November 26, 2012

No Cream Creamed Spinach


Long before I changed my diet to adhere strictly to a plant based diet, I was a vegetable lover. Dining at steakhouses was always exciting for me because of the extensive offerings of fun side dishes. Even today, ironically, steak houses happen to be great places to eat out as a vegan. Many of the dishes do contain heart clogging quantities of dairy, but a lot of them do not. Of course, some restaurants are more accommodating than others, but I can always get a baked potato and some steamed veggies at a steak house if nothing else.  One of my favorite classic side dishes is creamed spinach.

In my search for a great recipe, I found several that used plant-based milks or tofu to give the spinach it's creaminess, but they were lacking in flavor and were consistently watery. I was determined to get it right and came up with a way to make it happen with amazing success by pureeing some of the spinach mixture with creamy white beans.

Not only is this creamed spinach rich and satisfying, it is made with ingredients that are all good for you. There are reasons why spinach gave Popeye his special strength. Cancer fighting spinach is high in iron, dietary fiber, and a rich source of carotenoids and antioxidants. Mushrooms are also beneficial to your health, particularly the asian varieties. They provide the richest vegetable source of selenium. Selenium is a trace mineral that incorporates into proteins to create antioxidant enzymes that are essential to our health.  The high selenium content is what has made mushrooms a super food for a cancer-fighting diet, and has proved to be a key component in the decreased risk and recurrence of prostate cancer. They are also a good source of riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid and an under recognized source of potassium. I think that the addition of mushrooms in this recipe only makes it better, but it is just as good without them.

No-Cream Creamed Spinach
Serves 6-8
For all ingredients, please consider using those that are organic.
2 pounds frozen spinach
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
2/3 cup onion, chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped (optional)
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
8 ounces cremini or white mushrooms, thinly sliced (optional)
2 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk, or other plant-based milk of choice
1/2 cup cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/8-1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4-1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  freshly ground black pepper
Optional Topping
1 cup whole wheat, sourdough, or gluten-free breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon olive oil
pinch sea salt and freshly groud black pepper
  lemon zest
Drain and defrost the spinach in a colander over a bowl or in the sink. It will take a few hours for the spinach to thaw. Pull it out in the morning and go about your business while it at least comes to temperature that you can handle without freezing your hands.
Once the spinach is mostly thawed, use your hands to squeeze out the water. Do this repeatedly until it as as dry as you can get it.
Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and shallots and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. If using garlic, add it in after about 5 minutes of cooking. Adding the garlic at this point will help prevent it from burning.
Once the onion mixture becomes translucent and has cooked down, add the mushrooms. It will seem like a lot of mushrooms at first, but they will shrink down quite quickly. Cook over medium heat for 3-5 minutes until they have significantly reduced in size.
Once the mushrooms are cooked down, add the spinach. Stir the mixture until the spinach is thoroughly mixed in. Add the milk. Cook until the mixture is bubbly and the liquid begins to reduce.
Add the nutritional yeast, nutmeg, paprika, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine the flavors.
Remove about 1/2 cup of the mixture, plus a few tablespoons of any liquid in the pan and put in the bowl of a blender or food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the beans to the work bowl and blend or puree until the mixture is smooth.
Return the mixture to the pan and cook for another few minutes, and taste for balance of seasonings.
Serve right away or transfer mixture to a baking dish. The spinach can be made up to 2 days ahead of time and rewarmed before serving.
If you are rewarming the casserole for a dinner party, warm it covered in foil for about 30 minutes in an oven preheated to 350 F. You can remove the foil after about 15 minutes and allow the top to brown for the last 15-20 minutes.
If you choose to top the dish with breadcrumbs, I would suggest tossing them with about a tablespoon of olive oil, a pinch of salt and pepper before, and fresh lemon zest before applying them to the top. Sprinkle them on top of the spinach at the time you remove the foil. Cook for another 15-20 minutes until they are golden brown.















Categories: Beans & Legumes, Gluten Free, Vegetables

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