AICR Test Kitchen: Spinach cakes

By: From the American Institute for Cancer Research
Popeye, the classic cartoon character, had it right. Spinach is packed with nutrients. And, serving it in little cakes not only makes for an elegant and appealing presentation, but it allows you to concentrate a lot of flavor in a great side dish or appetizer.

The dark green leafy vegetable is native to Southeast Asia and has been used for centuries. By the eighth century AD, it had reached Europe and eventually made it to the Americas. It is plentiful year round in most markets and can be found fresh, canned and frozen.

When buying spinach be aware that stage of harvesting can make a difference in how it is prepared. Baby spinach is harvested earlier and tends to be more tender than large leaf, mature spinach. When using mature spinach, make sure you remove any tough stems.

Cheese is the perfect companion to spinach. It adds another flavor and a nice creamy texture. The eggs help bind the cakes together. Note, though, that you should let them set for a few minutes after baking to ensure that they don’t break apart when removing them from the baking pan.

These spinach cakes offer perfect portion control. You can serve them as a tasty appetizer, along with cucumber slices and celery sticks topped with hummus. They also work well as a delectable side dish paired with a serving of wild or brown rice and a nice Asian-style stir fry main dish. Or, they also go well with roasted chicken.

Either way you will be adding a nutritious, flavorful and colorful dish to your menu.

Cheesy Spinach Cakes

12 oz. fresh baby spinach

½ cup part-skim ricotta cheese

¼ cup shredded Romano

3 large eggs

2 cloves garlic, minced

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Canola oil cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Use food processor and pulse spinach until finely chopped, but don’t overdo. Place spinach in bowl. Add cheeses, eggs, garlic and pepper. Stir to combine well.

Coat 8 “cups” of a muffin pan (½ cup size)* with spray. Spoon in spinach mixture. Bake 20 to 22 minutes. Remove pan from oven and let stand 6 or 7 minutes to allow spinach cakes to firm up. Loosen sides with knife and gently lift out.

Sprinkle a bit of additional Romano on top (optional) and serve warm as a great appetizer or side dish.

*For bite-sized spinach cakes use a 24 “mini-muffin” pan and bake 12-14 minutes

Makes 8 spinach cakes: 8 appetizers or 4 side dish servings

Per serving (appetizer size): 80 calories, 4g total fat (2g saturated fat), 5g carbohydrate, 7g protein, 2g dietary fiber, 180mg sodium.

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