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.
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 with Raisins and Pine Nuts—Espinacas a la Catalan
Author: Lisa Kingery, MS, RD
Recipe type: Side Dish
Yield: 6 - 8 servings
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
Swish spinach in a cold water bath until all grit has fallen away. Spin leaves in the salad spinner until dry.
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.
Add pine nuts, raisins, sugar, and wine. Cover and allow raisins to plump and soften—2 minutes. Remove lid and reduce wine.
Whisk in lemon juice until heated and incorporated fully.
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.
*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.
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.
Spinach with Raisins and Pine Nuts—Espinacas a la Catalan
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A meal made with fresh eggs from my favorite farmer, Bob, couldn’t be easier not to mention delicious. I’m not certain why I don’t do it more often. Of all the egg dishes, the frittata or flat omelet reigns supreme welcoming any left-over bits or odd & end veggie I have in the fridge.
A frittata is simply the Italian version of the flat omelet. A flat omelet cooks in a skillet and is not folded. It is instead finished by flipping completely (a sometimes messy affair) or placing under a broiler. Other cuisines use flat omelets. In Spain they have the tortilla made with eggs and potatoes (different than the Mexican tortilla made of corn or flour) and in Persia they have a flat omelet called a kookoo.
Every time I make this particular combination, people gobble it up and ask for more. It is perfect for spring as it makes the most of the veggies available early in the season. Serve it with a simple salad of greens or a chopped Italian salad in sticking with the Italian theme. You’ll have a complete meal in less than 30 minutes.
1 lb. new potatoes, cut into ½ inch chunks—about 3 cups
½ cup green onion, chopped
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
½ t salt
½ t pepper
Olive oil if the pan needs more oil
Wash and chop new potatoes leaving skins on. Boil or microwave until just tender—about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, beat the eggs, salt, pepper and cheese in a large bowl.
In a 12 or 14-inch non-stick or caste iron skillet, cook the chopped bacon over medium heat until crisp.
Next, add the spinach to the same pan; cook until barely wilted.
Next toss in the cooked potatoes, green onions (and olive oil if necessary). Add in the egg mixture and stir with a rubber spatula evenly distributing the ingredients.
Cook for about 5 minutes on medium heat until the egg sets on the bottom and begins to set on top.
Place under a broiler on low for 3 - 4 minutes until golden (watch it closely) or flip into another heated skillet. Cut into wedges and serve hot or cold.
Cooking with Kids:
My kids love to crack eggs. They are not necessarily good at it, but it fills their little hearts with such joy. How can I deny them the experience? Even though it sounds scary, teach your kids how to crack eggs and let them try. As long as they are standing over a table and given a very large separate bowl to fish the shells out of, why not. They can also be placed in charge of whisking. Again, don’t forget the large bowl. Remind them, “One hand holds the bowl, one hand whisks.” If you’re near my kitchen on a day we’re making frittata, you’re bound to hear, “God gave you 2 hands, please use them both.” Over, and over, and over.
They look like art—a sculpture of inviting green. Available only in farmers markets and gardens for a few weeks in June, their ephemeral nature and rarity only adds to their allure. If you are like me, you will spy them in the market and feel compelled to buy them even if you have no clue as to what to do with them.
More than vegetative art, the scape is the flowering stalk of hard neck garlic. Young tender stalks grow in beautiful curlicues, but as they mature, the stalks straighten and dry and the flowering bulb turns to seed. To direct the plant’s energy away from making seeds and towards producing a large, flavorful garlic bulb, the farmer removes the tender edible scape. Viola! My most coveted springtime treat with a taste nearly identical to garlic with a fresher, milder, more herbal quality.
What to do with it once you’ve brought it home? Well you could chop it up and add it to stir fry or perhaps pickle it, but I suggest that you make Garlic Scape Paste and add it to everything you would have added garlic…and then some.
1 bunch, about 14 scapes, flowers removed and stalks coarsely chopped
⅔ cup oil (olive, canola, grape or safflower are good choices)
Remove the flower portion of each scape as it can be bitter. I like to save them and use as a garnish.
In a food processor, add scapes and pulse until finely minced.
Next, slowly pour in the oil while processing.
Transfer paste to a glass or plastic jar with a tight-fitting lid.
Paste will keep refrigerated for about 2 weeks. Add to recipes as needed. You can also freeze it.
Preserve It: Buy a few bunches at the market, make it en masse, and freeze. Place paste in a freezer bag, press flat removing as much air as possible, label and seal. If you freeze it flat on the shelf, you can break off bits of garlic scape paste as you need it as long as it lasts. Even if freezer real estate is an issue for you, put this on the A-list. It is a tasty time saver-—better-than-minced-garlic-flavor-at-the-ready.
Cooking with Kids:
Have your kids help with the prep by using scissors to remove the flowers, and cut the scapes into chunks for easy processing. They are also very good at pushing buttons…I mean for the food processor.