My mother loves to tell me about the time, in my extreme youth, that I refused to eat a vegetable (green beans?) at dinner, citing its green color and pointing out that green is also the color OF ALLIGATORS.  I cannot recall if this objection was because alligators are vicious, frightening beasts, and thus the green vegetable had sympathetic magic, or because I had two tiny, much-beloved, bright-green plastic toy alligators, and thus eating the green vegetable would be cannibalistic.  In any case, No Green.

Eventually I grew up and one day, out of the blue, began eating green vegetables.  (Really–it was that sudden.  I remember looking into the refrigerator and thinking “I think I’ll have a salad for lunch,” and then recoiling in shock).  These days I eat and enjoy almost every vegetable I come across–I even have a secret pride in the fact that I love vegetables.  There is, however, one major exception.

Cooked spinach, as I may have mentioned here previously, is one of my last culinary hurdles.   It’s not that I can’t cook it, it’s that I don’t want to.  Raw spinach I love–the chewy texture and slippery way it behaves make a wonderful contrast to romaine in a salad, much like butter lettuce, but with more body.  The mild, raw, vegetal flavor is something that I actually occasionally crave. 

Cooked, though, spinach changes completely.  What was chewy becomes slimey and what was fresh-tasting becomes metallic.  Large quantities of cooked spinach actually make me gag. 

This is very frustrating, since I WANT to like cooked spinach (see previous note about my bizarre pride at loving vegetables).  Also, Teacherman adores cooked spinach.  One of the very first things he ever cooked for me was a family specialty called Priznel, a kind of spinach quiche, made from spinach (a LOT of spinach), eggs, butter, cottage cheese and hard cheese, with a little wheat germ on top, for textural contrast.  He was very proud to serve me a family favorite, just as I had been when I served him my favorite family recipe (poulet basquaise, naturally).  I managed to choke down a serving, but then “generously” insisted that he take the leftovers home with him.  That was the day that I determined that my aversion to cooked spinach Must Be Overcome.

I’ve had varied success.  Cooked spinach with Japanese flavors (which I’d never contemplated)=good.  Cooked spinach with Indian flavors (which, given its long tradition, would seem like a natural)=bad.  Cooked spinach in soups=iffy.  The key seems to be to make sure that the dish isn’t packed with cooked spinach (which, I’m sorry to say, Priznel is), and that there are further strong flavors to mask the metallic taste. 

The past weekend Teacherman and I took a trip out of town, and, as is our wont, packed up a cooler with enough food for every meal away from home.  I made and purchased various portable foods–stuffed eggs, whole fruit, pickles, dried sausages, etc.  While contemplating the second day’s breakfast, I glanced into the freezer and noticed the remnants of a bag of frozen cooked spinach left over from making a dip.  (Many dips seems to require cooked spinach purely for color–I don’t know why none of the other herbs and greens are up to snuff).  Obviously suffering from masochistic delusions, I decided that the perfect portable picnic breakfast would be miniature spinach fritattas, very much like Priznel. 

Mindful of my strong-flavors requirement, though, I did diverge sharply from Teacherman’s recipe.  No cottage cheese, no butter.  These things add almost too much richness and seem to intensify the metallic flavor I find so objectionable.  After reconnoitering the refrigerator, I turned up a little sharp cheddar (one couldn’t entirely banish cheese from the dish), and the one thing that I thought would save my tastebuds–prosciutto. 

I lined half a dozen muffin cups with foil liners, then draped a piece of prosciutto across the bottom and up the sides.  I distributed the (defrosted, drained, squeezed-dry and fluffed) spinach loosely among the cups, then ground on a little pepper.  Over the top went four beaten eggs, then a little grated cheddar.  I folded the dangling prosciutto flaps over the top of each cup, then baked them in a moderate oven until done. 

I was right about the prosciutto.   Given the mini-fritattas’ existence as a food to be eaten out of a cooler, I didn’t taste them until two days later, on a muggy Ohio morning at 8 am.  Nevertheless, they were fabulous.  The salty crispiness of the prosciutto cut through the richness of the cheese, the greater quantity of egg and lesser quantity of spinach was smooth and light instead of dense, and the cheese and the prosciutto combined to obscure any metallic taste from the spinach.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, without any misgivings; I would even make it again.  Teacherman liked it too, though I imagine he didn’t like it as much as he likes Priznel, which is understandable, and as it should be. 

I still worry about cooking spinach, and know that I can’t assume that I’ll automatically like it, but I’m happy to know that I have another acceptable recipe in my arsenal.  Teacherman, I’m sure, is happy as well.

Published in: on May 28, 2007 at 6:59 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] spinach. I’d tried to eat it innumerable times–I’ve mentioned my struggles here before–but no matter what I did, I still hated it. (Why, you ask, did I keep on trying to eat […]

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