The recipe came to me in as roundabout a fashion as possible. An island neighbor Mitch Hutchison found it in a southeastern New England cookbook called “Je Me Souviens: La Cuisine de la Grandmere II.”
Mitch, who after years of experience following her husband, Philo’s, Army officer career is a champion at cocktail party do-aheads, gave it to another islander, Marcy Congdon ,who winters in North Carolina and who served it during cocktails when I visited there with Marcy and Bob in January. Marcy gave me the recipe admonishing me to credit Mitch, which I am happy to do.
Essentially, I traveled several hundred miles to acquire a recipe that I could have picked up after only a 20-minute walk from my back door.
This recipe will need a little time from you upfront, but it is designed to give you a fast and easy, hot hors d’oeuvre in a pinch. It calls for a couple of prepared products that are both easily converted to scratch if you prefer.
Let’s start with the spinach. The original recipe calls for two 10-ounce packages of frozen, cooked spinach. Measured out, it comes to 1½ cups of spinach, while one 10-ounce fresh bag comes out to 1 cup after it is chopped and steamed.
I think that 2 pounds of fresh spinach would do the trick, though it is practically impossible these days to buy anything as straightforward as an even 2 pounds of anything. Round it up or down to 2 pounds, erring on the side of more rather than less.
I steamed my raw spinach, drained it in a sieve, then chopped it fairly finely on a cutting board. If you are adept with the food processor, you could pulse the spinach to the proper consistency, but be wary of making a puree by accident.
The other commercial ingredient is good old Pepperidge Farm stuffing. I have to tell you that I gave up making my own stuffing after collecting too many baleful looks of disappointment because somehow the homemade stuffing never measured up to the packaged one. If you make your own from breadcrumbs for this recipe, just make sure you add some traditional stuffing seasoning such as thyme, marjoram and sage.
Make sure you chop the onion finely.
It takes a bit of time to form the spinach mixture into little balls to freeze, but after that is done, you are on easy street because you can stick them into a plastic bag or container to pull out when a tasty little relatively wholesome snack is required. Twenty minutes in an oven or even in a toaster oven, and you are all set to serve them.
I didn’t try it myself, but it occurred to me that you could press the spinach mixture into a half-inch-thick layer in a baking pan, freeze it, then turn it out and cut it into inch-and-a-half squares and freeze those, using the same heating method before serving. I think balls are prettier.
Yields five dozen spinach balls
2 packages frozen chopped spinach, or 2 pounds fresh spinach, picked, steamed, and chopped
2 cups prepared stuffing mix, or 2 cups homemade breadcrumbs
1 large onion chopped finely
3 beaten eggs
½ cup (one stick) butter, melted
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
Thaw or cook spinach and drain well. Mix all ingredients together in large bowl. Form mixture into balls about 1 inch in diameter and place on a cookie sheet to freeze. When the balls are frozen, knock them off the sheet and store in a plastic bag or container until you need them. Bake them directly from freezer on a baking pan in a 350 degree oven 20-25 minutes.
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