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