Alex Blaze

You want to eat spinach? I'll make you eat spinach

Filed By Alex Blaze | September 26, 2010 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: cooking, pasta, recipe, spinach

The other day I was on the phone with Bilerico contributor Yasmin Nair, and she asked what Alberto and I had for dinner. spinach.jpgWe take cooking seriously, so I told her was a "train-wreck." We made our favorite spinach recipe, the only one I like that puts the greens center stage without making them perform a soliloquy, the one that's after the jump, and it didn't go well. The tomatoes we used were flavorless, the pasta was overcooked, and we were out of dill and used tarragon instead (I learned the hard way that tarragon is not a good dill substitute).

I could hear Yasmin rolling her eyes.

But we do take cooking seriously. Two months ago I made my mushroom risotto for the crew working on one of Alberto's plays (I get so much mileage out of that recipe), and everyone was all "Great!" "Wonderful!" "Perfect!" I knew that I had over-seasoned with black pepper, and, to my delight, Alberto said, "Well, you really have to like black pepper to eat this!" He was staying sharp, and I need him to because he's my team. I don't want him getting sloppy.

But I digress. This post is about spinach, a vegetable that lots of us have poor memories of as children, and I think that's mostly because people don't know what to do with it. Every time we have a bag I scour the internet for spinach recipes and other than salads, cooking it and serving it pretty much alone, or making it a component of a dish that focuses on other ingredients, there isn't much. So we make our incredibly simple spinach spaghetti every time, although we usually don't make so many mistakes. The recipe is after the jump.

What you'll need

  1. About two pounds of spinach leaves. We use fresh spinach but frozen spinach isn't that bad. If you're using frozen, a 12-ounce bag should be enough.
  2. Fresh dill. When we were in Greece we had spanakopita that was made with dill in it, and found that it was a great flavor to pair with spinach. Use fresh because I've bought dried and bottled dill and it has no flavor. The interaction between spinach and dill is the main attraction here, so look for fresh dill.
  3. 3 or 4 tomatoes. The common red round ones are best.
  4. 4 cloves of garlic.
  5. Olive oil, salt, and pepper. To taste.
  6. A one-pound box of spaghetti.

What you'll do

  1. If you're using fresh spinach, wash the leaves and throw away large stems and wilted parts. If you're using frozen, open the bag.
  2. Put the leaves in a large pot with some water and put it on high heat. Cover it.
  3. Check on it when you hear the water boiling. It's done when it's all shrunken.
  4. Drain the spinach in a colander. Don't just drain it, squeeze it with a wooden spoon. It's time to get dry. Mix it around and press it some more against the colander. Get all that water out.
  5. Now you can put on a pot of salted water for the pasta.
  6. Wash and peel the tomatoes, and dice into small pieces.
  7. Peel and crush, press, mince, or grind the garlic. Do something to it, but make it into small pieces.
  8. Cut two or three sprigs of dill into small pieces. I have a little coffee grinder that we don't use for coffee that I just put the peeled garlic and dill in together.
  9. Heat up some olive oil in a pan.
  10. Saute the dill and garlic for about a minute, then throw in the peeled and diced tomatoes.
  11. Let it cook and boil down. Let the tomatoes reduce. Have you checked your water? Is it time to put the pasta in? What about the spinach - want to press them a little more?
  12. When the tomatoes have released most of their water, put the spinach in. Poke it with a spoon to make it open and mix it with the tomato mixture.
  13. Put in some pepper. Add salt. Here's the problem I had with spinach before I started making it myself: it was never adequately seasoned. It needs quite a bit of salt before the flavors come out. So go for the glory or go home, this spinach needs some salt. But don't go crazy; salt, then taste, salt, then taste.
  14. If you timed it right, the spinach mixture will be ready before the pasta is done. You don't want to overcook the pasta (it's done when it's still firm but you can chew through it without breaking a tooth - the texture of spaghetti al dente with the soft spinach coated in olive oil is what makes this dish more than a good flavor combination), and you don't want it to be sitting in the sink waiting for the spinach, getting all stuck together. But when both components are done, mix them together.
  15. Taste and check the salt level and maybe add some more olive oil here.

That should make you want to support the spinach industry more often. If you have a good spinach recipe, feel free to leave it in the comments, as I'm always looking.

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sophie bedillion | September 26, 2010 12:46 PM

I made up a curry dish using spinach,cashews, yellow curry paste,asparagus,coconut milk and squash.

You turn down my LGBT related articles and videos to post this?

Oh, the benefits of being a regular contributor and the managing editor. You get to post what you'd like. Imagine that.

Hey - I did not roll my eyes. Well, okay, actually I told you you were fretting too much, or something to that effect. :-)

But, seriously, thanks for sharing - and you're right about dried dill. Even grass has more flavour than that stuff.

The only thing that would really improve this recipe is a slight change in step 4, where I think you want us to drain the spinach, yes?

My favourite spinach dish is probably Palak Paneer (Ground Spinach with Simple Cheese/Indian cheese - literally just made by curdling milk). I've never actually made it myself, but order it whenever I can - I think it's a bit complicated. Okay, I should probably make it first and then post a recipe before I denounce it as complicated...

Yasmin, here is a Palak Paneer recipe. It looks fairly uncomplicated, especially since you can get paneer in the supermarket.

I like Saag Aloo, which is similar to Palak Paneer but uses potatoes instead of cheese.

I also use blanched spinach leaves in a variant of lasagna, replacing the pasta with spinach, similar to how aubergine is used in a Greek moussaka. I tend to be fairly generous with the nutmeg in the bechamel.

It's also nice cooked, drained (very thoroughly, like above) and mixed with butter, a little cooked rice and a generous amount of dill and salt, and used as a stuffing for trout.

Thanks, Tavdy - that does look simple, and I can use my pressure cooker (with which I have an ongoing and steamy love affair - everyone should have one of both).

And Saag Aloo - oh, yes, yum, that too.

Now I'm hungry...but I know what to get for groceries tomorrow.

I too like palak paneer, but I've only tried it at restaurants. That doesn't look all that hard although I'll have to hunt down some paneer. I don't think it'd be the same with camembert.

Ha, no, definitely not camembert (but yum, again).

Actually, I think the paneer is pretty easy - it's just a form of curdled milk, and you use lemon:

It's delicious fresh, and I *think* but am not sure that fresh mozarella might also work. I don't know if it would freeze well or not (you could make a batch and keep it for later, if it does).

I'll try Tavdy's recipe with both (not at the same time) and let you know how it goes.

OK, thanks to EVERYONE who emailed or commented on that mistake. Sorry!

I have heard recently that good spinach contains about two to three times the amount of protein as lettuce --- so when I can, I eat raw spinach on my sandwiches and in salads, reducing or replacing the lettuce.

If you ever visit Los Angeles, don't miss the creamed spinach at Lawry's Prime Rib on La Cienega. I don't know what is special in their recipe, but it's the best cooked spinach I've ever had.

Since I love pasta dishes, Alex, I'll try this recipe soon and let you know how it goes.

Thanks, AJ!

I like spinach in salads too, with a sweet dressing. It also has more iron than lettuce... actually iceberg lettuce is really low in nutrients generally and spinach tastes better anyway.

Bad childhood memories? Guess you didn't have Popeye.

Broccoli, on the other hand..... *throws holy water*

Hate your broccoli, Lucrese? ... Aw, what a pity! ... Find the best Chinese restaurant in your area, and go in and order the Chinese chicken and broccoli ... or the beef and broccoli ... I bet you'll like it!

I just made broccoli at lunch today - sliced thinly, sauteed with some oil and oyster sauce, served with two fried eggs. It's pretty good that way - all you have to do is completely kill the broccoli.

Jasmine rice. Quickly stir-fried spinach. Stir-fried chicken (unless you're veggie). Your favourite peanut sauce. Yum!

I love making spinach-onion fillings for omelets too.

couple comments:

--in step 4, i suspect you meant to say "drain the spinach", rather than "drain the pasta".

--here's a dish you might like...hickory smoke some duck (i like breast, others like drummies), and take that duck meat, chopped, and combine it with black olives and onion in a pan with honey.

on the side you have a bowl filled with lovely, washed, whole leaf spinach.

toss, toss, toss, in the pan, until all is ready, then simply dump the hot mixture into the spinach, invert it into another bowl, let it sit for a minute, and voilà!, you got yourself a delightful steamed spinach duck salad.

At my request, Bil, saint that he is, has fixed the typo in Alex's Step 4. May all your cooked spinach be drier than a shaken-off bloodhound.

John Rutledge | September 27, 2010 10:24 AM

Thank you, I will be trying that soon. We eat fresh spinach a lot. How about that Mushroom Risotto recipe? I have not made any Risotto before.
Take care, john.