March 30: Cooked Spinach
Cooked spinach has an undeservedly bad reputation, but it’s a great way to use the late-winter spinach that’s readily available at winter farmers’ markets. Buy a huge bag and make creamed spinach with cheese and jalapenos. Caramelize some onions (with bacon, if you like), add lots of spinach and stir until wilted, then nest a couple of eggs in the spinach, cover, and cook until the eggs are done. Or just sauté it with garlic and sprinkle with parmesan.
About my favorite way to eat cooked spinach is Laurie Colwin’s Creamed Spinach with Jalapenos, originally printed in Gourmet and collected in Home Cooking. It’s available on-line in lots of places; here’s one. If you’ve never read Laurie Colwin, I recommend getting the book from the library and reading straight through it, stopping to cook this dish. The balance of spicy peppers, creamy cheese, and spinach in this recipe is perfect. I do make a few changes to the recipe: I use fresh spinach, unless I have home-frozen. I use milk or half-and-half instead of evaporated milk. I use frozen jalapenos, not pickled. I don’t cook for the full 45 minutes, I can never wait that long.
Mark Bittman argues that spinach is always better cooked than raw. I’m not sure that I agree with him, but he offers a lot of good suggestions for cooking spinach that are worth trying out, even if you also like a spinach salad now and then.