Sunday, May 16, 2010

Spinach on the Side

As I child, we only ate spinach at major holidays and always as a soufflé.  It was glamorous but sadly too rich for my young tummy.  Happily, my great Aunt Emma took pity upon me and quietly scooped my serving over to her plate when my parents weren’t looking, less a tiny teaspoon sampled under duress.  It was many years before I heard about this thing called fresh spinach. 

These days spinach is served up at almost every meal around here.  Wedges of spanikopa pie make a quick breakfast on the run or lunch with a salad.  A serving of freshly steamed spinach with a teaspoon of mayonnaise and a pinch of tarragon makes a nutritious nest for a poached egg.  And creamed spinach and spinach soufflé are now welcomed at dinnertime and holidays, especially if I’m enjoying a steak house dinner. 

In warmer weather, a steak needs a lighter side than traditional creamed spinach.  Thanks to the lessons of Italian cooks, simple steamed or sautéed spinach with garlic and olive oil is the most common way many of us eat spinach these days. Recently I had some leftover roasted tomatoes and created this variation that is a winner with outdoor celebrations featuring grilled meats and fish.  It tastes good hot or at room temperature allowing you to prepare it in advance.  Drizzle on a little extra virgin olive oil  when serving to amp up the greens.

Spinach and Grape Tomatoes
Serves 4

1 cup grape tomatoes (or cherry tomatoes)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, smashed and peeled
2 pounds fresh spinach (or 4 8-oz bags fresh)

  • Preheat oven to 450˚F. 
  • Wash tomatoes and toss with olive oil and garlic. Place in a small roasting pan and roast until tomatoes are cooked through but still hold there shape, about 12-15 minutes.  Set tomatoes aside. 
  • If you are using fully matured spinach rather than baby spinach, remove stems before steaming. To pull woody stems from tender mature spinach leaves, grasp a leaf folded lengthwise in one hand and rip stem away with the other.  
  • Steam spinach in a covered skillet in 1-2 tablespoons water.  Stop cooking as soon as spinach wilts.  
  • Drain and toss with roasted tomatoes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.