Monday, December 1, 2008

Three Delicious (or at least highly edible) things to do with frozen Spinach

You know how whenever there's a new report about whatever essential nutrient you really, really need, they always say it's found in "blah, blah, blah, and leafy greens like broccoli and spinach"?

I really don't like spinach, but in the name of trying to get myself to eat healthier, I keep experimenting, trying to find ways to get myself to eat more. Spinach salad is pretty good, but I will save writing about that for later. For now, I will focus on Our Friend the Package of Frozen Spinach, which avoids some of the problems associated with fresh spinach and is highly store-able, to boot (as long as your freezer is working).

Spinach and Cheese
If your frozen spinach is loose, in a plastic package (this is slightly more expensive but easier to work with, especially if you need to use only some of the spinach at a time), then just dump it into a baking pan which is big enough for it to spread out a little. Something smaller than 9x13 works well for the size of package I usually get.

If you get the cheaper, more compact, more recycle-able cardboard box of spinach, defrost it first, so that you can spread it out without having to use an ice pick to pry the pieces apart. I normally do this in the microwave, but if I have enough forethought, I will move the spinach from the freezer to the fridge the night before. Once it is defrosted, then spread it all over a pan.

Slice some cheese. Now that I think about it, you could also grate it, if you wanted. I have never tried this, but have no reason to believe that it would not turn out well. You could use mozzerella, cheddar, colby jack, gouda, brie, or anything else your heart desires. If you use American Processed Cheese (how the name of my beloved country got permanently associated with that product is something I would like to make someone answer for) then do not tell me.

How much cheese? As much as you want. I would probably use a third of a half-pound brick of cheese to cover one pan of spinach, but it's up to you.

Cook the dish. You can cook it in the microwave, but then the cheese wouldn't brown; you can also cook it in the oven (my preferred method; this also decreases sogginess) for maybe five minutes. At 350 or 400 degrees. I just go until the cheese is melted.

Take an unbaked pizza crust. Add tomato sauce and whatever spices you want (or, use store-bought pizza sauce). Put on some (defrosted, if it came in a box) spinach. Add whatever other toppings you want (I particularly love artichoke hearts, which are dreadfully expensive but go far when chopped small.) Cover the whole thing with (grated) cheese. Bake it according to the directions which came with the pizza crust, or, if you are using bread dough, bake it at 350 C for ten to fifteen minutes (more for a bigger pizza, less for smaller).

Incidentally, I like to use Semolina, Farina, Germade, Cream-of-Wheat, or whatever you want to call it, to dust the bottom of my pizza crust. The traditional stuff for the bottoms of crusts is cornmeal, but I don't keep cornmeal around my house because for some reason it's prohibitively expensive around here. The wheat-based uncooked hot cereal product works fine for me.

Spaghetti Sauce
I was skeptical when my sister first told me that this tasted good. I mean, Papa Murphy's puts spinach on their super-delicious Vegetarian Deluxe Pizzas, so that makes sense, but putting spinach in spaghetti sauce just seems like it is one of those "hiding" jobs, where if you put in too much of the "secret" ingredient, everyone will take one bite and then refuse to touch the food in question.

I was wrong.

In the case of spaghetti sauce, spinach is the ingredient which insures that there are no leftovers. I am serious. Even just plain frozen spinach in canned tomato sauce makes a darn good red sauce, and if you add just a couple of spices (I usually use basil and nothing else, but you can look up other stuff in a real recipe book) and some fried onions and mushrooms, and a can of drained olive pieces, it becomes so good that people start asking you for the recipe.

A couple of notes on spaghetti sauce:
  • I really do think that the organic canned tomatoes really do taste better. They are more expensive, so it's your call to make, but in this case I feel that you receive value for your money, and where I live, they are only twenty cents a can or so more expensive.
  • Also, wateriness is death to a good sauce, so either drain your spinach and your olives, or else give yourself some time for the sauce to simmer (just start dinner earlier, if it is humanly possible, and read a novel while the "low" setting on the stove does the hard work for you-- umm, but be sure to stir it occasionally).


ltandjbcox said...

Okay, I am totally in agreement with the basil in sauce. . . .so good. . .I usually throw in minced garlic (which Leigh thinks I OVER do, but can you really?). I happen to enjoy spinach. . . in a salad, pizza or steamed with butter, vinegar and salt and pepper. Yum..

We will most definitely be home on your mentioned dates. Come on down. If you happen to stay through the 22nd, you can come caroling with us. That would be fun. Don't forget your pattern and fabric..:)

SAC said...

You are so right! I completely forgot about the garlic-- maybe because it is so small.

I'll have to try your way of doing steamed spinach. The more ways I like it, the merrier.