All right, I know. The rest of the civilized world has been enjoying the taste and health benefits of spinach for some time now, but it's just hard for me to learn to eat cooked vegetables. When I was growing up, all the cooked vegetables that came to our dinner table started out as frozen bricks in the freezer with "Birdseye" on their labels. The spinach (served weekly with a particularly awful homemade macaroni-and-cheese that had nothing to do with creamy) was one of the worst. The texture was incredibly slimy, exactly like the seaweed that wraps around your ankles when you walk in the surf. As I well remember, if you let the spinach get stone-cold sitting on your plate, it doesn't smell as bad, but it does make you gag when you try to eat it. So, cooked spinach has been verboten for me for a long time.
We do occasionally eat spinach in salads, but we find that we cannot finish a whole bag of it before it starts to go bad, unless Julie is home, and then she eats most of it. I have had a lot of success adding spinach to different recipes. We really like it mixed in with couscous, and I have added it to a variety of homemade soups. It is really good in fried rice, as well. The fact of the matter is, it pretty much disappears in these dishes, and that is what makes it palatable to me. I had some cooked spinach at a restaurant last week, however, that was so good that I am on a mission to replicate it at home.
When Ben and I were finally able to go out to dinner to celebrate his birthday (that's a whole other story) we went to Mangiamo in Twin Lakes, where we frequently like to eat on special occasions. Here is the link: http://www.mangiamotwinlakes.com/ (Again, sorry that I don't know how to pretty that up.) Anyway. We have eaten there many times since they opened, but I think I had the best meal ever there last week. In keeping with my healthy eating regimen, I ordered the "Pan-roasted Atlantic Salmon", which you will see if you check the menu. My dinner included lobster-chive risotto and crispy baby spinach with balsamic drizzle.
My meal was delicious. As I said, probably the best I've ever had there. Here's the thing, though: every component was perfect, even the spinach. It was like crisp little pieces of parchment that dissolved on my tongue. The familiar spinach flavor was negligible, and the balsamic drizzle was the perfect accent. I resolved to make spinach just like it at home.
When we went grocery-shopping, the bags of baby spinach were buy-one-get-one-free, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity for experimentation. I checked on line for recipes for "crispy spinach", and I found quite a few, actually. The bad news was that they uniformly called for the spinach to be deep-fried. Now, I have never owned a deep fryer, and have no desire to have one now. Here's where the experimentation comes in.
Using one of the bags of spinach I spread it out in a thin layer over two cookie sheets. (There was too much spinach for one sheet.) I drizzled enough extra virgin olive oil over the spinach to coat it all, and also to prevent it from sticking to the cookie sheet as it dried out. I tossed the spinach with my hands to make sure it was coated, then sprinkled it with sea salt and freshly-ground pepper. I put it in a pre-heated 400 degree oven, and I watched it carefully. It wilted pretty quickly, but I could see that it still held a lot of water, and I wanted to drive that all out. When I noticed that a couple of spinach leaves had turned brown (as if they had burned) I removed the spinach from the oven. I drizzled the spinach with balsamic vinegar, and Ben and I ate every bit of it - a whole bag of spinach.
I have to say that the "recipe" is not perfected. I think the next time maybe I would keep it in the oven longer at a lower temperature since the object as I see it is to dehydrate the spinach as much as possible. If you have any suggestions, please don't hesitate to send them along.
Who knows? Maybe I'll be eating asparagus next... Na-a-ah!