Thursday, January 7, 2010

Get Creamed

Sure, I like hamburgers, pizza, and chicken Parm as much as the next guy, but my real food love is vegetables. Carrots, green beans, broccoli, peas, zucchini, celery, squash, asparagus... even Brussels sprouts and eggplant. A meal does not feel complete to me without at least one vegetable accompaniment. But that doesn't mean that I'm not picky about the way they are prepared- I hate to see a good vegetable go bad through overcooking or poor preparation. That's why I am always looking for the best recipes and techniques for making the most of my beloved nutritious little friends. And it is my firm belief that the best way to make spinach is to cream it. Even the most dyed-in-the-wool vegetable hater cannot resist the deliciousness of creamed spinach- a fact that is proven in steakhouses around the world every day.
But creamed spinach gets a bad reputation, because, at it's most decadent, it contains more cream and butter than it does iron and vitamin A. Luckily, creamed spinach doesn't have to be a high-calorie treat. Personally, I like to make it using one of two recipes: the "special occasion" recipe (maybe you could make it for your valentine), which is truly spinach at it's most delicious and indulgent, and the low-calorie, yogurt-based "everyday" version, which is still rich and creamy, but without any of the guilt. Here are both recipes for your upcoming occasions, special and otherwise.

Easy Everyday "Creamed" Spinach
You will need:
1 box frozen spinach
3/4 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small white onion, chopped
3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

1. Cook the spinach according the package directions.
2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a saucepan and saute the onion until soft.
3. Drain spinach well with a strainer over sink, pressing out excess water with your hands. Place in a medium bowl and stir in yogurt and onions. Top with Parmesan cheese.

Special Creamed Spinach
You will need:
2 bags fresh baby spinach (pre-washed is best, since spinach can be very gritty and sandy)
1 small onion, chopped
2 tablespoon flour or cornstarch
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup cream cheese

1. In a saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon butter and saute the onions until soft.
2. Meanwhile, boil a large pot of water, and add spinach until just wilted (it will condense a lot as it cooks). Drain immediately, and squeeze out any extra water with your hands.
3. When onions are cooked, add flour or cornstarch and remaining tablespoon butter to the pan, stirring to combine and create a roux (a thick lightly-browned paste). Add the cream to the saucepan, and stir until it thickens and bubbles slightly. Add the cream cheese and stir until melted. Add the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper.
4. Place spinach and cream mixture in a bowl and stir to combine. This can be made ahead and reheated in a warm oven before serving.

photo credit: Martha Stewart

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