Cambrian: Opinion

Culinary Corner: Casserole evokes flavors of Cambria’s namesake country

Consuelo Macedo cooks on Happy Hill in Cambria
Consuelo Macedo cooks on Happy Hill in Cambria

“Old mountainous Cambria, the Eden of bards,

Each hill and each valley, excite my regards;

To the ears of her patriots how charming still seems

The music that flows in her streams.”

So goes the second verse of “The Land of My Fathers,” the Welsh national anthem. In other verses, the song resounds to “the land in which poets and minstrels rejoice,” and “the language of Cambria which lives out to this day.”

Elaine Beckham of our fair village forwarded this to us, and we have been singing ever since. You too can hear the incomparable Welsh men’s choir, complete with a light show, if you click on wav.

As of St. David’s Day, March 1, my heart stirs with nostalgia for the land of my forebears, especially as I traverse Highway 46 West. During an especially poignant drive in late February, the mists wafted up through the emerald hills and dales, with great promise of the lupines

and poppies awaiting warmth and sunshine to spring forth.

We were delighted with this year’s display, and more recently appreciated the appearance of our famous candy-colored sweet peas. Cambria, Calif., is aptly named in the spirit of the original country so named by the Romans. We also enjoy the town’s display of the Welsh national blooms, the daffodils so prolifically planted by Garden Club aficionados.

At farmers market I found some prize leeks, just in time for Marty Main’s nutritious casserole which I enjoyed recently. (Leeks are the national plant of Wales.) Marty is an excellent cook, and Richard and I were recipients of her munificent benevolence at different times: Costa Rican paella, empanadas, chicken cacciatore and spaghetti with spicy meatballs. She adapted the following recipe from the WebMD website after being intrigued by the flavors while just reading the recipe.

Spinach, Leek, and Red Pepper Gratin

2 bags of frozen baby spinach (or 2

10-oz. bags of fresh) Small amount of olive oil or spray 3 leeks, well cleaned and sliced thinly

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup light cream cheese

1/2 cup fat-free half and half

1 tsp. fresh basil (or 1/2 tsp. dried) Pinch of salt and pepper

2 sweet red peppers, roasted, seeded and peeled; chopped

1 cup grated Mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup Italian flavor or plain dried

breadcrumbs 2 tblsp grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Spray a 10-inch skillet with Pam or olive oil, and heat over medium flame. When hot, sauté the leeks about three minutes, then add the garlic for another three minutes. Add toss until wilted. Add cream cheese, half and half, basil, salt and pepper (the original also called for grated nutmeg). Stir until cheese has melted.

Add the bell peppers, and spoon into a greased 13-by 8-inch casserole (or 1-quart size). Add a layer of mozzarella (I found low sodium at Albertson’s on special). Mix bread crumbs and Parmesan and sprinkle atop. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

I used to think that gratin meant that it was made with cheese, as in Grandmother’s scalloped potatoes, but gratin means layered, so the second time I made it for the Santa Rosa potluck I layered the spinach mix, then cubes of Monterey jack, then the peppers, topped with the Parmesan mixture. The group were as intrigued as Marty and I had been by the contrasting flavors.

Marty used some of hers as a filling for quiche. Great minds never cease to create!

Please send your favorite recipes to Consuelo, c/o The Cambrian, 2442 Main St., Cambria CA, 93428; or e-mail to