In winter in many parts of the U.S., we need comfort. Heavy snow can immobilize us. Biting winds cut at us. Long, gray days and long, dark nights can dampen our energy. We bind ourselves with thick coats and the trappings of hats, gloves, and scarves. Colds and flus make us sick and weak. That’s why winter calls for comfort food.
Ask 100 people their “comfort food,” and you’ll get a host of different answers: hot soup, chili, meatloaf, mac and cheese, homemade bread, and even things like sugar cookies and potato chips. Most of them aren’t vegetable-oriented. You don’t hear a lot of people say their favorite “comfort food” is steamed broccoli, carrot sticks and dip, cucumber slices, or a big salad.
The standard for most comfort food is warmth. So I think a good spinach casserole can be fairly healthy, yet give you the melted cheese, butter and eggs you need.
Comfort Spinach Casserole
- 1/3 cup finely diced onion
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cups ricotta cheese
- 2 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
- 1/2 cup shredded fontina cheese
- 3 beaten eggs
- 1/4 cup butter, softened
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat olive oil in skillet, then add onion and sauté about 5 minutes, till soft. Press thawed and drained spinach in a clean towel or paper towels, eliminating almost all moisture. In a large bowl, combine ricotta cheese, spinach, fontina cheese, eggs, butter, flour and pepper. Add sautéed onion and transfer to a greased 1.5 quart casserole.
Bake, uncovered in a 350 oven for 45 minutes. Check center for doneness. It should spring back; a food thermometer (or meat thermometer) inserted in the center should read 165 degrees. Cook for an additional 5-10 minutes if necessary. Sprinkle parmesan cheese over the top and serve warm. Approximately 6-8 servings.
Now a confession. I love savory food the most, and when people ask what my favorite dish is, I can only reply “side dishes.” Thus this blog. I enjoy creative ways to transform common side dishes, especially vegetables. But my favorite comfort food is none other than doughnuts. In a pinch, a Pop-Tart will do.