Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Lip-Smacking Spinach

No, no--not Spinach Lipsmackers, so don't get all Bonne Bell on me.  It's just that I feel like one of those starving spring pioneers who wouldn’t have seen anything green for months, and then must have knelt in the damp dirt to bite shoots of grass and nettles. I’m starved for greens. I’ve been buying these enormous 1-pound bags of spinach that make either, like, a hundred thousand salads or 1 teaspoon of steamed spinach per person, your choice. But still, I love cooked spinach and have to make it sometimes. (I know, Mark Bittman wrote about this too this week, but he copied me, in a prequel kind of way.)

This branch from our ornamental quince makes me feel like I'm living in a serene and beautiful painting. At least until I look at all the teetering piles of crap all over the place.
The Japanese Restaurant Spinach is still the number-one favorite of the children, on account of being so peanut-buttery and sweet. But I’ve been making a lighter version based on two factors: one, the dear reader who commented on the J.R.S., “Why do you have to be such a fusspot, cutting and balling up the spinach like a total freak?” or something to that effect. Eureka! I don’t! Here I just leave it in a tangle. And, two, the Hot Soy-Mustard Sauce on the grilled tuna I once ate at Roy’s, and which is like a dream I must have had because a) it was so delicious, b) I was so young, and c) Michael and I were in Hawaii. What?

Without further ado: the recipe. Oh, and I finally caught up on some commenting over on the vinaigrette post from last week. I love you guys so much.

Lip-Smacking Spinach
Serves 4
Active time: 10 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes

This spinach is just totally perfect in my book: salty, a bit sweet-tart, and with a hit of nasal heat from the English mustard. If you don't have Coleman's English mustard, use wasabi powder, which is its closest condiment cousin, or leave it out--it will still be good, better even than if you try Dijon or yellow mustard, which won't work here. For the heat averse (i.e. Birdy) a teaspoon each of the vinegar and soy is a great dressing. Oh, and if you don't have seasoned rice vinegar, then add a half teaspoon each of sugar and kosher salt to regular rice vinegar.

1 pound clean spinach
1 teaspoon Coleman's English mustard
1 teaspoon water
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Bonito flakes (or toasted sesame seeds) for topping

Cram all the spinach into a large lidded pot with a steamer and a half an inch of water in the bottom of it, and bring it to a boil over high heat. Steam the spinach until it is thoroughly wilted and collapsed--a minute or two. Leave it to cool in a colander while you make the dressing.

Stir together the mustard and water until smooth, then stir in the vinegar and soy sauce. There! You've made the dressing.

Ideally, the spinach will be cool enough to handle now. Gather it up and wring it out over the sink. Really squeeze it--you're going to end up with something around the size of a baseball, which is kind of demoralizing but totally fine! Squeeze and squeeze it. I even put mine in a clean dish towel and give it a gentle squeeze. 

Now divide the spinach into four bowls and drizzle a tablespoon of dressing over each green pile. (Do you ever see those trucks that say A. Duie Pyle on the side? I mean, seriously that's the name of a company? "What are they, shit movers?" Ben asked intelligently enough.) Sprinkle each dish with bonito flakes, if you like, and serve.

50 to zero, volume-wise.

That's a subatomic particle, for scale.

Team Delicious.

My friend Sam send me these little dishes from Japantown in SF, and I love them.

Ben, devouring.

Mr. Beautiful Hands.


  1. "teetering piles of crap". :) Yep, here too. Makes me wonder why I should ever bother to make anything look pretty.

  2. Anonymous8:01 PM

    Do you have to use fresh spinach or do you think that frozen would work?

  3. Siobhan Moffitt10:55 PM

    Okay Catherine, I know I have competition, but I think I'm in love with you. You are absolutely the best. I love knowing I can stop in here (or crack open Waiting for Birdy for the gazillionth time) and be assured a dozen belly laughs and perhaps a recipe too! Thank you for your blog. (And I am very patiently awaiting another book!)

  4. Anonymous10:19 AM

    Mark Bittman is notorious for being a copier in a prequel kind of way...but I guess that's what you have to expect from a guy who wrote a cookbook called How to Cook Everything.

  5. "This branch from our ornamental quince makes me feel like I'm living in a serene and beautiful painting. At least until I look at all the teetering piles of crap all over the place." Can I just say thank you for being real? I just got finished looking at all these homeschool blogs and they're all so perfect, with clean houses, happy children, and ten thousand activities to teach the letter B. I start feeling like the whole world is either full of over-achievers, or I'm an underachiever, or both, and then like I want to go live in a shack by a pond. But, happily, visiting your blog instills hope that the world is both beautiful and real. Thank you for sharing your lovely family and life with us, week after week.

  6. Anonymous5:10 PM

    Three things...1) "...so don't get all Bonnie Bell on me." 2) "...at least until I look at all the teetering piles of crap all over the place." and 3) "...those trucks that say A. Duie Pyle on the side? I mean, seriously that's the name of a company? 'What are they, shit movers?' I love you! You complete me. That's all. :-)

  7. Erin K.2:34 PM

    last night's dinner for me: this spinach, the maple lemon tofu, rice and corn = awesomeness

  8. I admit being intimidated by the spinach ball recipe, so I'm eager to try this version. I have to agree with the other posters that your comment about teetering piles of crap made me sigh with relief. Thanks for admitting your house is not always spotless. Even if it is, thanks for making me think it's not!
    Lentils came up at with friends the other day, and my husband starts going on about the lentil soup recipe you shared with the drizzle of balsamic at the end, and I reminded him that it was a Catherine Newman. You're a brand at our house!
    If ever you compile your recipes for a book, what about organizing it by mood or season or by main ingredient? It would be my go-to gift for anyone with a kitchen. Especially if your stories are included.

  9. Fab blog Catherine. As usual. The idea of a book of your recipe/stories is perfect. It's all there already, just have to print and bind in time or whatever order. I'll do it for you - we can split the proceeds...maybe 99% for you 1% for me because really I'd be doing it for my own self anyway :) I LOVE your blog. Sad that baby no.3 didn't make it into this world - it would have been one lucky duck :) c

  10. WV Mama12:38 AM

    Perhaps that is the key -- what we notice, the pretty or the teetering piles of crap. We are leaving our children with my parents (!) for three days next month to go to Santa Fe. First time EVER since the eldest (now almost 11) was born and I am working on not worrying about what my stepmother will think or say about said piles. Geez. As if she won't be busy looking after my fab kids!

    I love this spinach recipe -- the Japanese restaurant kind is addictive. Now I can indulge my spinach addictions at home! And you need to know that I have been waiting all week to make Toffee Crack Matzah but my job has gotten in the way. Tomorrow! It is, after all, still Pesach!

    xo from WV

  11. I made the spinach yesterday and shared it with others who equally loved it! Today, I'm making it again and selfishly, not sharing. It's so so good!

  12. I`ve tried this recipe and i`m really impressed, it has a very good taste. My both child tried it and they like it a lot. Thanks a lot for sharing.

  13. Anonymous10:17 AM

    Help! I'm trying to plan a vegetarian meal around this spinach because I LOVE it and am a little stumped. I would have served salmon or steak with this. Some tufu dish?? Anyone have any ideas? Thanks! Molly