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Archive for March 26, 2016

RECIPE: Creamed Spinach Without The Cream

March 26th is National Spinach Day, honoring the most iron-rich vegetable, the reason Popeye was strong to the finish. Many people name Creamed Spinach as their favorite way to enjoy the vegetable—along with a juicy steak. It’s a steakhouse staple.

To help tone down the richness a bit, some steakhouses are making their Creamed Spinach without cream. Chicken stock, flour and butter are substituted for the heavy cream or cream cheese.

Executive Chef Eddie Advilyi from Angus Club Steakhouse in Midtown Manhattan is one of the steakhouse chefs turning out Creamless Creamed Spinach (we’ve also had the dish at Benjamin Steakhouse). Chef Eddie shares his recipe with us:

RECIPE: CREAMLESS CREAMED SPINACH

Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 pound chopped spinach
  • 1 tablespoon chicken base*
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper (substitute black pepper)
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup of melted butter
  •  
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    *Chicken base is a highly concentrated stock available in powder or cube form.

     
    Preparation

    1. BOIL or steam the chopped spinach and drain well.

    2. ADD the other ingredients. Mix until it becomes creamy, about 5 minutes.
     
     
    MORE WAYS TO ENJOY SPINACH

  • Pxali, Georgian spinach dip with walnuts
  • Savory Spinach Bread Pudding
  • Spanakoita, Greek spinach pie
  • Spinach & Artichoke Dip
  • Spinach & Grapefruit Salad
  • 13 Ways To Use Spinach Dip
  • Warm Spinach Mascarpone Dip
  •  

    Creamless Creamed Spinach

    Ribeye, Creamed Spinach

    Fresh Spinach

    Top: Creamless Creamed Spinach at Benjamin Steakhouse. Center: Ribeye steak with Creamless Creamed Spinach at Angus Club Steakhouse. Bottom: Fresh spinach from Good Eggs.

     
    THE HISTORY OF SPINACH

    Spinach (Spinacia oleracea), is native to central and western Asia (think ancient Persia). It is a member of the botanical family Amaranthaceae, which also includes amaranth, beet, chard, lamb’s quarters (mache) and quinoa, plus numerous flowering house and garden plants.

    At some point, spinach was introduced to India and subsequently to Nepal. It arrived in China around 647 C.E., where it was known as “Persian vegetable.”

    It became a popular vegetable in the Arab Mediterranean, and in 827 was brought to Italy by the Saracens. It arrived in Spain by the latter part of the 12th century, and in Germany by the 13th century.

    Spinach first appeared in England and France in the 14th century and quickly became popular because it could be harvested in early spring, when other vegetables were scarce.

    Spinach was supposedly the favorite vegetable of Catherine de’ Medici (1519-1589), wife of King Henry II of France. Dishes served on a bed of spinach are known as “Florentine” after her birthplace, Florence. Florentine dishes are sometimes served with Mornay sauce, a béchamel sauce with cheese (usually Gruyère and Parmesan).

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Bake Some Cornbread

    Scallion Cornbread

    Cornbread Toast

    Top: Scallion cornbread from Good Eggs. Bottom: Cream Chipped Beef On Toast from RecipeTips.com. Here’s the recipe.

     

    We love, love, love cornbread, a specialty of the South that’s hard to find in the Northeast, where we live. Sometimes you’ll get some at a barbecue restaurant or with a dish of chili; but otherwise, you have to bake your own.

    That’s not a problem. We make four loaves at once and freeze three of them. If you avoid gluten, you can find a recipe that’s all cornmeal.

    You don’t need a plate of barbecue or grits and eggs to enjoy its pleasures. Serve cornbread anytime:

  • At breakfast or lunch
  • With soups and salads
  • As a snack
  • In the dinner bread basket
  • Toast a slice for a twist on Eggs Benedict, grilled cheese or tuna melts
  • Make a modern version of Creamed Chipped Beef On Toast by substituting your favorite protein for the dried beef and your sauce of choice for the cream sauce
  •  
    Cornbread doesn’t last 48 hours in our home; but if you have cornbread that is drying out, make toast or:

  • Cornbread croutons
  • Cornbread bread pudding
  • Dressing/stuffing
  •  
    Some cornbread recipes are so sweet, they taste like corn muffins. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but if you try to avoid unnecessary added sugar, take a look at this recipe from Good Eggs. It uses only one tablespoon of sugar.

    It also layers extra flavors: scallion, jalapeño, cotija cheese. The heat of the chile bits brings the already-wonderful sweet corn and butter flavors to a new height.

    We also added corn kernels; the texture adds delight.

     

    RECIPE: QUESO FRESCO & SCALLION CORNBREAD

    This recipe, baked in a skillet (you can substitute a round cake pan), requires 15 minutes active time and 30 minutes baking time.

    Ingredients

  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 4 teaspoons salt
  • 1¾ cup buttermilk (substitute whole milk with a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar)
  • 3 eggs, beaten with a fork
  • 6 tablespoon ghee (substitute butter)
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon minced jalapeño (red chiles give bright specks of color; remove seeds and white membrane for less heat)
  • Garnish: 1-1/2 cups queso fresco cheese, crumbled (substitute feta, paneer, ricotta salata)
  • 1 bunch scallions, white and greens chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (half a lime)
  • Optional: 1/2 cup corn kernels
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°. Using clean hands or a rubber spatula, spread one tablespoon of ghee all over the bottom and sides of an 8-10” cast iron skillet. Fit the bottom of the skillet with a disk of parchment paper by tracing the shape of the skillet on parchment with a pencil and cutting out the circle.

    2. COMBINE the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Whisk together to blend. Add the milk to the dry mixture and mix well with a fork.

    3. MELT the remaining 4 tablespoons of ghee and add it to the batter. Finish by adding the eggs, 1¼ cup of crumbled cheese and most of the scallions, the optional jalapeño and corn. Mix the batter until all of the ingredients are well-combined.

    4. GENTLY POUR the batter into the skillet and bake for about 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Garnish with the remaining queso fresco, lime and scallions and serve.
     
    THE HISTORY OF CORNBREAD

    Corn is native to Mesoamerica, and was used to make flatbread (tortillas) by the Mayas, Aztecs and other cultures. They did not have leavening and didn’t bake loaves of bread. Americans of European descent used cornmeal to make hoecakes and porridge like Indian pudding.

    They also had no skillets or baking pans before contact with Europeans. The tortillas were fried on hot rocks. Berries, nuts and sunflower seeds could be added.

     

    Ghee

    Corn Tortillas

    Cornbread

    Top: Ghee is clarified butter: The solids have been skimmed off melted butter so the butter doesn’t burn (photo courtesy Ten Speed Press). Center: Tortillas: the original corn bread (photo courtesy Anson Mills). Bottom: Modern cornbread is often baked in baking pans and cut into squares (photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board).

     
    Settlers made their version in iron skillets. In the absence of a skillet—not easy to find on the frontier—hoe cakes (hoecakes) were baked on a garden hoe held or wedged up against an open fire. They were eaten with soups or stews.

    The most basic hoecake was made with cornmeal, fat, water and a pinch of salt. It was made in a skillet without leavening resulting in dense corn pancakes. As ingredients and disposable income became more plentiful, butter, buttermilk, eggs, milk, molasses and sugar were incorporated into recipes. Wheat flour was added to lighten the taste and density of breads made only with cornmeal. [Source]

    By the 1840s, chemical leavenings such as pearlash (potassium carbonate) and saleratus (potassium bicarbonate) were generally available to American cooks. In 1843, British chemist Alfred Bird invented baking powder (sodium bicarbonate). Modern commercial yeast was not available until the late 1800s, and the granulated active dry yeast we use today was invented during World War II by Fleischmann’s.

    Finally, all the elements were in place to make modern cornbread. However, as a result of America’s modern taste for sugar and more sugar, most modern cornbread recipes are sweeter than those used by prior generations.
     
    WHAT IS GHEE?

    Ghee is similar* to clarified butter: It is butter that is melted and strained of its solids. It returns to a soft solid at room temperature.

    Ghee has less moisture than butter, and for that reason is preferred in some recipes. It is also valuable when you want to pan fry in butter. By removing the milk solids, ghee has a much higher smoke point.

    But if you’re making cake or cookies, you don’t want to use ghee: The buttery flavor largely comes from the milk solids, and the flavor will milder and less buttery.

    Ghee is shelf stable (no refrigeration required). It lasts a good while on the shelf, and a very, very long time in the fridge. When you make it, you can make a double batch and stick the extra in the fridge. Or, give it to a friend who cooks: It will be greatly appreciated.

    Here’s more about ghee.
     
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    *Traditional ghee is made from butter churned from cultured milk, somewhat different from European clarified butter. A few Indian dishes call for using both ghee and sweet butter.

      

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