I promise no one will have to convince you to eat your spinach after this! If you don't own Anya von Bremzen's definitive book on Spanish cooking called The New Spanish Table, then do yourselves a favor and hit your local book supplier and grab a copy. I have been using it regularly whenever I need a hit of Spanish warmth on my dinner table...which is quite often this winter...and have yet to be disappointed. Easy to follow recipes that aren't just ersatz copies of Spanish dishes, but are the real thing with the proper ingredients, serving suggestions, and depth of flavor that makes this food so freakishly satisfying. Each time I make something it's like a mini vacation in my mouth!
The next two things I'll be posting about were suggested to be served together, and like all von Bremzen's suggestions were spot on. If you have anyone in your house who recoils at the mere suggestion of eating spinach then you need to spring this plate on them. The spinach maintained this brilliantly vibrant green color and slightly crunchy texture, and the addition of golden raisins, garlic, and pine nuts that taken together proves why this is a classic Catalan creation. It was perfect with our Catalan Braised Pork Shoulder with dried fruit (next post, I promise!) She also suggests serving it on morning toast with poached eggs which sounds like a too fabulous breakfast. Plus you can also sub chard or escarole should hell freeze over and there's a spinach shortage at the market.
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Spinach with Raisins and Pine Nuts
Espinacs a la Catalana
from The New Spanish Table
serves 3 to 4 as a side dish (although w and I ate all of it between us, so you might want to bump up the ingredients!- bb)
5 to 6 tablespoons golden or dark raisins
2 packages (each 10 ounces) fresh spinach or 2 medium-size bunches fresh spinach, tough stems discarded
3 to 4 tablespoons fragrant extra-virgin olive oil
6 to 8 whole small peeled garlic cloves, lightly smashed
5 tablespoons pine nuts
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper
1. Place the raisins in a small bowl, add very hot water to cover, and soak until plump, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain well and pat dry with paper towels, then set aside.
2. Rinse but do not drain the spinach. Place the spinach in a large saucepan over medium heat and cover the pan. Cook the spinach until wilted, 4 to 5 minutes, stirring a few times. Transfer the spinach to a colander, and squeeze out the excess moisture by pressing on the spinach with the back of a spoon. Chop the spinach coarsely. (The spinach can be prepared a few hours ahead up to this point.)
3. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or wok over low heat. Add the garlic, pine nuts, and soaked raisins, and cook until the nuts and the garlic are light golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Increase the heat to medium, add the chopped spinach, and cook for about 1 minute, stirring to combine evenly. Season with salt and pepper to taste, transfer to a serving bowl, and serve.