What’s eating your crops? Do you have a slug problem? Do you hate cabbage worms making holes in the leaves of your brassica? Carrot fly? Birds?
In our organic, very diverse garden, pests are usually not a huge problem. But our new allotment is surrounded by overgrown allotments-turned-forest where rabbits reside. And they apparently come out as soon as we leave and munch on our crops. They do not eat everything (fortunately!), they seem pickier than a toddler. From my research of rabbits’ preferred crops I can inform you that the local rabbits are partial to: chives, mint, garlic, strawberry leaves, pea shoots, broccoli and kohlrabi. I’m sure they would eat all our lettuce as well, were it not protected by plant covers. Interestingly though, they don’t care for spinach.
I do care for spinach, especially this early season bright green, crunchy stuff. I pick it a lot, knowing it’s season is short and it will bolt as soon as the weather gets warm.
Last Sunday I made this savory tart filled to the brim with spring harvest: spinach and herbs, fresh eggs with bright orange yolks. But it’s the crust that makes it really special: no pie dough but thin potato slices cooked in oil first and than decoratively arranged in the spring form. It’s almost like lining the form with potato chips (though healthier!) and even my son who, let’s be honest here, is no fan of spinach, ate a full quarter of this tart.
I made little changes to the filling, adding more herbs and using chives instead of scallions. I also simplified the process a little, just adding the chopped herbs to the filling instead of wilting them first in a pan with oil. The crust was far easier to make than I anticipated, more laborius then this super fast spinach tart but probably easier than rolling out a dough and prebaking. The amount of spinach is what I picked from the garden on the given day, a bit more or less is no problem and same goes for the herbs. As anyone cooking from the garden, I cook what I pick, in the amounts available. Unlike in baking, in cooking you can usually adjust the quantities.
Spinach and spring herb torta in potato crust
Adapted from Deborah Madison: Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, Revised
3 large russet potatoes (about 600 g, 1 ¼ pound)
about 2 tbsp olive oil
350 g spinach (about a colander full, stems removed if the leaves are big)
1 cup ricotta
1 1/2 cups chopped spring herbs: parsley, chives, dill
100 g feta, crumbled
grated zest of 1 lemon
Peel the potatoes. Slice two of them crosswise into rounds about 3-4 mm (1/8 inch) thick.
Slice the third potato lengthwise, also 3-4 mm thick. Brush some olive oil in a wide skillet and set over high heat. Whet it’s hot, reduce the heat to medium and place a layer of potato slices in the skillet. Fry on both sides until golden and tender when when pierced with a knife. Remove to a paper towel and repeat with the rest of the potato slices.
Add the spinach to the same pan with the water clinging to its leaves (or add a little water if dry). Cook until wilted and tender, about 4 minutes. Transfer the spinach to a sieve and press out any excess water. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and ricotta. Add herbs, feta and lemon zest.
Roughly chop the spinach and add it to the mixture. Season with salt and pepper.
Preheat oven to 185 degrees Celsius (375 F). Lightly butter a 24 cm (9 ½ inch) spring form pan. Line the bottom of the pan with the round potato slices, overlapping where necessary to cover the bottom completely. Place the long slices around the sides. Pour in the ricotta mixture and put in the oven. Bake until firm and golden in places, about 40 minutes. Gently ease a knife between he edge of the pan and the potatoes. Release the spring and carefully remove the sides of the pan, Serve warm or at room temperature.