I Yam What I Eat

I really had intended to post this yesterday, but I got my wires crossed and published the wrong article. Please pretend that today is yesterday and yesterday is today while you read this post.

Today, 17 June, is my most recent ex-boss’ birthday. I know she’s reading the blog (she does, after all, comment occasionally) and I know she’s been less than thrilled with the content of most of the food-related posts, so here’s a food post that she can read without a major “Eew” moment.

Spinach is something of a poster-child for under-appreciated vegetables. Yes, it’s got the association with Popeye going for it, but an informal and unreliable study I just conducted shows that only brussel sprouts get more citations as an “ick!” vegetable in popular culture. And spinach is still fighting people’s bad associations from the 2006 E. coli outbreak. It even gets put down by E Online in an article claiming that Alice Eve ate almost nothing but spinach for five months in preparation for her underwear-baring appearance in Star Trek Into Darkness. (Rumors that her recipe list included this “Stimulating Spinach Salad” are entirely non-existent.)

Today I’ll do my bit to redeem spinach with a selection of recipes that would be pointless without a touch of the green. And, in honor of You Know Who, they’re (almost) all vegetarian-safe. (Note that they are not all vegan-friendly, however. Many use butter and/or cheese.)

To kick things off, fire up your deep-fryer for (what else?) Deep Fried Spinach. Straight-forward, classic in its simplicity, and – unless you like the sensation of boiling peanut oil sliding down your throat – not worth the electrons the recipe is printed on without the spinach.

Allrecipes also has this recipe for a different take on fried spinach. It sacrifices the crispiness of the first recipe, but adds butter and garlic, so I’m willing to consider it a fair trade.

Giada De Laurentiis offers us a tasty-looking Penne with Spinach Sauce. Since it’s designed for whole wheat penne and uses low-fat cream cheese, it’s rather more heart-healthy than I expected. It also uses goat cheese to up the flavor. No indication if it can also be made with llama or camel cheese for additional variety.

Count on Paula Deen to come up with an offering that has one ingredient too many. At least this Spinach, Strawberry, and Hearts of Palm Salad goes overboard with the addition of walnuts instead of butter or heavy cream.

A rather simpler salad, this one featuring nectarines, is offered by Healthy Times Blog.

I’m firmly of the opinion that a spinach lasagne should be part of every cook’s recipe book. We use a recipe based on one distributed by the University of Texas, which does not seem to be available online. This one looks pretty decent, if a bit higher end than ours. That goat cheese is sneaking in again (persistent critters, those goats), and it does call for an egg, so non-ovo vegetarians should consider Martha Stewart’s take on the subject. Yes, Martha uses goat cheese too.

This one avoids the goat cheese – it uses Swiss instead – but it’s just too darn busy. By the time you get past the broccoli, carrots, green onions, and bell peppers, you may not even be able to taste the spinach.

If you think Martha did OK with the Spinach Lasagne, you might also want to take a look at her takes on Spinach Pie or “Spinach Bundles“, both built around spinach and feta cheese. If simplicity is your thing, you could do a lot worse than Martha’s “Sesame Steamed Spinach“.

Eating Healty wins today’s “I Wouldn’t Have Thought Of That” award for “Spinach Soup with Rosemary Croutons. They suggest that it could be done with chard instead of spinach. I suggest that making spinach soup without spinach is a lot like making garlic bread without the garlic, but who am I to judge?

Here’s today’s winner for “Most Misleading Name”: Spinach Brownies. Despite the implications of the name, they contain no chocolate at all. And – vegetarians take note – they do contain eggs.

If your ears perked up at the thought of chocolate and spinach together, allow me to suggest you investigate ISINGFORLIFE’s Chocolate Spinach Smoothies, Chocolate-Covered Katie’s Chocolate-Spinach Pancakes (although the latter doesn’t actually use whole spinach, but only a powdered supplement partially based on spinach), or Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious Brownies. Unfortunately, they all stress that they don’t taste like spinach, which seems to me to be sort of missing the point. Yeah, I know, I know: the idea is really to sneak something healthy into kids. So how about the Sneaky Chef’s Brawny Brownies? (As of this writing, the original site is down; the link goes to an archived version courtesy of the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.) If you’re going to sneak spinach into them, you might as well dupe them into eating whole grains too.

If you really want a spinach dessert, you might be better off forgetting the chocolate and trying this vegan, no-freezer Avocado Spinach Ice Cream. Let me know how it turns out; while you’re trying it, I’ll be over on the other side of the store pricing deep-friers to make some of that crispy spinach…

Butter: The Encore

Because there’s always room for more butter, I present Butter: The Encore.

When last we spoke about butter, we talked briefly about the origin of the word “butterfly”. I didn’t even think to mention the buttercup (the flower, not the character from “H.M.S. Pinafore”, the character from “Powerpuff Girls”, or the character in “Princess Bride”. Our friend Wikipedia suggests that the name derives from a folk belief that the yellow color of butter comes from cows eating buttercups. That seems like an over-complication to me: I’m inclined to suspect that the name came from the color of the flower before the story was formed.

I’m more interested in the children’s game of holding a buttercup under someone’s chin to “see if they like butter”. On a sunny day, it’s an impressive effect for a young kid, but why do kids around the world seem to feel the need to out the rare butter-hater? Aren’t there enough, more obvious “outsider” groups to tease? (Note, by the way, that science has established that the buttercup’s effect on chins has no relation to the chin-owner’s fondness for butter, and quite a bit to do with the flower’s own skin.

Dad’s comment on the last butter post pointed out that I forgot to talk about butter poetry.

A keyword search at Poetry Foundation turns up 174 results (though only three poems appear to be named simply “Butter”. PoemHunter turns up 880 poems referencing butter (including, it appears, butterflies, buttercups, and peanut butter), of which three are named “Butter” – yet they are a different three than Poetry Foundation’s. That’s a lot of words devoted to butter. Makes me feel much better about devoting six posts to this ancient food.

Arguably the best-known butter poem is A.A. Milne’s ditty “The King’s Breakfast” (my favorite line: “But marmalade is tasty, if / It’s very / Thickly / Spread”.) Don’t want to read it? The Muppets enlisted Twiggy to perform it in 1976.

While we’re on literary matters, let us remember Dr. Seuss’ “The Butter Battle Book“, and ensure that we always eat our bread butter-side on the side, so as to avoid another arms race.

How about rocking out to Butter? We’re too late to catch Hot Butter, but there’s still a chance for Bread and Butter. Oh, and let us not forget to Butter The Children (because every child should be slippery occasionally).

Here’s a cooking idea I missed earlier: Brown Butter. Sounds like it would be very tasty as the base for garlic butter on pasta. I don’t think my arteries are up to it, but if you give it a try, let me know.

Eat too much butter and need to work it off? You could try “Buns of Butter“.

Still interested in making your own butter, but think cows, sheep, and goats are too boring? Yak butter is made with yak milk. Likewise, buffalo and camel butter are made with buffalo and camel milk. Hippie butter, however, is not made from hippie milk – nor is it recommended for ingestion. Hyena butter is made by hyenas, and is definitely not to be ingested.

Williams-Sonoma, by the way, will be happy to sell you a butter-making kit with “all the essentials you need” (except the cream). They don’t say whether it’s been tested with buffalo, camel, or yak cream.

Finally, if you think all this butter talk has gotten too complicated, you can always go back to the basics. Feel free to omit the sugar; I know I will.