1/2-inch-thick slices
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon finely grated or pressed fresh garlic
2 cups marinara sauce, warmed

For the filling, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add 2 cloves garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add spinach and cook until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes.  Let cool, then coarsely chop.

In a small bowl, combine chopped spinach mixture, ricotta, Parmesan, lemon zest, basil, and oregano.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  With a small serrated knife, cut a horizontal pocket in the side of each slice of bread.  Gently fill with 1 to 2 tablespoons of filling and press closed.

Whisk together eggs, milk, salt, and 1/2 teaspoon grated garlic in a shallow baking dish.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Working with 1 slice of bread at a time, quickly dip into egg mixture, flippint to coat both sides.  Add to hot oil.  Repeat with 2 to 3 more slices, taking care not to overload pan.  Cook for 3 minutes per side, or until golden brown.  Repeat with remaining slices, adding more oil as needed.  Transfer to plates, spoon warm marinara sauce over top, and serve.


Parting Shot:  More Cat Comfort
In a bowl of wooden spoons for sale in Essaouira, Morocco


©Victoria Challancin.  All Rights Reserved.

Please ask permission before using text or photos.  Thanks!



Flavors of the Sun International Cooking School
San Miguel de Allende, México




9 comments:

Eha said...

Oh Vicki! How could you? Especially as swimsuit weather will soon arrive Down Under: an all of us do not have your model figure :) ! And two of my gfs have just sent photos of possible new ones which just might fit them: what about me? No comment!! But this looks too brilliant not to prepare and that photo is so moreish!! I have always had this for breakfast and on the sweet side, but the savoury SO beckons!! OK, the term 'Arme Ritter'[or in Estonian 'Vaesed Rüütlid'] is still truly 'alive': no, no, no, just because it tastes good it is not necessarily French ;) ! Love the fact that 'Vegemite' and 'Nutella' have fashionably found their way into the post :) ! Methinks I'll stick to your new savoury offering with lots of thanks!!!

Joanne T Ferguson said...

G'day and very yum indeed, true!
LOVE the idea of a savory French Toast and through your post today, enjoyed learning something new too!
Cheers! Joanne
http://www.facebook.com/whatsonthelist

Hotly Spiced said...

I thought French toast was always sweet and involved maple syrup. I had no idea there was a savoury variety out there. This does look very yummy xx

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Oh my Victoria! This looks so delicious and I think I'm going to have to give this a go! :D although I love sweet things, in the morning I crave savoury!

Paloma said...

I don't see how anyone who reads your blog could possibly "not know" those 4 things about you, but this post was certainly full of lots of other things I did not know. This looks delish, can't wait to try it!

My Kitchen Stories. said...

What a great recipe. I didn't know French toast could be savory either. 'm with Lorraine on giving his a go.

Martine @ Chompchomp said...

These look great. I haven't tried savoury French toast either...looks like us Aussies need to get our acts together!

Nancy/SpicieFoodie said...

I have never tried savory French Toast, but I sure do love the idea and look of it. Thanks so much for sharing this!

Rs To Gold said...

These types of look fantastic. I have not tried savoury This particular language bread toasted either...appears to be us Australians should get each of our works with each other! rs gold for sale