Spinach with Raisins and Pine Nuts—Espinacas a la Catalan

I discovered this delightful dish in a cozy little tapas restaurant on Newbury Street in Boston.  After one bite, I decided that I would try to replicate this recipe at home.  Later research revealed that the dish is called Espinacas a la Catalana and has been prepared in the Catalan region of Spain for at least 150 years.  I guess the appeal of the dish seems unremarkable in light of the fact that Spaniards have been vetting it for more than 150 years.Spinach with Raisins and Pine Nuts

Further research revealed that the number of recipes for Espinacas a la Catalana is equal to the number of Catalonians. While additional ingredients varied—lemon, tomato, wine, honey, paprika, and apples to name a few, the fundamental ingredients remained constant:  spinach, raisins, pine nuts, olive oil and garlic.  I tried several variations and this is the one we all liked best.  However, if you are like me and tend to cook creatively, please share the results.

Spinach--washing

Spinach with Raisins and Pine Nuts--Ingredients

Spinach with Raisins and Pine Nuts—Espinacas a la Catalan
Author: 
Recipe type: Side Dish
Cuisine: Spanish
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 6 - 8 servings
 
Ingredients
  • 8 oz. spinach* (8 – 10 cups)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • ½ t kosher salt
  • 2 T pine nuts
  • 3 T golden raisins, chopped
  • ¼ cup dry white wine or sherry
  • ¼ t sugar
  • Juice of 1 small lemon (about 3 T spoons)
  • Black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Swish spinach in a cold water bath until all grit has fallen away. Spin leaves in the salad spinner until dry.
  2. Heat oil in a large deep skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and salt; sauté until the garlic just turns golden being careful not to burn—about 1 minute.
  3. Add pine nuts, raisins, sugar, and wine. Cover and allow raisins to plump and soften—2 minutes. Remove lid and reduce wine.
  4. Whisk in lemon juice until heated and incorporated fully.
  5. Add spinach, turn off heat and toss in the pan until all of the leaves are coated and slightly wilted. Add pepper, taste and adjust seasoning.
Notes
*If you use young and tender spinach, you may use the stem and leaf. However, if you are using more mature spinach, remove the stems and roughly chop the leaves.

Spinach with Raisins Collage

Spinach with Raisins and Pine Nuts--Tossing

Cooking and Eating with Kids:  I wilted the spinach ever so slightly due to the kids’ preference.  They willingly try salads so I told them that this was a wilted salad. If, on the other hand, I had told them that these were cooked greens, well, I can assure you that my ears would have been met with a chorus of wails and the battle over taking a single bite would have ensued.     Ask any political strategist, and they will tell you a good spin can change the minds and hearts of the people. I encourage you to use this strategy when feeding your kids something new.  Tell them it is really something they have eaten a million times before–in this case salad.  Once they have adopted it as an acceptable food you can start varying it slightly, like calling it by its real name.

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Romesco—best dip in the world!

Romesco is my go-to recipe whenever I need an appetizer. Rich, nutty, and sweet, this is a seriously delicious and highly addictive dip.  Though the dish originated in Catalonia, Spain, I include it with any meal with even a remotely Mediterranean influence.  Versions vary but all contain almonds or hazelnuts, garlic, peppers and olive oil.  This recipe is simple but gets me all kinds of complements and has become my signature dish.  I use it mostly as a dip with crackers, but it can be served as a sauce for all sorts of foods—beans, potatoes, pasta, fish, meatballs, etc. Try it; you’ll be inspired.

For a rich, complex, sweet and smoky flavor, roast your own peppers. Roasted red peppers from a jar make the dish bland and unremarkable.   In the fall when red peppers are at their peak, I apply an economy of scale principal, roasting and storing as many as my freezer will hold.  Not only do I save money, but I also save time.  With ready-to-use roasted peppers in the freezer, I can make romeso in less than 5 minutes all throughout the year.

Romesco
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetizer, Dip or Sauce
Cuisine: Spanish
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 2 cups
 
Using red peppers you've roasted and frozen in advance makes this a super quick appetizer.
Ingredients
  • ½ cup whole almonds
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 3 roasted red sweet bell peppers, seeds and skins removed
  • 1 T red wine vinegar
  • ½ t salt
  • 1 t paprika
  • 2 T olive oil
Instructions
  1. Add almonds to a food processor and finely chop.
  2. Next add garlic, peppers, vinegar, salt, and paprika and processes to a course puree.
  3. With the processor running drizzle the olive oil in until it becomes a thick, and creamy paste.
  4. Serve at room temperature.