Cheesy Spinach Squares
The title of this recipe may not be particularly compelling, but these little squares are absolutely addictive. If you don’t believe me, just ask our birthday girl, Harlowe. This is her absolute FAVOURITE food, the food to rule all foods, the food to which no other food can possibly compare in her one year old mind, and since I will be whipping up a double or triple batch for her first birthday party this weekend, I figured that it was nigh time to share the recipe.
It was at a friend’s baby shower, about four years ago, when I first had a similar spinach square. The hostess announced with pride that her signature appetizer was about to come out of the oven, and half the people in the room started to froth with anticipation. Naturally, I was curious. And hungry. With pomp and a flourish, she lay a large tray of her cheesy spinach squares on the table and I was…underwhelmed. Spinach squares are not the most attractive looking appetizer, and there were A LOT of them; far more than the 20 or so of us could possibly be expected to eat. The best that I could think of to say was, “Those sure do look….green.”
Then I tasted one.
Let me tell you, this girl knew from spinach squares. I ate about half a dozen and would have gone back for more if dignity hadn’t prevailed. Our pack of party goers managed to polish off the entire tray before the last onesie was unwrapped.
Before I left, I cornered the hostess and tried to wheedle the recipe out of her. The original recipe had come from a magazine (Canadian Living? Today’s Parent? Even she couldn’t remember) but she had made these squares so many times that she was just going by rote. She did her best to share the knowledge, but all that I remembered when I left was, “You take frozen spinach and finely chopped onion and then you beat some eggs…you add flour and milk and then about a pound of cheese…bake it until it’s browned.”
Cheesy Spinach Squares
Makes appx 1 dozen *
- 3 eggs
- 1 small clove garlic (or 1/2 large clove)
- 1 tbsp dried dill
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1/4 cup flour
- 100 g old cheddar (appx 1 cup grated) **
- 50 g Asiago (appx 1/2 cup grated) **
- 1 package frozen chopped spinach
- 1/4 cup finely minced onion, optional
- salt, to taste
* I frequently double the recipe and instead of making a flatter square in a loaf pan, I make a fatter square in an 8×8 square baking pan. If you do this, increase your cooking time by about 10 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 350ºF. Generously butter about halfway up the sides of a loaf pan.
Crack your eggs into a medium to large mixing bowl. Use a garlic press or a grate to puree the garlic before adding it to the eggs along with the dried dill. Pour in the milk before whisking to combine.
Add the flour to the wet ingredients and whisk ONLY until the flour is mostly incorporated. It will still be a bit lumpy, but that’s totally fine.
Grate the cheese and add it to the bowl.
Squeeze as much water out of that spinach as you possibly can. Really wring it dry. Add the spinach to the cheese and egg mixture, and mix with a spoon (or, let’s be honest, a clean hand is far more efficient) until everything is well dispersed. Add a heavy pinch of salt (around 1/2 tsp should do you well) if you’re making this for adults. However, I don’t add any salt when I make this for the wee ones, and considering how much salt is in cheese I find that they are usually seasoned (lightly, but adequately) without needing much more.
Scrape the mixture into your buttered baking dish and smooth out the top.
And here is where you will see some inconsistency in the photos, because I stopped taking pictures of the batch in the loaf pan and continued on with my photos when I made a double batch a few days later. I wasn’t kidding when I said that I make these all the time.
Bake in the centre of your oven for approximately 30-35 minutes (longer if you double the batch), or until the top is golden, the edges are browned, and the mixture has pulled away from the sides. You don’t want to undercook the squares or they will be surprisingly difficult to unmould, buttered pan be damned.
Let the cheesy spinach squares cool completely in the pan before unmoulding (put a plate or flat chopping board on top of the pan and then quickly turn it over. If you don’t feel the mass fall out right away, give the base a few quick raps) and cutting it up into squares of whatever size you choose.
When I make these as an appetizer or cocktail nibble, I prefer to use a larger pan so that the squares are thinner and I can cut them up into bite sized little rectangles. Harlowe, on the other hand, likes a big, thick square that she can hold in her first and really sink her teeth into. Sometimes we compromise, but mostly she just wins.
Cheesy but still packed full of greens, this is the kind of cocktail food that I don’t feel guilty for eating, and it is just as perfect for small hands and hungry mouths. And hey, we play with the recipe all the time in terms of the type of cheese, or maybe adding some chopped fresh basil instead of the dill, and so on. Feel free to take this as your jumping off point and make it your own. I hope you love these squares as much as we do!