Thursday, July 16, 2009

Stir-Fried Spinach

In my brief flirtation with a local produce co-op (one morning constitutes "brief" doesn't it?), I received a lot of fresh produce that I normally don't get. I did like that part of it.

It made me cook fresh green beans and discover that all those people who always assured me in recipes that frozen green beans are "just as good" were lying. Lying.

Those fresh beans, even though limp and characterless when I washed, topped, and tailed them, turned somehow silky, toothsome, and subtly flavored.

Emboldened and needing to produce some space in my refrigerator, I pulled out the two pounds of fresh spinach and my go-to vegetable cookbook, Irene Kuos' The Key to Chinese Cooking. I saw that probably about 20 years ago I had noted it "great" and "great" it remained. Rose took enough for two small bites and then quickly took a much larger helping. Tom had seconds.

Again, I had been a victim of those cookbook authors who have been assuring me that frozen spinach is just as good as fresh. This was soft, shiny, vividly green, and had a silky texture (somehow different from that of the beans) and was a mild, nutty flavor thanks to the sesame oil.

Here's how you can make it for yourself. The brief parboiling helps prevent it from turning watery but be sure to really squeeze the water out of it afterward. A little sugar is added to remove that puckery aftertaste that spinach can have. It isn't sweet and does the trick nicely. A good deal of oil is needed to give it luster and a smooth texture. Don't reduce it until you've tried this one as written.

Stir-Fried Spinach

2 pounds spinach
4 tablespoons oil
2 large cloves garlic, lightly crushed and peeled
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons sesame oil

Wash the spinach well (mine took 7 washes). If it has roots, sepaarate them and cut into 2 or 4 pieces -- they are extremely sweet and succulent. Chop stems if long.

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, add the spinach, and stir to submerge it. When the water begins to boil again, in about a minute, pour the spinach into a colander and spray with cold water to stop the cooking. press down lightly to extract excess water.

Heat a wok or large, heavy skillet over high heat until hot; add the oil, swirl, and heat bout 30 seconds til hot. Toss the garlic cloves and press them again the pan a few times. Add the spinach and poke and shake to separate the mass; then stir in fast turning motions to coat it with oil. Sprinkle in the salt and sugar and stir briskly for about 1 minute. Add the sesame oil, give a few fast turns, and pour into a hot serving dish, discarding the garlic.

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