Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Cookin’ Cousins
What’s cooking? Wilted Spinach Salad

If you don’t have any sisters, it’s good to have a cousin like mine. Helen is five years younger than I, and has  no sisters, either. Our mothers were sisters, and our families grew up on the same street in San Antonio, so naturally, we spent a lot of time together growing up.

We’ve stayed friends over the years, even though, with her in Texas and me in New Jersey, our communications were less frequent in the years when we were both caught up in the whirlwind of careers and raising children. But now that I’m back in Texas, and the children are all grown up, we chat more often, and even see each other occasionally. On New Year’s Eve this year, she drove up to celebrate with us.

I had invited a group of friends for dinner, and, as usual, was running just a bit behind schedule when Helen arrived. Our approach to entertaining is pretty much the same (though she’s always on time), so she knew just what needed to be done, and jumped right in to help.

A couple of weeks later, I sent her a copy of Nora Ephron’s latest book, I Remember Nothing, as a thank-you gift for saving the dinner party. She called a few days later and said she appreciated the gesture, but, she said, “I know you remember nothing, but I remember everything. And what I remember most is that you gave me this book last year.”

Ah, well. It’s a great book, as long as you only send it once.

Helen also loves to cook, and tells me she’s grown quite fond of warm spinach salad lately. She’s developed a version of a preparation we often ordered at an Italian restaurant (now defunct) that was a Sunday regimen for our two families, and she says it’s terrific. I believe her – after all, she can remember what it looked like and what it tasted like.

Embarrassed Kitchen Goddess note: When I first posted this entry, I called it Warm Spinach Salad. Then I remembered/noticed that it’s  served cold. Hmmm... The Kitchen Goddess must have been having a senior moment. So now it’s Wilted Spinach Salad, which is at least accurate. It’s still a great recipe.

Helens Wilted Spinach Salad

2 packages fresh spinach, washed and with stems removed [Kitchen Goddess note: If you use baby spinach, you’ll need considerably more – like 4-5 packages, or about 2 pounds – for this amount of dressing, as the baby spinach cooks down to almost nothing. Or you can just use half the dressing. Rinse the spinach even if the package says it was washed, and spin it well to remove excess moisture.]
1-2 Tbl olive oil
1 clove garlic, whole

For the dressing:
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ teaspoon sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon oregano
¾ cup olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
¼ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Prepare the dressing first. Stir the sugar and salt into the lemon juice to dissolve. Add the oregano and whisk in the olive oil. Add pepper to taste, and stir in the Parmesan cheese.

In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat until it just shimmers, add the garlic and stir for about a minute, but without letting it brown. Add the spinach, and stir to coat well with the oil. Cover the pan and let the spinach steam for about 2 minutes. Remove the lid and stir just until all the spinach is wilted (no overcooking!), then remove from heat. Do not overcook the spinach. Let the cooked spinach (with the garlic) cool to room temperature before pouring over the dressing.

Chill the spinach in the dressing. Remove garlic before serving. Serves 4-6.

Kitchen Goddess note: I do remember this salad, and it’s wonderful. But I also think it would be great with a bit of fresh goat cheese crumbled over it, or maybe some crumbled bacon, or even some sautéed crimini mushrooms that also went into the marinade.


  1. Lee, I really admire you for all your dinner parties and recipes. When I infrequently try to throw something together for friends the only thing that gets me through the ordeal is my iPhone timer. I have to carry it in my pocket and set it several times per event. It's the only way I remember the rolls, or whatever.

  2. New Year's was a joint effort -- I made three soups and everyone else brought the other courses. And still I was running late! But I think having everyone pitch in is part of the fun.