makes 2 cups
150 calories per serving
This complex richly flavored dish is best balanced against a simple braised protein like fish or served on its own as an appetizer. A robust, loose leaf spinach works best, but sometimes this spinach can be hard to find. I am lucky enough to have a local grocer who carries the real thing all year round. And since I live in New York City, that means shipping spinach in from California or Texas when local product is not available. Alternatives are bagged, pre-washed, or hydroponically grown spinach. For me the taste and texture of the real thing are worth it, but it is a personal decision. Waiting for local product would have reduced the cost, but what can I say. I was impatient!
Spinach grows best in sandy soil and each leaf requires washing several times to remove any little pieces of grit that may have lodged in the crevices. So spinach whether transported or grown locally can be time consuming. My first encounter with the combination of spinach, nuts, and fruit was in Claudia Rodin’s wonderful book The New Book of Middle Eastern Food. Her version calls for pine nuts but I use walnuts. I always have a few walnuts on hand and I prefer the taste.
1 ⅓ pound spinach as purchased fresh and untrimmed (600g)
1 whole shallot (65g) peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (15ml)
¼ teaspoon flake salt
4 tablespoons chopped walnuts (30g), about 6 walnuts as purchased in shell
2 tablespoons currants (30g)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (15ml)
2 teaspoon first cold pressed olive oil (10ml)
Trim stems and roots from the spinach, wash thoroughly, chop into large pieces, and spin dry in a salad spinner. Remove walnuts from shell and chop. Refresh currants by covering with hot water and letting them soften for about 10 minutes. Assemble other ingredients.
Sauté scallions in olive oil using a sauté pan that comes with a cover and is large enough to hold all the spinach. When the shallots have softened and turned translucent, add balsamic vinegar and let most of it evaporate. Then add the chopped walnuts, softened currants, and finally the spinach, pressing the spinach down into the pan. Do not add any additional water. Cover and leave over low heat until the spinach softens into a mass. Incorporate the walnuts and currant evenly into the spinach and finish with remaining cold pressed olive oil. Tastes as good at room temperature as it does served hot.
The experts agree that spinach is a healthy food. A dark green vegetable as per MyPyramid. A source of essential micro-nutrients as per Nutrition Facts Label. The experts however do not agree about fat. Using olive oil in classic proportions will always exceed the austere requirement of 3 grams per serving* required by the FDA to label a preparation “healthy.” The role of fat in the diet, especially unsaturated fats and oils, is becoming controversial and consensus has not been reached yet.
My friends and family take a liberalized approach to fats and olive oil and devour my spinach faster as I can wash the leaves with comments like “I can eat this all day!” If good cooking is the art of creating food people love to eat, than smart cooking is using those skills to encourage people to eat healthy food. So wouldn’t that mean that olive oil is serving a noble purpose? But there I go again – me and my simplistic mind!
Per Serving (114g): Calories 150, Fat 11g, Saturated Fat 1.5g, Sodium 125mg, Carbohydrate 12g, Fiber 3g, Protein 4g. Excellent source vitamin A as beta-carotene, folate, magnesium. Good source fiber, vitamin C, calcium, iron, riboflavin, vitamin B-6, vitamin E, potassium. A 2,000 calorie diet is used as the basis for general nutrition advice; however, individual calorie needs may vary.