In search of healthy and fun meals to feed my family, with an eye toward sustainable living.

Here you'll find recipes & ramblings about keeping my family fed with what's available in Alaska between local produce, a little bit of wild harvest, and the modern grocery store.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Popeye and Spinach

Spinach -- I love it!
But when I was a kid growing up in Germany, Spinach was about the least favorite vegetable you could put in front of us: Creamed spinach out of a can -YUCK!

No wonder they (whoever "they" are) made the cartoon-character Popeye get his energy from slurping up huge quantities of canned spinach -- why else would kids eat the stuff?!?

I only discovered fresh spinach salad as a young adult (when venturing into vegetarianism -- see more in my introductory post What shall we have for supper?). Hey, I discovered then that spinach is actually very tasty, and it certainly beat the Iceberg lettuce served in the university cafeteria.

Only much later did I learn to actually COOK with spinach, and have since learned to cook with many other tasty greens: beet greens, chard, collard greens, mustard greens, etc. Perhaps that's more of a Southern thing, but these greens ROCK! When I lived in the Appomattox, Virginia, my 80-year old landlady grew her own vegetables, and fried them all up in bacon grease -- there's nothing tastier to even the most ardent vegetable sceptic. In Appomattox is also where I learned what all you can do with zuccini -- because when summer squash ripens, you'll be eating it for breakfast, lunch and dinner...

For a wonderful tutorial on how to actually cook spinach (don't dare boil it, just saute it in a wee bit of olive oil or butter) go to Chef Doughty -- this blog is a great approach to thinking like a chef. She teaches how the "basic understanding of fundamental cooking techniques and food so you can spontaneously create your own dishes without relying on a recipe". I really like her product-based approach, rather than a recipe-driven approach: I got a bunch of spinach here, plus a chicken -- so what can I whip up for supper?

One of my new favorite ways to cook up spinach (and other greens) is one I've mentioned before under beets:

Eggs in a Nest
(adapted from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver)

1 onion, chopped
garlic, chopped (optional)
olive oil
several carrots, chopped fine, or grated
dried tomatoes (optional)
1 really large bunch of dark leafy greens (chard, beet greens, spinach, etc)
4 eggs

Saute onions & garlic in olive oil. Add carrots, tomatoes w/ a little water as needed. Cover with lid and let carrots get soft. Add the greens, cover until wilted. Make indentations w/ back of a spoon. Crack eggs and place into dents. Cover w/ lid, and poach for 3-5 minutes. Serve over rice or toast.

Flanks and Greens

(from Paul Prudhomme's Fork in the Road)
This makes a huge quantity -- I cut in half for my family of 4. This cajun dish is not exactly pretty, but surprisingly, it is one of my family's favorite -- I mean, even the kids eat their greens and ask for more!)

Cajun seasoning mix or spice rub (containing sweet paprika, salt, pepper, mustard, onion,garlic, thyme, ginger, cayenne)
1.5 pounds flank steak, scalloped (cut across grain, in strips)
2 c onions, chopped
12 c mixed greens, any that are not bitter (such as spinach, collards, mustard, chard, etc)
up to 6 c beef stock or combination of stock and water
5 T flour (browned -- I make big batch & keep in a jar) optional
6 c cooked rice (I use brown basmati)

1. Sprinke meat with seasoning mix.
2. Heat oil in pan (high), and brown the seasoned meat.
3. Add onions (and more seasoning if desired). Cook until well done, scraping bottom frequently.
4. Add about half of greens. Let them cook down (I cover with lid).
5. Add some stock, browned flour to thicken, if desired. (Ok to leave out the browned flour, but the dish will end up watery -- could also cheat and use other thickener like starch or gravy mix).
6. Add rest of greens, cover with lid, and monitor, stirring occasionally. Add more stock as needed -- this is a delicate balance -- it's supposed to cook down some.
7. Serve over rice.

To-Die-For Indian Spinach recipe
This is a side dish that I don't have an official recipe for --a simple & tasty side dish.

onions, cut in rings
salt, pepper
spinach - a lot

Over medium high heat, melt butter and saute the onion rings. Add spices and cook a wee little bit. Add spinach and cover pot with lid. Check often, turning over spinach until all is wilted. Serve immediately.

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