Monday, January 11, 2010
Variations on a Theme: Spinach Appetizers
Janet Here: We decided to see what each of us would come up with for an appetizer featuring spinach to kick off this week's blogging. I happen to be a spinach fan but only use frozen spinach — I just can't deal with all that cleaning. Anyway, I decided to go for my tried-and-true artichoke dip and add some spinach. It's that whole theory that if you add spinach, this appetizer is actually good for you. (It's a myth I know, but work with me here.)
My artichoke recipe comes from Tony Clark's New Blueberry Hill Cookbook, a cookbook I bought after spending a weekend cross country skiing and eating gourmet food at Blueberry Hill Inn in Goshen, Vermont. If you've never been there, I highly recommend checking it out; the skiing/hiking is great, the bed and breakfast homey and casual, and the food is unbelievable. (They keep a jar filled with fresh homemade chocolate chip cookies that are so good it's hard not to eat one every hour.) Anyway, here's Tony's basic recipe with my spinach and cream cheese addition. You can make it either way and then just listen to the rave reviews. It's a seriously easy recipe that takes minutes.
Baked Artichoke Dip (with Spinach)
1 16-ounce can of artichoke hears in water, drained
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup sliced almonds
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, blend the artichokes, mayonnaise, and cheese. (Or if you're like me and don't have a food processor, dice up your artichoke the best you can and figure no one will care.) Put in a shallow serving dish and sprinkle with sliced almonds. Bake for about 20 minutes or until it's heated through. Voila!
Rachel here: So, though my mother believes that life can be filled with joy and yet somehow devoid of meat (although she does occasionally eat chicken and fish...tune in Wednesday for more on that), I fiercely disagree. And so, for my take on the spinach appetizer challenge, I decided to include prosciutto. My idea spawned from frequent visits to the sushi place up the street from my house (Kansai at 4345 Telegraph in Oakland, CA in case anybody's in the area and looking for very reasonably priced and yummy sushi) that serves this appetizer of, for lack of a better way to describe it, spinach logs with peanut sauce. I wasn't feeling particularly peanut-y at the time, though, and so I decided to take the spinach logs and go in a different direction. What I ended up with was spinach mixed with roasted sliced almonds, shallots and brie wrapped in prosciutto. They are less cumbersome than they look and function quite well as a finger food. When I made them the recipe yielded 12 prosciutto-wrapped spinach rolls, though you could certainly make them smaller to get more bang for your buck. Anyway, it's the first time I've made this recipe, so feedback is extra welcome (particularly since my mother won't even touch this one due to its delicious cured meat component).
Prosciutto-wrapped Spinach Rolls
20 very thin slices of prosciutto di Parma
brie (approximately 2 oz.)
sliced almonds (approximately 3/4 c.)
one shallot, minced (approximately 2 generous T.)
spinach (approximately 1/3 lb.)
2 T. butter
Salt and pepper
Blanch, drain and chop the spinach, making sure to set 24 whole leaves aside (de-stemmed). Set aside. Roast almond slices. In a non-stick skillet (this is key because spinach is very inclined towards sticking), melt butter and add chopped spinach. Season with salt and pepper and add a hearty squeeze of lemon. Add shallot. After a minute or so (once the shallot has had a chance to start cooking), begin adding the almonds to taste. When you have arrived at a balance that satisfies your palate (as I mentioned in a previous baking post, cooking is pretty experimental for me), remove ingredients from heat and immediately place in a mixing bowl. Add about half of the brie, stirring until completely melted and blended.
Take one of the whole spinach leaves you reserved earlier and place a heaping spoonful of the spinach mixture on top of it. Add an additional dab of brie before placing a second whole spinach leaf on top. Carefully separate a piece of your prosciutto and wrap the entire thing up, making sure to cover the ends so the insides don't ooze out (the whole spinach leaves should help ensure everything is contained on the top and the bottom). When done, serve immediately with a wedge of lemon. If preparing ahead, I recommend warming these in the oven for a few minutes before serving. Enjoy!