21 February 2013

Spinach, Who Knew?

In my early days of cooking, Alice Waters’ triad of “fresh, local, & seasonal” was the answer to all my food questions. At the same time, there was an explosion of regional Italian cookery – even though this is certainly a platitude – French cooking is about the cook, Italian foods are about the ingredients, and I learned to love the ingredient. For most of my cooking life, these two forces have influenced my cooking decisions above all else. So I never really had any inclination to add cream (or butter or cheese) to veg – why neuter them with heavy sauces and long cooking times? Al dente or the highway, right?

Except food tends change and the pendulum has swung back to the other side. Ron Swanson, bacon, comfort foods and the centenary of Julia Child have helped usher in a neoclassical era to our kitchens. Take an item like meatballs, considered unserious; possibly pedestrian a decade ago, now they’re cause for some passionate debate and cravings.

It’s good to keep your perspective fresh, not only in the kitchen but it’s a good idea to periodically revisit thoughts, ideas and ideals every now and then to make sure you aren’t shaking your fist – either literally or figuratively – at what the kids are doing these days. So I did something I’ve never have done before, I creamed spinach.

That stuff, that came in cans when I was a kid, the side cigar smokers order at steak houses after they’ve obliterated their taste buds with a stogie. Creamed spinach isn’t cooking with reverence for the ingredient; it’s what a teevee chef on a competition show would do. But because I had nothing else in the fridge except a bag of spinach that wasn’t going to last through three; possibly four days of salad, I let down my guard and now I know – So easy, so good, so quick. Creamed spinach did everything right except photograph well.

Creamed Spinach

8 oz. Spinach, cleaned and salad-spun.

1/3 cup heavy cream

A healthy amount of salt, some pepper and a little nutmeg

2 oz of grated cheese (optional)

Add cream to a pan, place on high heat with spices and seasoning. When cream reaches a boil, take spinach – tear/rip into thirds, add to pan, stir until cream nearly evaporates and spinach is 1/37th of original volume. Remove from heat and stir in cheese. Adjust seasonings and don’t be mortified at the amount of salt your adding – sometimes you just have to have the heavy hand.