When I was 6 I used to carry a can of spinach around my back pocket, mimicking Popeye.
I would even borrow one of my grandpa's pipes, pretending to gobble spinach through it (sometimes even pretending to suck in the can itself along with the contents) and acting afterwards as if I had become super-strong, flexing my biceps and all.
Then I would set off for great adventures with Bruto, Olive Oyl, baby Swee’pea and stowaway Wimp (all impersonated by my sisters’ old dolls).
Ah, those were the good times...
The funny thing is that I hated canned spinach back then. I thought they were mushy and tasted gross.
I loved fresh ones though, and I would choose mom’s cheesy baked spinach over French fries any day of the week (and twice on Sunday).
My mother was always happy to whip it up for me time and again.
Because - aside from giving me Popeye's strength - spinach is a nutritional superstar, loaded with vitamins and minerals.
When a kid asks for spinach, there’s no way a mother would refuse him.
Mom’s cheesy baked spinach is an adaptation of Julia Child’s gratineed spinach with cheese. No cream, less butter and more spinach; a fabulous side dish I used to relish.
Over the years I adapted even more; made it paleo-friendly, gluten-free and a tad lighter.
Just as awesome.
Whenever I found myself with a bag of fresh spinach and not sure what to do with it, I always resort to this recipe. It.Never.Fails.
Cheesy Baked Spinach Print this recipe!
Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking
3 lbs / 1.4 kg fresh spinach
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder*
1 cup / 250 ml vegetable stock
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese (or Dubliner cheese)
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
Ground black pepper to taste
*arrowroot powder acts like cornstarch
Stem and wash well the spinach, but don’t dry them.
Place the spinach in your largest pot over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until just wilted, about 4 to 6 minutes.
Drain in a colander.
Immediately fill the pot with cold water and add the spinach to stop the cooking, then drain again.
With your hands squeeze the spinach to extract as much liquid as possible.
Coarsely chop the spinach and set aside.
Wipe out the pot and melt two tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat.
Add the spinach and cook for 2 minutes or so, until all of the moisture from the spinach has boiled off and the spinach begins to stick to the pan.
Lower the heat and add arrowroot powder and stir for 1 minute.
Add vegetable stock in three batches, stirring constantly and scraping up any stuck spinach. Add salt and pepper, stir in ½ of the cheese and turn off the heat.
Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C) and butter an 8x8 baking dish.
Pour the spinach into the baking dish and sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and pour it over on top.
Bake until heated through and slightly browned on the top, about 30 minutes.
One serving yields 153 calories, 15 grams of fat, 5 grams of carbs and 7 grams of protein.