Alex Thomsen is as big a spinach freak as a certain well-known cartoon character, but the difference is "you can't tell by my muscles," says the Newport Beach resident.
Although certainly athletic (he finished "just barely" in the top 25% of those who completed the recent L.A. Marathon), the more wiry Thomsen loves the leafy vegetable for what it adds to his kitchen fare. "I also love praline-pecan ice cream, so we're not talking about a health freak here," he says.
Thomsen, a manufacturing representative for sporting goods products, is one of those rare married men who does almost all of the cooking when he's not flitting around the world on business. And his business demands frequent trips to Europe (he acts as a consultant to American fashion concerns interested in breaking into the overseas market).
"I cook because I enjoy it, but also because it takes a lot of the pressure off of my wife, whose own schedule is necessarily a little erratic. And, I basically work out of our home, so it's also more convenient." His wife, Theresa, is a therapist in South Coast Medical Center's Recovery Program for drug- and alcohol-addicted patients. And she has a private practice, specializing in adolescent and family therapy.
She is also expecting their first child in November, and she assumes "everybody's schedule will change around here."
Thomsen's involvement in cooking didn't start, he says, until he entered the University of Colorado and discovered that "my mother was a lot better cook than I ever gave her credit for."
"It began as simple necessity," he says, "but I found that I really enjoyed it . . . and that what I did at home was a lot cheaper and better tasting than what I could get outside."
The focus on spinach in many of his dishes is "just a matter of preference, but I can't imagine anyone not liking it."
He shared two recipes with Guys & Galleys, one a chicken Florentine that's "the perfect dish for company because it looks great, tastes great--and you can do the preparation ahead of time and have time with your guests."
You can almost wait until the guests are seated at the table to finish the dish by placing it under the broiler for a few minutes to heat and become bubbly brown.
The second dish is eggs Florentine, which Thomsen likes to make for brunch, "or for what back East we would call 'Sunday supper,' " he says.
It is a combination of eggs, Italian sausage and spinach, with some mushrooms and Cajun spice thrown in. "It's an easy dish to prepare and looks great too," he says. "If there is a secret in the preparation, it's to cover the mixture while it cooks; it's the steam that cooks and releases the flavor of the spinach."
THOMPSON'S SPINACH DELIGHTS
Eggs Florentine Ingredients
1 pound Italian sausage
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bunch fresh spinach, washed and coarsely chopped
1/4 pound fresh mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning Preparation
Precook sausage, either in microwave oven or in oven. Remove from casing and coarsely chop.Melt butter in frying pan and add olive oil. Beat eggs and add to oil-butter mixture over medium heat. Add remaining ingredients, cover and cook until done, stirring occasionally. Serves 8.
Pollo Olla Florentine Ingredients
4 whole chicken breasts, skinned, boned and halved
8 ounces butter
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 pound fresh spinach, chopped and well-drained
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups cream
12 slices mozzarella cheese
8 slices lean prosciutto
4 ounces grated Parmesan cheese Preparation
Saute chicken breasts in half of the butter. Add wine, bay leaves and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook on medium about 15 minutes, until done. Remove chicken and cook spinach in remaining liquid. Melt remaining butter in separate pan, add flour and mix until thick. Add cream, half the mozzarella and a dash of nutmeg. Cook gently about 4 minutes. Cover bottom of greased backing dish with spinach. Wrap each chicken breast with a slice of mozzarella and then slice of ham. Place on top of spinach. Pour over the sauce, sprinkle with Parmesan and place under broiler until hot and bubbly. Serves 8.