We recently celebrated several of the August and September birthdays with Shawn's side of the family. Shawn and I made his incredible and humongous (1/4 pounders) homemade meatballs with a homemade sauce that simmers all day long. I'll share the recipes in another post because it's another favorite. Anyway, I wanted a green side dish or appetizer besides a salad and remembered as a child my Mom making Squash Florentine for some of her dinner parties. It is an elegant dish of yellow squash hollowed out and then filled with a creamy spinach mixture, and topped with a crunchy and oh so buttery, cracker topping. The first time Shawn's Mom, Dad and his Grandmother came to dinner my Mom helped me make Squash Florentine for them. It was my first time to have dinner guests (that I really wanted to impress anyway)! Over the years I've made it off and on but somewhere along the line I began making it sans squash because my kids usually just ate the filling. Well, I thought I'd make that as a side dish with the Spaghetti & Meatballs (meat-a-ball-a as we say!), but I couldn't find the recipe so I winged it and made a dip relying on using some of what I knew went into the original dish. I thought I'd make a roux and go from there. It turned out wonderfully. Everyone loved it so much that I made it again a few nights ago, to which it again received rave reviews. We had perfectly grilled filet mignon with it the second time around and I think the Spinach got more oohs and aahs from the kids than did the steak. That is an accomplishment in this house!
Most of the measurements are approximate so you can adjust to your own taste. Here's how I made it and I'm sorry in advance for the bad lighting in the photos but fortunately that doesn't make a difference on the taste!
Nancy's Creamy Florentine Spinach Dip
2 boxes / packages appx. 10 oz frozen chopped spinach
cooked according to package directions, squeeze out liquid and set aside
4 hard boiled eggs, diced and set aside
6 Tblsp butter
3 Tblsp chopped dried onion
1/2-3/4 cup flour
4 oz softened cream cheese
3/4 -1 cup milk t
3/4-1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 - 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
Mix together and set aside
1 roll Ritz crackers crushed or pulverized in food processor
4 Tblsp softened butter
A big handful or two (I'm guessing about 1 - 1/2) cups shredded cheddar or cheddar-jack cheese (the cheesier the better, IMHO).
Saute the onion in the butter over medium heat until the onions have softened up.
Sprinkle the flour over the butter a little at a time as if making a roux and you'll have what resembles dough.
Your mixture will resemble mashed potatoes. Now stir in the nutmeg, salt and pepper
And then the spinach...
and lastly, the the hard boiled eggs.
Spread the spinach mixture in a greased casserole (I used a glass one that was about 9 x 11 but you could use a little bigger or smaller if you wanted) Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes until it is thoroughly heated.
While the spinach is baking combine the crushed crackers and softened butter with a fork, like you would flour and butter making a pie crust dough.Once the butter is blended in, toss in the shredded cheese and stir it with the fork so it looks kinda like this.
Sprinkle the topping over the baked Spinach dip and return to the over for 10 or so minutes until it's golden brown on top. The second time I made this I thought I'd browned the topping too much...it was a little past golden, but everyone seemed to like it better as it was extra crunchy...so just brown as much as you think you'd like it. The crunchy part is SO good!
Serve with crackers or simply as a side dish. No one will complain either way! And there you have it.