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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


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

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

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