Saturday, March 15, 2008

Wilted Spinach: The Vegetable of Champions

When I was a kid, my only exposure to spinach was via Popeye's cold-canned, spur-of-the-moment, puke-inspiring chug-a-lug method of eating the stuff.

This did not inspire me to eat it.

Now? I love spinach in many forms. I'm not sure how I roused the courage to eat it; there was no shining-light moment of truth or slew of green epiphanies. One day I was spinach-avoider, the next I was a rabid spinach-convert.

This is my favorite method of cooking spinach; due to The Bestest Friend's conversion to vegetarianism, I frequently make it sans bacon. But in my heart, I am secretly yearning for the dash of saltiness it adds.

I made this as a side dish with the veal saltimbocca experiment for Valentine's Day, so I got to be extra fancy-pants and use prosciutto. Holy Bacon Fat, Batman, was that a mind-blowing experience.

Wilted Spinach

3 cups fresh spinach (the bagged stuff works great, the loose stuff is much cheaper)
3-4 slices of bacon (or about 3 oz Prosciutto)
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 small onion, diced
Parmesan Cheese, to taste

In a large sauce pan or a soup pot, cook the bacon until crispy. Remove - leave the fat in the pan! - and drain on a paper towel.

Deglaze the pan with the balsamic vinegar, scraping up the tasty bits from the bottom.

Add the olive oil, garlic and onion. Cook over medium heat until the onion is translucent and starting to darken.

Add the spinach, and using tongs, start tossing/twirling/stirring the leaves to coat them in the hot oil. Spinach takes a few seconds to start softening - but once it gives up the fight, it wilts down FAST. I keep the spinach moving through the entire process with my tongs so that I don't end up with overly-soggy leaves on bottom and partially-cooked leaves on top.

After about 5 minutes, the spinach will have majorly reduced in volume. Feel free to cook it down completely, but I like the leaves to still have a bit of life in them.

Remove the spinach from the pan immediately - the pan's heat will make it keep wilting away - and crumble the bacon over the top.

Garnish with some grated Parmesan cheese.

Notes: Not being a huge vinegar fan, I probably only use about 1/2 tsp. I just kind of dash it in the pan, so if you like vinegar, dash away.

1 comment:

kittie said...

You must be psychic - I had to wilt some spinach recently for a soup I was making and it occurred to me that the way I wilted it would have been inedible if it wasn't being puréed! So I was planning on hunting down how to wilt spinach this week anyway!

Great recipe - I'll give this a go soon!