Tag Archive | spinach

Polenta-Kissed Spinach

I’ve been away, but it doesn’t mean I haven’t been cooking.

So much has transpired since I last posted. Too much to recount… Tending to a host of health issues became a full-time job and that included returning to nourishment, on all levels, which meant the real beginning of nourishing me – body, mind, and soul.

I was forced, literally, to do a reset and though that journey was definitely not an easy one, there were many gifts along the way.

Food, a rediscovery of it, re-interpretation, re-engagement, and re-integration, was one of them and of course, recipes like this one.

I was cooking one evening a recipe I hadn’t made in a long time, not because it wasn’t a favourite, but because my compulsive need to keep experimenting with new and different recipes and love for diversity has both blessed and cursed me with many favourites to the point that there are beloved recipes we don’t return to for years.

That dish was one of its victims. This time, due to a strict food regime to fix severe stomach issues, I sadly adapted the recipe to accommodate my dietary restrictions at the time. As I stood at my stove, hovering over the dish, it came to me, polenta-kissed spinach.

Over dinner, I told this to my husband and on the weekend it became our next weekly brunch feature. Fresh spinach normally abundant was difficult to find that week, but on one of our daily walks, we happened to stop in at the grocery store and managed to procure the required bundles.

In my mind, the spinach was silky, loose, and just barely coated with a thin sheen of polenta. To be clear, it was a spinach dish kissed with polenta and not intended to be polenta containing spinach (though this is now on the list to make because I’m really loving this duo).

We came home and commenced the now insanely long process of properly sanitizing the greens for safe consumption. I embarked on making the dish fully expecting to make adjustments along the way to match the picture in my head. My husband was close by taking notes and carefully tracking ingredients and amounts and on standby to revise accordingly.

Never before has a recipe come together so effortlessly. Every ingredient and measurement was correct from the start, and nothing needed adjustment, nothing. It turned out, on the first attempt, exactly as I had envisioned.

As usual, I was telling my mom about our brunch meal when later we spoke and she fell quiet. When I inquired about her silence (extremely rare for my mother), she responded she was remembering back to her grandma, who used to make this dish for her when she was a child. Then, it was my turn to fall silent. My mom had never mentioned the dish, nor made it for me growing up, and she explained that she had even forgotten about it, but concluded she too would resurrect it. I have always said that food is extremely powerful, particularly as a connector, on many levels, including our past, and the long ancient lineage of ancestral wisdom.

To say I love spinach is an understatement. I have fond memories growing up of my mom making mounds of spinach for me, simply blanched, seasoned with salt and drizzled with olive oil. I would eat mounds of it. Couldn’t get enough!

I now have yet another way to enjoy it, except now it has a little bit more substance and a lot more character. It’s simply gorgeous as a side dish and stunning as an ensemble for brunch, particularly with poached eggs. Such a beautiful way to get my fill of spinach, eat my spinach, and pay hommage to my ancestors. Thanks great grandma.

Serves 2

Ingredients:

 Olive oil  1 tbsp
 Garlic, clove, minced  1
 Water  1 cup
 Chili flakes  pinch
 Salt  1/2 tsp
 Black pepper
 Cornmeal  2 tbsp
 Spinach  2 bunches
 Juice, lemon  1/2 tsp
 Olive oil (if needed)  1 tbsp

Directions:

  1. In a medium, but deep skillet, over medium heat, heat olive oil.
  2. Add garlic. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add water and bring to a simmer.
  4. Add chili flakes, salt and black pepper and simmer for 2 minutes.
  5. Add cornmeal and cook for 8 minutes.
  6. Remove half the polenta from skillet and reserve for later use.
  7. Add spinach and cook until just wilted.
  8. Return to skillet other half of the polenta and fold into spinach until coated.
  9. Add lemon juice.
  10. Add olive oil if required.
  11. Divide spinach into two bowls.

Serving suggestion:

  1. Top with 2 poached eggs.
  2. Season eggs with salt, black pepper and paprika.
  3. Garnish dish with parmesan and drizzle with olive oil.
  4. Serve with a piece of toast cut in half.

Spinach Salad with Tangerine Vinaigrette

Tangerine Vinaigrette

Hello summer! Okay, so technically it’s not summer yet, but Ottawa has been on fire these last few days and even those of us who don’t like the summer, can’t help but get excited with a change in scenery. My farmers’ market is open and though not in full bloom yet, the early local produce is promising and builds much anticipation.

To celebrate, I made this salad. The inspiration comes from a prepared salad that my husband and I enjoy from my local grocery store. I have switched up some of the key ingredients to suit my tastes and have paired it with a tangerine vinaigrette instead of their lemony one.

I love everything about this salad. Baby spinach is definitely the star and it gets a little help from the red cabbage, red onion, and carrot. For substance, you’ll find toasted pecans, black sesame seeds and sesame sticks. If you’ve never had sesame sticks in a salad, you must absolutely experiment. They act like croutons providing a nice crunch, but with a depth of flavour that far surpasses any bread crouton. Then, for the crowning glory, there’s the wedges of tangerines. Ensure that you include enough tangerines to suffice for every bite; the tangerines really do make the salad. Tangerines and spinach were made for each other with the tangerines providing juiciness, sweetness and citrus. The vinaigrette, which includes my secret ingredient, sesame paste, is both creamy and light and it tickles my tongue.  It’s such a beautiful salad. I pair it with pre-marinated tofu skewers for a light, but substantial dinner.

I have provided some rough estimates, in terms of ingredients intentionally. Play with the dimensions and build something that works for you. In general, my rule is, it’s a spinach salad, so spinach should be the most abundant ingredient. I include about half as much of shredded red cabbage and a quarter as much of carrot. I go minimal with the red onion, but add just enough for taste. Then the fun part begins. I play with decorating the salad with the remaining ingredients: black sesame seeds, tangerine wedges, pecans, and sesame sticks.

It’s a play of textures, tastes, consistencies and colour, so you are in a for a treat. I like this salad so much that when I make it, I double the vinaigrette and freeze it in batches for future use. Yes, you can freeze vinaigrettes; this one happens to freeze very well. I always have spinach in the house, so this is my back-up salad for the week. I can’t think of a more exciting salad that I make. Here’s to the long awaited summer season.

Serves 2 (with vinaigrette leftover)

Ingredients:

 Spinach, baby  140 g
 Cabbage, red, shredded  1:2 (cabbage:spinach)
 Carrot, shredded  1:2 (carrot:cabbage) Approximately half a carrot
 Onion, red, thinly sliced
 Pecans, whole, toasted  1/4 cup
 Seeds, sesame, black
 Sesame sticks  1/4 cup
 Tangerines, peeled, skins removed from wedges  1-2
Vinaigrette:
 Juice, tangerine  3 tbsp (1-2 tangerines)
 Juice, lemon  2 tbsp
 Olive oil  6 tbsp
 Salt  1/4 tsp
 Black pepper  1/4 tsp
 Garlic, clove, minced  1
 Mustard, Dijon  2 tsp
 Sesame Paste  1/2 tbsp

1. For the vinaigrette, combine all the ingredients in a small jar/bowl and mix well.

2. To toast the pecans, heat a small pan over medium heat. Add pecans and toss gently every couple of minutes until toasted. Note, you should not be walking away from the stove. Nuts brown quickly and can burn easily.

3. In a medium bowl, combine the spinach, shredded cabbage, carrot, and sliced red onion.

4. Add dressing and mix well. Check seasoning. You may need to add salt.

5. Divide salad onto two plates. Garnish with toasted pecans, tangerine wedges, sesame sticks, and black sesame seeds.