Spinach balls: Love ’em or leave ’em…

Much like the Ghost of Christmas Past and fruitcakes that simply won’t die, there are some things that just keep coming back every holiday season.

Like holly.

And mistletoe.

And, er, spinach balls…

Yes, while some newspapers are famous for their heartwarming stories of holiday cheer or tales of bright-eyed Christmas tykes renewing their faith in Santa Claus, we’re best known for our spicy spinach balls.

Perhaps I should explain.

(Sure, why not?)

Trouble started nearly nine years ago when the newspaper’s perpetually perky food editor conducted a reader cooking contest, complete with a “Taste of the Season” cookbook, three truckloads of monogrammed coffee cups and some funny-looking spoons.

“What fun!” she trilled.

When the cloud of flour cleared and the last remnants of gravy were washed from our walls, we had a cookbook and in that cookbook we had a recipe for spinach ball hors d’oeuvres courtesy of Rosemary Ingram of Fairfield. And therein lies our recurring holiday dilemma.

Long after the cookbook was nothing more than yellowed newsprint, the community’s hunger for Rosemary’s spinach balls continued.

Every few months, we’d get a frantic call from a local cook who absolutely had to have the spinach balls recipe no later than yesterday:

“I’ve got 200 people coming for dinner and I left the recipe for spinach balls in Hayfork with Uncle Rudy and he’s, like, dead…”

So we reprinted copies of the recipe and we mailed out copies of the recipe and we faxed copies of the recipe and we even included the recipe in some rather obscure newspaper gift packages. And the calls continued to come in.

Finally, in 1995, we said no more.

“This is your last chance,” we sternly warned.

And our readers responded like they always do. They ignored us.

The calls slacked off for a year or two, but last week another frantic cook was on the phone following the elusive siren song of spinach balls.

I suppose I could have hung up, or told the caller “That recipe is no longer available. Have you considered courgettes a la mentonnaise?”

But no, I gave in and agreed to reprint the spinach balls recipe one last time.

This is really, really it. amigos. The last time. The very last time. Get it now or forever suffer in silence while you nibble on Vienna sausages and clam dip.

Spinach Balls

3 10-oz. packages of frozen, chopped spinach

3 cups herb seasoned stuffing mix

1 large onion, finely chopped

6 eggs, well beaten

3/4 cup margarine

1/2 cup grated parmasean cheese

3 tablespoons black pepper*

1 1/2 tablespoons garlic salt

1/2 teaspoon of thyme

Cook spinach, then drain and squeeze as dry as possible.

Combine all ingredients, mix and shape into small balls.

Bake on lightly greased cookie sheet at 325 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.

* You may want to halve the amount of black pepper.

Makes about 90 to 110 balls.

That’s it. The last time. Really. And no whining about the pepper, either. It’s good for you…

Originally published December 3, 2000