In the interest of full disclosure, I was never much of a creamed spinach person. Growing up, my parents used to feed me these frozen boxed soups that were beyond challenging to open up and cream of spinach soup was one of those flavors. Sure, I had no problem eating the pea soup. In fact, I loved it, and I believe this was because pea soup never tried to be anything other than pea soup. Sure, there was a renegade carrot or two floating around in the soup, but for the most part, you got what you were expecting. Not so with the cream of spinach soup. In the mind of a 5 year old, anything touting the “cream” label should be lumped into the categories of ice cream and whipped cream. Cream of spinach soup did not fit the bill, and I had never forgiven it…until now.
After years of trust issues that no doubt resulted from the cream of spinach kerfuffle, I’ve been led back to the light. Using leftover creamy cauliflower sauce from Pinch of Yum, I’ve managed to get over my semi-unwarranted strife and make a hearty and all-around darn good creamless creamed spinach.
As with any recipe in the Robinson kitchen, I start with sauteing onions and garlic. (Unless you’re baking a cake or cookies, there had better be onions and garlic involved.) What I like about this dish the most is that there’s texture, chew, spice, and just soooo much more flavor than your standard cream sauce with sauteed spinach. See all those onions? See the hint of red pepper flakes? Yeah, that’s my kind of side dish.
When you start to chew the spinach, you still get that pleasant tender texture that comes with vegetables and greens that are cooked just enough. This is not your grandmother’s mush. (And to be clear, I mean no offense to any grandmothers who, over the years, may have produced said mush. Your families still love you.)
Another key to this is not to over-sauce. Less is more here. After all, this is a side dish, not the aforementioned cream of spinach soup that gave me trust issues during my adolescence. You really want to use just enough to bring it all together. The spinach should not be swimming, nor should the plate have puddles of sauce running into other food.
As an aside, I know there are certain people who really like mixing all their foods together on the same plate, but I was never one of those people. In fact, a former editor of mine felt the same way:
<Former editor, as a young boy, carefully separating all the food on his plate before getting ready to eat.>
Former editor’s mother: Why can’t you just put it all on your fork and eat it? All the food’s going to the same place anyway.
Former editor: Yes, it is, but that doesn’t mean it all has to take the same car to get there!
Case in point.
I feel I’ve personally passed the side-dish test when I can hold the food on the fork by itself. These are the things that make me proud. But in all seriousness (When am I ever serious?), this dish was a complete result of random kitchen leftovers, and that’s what makes me most proud: when I can throw together a decent meal using up good-old kitchen clean-out methods. It’s the little things in life, I swear.
Cauliflower is the secret to this creamless creamed spinach, which keeps all of its texture and chew. So much more flavor than using cream or milk, and you'll never have to eat mushy spinach again.
- 2 tsps extra virgin olive oil
- 10 oz. of fresh spinach (baby or regular)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 an onion, chopped
- 1 cup creamy cauliflower sauce
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt (or more, depending on taste)
- 1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
- 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- In a medium sauce pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat until it starts to shimmer. Add the onions and garlic. Stir to coat with the oil. Then add the fresh spinach, piling it high. It will look like it may not fit, but as the spinach begins to wilt down, using tongs, rotate the spinach so the uncooked leaves get moved to the bottom of the pan where the heat is. Continue to rotate and stir the spinach, onions, and garlic, until the spinach is wilted, but still tender, about 5 minutes.
- When the spinach is cooked and the onions and garlic are soft, add the creamy cauliflower sauce, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine. Check for seasoning, and serve immediately.