Spinach and Potato Gratin, Izmir Style

Sfongo di Espinaka

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Serves

    8

Appears in

Sephardic Flavors: Jewish Cooking of the Mediterranean

Sephardic Flavors

By Joyce Goldstein

Published 2000

  • About

A sfongo is a gratin of vegetables thickened with potatoes, eggs, and cheese. This sfongo is unusual in appearance, as additional mashed potato is formed into little mounds that are interspersed in the spinach-and-potato base. You could also make this with Swiss chard, for a sfongo di pasi. In Sefarad Yemekleri, the spinach is chopped and added uncooked. I find that it is easier to mix in the spinach after it has been wilted. Other versions of this recipe omit the potato mounds and arrange the spinach and potatoes in alternating layers.

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds spinach
  • 4 large boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
  • ¼ cup milk
  • cups mixed grated cheeses such as kashkaval, gruyere, and parmesan
  • 6 eggs
  • teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • plain yogurt

Method

Rinse the spinach well and remove the stems (reserve them for salad). Chop the leaves finely. Place the spinach in a large sauté pan with only the rinsing water clinging to the leaves, and cook briefly over medium heat, turning as needed, until wilted, just a few minutes. Drain well and squeeze dry. You should have about 4 cups cooked spinach.

Place the potatoes in a saucepan with lightly salted water to cover generously. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain well, return to the pan, and place over low heat briefly to cook away any remaining moisture. Add the milk and mash until smooth. You should have about 4 cups mashed potatoes. Add 1 cup of the cheese, the eggs, the salt, and the pepper. Mix well.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Brush a 9-by-12-by-2-inch baking dish with warm olive oil.

Divide the potato mixture in half. Add half of it to the cooked spinach and mix well. Spread the spinach-potato mixture in the bottom of the prepared dish. Make ½ -inch-deep indentations in the layer at regular intervals, spacing them about ½ inches apart. Fill with rounded mounds of the remaining mashed potatoes. Top evenly with the remaining ½ cup grated cheese.

Bake the gratin until golden, 35 to 40 minutes. Serve hot directly from the dish. Pass a bowl of yogurt at the table.