Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fancy That! Day 3 of the Veggie Marathon
What’s cooking? Spinach and Sautéed Mushrooms

In an interview on NPR the other day, I heard my favorite poet, Billy Collins, describe poetry as “the spinach of literature.”

That’s how bad it’s gotten for poor spinach. Despite its position near – if not at – the top of the list of the world’s healthiest foods, spinach suffers disparaging remarks from all sorts of otherwise good people.

■ “I detest spinach because of its utterly amorphous character....the only good, noble and edible thing to be found in that sordid nourishment is the sand.” – Salvador Dali, The Secret Life of Salvador Dali

■ “I don’t like spinach, and I’m glad I don’t, because if I liked it I’d eat it, and I just hate it.” – Clarence Darrow

■ “On the subject of spinach: divide into little piles. Rearrange again into new piles. After five or six maneuvers, sit back and say you are full.” – Delia Ephron, How To Eat Like A Child

■ “It’s broccoli, dear.” “I say it’s spinach, and I say the hell with it.” – cartoon caption for The New Yorker by E.B.White

But consider this:

1. One cup of cooked spinach provides 10 times your daily need for vitamin K, 3 times the daily need for vitamin A, and more than 25% of the daily need for vitamin C, manganese, folate, magnesium, and iron.

2. That folate I mentioned? It prevents spina bifida in developing fetuses, and has been shown to reduce the rate of age-related cognitive decline. (I’m sorry, what was I saying?...) Folate (folic acid, or vitamin B9) also reduces blood pressure.

3. A recent study of the impact of vegetable intake on the risk of prostate cancer found that only spinach delivered significant protection. Other diseases spinach helps to prevent: heart disease, osteoporosis, colon cancer, ovarian cancer, and arthritis.

So what can we as cooks do to help our precious families and friends beyond the standard dictum to “Eat your spinach, dear. It’s good for you.” (I actually heard my grandmother say that to my mother when my mother was in her late 50s. It’s hard to stop mothering.)

Well, first, we can cook it not so much. Fresh spinach salads are great, but the Kitchen Goddess is all about cooking vegetables this week. Just not cooking them too much. Cooking spinach will help get rid of the oxalic acid in the leaves, which not only helps you absorb the minerals better – it also makes the leaves taste sweeter.

The best way to cook spinach is to steam it. If you prefer to boil it, do so for only a minute, so you don’t lose all that good folate. And the Kitchen Goddess finds that if you pair your spinach with something really yummy, like sautéed mushrooms, it all gets eaten – even by people who might otherwise just push it around the plate.

Kitchen Goddess note: Spinach can’t be cooked in advance. On the other hand, you’re only cooking it for a minute. But you can cook the mushrooms an hour or two earlier and reheat them in a sauté pan before you cook the spinach. And you can wash the spinach ahead of time – just make sure to lightly rinse the leaves again right before you cook them so that there will be some water on the leaves.

Spinach and Sautéed Mushrooms

2-2½ pounds fresh spinach
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup finely chopped yellow onion
1-1½ pounds mushrooms (white button or crimini), cleaned and stems trimmed; mushrooms left whole if small, sliced thickly or quartered if large
freshly grated nutmeg

Garnish: lemon wedges

If you are using mature spinach, soak well to remove any sand, and discard the stems; if using baby spinach, remove as many of the long stems as you have the patience for and lightly rinse the leaves before cooking.

In a medium sauté pan over medium-low heat, melt the butter and oil. Add the onion and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 2 minutes. Raise the heat to medium-high, and when the oil is very hot, add the mushrooms. Sauté the mushrooms, using a combination of techniques that include stirring and tossing the mushrooms and shaking the pan, for 4-5 minutes. At first, the mushrooms will absorb all the fat, then after 2-3 minutes, they’ll release some of that fat and begin to brown. Once they have browned lightly, remove from heat. Season to taste with salt and nutmeg, and cover to keep warm.

In a larger skillet – one with a cover – place the spinach (with just the water that clings to the leaves). Add 2-3 pinches of salt and some nutmeg. Cover and cook over medium-high heat, turning the leaves a couple of times, until just wilted, about a minute. Drain in a colander, pressing the leaves gently with the back of a wooden spoon to release excess liquid. Fluff up the leaves with your fingers.

In a warmed serving dish, place the spinach around the edge and spoon the mushrooms into the center. Garnish with lemon wedges.

Serves 6-8.

Kitchen Goddess final note: If you have any of this left over, throw it all – mushrooms and spinach – into a skillet with a small can of diced tomatoes and a little tomato paste, heat it up, and stir in some pasta. Cover it all with finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, and call it dinner.

No comments:

Post a Comment