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~ The "I Can't Believe I'm Posting This Recipe" Post: Spinach & Feta Cheese Balls w/Lemon-Mint Mayo ~

PICT0002This easy-to-make, easy-to-love, unpretentious little recipe has been in my recipe file since the 1980's.  This is not the type of recipe that I seek out, nor is it typical of the way I cook or entertain, but, because I have served it alongside some of my fanciest hors d'oeuves at some of my swankiest cocktail parties, it has earned its right to a blog post!

PICT0009The first time I ever ate a spinach ball was at a Christmas party given by a couple that were in our tailgate group at the time:  Stan and Carole.  Everybody was asked to bring something and an elderly woman named Lucille brought spinach balls.  I remember that she had the pretty green balls arranged around the inside perimeter of a round silver tray with a bowl of red cocktail sauce in the center.  She garnished the base of the tray with a silver bow, and, her presentation looked like a festive green, red and silver Christmas wreath.  I, of course, tried one, and found these two-bite delights charmingly delicious.  What I noticed next, prompted me to ask for the recipe:  the men at the party were eating them as fast as they were being served.  When she mailed me the recipe,  I was stunned to find out it was a simple concoction of frozen spinach, parmesan cheese and prepackaged stuffing mix!

PICT0007Over the years, I haven't changed Lucille's recipe very much.  Once I decided that I liked feta the best, it didn't take me long to develop a easy-to-make, lemon-mint mayo to serve with them, which, kind of turns them into Greek treats.  As it turns out, I am hosting a baby shower for my friend Jeanne's daughter-in-law this coming Saturday.  Lisa is having a baby girl (which is doubly fun because it is no secret that pink is my favorite color), and, because the entire Cocolin clan is Greek, spinach balls are going to be served on my hors d'oeuvre table!

You'll want to make the lemon-mint mayonnaise and refrigerate it for several hours or overnight prior to making and baking the spinach balls, so I'll show you how to make that first.  You can make as much or as little as you want or need.  This recipe makes 1 cup:

6a0120a8551282970b014e611634bb970c-500wiFor the lemon-mint mayonnaise:

1  cup mayonnaise, preferably homemade, or the best available (read my post for ~ How to:  Make Homemade Mayonnaise ~, in Categories 8, 15 or 20)

1  large lemon, zested and juiced, or 2  tablespons of zest and 2 tablespoons of juice

1  ounce coarsely chopped, fresh mint leaves (no stems), about 1 lightly-packed cup

1 1/2  teaspoons Greek seasoning blend

1  teaspoon sugar

1/4  teaspoon each:  garlic powder, sea salt and white pepper (I use a generous 1/4 teaspoon of each)

6a0120a8551282970b014e61163b8d970c-320wi~ Step 1.  Prep and measure all ingredients, placing them in a medium mixing bowl as you work. Note:  Do not add more than 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.

6a0120a8551282970b014e61163ffa970c-120wi~ Step 2. Using a large spoon, combine ingredients. Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight, and up to 2 days prior to serving. 



For the spinach balls

4  10-ounce boxes frozen, chopped spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed free of liquid

8  ounces finely diced yellow or sweet onion

8  large, minced garlic cloves

8  ounces butter

4  cups herb-seasoned dry stuffing mix, the coarsely crushed kind, not the cubed kind

8  ounces finely-diced feta cheese

4  jumbo eggs, at room temperature

1  teaspoon  ground nutmeg

2  teaspoons sea salt

1  teaspoon ground red pepper, more or less, to taste

zest from two lemons, for garnish (optional)

sprigs of fresh mint, for garnish (optional)

PICT0006~ Step 1.  When the spinach has completely thawed, using your hands, squeeze as much liquid from it as possible.  Each package of spinach will be reduced to about a 2" ball.  This takes a bit of patience, but in the end, you should be able to rake through it with a fork, without it clumping up.  

~ Step 2.  Place spinach in a large mixing bowl, rake through it with a fork and set aside.

PICT0009 PICT0002                                    ~ Step 3.  In a 12" skillet, melt the butter.  Add the finely diced onion and garlic.  Saute, until onion is soft and translucent, about 3 minutes.  

~ Step 4.  Remove from heat and set aside, to cool about 10 minutes. This will prevent the mixture from melting the feta cheese.

PICT0019 PICT0015~ Step 5. Add the butter, onion and garlic mixture to the spinach and thoroughly combine.

PICT0026~ Step 6. Stir in the 4 cups of herb stuffing mix, then the feta cheese and thoroughly combine.

PICT0034 PICT0029~ Step 7. Whisk together the eggs, nutmeg, salt and pepper.

~ Step 8.  Add the egg mixture to the spinach mixture and thoroughly combine.  Cover with plastic wrap and set aside, for about 1 hour, to allow the stuffing mix to absorb all of the liquid and soften.

PICT0003~ Step 9.  Line a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan with parchment paper.

~ Step 10.  Using a 1 3/4" ice cream scoop as a measure, place firmly-packed scoops of spinach mixture, slightly apart on prepared pan.






~ Step 11.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 4-6 hours, or overnight, prior to baking as directed below, or:

Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for up to six months, prior to baking as directed below (do not thaw prior to baking):

025~ Step 12:  Bake spinach balls on center rack of preheated 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes (frozen spinach balls will take 5-10 minutes longer), or until firm and lightly browned.  Remove from oven, cool slightly, plate and serve warm, reheated or at room temperature. Garnish with optional lemon zest and serve with chilled Lemon-Mint Mayo for dipping:



The "I Can't Believe I'm Posting This Recipe" Post:  Spinach & Feta Cheese Balls:  Recipe yields 4 dozen spinach balls and 1 cup lemon-mint mayonnaise.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; fork; 12" skillet; whisk; plastic wrap; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; 3/4" ice cream scoop

6a0120a8551282970b016303314609970d-800wiCook's Note:  For another ~ The "I Can't Believe I'm Posting This Recipe Post:  Cocktail Pigs in a Blanket (Pillsbury Crescent Dogs) ~, just click into Categories 1, 2 or 20!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)


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