Sunday, May 2, 2010
Oddly enough, growing up, I liked spinach. As in, the green, slimy spinach that was found, in a box, in the freezer section. Mama would cook it and then toss in some tangy vinegar (I think that was the key to this salt-lover's acceptance) and I'd gulp it down happily.
That algae-like spinach is every child's nemesis, so why did I like it? I have no idea. Nowadays, I don't eat that spinach anymore. I eat fresh baby spinach, steamed or au naturel in lovely salads.
Unless I'm at a steakhouse. And then I eat creamed spinach. Which of course, is food of the Gods. But really, you could probably braise crabgrass in a sauce that redolent with butter and cream and it'd taste okay. Cream sauce can vault almost any vile substance to ethereal heights.
Alas, cream and butter don't lovva my ass. Suffice it to say that I rarely allow myself to eat it.
I was grilling steaks the other night and thought about creamed spinach. And then I remembered a recipe from Ellie Krieger for healthy creamed spinach. After a quick run to the store to purchase evaporated milk, I got down to business.
I'll admit, I was dubious. A creamed spinach recipe that contains neither butter nor cream? Hmph. Sort of sacreligeous, in my opinion.
I made the recipe and served it up. The girls, naturally, would not touch it. We ate ours, and it was okay. Just okay. Next time I make it, I'm using cream instead of the evaporated milk. In my opinion, 1/2 of a tablespoon of cream per serving is not at all excessive. And really, it needs that lush note that cream delivers.
But the interesting part comes later. The next day, I turned on the Food Network, and my archenemy, Rachael Ray, was perking it up on the screen. Let it be known that I don't think she's a bad cook. It's her freaking perk that I can't abide. And the weirdo made-up words like "stoup."
Still, she got my attention, because she was making Green Eggs and Ham in cups. With creamed spinach. Which I happened to have left over in my refrigerator, along with eggs and proscuitto di Parma.*
It got me thinking. My girls love eggs. LOVE them. They also happen to love all things salty and pig-fleshed.
Could the combination of the two cancel out the yuck-factor of the spinach?
I had to try, just in the name of curiosity. I DID stack the deck in my favor by encouraging the girls to help me make the dish. I have two very eager helpers in the kitchen, and if I am not pressed for time, I am finding that my favorite times of the day are when they're next to me in the kitchen, stirring or sifting or beating some eggs. It also increases their chances of trying something new by at least 30 percent.
They happily helped out, cooing and marvelling at how cute the little egg baskets were.
~Bunny had to help, too.
~Miss D. thinks that dancing is a crucial step in the recipe-testing process.
~Admit it--they're cute.
Green Eggs and Ham
recipe courtesy of Rachael Ray
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 large shallots, finely chopped
1 (10-ounce) box frozen chopped spinach, defrosted in microwave and excess moisture squeezed out
1/3 to 1/2 heavy cream
salt and pepper
dash of ground nutmeg to taste
8 slices ham or proscuitto di Parma
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a medium skillet over medium heat, heat the extra-virgin olive oil and the butter and sweat the shallots for a few minutes. Add the spinach and stir in the cream, season with salt, pepper and a little grated nutmeg. Cook the spinach, stirring occasionally, until the cream has thickened, 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning to your taste.
**Author's note: I didn't make the spinach Rachael Ray lists above. Instead, I substituted leftover creamed spinach from Ellie Krieger's recipe, which I've included below.
Fold each slice of ham or proscuitto in half and line a nonstick muffin cup with one slice meat (only 8 cups of the muffin pan will be used). Spoon a heaping tablespoon of the cooked spinach into the cups, then crack an egg into each, making sure the egg stays whole. (hint--if you're worried about breaking the egg yolk, crack the egg into a small bowl first, then pour it into the muffin cup. Season the top of the eggs with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven until set, about 15 minutes. Allow the baked eggs to cool in the muffin cups for a couple of minutes before removing them from the pan. Serve immediately.
Verdict: These little egg cups are genius! They're adorable, fun to eat, and delicious! Well, hubs and I thought so. The girls ate the eggs, but not the spinach or the crispy proscuitto cups. I think proscuitto is a little too strongly flavored for small palates.
However, I'll be making these again with some adjustments. I'll use just regular ham for the girls' cups, and I think I'll replace the spinach with some finely diced, cooked potato. THEN I think this family is in business!
from Ellie Krieger's So Easy
2 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 small shallots, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups low-fat milk (1%)
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons evaporated milk
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
Squeeze all of the water from the spinach. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the flour to the pan and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the low-fat milk and the broth and cook, scraping up any bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Add the spinach and simmer until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the evaporated milk and nutmeg, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
*No, I'm not a snob because I always have proscuitto in my refrigerator. It's called Salt Addict.