Ay ay Popeye! – Pan-cooked Spinach with Garlic and Olive Oil

If you click on the George Mateljan Foundation’s The World’s Healthiest Foods website  (www.whfoods.org) … you can learn a lot.  There is quite a craze in raw foods at the moment, probably all justified too, but I distinctly remembered reading, when I was pregnant, that it was a good idea to avoid spinach because of its oxalic acid content, especially raw spinach.  So that’s how I found this site, googling on the inadvisability of raw spinach. So, bottom line would appear to be : baby spinach leaves okay raw in salad, grown up spinach leaves need 1 minute cooking.  And yes, spinach is very very good for you.

What I found fascinating was all the background on spinach which I am quoting from the website:

Quote: Spinach is thought to have originated in ancient Persia (Iran).  Spinach made its way to China in the 7th century when the king of Nepal sent it as a gift to this country. Spinach has a much more recent history in Europe than many other vegetables. It was only brought to that continent in the 11th century, when the Moors introduced it into Spain. In fact, for a while, spinach was known as “the Spanish vegetable” in England.

Spinach was the favorite vegetable of Catherine de Medici, a historical figure in the 16th century. When she left her home of Florence, Italy, to marry the king of France, she brought along her own cooks, who could prepare spinach the ways that she especially liked. Since this time, dishes prepared on a bed of spinach are referred to as “a la Florentine.” Unquote.

The kind of spinach I buy takes time to wash properly but is worth the effort.  I do indeed buy frozen spinach as well but when I do, I am limited in some ways on what I can cook with it whereas fresh spinach is … well … fresh!  The consistency is so much better too … it’s almost crunchy.

Since fresh spinach takes so much time to clean, however, I reckoned I had to find a quick way of cooking it as compensation.  So here is a cheat’s way to a very sastisfying spinach side dish (contorno).

There, on the right, is my nice new casserole of which I am so proud … but it’s very big, see? And remember what I have been saying about covering the entire surface of the bottom of any pan with olive oil as a rule of thumb?  Well, in this case, I would need a huge amount of oil … which isn’t really necessary.  So what to do?

Genius!  You get a small saucepan and sauté the garlic in oil in the small saucepan and than transfer it to the large casserole.

Here are three cloves of garlic, cut up, sautéing away in the small saucepan … only for a few minutes, do not allow to brown, just turn golden …

and then transfer the oil and the garlic into the large casserole.  Genius!

Although this is a very big casserole (did I mention that before?), it still would not be able to contain all that fresh spinach in one go.  So I put it in a little at a time, waited for it to wilt before adding some more.

As the spinach cooks, it releases its liquid …

and loses its volume.  All that spinach in the beginning cooks down to this!

I used a big slotted spoon to remove the spinach and a wooden fork to press down on it, so as to remove as much of the liquid as possible before transfering it to a serving dish.

See how spinach liquid and oil gets left behind?  Lots.  And bear in mind that we are talking about a large casserole here (did I mention it is 30cm in diameter?).

And here it is … cooked, salted and peppered, and glistening with olive oil with a hint of garlic, and tempting the conscience as well as the palate with its promise of goodness.

Ay ay Popeye!

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About myhomefoodthatsamore

Community celebration via food, wine and all beautiful things.
This entry was posted in Basic Techniques, Contorni and/or side dishes and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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