Spring is spinach time, whether you live in Santa Monica or Minneapolis. After all of the baked and roasted vegetables of winter it is nice to have some fresh spinach, especially for salads and tossing in pasta. And yet, that is not what I did with the first bunch of spring spinach that dangled itself in front of my face. I had to make this baked spinach that Smitten Kitchen offered up a few weeks ago.
Uh boy. A French style, creamy, steamed spinach baked with cheese and bread crumbs. She called it “the best baked spinach” ever. And since I generally fall in line with her palate like an obedient pup, I knew this would be a winner. Right she was!
My version included different cheeses – feta and parmesan, what I had on hand. I also came up short on the spinach and should have reduced the breadcrumbs, if only for a better photo. Using half the butter made it no less creamy and I used an equal mixture of water and 1/2 and 1/2 since I had neither stock nor cream. It tasted divine, as I would have expected anything written by Julia Child would!
Make sure to weigh out your spinach to equal three pounds when you buy it; otherwise puppy-like whimpering will ensue when you are faced with such a meager portion since spinach really cooks down!
Baked Spinach with Feta and Parmesan (inspired from here)
3 lbs fresh spinach, washed but not dried (destemmed if tough stems)
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup water (or stock)
1/4 cup 1/2 and 1/2 (or whole milk or cream)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup parmesan, shredded
1/4 cup feta, crumbled
1 1/2 tablespoons fine breadcrumbs
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In large pot, steam spinach with just water on its leaves after washing it. Stir a few times to ensure all leaves are wilting equally. Drain in a colander and rinse cooking pot and fill with cold water. Plunge spinach back into pot to stop the cooking. Drain and squeeze spinach of excess water; chop well. In same pot, wipe dry and melt butter over medium high heat. Add spinach and cook until spinach begins to dry and sticks to bottom of pan. Stir in flour and cook another 2 minutes until flour is incorporated into spinach. Combine liquids (water, stock, milk, etc.) in a single container and add to spinach 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring to incorporate. The spinach will begin to absorb the liquid and become slightly creamy. Continue stirring until all liquid is absorbed. Salt spinach and remove from heat. Stir feta and half of parmesan into spinach and spoon into a small gratin dish. Combine remaining parmesan with bread crumbs and sprinkle over top. Season with pepper and bake for 30 minutes until top is browned and spinach is bubbling. Serve hot.