Thursday, February 28, 2013

Almond Milk Creamed Spinach

I have a case of the winter blues. It's nothing dramatic or of huge concern; I find myself feeling this way most years, in the last weeks of February, before the promise of spring feels within grasp. My mood is sullen and melancholy, mirroring the never-ending grey clouds and fog that seems to be relentlessly enveloping Manhattan. I struggle to remember the last time I felt the sun on my face.

At the same time, my body has been exhausted this week with valiantly defending against nasty cold germs that keep trying to do their worst. I have moments of feeling okay and moments of not being able to put a sentence together, my words getting lost in the fuzziness that is my brain.

Consequently, I have needed a strange, or rather uncommon, combination of foods that are both healthy and nurturing to help defend against this cold as well as homey and comforting to help soothe my soul. Much to my surprise, this dish effortlessly fit that exact description. The spinach added the power of greens to my body, but at the same time, each cheesy, flavorful forkful made me feel as though things would soon be better, the sun would eventually have to peek through the clouds long enough to kiss my cheek.

Serves 6

This is such a homey, comforting dish you might forget you are actually consuming vegetables with each bite. I was able to easily quarter the recipe to make an individual portion in my favorite Lodge cast iron dishes.

Four 5-ounce bags baby spinach
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 shallots, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Sea Salt
Freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
2 tablespoons finely chopped almonds

Preheat the oven to 425°. In a large saucepan, heat 1 inch of water. Add the spinach by the handful; allow each handful to wilt before adding more. When the spinach is wilted, drain it, pressing out as much water as possible. Wipe out the pot.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in the pot. Add the shallots; cook over moderate heat until softened. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the almond milk and simmer until very thick, whisking occasionally, 5 minutes. Stir in the cheese and spinach. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon into a baking dish.

In a small bowl, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Stir in the panko and almonds and sprinkle over the creamed spinach. Bake for 15 minutes, until golden. Serve.

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