Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Greek Spinach & Tomato Gratin with Pork Loin Cutlets

My refrigerator lately is stocked with ingredients typically used in making Greek style dishes. So, with ingredients like feta cheese, spinach, lemons, and mint leaves on hand I decided to put together a Greek-inspired dish to accompany the pork cutlets I had planned for my dinnertime meal. With no phyllo dough in the freezer, I was not in a position to prepare a traditional spinach pie so I decide to do the next best thing by turning a spanakopita-like filling into a gratin.  I am quite fond of gratins as side dishes for simply grilled or sautéed meats.  The richness of the gratin fillings balances well with the more subtle flavors of plain grilled meats or fish. The flavors of this gratin of spinach and tomatoes pairs especially well with the sautéed pork cutlets I have selected, but would work equally well with fish, poultry, beef, and of course, lamb.  

With a cup of heavy cream on hand, some cheese and breadcrumbs; gratins are relatively easy dishes to prepare.  Don’t have spinach; use any type of greens or veggie instead.  Change the herbs or choice of cheese and you can create an altogether different gratin. But, the process is essentially the same – a mixture of vegetables and cheese covered with heavy cream, and then topped with either grated cheese or a breadcrumb topping and voila, you’ve made a gratin!

This gratin is quite rich thanks to the heavy cream and feta cheese in the filling. The breadcrumb topping is especially crunchy due to the addition of olive oil; and the lemon zest and mint add lots and lots of flavor.  I added the chopped tomatoes simply because I had them on hand and needed to get rid of them soon, but the gratin would be equally good without them. 

Spinach & Tomato Gratin:
1 large bunch fresh spinach
3 T. olive oil
½ c. finely diced onion
1 clove garlic, finely minced
¼ c. chopped parsley, divided
¼ c. chopped mint, divided
½ c. crumbled feta cheese
Salt, pepper
4 plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 c. heavy cream
1 c. fresh bread crumbs
¼ c. Parmesan cheese, grated
1 tsp. lemon zest

In a bowl combine the breadcrumbs, lemon zest, 2 T. chopped parsley, 2 T. chopped mint and season with some salt and pepper. The topping is best when using fresh breadcrumbs. I used a combination of an artisan-style French bread and multi-grain loaf processed in the food processor. Pour about 2 T. of olive oil into the mixture to lightly moisten and set aside. This adds a rich flavor to the topping and ensures a nice crunch.

Thoroughly wash the spinach. Drain well. Put the spinach in a microwave proof bowl and microwave for 1-2 minutes till wilted. Drain in a colander pressing spinach against the sides of the colander to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. When cool enough to touch with your hands squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Now coarsely chop the spinach.

Heat a medium sized sauté pan. Add a tablespoon of olive oil. When hot add the chopped onion, green onion and garlic. Sauté till veggies begins to soften, but do not let garlic burn.  Take pan off the heat and add the spinach, salt, pepper, 2 T. chopped parsley, 2 T. chopped mint and mix all together. Now add the crumbled feta cheese and combine well. Spread mixture in an even layer into 2 qt. baking pan. 

Pour the heavy cream over the spinach making sure the entire surface area is just covered with the cream.  Spread the chopped tomatoes which have been lightlyseasoned with some salt and pepper over the spinach. Now cover the tomato and spinach mixture with an even and generous layer of the breadcrumb topping. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30-40 minutes till golden brown and bubbly. If the breadcrumbs begin to become too brown, lightly cover with some aluminum foil.

Pork Cutlets:
4 boneless pork loin chops
1 T. lemon juice
Salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano
¼ c. Wondra flour
1-2 T. olive oil for sautéing

While the gratin is baking prepare the pork cutlets. Pound each cutlet to an even width of about ¼ inch. Sprinkle with the lemon juice. Season the meat with the salt, pepper, garlic powder and dried oregano on both sides pressing lightly to make sure spices adhere to meat. Now lightly dust each chop with the Wondra, shaking off any excess. 

In a heated large sauté pan, add a few tablespoons of olive oil. When hot, add the pork chops and sauté, 3-4 minutes per side. Keep warm till gratin is ready.

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