Spinach and Feta Cheese Pudding
A serving note before you begin: Cuajados contain a lot of cheese, so to enjoy them they should be eaten either slightly warm or at room temperature. If served hot straight from the oven – or cold straight from the fridge, for that matter – you’ll miss out (although I have to confess to a lifetime of eating cold cuajado not only straight from the fridge but right at the fridge, door open).
- 1-¼ pounds fresh spinach
- 8 oz. low-fat (2%) cottage cheese
- generous ¼ cup grated kashkaval or pecorino Romano
- generous ¼ cup Greek feta cheese
- scant ½ cup matzo meal or plain bread crumbs
- 4-5 whole eggs
- olive oil
- sesame seeds (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).
- Rinse the feta cheese in water and soak it in milk to cover. (This step is to mellow any sourness in the feta).
- Rinse the spinach, even if it’s pre-washed. If it isn’t pre-washed, clean it very well: pick out any yellowed or withered leaves and remove any thick stems. Put the spinach in a large bowl of cold water, shake the leaves to loosen the sand. Lift the spinach from the bowl, pour off the dirty water, rinse the bowl and repeat three times total.
- Put the spinach into a deep saucepan, cover the pot and put it on the stove over a very low flame. Simmer gently for about 5 minutes, turning over the leaves occasionally with tongs. When all of the leaves have shed their water and wilted, drain spinach through a colander and let it cool down.
- Grate the hard cheese. A softer kashkaval can be grated into thicker strands; pecorino should be grated into fine strands. Rinse the feta cheese and pat it dry. Crumble it with your hands into a bowl large enough to hold all the ingredients. Add the other two cheeses and the matza meal, and toss with your hands to just until everything is mixed. It should be crumbly – don’t mash the cheese into a paste.
- When the wilted spinach is cool enough to handle, squeeze the remaining water from it with your hands and add it to the cheese. Break two eggs into the bowl and blend them into the cheese and spinach, in brisk strokes with a wooden spoon. Add more eggs as needed, one at a time, until the mixture has a slightly loose consistency, but not so loose that egg swims on top of the spinach. You’ll need more or fewer eggs depending on their size, and you don’t have to use all of them.
- Pour a tablespoon of oil into a rectangular glass or ceramic baking dish, heat the dish in the oven for one minute, remove it from the oven, and coat the dish with the thinned oil. Pour in the mixture and even it out with the back of a spoon. If using sesame seeds, pour a very light coating of beaten egg over the filling, and sprinkle on the seeds. Bake for approx 30 minutes, until the cuajado is puffy and lightly browned on top and around the sides. (You can test for doneness by inserting a knife in the middle. If it comes out wet, continue baking).
- Serve cuajado warm or at room temperature, cut into squares.