Thursday, June 2, 2011

Hate Spinach? Try This!

Spinach with Golden Beets, Shallots and Green Curry
If I had a million dollars for every time I've served someone--to rave reviews-- a vegetable they were sure they hated, I'd be a wealthy man.  Spinach is one of the best examples. So many people are convinced that they simply cannot tolerate the taste of it. Yet there are a few tricks that change everything.

The main issue with spinach is the tannin content, which is responsible for that offputting, astringent, metallic taste most people find objectionable. The two main ways around this are to eat spinach raw, or to blanch, quench and rinse it before using it in recipes.

I happen to really enjoy the unenhanced flavors of vegetables, which means that I can quite happily eat them plain--steamed, blanched, or raw. It's not that I prefer them this way; I like unusual, creative, even experimental cooking very much. I just find vegetables equally enjoyable when they've been finessed as when they haven't. But most people are not like me, and they require some intervention in order to handle certain foods. In large part, you might say I made a career out of providing this sort of intervention for people.

In the case of spinach, a quick treatment I've used with great success is simply to squeeze the excess water out of the spinach, after blanching, and then sauté it in a pan with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. This alone transmutes the hated green into a thoroughly enjoyable Mediterranean dish.

But tonight I had a flash of inspiration. I sliced some shallots and fried them in a little coconut oil until lightly browned, salting them at the end. Then I scooped them out with a slotted spoon and set them aside on a small plate. I added about 3 cups of grated golden beets to the pan and stirred them with a spatula until they wilted. I added some Thai green curry paste, incorporated it into the beets, and stirred in the spinach and some thick coconut milk. I let the mixture reduce to a smooth sauce, and then folded in most of the fried shallots.

To serve, I just heaped the mixture into bowls and garnished with the remaining shallots. In spite of the fact that the bulk of the dish is spinach--a full two pounds--oddly enough, it's the last thing you taste. The sweetness of the beets along with the coconut milk, the pungent spicy green curry, and the lightly caramelized shallots all take over your palate before it even knows the spinach is there. By then it's too late. The spinach has already become a happy passenger in this vehicle of delight.

1 comment:

  1. I love spinach! I just wash it and place it on top of veggies already stir"fried" put a lid on it for 2 minutes and eat. Spinach is my friend. thanks chef alan! - michal