Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Spinach: The Ultimate Comfort Food

Don't believe me? Obviously, you've never tried Smitten Kitchen's Baked Spinach. Whenever I make it, I eat the entire dish by myself. In one sitting. Say it with me: Yummmmmm! Spinach!

I was craving it the other day, but I was seriously lacking in energy and didn't want to turn the oven on. So I meditated on my sister's spinach.

My family never ate spinach growing up, so I find it funny that it was the first vegetable both my sister and I discovered after moving out. Her boyfriend tosses it in a skillet with Way Too Much garlic. It turns into a spinach dish for people who don't like spinach but do like garlic.

But I like spinach. I wanted a more mild treatment that would make it into a savory dish yet not overpower the flavor of the spinach. I hit upon the brilliant idea of wilting it with half a caramelized onion! I thought this was pure genius and likely to change the world, but then I googled it and found out that everybody and Paula Deen has done it already.

In case you haven't discovered spinach yet, though, I have to share. I don't know if it really counts as a frugal food, but at my favorite grocery store, you can usually find a pound for between 88 cents and $1.29. Not too shabby—especially when you consider its nutritional value.

I'll be honest. I used one bunch of spinach and ate the entire thing myself; I think, though, for the average spinach eating family, it would make three side-servings.

Spinach and Onions
  • 1 bunch of spinach per 3 people
  • 1/2 a sweet onion per bunch of spinach
  • 1 Tbsp of butter—I use salted
  1. Melt the butter in the largest skillet you have. Cut your onion into rings and saute it in the skillet over medium heat. If you're impatient like me and always turn the heat up to high when it's medium. . .don't! A slow cooking does beautiful things for an onion, letting it sweeten and mellow. On high heat, it will scorch before it has the chance to caramelize.
  2. So your not tempted to rush the onion, give your attention to the spinach. You'll want to wash and stem it. Fill your sink with cool water and swish the spinach through it. One by one, take out the spinach leaves, fold them in half along the stem, and pull the stem down and out—kind of how you pull the strings from a bean or peapod. Set the rinsed and stemmed leaves in a colander to drain.
  3. Keep an eye on the onion, though, and only scorch it a little.
  4. Once your spinach is stemmed, pile it onto the skillet. It's okay if there are still water droplets clinging to it. If you have a lot, you can add it in batches as it wilts down. Once it has wilted enough so that you can stir it easily without throwing it out of the skillet, turn the heat up to high, stirring frequently.
  5. Cook until it has reached your desired wiltedness. Baby spinach can cook in as little as three minutes; old, tough leaves might take up to seven.

You may notice in my picture that I forgot to stem my spinach. Do as I say, not as I do. . .Unless, that is, you actually like eating chewy, stringy, green spaghetti.

What's your favorite way to prepare spinach?