Despite its reputation as an iron powerhouse, spinach's chief nutritional benefit comes from its high vitamin A concentration, not its average iron supply. The leafy vegetable's earthy taste goes well with a cream sauce. One classic recipe starts from a roux -- a flour and butter mixture -- and tastes as rich as its ingredient list sounds. Other versions skip the butter, but still offer that creamy taste and velvety texture that makes creamed spinach a favorite comfort food.
Things You'll Need
- 1/2 yellow onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 cups milk or half and half
- Olive oil
- 1 pound fresh spinach leaves or 2 10-oz. packages frozen spinach
- 1 1/2 cups cottage cheese (optional)
- Blender or food processor (optional)
Original Creamed Spinach
Dice the yellow onion and garlic finely. Set aside the chopped vegetables.
Heat a stick (1/2 cup) of butter in a saucepan over medium heat until it melts fully.
Add the flour to the melted butter and stir the mixture thoroughly. Cook this roux for about 5 minutes, or until it turns a pale blond color; this cooking removes the raw taste from the flour without removing its thickening power.
Add the diced vegetables to the roux and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
Pour the milk or half and half into the roux gradually, stirring the liquid into the roux.
Add salt, pepper and ground nutmeg to the white sauce.
Remove the white sauce from the heat and set it aside. It will thicken as it rests.
Pour sufficient olive oil into a large saucepan to coat the bottom. Place fresh spinach into the pan and cook it until it turns wilted and limp, but not mushy. Thaw and drain frozen spinach before adding it to the pot to cook for 2 to 3 minutes to warm it through.
Mix the cooked spinach into the white sauce. Taste the dish for the proper balance of seasonings and add salt, pepper or nutmeg if desired.
Light Creamed Spinach
Chop onions and garlic and saute them in a saucepan with just enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Cook the vegetables for 5 minutes, or until the onions turn translucent.
Add the fresh spinach or drained frozen spinach to the pan with the oil and vegetables. Cook until fresh spinach turns wilted and decreases in volume; cook frozen spinach until it warms through.
Pour the cottage cheese into a blender or food processor and blend it until the cheese forms a smooth, creamy sauce.
Season the cottage cheese with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.
Stir the cottage cheese sauce into the spinach and cook the mixture for another 2 to 3 minutes until the dish is hot and the spinach cooks completely.
Tips & Warnings
- Vary the recipe with spices; bay leaves and a pinch of cayenne add a New Orleans flavor to the dish, while dill and capers give it a northern European twist.
- Try grated Parmesan cheese over the creamed spinach.
- Use an oil-free non-stick pan and non-fat cottage cheese for the lightest possible version of creamed spinach.
- Nutmeg goes well with spinach, but too much of it skews the flavor into eggnog territory; use a light hand with this powerful spice.
- Under-cooking the roux will leave a raw-flour taste in the finished dish.
- Photo Credit George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images
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