Our summers are relentlessly hot and dry, so I adore spring. We still have enough rain not to do much watering at all, and the temperature is mild enough for all the plants to be quite relaxed and cheery. It’s the season that makes me feel like gardener of the year because everything just won’t stop growing. (Then it all grinds to a halt in the dead of summer and I feel like plant kryptonite.)
After some good showers last week, there was a growth spurt in the garden and the spinach in particular seemed to have ballooned. Thus, I ended up with a bucket of spinach.
The leaves I cooked in the water left on the leaves after washing, in a big pot. I squeezed the water out and made them into balls because my mother taught me that you can never go amiss by having cooked spinach at hand.
That left the bottoms. This is a part of the plant that Turkish cuisine treats quite lovingly. It is part of the great category of dishes known as olive oil dishes. I am always hesitant to wander into this territory, as I have a very capable cook as a mother in law, and an unreservedly critical audience in my husband, but with the help of both of them and a good friend, I was able to brave it.
So for anyone out there with spinach to consume, here’s something you can do with all those tail ends once you’ve dispensed with the leafy bits.
Wash them well because all the dirt hangs out in these regions:
Then comes a crucial step. You’ve got to dry them really well. You can put them in a salad spinner or shake them out, or even towel dry them, but get the water off those ends! My mother in law even recommended squeezing them out.
Put a goodly amount of olive oil in a pot or pan with a lid (no less than 3 T, I’d say) and in it, gently cook a chopped onion until it is soft but not browned. (I happened to have pulled up a carrot, so I added that too.)
Add the spinach ends and stir. Cover it to let it steam a bit in its own moisture, but keep lifting the lid to give it a stir once in a while. Stems are sturdy things, so it will take about ten minutes for them to cook properly.
My friend Meltem gave me this sterling piece of advice:
“The spinach should glisten with the olive oil.”
This, I think, illustrates perfectly how dry everything ought to be kept, and also that it won’t do to be stingy with the oil. (Which can also be added after cooking, and some would say it must be.)
My husband’s (curtly delivered) advice, “lemon juice,” is equally instructive: squeeze a bit of lemon over the top before serving, for a sparkly flavor.
The result is a lovely, simple dish that tastes like the very essence of the vegetable, which, I suppose, it is.