Sep 08 2010

Recipe: Spinach and White Beans – Chrissy’s Taste Odyssey

Published by at 8:33 pm under Recipes,Vegetarian

A life-long lover of food in all its glorious variety, I’m a latecomer to cooking. Over the past few years, I’ve gotten in to the habit of seeking out delicious-sounding recipes and trying them out, often with great success.  It’s been slow-going, though, and it’s left me with a somewhat limited repertoire and a tendency to fall into ruts.

What occurred to me recently is what I really need is to build up a base of go-to dishes that I can easily throw together. Dishes that require with minimal time and effort to prepare, and can be made using whatever ingredients I happen to have on hand. Dishes simple enough that a recipe isn’t even required.

This weekend I whipped up my first such improvised dish. I had a large bag of pre-washed spinach in the fridge, and wanted to use it in a hot dish (spinach salad is all well and good, but I love the way cooked spinach absorbs flavour). First, I did a quick web search and peeked at a handful of recipes to get a general sense of what ingredients might be common to a cooked spinach dish. Then I boldly headed to the kitchen sans recipe, but in possession of a rough plan of action.

WHAT YOU NEED:

  • 1 bag pre-washed spinach
  • 1 can white kidney beans
  • 1.5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 a medium-sized cooking onion
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons of lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon of white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg*

WHAT YOU NEED TO DO:

  • Finely chop the onion and mince the garlic (Time-saving hint: you can purchase fresh garlic that has already been minced and frozen into to cut down on both prep and clean-up time). Rinse and drain the canned beans and set aside.
  • In a large saucepan, combine olive oil, onion, garlic and cumin seeds, and warm over medium heat.
  • Once the onions started to turn transparent, add the full bag of spinach (don’t worry if it seems like way too much: it’s going to shrink down. A lot. You probably won’t be able to do much more than poke idly at it with a kitchen implement until it begans to wilt).
  • When the spinach begins to wilt, add the lemon juice and a  vinegar (Note: white wine vinegar would probably be an even better choice, but I didn’t have any on hand when I whipped this up)
  • Add dried thyme and nutmeg. (Quantities in the ingredients list are approximated, as I threw this together on the fly. You could definitely add more or less to taste).
  • At this time you could also add some ground black pepper and sea salt.  If you’re watching your sodium intake, it’s probably best not to add any while cooking — you get a lot more bang for your buck if you salt your serving to taste.
  • Add the drained and rinsed beans to the saucepan.
  • Stir/flip everything everything a few times to evenly-distribute the flavours, and then let beans warm up until the pan is sizzling again.

And that’s it! The whole process probably took about fifteen minutes end-to-end, with the most time consuming portion being the chopping of the onion. As a main course, this produced about two servings; as a side dish it should comfortably serve four. I had some the next day and it reheated well.

One note: if you’ve never cooked spinach before, you may not realize how much it shrinks when you cook it. It shrinks a lot. So don’t be alarmed if you feel like you’ve added way too much: I often find that what looks like enough spinach to feed a small army at the outset ends up seeming quite reasonable in the end. My giant bag of spinach was visually overwhelmed by a single can of beans in the finished product.

So that was my first experiment in basic, intuitive cooking. If you try it — and especially if you make any modifications — please let me know. I’d love to hear about your experience. As for me, I’ll be continuing to experiment with simple, recipeless dishes and will share all my success stories here.

*Thanks to my cousin Nicole for this tip: she always uses nutmeg in cooked spinach dishes. I never would have thought of it but it was indeed delicious!

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