This unusual and complex dish combines the nutty flavors of Swiss cheese and artichokes with the lightness of sorrel, interwoven with layers of fresh herbs. It can serve as the star of the meal served with an endive or beet salad and a good red wine, or accompany filets of salmon or tuna.
1 loaf of rustic Italian bread, or about 12 slices of leftover substantial breads of all types (avoid soft sandwich-type breads, since they tend to produce a gummy dish)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 pound 2-inches long fresh or frozen baby artichokes (approximately 18)
3 cups nonfat or low-fat milk
5 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, slivered, divided
4 ounces Emmentaler cheese, slivered, divided
1-1/2 cups chopped sorrel leaves
2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh lemon or English thyme
1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces
1. If you're using fresh bread, cut the loaf into 12 equal slices and arrange the slices on two cookie sheets. Bake at 200 degrees F for about 30 minutes or until dry but not brown. Let the bread cool.
2. While the bread is in the oven, prepare the fresh artichokes. Partially fill a small bowl with water and add the lemon juice. Peel off any dried or bruised leaves from the artichokes, cut off the top 1/3 inch and discard it and immediately immerse the artichokes in the lemon water to prevent them from turning brown. Place 1 inch of water in the bottom of a steamer and bring it to a boil. Drain the artichokes and put them in the steamer basket, cover, and steam them over medium heat for about 20 minutes, or until they’re just tender. Remove them from the heat and set them aside.
3. Break up the toasted bread slices and put them in a shallow baking dish. Pour the milk over the bread and let it soak for about 20 minutes, stirring the bread around to make sure it absorbs the milk and gets soft. After it has soaked, squeeze the milk out of the bread and set it aside. Pour the leftover milk into a measuring cup, adding more to get to 1/2 cup if necessary. In a bowl combine the 1/2 cup milk, eggs, salt, and pepper and mix well. Set aside.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a 3-quart casserole. Layer one-third of the bread in the bottom of the casserole. Layer two thirds of the artichokes over the bread, then layer half of the three cheeses combined and then half the sorrel and herbs. Layer another one-third of the bread, add the final one-third of the artichokes (reserve a few for the top), the last half of the sorrel and herbs, and the rest of the cheeses, reserving 3 tablespoons for the top. Top the casserole with the last one-third of the bread and the reserved artichokes. Pour the milk and egg mixture over the bread, sprinkle on the reserved 3 tablespoons of combined cheeses, and dot with butter.
5. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned and a knife inserted halfway into the middle comes out clean. Serve hot.
From Rosalind Creasy's Recipes from the Garden: 200 Exciting Recipes from the Author of The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping (Tuttle Publishing, 2008). Copyright © 2008 by Rosalind Creasy.
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