Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Sformato or Sformati di Broccoli

I used to read a lot of cookbooks about Italian food back in the '70's and '80s when the post-war British wave of interest in Italian cooking turned into something of a tsunami. I don't remember seeing any recipes for sformati then, though. Maybe they were there, and I didn't think they were interesting. Maybe the cookbook authors thought they were too similar to British* vegetable flans, and didn't in fact include them.

Now that I have noticed them, I am very interested in sformati. You will see I have used this one as a means to using up those not-very-beloved-by-me broccoli stems, and my impression is that in general these are a good way to use up leftover cooked vegetables.

It seems there are 2 schools of though about constructing sformati; either the vegetable purée is thickened with eggs and cheese, or with a thick béchamel (also often with cheese) although I have seen them with breadcrumbs or potatoes used as a supplementary thickening agent. The vegetable is often a cruciferous one, but spinach, leeks, artichokes, peas, potatoes, in fact just about anything can be used. Go a little heavier on the vegetable purée, and they make a good simple lunch served with a little rice. Put in more cheese, and make individual sformatini, and they will make a very elegant starter for a multi-course meal. Any good, grate-able, flavourful cheese can be used; I suspect there is something of an art to matching the vegetables and the cheese.

4 to 8 servings
1 hour 15 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

The unbaked sformati di broccoliThe sformati ready to go into the oven.

The baked sformati di broccoliA baked sformato, above, and the sformato unmoulded, below.

The sformato di broccoli unmoulded
the stems from 3 bunches of broccoli (6 to 9 stems)
the florets from 1 head of broccoli

150 grams grated mixed hard cheeses
3 extra-large eggs
salt and pepper
grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon butter

Peel the stems of the broccoli and discard the peels. Cut the stems into slices, and cook them until half tender. Meanwhile, wash and cut up the broccoli florets. Add them to the stems and cook until tender, about 5 minutes more.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Set aside a half dozen florets to put in the bottom of the baking dish, if desired. Drain and purée the rest of the broccoli. Let it cool a bit while you grate the cheeses. I used equal amounts of Parmesan, Gouda and Cheddar.

Put the broccoli purée in a mixing bowl, and beat in the cheese. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Season with salt and pepper, and grated nutmeg to taste.

Use the butter to generously cover the sides and bottom of a shallow baking dish. (I used 2 5-cup dishes; you can use a single lasagne pan, or individual molds, as you like. You may need more or less butter depending on the dishes you use.)

Lay the reserved broccoli pieces in the bottom of the buttered baking dish(es) and put the broccoli mixture spread evenly over them. Put the baking dish(es) in a larger, shallower pan, and add water to the outer pan to come about halfway up the sformati dishes.

Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, until firm in the middle. Let cool for about 5 minutes. You can serve them right from the dish, but they are more glamorous unmoulded. Run a wet knife around the edges, cover with the serving plate, and quickly flip over. Dampen the plate first so that you can slide the sformato around a bit to get it centred. If any bits don't come out, you can usually patch it up without it being too noticeable.

*From whence almost all trendy cookbooks sold in Canada came, unless they were American.


Peter M said...

Yum, another great recipe for broccoli stems. I can see myself having seconds of this tasty side.

Rob said...

Methinks you and my mum would get on well. She loves the broccoli stems but not the florets. This dish looks lovely and I can see how easily this idea could be manipulated to produce any amount of interesting and visually appealing moulds for use as starters.

nefaeria said...

I tried this last night and was yummy! I added roasted red peppers to it, and held off on the cheese, save for parmesan.

I love your is a life saver for an Ontario locavore ;)