Spring Spinach has Arrived

We’re into the joy of the growing season now as we begin to expect new arrivals each week from one of our favorite local farmers John from Gill Farms. A few days ago he showed up with an enormous bag of freshly picked spinach. It’s so great to see the beginnings of what is in store for us in the coming months.

The first thing we do with the spinach is cut off the tip of the stem and discard. Then we separate the stems from the upper leaf, putting all the leaves into a sink full of water. Let them soak for a bit, gently swishing them around to dislodge any bits of sand that may still be clinging to the leaves. To be safe, we usually drain in a collander and then wash them one more time in clean water. Then spin dry.

As I was cleaning the spinach I remembered a dish we used to do years ago with the stems: a gratin!  There’s nothing more satisfying to a chef then making use of all of a plant or any food item. “Nose to tail eating” as Fergus Henderson says.  In a professional kitchen, or any kitchen for that matter, nothing should go to waste!

Spinach Stem Gratin

We start with a basic bechamel sauce: 1 cup flour, 1 cup butter, and two quarts of milk  flavored with a bay leaf and freshly grated nutmeg (a great base).  Next we cut the stems in half, clean them in several changes of water, and blanch them in boiling salted water.  Next, we grate a mixture of cheeses: cheddar, gruyere or fontina work the best, ricotta is good also, stay away from mozzarella as it gets stringy.  Mix a couple of eggs into the sauce, a couple cups of grated cheese, a bit of Parmesan never hurts, and pour into a gratin dish with the seasoned blanched stems. I like to add a bit of the cooked spinach leaves (chopped) as well for color. Now top with bread crumbs tossed with a bit of garlic, butter and parsley.  Bake until set, about 30 to 45 minutes at 350 depending on the size of your gratin dish.  This is a delicious side for a summer meal, or would make a fabulous vegetarian entree. Enjoy!

Advertisements

One response to “Spring Spinach has Arrived

  1. thank you for the beautiful share. i look forward to making this dish, your version of peperonata, and the eggplant tomato fans, as well. 🙂 fyi… you can eat those last bits of stem you usually discard. they are great in stir-fries, steamed or quick-poached and served with asian-based sauces, pickled, chopped into small pieces for soups, braised, cooked casserole and/or gratin-style, etc. i just learned of yet another way to use them the other day; the turkish salad is called, ispanak koku salatasi. cheers~

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s