- ½ c. butter, divided
- 1 small leek
- 1–2 cloves garlic, crushed
- topping options: about 1 cup non-extruded grain cereal*, buckwheaties**, almond cracker crumbs or almond flour, or go without crunch and use 1 c. shredded mozzarella, broiled on top
- 1/4 tsp. salt (at least)
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
- 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning (find on Amazon or Mountain Rose Herbs in bulk)
- 1/2–3/4 lb. fresh baby spinach, chopped roughly (about 5–7 packed cups. A 10-oz. bag will do fine)
- ½–3/4 c. ricotta cheese, yogurt cheese, or cream cheese
- ¼ c. grated Parmesan cheese
- optional: shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese
- Wash the leek thoroughly and dice. For a milder flavor, just use about 4 inches of the white part, cut into half moons. Alternately, you can dice the entire thing, green top and all, and use it in the dish.
- Melt the butter over low heat in a Dutch oven or other oven-safe pot. Pour 3 Tbs. into a bowl for the topping. Saute the sliced/diced leeks in the remaining butter over medium heat about 5 minutes, until softened, then add the garlic for a minute. (Note: if using only cheese as the topping, don’t bother pulling the butter out. You can cut that 3 Tbs. out of the recipe entirely or leave it in the saute.)
- While the leeks are cooking, crush cereal or crackers and mix into the melted butter that you set aside with the Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. This is your topping for the side dish (unless you’re using cheese only, in which case incorporate the 3 seasonings when you add the ricotta cheese).
- Add all the spinach to the pot and stir around well, coating it in the butter (this is what all that butter is for!). Cover for one minute, then stir again. Cook for one more minute, then turn off the heat and leave the cover off.
- Stir in the ricotta/cream/yogurt cheese until fully incorporated into the spinach. Add the Parmesan cheese and additional salt and pepper to taste, if necessary.
- (Optional: sprinkle shredded cheese on top at this point.) Top with the buttery/crunchy mixture. Bake in a preheated 375F oven for 15-20 minutes. Serve warm, cooled slightly from coming directly out of the oven. (If you top with only cheese, you may want to turn the broiler on for a minute or two to really brown the cheese.)
If you don’t have a Dutch oven or oven-safe pot, use any large pan you have to cook the mixture then transfer to a greased 8×8 pan or similar proportions to bake (two small round casserole dishes or 4-6 individual ramekins work as well).
*I use Erewhon brown rice cereal (found on Amazon or your local health food store) for this recipe.
**How to make buckwheaties: Soak whole buckwheat groats in water at room temperature for 8 hours, rinse, soak again in fresh water for another 8 hours, then dehydrate until they pop in your mouth (6 hours on 125F should do it). Likely an hour or two at 200F in an oven would work as well, but I’ve never tried the oven method. If you do, watch them closely so they dry out without browning/burning.