- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A few weeks ago, my husband and I attended a dinner party that we enjoyed as much as any we can remember. What might surprise you is that this meal took place in a small attic apartment and was prepared by a couple of twentysomethings.

Our hosts were two of my spouse’s college seniors, who happen to live off campus and love entertaining. Although these young people are well on the way to honing their culinary skills, it was their warmth and conviviality that made the evening so special.

Because they will be graduating soon, I want to reciprocate and invite our hosts to our home before they leave our New England town to start their new lives.

Since their schedules are frenetic now with exams, theses and extra social activities, I’ve decided that a Sunday brunch will be the best way for us to get together. Coincidentally, I’ve been working on a souffled egg dish that will make a perfect anchor for the menu.

This entree is simple to prepare and makes a striking presentation. I whisk together eggs, ricotta and cream, then add pieces of crispy bacon and chopped fresh spinach.

Next, the mixture is poured over lightly toasted bread croutons that are spread on the bottom of a baking pan.

When baked, the eggs puff up, souffle-style, and rise above the edges of the pan. The golden yellow-hued gratin looks especially tempting flecked with verdant bits of spinach.

To complete the offerings, there will be an arugula salad tossed in a red wine dressing and a plate of smoked trout as sides, plus fresh blueberries and some almond cookies for dessert.

Brunches can take place from midmorning to early afternoon, but for this one, we’re starting late.

We don’t know any college seniors who rise before noon.

Souffled eggs with ricotta, spinach and bacon

1 tablespoon butter for baking dish

1 cup day old French bread, cut into inch or smaller cubes

1 to 1 tablespoons olive oil

8 large eggs

1 cup heavy cream

cup whole milk ricotta

teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/16 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 grinds fresh black pepper

1 cup coarsely chopped baby spinach leaves

4 bacon slices, fried until crisp and cut into inch pieces

Arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 1 quart oven-to-table baking dish very generously.

Place the bread cubes in a medium bowl and toss with enough olive oil to coat lightly.

Spread bread cubes on a baking sheet and bake until just golden, about 5 minutes. Remove and spread in the bottom of the prepared baking dish.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs until blended. Then whisk in the cream, ricotta, nutmeg, salt, cayenne pepper and black pepper just to blend. Stir in the spinach and bacon. Pour the mixture over the toasted bread.

Bake until the egg mixture puffs up (soufflelike) and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool 5 minutes before serving. Makes 5 to 6 servings.

Betty Rosbottom is a cooking school director and author of “Big Book of Backyard Cooking” (Chronicle Books).


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